The Urban Dharma Newsletter... March, 2011
In This Issue: Karma and the Tsunami
1. Karma/Kamma ~ The Laws of Cause and Effect
2. Karma by His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama.
3. THE LAW OF KARMA
5. QUESTIONS ON THE THEORY OF KARMA
6. What Kamma Is -- By Ven. U. Thittila
7. Book: Karma and Chaos: New and Collected Essays on Vipassana Meditation -- by Paul R. Fleischman M.D., Paul R. Fleischman
This is an old Urban Dharma Newsletter that speaks to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami… The world hasn’t changed much since the last big Tsunami and some of the same reasons are being given for so much suffering.
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On Monday (March, 2011) Tokyo's governor, Shintaro Ishihara, was quoted as saying, "I think (the disaster in Japan) is tembatsu." Tembatsu is a Japanese term that means "divine punishment.”
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Was the Tsunami Caused by Karma? - A Buddhist View -- by Kusala Bhikshu
The world is filled with so much pain and suffering and now a Tsunami. Why did so many people have to die, was it their karma?
I've never found the cause of anything in Buddhism to be just one thing. Saying the reason for a complex chain of events is the result of one action-- whether it's God, sin or karma-- doesn't seem like a viable option for a Buddhist. Buddhist cosmology is non-theistic and lacks a first cause. I admit some Buddhists feel karma can replace God as a first cause, because Buddhism has a moral code and lacks a divine law giver... But is it fair to say that a Tsunami is the moral consequence of unskillful intention, speech and action?
The Buddha was clear on this. We lack a realistic world view because of lust, greed, hatred and delusion. Science can add some clarity and meaning, but the Buddha warned us about this world of ours (samsara) being unsatisfactory, it's the place where birth, death and change occur. We experience pain because we have a body/mind, and suffer because of desire and impermanence.
Sickness, injury, aging and death are simply the signs of flux in an insufferable world.
Early Buddhism gives us something called the five Niyamas, or the five aspects of cosmic order. These Niyamas can deepen our understanding and give meaning to why things happen. Niyama is a Pali term (language of early Buddhism) for cosmic order. The Niyamas show how certain conditions, laws of nature, work at different levels of cause and effect.
The First Niyama (Utu Niyama) is the law of physical matter. It is the physical, inorganic order of existence. Seasonal changes, earthquakes, floods, gravity and heat are some of the many examples. It roughly embraces the laws of physics and chemistry.
The Second Niyama (Bija Niyama) is the law of living matter, the physical organic order, like cells and genes, whose laws are similar to the science of biology.
The Third Niyama (Kamma Niyama) is Karma. Karma is the activity of transforming energy through intention, speech and action. The result of this energy transformation is only considered wholesome or skillful if less suffering or no suffering is produced. Karma is the cause, and Vipaka (Pali) is the result. It is the principle of conditionality operative on the moral plane. This sequence of cause and consequence replaces a divine law giver. In Buddhism there is a moral law, but no lawgiver and no one to administer it. This Niyama pertains to the world of ethical responsibility.
The Fourth Niyama (Dhamma Niyama) is the Spiritual or transcendent. This principle of conditionality operates on the spiritual level. The natural phenomenon that occurs with the birth of a Buddha, and the reasons for Buddhist Practice are in this group. This Niyama has to do with the spiritual laws that govern ultimate reality.
The Fifth Niyama (Citta Niyama) is mind. This Niyama implies mental activity such as consciousness, perception, conception, etc. Mental phenomenon arises because of conditions; the mind is not an independent agent. This is like the science of psychology.
The Utu, Bija, Kamma, and Citta Niyamas are types of conditionality in the relative sense, the cause and consequence of everyday life. Dhamma Niyama has to do with the spiritual laws that govern ultimate reality, like emptiness, not-self or our progress through the different stages of the Buddhist path.
These ever changing physical, biological, psychological, ethical and spiritual components give life to our pain and suffering. Our existence, and ultimately our death and rebirth depend on a complex combination of aggregates. There is no 'One Thing' that determines anything in Buddhism it is always the interconnected and interdependent flux of 'Many Things.'
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The Urban Dharma Newsletter... November 2, 2004
In This Issue: Kamma/Karma and Buddhisml
1. Karma/Kamma ~ The Laws of Cause and Effect
2. Karma by His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama.
3. THE LAW OF KARMA
5. QUESTIONS ON THE THEORY OF KARMA
6. What Kamma Is -- By Ven. U. Thittila
7. Book: Karma and Chaos: New and Collected Essays on Vipassana Meditation -- by Paul R. Fleischman M.D., Paul R. Fleischman
My Karma ran over your dogma. -- Unknown
Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
All science is concerned with the relationship of cause and effect. Each scientific discovery increases man's ability to predict the consequences of his actions and thus his ability to control future events. -- Lawrence J. Peters
1. Karma/Kamma ~ The Laws of Cause and Effect
Karma is the physical manifestation of the law of balance and harmony, as it applies to the results of decisions reached and attitudes held by beings capable of free will and choice. A karmic experience is a challenge to a individual to reconsider a choice that has been made, or an attitude that has been held, to see if these decisions were founded upon a misunderstanding of The Laws of the System. You are bound karmically to anything that you accept, or misunderstand, until you understand it. Karma is merely a gap in your understanding. And, karma applies only to beings who have advanced to the level of experiencing in the forms of the human kingdom.
Each individual creates their own karma by experiencing results, their ability to learn, and their disregard for experiencing. We creates our own capacities and limitations. Karma is the need to know more about a feeling, or an action, to make one's knowledge more complete and whole. It is the necessity to experience an action or thought more fully, or from a different perspective, so that you understand it as completely as possible in order to maintain balance in your mental creations. You cannot project perfect creations unless you understand the materials, tools, and processes of creation completely, and have experienced the repercussions of your actions.
A person exists to experience all forms of materiality, to understand each thoroughly, and to learn how to manipulate and maintain these forms in balance and harmony. As the individual evolves, studies his progress and finds there is a gap in his understanding, at some point in time the gap must be filled with the appropriate experience to balance it out. Karma is, therefore, the need to experience, and to fill gaps in the understanding of the experiences gained. It is a lack of understanding of all the points of view that apply, that must be changed, and an awareness that is necessary to be gained.
The law of Karma (Sanskrit), or Kamma (Pali) originated in the Vedic system of religion, otherwise known as Hinduism. As a term, it can at the latest be traced back to the early Upanishads, around 1500 BCE.
