Kamma and vipaka

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:42 pm

daverupa:

"This is false. If one intends to go to college, that choice has repercussions in more than the immediate now. One could even argue that the consequences in the immediate now were negligible in such a case, and that a concatenation of relevant intentions was required to actualize the eventual result(s), quite non-immediate. Examples such as this can be multiplied at will."

Sorry, I should have expressed myself better. I meant that intention is only ever known with certainty to be the sufficient condition for proximate changes in one's own mind and body. As soon as the change then affects something else, we cannot be sure that our intention had anything to do with it. This is the heart of the problem that I posed. If intentions have effects at a distance, then I want to know how the intention can be a feeling experienced by the person who had the intention. How does kamma give rise to vipaka? What sense can we make of the fact that it does so?

" The point was to convey an image of kamma-vipaka as a process such as one might observe when watching the color red shade into the color orange. The beginning red and ending orange would be discernible, but there would not be a point where one could say objectively "There is where it changed from one to the other!" It's nothing to do with ethics at all: it was simply a model."

Well, fair enough, but it is a model that does not illustrate the salient point I was making. Red might merge imperceptibly into orange, but intention does not merge imperceptibly into feeling; they remain different. And the moral status of the intention is one of the reasons that intention is different from feeling, which is exactly my point. How can an intention give rise to a feeling, when they are two demonstrably different things?

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daverupa
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:12 pm


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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:03 pm

"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:17 pm

daverupa:

"Note there is not "intentional kamma" in isolation - the Buddha does not allow that intentional kamma exists as such. Instead, he is careful to say "intentional kamma to be felt as X". Your claim that intention and feeling are demonstrably different ignores this subtlety."

Well, in this Sutta he uses the term, but in others he does not. So it might be that the Buddha does allow that intentional kamma exists as such. And even this formulation ('Y to be felt as X') does not mean that either or both of the terms do not exist as such. It is merely a predication.

But in any case, if we agree that the Buddha denies that it is possible or valid to separate intention from feeling, then we are back to taking this issue on faith. I experience intention and feeling as different things. Sometimes I intend, and sometimes I feel. I experience connections between these states on some occasions, but not all, and it is self-evidently true to me that they are different mental states. This might be the result of my stupidity, a mind that is not subtle enough to see where its error lies in construing mental processes like this. But it is a very common error in our culture, and there might be some way of explaining where my error is. A person might understand that the Buddha said "intentional kamma to be felt as X", but it seems reasonable that a person who understands it (i.e. the subtle but indissoluble link between intention and feeling) should be able to paraphrase it and show where it is instantiated in a way that it can be understood by another. Otherwise they will have to rely on faith: the Buddha said it, but I can't get it yet.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sylvester » Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:33 am


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daverupa
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby daverupa » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:32 am


whynotme
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby whynotme » Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:13 pm

My thoughts:

As I read the suttas, the Buddha taught very little on fixing this life like modern day concept we could change our life. Instead, his teachings made me think that most of these lives are the result of our past lives, we nearly can't change them and his teaching is all about next lives. Even a monk ask him why someone succeeds and other fails, he said it is because of their merits in their past lives.

I believe the mind is very powerful as the ability of the Buddha and his noble disciples. Once we create bad action, the mind makes us pay for that like when we did bad actions, we could have bad dreams. The world in the dream is the creation of the mind, and also the real world is the creation of the mind

Just my opinions
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby kirk5a » Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:04 pm

"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:57 pm

Sylvester:

"While the "process" model certainly abrogates the need for a substance ontology to describe an "agent" and its "patient", the question could be raised - But what mediates the process? I think that would be the crux of Sam Vega's query. "

Yes, you have understood. I'm glad that you have got past the urge to know the "how", but thank you for your attention to this - you have presented me with a lot to think about.

daverupa:

"Indeed, generating an answer seems to converge on the necessity of seeing for oneself - I'm very sorry, Sam Vega, but I'm coming up against atakkāvacara on this. It may simply be that we're at the limits of my explanatory ability."

No need to apologise, daverupa, your explanatory ability is amazing, and you gave this one a good run for its money. Again, I thank you for your contributions. I have sometimes needed to google the terms you used, but I guess that's one way that I can learn!

