Karma


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Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: The doctrine of karma and rebirth, emphasizing the influence of actions performed either in this life or in former lives on present and future lives, became central to Hindu belief and influenced both religious and social notions.

Vedic sacrifices were not discontinued but gradually became symbols of such…. Both doctrines seem to have been new, circulating among small groups of…. Philosophical sutras and the rise of the Six Schools of philosophy. Members of this school see the karma process as a benefit, however, because they believe that, as soon as the soul has sufficiently ripened and reached a state of purity enabling it to strive after the highest insight, God graciously intervenes, appearing in the….

Moral attributes are minutely quantifiable causal agents: The prospect of innumerable lives is therefore envisaged with dismay. The process is guided by karma the doctrine that actions have consequences in this life and the next , which determines the fate of individual souls. After death, souls can be assigned to any of several heavens or hells, depending upon their accumulation of virtues and vices, before their transmigration into….

The Upanishads doctrine In Hinduism: Religious patronage Buddhism In Buddha: Historical context In Buddhism: In the Anguttara Nikaya , it is stated that karmic results are experienced either in this life P. The Sammyutta Nikaya makes a basic distinction between past karma P. Karma in the early canon is also threefold: Various Buddhist philosophical schools developed within Buddhism, giving various interpretations regarding more refined points of karma.

A major problem is the relation between the doctrine of no-self, and the "storage" of the traces of one's deeds, [43] for which various solutions have been offered.


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The concept of karma originated in the Vedic religion , where it was related to the performance of rituals [82] or the investment in good deeds [83] to ensure the entrance to heaven after death, [82] [83] while other persons go to the underworld. The concept of karma may have been of minor importance in early Buddhism. The doctrine of karma may have been especially important for common people, for whom it was more important to cope with life's immediate demands, such as the problems of pain, injustice, and death.

The doctrine of karma met these exigencies, and in time it became an important soteriological aim in its own right. Sarvastivadins argued that there exists a dharma of "possession" prapti , which functions with all karmic acts, so that each act or thought, though immediately passing away, creates the "possession" of that act in the continuum of instants we experience as a person. This possession itself is momentary, but continually reproduces a similar possession in the succeeding instant, even though the original act lies in the past.

Through such continual regeneration, the act is "possessed" until the actualization of the result. Good and bad deeds performed are thus said to leave "seeds" or traces of disposition that will come to fruition. The Petavatthu , which is fully canonical, endorses the transfer of merit even more widely, including the possibility of sharing merit with all petas. The rebirths of bodhisattvas after the seventh stage S. If the act lasted till the time of ripening, the act would be eternal.

If the act were terminated, how could the terminated produce a fruit? In Tibetan Buddhism, the teachings on karma belong to the preliminary teachings, that turn the mind towards the Buddhist dharma. In the Vajrayana tradition, negative past karma may be "purified" through such practices as meditation on Vajrasattva because they both are the mind's psychological phenomenon. Otherwise, loving others, receives love; whereas; people with closed hearts may be prevented from happiness.

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. He is then able to appear as a human and ask the same question to Zen teacher Baizhang, who answers, "He is not in the dark about cause and effect.

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Karma in Buddhism

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. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that transformation and change through faith and practice changes adverse karma—negative causes made in the past that result in negative results in the present and future—to positive causes for benefits in the future.

Buddhist modernists often prefer to equate karma with social conditioning, in contradistinction with, as one scholar puts it, "early texts [which] give us little reason to interpret 'conditioning' as the infusion into the psyche of external social norms, or of awakening as simply transcending all psychological conditioning and social roles. Karmic conditioning drifts semantically toward 'cultural conditioning' under the influence of western discourses that elevate the individual over the social, cultural, and institutional.

The traditional import of the karmic conditioning process, however, is primarily ethical and soteriological—actions condition circumstances in this and future lives. Some western commentators and Buddhists have taken exception to aspects of karma theory, and have proposed revisions of various kinds. These proposals fall under the rubric of Buddhist modernism. The "primary critique" of the Buddhist doctrine of karma is that some feel "karma may be socially and politically disempowering in its cultural effect, that without intending to do this, karma may in fact support social passivity or acquiescence in the face of oppression of various kinds.