In its major conception, karma is the physical, mental and supramental system of neutral rebound, "cause and effect," that is inherent in existence within the bounds of time, space, and causation. Essentially what this means is that the very being which one experiences (say, as a human being) is governed by an immutable preservation of energy, vibration, and action. It is comparable to the Golden Rule but denies the ostenisble arbitrariness of Fate, Destiny, Kismet, or other such Western conceptions by attributing absolute reason and determinism to the workings of the cosmos.
Karma, for these reasons, naturally implies reincarnation since thoughts and deeds in past lives will affect one's current situation. Thus, humanity (through a sort of collective karma) and individuals alike are responsible for the tragedies and good 'fortunes' which they experience. The concept of an inscrutable "God" figure is not necessary with the idea of karma. It is vital to note that karma is not an instrument of a god, or a single God, but is rather the physical and spiritual 'physics' of being. As gravity governs the motions of heavenly bodies and objects on the surface of the earth, karma governs the motions and happenings of life, both inanimate and animate, unconscious and conscious, in the cosmic realm.
Thus, what certain philosophical viewpoints may term "destiny" or "fate" is in actuality, according to the laws of karma, the simple and neutral working out of karma. Many have likened karma to a moral banking system, a credit and debit of good and bad. However, this view falls short of the idea that any sort of action (action being a root meaning of 'karma'), whether we term it 'good' or 'bad', binds us in recurring cause and effect. In order to attain supreme consciousness, to escape the cycle of life, death, and rebirth and the knot of karma one must altogether transcend karma. This method of transcendence is variously dealt with in many streams of not only Hinduism and Buddhism, but other faiths and philosophical systems as well.
From Hinduism the concept of karma was absorbed and developed in different manners in other movements within the other Indian subcontinental (South Asian) religions of Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Although these religions express significant disagreement regarding the particularities of "karma", all four groups have relatively similar notions of what karma is.
More recently the concept has been adopted (with various degrees of accuracy and understanding) by many New Age movements, Theosophy and Kardecist Spiritualism.
Karma in the Dharma-based Religions
Karma first came into being as a concept in Hinduism, largely based on the Vedas and Upanishads. One of the first and most dramatic illustrations of Karma can be found in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. The original Hindu concept of karma was later enhanced by several other movements within the religion, most notably Vedanta, Yoga, and Tantra.
Hinduism sees karma as immutable law with involuntary and voluntary acts being part of a more intricate system of cause and effect that is often not comprehensible to one bound by karma. It is the goal of the Hindu, as expressed succinctly in the Bhagavad Gita, to embrace a 'sattvic' lifestyle and thus avoid creating more karma (karma is not qualified as good or bad). By ceasing to create more karma, the jiva-atma or individual soul is able to move closer to moksha, or liberation.
To the Hindu, karma is the law of the phenomenal cosmos that is part and parcel of living within the dimensions of time and space. All actions, thoughts, vibrations of any sort, are governed by a law that demands perfect rebound. So all jiva-atmas (individual souls) must experience karma if they live and experience the phenomenal universe. To escape the cycle of life, death and rebirth, one must exhaust one's karma and realize one's true Self as the highest truth of Oneness that is Brahman (or for dvaitists (dualists) bliss with the Supreme Godhead).
In Hinduism, karma is of three kinds:
This karma is unchangeable within the scope of one life, since it is the 'setup' for the life in question. It is the karma of one's past lives. After death, the atma leaves the body, as the casting off of old vestments, and carries with it the samskaras (impressions) of the past life of thoughts and actions and events. These samskaras manifest themselves in the unchangeable situation into which one is born and certain key events in one's life. These include one's time of death (seen as governed by an allotment from birth of the total number of one's breaths for that life), one's economic status, one's family (or lack of family), one's body type and look: essentially, the setting of one's birth, the initial base.
The samskaras that one inherits from the last lives create one's personality, inclinations, talents, the things that make up one's persona. One's likings, abilities, attitudes and inclinations are based on the thoughts and actions of past lives. One's samchita karma is somewhat alterable through practice and effort towards change. This might be seen through the Hindu system of yoga and the dynamic of the gunas. An example would be someone who, through meditation, slowly evolved into a more stable personality.
Agami karma is the karma of the present life over which the soul has complete control. Through it one creates one's karma in the present for the future of the current life and in life-times to come.
The Hindu cannot say, sometimes, if a major event in life is the doing of Prarabadha or Agami Karma. The idea of "bad things happening to good people" is seen by the Hindu as a result of Prarabadha Karma, more simply understood as karma from a past life.
In Hinduism, karma works within a cyclical framework that sees the phenomenal universe being created and eventually dissolving back into itself, back into realization that it was nothing other than Maya imposed on the truth of Brahman. So Karma will eventually be worked out.
Karma does allow for anirudh (Divine Grace). Through exceeding devotion and love of God, the Hindu believes one can be helped to speed through Karma phal (Karmic fruit). By developing 'vairagya' or 'detachment' from the fruits of one's karma, as Lord Krishna most famously summarized, one can transcend karma and be liberated. One is aided by love of God. All the Yogas of Hinduism seek to transcend karma through different means of realization.
In Buddhism, only intentional actions are karmic "acts of will". Often misunderstood in the West as "cause and effect", in actuality, Karma literally means "action" - often indicating intent or cause. Accompanying this usually is a separate tenet called Vipaka, meaning result or effect. The re-action or effect can itself also influence an action, and in this way, the chain of causation continues ad infinitum. When Buddhists talk about karma, they are normally referring to karma that is 'tainted' with ignorance - karma that continues to ensure that the being remains in the everlasting cycle of samsara.
This samsaric karma comes in two 'flavours' - good karma, which leads to high rebirth (as a deva, asura, or human), and bad karma which leads to low rebirth (as a hell-sufferer, as a preta, or as an animal).
There is also a completely different type of karma that is neither good nor bad, but liberating. This karma allows for the individual to break the endless cycle of rebirth, and thereby leave samsara permanently.
This seems to imply that one does not need to act in a good manner. But the Buddhist sutras explain that in order to generate liberating karma, we must first develop incredibly powerful concentration. This concentration is akin to the states of mind required to be reborn in the Deva realm, and in itself depends upon a very deep training in ethical self-discipline.
This differentiation between good karma and liberating karma has been used by some scholars to argue that the development of Tantra depended upon Buddhist ideas and philosophies.
Understanding the universal law of Karma provides order to a beginningless and endless universe. Alongside this view is the related notion of Buddhist rebirth - sometimes understood to be the same thing as reincarnation - which has its roots in the principle of Karma.
