Self vs Kamma

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Self vs Kamma

Postby hgg » Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:07 pm

Hello,
I am a new member and I have the following question:

a) Buddhism holds the view that there is no real self identity in each of us.
(The fact that all materiality is fluid and without any identity is understood.)

b) Kamma is a universal law that follows every decision and action we make.
It actually keeps track of ethical decisions like killing, lying etc and responds in analogy.
(Killing a human will most likely drop you to the hell realms etc.)

If then the identity changes in every rebirth (and every moment), although kamma will follow,
what is the purpose of being ethical since the consequences of our actions
will "strike" a different identity, a different person?

Thank you,
George.
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:24 pm

What's the point of studying hard, working and saving, and paying into a pension fund because it will be enjoyed by a different person when you are old?
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby hgg » Tue Jun 29, 2010 1:53 pm

Hello,
I did not understand your answer. (or question..)

Do you assume a self or not? (My question does not assume that I know
something and try to display it here, but to find out more using what
looks like a contradiction.)

When you study, work and save money you are doing it for your future self,
when it will be old and helpless. (I assume same self & different body)

Can you please be more specific?
Thank you,
George.

p.s. Incidentally are you the Bikhu Pesala who translated the "The Debate of King Milinda"?
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby OcTavO » Tue Jun 29, 2010 2:36 pm

In my understanding, Kamma does no such thing as "keeping track" of ethical decisions. Kamma is action itself and Vipaka is the result (or fruit) that follows. There's no force of judgement involved, simply cause and effect.

I try to act skillfully because I don't have to look to the next life to see Kamma ripening. every unethical thing I've done in my life has had poor results for me and those around me.
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby hgg » Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:26 pm

Hello,

"Keeping track" was probably the wrong word. By Kamma I mean what you said, although,

a) Cause & effect has judgment hardwired in it in the form of "law".
b) Kamma is indeed ripening in this world as well, but you will not be transformed
into a mute insect in this lifetime.

But please let me go back to my initial question which is :

Why do we need to be ethical, since the fruits of our actions are going to be tasted
by some other entity, other self? (Assuming that there is no self identity)

(I have to make clear that I am trying always to be ethical of course, but I am making this
question to exploit what looks to me like a contradiction. Contradictions are impediments,
but when solved they provide better understanding. That is why I consider them very useful).
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:11 pm

hgg wrote:"Keeping track" was probably the wrong word. By Kamma I mean what you said, although,

a) Cause & effect has judgment hardwired in it in the form of "law".
b) Kamma is indeed ripening in this world as well, but you will not be transformed
into a mute insect in this lifetime.

I think your view of kamma is still a little bit off. There is no judgment, "hardwired" or otherwise... only beneficial kamma (kusala) and unbeneficial kamma (akusala).

Why do we need to be ethical, since the fruits of our actions are going to be tasted
by some other entity, other self? (Assuming that there is no self identity)

That statement seems like it was made with a trace of self-identity still attached. :) "I have no self, so I don't have to worry about what kamma I make." Buddha actually listed "no self" as one of the wrong views of anatta (for this reason among others, I believe). Anatta = not self.

I wish I could explain in more details, but I'm not skillful enough (or confident) with the Dhamma yet. But, I think these should be enough to point you towards the right direction (more or less, I hope).
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby Sobeh » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:14 pm

You ask why we need to be ethical; without getting into the philosophy on the subject, the Buddha declares Sila as essential to proper meditation, and proper meditation is needed for nibbana. Thus, Sila is needed for nibbana, which is a pretty good reason.

By the way, the idea of the self as being permanently fluid or in flux, never the same one moment to the next, is not the Buddhadhamma. Things arise and they cease, but between the two they endure, and this is what the five aggregates are doing for us when we call ourselves human beings. Anatta does not mean "no self", it means "non-self", a very different proposition.
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby OcTavO » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:16 pm

I think the problem here is that you seem to be positing a "self" in this life and another different "self" in a future rebirth. This is not really what the doctrine of Anatta states... perhaps this link will help:

http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/anatta_jagaro.html
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby acinteyyo » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:23 pm

hgg wrote:Hello,
I am a new member and I have the following question:

a) Buddhism holds the view that there is no real self identity in each of us.
(The fact that all materiality is fluid and without any identity is understood.)

b) Kamma is a universal law that follows every decision and action we make.
It actually keeps track of ethical decisions like killing, lying etc and responds in analogy.
(Killing a human will most likely drop you to the hell realms etc.)

