The obvious question about Kamma

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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby Dan74 » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:05 pm

alan wrote:Thank you for your attention. Since no one has answered the question, I'll just consider it a mystery.


Hmm.... I thought it was answered quite well.

Why is innocent life lost? Because this is how this existence is. Sentient beings are characterised by ignorance, delusion, greed and hatred. Occasionally these are the results.

Thinking in terms of a grand plan or a detailed reason why exactly this, why exactly these kids doesn't seem to lead anywhere. Well, because myriad of circumstances have led to it. But I doubt there is a smooth explanation. Reality does not seem to work that way.

In my work, even a simple mathematical model infinitely more simplistic than life, has emergent properties where certain phenomena tend to happen, though not certain. We just take it all personally, and maybe that's where the problem lies.
_/|\_
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby cbonanno » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:45 pm

"Calamity forever alternates with Prosperity."

-Bodhidharma
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby daverupa » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:21 pm

Sam Vara wrote:...how an action can have results (vipaka) for the being that performed the action.


Whoa there! :heart:

SN 12.46 wrote:[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

[The brahman:] "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle:...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby gavesako » Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:26 pm

Some relevant Suttas:


"There are four kinds of person to be found in the world. Which four? There is the case where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given (steals), engages in illicit sex, lies, speaks divisively, speaks abusively, engages in idle chatter; is covetous, malevolent, & holds wrong views. On the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell.

"But there is also the case where a certain person takes life... holds wrong views [yet], on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.

"And there is the case where a certain person abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given... is not covetous, not malevolent, & holds right views. On the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.

"But there is also the case where a certain person abstains from taking life, abstains from taking what is not given... is not covetous, not malevolent, & holds right views [yet], on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell...

"In the case of the person who takes life...[yet] on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in the good destinations, in the heavenly world: either earlier he performed fine kamma that is to be felt as pleasant, or later he performed fine kamma that is to be felt as pleasant, or at the time of death he adopted & carried out right views. Because of that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the good destinations, in the heavenly world. But as for the results of taking life... holding wrong views, he will feel them either right here & now, or later [in this lifetime], or following that...

"In the case of the person who abstains from taking life... but on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell: either earlier he performed evil kamma that is to be felt as painful, or later he performed evil kamma that is to be felt as painful, or at the time of death he adopted & carried out wrong views. Because of that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But as for the results of abstaining from taking life... holding right views, he will feel them either right here & now, or later [in this lifetime], or following that..."

— MN 136

"There are, headman, some brahmans & contemplatives who hold a doctrine & view like this: 'All those who kill living beings experience pain & distress in the here & now. All those who take what is not given... who engage in illicit sex... who tell lies experience pain & distress in the here & now.'

"Now there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned, freshly bathed & groomed, with hair & beard trimmed, enjoying the sensualities of women as if he were a king. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king?' They answer: 'My good man, this man attacked the king's enemy and took his life. The king, gratified with him, rewarded him. That is why he is garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king.'

"Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope with his arms pinned tightly against his back, his head shaved bald, marched to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads, evicted through the south gate, and beheaded to the south of the city. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city?' They answer: 'My good man, this man, an enemy of the king, has taken the life of a man or a woman. That is why the rulers, having had him seized, inflicted such a punishment upon him.'

"Now, what do you think, headman: have you ever seen or heard of such a case?"

"I have seen this, lord, have heard of it, and will hear of it (again in the future)."

"So, headman, when those brahmans & contemplatives who hold a doctrine and view like this say: 'All those who kill living beings experience pain & distress in the here & now,' do they speak truthfully or falsely?" — "Falsely, lord."

"And those who babble empty falsehood: are they moral or immoral?"

"Immoral, lord."

"And those who are immoral and of evil character: are they practicing wrongly or rightly?" — "Wrongly, lord."

"And those who are practicing wrongly: do they hold wrong view or right view?" — "Wrong view, lord."

"And is it proper to place confidence in those who hold wrong view?"

"No, lord."

"Then, headman, there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king?' They answer: 'My good man, this man attacked the king's enemy and stole a treasure. The king, gratified with him, rewarded him...'

"Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city?' They answer: 'My good man, this man, an enemy of the king, has committed a theft, stealing something from a village or a forest...'

"Then there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king?' They answer: 'My good man, this man seduced the wives of the king's enemy...'

"Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city?' They answer: 'My good man, this man seduced women & girls of good families...'

"Then there is the case where a certain person is seen garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he has been garlanded & adorned... as if he were a king?' They answer: 'My good man, this man made the king laugh with a lie...'

"Then there is the case where a certain person is seen bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city. They ask about him: 'My good man, what has this man done that he is bound with a stout rope... and beheaded to the south of the city?' They answer: 'My good man, this man has brought the aims of a householder or a householder's son to ruin with a lie. That is why the rulers, having had him seized, inflicted such a punishment upon him.'

"Now what do you think, headman: have you ever seen or heard of such a case?"

"I have seen this, lord, have heard of it, and will hear of it (again in the future)."

