Karma in Buddhism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: Kamma) means "action" or "doing"; whatever one does, says, or thinks is a karma. In Buddhism, the term karma is used specifically for those actions which spring from the intention (Sanskrit: cetanā, Pali: cetana) of an unenlightened being. These bring about a fruit (Sanskrit, Pali: phala) or result (S., P.: vipāka; the two are often used together as vipākaphala), either within the present life, or in the context of a future rebirth. Other Indian religions have different views on karma. Karma is the engine which drives the wheel of the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth (S., P. saṃsāra) for each being. In the early texts it is not, however, the only causal mechanism influencing the lives of sentient beings. As one scholar states, "the Buddhist theory of action and result (karmaphala) is fundamental to much of Buddhist doctrine, because it provides a coherent model of the functioning of the world and its beings, which in turn forms the doctrinal basis for the Buddhist explanations of the path of liberation from the world and its result, nirvāṇa." Etymology & terms in translation The word karma derives from the verbal root kṛ, which means "do, make, perform, accomplish." Karma is "the nominative singular form of the neuter word karman, which means 'act, action, performance, deed.' In grammatical usage, karman refers to the direct object in a sentence, the recipient of the action indicated by the verb."  In the Devanagari script karma is rendered कमर न; ् the Pāli variant is kamma. The terms in translation are as follows: Traditional Chinese: 業,yè, Burmese: ကမၼ, Standard Tibetan: ལས། las (pronounced ley), Thai: กรรม gam, Sinhalese: කරම karma, Japanese: 業 or 業業, gou. Karma in the early sutras In the early sutras, as found in the Pali Canon and the Agamas preserved in Chinese translation, "there is no single major systematic exposition" on the subject of karma and "an account has to be put together from the dozens of places where karma is mentioned in the texts." Nevertheless, the Buddha emphasized his doctrine of karma to the extent that he was sometimes referred to as kammavada (the holder of the view of karma) or kiriyavada (the promulgator of the consequence of karma). In the Nibbedhika Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 6.63) the Buddha said: "Intention (P. cetana, S. cetanā) I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect." In the Upajjhatthana Sutta (AN 5.57), the Buddha states: "I am the owner of my karma. I inherit my karma. I am born of my karma. I am related to my karma. I live supported by my karma. Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit." Intention and the moral quality of actions According to Buddhist theory, 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 one appears to be benevolent but acts with greed, anger or hatred, 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 (P. kusala-kamma, S. kuśala-karma) that result in happiness, and unwholesome actions (P. akusalakamma, S. akuśala-karma) that result in unhappiness. The Buddha also elaborated that it was impossible for virtuous action to produce unfavorable results, and for nonvirtuous action to produce favorable results. However, although a good deed may produce merit which ripens into wealth, if that deed was done too casually or the intention behind it was not quite pure, that wealth so obtained sometimes cannot be enjoyed (AN.4.392-393). There are two classes of determined deeds which always produce good or bad results (fixed results, P. niyato-rasi) respectively, and a class of deeds which may produce either good or bad results (non-fixed results, P.aniyato-rasi) presumably depending on the context, although the Buddha does not elaborate (DN 3.217). Good karma is described as generating merit (P. puñña, S. puñya), whereas bad karma is described as demerit (apuñña/apuñya or pāpa). Karmic results See also: Anatta and moral responsibility The Buddha most often spoke of karma as the determining factor of the realm of one's subsequent rebirth--for this reason karma is often explained in tandem with rebirth and cosmology. The Cūlakammavibhanga Sutta ("The Shorter
hetu) and results (S.2. according to the Vinaya: matricide. bodily action (S. thought and intelligence."Contemporary scholar Bruce Matthews asserts that the Cūlakammavibhanga Sutta (M.1. Karma in the early canon is also threefold: Mental action (S. acinteyya oracinnteyyāni) for anyone without the insight of a Buddha (AN. unlike that of the Jains. it is stated that karmic results are experienced either in this life (P. with the additional stipulation that other rebirths may intervene between the time of the virtuous or nonvirtuous actions and the rebirth that they impel. and so forth. vākkarman). the karmic effect of a deed is not determined solely by the deed itself." Majjhima Nikaya 3. The Buddha declared that the precise working of how karma comes to fruition was one of the four incomprehensibles (P.3. and who is endowed with long life. as when a thief is captured and tortured by the authorities.  