Karma in Buddhismview • talk • edit
In Buddhism, the term karma is used specifically for those actions which spring from :
- mental intent (Pali: cetana)
- mental obsessions
which bring about a fruit (Pali, phala) or result (vipāka), either within the present life, or in the context of a future rebirth. Karma is the engine which drives the wheel of the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth (saṃsāra) for each being.
Karma in Buddhism
In the (Anguttara Nikaya Nibbedhika Sutta) the Buddha said :
- "Intention (cetana), monks, is kamma, I say. Having willed, one acts through body, speech and mind".
Every time a person acts there is some quality of intention at the base of the mind and it is that quality rather than the outward appearance of the action that determines the effect. If a person professes piety and virtue but nonetheless acts with greed, anger or hatred (veiled behind an outward display of well-meaning intent) then the fruit of those actions will bear testimony to the fundamental intention that lay behind them and will be a cause for future unhappiness. The Buddha spoke of wholesome actions (kusala-kamma) -- that result in happiness, and unwholesome actions (akusala-kamma) -- that result in unhappiness.
Karma is thus used as an ethical principle and a cosmological explanation for the world. Buddhists believe that the actions of beings determine their own future, and because of this there are no private actions: all actions have a consequence. The emphasis of karma in Buddhism is on mindful action, not on blaming someone else for whatever happens to oneself.
There is a further distinction between worldly, wholesome kamma that leads to samsāric happiness (like birth in higher realms), and path-consciousness which leads to enlightenment and (nirvana). Therefore there is samsāric good karma, which leads to worldly happiness, and then there is liberating karma - which is supremely good, as it ends suffering forever. Once one has attained liberation one does not generate any further kamma, and the corresponding states of mind are called in Pali Kiriya. Nonetheless, the Buddha advocated the practise of wholesome actions: "Refrain from unwholesome actions/Perform only wholesome ones/Purify the mind/This is the teaching of the Enlightened Ones." Dhp v.183.
Because of the inevitability of consequence, Karma entails the notion of Buddhist rebirth. However, karma is not the sole basis of rebirth. The rebirths of eighth stage (and above) Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition refers to those liberated beings who consciously choose to be reborn in a future life in order to help others still trapped in saṃsāra. However, this is not 'uncontrolled' rebirth anymore.
The Buddha explains what having conviction in karma means:
- First, karma really is happening -- it is not an illusion.
- Second, you really are responsible for your actions. There is no outside force like the stars or some good or evil being acting through you. When you are conscious, you are the one who decides what happens.
- Third, your actions have results -- you are not just writing on the water -- and those results can be good or bad depending on the quality of the intention behind the act.
Incorrect understandings of karma
In Buddhism, karma is not pre-determinism, fatalism or accidentalism, as all these ideas lead to inaction and destroy motivation and human effort. These ideas undermine the important concept that a human being can change for the better no matter what his or her past was, and they are designated as "wrong views" in Buddhism.
- Pubbekatahetuvada: The belief that all happiness and suffering arise from previous karma (Past-action determinism).
- Issaranimmanahetuvada: The belief that all happiness and suffering are caused by the directives of a Supreme Being (Theistic determinism).
- Ahetu-apaccayavada: The belief that all happiness and suffering are random, having no cause (Indeterminism or Accidentalism).
- Bhikkhus, adhering to previously done kamma as the essence, there are neither motivation nor effort with what should be done and what should not be done ... Not upholding ardently what should be done, nor abandoning what should be abandoned, those ascetics and Brahmins are as if deluded, lacking a control, incapable of having any true teaching. (Buddha)
In Buddhism, karma is simply there as a guide and an indication of what the reason for your present state is and how one's future can be made better by self effort. Fatalism and pre-determinism is the anti-thesis of the notion of perfection or self-conquest -- which is the primary aim of Buddhism.
- The Buddha asserts effort and motivation as the crucial factors in deciding the ethical value of these various teachings on kamma.(P.A. Payutto).
- ^ Misunderstandings of the Law of Kamma P. A. Payutto
- Consciousness (Buddhism)
- Merit (Buddhism)
- Pratitya-samutpada (Dependent Origination)
- Releasing life - as a means to create good karma
- Samsara (Buddhism)
- Twelve Nidanas
- Salvation Versus Liberation, The Limitations of the Paradise Worlds
- Karma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
- A view on Buddhist Karma
- What is Karma ?
- Misunderstandings of the Law of Kamma by Prayudh Payutto