Wright, a scholar specializing in Zen Buddhism, has proposed that the doctrine be reformulated for modern people, "separated from elements of supernatural thinking," so that karma is asserted to condition only personal qualities and dispositions rather than rebirth and external occurrences. Loy argues that the idea of accumulating merit too easily becomes "spiritual materialism," a view echoed by other Buddhist modernists, [note 19] and further that karma has been used to rationalize racism, caste, economic oppression, birth handicaps and everything else. 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, which blames the victims and rationalizes their horrific fate," and that this is "something no longer to be tolerated quietly.

It is time for modern Buddhists and modern Buddhism to outgrow it" by revising or discarding the teachings on karma. Other scholars have argued, however, that the teachings on karma do not encourage judgment and blame, given that the victims were not the same people who committed the acts, but rather were just part of the same mindstream -continuum with the past actors, [] and that the teachings on karma instead provide "a thoroughly satisfying explanation for suffering and loss" in which believers take comfort.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the use of this term in other Indian religions, see Karma. Four Stages Arhat Buddha Bodhisattva. Right view and Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. Anatta and moral responsibility. Development of Karma in Buddhism. Karma in Tibetan Buddhism.


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  • This section uncritically uses texts from within a religion or faith system without referring to secondary sources that critically analyze them. Please help improve this article by adding references to reliable secondary sources , with multiple points of view. October Learn how and when to remove this template message. The mutual influences between the traditions is unclear, and likely co-developed. Many philosophical debates surrounding the concept are shared by the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions, and the early developments in each tradition incorporated different novel ideas.

    The concept of karma in Hinduism developed and evolved over centuries. The earliest Upanishads began with the questions about how and why man is born, and what happens after death. As answers to the latter, the early theories in these ancient Sanskrit documents include pancagni vidya the five fire doctrine , pitryana the cyclic path of fathers and devayana the cycle-transcending, path of the gods.

    It is these who break the cycle and are not reborn. As a man himself sows, so he himself reaps; no man inherits the good or evil act of another man. The fruit is of the same quality as the action. In the thirteenth book of the Mahabharata, also called the Teaching Book Anushasana Parva , sixth chapter opens with Yudhishthira asking Bhishma: Happiness comes due to good actions, suffering results from evil actions, by actions, all things are obtained, by inaction, nothing whatsoever is enjoyed. If one's action bore no fruit, then everything would be of no avail, if the world worked from fate alone, it would be neutralized.

    Over time, various schools of Hinduism developed many different definitions of karma, some making karma appear quite deterministic, while others make room for free will and moral agency. According to Halbfass, [3]. The above six schools illustrate the diversity of views, but are not exhaustive. Each school has sub-schools in Hinduism, such as Vedanta school's nondualism and dualism sub-schools. Furthermore, there are other schools of Hinduism such as Charvaka, Lokayata the materialists who denied the theory of karma-rebirth as well as the existence of God; to this school of Hindus, the properties of things come from the nature of things.

    Causality emerges from the interaction, actions and nature of things and people, determinative principles such as karma or God are unnecessary. Karma and karmaphala are fundamental concepts in Buddhism. A similar term is karmavipaka , the "maturation" [72] or "cooking" [73] of karma. Intention cetana I tell you, is kamma. How these intentional actions lead to rebirth, and how the idea of rebirth is to be reconciled with the doctrines of impermanence and no-self , [87] [note 5] is a matter of philosophical inquiry in the Buddhist traditions, for which several solutions have been proposed.

    Rather, karmaphala is the outcome of a natural process of cause and effect. In Jainism , "karma" conveys a totally different meaning from that commonly understood in Hindu philosophy and western civilization. Hence the karmas are the subtle matter surrounding the consciousness of a soul. When these two components consciousness and karma interact, we experience the life we know at present.

    Jain texts expound that seven tattvas truths or fundamentals constitute reality. This emphasis on reaping the fruits only of one's own karma was not restricted to the Jainas; both Hindus and Buddhist writers have produced doctrinal materials stressing the same point. Each of the latter traditions, however, developed practices in basic contradiction to such belief. In addition to shrardha the ritual Hindu offerings by the son of deceased , we find among Hindus widespread adherence to the notion of divine intervention in ones fate, while Buddhists eventually came to propound such theories like boon-granting bodhisattvas, transfer of merit and like.

    Only Jainas have been absolutely unwilling to allow such ideas to penetrate their community, despite the fact that there must have been tremendous amount of social pressure on them to do so. In Sikhism , all living beings are described as being under the influence of maya 's three qualities. Always present together in varying mix and degrees, these three qualities of maya bind the soul to the body and to the earth plane. Above these three qualities is the eternal time.