Jains believe that karma is a form of matter. Mahavira described karma as "clay particles". Jains do not believe in "good karma" or "bad karma"; they try to avoid all karma.
Parallels with Christianity
Christian teachings do not usually include the idea of Karma, although some parallels can be made, as exemplified by biblical verses of 'God is not mocked, what a man sows he must reap' and 'Vengence is mine says the Lord'.
For the most part, however, the idea of the Abrahamic God makes the concept of Karma redundant for Christians.
It is also worth noting that most interpretations of Christianity do not emphasize the religious importance of thoughts and intentions (volition), that are usually understood to be a major form of Karma by the doctrines that use that concept.
According to Karma, performance of positive action results with the reaction of a good conditioning in one's experience, whereas a negative action results in a reaction of a bad response. This may be an immediate result following the act, or a delayed result occurring either in the present life or the next. Thus, meritorious acts may create rebirth into a higher station, such as a superior human being or a godlike being, while evil acts result in rebirth as a human living in less desirable circumstances, or as a lower animal. While the action of karma may be compared with the Western notions of sin and judgment by God or gods, Karma is held to operate as an inherent principle of the Universe without the intervention of any supernatural being.
Most teachings say that for common mortals, having an involvement with Karma is an unavoidable part of day-to-day living. However, in light of the Hindu philosophical school of Vedanta, as well as Gautama Buddha's teachings, one is advised to either avoid, control or become mindful of the effects of desires and aversions as a way to moderate or change one's karma (or, more accurately, one's karmic results).
New Age and Theosophy
The idea of karma was popularized in the west through the work of the Theosophical Society. Kardecist and Western New Age reinterpretations of karma frequently cast it as a sort of luck which is associated with virtue: if one does good or spiritually valuable acts, one deserves and can expect good luck; contrariwise, if one does harmful things, one can expect bad luck or unfortunate happenings. In this conception, karma is affiliated with the Neopagan law of return or Threefold Law, the idea that the beneficial or harmful effects one has on the world will return to oneself.
Health, Relationships, Abilities, Genius, Free Will, Opportunities
Sickness or afflictions have been attributed to misdeeds in the past, as well as merits, fortunes, etc. to meritorious works, etc.. Karma is said to affect the quality of relationships. For example, people who either love or hate each other tend to attract each other (See also Parabadha Karma). Karma dictates that an individual is responsible for his current situation and future situation. Current abilities, talents and inclinations can attributed to past development of these talents or involvement with the same(See also Sanchita Karma and Samskara). In this context, DNA and genes only accomodate and do not determine talents and abilities. In other words you can develop more talents and abilities. Karma however is not a rigid iron-cast system. e.g. Accidents happen outside the workings of karma and free will is a powerful factor in determining the course of life. Getting hit by a car may really be accidental and not karmic at all. A person must also exercise his free will in determining his destiny despite karmic factors. Karma also dictates that opportunities are also increased depending on how one deals with what one has. i.e. Take advantage of what is already available at hand and more will be given.
To be sure, this subconscious memory has an effect and influence on how we think, how we react, what we choose, and even how we look! But the component of free will is ever within our grasp.
Attitudes and Consciousness
Karma pertains mostly to attitudes and consciousness. The Cayce readings did not indicate adverse karmic effects for policemen or soldiers who are compelled to maintain safety or under orders , and had to execute people or employ violent methods. The readings however indicated severe karmic penalties for jeering mobs during the Roman persecution of Christians and in a particular, a spectator who laughed when a lion ripped out the side of a Christian girl. Neither the spectator nor the mob did any actual physical harm.
"It's My Karma"
One of the most distorted views of karma is the idea that nothing can be done about it (destiny).
No matter how terrible the predicament, there is always something that can be done, even if it's a patient smile or maintining a good attitude.
Within adverse conditions often lie the opportunity. The Chinese character for crisis '??', as pointed out by the late J.F. Kennedy, is a combination of the characters of danger and opportunity. The readings recommend taking advantage of what is available, meager as it may be, and better opportunities will be made available, as karmic forces may simply be redirecting. Karma is an educative process. Learn whatever needs to be learned or harsher conditions to drive in the lesson will arise.
Abilities according to Cayce Reading
One of the interesting aspects about karma in reincarnation is that talents and skills are never lost according to the Cayce files. Someone who has developed an ability in one life will still have it to draw upon later through karma. One may be born for example as a genius or prodigy, in math for example, if he develops this skill or have been of service now or having done so to a prodigous degree in the past or present.
2. Karma by His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama. -- Contributed by boeddha
Pleasure and pain come from your own former actions (karma). Thus, it is easy to explain karma in one short sentence: If you act well, things will be good, and if you act badly, things will be bad.
Karma means actions. From the viewpoint of how actions are done, there are physical, verbal, and mental actions. From the viewpoint of their effects, actions are either virtuous, non-virtuous, or neutral. In terms of time, there are two types - actions of intention which occur while thinking to do something and the intended actions which are the expressions of those mental motivations in physical or verbal action.
For instance, based on a motive, I am now speaking and thereby accumulating a verbal action of karma. With gestures of my hands, I am also accumulating physical karma. Whether these actions become good or bad is mainly based on my motivation. If I speak from a good motivation out of sincerity, respect, and love for others, my actions are good, virtuous. If I act from a motivation of pride, hatred, criticism, and so forth, then my verbal and physical actions become non-virtuous.
Karmas, therefore, are being made all the time. When one speaks with a good motivation, a friendly atmosphere is created as an immediate result; also, the action makes an imprint on the mind, inducing pleasure in the future. With a bad motivation, a hostile atmosphere is created immediately, and pain is induced for the speaker in the future.
Buddha's teaching is that you are your own master; everything depends on yourself. This means that pleasure and pain arise from virtuous and non-virtuous actions which come not from outside but from within yourself. This theory is very useful in daily life, for once you believe in the relationship between actions and their effects, whether there is an external policeman or not, you will always be alert and examine yourself. For example, if there were some money or a precious jewel here and no one was around, you could take it easily; however, if you believe in this doctrine, since the whole responsibility for your own future rests on yourself, you will not.
With respect to the effects of actions, many different types are explained. One type is called "effects which are fruitions". For instance, if someone, due to a non-virtuous action, is born in a bad transmigration as an animal, that rebirth is an effect which is a fruition in another life. Another type is called an "effect experientially similar to its cause"; for instance, if after being reborn in a bad transmigration due to an act of murder you were subsequently reborn as a human, you would have a short life, - the effect, a short life being similar in terms of experience to the cause, cutting short someone else's life. Another type is called "effect functionally similar to its cause"; an example would be naturally to have tendencies toward the same non-virtuous action, such as murder.
