Karma in Buddhism

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For the use of this term in other Indian religions, see Karma.
Translations of
karma
English: karma
Pali: kamma
Sanskrit: karma
(Dev: कर्मन्)
Burmese: ကံ
(IPA: [kàɴ])
Chinese:
(pinyin)
Japanese: 業 or ごう
(rōmaji: gou)
Korean:
(uhb)
Sinhala: කර්ම
(karma)
Tibetan: ལས།
(Wylie: las;
THL: lé;
)
Thai: กรรม
(gam)
Vietnamese: nghiệp
Glossary of Buddhism

Karma (Sanskrit, also karman, Pāli: kamma) is a Sanskrit term that literally means "action" or "doing". Within the Buddhist tradition, the term karma is used in two senses:

  • On the specific level, karma refers to those actions which spring from the intention (cetanā) of a sentient being. Karmic actions are compared to a seed that will inevitably ripen into a result or fruition (referred to as vipāka or phala in Sanskrit and Pali).
  • On the general level, contemporary Buddhist teachers frequently use the term karma when referring to the entire process of karmic action and result (Sanskrit: karmaphala).

In the Buddhist view, developing a genuine, experiential understanding of karmic action and result—how all of one's actions will have a corresponding result—is an essential aspect of the Buddhist path. Karmic actions are considered to be the engine which drives the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth (samsara) for sentient beings; correspondingly, a complete understanding of karmic action and result enables beings to free themselves from samsara and attain liberation.

Within Buddhism, the theory of karmic action and result (karmaphala) is identified as part of the broader doctrine of dependent origination (pratityasamutpada), which states that all phenomena arise as the result of multiple causes and conditions. The theory of karmic action and result is a specific instance of this broader doctrine that applies specifically to sentient beings–when there is a conscious intention (cetanā) behind an action, then the action is karma and the corresponding results are karmic results. Every action of body, speech, or mind is considered to be karmic action, and the determining factor in the quality of one's actions is our intention or motivation.

In the Buddhist view, karmic results are not considered to be a "judgement" imposed by a God or other all-powerful being; rather, these results are considered to be the outcome of a natural process. Contemporary Buddhist teacher Khandro Rinpoche explains:[1]

Buddhism is a nontheistic philosophy. We do not believe in a creator but in the causes and conditions that create certain circumstances that then come to fruition. This is called karma. It has nothing to do with judgement; there is no one keeping track of our karma and sending us up above or down below. Karma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or first action, and its effect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have many fruitions, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full field of grain, a small amount of karma can generate limitless effects.

In the Buddhist view, the relationship between a single action and its results is dependent upon a nearly infinite number of subsidiary causes and conditions; thus, the ability to precisely predict the results for any single action is considered to be beyond the comprehension of ordinary beings. According to the Buddhist tradition, it was only at the time of his Enlightenment that the Buddha gained a complete understanding of the workings of karma. Thus, it is taught that only one who has achieved the mental range of the Buddha (referred to as omniscience) would be able to precisely predict the outcome specific actions. Indeed, the Buddha indicated that worrying over the precise results of specific actions is a counterproductive exercise that will only increase one's suffering or anxiety. He identified this type of worrying as one of the four imponderables.

Nevertheless, the Buddha emphasized the importance of understanding the nature of karma on a general level. He taught that wholesome actions (free from attachment, aversion, and ignorance) lead to happiness and eventually to liberation; and unwholesome actions (based in attachment, aversion and ignorance) lead to suffering. Developing a genuine, experiential understanding of karma on this level is considered to be an essential aspect of the Buddhist path.

The Buddha also described the karmic process in more detail in his teachings on the twelve links of dependent origination—a series of conditional factors that illustrate how the karmic process unfolds within an individual life. The Buddhist tradition emphasizes contemplating the twelve links and related teachings on the karmic process in order to gain greater insight into the process of karmic action and result. It is believed that this insight enables a practitioner to unravel their habitual ways of thinking and reacting.

Contents

Meanings of karma[edit]

The term karma is used by contemporary Buddhist teachers and scholars in two senses:

  • On the specific level, karma refers to those actions which spring from the intention (cetanā) of a sentient being.[a] Karmic actions are compared to a seed that will inevitably ripen into a result or fruition (referred to as vipāka or phala in Sanskrit and Pali).
  • On the general level, contemporary Buddhist teachers frequently use the term karma when referring to the entire process of karmic action and result (Sanskrit: karmaphala).[b]

Centrality to Buddhist thought[edit]

The theory of karmic action and result (karmaphala) is defined in Paticcasamuppada as something unavoidable phenomena and concepts of Buddhist philosophy. In the Buddhist view, developing a genuine, experiential understanding of karmic action and result—how all of one's actions will have a corresponding result—is an essential aspect of the Buddhist path.[c]

As one scholar states:[4]

The Buddhist theory of action and result (karmaphala) is fundamental to much of Buddhist doctrine, because it provides a coherent model of the functioning of the world and its beings, which in turn forms the doctrinal basis for the Buddhist explanations of the path of liberation from the world and its result, nirvāṇa.

The renowned translator Étienne Lamotte states:[5]

“The teaching of karma, or action, forms the cornerstone of the whole Buddhist doctrine: action is the ultimate explanation of human existence and of the physical world, and it is in terms of karma that the Buddhist masters have constructed their philosophy.”