"So, headman, when those brahmans & contemplatives who hold a doctrine & view like this, say: 'All those who tell lies experience pain & distress in the here & now,' do they speak truthfully or falsely?... Is it proper to place confidence in those who hold wrong view?" — "No, lord."

— SN 42.13

"Monks, the taking of life — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from the taking of life is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to a short life span.

"Stealing — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from stealing is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to the loss of one's wealth.

"Illicit sexual behavior — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from illicit sexual behavior is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to rivalry & revenge.

"Telling falsehoods — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from telling falsehoods is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to being falsely accused.

"Divisive tale-bearing — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from malicious tale-bearing is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to the breaking of one's friendships.

"Harsh speech — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from harsh speech is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to unappealing sounds.

"Frivolous chattering — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from frivolous chattering is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to words that aren't worth taking to heart.

"The drinking of fermented & distilled liquors — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from drinking fermented & distilled liquors is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to mental derangement."

— AN 8.40

Then Asibandhakaputta the headman, a disciple of the Niganthas, went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him: "Headman, how does Nigantha Nataputta teach the Dhamma to his disciples?"

"Nigantha Nataputta teaches the Dhamma to his disciples in this way, lord: 'All those who take life are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell. All those who steal... All those who indulge in illicit sex... All those who tell lies are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell. Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth].' That's how Nigantha Nataputta teaches the Dhamma to his disciples."

"If it's true that 'Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth],' then no one is destined for the plane of deprivation or destined to hell in line with Nigantha Nataputta's words. What do you think, headman: If a man is one who takes life, then taking into consideration time spent doing & not doing, whether by day or by night, which time is more: the time he spends taking life or the time he spends not taking life?"

"... the time he spends taking life is less, lord, and the time he spends not taking life is certainly more. If it's true that 'Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth],' then no one is destined for the plane of deprivation or destined to hell in line with Nigantha Nataputta's words."

"What do you think, headman: If a man is one who steals... indulges in illicit sex... tells lies, then taking into consideration time spent doing & not doing, whether by day or by night, which time is more: the time he spends telling lies or the time he spends not telling lies?"

"... the time he spends telling lies is less, lord, and the time he spends not telling lies is certainly more. If it's true that 'Whatever one keeps doing frequently, by that is one led [to a state of rebirth],' then no one is destined for the plane of deprivation or destined to hell in line with Nigantha Nataputta's words."

"There's the case, headman, where a certain teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view: 'All those who take life are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell. All those who steal... All those who indulge in illicit sex... All those who tell lies are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.' A disciple has faith in that teacher, and the thought occurs to him, 'Our teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view: "All those who take life are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell." There are living beings that I have killed. I, too, am destined for the plane of deprivation, am destined for hell.' He fastens onto that view. If he doesn't abandon that doctrine, doesn't abandon that state of mind, doesn't relinquish that view, then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.

"[The thought occurs to him,] 'Our teacher holds this doctrine, holds this view: 'All those who steal... All those who indulge in illicit sex... All those who tell lies are destined for the plane of deprivation, are destined for hell.' There are lies that I have told. I, too, am destined for the plane of deprivation, am destined for hell.' He fastens onto that view. If he doesn't abandon that doctrine, doesn't abandon that state of mind, doesn't relinquish that view, then as if he were to be carried off, he would thus be placed in hell.

"There is the case, headman, where a Tathagata appears in the world, worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in clear knowing & conduct, well-gone, a knower of the cosmos, unexcelled trainer of those to be tamed, teacher of human & divine beings, awakened, blessed. He, in various ways, criticizes & censures the taking of life, and says, 'Abstain from taking life.' He criticizes & censures stealing, and says, 'Abstain from stealing.' He criticizes & censures indulging in illicit sex, and says, 'Abstain from indulging in illicit sex.' He criticizes & censures the telling of lies, and says, 'Abstain from the telling of lies.'

"A disciple has faith in that teacher and reflects: 'The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures the taking of life, and says, "Abstain from taking life." There are living beings that I have killed, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.' So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the taking of life, and in the future refrains from taking life. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.

"[He reflects:] 'The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures stealing... indulging in illicit sex... the telling of lies, and says, "Abstain from the telling of lies." There are lies I have told, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.' So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the telling of lies, and in the future refrains from telling lies. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.

— SN 42.8
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby Sam Vara » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:26 pm

daverupa wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:...how an action can have results (vipaka) for the being that performed the action.


Whoa there! :heart:

SN 12.46 wrote:[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

[The brahman:] "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle:...


What sense do you make of the recommendation that we avoid the extremes, in this context?

In Ajahn's quoted suttas in the above post, the first one (MN 136) certainly seems to support the view that "the one who acts is the same one who experiences", at least in certain cases:

There is the case where a certain person takes life, takes what is not given (steals), engages in illicit sex, lies, speaks divisively, speaks abusively, engages in idle chatter; is covetous, malevolent, & holds wrong views. On the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell.