Examples for all of these can similarly be applied to virtuous actions. Also, there are actions the effects of which are shared - many beings having similarly done similar types of actions and thereby undergoing effects in common, such as enjoying a certain physical environment together.
The important point is that such presentations of Buddhist theories about actions can make a positive contribution to human society. It is my hope that whether religious or not, we will study each other's systems to gather helpful ideas and techniques for the betterment of humankind.
3. THE LAW OF KARMA
In Buddhism, the Law Of Karma states that for every intentional action there is a corresponding consequence. Beneficial actions produce beneficial results, and harmful actions produce harmful results. It is important to understand that the consequence of anything you do depends on your motive for doing it, so the deed itself is not as important as the intention, with regard to your own karma. It is also important to know that in this context the word `action' includes all intentional conduct, thought and speech.
Karma is the law of moral causation
It is the doctrine of Karma that gives consolation, hope, reliance and moral courage to a Buddhist. When the unexpected happens, and he meets with difficulties, failures, and misfortune, the Buddhist realises that he is reaping what he has sown, and he is wiping off a past debt. Instead of resigning himself, leaving everything to Karma, he makes a strenuous effort to pull the weeds and sow useful seeds in their place, for the future is in his own hands.
He who believes in Karma does not condemn even the most corrupt, for they, too, have their chance to reform themselves at any moment. Though bound to suffer in woeful states, they have hope of attaining eternal Peace. By their own doings they have created their own Hells, and by their own doings they can create their own Heavens, too.
A Buddhist who is fully convinced of the law of Karma does not pray to another to be saved but confidently relies on him for his own emancipation. Instead of making any self-surrender, or calling on any supernatural agency, he relies on his own will power, and works incessantly for the well-being and happiness of all. This belief in Karma validates his effort and kindles his enthusiasm, because it teaches individual responsibility.
To the ordinary Buddhist, Karma serves as a deterrent, while to an intellectual, it serves as in incentive to do good. He or she becomes kind, tolerant, and considerate. This law of Karma explains the problem of suffering, the mastery of so-called fate and predestination of other religions and about all the inequality of mankind.
5. QUESTIONS ON THE THEORY OF KARMA
Question: Do the Karmas of parents determine or affect the Karmas of their children?
Answer: Physically, the Karma of children is generally determined by the Karma of their parents. Thus, healthy parents usually have healthy offspring, and unhealthy parents have unhealthy children. On the effect or how the Karma of their children is determined: the child’s Karma is a thing apart of itself – it forms the child’s individuality, the sum-total of its merits and demerits accumulated in innumerable past existences. For example, the Karma of the Buddha-to-be, Prince Siddhartha was certainly not influenced by the joint Karma of his parents, King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. The glorious and powerful Karma of our Buddha-to-be transcended the Karma of his parents which jointly were more potent than his own.
Question: If the Karma of parents do not influence those of their children, how would the fact be explained that parents who suffer from certain virulent diseases are apt to transmit these evils to their offsprings?
Answer: Where a child inherit such a disease it is due to the force of the parents’ characteristics because of the force of the latter’s Utu (conditions favourable to germination). Take, for example, two seeds from a sapling; plant one in inferior, dry soil; and the other in rich, moist soil. The result is that the first seed will sprout into a sickly sapling and soon show symptoms of disease and decay; while the other seed will thrive and flourish and grow up to be a tall and healthy tree.
It will be observed that the pair of seeds taken from the same stock grows up differently according to the soil into which they are put. A child’s past Karma may be compared to the seed: the physical disposition of the mother to the soil; and that of the father to the moisture, which fertilised the soil. Roughly speaking, to illustrate our subject, we will say that, representing the sapling’s germination, growth, and existence as a unit, the seed is responsible for one-tenth of them, the soil for six-tenths, and the moisture for the remainder, three-tenths. Thus, although the power of germination exists potentially in the seed (the child), its growth is powerfully determined and quickened by the soil (the mother) and the moisture (the father).
Therefore, even as the conditions of the soil and moisture must be taken as largely responsible factors in the growth and condition of the tree. So must the influences of the parents (or progenitors, as in the case of the animal world) be taken into account in respect to the conception and growth of their offspring.
The parents’ share in the Karma determining the physical factors of their issue is as follows: If they are human beings, then their offspring will be a human being. If they are cattle then their issue must be of their species. If the human being is Chinese, then their offspring must be of their race. Thus, the offspring are invariably of the same genera and species, etc., as those of the progenitors. It will be seen from the above that, although a child’s Karma is very powerful in itself, if cannot remain wholly uninfluenced by those of it parents. It is apt to inherit the physical characteristic of its parents. Yet, it may occur that the child’s Karma, being superlatively powerful, the influence of the parent’s joint Karma cannot overshadow it. Of course, it need hardly be pointed out that the evil influences of parents can also be counteracted by the application of medical science.
All beings born of sexual cohabitation are the resultant effects of three forces:
1. The old Karma of past existence;
2. The seminal fluid of the mother, and
3. The seminal fluid of the father.
The physical dispositions of the parents may, or may not, be equal in force. One may counteract the other to a lesser or greater extent. The child’s Karma and physical characteristics, such as race, colour, etc., will be the produce of the three forces.
Question: On the death of a sentient being, is there a ‘soul’ that wanders about at will?
Answer: When a sentient being leaves one existence, it is reborn either as a human being, a celestial being, (Deva or Brahama), and inferior animal, or a denizen of one of the regions of hell.
The sceptics and the ignorant people held that there are intermediate stages – antrabhava – between these; and that there are being who are neither of the human, the celestial, the Deva or the Brahma worlds nor of any one of the stages of exist recognised in the scriptures – but are in an intermediate stage. Some assert that these transitional stages are possessed of the Five Khandhas ( Five Aggregates: they are Matter (rupa); Feeling (vedana); Perception (sanna); 4. Mental-activities (sankhara); and Consciousness (vinnana).
