Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

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Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Fri May 10, 2013 6:20 pm

Hello all,

Standard commentarial teaching is:
1) We lived infinite amount of times. Enough times that the blood, tears, etc we shed filled 4 oceans and been in many different situations. SN15.x

2) Because of the above, we have over this infinity committed every kind of mundane kamma possible in infinite amount.

3) Question: Since kusala/akusala kamma done aeons ago can play out today, what determines which kammavipāka will mature today? It almost seems like it could be any mundane kamma result (see #2).

So kamma as explanation of "why bad things happen to good people" runs into this difficulty of randomness or equality. Over infinite time span, mundane kamma that you have done is overally the same as kamma that I have done, thus it cannot be a basis for distinction about what happens today. Also when it comes to rebirth:

Daṇḍa sutta SN15.9 states that:
"Just as a stick thrown up in the air lands sometimes on its base, sometimes on its side, sometimes on its tip; in the same way, beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, transmigrating & wandering on, sometimes go from this world to another world, sometimes come from another world to this."


It appears to be somewhat random, unless one becomes an Aryan which would exclude rebirth in lower realms - but not kammavipāka playing out in this life.


Any answers?
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby daverupa » Fri May 10, 2013 6:43 pm

Alex123 wrote:So kamma as explanation of "why bad things happen to good people" runs into this difficulty ...

Any answers?


It seems to be left undeclared due to the complexity; notice how the Buddha (well, or his editors - in this case he seems a little pompous...) talks about this exact problem at MN 136.
    "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: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby EmptyShadow » Fri May 10, 2013 6:51 pm

If you really want to know more about kamma i recomend you to read "Workings of kamma" by Pa Auk Sayadaw.
The book have a lot of sutta references and examples and it's easy to understand in my opinion.

Alex123 wrote:3) Question: Since kusala/akusala kamma done aeons ago can play out today, what determines which kammavipāka will mature today? It almost seems like it could be any mundane kamma result (see #2).


The whole book is 350 pages and here is part of the content that is related to your question.
The Twelve Categories of Kamma.........155
Time of Effect..........156
Order of Effect............183
Function of Effect............199

As you can see time of effect and order of effect is on many pages so paste-ing short paragraph from it, that could answer your question, probably won't be very accurate. :smile:
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Fri May 10, 2013 7:15 pm

EmptyShadow wrote:If you really want to know more about kamma i recomend you to read "Workings of kamma" by Pa Auk Sayadaw.
The book have a lot of sutta references and examples and it's easy to understand in my opinion.


I remember reading bits of "Knowing and seeing by Pa auk Sayadaw" and remember some teachings from Abhidhammatthasaṅgaho.

Again,
If we existed infinite amount of time, then we have committed infinite amount of indefinitely effective (aparāpariyavedanīya) kamma which can be productive (janaka), supportive (upatthambhaka),obstructive (upapīḷaka), destructive ( upaghātaka) in the present. This seems to make kamma result to be somewhat random if we take infinite amount of births + belief that ALL pleasant/unpleasant resultant events that happen are results of past kamma.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby daverupa » Fri May 10, 2013 7:43 pm

Alex123 wrote:This seems to make kamma result to be somewhat random if ...ALL pleasant/unpleasant resultant events that happen are results of past kamma.


Well, this isn't said to be the case (it is actually refuted) so the question is a mere hypothetical, neh?
    "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: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Fri May 10, 2013 7:46 pm

daverupa wrote:
Alex123 wrote:This seems to make kamma result to be somewhat random if ...ALL pleasant/unpleasant resultant events that happen are results of past kamma.


Well, this isn't said to be the case (it is actually refuted) so the question is a mere hypothetical, neh?


Well, if we analyze what is taught - it seems like any kind of result can happen at any times. If rebirths were not infinite in amount, then we would not have this problem.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby daverupa » Fri May 10, 2013 7:52 pm

Alex123 wrote:Well, if we analyze what is taught - it seems like any kind of result can happen at any times.


Even the Buddha said "this life, or later, or later on still" when discussing it; and, the precise workings out are an imponderable in the first place.