If then the identity changes in every rebirth (and every moment), although kamma will follow,
what is the purpose of being ethical since the consequences of our actions
will "strike" a different identity, a different person?

Thank you,
George.

Hi George,

you came to a illogical conclusion. With the given premise a) denying "identity" you can't ask a question afterwards where an "identity" is concerned again. If you regard premise a) (no identity) as true how can you draw the conclusion
hgg wrote:the identity changes in every rebirth

and ask about "identity"
what is the purpose of being ethical since the consequences of our actions will "strike" a different identity

This doesn't make sense. I have to say that your conclusion and question drawn from the premises a) and b) are inappropriate.

here two short suttas concerning your premises:
for a) SN44.10 Ananda Sutta: To Ananda
for b) AN 3.99 Lonaphala Sutta: The Salt Crystal

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

:anjali:
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby PeterB » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:25 pm

Sobeh wrote:You ask why we need to be ethical; without getting into the philosophy on the subject, the Buddha declares Sila as essential to proper meditation, and proper meditation is needed for nibbana. Thus, Sila is needed for nibbana, which is a pretty good reason.

By the way, the idea of the self as being permanently fluid or in flux, never the same one moment to the next, is not the Buddhadhamma. Things arise and they cease, but between the two they endure, and this is what the five aggregates are doing for us when we call ourselves human beings. Anatta does not mean "no self", it means "non-self", a very different proposition.

Sigh.....this cant be said enough...
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby hgg » Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:53 pm

Hi,
Thank you very much for your help.

Perhaps I've stated my question in a manner that was easy to create confusion.
Presented what looks like a contradiction, and then find the answer by negating one of the assumptions.

OcTavO by the way, my question was placed in almost the same format in the reference you gave
about the Anatta doctrine! Right on! Thanks.

I've read all the references and I think I will rephrase my question in the affirmative.

- Is there a "Soul"?

I will use OcTavO's document and will try to answer my question.

Ajahn Jagaro says, I quote :

a) "In the Buddha's teaching there is no self to be found in this mind and body,
of any form or any shape either in it or out of it anywhere. No self - full stop."

and a few paragraphs later :

b) "The Buddha's teaching is that there is an individuality in this process. The individuality
of the process is there, the continuity of the mind and body in this life, conventionally
speaking. You are the mind and the body process and there is a continuity and an individuality
of the process. It's your mind and body and not my mind and body which continues from birth
to death in this life. But there is the same continuity and individuality into the next life.
You don't get cross wires. Your stream of mind and body does not get mixed up with my
stream of mind and body. My state of mind and body does not get mixed up in what is in
your account and vice versa. It stays in each person's account. "


Can we then call this "Individuality" a Soul? (with avoiding the eternalism doctrine)

If we can, my question is answered.
George.
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:15 pm

Why do you want to call that a soul? What kind of contribution would that have with your understanding of how things are? I'm not saying that this is bad, just wondering how it would help.
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby acinteyyo » Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:53 pm

hgg wrote:Hi,
Thank you very much for your help.

Perhaps I've stated my question in a manner that was easy to create confusion.
Presented what looks like a contradiction, and then find the answer by negating one of the assumptions.

OcTavO by the way, my question was placed in almost the same format in the reference you gave
about the Anatta doctrine! Right on! Thanks.

I've read all the references and I think I will rephrase my question in the affirmative.

- Is there a "Soul"?

I will use OcTavO's document and will try to answer my question.

