Author Topic: Karma and reincarnation help!  (Read 434 times)

Offline hey

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Karma and reincarnation help!
« on: March 27, 2017, 04:59:02 am »
I hope this isn't too long!

Ok so, there are 2 things I can't get my head around: karma and reincarnation. Maybe I have a very myopic view on these subjects and haven't understood them properly, plus words are limited by mental constructs; all I want is someone to explain it all to me because I've been a believer in the teachings and principles of Buddhism for a few years and tried to educate myself and practice meditation and Buddhism, but I've been stuck on these things ever since I went to talk given by a Buddhist nun here in Nepal and discovered they are integral to Buddhism itself.

So. I find it difficult to think about my own life and the lives of others in terms of karma. So according to the law of karma, the beings in the worst circumstances in life are the ones who got there due to their accumulated 'bad karma'. E.g. Starving children with HIV in Africa, severely disabled people, abused or lame animals, animals killed/tortured for their meat/fur/milk/eggs - etc. And the ones with 'good karma' are those born into comparative privilege or extreme wealth? I feel like my heart bleeds for those who experience extreme suffering in this life, those who I consider innocent - children, animals and the severely disabled. How can I now look at these people, and think, well you deserve this. And what about my own suffering? As a child I experienced suffering, and I'd like to think that as a child it wasn't my fault, even though psychologically I may have been left with a distorted view on that. And in terms of those born into privilege, I would not respect someone more based solely on that person being born into a wealthy family as compared to someone born into poverty. That wasn't a chose either of those people made, plus a child is a child, as children I would treat them the same. And isn't judging someone's karma on how wealthy or externally attractive or healthy they are superficial as hell? Even if someone is born with gifts or talents, does that mean I should value or respect them more than someone born handicapped? Plus isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder, and isn't it also true that wealth and affluence does not equate to being somehow a 'better person', that you can be extremely poor and still be kinder and more compassionate than a person who seems to have everything in the material world?

Furthermore, how can everyone karmas interconnect? If a child is born into an abusive home, and that's their karma, then what about the abusers, is their suffering as a abusers their karma?

Lastly, I try to live an ethical life, but unless I stood still (so as not to accidentally step on an insect or something), naked (because I don't know if the entire process that it took to make my clothes was ethical), and not eat (because I can't be 100% sure if my food caused harm to someone somehow within the whole process of creating it) for example, then how is a person supposed to live a totally ethical life? The nun said intention is important, but what about a Buddhist who eats meat vs. a vegan who hates human beings, where is the balance, what about intention there? Compassion to all living beings is supposed to be integral in both cases. And someone raised the point at the talk that what if 2 people have the same intention but entirely different views on how to act on that intention.

And now onto reincarnation. If a person really isn't their thoughts, emotions or physical body as I have been lead to believe, that the ego is a false self, then what is it that is reborn? If thoughts, memories and emotions actually get transferred somehow then is the 'I' that I think of as me actually me? If cultivating right mind, speech and action is important because of the law of karma, and if you think about it in terms of energy, then is there really an 'I' as a separate entity? Or am a separate and infinite?

And therefore, what really is the difference then between a soul and eternal consciousness? If 'individual' thoughts/emotions leading to speech and action do actually have an affect on everything and can be transferred, along with personality potentially, into rebirths then does that not imply a soul?

Help would be VERY MUCH appreciated,
Thanks! - Ana

Offline Solodris

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2017, 05:44:22 am »
From a Theravada sutta; Thus have I heard:

Quote
Devadaha Sutta: At Devadaha
SN 22.2

Then the monks went to Ven. Sariputta. On arrival, they exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, they sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to Ven. Sariputta, "Friend Sariputta, we want to go to the countryside of the outlying districts and to take up residence there. We have already informed the Teacher."

"Friends, in foreign lands there are wise nobles & brahmans, householders & contemplatives — for the people there are wise & discriminating — who will question a monk: 'What is your teacher's doctrine? What does he teach?' Have you listened well to the teachings — grasped them well, attended to them well, considered them well, penetrated them well by means of discernment — so that in answering you will speak in line with what the Blessed One has said, will not misrepresent the Blessed One with what is unfactual, will answer in line with the Dhamma, and no one whose thinking is in line with the Dhamma will have grounds for criticizing you?"

"We would come from a long way away to hear the explication of these words in Ven. Sariputta's presence. It would be good if Ven. Sariputta himself would enlighten us as to their meaning."