What practical difficulties arise on account of this? I don't see the problem, I'm sorry.
    "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: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Fri May 10, 2013 8:17 pm

daverupa wrote:What practical difficulties arise on account of this? I don't see the problem, I'm sorry.


I have doubts about kamma, at least in how it is taught.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat May 11, 2013 3:17 am

If one is currently being virtuous then it is more likely that good kamma or mixed kamma will ripen than bad kamma or if bad kamma does ripen it won't have the same impact that it would if one was undeveloped. Of course, sometimes bad kamma will ripen and will ripen with severe consequences even when one has been virtuous their whole life, or at least this is what I gather from what the suttas say on the matter.

"Monks, for anyone who says, 'In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,' there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of stress. But for anyone who says, 'When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result is experienced,' there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress.

"There is the case where a trifling evil deed done by a certain individual takes him to hell. There is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by another individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual takes him to hell? There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in [contemplating] the body, undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind, undeveloped in discernment: restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.

"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable.[1] A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Here a study guide on kamma in case you haven't checked it out already: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/kamma.html
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby ground » Sat May 11, 2013 3:24 am

Alex123 wrote:...

So kamma as explanation of "why bad things happen to good people" runs into this difficulty of randomness or equality. Over infinite time span, mundane kamma that you have done is overally the same as kamma that I have done, thus it cannot be a basis for distinction about what happens today. Also when it comes to rebirth:

Daṇḍa sutta SN15.9 states that:
"Just as a stick thrown up in the air lands sometimes on its base, sometimes on its side, sometimes on its tip; in the same way, beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, transmigrating & wandering on, sometimes go from this world to another world, sometimes come from another world to this."


It appears to be somewhat random, unless one becomes an Aryan which would exclude rebirth in lower realms - but not kammavipāka playing out in this life.


Any answers?

You seem to confuse "not knowing [exactly]" with randomness. Also please bear in mind that the sole purpose of the teachings of kamma is exhortation to ethical conduct. :sage:
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby binocular » Sat May 11, 2013 12:04 pm

Alex123 wrote:Again,
If we existed infinite amount of time, then we have committed infinite amount of indefinitely effective (aparāpariyavedanīya) kamma which can be productive (janaka), supportive (upatthambhaka),obstructive (upapīḷaka), destructive ( upaghātaka) in the present. This seems to make kamma result to be somewhat random if we take infinite amount of births + belief that ALL pleasant/unpleasant resultant events that happen are results of past kamma.


Where do the suttas say that we have existed an infinite amount of time?

Assu Sutta says:
From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident
It doesn't say "infinite."


From the Mata Sutta:
A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find... A being who has not been your father... your brother... your sister... your son... your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find.
It doesn't say "is impossible to find." In Vajrayana, they indeed hold that everyone has been everyone's everything, but I don't know of any sutta in the Pali Canon that actually states that.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Sat May 11, 2013 12:23 pm

binocular wrote:Where do the suttas say that we have existed an infinite amount of time?


Commenterial Theravada which is why the title is "Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma."

At least in the suttas, as you've correctly pointed out, it says "A beginning point is not evident". Though a question can be raised as to how this first moment appeared. Was it conditioned, unconditioned?
Last edited by Alex123 on Sat May 11, 2013 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby binocular » Sat May 11, 2013 12:23 pm

Alex123 wrote:I have doubts about kamma, at least in how it is taught.

As it is taught by whom? And why do you rely on that particular source without consulting others?


Alex123 wrote:So kamma as explanation of "why bad things happen to good people" runs into this difficulty of randomness or equality. Over infinite time span, mundane kamma that you have done is overally the same as kamma that I have done, thus it cannot be a basis for distinction about what happens today.

I wonder what the source of this question-idea "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is.

