Karma


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Karma does not necessarily mean past actions. It embraces both past and present deeds. Hence in one sense, we are the result of what we were; we will be the result of what we are. In another sense, it should be added, we are not totally the result of what we were; we will not absolutely be the result of what we are. The present is no doubt the offspring of the past and is the present of the future, but the present is not always a true index of either the past or the future; so complex is the working of Karma. It is this doctrine of Karma that the mother teaches her child when she says "Be good and you will be happy and we will love you; but if you are bad, you will be unhappy and we will not love you.

Karma and Vipaka.


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Karma is action, and Vipaka, fruit or result, is its reaction. Just as every object is accompanied by a shadow, even so every volitional activity is inevitably accompanied by its due effect. Strictly speaking, both Karma and Vipaka pertain to the mind. As Karma is mental so Vipaka is mental of the mind. It is experienced as happiness, bliss, unhappiness or misery, according to the nature of the Karma seed.

As we sow, we reap somewhere and sometime, in his life or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past. The Samyutta Nikaya states:. Karma is a law in itself, which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external, independent ruling agency. Happiness and misery, which are the common lot of humanity, are the inevitable effects of causes. From a Buddhist point of view, they are not rewards and punishments, assigned by a supernatural, omniscient ruling power to a soul that has done good or evil.

Buddhism, which emphatically denies such an Almighty, All merciful God-Creator and an arbitrarily created immortal soul, believes in natural law and justice which cannot be suspended by either an Almighty God or an All-compassionate Buddha. According to this natural law, acts bear their own rewards and punishments to the individual doer whether human justice finds out or not.

There are some who criticise thus: "So, you Buddhists, too, administer capitalistic opium to the people, saying: "You are born poor in this life on account of your past evil karma. He is born rich on account of his good Karma. So, be satisfied with your humble lot; but do good to be rich in your next life. You are being oppressed now because of your past evil Karma. There is your destiny. Be humble and bear your sufferings patiently. Do good now. You can be certain of a better and happier life after death. The Buddhist doctrine of Karma does not expound such ridiculous fatalistic views.

Nor does it vindicate a postmortem justice. The All-Merciful Buddha, who had no ulterior selfish motives, did not teach this law of Karma to protect the rich and comfort the poor by promising illusory happiness in an after-life. While we are born to a state created by ourselves, yet by our own self-directed efforts there is every possibility for us to create new, favourable environments even here and now. Not only individually, but also, collectively, we are at liberty to create fresh Karma that leads either towards our progress or downfall in this very life.

How far one diverts it depends on oneself. Is one bound to reap all that one has sown in just proportion? The Buddha provides an answer:. But if anyone says that what a man or woman reaps in this and future lives accords with his or her deeds present and past, in that case there is a religious life, and an opportunity is afforded for the entire extinction of a sorrow.

If such were the case emancipation would be impossibility. Eternal recurrence would be the unfortunate result. What is the cause of Karma? Ignorance avijja , or not knowing things as they truly are, is the chief cause of Karma. Dependent on ignorance arise activities avijja paccaya samkhara states the Buddha in the Paticca Samuppada Dependent Origination. Associated with ignorance is the ally craving tanha , the other root of Karma. Evil actions are conditioned by these two causes. All good deeds of a worldling putthujana , though associated with the three wholesome roots of generosity alobha , goodwill adosa and knowledge amoha , are nevertheless regarded as Karma because the two roots of ignorance and craving are dormant in him.

The moral types of Supramundane Path Consciousness magga citta are not regarded as Karma because they tend to eradicate the two root causes. Who is the doer of Karma? Who reaps the fruit of Karma? Does Karma mould a soul?

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In answering these subtle questions, the Venerable Buddhaghosa writes in the Visuddhi Magga:. Is right discernment. For instance, the table we see is apparent reality. In an ultimate sense the so-called table consists of forces and qualities. For ordinary purposes a scientist would use the term water, but in the laboratory he would say H 2 0. In this same way, for conventional purposes, such terms as man, woman, being, self, and so forth are used.

The so-called fleeting forms consist of psychophysical phenomena, which are constantly changing not remaining the same for two consecutive moments. Buddhists, therefore, do not believe in an unchanging entity, in an actor apart from action, in a perceiver apart from perception, in a conscious subject behind consciousness.

Who then, is the doer of Karma? Who experiences the effect?