I need to make a point about whether my question is an attempt to find a "knock down" argument for ethics as a precondition for practice. In my case, it certainly isn't. I know that the practice "works", and that my life and the lives of others seem to somehow improve as a result of good intentions. I was trying to get some insight into how or why this happens. A bit like trying to understand physics because I am grateful for gravity! As I have said all along, I would be OK taking this on faith.

I will keep returning to the thread to see if anything else crops up, but again thanks for your help.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby chownah » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:16 am

Sam Vega,
In the original post you wrote:
"My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs."

I suggest that there is no "mechanism that brings this about."....or at least there is no mechanism that we can rationally understand that does this......the Budda seems to teach a sort of mechanics for some things but I'm pretty sure that this is just conventional speech and it is best to remember that all dhammas are empty.......didn't the Buddha teach that the exact workings of kamma were not knowable?
chownah

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:34 am


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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:18 am


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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:26 am


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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:40 am


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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:02 am


chownah
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby chownah » Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:12 pm

Sam Vega,
From your posts I think that you might find the Wings to Awakening section on Kamma interesting....have you see it already?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part1-b

I usually just think of kamma as being intention (since this is how the Buddha defined it most clearly) and intentions arise in concert with the indulging in a doctrine of self so if you can get a grip on that imaginary self then the issue of kamma should be under control also....at least that is my usual approach to my practice....that is to focus on the doctrine of self which is present when intentions arise and then to dispel the doctrine of self....more or less........so....anyway......I don't usually concern myself with the mechanisms of kamma if there are any that are comprehendable and frankly its kind of hard for me to exactly understand what kind of thing you might see as a mechanism but it seems like Thanisarro Bhikkhu's writings sort of approach kamma from a mechanistic perspective so let me know what you think.
chownah

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gavesako
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby gavesako » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:22 pm

Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby gavesako » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:32 pm

In the course of his Awakening, the Buddha discovered that the experience of the present moment consists of three factors: results from past actions, present actions, and the results of present actions. This means that kamma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; while present actions shape not only the present but also the future. This constant opening for present input into the causal processes shaping one's life makes free will possible. ... However, the fact that the experience of space and time requires not only the results of past actions but also the input of present actions means that it is possible to unravel the experience of space and time by bringing the mind to a point of equilibrium where it contributes no intentions or actions to the present moment. The intentions that converge at this equilibrium are thus a fourth type of intention — transcendent skillful intentions — which lead to release from the results of mundane intentions, and ultimately to the ending of all action. * (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/su ... index.html)

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. This constant opening for present input into the causal process makes free will possible. This freedom is symbolized in the imagery the Buddhists used to explain the process: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. * (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... karma.html)

Although the precise working out of the kammic process is somewhat unpredictable, it is not chaotic. The relationship between kammic causes and their effects is entirely regular: when an action is of the sort that it will be felt in such and such a way, that is how its result will be experienced (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-13). Skillful intentions lead to favorable results, unskillful ones to unfavorable results. Thus, when one participates in the kammic process, one is at the mercy of a pattern that one's actions put into motion, but that is not entirely under one's present control. Despite the power of the mind, one cannot reshape the basic laws of cosmic causality at whim. These laws include the physical laws, within which one's kamma must ripen and work itself out. ... The point here is that old kamma does not override other causal factors operating in the universe — such as those recognized by the physical sciences — but instead finds its expression within them.

However, the fact that the kammic process relies on input from the present moment means that it is not totally deterministic. Input from the past may place restrictions on what can be done and known in any particular moment, but the allowance for new input from the present provides some room for free will. This allowance also opens the possibility for escape from the cycle of kamma altogether by means of the fourth type of kamma: the development of heightened skillfulness (kusala) through the pursuit of the seven factors for Awakening and the noble eightfold path — and, by extension, all of the Wings to Awakening [§§16-17] (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-16).