"Then in that case, friends, listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, friend," the monks responded.

Ven. Sariputta said: "Friends, in foreign lands there are wise nobles & brahmans, householders & contemplatives — for the people there are wise & discriminating — who will question a monk: 'What is your teacher's doctrine? What does he teach?' Thus asked, you should answer, 'Our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire.'

"Having thus been answered, there may be wise nobles & brahmans, householders & contemplatives... who will question you further, 'And your teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for what?' Thus asked, you should answer, 'Our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for form... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications. Our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for consciousness.'

"Having thus been answered, there may be wise nobles & brahmans, householders & contemplatives... who will question you further, 'And seeing what danger does your teacher teach the subduing of passion & desire for form... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications. Seeing what danger does your teacher teach the subduing of passion & desire for consciousness?'

Thus asked, you should answer, 'When one is not free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for form, then from any change & alteration in that form, there arises sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair. When one is not free from passion... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications... When one is not free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for consciousness, then from any change & alteration in that consciousness, there arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair. Seeing this danger, our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for form... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications. Seeing this danger our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for consciousness.'

"Having thus been answered, there may be wise nobles & brahmans, householders & contemplatives... who will question you further, 'And seeing what benefit does your teacher teach the subduing of passion & desire for form... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications. Seeing what benefit does your teacher teach the subduing of passion & desire for consciousness?'

Thus asked, you should answer, 'When one is free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for form, then with any change & alteration in that form, there does not arise any sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, or despair. When one is free from passion... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications... When one is free from passion, desire, love, thirst, fever, & craving for consciousness, then with any change & alteration in that consciousness, there does not arise any sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, or despair. Seeing this benefit, our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for form... for feeling... for perception... for fabrications. Seeing this benefit our teacher teaches the subduing of passion & desire for consciousness.'

"Friends, if one who entered & remained in unskillful mental qualities were to have a pleasant abiding in the here & now — unthreatened, undespairing, unfeverish — and on the break-up of the body, after death, could expect a good destination, then the Blessed One would not advocate the abandoning of unskillful mental qualities. But because one who enters & remains in unskillful mental qualities has a stressful abiding in the here & now — threatened, despairing, & feverish — and on the break-up of the body, after death, can expect a bad destination, that is why the Blessed One advocates the abandoning of unskillful mental qualities.

"If one who entered & remained in skillful mental qualities were to have a stressful abiding in the here & now — threatened, despairing, & feverish — and on the break-up of the body, after death, could expect a bad destination, then the Blessed One would not advocate entering into skillful mental qualities. But because one who enters & remains in skillful mental qualities has a pleasant abiding in the here & now — unthreatened, undespairing, unfeverish — and on the break-up of the body, after death, can expect a good destination, that is why the Blessed One advocates entering into skillful mental qualities."

The Buddha presented a various amount of dangers concerning suffering (dukkha) emerging from birth in the cosmos. As we experience this obvious affirmation of being alive, we must recognize that this cosmic manifestation of consciousness can reassemble itself by the laws of thermodynamics, gravity, entropy, etcetera. Therefore we need to adress these issues during the process of remembrance and practice of the cessation of suffering.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 07:25:10 am by Solodris »

Offline bobbypro69

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2017, 06:08:20 am »
what draws a man to madness ?---what makes him think that he---can harness light and darkness---to create that which is free ?---what makes him think there's light and dark ?---what bounds define what's free ?---whatever makes him disembark---on 'you' and 'them' and 'me' ?---two worlds he has before him---one earthly, one unseen---each has it's pleasure in the swim---each has it's own smokescreen---i pose the question to all concerned---from sacred to obscene---why can't a man fill the fire that burns---and still be self redeemed ?---does one so drain the other---for he who drinks to the hilt ?---is it really divine mother---who so entwines this quilt----of mans existence---to truely make us side---between the worldly appetence---and the meditative bride ?---the problem leaves me baffled---helpless and forelorn---the freest minds then shackled---not one of us freeborn---to take what life can offer---and still fulfill the soul---making every man a gambler---between wants and self control----what draws a man to madness ?---what makes him think that he---can harness light and darkness---to create that which is free ?---what makes him think there's light and dark ?---what bounds define what's free ?---for all this man can leave one mark---and that is just to BE !


Offline Solodris

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2017, 06:33:54 am »
From a Theravada sutta; Thus have I heard:

Quote
Upajjhatthana Sutta: Subjects for Contemplation
AN 5.57

There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

"I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging." This is the first fact that one should reflect on often...