In the Abhidharma they are referred to by specific names for the sake of clarity.Exposition of Action.. manaḥkarman). intentional shedding of a Buddha's blood." presumably he counts the rebirths resulting from karma described in the sutta as "tendencies or conditions" rather than "consequences. kāyakarman) and vocal action (S. navakamma). negative actions such as killing lead to rebirths in the lower realms such as hell. poverty. the consequences of a similar evil action are to be experienced in this very life." MN. "the consequences envisioned by the law of karma encompass more (as well as less) than the observed natural or physical results which follow upon the performance of an action. The former may involve a readily observable connection between action and karmic consequence. such as the pain and pleasure and good or bad experiences for the doer of the act. it was conditional. influence. The Buddha's theory of moral behavior was not strictly deterministic.3. vipāka). killing an arhat. and karma being created in the present (P. The Buddha's theory of karmic action and effect did not encompass all causes (S." The law of karma also applies "specifically to the moral sphere . not concerned with the general relation between actions and their consequences. but rather with the moral quality of actions and their consequences. general causes & general results The Buddha makes a basic distinction between past karma (P. who is superior and not insignificant. the Buddha explains that his thirty-two special physical characteristics are the fruition of past karma.203) indicates that karma provokes "tendencies or conditions rather than consequences as such. The Buddha sees the workings of karma with his "superhuman eye. he gives a list of other causes which may result in disease in addition to karma (AN. behavior. Therefore in the present one both creates new karma (P. In the case of a person who has proper culture of the body. diṭṭadhammika) or in a future lives (P. but the karmic results are only that subset of results which impinges upon the doer of the action as a consequence of both the moral quality of the action and the intention behind the action.  The Mahākammavibhanga Sutta ("The Greater Exposition of Action.110). whereas nonvirtuous actions lead to ugliness.80). The Buddha denied one could avoid experiencing the result of a karmic deed once it's been committed (AN 5. kammavipāka). thought and intelligence. patricide. ." although he does not elaborate the point.  Further.. and virtuous action such as gracious behavior under duress leads to rebirth in the human or other higher realms. karmic causes being the "cause of results" (S. purānakamma) which has already been incurred. and other misfortunes. Among the results which manifest in future lives. virtuous actions produce desirable qualities and good fortune such as physical beauty. In the Lakkhana Sutta (Digha Nikaya 30). and sometimes may not appear at all. five heinous actions (P. samparāyika).128). His description of the workings of karma is not an all-inclusive one. Any given action may cause all sorts of results." The theory of karma is not deterministic. vipāka-hetu) and the karmic results being the "resultant fruit" (S. In the case of diseases. navakamma) and encounters the result of past karma (P. The Buddha instead gave answers to various questions to specific people in specific contexts. Karmic action & karmic results vs. for instance.As one scholar outlines. of such a person . within human rebirths in particular. even a trifling evil action done leads him to hell. ànantarika-kamma) provoke a rebirth in hell immediately subsequent to death. A discourse in the Anguttara Nikaya (AN. vipāka-phala). and it is possible to find several causal explanations of behavior in the early Buddhist texts. and causing a schism in the sangha (Vinaya 5.  In the Anguttara Nikaya. behavior. in part because past karma is not viewed as the only causal mechanism causing the present.249) indicates this conditionality: A certain person has not properly cultivated his body.5.208) is a similar exposition. Karma & Nirvana
.292).203) is devoted to describing the various rebirths that various kinds of actions produce. but the connection need not necessarily be that obvious and in fact usually is not observable. but also by the nature of the person who commits the deed and by the circumstances in which it is committed. In the Buddhist theory of karma. is inferior and insignificant and his life is short and miserable.
Pubbekatahetuvada: The belief that all happiness and suffering. the Buddha advocated the practice of wholesome actions: "Refrain from unwholesome actions/Perform only wholesome ones/Purify the mind/This is the teaching of the Enlightened Ones" (Dhp v. The Buddha identified three: 1. "In certain cases it is apparent that concern with karma doctrine or vocabulary explanatory thereof played a distinctly causal role in sectarian evolution. Once one has attained liberation one does not generate any further karma. various interpretations developed regarding more refined points of karma. Yogācāra/Vijñānavādin tradition—the ālaya-vijñāna or store house' consciousness. which leads to worldly happiness. These ideas undermine the important concept that a human being can change for the better no matter what his or her past was. As the Buddha had not offered elaboration in the early sutras that addresses this. a serious problem arises as to where this trace is stored and what the trace left is. fatalism or accidentalism. therefore it is possible to exercise free will to shape future karma. In Buddhism.7). Nonetheless. and human beings can exercise no volition to affect future results (Past-action determinism). having no cause (Indeterminism or Accidentalism). arise from previous karma. and path-consciousness which leads to enlightenment and nirvana. the mulāntika-skandha or proximate root aggregate and the paramārtha-pudgala.
3. In other cases it is safer to say that the concern for an intelligible karma vocabulary was one among many complex factors that helped give decisive shape and substance to already distinct or emerging sectarian positions. P. . Therefore. including all future happiness and suffering. Incorrect understandings of karma in the early sutras In Buddhism. Sautrāntika tradition—the bīja or seed. 
. as it ends suffering forever. The following schools are associated with the following entities: Sammitīya—the avipranāśa or 'indestructible'. but it is also continually being generated by present actions.
