Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

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Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:48 am

Reading through the Digha Nikaya (I am doing this very, very slowly, by the way), I find an interesting footnote by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Verse 16 of the Janavasabha Sutta:

Then the Thirty-Three Gods sat down each in his proper place, saying: 'Let us find out what comes of this radiance, and having found the truth of it, we will go towards it.' The Four Great Kinds, sitting down in their places, said the same. Thus they were all agreed.

For "Let us find out what comes," he has a footnote which reads:
Vipaka: not here, as usually, in the technical sense of 'result of kamma', but (a rare usage) 'outcome in general'

I think of the Dhamma as something which is, as MN 22 said, "clear, open, evident, and free of patchwork".

I do not think of the Dhamma as a specific, fringe worldview or convoluted philosophy, with its specific metaphysical, ontological, and ethical terms. This is also, as I see it, bolstered by the teachings of papanca, the claim by the Buddha that the Dhamma can be taught in any language (forget which sutta it was, but somebody here could help me find that citation), and the definition of Noble Right View, contrasted with right view "with effluents," in the MN 117.

So, the Buddha's teachings of karma, I relate these relatively straightforwardly to action and consequence. If I act rightly, I can reasonably expect good results (in this life and the next), and the opposite if I do evil. In this case at least, I think the meanings of the terms are actually obscured by keeping it untranslated, because people in the west have so many skewed value-judgments about the idea of kamma. If we say kamma is action and vipaka is effect, it's clear that the Buddha's teaching was essentially the same as the justification for most philosophical ethics, period, in western philosophy, not some kind of cosmic or esoteric or divine force which rewards good and punishes evil. That is, by saying "kamma" is merely action and nothing more than action, by saying "vipaka," is nothing more than consequence, all the typical western contentions about karma is easily avoided. If anyone says, "I can commit an evil deed in a certain case, and get away with it," it's relatively easy to get at the heart of the foolishness of such a statement, without requiring people overcome the big hurdle of having to accept a specific set of foreign terms.

The claims made by Aristotle, Socrates, etc., even fools like Ayn Rand, on how living rightly is beneficial, is very easy to accept. A teaching which goes beyond this doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

Aristotle once said, "I have gained this by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law." Would this by itself not be a recognition of cause & effect, or does such wisdom require the recognition of specific terminology or specific terms of thought, in order to be valid?
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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:52 am

Kamma should not be translated as “action” either. It is intention that the Buddha called kamma. “Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi.”

If someone is behaving like a fool, calling him a fool may not be abusive speech if the intention is to correct his foolish behaviour. The Buddha also used such kind of speech, referring to “Moghapurisa” or deluded man, whenever a bhikkhu did something inappropriate for one gone forth.

The consequence of kamma depends not only on your intention, but also on the virtue or otherwise of the target of your action. Abusing an Arahant does not have the same result as abusing a drunken yob. Donation to an Arahant does not have the same result as donation to a drug addict.

I find that the deeper meaning of a term like kamma is often lost by translating it. That is why some terms like dukkha, kamma, nibbāna, saṃsāra, are best left untranslated. Unfortunately, the word karma has been overused, and misused a great deal in the loose sense of fate or destiny, but that is not entirely wrong. The word has many facets:
Sabbe sattā kammassakā, kammadāyādā, kammayonī, kammabandhū kammappatisaranā yam kammam karissanti kalyānam vā pāpakam vā tassa dāyādā bhavissanti.

All beings are the owners of their kamma, are heirs to their kamma, are born from their kamma, are related to their kamma, and have kamma as their refuge; whatever kamma they do, for good or for ill, of that they will be the heirs.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby Individual » Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:27 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Kamma should not be translated as “action” either. It is intention that the Buddha called kamma. “Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi.”

How is the meaning of what the Buddha said in that instance different by translating it as, "Action is intention"?

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:If someone is behaving like a fool, calling him a fool may not be abusive speech if the intention is to correct his foolish behaviour. The Buddha also used such kind of speech, referring to “Moghapurisa” or deluded man, whenever a bhikkhu did something inappropriate for one gone forth.

I would say it wouldn't be a case of an unwholesome action being rooted in good intentions (and thus somehow magically leading to a positive result, through a means by which intentions yield results independent of the action itself), but the action there is wholesome, because it is rooted in discernment of the particular case. If a person calls someone a fool, with the intention of correcting his foolish behavior, without the discernment of that particular case, without seeing clearly in that particular case that's the right thing to do, that still would be abusive speech. It is possible for apparently wholesome intentions to be misplaced, by being founded in ignorance, which is the foundation for further becoming. There is a western saying on this: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:58 pm

Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Kamma should not be translated as “action” either. It is intention that the Buddha called kamma. “Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi.”