Some assert that these beings are detached ‘souls’ or spirits with no material encasement, and some again, that they are possessed of the faculty of seeing like Devas, and further, that they have power of changing at will, at short intervals, from one to any of the existence mentioned above. Others again hold the fantastic and erroneous theory that these beings can, and so, fancy themselves to be in other than the existence they are actually in. Thus, to take for example one such of these suppositious beings. He is a poor person – and yet he fancies himself to be rich. He may be in hell – and yet he fancies himself to be in the land of the Devas, and so on. This belief in intermediate stages between existences is false, and is condemned in the Buddhist teachings. A human being in this life who, by his Karma is destined to be a human being in the next, will be reborn as such; one who by his Karma is destined to be a Deva in the next will be appear in the land of the Devas; and one whose future life is to be in Hell, will be found in one of the regions of hell in the next existence.
The idea of an entity or soul or spirit ‘going’, ‘coming’, ‘changing’ or ‘transmigrating’ from one existence to another is an idea entertained by the ignorant and materialistic, and is certainly not justified by the Dhammas that there is no such thing as ‘going’, 'coming’, ‘changing’, etc., as between existences. The conception, which is in accordance with the Dhamma, may perhaps be illustrated by the picture thrown out by a cinema projector, or the sound of emitted by the gramophone, and their relation to the film or the sound-box and records respectively. For example, a human being dies and is reborn in the land of Devas. Though these two existences are different, yet the link or continuity between the two at death is unbroken in point of time. The same is true in the case of a man whose further existence is to be in hell. The distance between Hell and the abode of man appears to be great. Yet, in point of time, the continuity of ‘passage’ from the one existence to the other is unbroken, and no intervening matter or space can interrupt the trend of a man’s Karma from the world of human beings to the regions of Hell. The ‘passage’ from one existence to another is instantaneous, and the transition is infinitely quicker than the blink of an eyelid or a lightening-flash.
Karma determines the realm of rebirth and the state of existence in that realm of all transient being (in the cycle of existences, which have to be traversed till the attainment, at last, of Nibbana).
The results of Karma are manifold, and may be effected in many ways. Religious offerings (dana) may obtain for a man the privilege of rebirth as a human being, or as a deva, in one of the six deva worlds according to the degree of the merit of the deeds performed, and so with the observance of religious duties (sila). The jhanas or states of absorption, are found in the Brahma world or Brahmalokas up to the summit, the twentieth Brahma world: And so with bad deeds, the perpetrators of which are to be found , grade by grade, down to the lowest depths of Hell. Thus are Karma, past, present and future were, are, and will ever be the sum total of our deeds, good, indifferent or bad. As was seen from the foregoing, our Karma determines the changes of our existences.
"Evil spirits" are, therefore, not beings in an intermediate or transitional stages of existence, but are really very inferior beings, and they belong to one of the following five realms of existence:
1. World of Men: 2. The Lowest plane of deva-world; 3. The region of hell; 4. Animals below men, and 5. Petas (ghosts).
Number 2 and 5 are very near the world of human beings. As their condition is unhappy, and they are popularly considered evil spirits. It is not true that all who die in this world are reborn as evil spirits; nor is it true that beings who die sudden or violent deaths are apt to be reborn in the lowest plane of the world of devas.
Question: Is there such a thing as a human being who is reborn and who is able to speak accurately of his or her past existence?
Answer: Certainly, this is not an uncommon occurrence, and is in accordance with the tenets of Buddhism in respect to Karma.
The following (who form, an overwhelming majority of human beings) are generally unable to remember there past existences when reborn as human beings: Children who die young. Those who die old and senile. Those who are addicted to the drug or drink habit. Those whose mothers, during their conception, have been sickly or have had to toil laboriously, or have been reckless or imprudent during pregnancy. The children in the womb, being stunned and started, lose all knowledge of their past existence.
The following are possessed of a knowledge of their past existences, viz: Those who are not reborn (in the human world) but proceed to the world of the devas, of Brahmas, or to the regions of Hell, remember their past existences.
Those who die suddenly deaths from accidents, while in sound health, may also be possessed of this faculty in the next existence, provided that their mothers, in whose womb they are conceived, are healthy. Again, those who live steady, meritorious lives and who in their past existences have striven to attain, often attain it.
Lastly the Buddha, the Arahantas and Ariyas attain this gift which is known as pubbenivasa abhnna (Supernatural Power remembering previous existences).
Question: Which are the five Abhinna? Are they attainable only by the Buddha?
Answer: The five Abhinna (Supernatural Powers): Pali - abhi, excellent, nana, wisdom) are:
Iddhividha = Creative power;
Dibbasola = Divine Ear;
Cetopariya nana = Knowledge of others’ thoughts;
Pubbenivasanussati = Knowledge of one’s past existence;
Dibbacakkhu = The Divine eye.
The Abhinna are attainable not only by the Buddha, but also by Arantas and Ariyas, by ordinary mortals who practise according to the Scriptures (as was the case with hermits etc, who flourished before the time of the Buddha and who were able to fly through the air and traverse different worlds).
In the Buddhist Scriptures, we find, clearly shown, the means of attaining the five Abhinna. And even nowadays, if these means are carefully and perseveringly pursued, it would be possible to attain these. That we do not see any person endowed with the five Abhinna today is due to the lack of strenuous physical and mental exertion towards their attainment.
6. What Kamma Is -- By Ven. U. Thittila -- (from Gems of Buddhist Wisdom)
Kamma is a Pali word meaning action. It is called Karma in Sanskrit. In its general sense Kamma means all good and bad actions. It covers all kinds of thoughts, words and, deeds. In its ultimate sense Kamma means all moral and immoral volition. The Buddha says: "Mental volition, O Bhikkhus, is what I call action (Kamma). Having volition one acts by body, speech and thought". (Anguttara Nikaya III.415).
Kamma is neither fatalism nor a doctrine of predetermination. The past influences the present but does not dominate it, for Kamma is pas as well as present. The past and present influence the future. The past is a background against which life goes on from moment to moment. The future is yet to be. Only the present moment exists and the responsibility of using the present moment for good or for ill lies with each individual.
Every action produces an effect and it is a cause first and effect afterwards. We therefore speak of Kamma as "the law of cause and effect". Throwing a stone, for example, is an action. The stone strikes a glass window and breaks it. The 'break' is the effect of the action of throwing, but it is not the end. The broken window is now the cause of further trouble. Some of one's money will have to go to replace it, and one is thus unable to save the money or to buy with it what one wants for some other purpose, and the effect upon one is a feeling of disappointment. This may make one irritable and if one is not careful, one may allow the irritability to become the cause of doing something else which is wrong, and so on. There is no end to the result of action, no end to Kamma, so we should be very careful about our actions, so that their effect will be good. It is therefore necessary for us to do a good, helpful action which will return to us in good Kamma and make us strong enough to start a better Kamma.