Karma is continually ripening. the workings of which are modeled by the twelve nidanas of dependent origination. the term karma refers only to samsāric actions."  One scholar summarizes the various orientations as follows: Different sects gave different names to their theoretical candidates for the "carrier of the Karma" .183). the ekarasa-skandha or aggregate of unique essence. karma is not pre-determinism. As one scholar writes. not actions committed by Arhats and Buddhas. a dharma of the citta-viprayukta class. with an exhaustive treatment in book five (5. Payutto writes. The crucial problem presented to all schools of Buddhist philosophy was where the trace is stored and how it can remain in the everchanging stream of phenomena which build up the individual and what the nature of this trace is. karma is taken up at length. The problem is aggravated when the trace remains latent over a long period. and they are designated as "wrong views" in Buddhism. the central question that these entities seem to have been constructed to answer is that of how the karmic force inheres in the psychophysical stream without thereby coloring or pervading each discrete moment of that stream. and there is liberating karma—which is supremely good. and the avijñapti·rūpa or form that does not indicate. All were confronted with a central issue. as all these ideas lead to inaction and destroy motivation and human effort. Sarvāstivādin/Vaibhāṣika tradition—prāpti and aprāpti or adhesion and non-adhesion. "the Buddha asserts effort and motivation as the crucial factors in deciding the ethical value of these various teachings on kamma. there is samsāric good karma. 2. the various schools proposed various similar yet distinct solutions. wholesome karma that leads to samsāric happiness (like birth in higher realms). perhaps over a period of many existences.3.A. Again." Systematization of karma theory in the early schools As the earliest Buddhist philosophical schools developed with the rise of Abhidharma Buddhism. Ahetu-appaccaya-vaada: The belief that all happiness and suffering are random. and the corresponding states of mind are called in Pali Kiriya. What accounts for the "idling" or non-active aspect of defilement when a given thought is of a virtuous or morally indeterminate nature?  The Theravādin commentarial tradition In the Theravāda Abhidhamma and commentarial traditions. The Abhidhamma Sangaha of Anuruddhācariya offers a treatment of the topic. as one scholar summarizes: When [the Buddhist] understanding of karma is correlated to the Buddhist doctrine of universal impermanence and No-Self. Issaranimmanahetuvada: The belief that all happiness and suffering are caused by the directives of a Supreme Being (Theisticdeterminism).There is a further distinction between worldly.
A number of the controverted points discussed in the Kathāvatthu relate either directly or indirectly to the notion of kamma. .the reverse of the former. which postulated the provisional existence of the person (S. "one curious feature of the Abhidamma view of the perceptual process is that the discernments related to the five physical sense organs are always said to be fruitions of karma. pudgala. the five heinous crimes (ānantarika-kamma) Proximate kamma (āsanna kamma) — that which one does or remembers immediately before the dying moment Habitual kamma (āciṇṇa kamma) — that which one habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking Reserve kamma (kaṭattā kamma) — refers to all actions that are done once and soon forgotten
. Destructive karma (upaghātaka kamma) . but because they wished to reserve the term vipāka strictly for mental results--"subjective phenomena arising through the effects of kamma.puggala) to account for the ripening of karmic effects over time. That is to say. Supportive karma (upatthambhaka kamma) ." The Visuddhimagga states that "the kamma that is the condition for the fruit does not pass on there (to where the fruit is). conditioning the rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi vinnana). in agreement with scholar L.karma ripening in one's lifetime which is of the same favorable or unfavorable quality as the reproductive karma which impelled the rebirth in question. one person naturally tends to notice certain things which give rise to pleasure.karma powerful enough to conteract the reproductive karma entirely. In the example of the animal. "the belief that deeds done or ideas seized at the moment of death are particularly significant. The Theravāda maintained that they are not—not."  As karma is not the only causal agent."  However. in the same room. in the case of an animal with an unpleasant life.karma which produces the mental and material aggregates at the moment of conception. by ending the life in question. the karma creating unpleasant conditions would be considered supportive of the reproductive karma which impelled what is considered an unfavorable rebirth.
With regard to potency Weighty kamma (garuka kamma) — that which produces its results in this life or in the next for certain. The Kathāvatthu also records debate by the Theravādins with the Andhakas (who may have been Mahāsāṃghikas) regarding whether or not old age and death are the result (vipāka) of karma." As scholar Peter Harvey notes.Of particular interest is the Kathāvatthu. namely. P. for example. while another tends to notice things which give rise to some displeasure. . an animal with a pleasant life would be said to have obstructive rather than supportive karma in relation to his reproductive karma. apparently because there is no causal relation between the two. Cousins he agrees that the most "plausible" explanation "is that karma affects discernment by determining which of the many phenomena in a person's sensory range are actually noticed . which "alone of the works of the Pali canon is directly concerned with conflicting views within the Buddhist community." This involved debate with the Pudgalavādin school. known as Niyama Dhammas: Kamma Niyama — Consequences of one's actions Utu Niyama — Seasonal changes and climate Biija Niyama — Laws of heredity Citta Niyama — Will of mind Dhamma Niyama — Nature's tendency to produce a perfect type
The Theravāda Abhidhamma also categories karma in other ways: With regard to function Reproductive karma (janaka-kamma) . the Theravādin commentarial tradition classified causal mechanisms taught in the early texts in five categories. Obstructive or counteractive karma (upapiḍaka kamma) ." In the canonical Theravāda view of kamma. .S.