Ajahn Jagaro says, I quote :

a) "In the Buddha's teaching there is no self to be found in this mind and body,
of any form or any shape either in it or out of it anywhere. No self - full stop."

and a few paragraphs later :

b) "The Buddha's teaching is that there is an individuality in this process. The individuality
of the process is there, the continuity of the mind and body in this life, conventionally
speaking. You are the mind and the body process and there is a continuity and an individuality
of the process. It's your mind and body and not my mind and body which continues from birth
to death in this life. But there is the same continuity and individuality into the next life.
You don't get cross wires. Your stream of mind and body does not get mixed up with my
stream of mind and body. My state of mind and body does not get mixed up in what is in
your account and vice versa. It stays in each person's account. "


Can we then call this "Individuality" a Soul? (with avoiding the eternalism doctrine)

If we can, my question is answered.
George.

It depends on what you mean by "soul"?
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

:anjali:
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:11 pm

acinteyyo wrote:It depends on what you mean by "soul"?


I think he's trying to use it as a substitute for "self", so that kamma will have something to have its effect on, for it to make sense to him. This is still a wrong view.

Kamma = actions that are either good, or bad. Anatta = it's not the self, but "someone" who is bound up within the suffering (i.e., the aggregates, etc.)
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:19 pm

i think you might find your answer in this paragraph you sited

b) "The Buddha's teaching is that there is an individuality in this process. The individuality
of the process is there, the continuity of the mind and body in this life, conventionally
speaking. You are the mind and the body process and there is a continuity and an individuality
of the process. It's your mind and body and not my mind and body which continues from birth
to death in this life. But there is the same continuity and individuality into the next life.
You don't get cross wires. Your stream of mind and body does not get mixed up with my
stream of mind and body. My state of mind and body does not get mixed up in what is in
your account and vice versa. It stays in each person's account. "
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby hgg » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:36 pm

But I have already mentioned what I've meant by Soul.
That "Individuality" spoken above.

I don't want to create a debate, but I think that Jagaro paragraphs (a) & (b) show that this is a very
difficult subject indeed.

Beeblebrox I don't have any "view" yet. The truth is obscured. Very well hidden from sight.
I feel like a blind man in a dark maze trying to find his way out to the light.
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:40 pm

hgg wrote:But I have already mentioned what I've meant by Soul.
That "Individuality" spoken above.


But why do you want to call it that? How would it help? That was what I asked. :)
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:18 pm

Although there is no self or soul, there is cause and effect. The so-called self or individual is a conventional truth only, there is nothing permanent — whether mental or physical — that could rightly be called a self or soul.

Although you cannot clearly see the next life, you do know for sure that you will die, so it makes sense to plan for the next life. In fact, one could reason that it makes no sense to plan for only this one life, since the number of future lives is unlimited, and the length of this one is uncertain, while death is certain. Therefore, one should spend 100% of one's efforts considering one's welfare in future lives — in the process, one's welfare in this very life will be taken care of too.

The Buddha said there are three kinds of individuals: blind, one-eyed, and two-eyed. The spiritually blind cannot see their own benefit even in this very life. The one-eyed can see their own benefit in this life, but not in the next. The two-eyed can see their own benefit in this life and in future existences.

(My edition of The Debate of King Milinda has just been updated. The chapter on A Question on Concepts deals with the not-self doctrine.)
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:10 am

Not self should be seen as a process of enquiry, not a doctrine that should be believed. The point is that clinging to this or that as evidence that one is a distinct and seperate self is the cause of much of our suffering, wheras realising as each experience arises that this is not me/mine release you from that.

See these articles for an explanation of the process;
www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/tha ... self2.html
www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/tha ... tself.html
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Self vs Kamma

Postby OcTavO » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:57 am

Goofaholix wrote:Not self should be seen as a process of enquiry, not a doctrine that should be believed. The point is that clinging to this or that as evidence that one is a distinct and seperate self is the cause of much of our suffering, wheras realising as each experience arises that this is not me/mine release you from that.

See these articles for an explanation of the process;
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... self2.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html


Others may set me straight on this, but while I enjoy (and mostly agree with) Thanissaro, I don't believe his interpretation of Anatta is in line with the orthodox Theravadin take on it.
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