The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:38 am

Thanks, Mike and Paul, for taking the time to hash out these ideas in detail. I appreciate the opportunity to develop a better understanding of kamma.

mikenz66 wrote:According to the Buddha it is futile to speculate about the details of the workings of kamma but it is certainly said in the Suttas that it can have unpleasant effects. These might include being stoned, being killed by a cow, or being killed by a tsumami...


I might be misreading all of this, but it seems to me the basic concern is the question of whether our volitional actions (kamma) can bring, as an effect, something seemingly random happening to us (like a tsunami). That's the pop view of karma, I think.

(Interesting to note, however, that the Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta discusses kamma that can lead to a short life span in a future rebirth.)

Personally, I don't think it does much good to worry about the seemingly random events that might befall us in this samsara and speculate whether or not we "deserve" such events based on our past volitional actions. More important, in my view, is to cultivate as much as possible equanimity toward whatever comes our way (by no means an easy thing to do, especially in the face of a tragedy like a tsunami).

But I'm wondering as I read this thread, is anyone here arguing that our volitional actions can bring, as an effect, something seemingly random happening to us?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:49 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:What it means to me is that Angulimala experienced pain due to his kamma.
Any issue with that?

There are so many factors involved in what led to that circumstance, such that "Angulimala experienced pain due to his kamma" is an oversimplification which, if accepted at face value, would lead to an incorrect understanding.
...

I'm simply basing my statement on what the Buddha says in the Sutta ("... You are experiencing here and now the results of deeds ...", not by trying to reason about the workings of kamma. In short, I'm trusting that what the Buddha is recorded to have said is reliable.

If you accept that "mundane right view" involves accepting that bad kamma leads to suffering, then that suffering is generally going to involve bad stuff happening. You can try to hide behind it being technically "unpleasant bodily or mental feeling", but that unpleasant feeling doesn't (always) spring up spontaneously from the mind. Angulimala didn't have unpleasant bodily feeling because he was in a bad mood. He had unpleasant bodily feeling when the stones hit him...

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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:59 am

Hi Jechbi,
Jechbi wrote:But I'm wondering as I read this thread, is anyone here arguing that our volitional actions can bring, as an effect, something seemingly random happening to us?

Perhaps I'm totally misunderstanding all of the teachings on kamma that I've ever heard or read from various teachers (such as Bhikkhu Bodhi), but if only "predictable bad stuff" happens what is the point of the Buddha's teaching that bad kamma leads to bad results? As Bhikkhu Bodhi says in the quote I gave above, bad kamma leaves an "imprint" on the thought-stream that gives an inclination for certain situations, in this life or future lives, where suffering will occur. Since we are not even Arahants, let alone Buddha's, these situations will seem random.

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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:06 am

I certainly would not push kamma to the point that we would say that tsunamis are the result of kamma. One might be able to reasonably argue that global warming could be the result of collective actions by humans, but some processes are simply not touched by that. Not all suffering is the result of kamma.

"some feelings, Sivaka, arise here originating from bile disorders... originating from phlegm disorders,.... originating from wind disorders....originating from an imbalance <of the three>.... produced by change of climate... produced by careless behavior... caused by assault... produced as the result of kamma: how some feelings arise here produced as the result of kamma one can know for oneself, and that is considered to be true in the world." Now when those ascetics and brahmins hold such a doctrine and view as this, 'Whatever a person experiences, whether it be pleasant or painful or neither-pleasant-nor-painful, that is caused by what was done in the past,' they over shoot what is considered to be true in the world. Therefore I say that this is wrong on the part of those ascetics and brahmins.” Samyutta Nikaya, IV 230. vedanasamyutta, sutta 21. page 1279

See this by Ven P. A. Payutto (via the Wayback Machine):

http://web.archive.org/web/200404170411 ... kamma6.htm
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:18 am

Greetings Chris,

Chris wrote:Could you give a link to where the commentaries state this please? Then those who wish can read for themselves.


Unfortunately I can't recall where I read this (quite possibly it was a footnote to a sutta?), or even have the first clue as to where I might go about working out where I read it, so you'll just have to take it as something I believe I have recall reading. If that carries no weighting, then so be in it. The closest I've been able to find is "scholars generally ascribe very little reliability to place names mentioned in the Pali Canon"

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=fNu ... 22&f=false

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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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:19 am

Hi Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Perhaps I'm totally misunderstanding all of the teachings on kamma that I've ever heard or read from various teachers (such as Bhikkhu Bodhi) ...
I wouldn't say that about you at all.
mikenz66 wrote:... but if only "predictable bad stuff" happens what is the point of the Buddha's teaching that bad kamma leads to bad results? As Bhikkhu Bodhi says in the quote I gave above, bad kamma leaves an "imprint" on the thought-stream that gives an inclination for certain situations, in this life or future lives, where suffering will occur. Since we are not even Arahants, let alone Buddha's, these situations will seem random.

That makes sense to me. I'm not ready to dismiss the idea that some of the seemingly random events that befall us might be things that, in some way, we've unknowingly brought upon ourselves. As you say, who can know for sure?

At this point, there's nothing we can do about it, though. No use crying over spilt milk. So I like your idea of understanding it in a forward-looking way: What can I do here and now that will be the most beneficial kamma?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:24 am

Hi Tilt,

Sure, as you say, kamma is not the only factor in causing unpleasant feelings. And I'm certainly not arguing that a Tsumami happens as the result of kamma. But as I understand it, being born in, or moving to, a Tsunami-prone region, may well be...