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Volition, or Will tetana , is itself the doer, Feeling vedana is itself the reaper of the fruits of actions. Apart from these pure mental states suddhadhamma there is no-one to sow and no-one to reap. Classification of Karma. A With respect to different functions, Karma is classified into four kinds:. Every birth is conditioned by a past good or bad karma, which predominated at the moment of death. Karma that conditions the future birth is called Reproductive Karma.

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Though the present form perishes, another form which is neither the same nor absolutely different takes its place, according to the potential thought-vibration generated at the death moment, because the Karmic force which propels the life-flux still survives. It is this last thought, which is technically called Reproductive janaka Karma, that determines the state of a person in his subsequent birth. This may be either a good or bad Karma. According to the Commentary, Reproductive Karma is that which produces mental aggregates and material aggregates at the moment of conception.

The initial consciousness, which is termed the patisandhi rebirth consciousness, is conditioned by this Reproductive janaka Karma. The element of cohesion apo. The element of heat tajo. The element of motion vayo. Odour gandha. Taste rasa. Sex-decad and Base-decad also consist of the first nine, sex bhava and seat of consciousness vathu respectively i. From this, it is evident that the sex of a person is determined at the very conception of a being.

It is conditioned by Karma and is not a fortuitous combination of sperm and ovum cells. Immediately after conception till the death moment this Karma steps forward to support the Reproductive Karma. A moral supportive kusala upathambhaka Karma assists in giving health, wealth, happiness etc. An immoral supportive Karma, on the other hand, assists in giving pain, sorrow, etc. For instance, a person born with a good Reproductive Karma may be subject to various ailments etc. An animal, on the other hand, who is born with a bad Reproductive Karma may lead a comfortable life by getting good food, lodging, etc.

According to the law of Karma the potential energy of the Reproductive Karma could be nullified by a mere powerful opposing Karma of the past, which, seeking an opportunity, may quite unexpectedly operate, just as a powerful counteractive force can obstruct the path of a flying arrow and bring it down to the ground.

Such an action is called Destructive upaghataka Karma, which is more effective than the previous two in that it is not only obstructive but also destroys the whole force. This Destructive Karma also may be either good or bad. As an instance of operation of all the four, the case of Devadatta, who attempted to kill the Buddha and who caused a schism in the Sangha disciples of the Buddha may be cited. His good Reproductive Karma brought him birth in a royal family. His continued comfort and prosperity were due to the action of the Supportive Karma.

The Counteractive or Obstructive Karma came into operation when he was subject to much humiliation as a result of his being excommunicated from the Sangha. Finally the Destructive Karma brought his life to a miserable end. It produces its results in this life or in the next for certain. If good, it is purely mental as in the case of Jhana ecstasy or absorption. Otherwise it is verbal or bodily. On the Immoral side, there are five immediate effective heinous crimes pancanantariya karma : Matricide, Patricide, and the murder of an Arahant, the wounding of a Buddha and the creation of a schism in the Sangha.

If, for instance, any person were to develop the jhana ecstasy or absorption and later were to commit one of these heinous crimes, his good Karma would be obliterated by the powerful evil Karma. His subsequent birth would be conditioned by the evil Karma in spite of his having gained the jhana earlier. Devadatta lost his psychic power and was born in an evil state, because he wounded the Buddha and caused a schism in the Sangha.

King Ajatasattu would have attained the first stage of Sainthood Sotapanna if he had not committed patricide. In this case the powerful evil Karma acted as an obstacle to his gaining Sainthood. This is that which one does or remembers immediately before the moment of dying.

Can We Change Our Karma?

Owing to the great part it plays in determining the future birth, much importance is attained to this deathbed asanna Karma in almost all Buddhist countries. The customs of reminding the dying man of good deeds and making him do good acts on his deathbed still prevails in Buddhist countries.

Sometimes a bad person may die happily and receive a good birth if he remembers or does a good act at the last moment. A story runs that a certain executioner who casually happened to give some alms to the Venerable Sariputta remembered this good act at the dying moment and was born in a state of bliss. This does not mean that although he enjoys a good birth he will be exempt from the effects of the evil deeds which he accumulated during his lifetime.

They will have there due effect as occasions arise. At times a good person may die unhappy by suddenly remembering an evil act of his or by harbouring some unpleasant thought, perchance compelled by unfavourable circumstances. In the scriptures, Queen Mallika, the consort of King Kosala, remembering a lie she had uttered, suffered for about seven days in a state of misery when she lied to her husband to cover some misbehaviour. These are exceptional cases. Such reverse changes of birth account for the birth of virtuous children to vicious parents and of vicious children to virtuous parents.