Throw a stone into a pond and watch the effect. There is a splash and a number of little rings appear round the place where it strikes. See how the rings grow wider and wider till they become too wide and too tiny for our eyes to follow. The little stone disturbs the water in the pond, but its work is not finished yet. When the tiny waves reach the edges of the pond, the water moves back till it returns to the stone that has disturbed it.
The effects of our actions come back to us just a the waves do to the stone, and as long as we do our action with evil intention the new waves of effect come back to beat upon us and disturb us. If we are kind and keep ourselves peaceful, the returning waves of trouble will grow weaker and weaker till they die down and our good Kamma will come back to us in blessings. If we plant a mango seed, for instance, a mango tree will come up and bear mangoes, and if we sow a chilli seed, a chilli plant will grow and produce chillies. The Buddha says:
"According to the seed that's sown,
so is the fruit ye reap there from,
Doer of good will gather good,
Doer of evil, evil reaps.
Sown is the seed, and thou shalt taste
The fruit thereof."
Everything that comes to us is right. When anything pleasant comes to us and makes us happy, we may be sure that our Kamma has come to show us what we have done is right. When anything unpleasant comes to us, hurts us, or makes us unhappy, our Kamma has come to show us our mistake. We must never forget that Kamma is always just. It neither loves nor hates, neither rewards nor punishes. It is never angry, never pleased. It is simply the law of cause and effect.
Kamma knows nothing about us. Does fire know us when it burns us? No. It is the nature of fire to burn, to give out heat. If we use it properly it gives us light, cooks our food for us or burns anything we wish to get rid or, but if we use it wrongly it burns us and our property. Its work is to burn and our affair is to use it in the right way. We are foolish if we grow angry and blame it when it burns us because we made a mistake.
There are inequalities and manifold destinies of men in the world. One is, for example, inferior and another superior. One perishes in infancy and another at the age of eighty or a hundred. One is sick and infirm, and another strong and healthy. One is born a millionaire another a pauper. One is a genius and another an idiot.
What is the cause of the inequalities that exist in the world? Buddhists cannot believe that this is indeed all against the theory of "chance", in the world of the scientist all works in accordance with the laws of cause and effect. Neither can Buddhists believe that this unevenness of the world is due to a God-Creator.
One or the three divergent views that prevailed at the time of the Buddha was:
"Whatsoever happiness or pain or neutral feeling the person experiences all that is due to the creation of a Supreme Deity".
(Gradual Sayings, I. 158). Commenting on this fatalistic view the Buddha said: "So, then, owing to the creation of a Supreme Deity men will become murderers, thieves, unchaste, liars, slanderers, abusive, babblers, covetous, malicious, and perverse in view. Thus for those who fall back on the creation of a God as the essential reason, there is neither the desire to do, nor necessity to do this deed or abstain from that deed." (ibid.)
Referring to the naked ascetics who practised self-mortification, the Buddha said: "If, O Bhikkhus, beings experience pain and happiness as the result of God's creation, then certainly these naked ascetics must have been created by a wicked God, since they are at present experiencing such terrible pain". (Majjhima Nikaya, II 222).
According to Buddhism the inequalities that exist in the world are due, to some extent, to heredity and environment and to a greater extent, to a cause or causes (Kamma) which are not only present but proximate or remotely past. Man himself is responsible for his own happiness and misery. He creates his own heaven and hell. He is master of his own destiny, child of his past and parent of his future.
The Laws of Cosmic Order
Although Buddhism teaches that Kamma is the chief cause of the inequalities in the world yet it does not teach fatalism or the doctrine of predestination, for it does not hold the view that everything is due to past actions. The law of causes described in Buddhist philosophy is one of the five orders (Niyamas) which are laws in themselves and operate in the universe. They are:
1. Utu Niyama, physical inorganic order, e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains. The unerring order of seasons, characteristic seasonal changes and events, causes of winds and rains, nature of heat, etc., belong to this group.
2. Bija Niyama, order of germs and seeds (physical organic order) e.g. rice produced from rice seed, sugary taste from sugar cane or honey, peculiar characteristics of certain fruits, etc. The scientific theory of cells and genes and physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to this order.
3. Kamma Niyama, order of act and result, e.g., desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results. As surely as water seeks its own level so does Kamma, given opportunity, produce its inevitable result, not in the form of a reward or punishment but as an innate sequence. This sequence of deed and effect is as natural and necessary as the way of the moon and stars.
4. Dhama Niyama, order of the norm, e.g. the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisatta in his last birth. Gravitation and other similar laws of nature, the reason for being good and so forth may be included in this group.
5. Citta Niyama, order of mind or psychic law, e.g. process of consciousness, arising and perishing of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of mind, etc. Telepathy, telesthesia, retrocognition, premonition, clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought-reading, all psychic phenomena which are inexplicable to modern science are included in this class. (Abihdhammavatara p. 54).
These five orders embrace everything in the world and every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by them. They being laws in themselves, require no lawgiver and Kamma as such is only one of them.
Classification of Kamma
Kamma is classified into four kinds according to the time at which results are produced. There is Kamma that ripens in the same lifetime, Kamma that ripens in the next life, and Kamma that ripens in successive births. These three types of Kamma are bound to produce results as a seed is to sprout. But for a seed to sprout, certain auxiliary causes such as soul, rain etc. are required. In the same way for a Kamma to produce an effect, several auxiliary causes such as circumstances, surroundings, etc., are required. It sometimes happens that for want of such auxiliary causes Kamma does not produce any result. Such Kamma is called "Ahosi-Kamma" or "Kamma that is ineffective".
Kamma is also classified into another four kinds according to its particular function. There is Regenerative (Janaka) Kamma which conditions the future birth; Supportive (Upattham-bhaka) Kamma which assists or maintains the results of already-existing Kamma, Counteractive (Upapidaka) Kamma which suppresses or modifies the result of the reproductive Kamma, and Destructive (Upaghataka) Kamma which destroys the force of existing Kamma and substitutes its own resultants.
There is another classification according to the priority of the results, There is Serious or Weighty (Garuka) Kamma which produces its resultants in the present life or the next. On the moral side of the Kamma the highly refined mental states called Jhanas or Ecstasies are weighty because they produce resultants more speedily than the ordinary unrefined mental states. On the opposite side, the five kinds of immediately effective serious crimes are weighty. There crimes are: matricide, patricide, the murder of an Arahanta (Holy-one or perfect saint), the wounding of a Buddha and the creation of a schism in the Sangha.