endorses the transfer of merit even more widely. 2) formal vinaya conduct.kamma whose effects have ripened already
With regard to the realm-setting of the effect Unwholesome (akusala) kamma pertaining to the desire realm (kamavacara) Wholesome (kusala) kamma pertaining to the desire realm (kamavacara) Wholesome kamma pertaining to the form realm (rupavacara) Wholesome kamma pertaining to the formless realm (arupavacara)
The Milindapañha and Petavatthu The Milindapañha. a paracanonical Theravāda text. which had by far the most "comprehensive edifice of doctrinal systematics" of the nikaya schools. T. was widely influential in India and beyond--"the understanding of karma in the Sarvāstivāda in turn became normative not only for Buddhism in India but also for it in other countries. the "ripening cause" and "ripened result.  Nāgasena makes it clear that demerit cannot be transferred. pratyaya. and (b) impotent
. karma as that which links certain actions with certain effects. perhaps in deference to folk belief (see below. The transfer or dedication of merit)." The Abhidharmahṛdaya by Dharmaśrī was the first systematic exposition of Vaibhāśika-Sarvāstivāda doctrine. rkyen. deals with the concept of karma systematically." The third usage. The notion of avijñapti—an unseen latent power that is nonetheless momentary—is significant to the VaibhāṣikaSarvāstivādin accounting of how karmic action precipitates karmic results.in lifetimes two or more in the future Defunct kamma (ahosi kamma) . Tib. rgyu) and conditions (S. Nāgasena allows for the possibility of the transfer of merit to humans and one of the four classes of petas. This became the main source of understanding of the perspective of early Buddhism for later Mahāyāna philosophers. Pāli: paccaya) involved in the production of results (S. For the first usage. Tib. vipākaphalam. byed-rgyu) – all phenomena. Chapter four the Kośa is devoted to a study of karma. The 4th century philosopher Vasubandhu compiled the Abhidharma-kośa. rnam-smin-gyi 'bras-bu). including the possibility of sharing merit with all petas. and 3) human action as the agent of various effects. which do not impede the production of the result. for it was Buddhist practice not to upset existing traditions when well-established custom was not antithetic to Buddhist teaching. both of which mean "activity. and chapters two and five contain formulation as to the mechanism of fruition and retribution. hetu. theKarma-varga. Another important exposition. which is fully canonical. kāraṇahetu. is the primary concern of the exposition. Vasubhandhu draws from the earlier Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma treatises to establish an elaborate Buddhist etiology with the following primary components: Six Causes: Acting causes (S." The Petavatthu. an extensive compendium which elaborated the positions of theVaibhāṣika-Sarvāstivādin school on a wide range of issues raised by the early sutras. offers some interpretations of karma theory at variance with the orthodox position. the Mahāvibhāṣa. Vasubhandu elaborates on the causes (S. In particular.  One scholar asserts that the sharing of merit "can be linked to the Vedic śrāddha. other than the result itself. gives three definitions of karma: 1) action. such as a seed for a sprout. karma is supplanted in the text by the synonyms kriya or karitra. This includes (a) potent acting causes.in the immediately following lifetime Indefinitely effective kamma (aṗarāpariyavedaniya kamma) . the conditions can be thought of as auxiliary causes. karma being one source of causes and results.in the present lifetime Subsequently effective kamma (upapajjavedaniya kamma) . and the third chapter.With regard to temporal precedence Immediately effective kamma (diţţhadhammavedaniya kamma) ."} Generally speaking. Tib. The Vaibhāṣika-Sarvāstivādin school and the Abhidharma-kośa The Vaibhāśika-Sarvāstivāda.
 According to scholar Joseph Walser.an object which directly generates the consciousness apprehending it into having its aspect. adhipatiphalam. e. samanantarapratyaya. rgyu-mthun gyi 'bras-bu) . though the two need not be of the same ethical status. T. time. T. the object blue causes an eye consciousness to be generated into having the aspect of blue Dominating condition (S. Following the Buddhists sūtras. they claimed that mental saṃskāras (mental formations
. All conditioned dharmas are the adhipatiphala of other conditioned dharmas. rnam-smin-gyi rgyu) .
Four Conditions: Causal conditions (S. The Pudgalavādins argued that karma was a composite entity consisting of several temporal components and one atemporal one. Ripening cause (Skt. Man-made results (S. rnam smin gyi 'bras-bu) . sarvatragohetu.g. skyes bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu) . T. bdag poi bras bu) . hetupratyaya.acting causes. T.the result of predominance.or "object condition" . such as the space that allows a sprout to grow and the mother or the clothes of the farmer who planted the seed.causally concordant effects Dominating results (S. mtshungs-ldan-gyi rgyu) – a subcategory of simultaneously arising causes. cognitive sensor.karmic results. T. kun groi rgyu) – disturbing emotions and attitudes that generate other subsequent disturbing emotions and attitudes in the same plane of existence. T.
The Dārṣṭāntika-Sautrāntika view The Dārṣṭāntika-Sautrāntika school pioneered the idea of karmic seeds (S. T. alambanapratyaya. puruṣakāraphalam.not actually a result at all. dmigs-rkyen) . but refers to the cessation that arises from insight. lhan-cig 'byung-ba'i rgyu) – causes that arise simultaneously with their results. dema thag rkyen) . For example. Congruent causes ( Skt. rgyu-rkyen) . bral 'bras) . sabhagahetu. saṃmprayuktahetu. Simultaneously arising causes (S. T. one moment of patience can be considered the cause of the next moment of patience. Driving causes (S. adhipatipratyaya. Equal status cause (S. This would include. sahabhuhetu. estimated at between a quarter of all nonMahayana monks up to double the number of the next largest sect. and slant with their causes—primarily referring to the primary consciousness and its congruent mental factors. they were in all likelihood the most populous non-Mahayanist sect in India. T. T.a result due to the activity of another dharma Results that are states of being parted (S.corresponds to five of the six causes.the karmic cause or efficacy. vipākahetu.a consciousness which precedes a sense or mental consciousness without any intervening consciousness and which produces the subsequent consciousness into an experience-ready entity Focal condition (S. for instance. mental aspect. bija) and "the special modification of the psycho-physical series" (S. niṣyandaphalam. saṃtatipaṇāmaviśeṣa) to explain the workings of karma. it includes causes share the same focal object. Results that correspond to their cause (S. which corresponds to the three conditions below Immediately preceding conditions (S. bdag-rkyen) -
Five Types of Results: Ripened results (S. vipakaphalam. T. excepting the kāraṇahetu. characteristics together with whatever it is that possesses the characteristics. skal-mnyam-gyi rgyu ) – causes for which the results are later moments in the same category of phenomena. T. The Pudgalavāda view Although the views of the Pudgalavāda were considered somewhat heretical by other Indian Buddhist schools. visamyogaphalam. T.