As a result of the last thought moment being conditioned by the general conduct of the person. It is that which on habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking. Habits whether good or bad becomes ones second nature, tending to form the character of a person. King Dutthagamini of Ceylon Sri Lanka was in the habit of giving alms to the Bhikkhus monks before he took his own meals.

It was his habitual Karma that gladdened him at the dying moment and gave him birth in the Tusita heaven. C There is another classification of Karma according to the time in which effects are worked out:.

Immediately Effective Karma is that which is experienced in this present life. According to the Abhidhamma one does both good and evil during the javana process thought-impulsion , which usually lasts for seven thought-moments. The effect of the first thought-moment, being the weakest, one may reap in this life itself. This is called the Immediately Effective Karma.

The next weakest is the seventh thought-moment. Its effect one may reap in the subsequence birth. This, too, is called Defunct or Ineffective Karma if it does not operate in the second birth. The effect of the intermediate thought-moments may take place at any time until one attains Nibbana.

Karma definition: Most people are wrong about the meaning

There is no special class of Karma known as Defunct or Ineffective, but when such actions that should produce their effects in this life or in a subsequent life do not operate, they are termed Defunct or Ineffective Karma. D The last classification of Karma is according to the plane in which the effect takes place, namely: Evil Actions akusala kamma which may ripen in the sentient planes kammaloka.

Here are only four woeful kamalokas. Good Actions kusala kamma which may ripen in the sentient planes except for the four woeful planes. Good Actions kusala kamma which may ripen in the Realm of Form rupa brahamalokas. There are four Arupa Brahma Lokas. Questions on the Theory of Karma. Question: Do the Karmas of parents determine or affect the Karmas of their children? Answer: Physically, the Karma of children is generally determined by the Karma of their parents. Thus, healthy parents usually have healthy offspring, and unhealthy parents have unhealthy children.

The glorious and powerful Karma of our Buddha-to-be transcended the Karma of his parents which jointly were more potent than his own. Question: If the Karma of parents do not influence those of their children, how would the fact be explained that parents who suffer from certain virulent diseases are apt to transmit these evils to their offsprings?


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  5. Take, for example, two seeds from a sapling; plant one in inferior, dry soil; and the other in rich, moist soil. The result is that the first seed will sprout into a sickly sapling and soon show symptoms of disease and decay; while the other seed will thrive and flourish and grow up to be a tall and healthy tree. It will be observed that the pair of seeds taken from the same stock grows up differently according to the soil into which they are put. Thus, although the power of germination exists potentially in the seed the child , its growth is powerfully determined and quickened by the soil the mother and the moisture the father.

    Therefore, even as the conditions of the soil and moisture must be taken as largely responsible factors in the growth and condition of the tree. So must the influences of the parents or progenitors, as in the case of the animal world be taken into account in respect to the conception and growth of their offspring.


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    8. If they are cattle then their issue must be of their species. If the human being is Chinese, then their offspring must be of their race. Thus, the offspring are invariably of the same genera and species, etc. It is apt to inherit the physical characteristic of its parents. Of course, it need hardly be pointed out that the evil influences of parents can also be counteracted by the application of medical science.

      All beings born of sexual cohabitation are the resultant effects of three forces: The old Karma of past existence; The seminal fluid of the mother, and The seminal fluid of the father. The physical dispositions of the parents may, or may not, be equal in force. One may counteract the other to a lesser or greater extent.

      Answer: When a sentient being leaves one existence, it is reborn either as a human being, a celestial being, Deva or Brahama , and inferior animal, or a denizen of one of the regions of hell. Some assert that these transitional stages are possessed of the Five Khandhas Five Aggregates: they are Matter rupa ; Feeling vedana ; Perception sanna ; 4. Mental-activities sankhara ; and Consciousness vinnana. Read our privacy policy. Ananda Sangha Europa. Virtual Community.

      Treasures Along the Path. The Education for Life Philosophy. Mass Karma Karma can also affect a group of people, such as a religion 3 , country, or even a planet depending on the karma of the majority of the group. Ananda Worldwide. Find Ananda Near You. Kriya Yoga. Online Classes, Events, and Community. Retreats in the U. Books, Music, Talks, and More. Our Spiritual Lineage. Our Spiritual Directors. More from Ananda. Ananda India. Products Treasures Along the Path.

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