I wonder what are the premises and assumptions that are necessary in order to ask the question "Why do bad things happen to good people?".
Some premises/assumption that seem to be required:
- a one-lifetime conception;
- notions of fairness and that fairness works out only in externally observable ways;
- the idea that generalizations about people are adequate ("this is a good person, that is a bad person");
- the idea that generalizations about actions are adequate ("this is an objectively good action, that is an objectively bad action").
It's hard to justify any of these premises/assumptions, so a question based on them seems to be unjustifiable as well.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby binocular » Sat May 11, 2013 12:33 pm

Alex123 wrote:At least in the suttas, as you've correctly pointed out, it says "A beginning point is not evident". Though a question can be raised as to how this first moment appeared. Was it conditioned, unconditioned?

The issue does tie in with the question about the Original Fall in theistic religions and how a particular answer to that question informs one's attitude to one's life on a daily basis. Was it our fault? Was it not? Depending on how one were to answer such a question, one would either approach life as a victim or a puppet of God or chaos; or as a guilty criminal with remorse. Neither is an optimistic, productive outlook.

In that sense, the question about The Beginning is important.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sat May 11, 2013 4:08 pm

Alex123 wrote:
binocular wrote:Where do the suttas say that we have existed an infinite amount of time?


Commenterial Theravada which is why the title is "Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma."

At least in the suttas, as you've correctly pointed out, it says "A beginning point is not evident". Though a question can be raised as to how this first moment appeared. Was it conditioned, unconditioned?


With this kind of speculation, there is no living the brahmacariya.

:sage:
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Sat May 11, 2013 4:49 pm

polarbuddha101 wrote:With this kind of speculation


It is not a speculation, but analysis of certain teaching.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Doshin » Sat May 11, 2013 5:58 pm

Alex123 wrote:Hello all,
...
3) Question: Since kusala/akusala kamma done aeons ago can play out today, what determines which kammavipāka will mature today? It almost seems like it could be any mundane kamma result (see #2).
...
Any answers?


Watch out for "madness and vexation" ;) AN 4.77 Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable:
AN 4.77 Acintita Sutta wrote:"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...[2]

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them.


Spcificaly:
"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it."

_/\_
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Bakmoon » Sun May 12, 2013 4:06 pm

Alex123 wrote:3) Question: Since kusala/akusala kamma done aeons ago can play out today, what determines which kammavipāka will mature today? It almost seems like it could be any mundane kamma result (see #2).

So kamma as explanation of "why bad things happen to good people" runs into this difficulty of randomness or equality. Over infinite time span, mundane kamma that you have done is overally the same as kamma that I have done, thus it cannot be a basis for distinction about what happens today.


In regards to question 3, I would say that the conditions for the vipaka need to be right for it to occur. I don't know of any comprehensive analysis of the different conditions for vipaka, and I suspect that only a Sammasambuddha is able to tell exactly what conditions are required for a specific kamma to come to fruit.

To the part about kamma and infinite span of time, I would say that most of that kamma has already had its vipaka and so isn't part of the equation any more for that person, so each person will still have their own distinct set of kamma that hasn't come to fruit yet.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby fivebells » Sun May 12, 2013 7:34 pm

Alex123 wrote:3) Question: Since kusala/akusala kamma done aeons ago can play out today, what determines which kammavipāka will mature today? It almost seems like it could be any mundane kamma result (see #2).


Certain perspectives are useful, even if they can't be rigorously verified. Sometimes, even perspectives which seem quite implausible can be useful. That's the case here. Suppose you could routinely steal something with absolutely no risk, ever, that you would be caught. This perspective will protect you from taking that opportunity, which would be harmful to your practice because you would come to depend on harming others (stealing) for your own welfare.

Buddhist practice is ultimately about freedom from all fabrication, but along the way you learn to fabricate useful states of mind to replace the default fabrications. These useful fabrications can be shifts in perceptual emphasis, or even shifts in beliefs. I personally don't believe in post-mortem rebirth or kammic retribution as cosmic re-equalizer, but I'm starting to see how such beliefs could be useful.
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Re: Difficulty with certain kind of conception of Kamma.

Postby Alex123 » Sun May 12, 2013 7:53 pm

fivebells wrote: I personally don't believe in post-mortem rebirth or kammic retribution as cosmic re-equalizer, but I'm starting to see how such beliefs could be useful.


I can see how belief in rebirth and kamma can be useful, it is just hard for me to believe in them.
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