aware that the Buddha also taught the persistence of karma. śubha. however. Generally accepted in Buddhism. Karmic seeds (S. and by reference to Nalinaksha Dutt's category of 'semi-Mahāyāna. of assenting to and rejoicing in it (pattānumodanā). The motion itself is conditioned and therefore impermanent..e. dge ba['i rtsa ba]) by an exercitant in view of the attainment by another karmically related person (such as a deceased parent or teacher) of a higher end. Yet such dedication appears. ālayavijñāna) until such time as they ripen into experience. kamma) according to which everybody wanting better rebirth can reach it solely by his own efforts’ .has been explained by some writers as being due to Mahāyānist influence. to run counter to the karmic principle of the fruition or retribution of deeds (karmavipāka). By claiming that the pudgala was existent. in positing an avipraṇāśa. The seemingly external world is merely a "by-product" (adhipati-phala) of karma. the Saṃitīyas could appeal to the words of the Buddha saying that karma was indestructible. and even of its gift (pattidāna) are known to sections of the Theravāda tradition.' Scholar Tommi Lehtonen notes that (fellow scholar) "Wolfgang Schumann says that that "the Mahāyāna teaching of the transfer of merit `breaks the strict causality of the Hinayānic law of karman (P.corresponding to karma) were of the nature of volition. Pali patti. The conditioning of the mind resulting from karma is called saṃskāra. . bija) are said to be stored in the "storehouse consciousness" (S. the seeds were the effect of the perfuming. separate from the karma itself. even after hundreds of millions of cosmic eras. some scholars believed that the transfer of merit was at first a uniquely Mahāyāna practice and that it was developed only at a late period. Seyfort Ruegg notes.or more precisely by the conscious series (saṃtāna) . The Pudgalavādins were. or whether the perfuming simply affected the seeds. where it denotes what might perhaps best be termed the dedication of good (puṇya. Tib.The Pudgalavādin Abhidharma puts a definite spin on the sūtra tradition in their claims that karma persisted because ofavipraṇāśa (in the case of the Saṃitīyas) and in claiming that pudgala was neither saṃsṛkta nor asaṃsṛkta (in the case of all Pudgalavādins).  However. both Mahāyānist and nonMahāyānist. they could meaningfully talk about the owner of karma while at the same time be able to explain how this owner could move from saṃsāra to nirvaṇā. In the Yogācāra formulation. Vocal and bodily karma. all experience without exception is said to result from the ripening of karma. they ripen for their author. . for the religious practice in South East Asia acknowledges the transference of karmic merit (P. perceiving that it was somewhat discordant with early Buddhist understandings of karma theory." Karma theory in Mahāyāna schools Transfer or dedication of merit Initially in the western study of Buddhism. They posited the existence of an entity called. solely by the person . but found in later Pali tradition (Petavatthu. i.that has sown the seed of future karmic fruition when deliberately (cetayitva) accomplishing an action (karman). and this concept absent in the oldest canonical texts in Pali. however. The term vāsāna ("perfuming") is also used. bsod nams. When the complex [of conditions] and [favorable] times come together. prima facie. the principle of karma was extended considerably. and Yogācārins debated whether vāsāna and bija were essentially the same. .” One particular subsect of Pudgalavādins—-the Saṃitīyas—-took the imperishability of karma to be one thing and the causes and conditions of karma to be another.Scholar Heinz Bechert dates the Buddhist doctrine of transfer of merit (Sanskrit: puṇyapariṇāmanā) in its fully developed form to the period between the 5th and 7th centuries CE. An idea that has posed a number of thorny questions and conceptual difficulties for Buddhist thought and the history of the Mahāyāna is that often referred to as 'transfer of merit' (puṇyapariṇāmanā). Yet the payoff for these maneuvers was sufficient to warrant such a move. kuśala[mula]. experienced. This “indestructible” acts like a blank sheet of paper on which the actions (karma) are written. prāpti). Skt. yons su bsno ba) in fact constitutes a most important feature in Mahāyāna. pattidāna) in Theravāda as well. The related idea of acquisition/possession (of 'merit'.  As scholar D. consisted only of the motion (gati) that could be observed. Schumann claims that on this point Mahāyāna and Hinayāna differ only in the texts. Yet. inscriptions at numerous sites across South Asia provide definitive evidence that the transfer of merit was widely practiced in the first few centuries CE. The process of pariṇāmanā (Tib. one of the two principal Mahāyāna schools. Buddhāpadāna) . In addition. In this the Pudgalavādins appealed to a text that was also considered authoritative by the Sarvāstivādins: “[Karma] does not perish. this principle stipulates that a karmic fruit or result (karmaphala) is 'reaped'.