    Due to the influence of three modes of Maya's nature, jivas individual beings perform activities under the control and purview of the eternal time. These activities are called "karma". The underlying principle is that karma is the law that brings back the results of actions to the person performing them. This life is likened to a field in which our karma is the seed.

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    We harvest exactly what we sow; no less, no more. This infallible law of karma holds everyone responsible for what the person is or is going to be. Based on the total sum of past karma, some feel close to the Pure Being in this life and others feel separated. Like other Indian and oriental schools of thought, the Gurbani also accepts the doctrines of karma and reincarnation as the facts of nature. Interpreted as Musubi , a view of karma is recognized in Shintoism as a means of enriching, empowering and life affirming.

    Karma is an important concept in Taoism. Every deed is tracked by deities and spirits. Appropriate rewards or retribution follow karma, just like a shadow follows a person. The karma doctrine of Taoism developed in three stages. In the second phase, transferability of karma ideas from Chinese Buddhism were expanded, and a transfer or inheritance of Karmic fate from ancestors to one's current life was introduced.

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    In the third stage of karma doctrine development, ideas of rebirth based on karma were added. One could be reborn either as another human being or another animal, according to this belief. In the third stage, additional ideas were introduced; for example, rituals, repentance and offerings at Taoist temples were encouraged as it could alleviate Karmic burden. Ownby claims that Falun Gong differs from Buddhism in its definition of the term "karma" in that it is taken not as a process of award and punishment, but as an exclusively negative term.

    The Chinese term " de " or "virtue" is reserved for what might otherwise be termed "good karma" in Buddhism. Karma is understood as the source of all suffering - what Buddhism might refer to as "bad karma". Li says, "A person has done bad things over his many lifetimes, and for people this results in misfortune, or for cultivators it's karmic obstacles, so there's birth, aging, sickness, and death.

    This is ordinary karma. Falun Gong teaches that the spirit is locked in the cycle of rebirth, also known as samsara [] due to the accumulation of karma. Falun Gong states that karma is the reason for suffering, and what ultimately blocks people from the truth of the universe and attaining enlightenment. At the same time, karma is also the cause of one's continued rebirth and suffering. Ownby regards the concept of karma as a cornerstone to individual moral behaviour in Falun Gong, and also readily traceable to the Christian doctrine of "one reaps what one sows".

    Others say Matthew 5: Ownby says Falun Gong is differentiated by a "system of transmigration", though, "in which each organism is the reincarnation of a previous life form, its current form having been determined by karmic calculation of the moral qualities of the previous lives lived.


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    • Li says that "Human beings all fell here from the many dimensions of the universe. They no longer met the requirements of the Fa at their given levels in the universe, and thus had to drop down. Just as we have said before, the heavier one's mortal attachments, the further down one drops, with the descent continuing until one arrives at the state of ordinary human beings. Those who fail to return will have no choice but to reincarnate , with this continuing until they amass a huge amount of karma and are destroyed.

      Ownby regards this as the basis for Falun Gong's apparent "opposition to practitioners' taking medicine when ill; they are missing an opportunity to work off karma by allowing an illness to run its course suffering depletes karma or to fight the illness through cultivation.

      Since Li believes that "karma is the primary factor that causes sickness in people", Penny asks: Li also states that "An everyday person needs to take medicine when he gets sick. One of the significant controversies with the karma doctrine is whether it always implies destiny, and its implications on free will. This controversy is also referred to as the moral agency problem; [] the controversy is not unique to karma doctrine, but also found in some form in monotheistic religions.

      The free will controversy can be outlined in three parts: Are crimes and unjust actions due to free will, or because of forces of karma? Or, should one blame oneself for bad karma over past lives, and assume that the unjust suffering is fate? The explanations and replies to the above free will problem vary by the specific school of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The schools of Hinduism, such as Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, that have emphasized current life over the dynamics of karma residue moving across past lives, allow free will.

      Not only is one affected by past karma, one creates new karma whenever one acts with intent - good or bad. If intent and act can be proven beyond reasonable doubt, new karma can be proven, and the process of justice can proceed against this new karma. The actor who kills, rapes or commits any other unjust act, must be considered as the moral agent for this new karma, and tried.

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