And, of course, going back to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk, if one accepts that human-induced global warming is happening, then it is clearly, by definition, a result of human action (setting aside the technicalities of what is vipaka).

I guess we could save a bit of time if we were able to read the old thread on E-Sangha where Retro (among others) went through the same discussion.

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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:51 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Tilt,

Sure, as you say, kamma is not the only factor in causing unpleasant feelings. And I'm certainly not arguing that a Tsumami happens as the result of kamma. But as I understand it, being born in, or moving to, a Tsunami-prone region, may well be...
Maybe, or maybe not. One thing, as in the lowlands of Bangldesh, there are simply too many people in the world, pushing us to live in places where we should not, but what is the role kamma plays in living to close to Vesuvius, not knowing that is has ever erupted to the extant that it could wipe one's city?

And, of course, going back to Bhikkhu Bodhi's talk, if one accepts that human-induced global warming is happening, then it is clearly, by definition, a result of human action (setting aside the technicalities of what is vipaka).


The emergence of intelligence, I am convinced, tends to unbalance the ecology. In other words, intelligence is the great polluter. It is not until a creature begins to manage its environment that nature is thrown into disorder. Until that occurs, there is a system of checks and balances operating in a logical and understandable manner. Intelligence destroys and modifies the checks and balances even as it tries very diligently to leave them as they were. There is no such thing as an intelligence living harmony with the biosphere. It may think and boast it is doing so, but its mentality gives it an advantage and the compulsion is always there to employ this advantage to its selfish benefit. Thus, while intelligence may be an outstanding survival factor, the factor is short-term, and intelligence turns out to be the great destroyer. -- written by a crazy character in SHAKESPEARE'S PLANET, a sci-fi novel by Clifford Simak, 1976.

I guess we could save a bit of time if we were able to read the old thread on E-Sangha where Retro (among others) went through the same discussion.
It is obviously dead. One has to wonder what actions (kamma and of whom) that gave rise to that result.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 10, 2010 6:01 am

Greetings Cooran,

And after all that looking, I now just accidentally stumble across it.

cooran wrote:
Retro said: Many suttas were also constructed to fit certain structural templates. For example, often, if the location of a particular teaching was not known, the commentators advise us that the editors often placed the location in one of the major cities. So "at Savatthi" might not always mean "at Savatthi"! But then, location is just a peripheral aspect to a sutta, as is a bhikkhu's mode of death...


Could you give a link to where the commentaries state this please? Then those who wish can read for themselves.
A bhikkhus' mode of death, particularly one with attainments, and particularly when stated by the Buddha in answer to a direct question, is not a peripheral aspect to a sutta.

Repetition is used in the Suttas for those portions which were to be emphasised.

metta
Chris


It seems it was the Vinaya, not the commentaries (though i suppose it could well be in the commentaries too, since they're oft to explain pitaka content in more detail)...

From What the Buddha Really Taught by Bhikkhu Sujato
http://santipada.googlepages.com/whatth ... allytaught

This does not mean that everything found in these texts is literally the ‘Word of the Buddha’. The first schism was over 100 years after the Buddha’s parinibbana, which allows plenty of time for editorial funny business. The texts themselves remind us that what is essential are ‘those suttas spoken by the Tathagata’. Much of the material in the early Nikāyas/Āgamas is not ‘spoken by the Tathagata’, for example, background stories and narrative. This should not be regarded as authoritative in the deep sense. And indeed, comparison between corresponding sutras in the Nikāyas and Āgamas frequently reveals that, while the doctrinal matter is very similar, the setting and other incidental details may be different. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but shows a tendency in the compilation of the canon to regard doctrinal matter as the heart, and treat incidental matter more freely. There are even instructions in two Vinayas on what to do if one forgets the setting of a sutra. These more-or-less instruct the monks to just say it was at Sāvatthī!

He doesn't say exactly where but he seems contactable online and would probably be amenable to a request for clarification.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby bazzaman » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:29 am

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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:48 am

Greetings Bazzaman,

bazzaman wrote:perhaps the earth opening up and swallowing that scoundrel Ven. Devadata might be worth considering. Don't have a reference at hand; but I think it's probably in the suttas, rather than the commentaries.


From page 271 of Ven. Nanamoli's "The Life Of The Buddha: According To The Pali Canon"...

The Canon does not relate the actual circumstances of Devadatta's death. According to the Commentary the earth opened and he was swalllowed up and engulfed in hell, to remain there till the destruction of the hells on the advent of the next cycle of world contraction.


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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby bazzaman » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:35 am

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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:58 am

Greetings Bazzaman,

No worries... reading the book, I too was quite surprised about how much of what we assume to be Sutta or Vinaya material about the Buddha's life actually comes from the commentarial tradition instead.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:12 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Bazzaman,

No worries... reading the book, I too was quite surprised about how much of what we assume to be Sutta or Vinaya material about the Buddha's life actually comes from the commentarial tradition instead.

Metta,
Retro.
'Including the name Siddhattha.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Dhamma as cosmic enforcer?

Postby bazzaman » Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:19 am

Not much of a reader these past few years (except for what appears on my computer screen). But since you guys like Ven. Nanamoli's book, I'll search it out and buy it.
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