"I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness"...

"I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death"...

"I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me"...

"I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir"...

These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect... that "I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging"? There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] youth's intoxication with youth. Because of that intoxication with youth, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body... in speech... and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that youth's intoxication with youth will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker...

Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect... that "I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness"? There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] healthy person's intoxication with health. Because of that intoxication with health, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body... in speech... and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that healthy person's intoxication with health will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker...

Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect... that "I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death"? There are beings who are intoxicated with a [typical] living person's intoxication with life. Because of that intoxication with life, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body... in speech... and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that living person's intoxication with life will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker...

Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect... that "I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me"? There are beings who feel desire and passion for the things they find dear and appealing. Because of that passion, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body... in speech... and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that desire and passion for the things they find dear and appealing will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker...

Now, based on what line of reasoning should one often reflect... that "I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir"? There are beings who conduct themselves in a bad way in body... in speech... and in mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, that bad conduct in body, speech, and mind will either be entirely abandoned or grow weaker...

Now, a disciple of the noble ones considers this: "I am not the only one subject to aging, who has not gone beyond aging. To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging." When he/she often reflects on this, the [factors of the] path take birth. He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As he/she sticks with that path, develops it and cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.

Further, a disciple of the noble ones considers this: "I am not the only one subject to illness, who has not gone beyond illness"... "I am not the only one subject to death, who has not gone beyond death"... "I am not the only one who will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me"...

A disciple of the noble ones considers this: "I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, who has my actions as my arbitrator; who — whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir. To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are the owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and have their actions as their arbitrator. Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir." When he/she often reflects on this, the [factors of the] path take birth. He/she sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As he/she sticks with that path, develops it and cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.


"Subject to birth, subject to aging,
   subject to death,
run-of-the-mill people
are repelled by those who suffer
from that to which they are subject.
And if I were to be repelled
by beings subject to these things,
it would not be fitting for me,
   living as they do."
As I maintained this attitude —
knowing the Dhamma
without paraphernalia —
I overcame all intoxication
with health, youth, & life
   as one who sees
   renunciation as security.
For me, energy arose,
Unbinding was clearly seen.
There's now no way
I could partake of sensual pleasures.
Having followed the holy life,
   I will not return.

While your post was highly poetic, the teacher discourages passionate speech in the Sangha as false speech is an attachment to the self leading to future rebirths in the lower realms.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 07:19:48 am by Solodris »

Offline francis

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2017, 07:07:30 am »

From a Theravada sutta; Thus have I heard: ....

Hi Solodris,

If you are going to quote text from the Theravada sutta’s could you please cite sutta number and name.

Thanks

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline Solodris

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2017, 07:14:50 am »
Hi francis,

How absent-minded of me, will do!

Offline francis

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2017, 03:31:42 am »
Hi francis,

How absent-minded of me, will do!

Thanks Solodris :)
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline Tigermelon

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Re: Karma and reincarnation help!
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2017, 11:55:02 am »
A very important topic and issues that I think vex many practitioners.  One thing to understand is that not all schools of Buddhism view karma and reincarnation in the same way.

I am a Jodo Shinshu practitioner and we are encouraged to view karma as something active in our lives in that we reap what we sew.  Rather than thinking of the problems in your life as a punishment for transgressions in a previous life, you can view them as the simple result of living a life filled with foolishness.  It would be impossible to avoid all misfortune the same way it is impossible to avoid all actions that might lead to misfortune.  Karma, by this way of understanding, is simply the natural result of actions whether those results be desirable or not.  As far as a baby with HIV or a starving child (unprotected sex, greedy political choices, etc.), karma would be seen in all of the negative decisions that were made by many individuals which lead to such results and so you very much should feel pity and act accordingly to counter that.  Being that we are all interconnected, our the effects of are karma are as well.

Reincarnation is a more complicated subject but, in Jodo Shinshu teaching, it is not considered to be (necessarily) a literal thing.  The cycle of suffering is, instead, our continued cycle of wrong thinking and inappropriate actions.  We perpetuate our own suffering in a continued cycle without the need of dying to start it over again.

Of course different schools of Buddhism with promote different beliefs, but keep in mind that there are ways of viewing these troubling subjects that you might find more meaningful than others.  After all, you don't benefit from what you don't accept.


 


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