Death-proximate (Asanna) Kamma is the action which one does at the moment before death either physically or mentally - mentally by thinking of one's own previous good or bad actions or having good or bad thoughts. It is this Kamma which, if there is no weighty Kamma, determines the conditions of the next birth.
Habitual (Acinna) Kamma is the action which one constantly does. This Kamma, in the absence of death-proximate Kamma, produces and determines the next birth.
Reserved (Katatta) Kamma is the last in the priority of results. This is the unexpended Kamma of a particular being and it conditions the next birth if there is no habitual Kamma to operate.
A further classification of Kamma is according to the place in which the results are produced, namely:
(1) Immoral Kamma which produces its effect in the plane of misery.
(2) Moral Kamma which produces its effect in the plane of the world of the desires.
(3) Moral Kamma which produces its effect in the plane of form.
(4) Moral Kamma which produces its effect in the plane of the formless.
Ten immoral actions and their effects:
I. Immoral Kamma is rooted in greed (Lobha) anger (Dosa) and delusion (Moha).
There are ten immoral actions(Kamma) - namely, Killing, Stealing, Un-chastity, (these three are caused by deed). Lying, Slandering, Harsh Language, Frivolous talk, (these four are caused by word). Covetousness, Ill-will and False View, (these three are caused by mind).
Of these ten, killing means the destruction of any living being including animals of all kinds. To complete this offence of killing, five conditions are necessary, viz: a being, consciousness that it is a being, intention of killing, effort and consequent death.
The evil effects of killing are: Short life, Diseasefulness, Constant grief caused by the separation from the loved, and Constant fear.
To complete the offence of stealing five conditions are necessary, viz: Property of other people, consciousness that it is so, intention of stealing, effort and consequent removal. The effects of stealing are: poverty, wretchedness, unfulfilled desires and dependent livelihood.
To complete the offence of un-chastity (sexual misconduct) three conditions are necessary, viz: intention to enjoy the forbidden object, efforts and possession of the object. The effects of un-chastity are: having many enemies, getting undesirable marriage partners.
To complete the offence of lying four conditions are necessary, viz: untruth, intention to deceive, effort, and communication of the matter to others. The effects of lying are: being tormented by abusive speech, being subject to vilification, incredibility and stinking mouth.
To complete the offence of slandering four conditions are necessary, viz: division of persons, intention to separate them, effort and communication. The effect of slandering is the dissolution of friendship without any sufficient cause.
To complete the offence of harsh language three conditions are necessary, viz: someone to be abused, angry thought and using abusive language. The effects of harsh language are: being detested by others although blameless, and harsh voice.
To complete the offence of frivolous talk two conditions are necessary, viz: the inclination towards frivolous talk and its narration. The effects of frivolous talk are: disorderliness of the bodily organs and unacceptable speech.
To complete the offence of covetousness (abhijjha) two conditions are necessary, viz: another's property and strong desire for it, saying "would this property be mine". The effect of covetousness is the un-fulfillment of one's wishes.
To complete the offence of ill-will (Vyapada) two conditions are necessary, viz: another being and the intention of doing harm. The effects of ill-will are: ugliness, various diseases and detestable nature.
False view (Micchaditthi) means seeing things wrongly without understanding what they truly are. To complete this false view two conditions are necessary, viz: perverted manner in which an object is viewed and the misunderstanding of it according to that view. The effects of false view are: base attachment, lack of wisdom, dull wit, chronic diseases and blameworthy ideas.
(Expositor Pt. 1.p. 128).
II. Good Kamma which produces its effect in the plane of desires
There are ten moral actions - namely, generosity (Dana), morality (Sila), meditation (Bhavana), respect (Apacayana), service (Veyyavacca), transference of merit (Pattidana), rejoicing in other's merit (Pattanumodana), hearing the doctrine (Dhammadesana), and forming correct views (Ditthijukamma).
"Generosity" yields wealth. "Morality" causes one to be born in noble families in states of happiness. "Meditation" helps you to be born in planes of form and formless planes and helps to gain Higher Knowledge and Emancipation.
By giving respect we gain respect. By giving service we gain service. "Transference of merit" enables one to be able to give in abundance in future birth. "Rejoicing in other's merit" is productive of joy wherever one is born. Both hearing and expounding the Doctrine are conducive to wisdom.
III. Good Kamma which produces its effect in the planes of form.
It is of five types which are purely mental, and done in the process of meditation, viz:
(1) The first state of Jhana or ecstasy which has five constituents: initial application, sustained application, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of the mind.
(2) The second state of Jhana which occurs together with sustained application, rapture, happiness, one-pointedness of the mind.
(3) The third state of Jhana which occurs together with rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of the mind.
(4) The fourth state of Jhana which occurs together with happiness and one-pointedness of the mind.
(5) The fifth state of Jhana which occurs together with equanimity and one-pointedness of the mind
IV. Good Karma which produces its effect in the formless planes.
It is of four types which are also purely mental and done in the process of meditation, viz:
(1) Moral consciousness dwelling in the infinity of space.
(2) Moral consciousness dwelling in the infinity of consciousness.
(3) Moral consciousness dwelling on nothingness.
(4) Moral consciousness wherein perception is so extremely subtle that it cannot be said whether it is or is not.
Kamma, as has been stated above, is not fate, is not irrevocable destiny. Nor is one bound to reap all that one has sown in just proportion. The actions (Kamma) of men are not absolutely irrevocable and only a few of them are so. If, for example one fires a bullet out of a rifle, one cannot call it back or turn it aside from its mark. But, if instead of a lead or iron ball through the air, it is an ivory ball on a smooth green board that one sets moving with a billiard cue, one can send after it and at it, another ball in the same way, and change its course. Not only that, if one is quick enough, and one has not given it too great an impetus, one might even get round to the other side of the billiard table, and send against it a ball which would meet it straight in the line of its course and bring it to a stop on the spot. With one's later action with the cue, one modifies, or even in favourable circumstances, entirely neutralizes one's earlier action. It is in much the same way that Kamma operates in the broad stream of general life. There too one's action (Kamma) of a later day may modify the effects of one's action (Kamma) of a former day. If this were not so, what possibility would there ever be of a man getting free from all Kamma for ever? It would be perpetually self-continuing energy that could never come to and end.
