Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Types of Buddhist teachings: Ordinary, hidden/subtle, and extremely hidden/subtle.
Karma is an extremely hidden teaching.
Ultimately, only enlightened beings can understand karma directly and fully.
Ordinary minds can not perceive karma directly, and therefore must rely on inferential reasoning and confidence in our teachers and texts.
Buddha said of all his teachings Karma was the most difficult to understand.
There are different types of causality that govern biology, the environment etc. The Buddhist teaching on karma concern the causality of mind and one's experience of either suffering or happiness, bondage or freedom.
Karma: The law of cause and effect
The science of causality, how things work.
Karma means action, but refers to the intentions that drive actions; and the consequences or results of actions.
Intentional actions create our experience.
Its not what happens to us, but how we experience or perceive what is happening to us that is our karma.
Its not the brick that falls on your head, but how you perceive and evaluate that experience that is your karma ripening.
At a very deep level, we can say that you don't have karma, rather you are karma. "You" are the sum total of your past action, and you change "you" in the future, by what you do now.
World Views are meta-philosophies that answer the questions why do things happen and how are things working?
All world views explain the nature of reality, and have implications to how we live and relate to others (ie. ethics).
3 Main World Views:
Theism: God is in control of the forces of nature and the direction of our lives.
Implication: If we surrender and have faith in God, we will receive our blessings in heaven.
Problem: If there is only one God (monotheism), and He is all powerful (omnipotent) and all compassionate, then how do we explain evil and suffering? Either there are many gods, in which case how do we choose, or He is not all powerful, in which case why surrender to him, or He is not all compassionate, in which case why love him. Theologians have argued this problem for centuries. Ultimately they say that this problem is beyond our understanding and that suffering is a test of our faith. But again, if god was all powerful and all compassionate, why test us with misery?
Materialism: No specific forces are in control of nature and our experience. Things are randomly occurring and are not predictable.
Implications: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die and there is no reason to be moral because nothing matters.
Problem: Unethical and amoral lifestyle, in which we harm ourselves, others and the earth. Why would you even go to school or have a bank account if you didn't believe in those efforts having a consequence?
Causality: We are directly responsible for the forces that shape our lives and expereince.
Implication: We create our own happiness and our own suffering.
Problem: Are we mature enough to accept the responsibility for our lives, or do we secretly have the childhood fantasy of wishing others (God, parents, governments) will take care of us? the other main problem of karma is the gap that occurs between cause and effect. Because we do not perceive the mechanisms of karma directly, and a cause and it's effect my be separated by a time gap, it is very hard for us to understand, and accept, that this is the way things are working.
Types of Causality:
Environmental Causality: There is no environmental causality as such, because the environment is not conscious or sentient. While there is a science of cause and effect in the natural world, there is no conscious intention driving it. This is the difference between "natural laws" such as gravity and "psychological laws" of karma.
Biological Causality: There is a whole domain of science that observes biological cause and effect. Because the mind and body are separate, albeit interrelated, there are distinct causal forces driving our physical bodies. However, in the tantric view (secret teachings) of Buddhism, it is asserted that mind and psychology determine the processes of the body.
Psychological Causality: will be discussed below.
Dharmic Causality: There is a unique type of causality ascribed the the enlightened activity (Tib. trinlay) of a Buddha. Because there is no erroneous sense of self for an enlightened being, then there are no imprints and no place for the imprints to reside.
Outlines of Psychological Karma:
General Characteristics of Karma:
1. The certainty of karma
2. The magnification of karma
3. One will never experience the result of a karma one did not create the cause for
4. Karma causes created are never lost*
I. The certainty of karma
All experience arises from a cause. Nothing is random. Happiness arises from the 10 virtues and suffering arises from the 10 non-virtues. The law of cause and effect is definite and certain. An apple seed can only produce and apple tree.
3 non virtues of Body: killing, stealing, sexual inappropriateness
4 non-virtues of Speech: lying, slander (divisive talk), harsh words, gossip
3 non-virtues of Mind: Covetousness (greed), harmful intent (hatred), and wrong view (misperception, closed mindedness).
3 virtues of Body: Protecting the well-being of others, generosity, respecting the feelings of others.
4 virtues of Speech: Speaking truthfully, speaking to harmonize others, speaking sweetly, speaking meaningfully
3 virtues of Mind: Rejoicing vicariously with others, having love and compassion for others, perceiving reality clearly/precisely (ie. interdependence/emptiness).
II. The magnification of karma
Great effects may arise from small actions. Internal causation seems to involve a magnification, whereby immense results can have very seemingly insignificant origins. The result of tremendous suffering can arise from even a tiny non-virtue like a harsh word, likewise immense joy and happiness may arise from even one kind word. A tiny seed produces a huge apple tree.
III. One will never experience the result of a karma one did not create the cause for
Because cause and effect are inextricably connected, you will never experience the result of an action you did not produce the cause for. Suffering will not arise without a cause, but neither will happiness. If you want to be happy, but are continuously harming others, don't expect to get what you want. On the other hand, if you know you are treating others respectfully and are conscious of your ethical conduct, then rest assured you will reap the fruit in kind.