. the “indestructible” (avipraṇāśa). appropriately enough. Sree Padma and Anthony Barber note that merit transfer was well established and a very integral part of Buddhist practice in the Andhra region of southern India. ." Karma theory in Indian Yogācāra philosophy In the Yogācāra philosophical tradition.
the Prāsaṅgikas' various viewpoints of karma were never organized into a coherent and convincing system. that is. going so far as to claim that belief in the emptiness of karma should be characterized as "non-Buddhist. theirs are not uncontrolled rebirths. whereas in earlier systems it "was not clear how a series of completely mental events (the deed and its traces) could give rise to non-mental. The rebirths of bodhisattvas after the seventh stage (S. concludes that it is impossible both for the act to persist somehow and also for it to perish immediately and still have efficacy at a later time.  Candrakīrti. the Sage taught. Karma theory in Indo-Tibetan Mādhyamaka philosophy Nāgārjuna articulated the difficulty in forming a karma theory in his most prominent work. (the act) would be eternal. also generally attributed to Nāgārjuna." In Tibet Tsongkhapa." it does not need to be supported in any way. while nevertheless postulating that a potential (T. the definitive exponent of Prāsaṅgika. i. an important philosopher of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. According to scholar Dan Lusthaus. The Svātantrika-Mādhyamaka generally borrowed the philosophy of karma from the Yogācāra. Karma arises from diverse acts." although he also states that the “law of karman has no concrete existence. and which explains the connection between cause and result. the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism." with the (purported) idealism of the Yogācāra system this is not an issue. the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way): If (the act) lasted till the time of ripening. "Vasubandhu's Viṃśatikā (Twenty Verses) repeatedly emphasizes in a variety of ways that karma is intersubjective and that the course of each and every stream of consciousness (vijñāna-santāna. Thus. The PrāsaṅgikaMādhyamaka refuted every concept of a support for ongoing karmic efficacy.  Gelugpa scholars offered defenses of the idea. accused Tsongkhapa of a doctrinal innovation not legitimately grounded in Candrakīrti's work. material effects. The Mahayana Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika-sutra) also is perhaps suggestive of the Mahāyāna tendency to attribute all happiness and suffering to karmic ripening: The happiness and suffering of all beings. He is then able to appear as a human and ask the same question to Zen teacher Baizhang. Tendai
. S. and one which amounted to little more than a (non-Buddhist) Vaiśeṣika concept. the changing individual) is profoundly influenced by its relations with other consciousness streams. Karma theory in East Asian Buddhism Zen and karma Dōgen Kigen argued in his Shobogenzo that karmic latencies are emphatically not empty." As one scholar argues. who answers. argued that because this potential is not a thing. how could the terminated produce a fruit?  The Mūlamadhyamakavṛtty-Akutobhayā. nus pa) is formed which substantiates whenever the situation is ripe. The Zen perspective avoids the duality of asserting that an enlightened person is either subject to or free from the law of karma and that the key is not being ignorant about karma.e. “He is not in the dark about cause and effect.The Treatise on Action (Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa). One scholar argues that "in India." Because of his unskillful answer the teacher reaps the result of living 500 lives as a wild fox. treats the subject of karma in detail from the Yogācāra perspective. bhūmi) are said to be consciously directed for the benefit of others still trapped in saṃsāra. vastu). not an "inherently real phenomenon. karma is not the sole basis of rebirth. which in turn create the diverse classes of beings In Mahāyāna traditions.” Zen's most famous koan about karma is called Baizhang's Wild Fox (業業業業). argued that the Prāsaṅgika position allowed for the postulation of something called an "act's cessation" (las zhig pal) which persists and is in fact a substance (rdzas or dngos po..” Hearing this answer the old teacher is freed from the life of a wild fox. Gorampa. are due to karma. The story of the koan is about an ancient Zen teacher whose answer to a question presents a wrong view about karma by saying that the person who has a foundation in cultivating the great practice "does not fall into cause and effect. If (the act) were terminated.  Mādhyamaka schools deriving from Nāgārjuna subsequently took one of two approaches to the problem. also by Vasubandhu.
" because. economic oppression. Buddhakula).The Japanese Tendai/Pure Land teacher Genshin taught that Amida Buddha has the power to destroy the karma that would otherwise bind one in saṃsāra. "Some modern Buddhist thinkers appear largely to have abandoned traditional views of karma and rebirth in light of the contemporary transformation of the conception of interdependence. also called Five Wisdom Buddhas. that the teachings on karma do not encourage judgment and blame. and he affirms that it would. because it's already built into the moral fabric of the universe. it is believed that the effects of negative past karma can be "purified" through such practices as meditation onVajrasattva. and in particular state that caste is not determined by karma. after having purified the karma. he felt it "sounded like blaming the victim. They ask one of the Dalai Lama's party. David Loy. The question of the Holocaust also occurs in the Jew in the Lotus: A Poet's Re-Discovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India."  Loy argues that the traditional view of karma is "fundamentalism" which Buddhism must "outgrow.  Other scholars have argued. It will all balance out in the end. One of them is named the Karma family presided by Buddha Amoghasiddhi. . there is no need to work toward social justice. does not experience the negative results he or she otherwise would have. But not traditional views of karma. One scholar and Zen practitioner. and have proposed revisions of various kinds. "separated from elements of supernatural thinking.Buddhism can fit quite nicely into modern ways of understanding. birth handicaps and everything else." and that this is "something no longer to be tolerated quietly. Taken literally. the early texts explicitly did not." a view echoed by other Buddhist modernists. but rather were just part of the same mindstream-continuum with the past actors. are built on five Buddha families (Kullas. a scholar specializing in Zen Buddhism. The author is "shocked and a little outraged. karma may in fact support social passivity or acquiescence in the face of oppression of various kinds." preferring instead to align karma purely with contemporary ideas of causality. As one scholar writes. In fact. Wright. however.  Loy goes on to argue that the view that suffering such as that undergone by Holocaust victims could be attributed in part to the karmic ripenings of those victims is "fundamentalism. He writes. One scholar writes. It is time for modern Buddhists and modern Buddhism to outgrow it" by revising or discarding the teachings on karma. who therefore must deserve their wealth and power. "what are we going to do about karma? There's no point in pretending that karma hasn't become a problem for contemporary Buddhism . that without intending to do this. Karma in Vajrayana In the Vajrayana tradition. "it is perhaps possible to say that both Buddhism and Buddhist ethics may be better off without the karmicrebirth factor to deal with. The performer of the action. The Karma Buddha family in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism The dhyani Buddhas." so that karma is asserted to condition only personal qualities and dispositions rather than rebirth and external occurrences."