Man has, therefore, a certain amount of free will and there is almost every possibility to mould his life or to modify his actions. Even a most vicious person can by his own free will and effort become the most virtuous person. One may at any moment change for the better or for the worse. But everything in the world including man himself is dependent on conditions and without conditions nothing whatsoever can arise or enter into existence. Man therefore has only a certain amount of free will and not absolute free will. According to Buddhist philosophy, everything, mental or physical, arises in accordance with the laws and conditions. If it were not so, there would reign chaos and blind chance. Such a thing, however, is impossible, and if it would be otherwise, all laws of nature which modern science has discovered would be powerless.
The real, essential nature of action (Kamma) of man is mental. When a given thought has arisen in one's mind a number of times, there is a definite tendency for recurrence of that thought.
When a given act has been performed a number of times, there is a definite tendency to the repetition of the act. Thus each act, mental or physical, tends to constantly produce its like, and be in turn produced. If a man thinks a good thought, speaks a good word, does a good deed, the effect upon him is to increase the tendencies to goodness present in him, to make him a better man. If, on the contrary, he does a bad deed in thought, in speech or in action, he has strengthened in himself his bad tendencies, he has made himself a worse man. Having become a worse man, he will gravitate to the company of worse men in the future, and incur all the unhappiness of varying kinds that attends life in such company. On the other hand, the main part of a character that is continually growing better, will naturally tend to the companionship of the good, and enjoy all the pleasantness and comforts and freedom from the ruder shocks of human life which such society connotes.
In the case of a cultured man even the effect of a greater evil may be minimised while the lesser evils of an uncultured man may produce its effect to the maximum according to the favourable and unfavourable conditions.
Lessons Taught by Kamma
The more we understand the law of Kamma, the more we see how careful we must be of our acts, words and thoughts, and how responsible we are to our fellow beings. Living in the light of this knowledge, we learn certain lessons from the doctrine of Kamma.
Knowing that the Law is our great helper if we live by it, and that no harm can come to us if we work with it, knowing also it blesses us just at the right time, we learn the grand lesson of patience, not to get excited, and that impatience is a check to progress. In suffering, we know that we are paying a debt, and we learn, if we are wise, not to create more suffering for the future. In rejoicing, we are thankful for its sweetness, and learn, if we are wise, to be still better. Patience brings forth peace, success, happiness and security.
The law being just, perfect, it is not possible for an understanding person to be uneasy about it. If we are uneasy and have no confidence, it shows clearly that we have not grasped the reality of the law. We are really quite safe beneath its wings, and there is nothing to fear in all the wide universe except our own misdeeds. The Law makes man stand on his own feet and rouses his self-confidence. Confidence strengthens, or rather deepens, our peace and happiness and makes us comfortable, courageous; wherever we go the Law is our protector.
As we in the past have caused ourselves to be what we now are, so by what we do now will our future be determined. A knowledge of this fact and that the glory of the future is limitless, gives us great self-reliance, and takes away that tendency to appeal for external help, which is really no help at all "Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another" says the Buddha.
Naturally, if we realize that the evil we do will return to strike us, we shall be very careful lest we do or say or think something that is not good, pure and true. Knowledge of Kamma will restrain us from wrong doing for others' sakes as well as for our own.
The more we make the doctrine of Kamma a part of our lives, the more power we gain, not only to direct our future, but to help our fellow beings more effectively. The practice of good Kamma, when fully developed, will enable us to overcome evil and limitations, and destroy all the fetters that keep us from our goal, Nibbana.
7. Karma and Chaos : New and Collected Essays on Vipassana Meditation -- by Paul R. Fleischman M.D., Paul R. Fleischman
Book Description - These eight essays explore the interface between psychiatry, science, and the timeless teachings of the Buddha. Drawn from the personal experiences of a therapist and practitioner of Vipassana meditation, this work explores meditation's similarities and differences with psychotherapeutic and scientific endeavors. In the title essay, parallels are drawn between the atomic synthesis of free choice and lawful consequence in Chaos Theory and karma, offering contemporary insights into one of Buddhism's core concepts. The empirical roots of meditation, its relevance to daily life, and the challenges and benefits of daily practice of Vipassana meditation are also addressed. Practical examples for continued observation outside of formal meditation retreats guide readers in incorporating Buddhist practice into daily life.
Amazon.com Reviewer: In Karma and Chaos a scholar (professor/psychiatrist/meditation teacher) and his son examine the ancient doctrine of karma in the light of modern Chaos Theory. Though most religious and moral philosophies express a belief in some law of "you reap as you sow," from the limited perspective of an individual this seems to be contradicted by accidents, luck, and an unscientific, mystical cosmology. The idea that there might be a higher moral law that functions independent of capricious, supernatural powers in a complex but rational way is intriguing.
In this book the complexities of karma are made more intelligible, even rational, by applying an overview of Chaos Theory. This helps one transcend the limited linear rationality of the individual and examine karma within a cosmic framework.
Whatever your views of karma, Karma and Chaos provides unique and interesting insights. And it's only one of seven essays in the book. It's worth a read.
Amazon.com Reviewer: Paul Fleischman's writing stirs more ideas than could be followed tghrough in the space of an essay. His language has a technical tone yet tends toward the poetic. Some sentences need to be read more than once. But for those who find themselves drawn into his writings, these challenges fall away to reveal a rare gem. His unique style is integral to the power it evokes, and he writes things I have always wanted to be able to read. My favorite was the title essay, Karma and Chaos, where he explains, and better yet, demonstrates, how a life in line with karma can yield a balanced personality without sacrificing intellectual integrity. To me this book exudes compassion, wisdom, and joy.
Amazon.com Reviewer: This collection of essays is the most lyrically beautiful and forcefully personal account of the effect of the Buddha's teachings in real life I have ever read. Dr. Fleischman writes with the soul of a poet and the critical thought of a scientist. His and his family's life and growth together in Dhamma shine through again and again as the real theme of the essays. Anyone who wonders about the amorphous interface between modern psychotherapy and the Buddha's path should not miss the essay, "Vipassana Meditation: A Unique Contribution to Mental Health."
And the title essay, "Karma and Chaos" is an amazingly fertile presentation of the ancient and timeless teachings of the Buddha in light of the cutting edge discoveries of western science.
Mu Soeng, director of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, has said of it: "I just finished reading the essay on Karma and Chaos from your book and I want to congratulate you on an extraordinary piece on Dhamma and scientific perspectives. I would like to say that it is one of the shining moments of how ancient wisdom tradition from the East is being received in the West. The language is beautiful and there is a cogent and passionate communication of some very complex ideas in ways that do not oversimplify them and yet make them accessible."
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