How is the meaning of what the Buddha said in that instance different by translating it as, "Action is intention"?


Remember that the Buddha was teaching to people against a backdrop where many people had a Jainist conception of kamma. For a Jain, killing an insect is considered bad kamma, even if there was no volitional intent. For a Buddhist, it is the intention that is the focus... even an unsuccessful attempt to harm a living creature consistutes bad kamma on account of the intention behind the action. Even sitting there staring at a fly wishing for it to go away is a mild form of aversion, and thus constitutes bad kamma. For further reading see...

The Roots of Good and Evil by Nyanaponika Thera
http://www.geocities.com/ekchew.geo/roo ... evilC.html

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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby Individual » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:14 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Kamma should not be translated as “action” either. It is intention that the Buddha called kamma. “Cetanāhaṃ bhikkhave kammaṃ vadāmi.”

How is the meaning of what the Buddha said in that instance different by translating it as, "Action is intention"?


Remember that the Buddha was teaching to people against a backdrop where many people had a Jainist conception of kamma. For a Jain, killing an insect is considered bad kamma, even if there was no volitional intent. For a Buddhist, it is the intention that is the focus... even an unsuccessful attempt to harm a living creature consistutes bad kamma on account of the intention behind the action. Even sitting there staring at a fly wishing for it to go away is a mild form of aversion, and thus constitutes bad kamma. For further reading see...

The Roots of Good and Evil by Nyanaponika Thera
http://www.geocities.com/ekchew.geo/roo ... evilC.html

Metta,
Retro. :)

Yes, and because the western notion of "action" is influenced by the Greek and Renaissance philosophical ideas of intentionality, it is largely implied by the English word "action," that there is an identification with "intention," that is not found in either the English term, "karma," or the Jain concept.

For an average English-speaker, it is plainly obvious that actions are rooted in intentions, and that intentions are the basis for actions, whereas the notion of "karma" is seen as a mystical force, like the Jain teaching, and distinguishing karma from mere action encourages this.
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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:48 am

maaaaaybe

but intention or voilition or voilitional action carry a deeper meaning than just action to most people, they show that it really is more than just movement it is a deliberate movement. we cant know another's kamma, but we can see anothers actions, so then how do you reconcile this? the only way is if kamma is more than just the actions we can see, if its something going on in the mind
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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby clw_uk » Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:03 pm

I agree with JC, when you state it is intention it gets it across that its concocting thats involved in the process
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Re: Kamma and vipaka different from "action" and "result"?

Postby cooran » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:19 pm

Hello clw_uk, all,

You may like to read this teaching on Kamma by Ven. Bhikkhu P. A. Payutto
(Phra Bhrama Khunabarana (Venerable Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto) was born in 1939 in Suphanburi Province, Thailand. He became a novice at the age of 13, and while still a novice completed the highest grade of Pali examination, an achievement for which he was honoured with ordination as a monk under Royal Patronage in 1961. After completing a degree in Buddhist studies from Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University and a Higher Certificate in Education in 1962 and 1963 respectively, he acted as Deputy Secretary-General of the Buddhist University and lectured extensively in Thailand and overseas, including time spent lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and Swarthmore College in the USA.)

Good, Evil and Beyond - Kamma in the Buddha's Teaching

Contents
Introduction
Acknowledgment

1. Understanding the Law of Kamma
Kamma as a law of nature
The law of kamma and social preference
The meaning of kamma
a. kamma as intention
b. kamma as conditioning factor
c. kamma as personal responsibility
d. kamma as social activity or career
Kinds of kamma

2. On Good and Evil
The problem of good and evil
The meaning of kusala and akusala
Kusala and akusala as catalysts for each other
Gauging good and bad kamma
Primary factors
Secondary factors

3. The Fruition of Kamma
Results of kamma on different levels
Factors that affect the fruition of kamma
Understanding the process of fruition
Fruits of kamma on a long term basis -- Heaven and Hell
Summary: verifying future lives
Kamma fruition in the Cula Kammavibhanga Sutta

4. Kamma on the Social Level
The importance of ditthi in the creation of kamma
External influences and internal reflection
Personal responsibility and social kamma
Responsible social action

5. The Kamma that Ends Kamma

6. Misunderstandings of The Law of Kamma
Who causes happiness and suffering?
Beliefs that are contrary to the law of kamma
Can kamma be erased?
Do kamma and not-self contradict each other?

7. In Conclusion
The general meaning
Intelligence over superstition
Action rather than prayer
Non-adherence to race or class
Self reliance
A caution for the future
References


http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/kamma.htm#Contents

metta
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