The non-linearity of this/that conditionality (idappaccayata) explains why heightened skillfulness, when focused on the present moment, can succeed in leading to the end of the kamma that has formed the experience of the entire cosmos. All non-linear processes exhibit what is called scale invariance, which means that the behavior of the process on any one scale is similar to its behavior on smaller or larger scales. To understand, say, the large-scale pattern of a particular non-linear process, one need only focus on its behavior on a smaller scale that is easier to observe, and one will see the same pattern at work. In the case of kamma, one need only focus on the process of kamma in the immediate present, in the course of developing heightened skillfulness, and the large-scale issues over the expanses of space and time will become clear as one gains release from them. * (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... part1.html)

Over the years many schools of meditation have taught that mental fabrications simply get in the way of a goal that's uncaused and unfabricated. Only by doing nothing at all and thus not fabricating anything in the mind, they say, will the unfabricated (nibbana) shine forth. This view is based on a very simplistic understanding of fabricated reality, seeing causality as linear and totally predictable: X causes Y which causes Z and so on, with no effects turning around to condition their causes, and no possible way of using causality to escape from the causal network. However, one of the many things the Buddha discovered in the course of his awakening was that causality is not linear. The experience of the present is shaped both by actions in the present and by actions in the past. Actions in the present shape both the present and the future. The results of past and present actions continually interact. Thus there is always room for new input into the system, which gives scope for free will. There is also room for the many feedback loops that make experience so thoroughly complex, and that are so intriguingly described in chaos theory. Reality doesn't resemble a simple line or circle. It's more like the bizarre trajectories of a strange attractor or a Mandelbrot set.

(http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... nance.html)


For more, see:
Samsara Divided by Zero by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... nance.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-similarity
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

- Theravada texts
- Translations and history of Pali texts
- Sutta translations

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gavesako
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby gavesako » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:33 pm

1. When this is, that is.
2. From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
3. When this isn't, that isn't.
4. From the stopping of this comes the stopping of that.


... This formula is non-linear, an interplay of linear and synchronic principles. The linear principle — taking (2) and (4) as a pair — connects events over time; the synchronic principle — (1) and (3) — connects objects and events in the present moment. The two principles intersect, so that any given event is influenced by two sets of conditions, those acting from the past and those acting from the present. Because this is the pattern underlying dependent co-arising, it is a mistake to view dependent co-arising simply as a chain of causes strung out over time. Events in any one category of the list are affected not only by past events in the categories that act as their conditions, but also by the on-going, interacting presence of whole streams of events in those categories. All categories can be present at once, and even though two particular conditions may be separated by several steps in the list, they can be immediately present to each other. Thus they can create the possibility for unexpected feedback loops in the causal process. Feeling, for instance, keeps reappearing at several stages in the process, and ignorance can contribute to any causal link at any time. The importance of these points will become clear when we examine how to disengage the causal network so as to realize the third noble truth.

Because new input into the causal stream is possible at every moment, the actual working out of this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising can be remarkably fluid and complex. This point is borne out by the imagery used in the Canon to illustrate these teachings. Although some non-canonical texts depict dependent co-arising as a circle or a wheel of causes — implying something of a mechanical, deterministic process — the Canon never uses that image at all. Instead it likens dependent co-arising to water flowing over land: lakes overflow, filling rivers, which in turn fill the sea [§238]; while the tides of the sea rise, swelling the rivers, which in turn swell the lakes [SN 12:69]. This imagery captures something of the flow of give and take among the factors of the process. A more modern pattern that might be used to illustrate dependent co-arising is the "strange attractor": an intricate, interwoven pattern that chaos theory uses to describe complex, fluid systems containing at least three feedback loops. As we will see below, the number of feedback loops in dependent co-arising is far more than three.

The fluid complexity of dependent co-arising means that it is inherently unstable, and thus stressful and not-self. Although some non-Theravadin Buddhist texts insist that happiness can be found by abandoning one's smaller, separate identity and embracing the interconnected identity of all interdependent things, this teaching cannot be found in the Pali Canon. The instability of conditioned processes means that they can never provide a dependable basis for happiness. The only true basis for happiness is the Unfabricated.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #part3-h-3
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

- Theravada texts
- Translations and history of Pali texts
- Sutta translations

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:11 pm

chownah:

Many thanks - I have read it, and will check it out again.


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