IV. Karmic causes created are never lost
Karma does not perish over time even if it does not ripen due to absence of conditions. A cause is never lost, it will most certainly give rise to an effect at some point in time. We don't know when a karmic seed will ripen, because there is a tricky "gap" or lapse in time between a cause and its result. We should just assume that we have a massive store of negative imprints on our minds and that it is only a matter of time before we experience their ripening. This assumption helps us to not get too complacent when "good" things are happening, nor too paralyzed when "bad" things are happening, because our experience is constantly changing based on the ripening of past actions. The point is to consciously create your own positive outcome and purify your past negativities. Karma can not be removed by the power of another being, such as God's grace or the power of the Buddha . It can only be mitigated by our own efforts using the method of the "Four Opponent Powers or Purification" (see below).
Different Types of Karma:
Virtuous karma: which leads to rebirth (or positive experience) in the three upper realms
Non-virtuous karma: which leads to rebirth (or negative experience) in the three lower realms
Non-fluctuating karma: actions done with different levels of concentration, resulting in experience of the Form or Formless realms (higher states of consciousness).
Throwing karma: when all four conditions of karma are present (see below) there is sufficient force to direct consciousness into one of the Six Realms of Existence at the time of death.
Completing Karma: karma not containing all four conditions (see below), that influence the circumstances (either experience, predisposition, or environment) in the next rebirth.
Four Conditions of Karma: A Complete Karma
I will steal a wallet; there is a wallet to steal; I attempt to steal it; I obtain the wallet.
I want to help others: there is a person who needs help; I do some kind gesture; A person feels helped.
Four Results of Karma (Throwing and Completeing Karmas):
I. Throwing karma
Throwing Karma: Intentional actions at the time of death that propel (throw) consciousness into one of the Six Realms of Existence:
Animal => Paranoia and anxiety
Hungry ghost => Addiction
Hell => Trauma, dissociative states, schizophrenic and delusional states
Human => Depression and dissatisfaction
Demi-god => Envy and competiveness
Gods => Narcissism
II.-IV Types of Completing karmas
Karma similar to the Action (Predisposition and Tendency)
If you kill in the past then you inherit the mental tendency to kill
If you love others in the past, you inherit the tendency to be kind, gentle and loving
Karma similar to the Cause (Experience)
If you abuse others in the past then you experience abuse
If you love others in the past then you experience being loved of others
Karma similar to the Environment
If you kill in the past, then you experience a threatening environment like a war zone or place of intolerance.
If you loved in the past, then you experience a loving, safe, beautiful environment
Heaviness of Karma:
All four conditions of the karma are present as opposed to only some of them.
Example: Picking up someone's wallet in the street. In this case, one does not have the intention to steal (condition of intention) nor is there a actual person (object) in sight, but this action still carries some level of karmic imprint of stealing because you are taking something that has not been given and their is a person somewhere out there that is experiencing the loss. Your mind knows what its like to loose a wallet.
Karma is strengthened by:
1) Nature of the virtue or non-virtue: killing is heavier than stealing; saving life is heavier than giving food.
2) Intention: The degree of resolve or strength of the emotional investment/intensity in the action.
3) Object: The objects have weight; parents and teachers are the heaviest objects towards which to direct action because they give life and liberation. An action towards a human being is a heavier karma than an action towards an animal because a person is closer to liberation.
4) Action: how conscious one performs an actions; the amount of preparation, premeditation. Is it spontaneous and based on passion in the moment or is it well thought out? Is one conscious of the principal of karma while doing the action?
5) Energy: The more energy the heavier the karma is both directions. Doing something nice for a loved one doesn’t require as much energy as doing something nice for a difficult person.
6) Frequency: How often the action is conducted, shapes the imprint and makes it more robust.
7) Non virtues actions conducted without an opponent, versus non-virtues counteracted by the Four Opponent Powers. (see below)
The Four Opponent Powers:
This is the Buddhist purification practice used to cleanse specific karmic imprints that have been caused but have not yet arisen.
Each of the Four Powers (Refuge, Regret, Repair, Resolve) counteract one of the Four Conditions of Karma:
The Power of Reliable Refuge => which counters the Object
Refuge or reliance on Buddha, dharma, sangha, essentially your own selfless nature and potential for change rather than on your ordinary sense of being inadequate in some fixed way.
The Power of Sincere Regret => which counters the Intention
Have genuine Remeasures and Regret for each negative action.
The Power of the Repair => which counters the Action
Perform the antidote or repair by mentally and then actually doing something (generous, moral, caring, kind.)
If you hurt someone, imagine being kind to them, then actually find that person or another person and act accordingly.
The Power of Resolution => which counters the Completion
Make a sincere vow or promise not to commit the action again. Hold yourself accountable for a specific time period, even if it is just a day in which you do not repeat the action. Do not break your commitments.