." Often these critical writers have backgrounds in Zen and/or Engaged Buddhism. has proposed that the doctrine be reformulated for modern people. which blames the victims and rationalizes their horrific fate. given that the victims were not the same people who committed the acts. echoes these remarks. if the Holocaust would be attributed to past karma in the traditional Buddhist view. like Loy. a Buddhist scholar named Geshe Sonam Rinchen. which describes a group of Jewish religious leaders who meet with the Dalai Lama. The "primary critique" of the Buddhist doctrine of karma is that some feel "karma may be socially and politically disempowering in its cultural effect. While some strands of later Buddhist thought did attribute all experience to past karma. It provides the perfect theodicy: if there is an infallible cause-and-effect relationship between one's actions and one's fate. karma justifies the authority of political elites.  and that the teachings on karma instead provide "a thoroughly satisfying explanation for suffering and loss" in which believers take comfort. These proposals fall under the rubric of Buddhist modernism."  Loy argues that the idea of accumulating merit too easily becomes "spirtitual materialism.and further that Karma has been used to rationalize racism." Dale S. there is really no evil that we need to struggle against. if there is no undeserved suffering. and the subordination of those who have neither. some western commentators and Buddhists have taken exception to aspects of karma theory. caste. Modern interpretations and controversies Karma theory & social justice Since the exposure of the West to Buddhism. The symbol/emblem of that family is the double vajra.
if actually suffering bodily." such that "moral responsibility is decentered from the solitary individual and spread throughout the entire social system. however. the term Karma applies. but they would not constitute "collective karma."  Is karma just "social conditioning?" Buddhist modernists also often prefer to equate karma with social conditioning." a view that is not supported by traditional Buddhist views of karma. collective and national karma which are not found in traditional Buddhist thinking. however.  One scholar points out. but which are justified by our own accumulated karma. "Instead. "the repeated emphasis in the canonical discussions of karma is on the individual as heir to his own deeds. As Nyanatiloka Mahathera writes. Is there collective or national karma? Other modern Buddhists have sought to formulate theories of group. that one finds a conscious effort to split with this tradition. in each instance. the actions of many persons . It is only in this century. is primarily ethical and soteriological—actions condition circumstances in this and future lives. . The earliest recorded instance of this occurred in 1925. In reality. . that is. among other places. One "scholar of engaged Buddhism" wrote an article asserting that the "collective karma" of the United States deriving from the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse would potentially "play out for generations." Buddhism does not deny that the actions taken by one generation of the citizens of a given country will have effects on later generations." reflecting the left-wing politicsof Engaged Buddhism. The fruition of their merit or demerit. the karmic residues which we experience as a result of the actions of everyone or everything operating casually in the situation. The effects may well be felt by Americans for generations. Likewise. but he may not have had anything to do with the bad deeds of the so-called nation. all effects of actions are not karmic effects. Thus. . must." 
. . this present people may not consist at all of the karmic heirs of the same individuals who did these bad deeds. in the traditional view the effects of the actions of other beings—such as the leader of one's country. will not necessarily be experienced by each of the individuals together. and institutional. individuals should be responsible for the deeds formerly done by this so-called 'same' people. "early texts [which] give us little reason to interpret 'conditioning' as the infusion into the psyche of external social norms. but not they would not be the karmic causes of the suffering of that individual—those causes would function in congruence with the karmic causes. The traditional import of the karmic conditioning process. "family karma" is possible only when it refers to karmic dispositions which are similar in each individual family member.mediate our karma to us. Karmic effects impinge only on the mindstreams of those sentient beings who perform the actions. when a member of the Maha Bodhi named Sheo Narain published an article entitled "Karmic Law" in which he invited Buddhist scholars to explore the question of whether an individual is "responsible not only for his individual actions in his past life but also for past communal deeds. therefore. then. cultural. or of awakening as simply transcending all psychological conditioning and social roles. regardless of which individual actually carries out the action. and not by the karmic acts or pool of the group." "Collective karma" could be spoken of only in certain limited senses in the canonical tradition. have done evil somewhere. Karmic conditioning drifts semantically toward 'cultural conditioning' under the influence of western discourses that elevate the individual over the social. for example. However. only to wholesome and unwholesome volitional activity of the single individual. it is asserted that a group of individuals who collaborate and share the same intention for a planned action will all incur karmic merit or demerit based on that action. in contradistinction with. In short. According to Buddhism it is of course quite true that anybody who suffers bodily. It is important to distinguish group karma from what might be termed conjunctive karma. "statements concerning group karma . however. In Vasubandu's Karmasiddhiprakarana. suffers for his past or present bad deeds. here or in one of the innumerable spheres of existence. "a systematic concept of group karma was in no sense operative in early Theravada" or other schools based on the early sutras. as noted above. or prior generations of its citizens—might well serve as causes of suffering for an individual on one level. There is. . We might say that through his evil Karma he was attracted to the miserable condition befitting to him. no "national karma" in traditional Buddhism." he writes.Many modern Buddhists such as Thich Nhat Hanh prefer to suggest the "dispersion of karmic responsibility into the social system." As one scholar writes. as one scholar puts it. for the effect which we experience is justified by our own particular acts or pool of karma. But this is not group karma. and/or at the same time. .are subject to conceptual confusion. Thus also each of those individuals born within that suffering nation. even though it is mediated by the actions of others.