I take it that this view informed the original post (from Alan), along the lines that it is puzzling why innocents have to die sometimes, when this does not seem like vipaka for past kamma. Retro's post deals with it satisfactorily as far as I am concerned, as the Buddha says that not everything one experiences is caused by earlier kamma. In addition, there is also the point made later in the same sutta, that one may experience suffering as a result of kamma performed much earlier.
In the case of the person who abstains from taking life... but on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell: either earlier he performed evil kamma that is to be felt as painful, or later he performed evil kamma that is to be felt as painful, or at the time of death he adopted & carried out wrong views. Because of that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But as for the results of abstaining from taking life... holding right views, he will feel them either right here & now, or later [in this lifetime], or following that..."

This requires a bit of metaphysical faith, but I have no problems with that either, as an answer to the original post.

To avoid the "first extreme" is easy - don't believe in an enduring self, and the problem is solved. But what of the second extreme: "the one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences"? It would of course be easy for someone to believe that this is literally true. A philosophical naturalist, for example. The biter bites the bitten, and the bitten is someone other than the biter. The suffering is theirs alone. But how is this extreme position avoided? For the naturalist who says that there is no vipaka, except in the cases where known laws of nature account for the experiences?

That is the more obvious question about kamma.
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby daverupa » Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:01 pm

Sam Vara wrote:What sense do you make of the recommendation that we avoid the extremes, in this context?


I'm not sure, because I also notice that it seems to clash with certain other passages. I think that hard and fast designations are to be avoided, which is why there are passages talking about how fruits follow acts in unexpected ways. The simile of the salt crystal also comes to mind, as does the idea that the precise workings out of kammavipaka are imponderable.

Back at the OP, then, I suppose when asked "Why do innocent people die" I'd have to ask for more details; else, they die because they are born.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby Sam Vara » Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:37 pm

daverupa wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:What sense do you make of the recommendation that we avoid the extremes, in this context?


I'm not sure, because I also notice that it seems to clash with certain other passages. I think that hard and fast designations are to be avoided, which is why there are passages talking about how fruits follow acts in unexpected ways. The simile of the salt crystal also comes to mind, as does the idea that the precise workings out of kammavipaka are imponderable.

Back at the OP, then, I suppose when asked "Why do innocent people die" I'd have to ask for more details; else, they die because they are born.


Agreed, Dave. I suppose my main point is that the "innocent people" question is the most obvious, but not the most fundamental question that arises. Thanks for engaging with this one - reading your thoughts is always helpful for me.
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby SarathW » Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:28 pm

Perhaps I will tell the story of Kisa Gotami!

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:32 am

alan wrote:...Is how to explain the loss of innocent life.
Wondering how you would answer that question if presented by a friend who was not Buddhist.
Have to admit, I can't. Any ideas on this?


There are a lot of misconceptions about the teaching of Kamma. Always remember that the Buddha's teaching of Kamma is actually very different than that of other Indian religions such as Hinduism and Jainism. In brief, the Buddha's teaching on Kamma is that mental states which are based on greed, hate, or delusion incline the mind towards unhappiness, and mental states based on renunciation, goodwill, and harmlessness incline the mind towards happiness. There is the added caveat that these mental states also influence one's rebirth, but that's because (according to the abhidhamma at least) of how the process of dying works, not because our Kamma is this magical substance we carry around with us that attracts good and bad things.

Also, although the Buddha taught that everything we do has an effect, he never said the converse that everything that happens to us is the result of what we did. It doesn't logically flow that way. That is what I find so powerful about the teaching of Kamma. It means that we have the power to choose to move in the direction of happiness. It doesn't mean that we are locked into some sort of cosmic fate. At least that's not how I understand it.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby SarathW » Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:02 am

Hi Bakmoon
I agree with you. I am glad you understand that. I am frustrated to see that some people put the blame on Kamma for all bad thing happen to them. People use Kamma as an scapegoat.
According to Buddhism things around us caused by five Niyamas. Kamma is only one of them! Close analysis shows to me that Five Niyamas closely related to condition reality (five aggregate) and unconditioned reality!
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Re: The obvious question about Kamma

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:20 am

Greetings Bakmoon,

Bakmoon wrote:There are a lot of misconceptions about the teaching of Kamma. Always remember that the Buddha's teaching of Kamma is actually very different than that of other Indian religions such as Hinduism and Jainism. In brief, the Buddha's teaching on Kamma is that mental states which are based on greed, hate, or delusion incline the mind towards unhappiness, and mental states based on renunciation, goodwill, and harmlessness incline the mind towards happiness. There is the added caveat that these mental states also influence one's rebirth, but that's because (according to the abhidhamma at least) of how the process of dying works, not because our Kamma is this magical substance we carry around with us that attracts good and bad things.

Also, although the Buddha taught that everything we do has an effect, he never said the converse that everything that happens to us is the result of what we did. It doesn't logically flow that way. That is what I find so powerful about the teaching of Kamma. It means that we have the power to choose to move in the direction of happiness. It doesn't mean that we are locked into some sort of cosmic fate. At least that's not how I understand it.

Likewise, and well said.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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