verses 17.ISBN 81-215-0208-X pg 32-32 10. Candrakirti's Prasannapada.html 6. University of California Press: 1980. 4 (Oct. 1055 12.ISBN 81-215-0208-X pg 21 15. ^ The Law of Karma: A Philosophical Study by Bruce Reichenbach.1-20by Ulrich Timme Kragh. ^ "Karma and Rebirth in Early Buddhism" by James P. ISBN 0-203-45117 pg 61 20. in Karma and Rebirth: Post-Classical Developments State Univ of New York Press: 1986. PhD thesis by Wataru S. etc. Reichenbach.3. auspicious. Asian Humanities Press: 2001 pg 18 18. ^ MN. ^ Development in the Early Buddhist Concept of Kamma/Karma by James Paul McDermott. 399 19. dispositions and tendencies—and not external effects. Bodhi 929-930 9. Philosophy East and West.115. ed. University of Wisconsin-Madison: 1987 pg 1 5.3. ^ MN. ^ The Law of Karma: A Philosophical Study by Bruce Reichenbach. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers: 1984.132 17. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers: 1984. 1055 11. Bodhi pg 1058-1065 13.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.203. ISBN 0-520-039238 pg 175 14.Essentially." by Bruce Matthews. University of Hawaii Press: 1990 ISBN 0-8248-1352-9 pg 1
. in Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. well.203. ^ Development in the Early Buddhist Concept of Kamma/Karma by James Paul McDermott. ^ The Buddhist Unconscious: The alaya-vijñana in the context of Indian Buddhist thought by William S. Bodhi pg 1053. this understanding limits the scope of the traditional understanding of karmic effects so that it encompasses only saṃskāras—habits.ISBN 81-215-0208-X pg 21 16. healthy. ^ MN. 38. ^ Early Buddhist Theories of Action and Result: A Study of Karmaphalasambandha. 1988). Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers: 1984. ^ DN I.than. ^http://www. translated by Etienne Lamotte and Leo M. ^ MN 3. ^ Other translations of kusala are proper. Pruden. McDermott. ^ Karmasiddhiprakarana: The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu. skillful. Vol.203. Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien. p. suitable. University of Hawaii Press: 1990 ISBN 0-8248-1352-9 pg 1 21.  See also Anantarika-karma Consciousness (Buddhism) Karma in Hinduism Karma in Jainism Karma Merit (Buddhism) Pratitya-samutpada (Dependent Origination) Releasing life . able. pp. while at the same time expanding the scope to include social conditioning that does not particularly involve volitional action. 8. ^ Development in the Early Buddhist Concept of Kamma/Karma by James Paul McDermott.accesstoinsight. as cited in A Study of the Abhidharmahrdaya: The Historical Development of the Concept of Karma In The Sarvastivada Thought.063.4.as a means to create good karma Samsara (Buddhism) Twelve Nidanas
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The Making of Buddhist Modernism. Unfortunately. ^ The Law of Karma: A Philosophical Study by Bruce Reichenbach. 1976). David L. Karma and Rebirth. 9 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. Vol. Queen. 23. Mc Dermott. Oxford University Press: 2008 ISBN 978-019-518327-6 pg 198
. p. 73 112. 68 115. Christopher S. University of Hawaii Press: 1990 ISBN 0-8248-1352-9 pg 142 116.com published 5-04. pp. Numen." by Deborah Caldwell on Beliefnet. 23. as quoted in “Is There Group Karma in Theravāda Buddhism?” by James P. 1976). Mc Dermott. ^ McMahan.. Vol. the same is true for nations. Oxford University Press: 2008 ISBN 978-019-518327-6 pg 198 117.. 1 (Apr. Fasc. Numen.  114. pp. The Making of Buddhist Modernism. ^ Nyanatiloka Mahathera. ^ “Is There Group Karma in Theravāda Buddhism?” by James P. Wisdom Publications: 2000 ISBN 0-86171-159-9 pgs 499-500 113. David L. Fasc. ^ "Bad Karma: Torturers are planting horrible seeds in their own hearts and minds. The Wheel Publication No. inEngaged Buddhism in the West ed. 1959). 17. ^ "New Voices in Engaged Buddhist Studies" by Kenneth Kraft. ^ McMahan.111. 1 (Apr.