Tibetan Buddhist teacher Je Tsongkhapa emphasizes the importance of understanding karma in order to follow the Buddhist path:[6]

“Attaining certain knowledge of the definiteness, or nondeceptiveness, of karma and its effects is called the correct viewpoint of all Buddhists and is praised as the foundation of all virtue.”

Karmic actions are considered to be the engine which drives the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth (samsara) for sentient beings; correspondingly, a complete understanding of karmic action and result enables beings to free themselves from samsara and attain liberation.

The theory of karmic action and result is related to other key concepts in Buddhism, such as dependent origination and the four noble truths.

Karmaphala (action and result)[edit]

The Buddhist theory of karmic action and result is referred to using various expressions in both Sanskrit (or Pali) and English. In Sanskrit, this concept is referred to as either:

  • Karmaphala - action and fruition
    • The term phala is commonly translated as "fruition" or "fruit" (Keown, 2000, loc 810-813)
  • Karmavipaka - action and result
    • The term vipaka is translated as "result" or "maturation" (Keown, 2000, loc 810-813)

In English, the following expressions are used to identify this process:[d]

  • Karmic cause and effect (Traleg Rinpoche, 2001, p. 31)
  • Karmic law (Traleg Rinpoche, 2001 p. 31)
  • Law of cause and effect (Dzongsar Khyentse, 2011, p. 76; Sogyal Rinpoche, 2009, p. 96)
  • Law of karma (Harvey, 1990, page 39; Sucitto, 2010, p. 27)
  • Theory of action and result (Kragh, 2006, p. 11)
  • Theory of karma (Geshe Tashi Tsering, 2005, Kindle loc. 1186-1201)
  • The infallible law of cause and effect that governs the universe (Sogyal Rinpoche, 2009, p. 96)
  • The natural law of how things and events come into being (Geshe Tashi Tsering, 2005, Kindle loc. 1186-1201)
  • The principle of the cause and the results of actions (Sucitto, 2010, p. 27)

Interdependent origination[edit]

The theory of karmic action and result is part of the broader Buddhist doctrine of causality or interdependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda), which states that all phenomena arise due to multiple causes and conditions. Karmic action and result is a specific application of this greater principle that applies specifically to the intentional actions of sentient beings.

The Dalai Lama explains:[3]

Karma is one particular instance of the natural causal laws that operate throughout the universe where, according to Buddhism, things and events come into being purely as a result of the combination of causes and conditions.
Karma, then, is an instance of the general law of causality. What makes karma unique is that it involves intentional action, and therefore an agent. The natural causal processes operating in the world cannot be termed karmic where there is no agent involved. In order for a casual process to be a karmic one, it must involve an individual whose intention would lead to a particular action. It is this specific type of causal mechanism which is known as karma.

Geshe Tashi Tsering states:[10]

Cause and effect is present in the natural world, but is it karma? Imagine that today is a beautiful day; the weather is nice, the sun is shining, the sky is clear. These factors all come into existence due to causes and conditions—the earth’s movement around the sun, the wind, and the absence of clouds. [...] With the movement of the earth or the absence of the clouds, generally there is no intention involved. All of this is natural. [...] We become involved with a natural process through our volition—that is when happiness or suffering happens. It does not occur within the process itself. Whenever there is intention, karma is operating. That is the deciding factor.

Whatever we do has a result[edit]

According to the theory of karmic action and result, every action that a sentient being performs will bring about a corresponding result. Sogyal Rinpoche explains:[2]

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.” Similarly he said: “Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.” Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened. Although the results of our actions may not have matured yet, they will inevitably ripen, given the right conditions.

Multiple causes and conditions[edit]

As in the principle of dependent origination, within the functioning of karma, every fruition is said to depend upon multiple causes and conditions. Sogyal Rinpoche explains:[2]

The results of our actions are often delayed, even into future lifetimes; we cannot pin down one cause, because any event can be an extremely complicated mixture of many karmas ripening together.

Bhikkhu Thanissaro emphasizes the same point; he states:

...one of the many things the Buddha discovered in the course of his awakening was that causality is not linear. The experience of the present is shaped both by actions in the present and by actions in the past. Actions in the present shape both the present and the future. The results of past and present actions continually interact. Thus there is always room for new input into the system, which gives scope for free will.[e]

Seed and fruit[edit]

The process of karmic action and result is often compared to a seed and its fruit.[f] For example, Peter Harvey states:[9]

Karma is often likened to a seed, and the two words for karmic result, vipaka and phala, respectively mean 'ripening' and 'fruit'. An action is thus like a seed which will sooner or later, as part of its natural maturation process, result in certain fruits accruing to the doer of the action.
What determines the nature of the karmic 'seed' is the will or intention behind the act: 'It is will (cetana), O monks, that I call karma; having willed, one acts through body, speech, and mind' (A.III.415). It is the psychological impulse behind an action that is 'karma', that which sets going a chain of causes culminating in karmic fruit. Actions, then, must be intentional if they are to generate karmic fruits [...].

Ken McLeod states:[web 1]

Karma, then, describes how our actions evolve into experience, internally and externally. Each action is a seed which grows or evolves into our experience of the world. Every action either starts a new growth process or reinforces an old one as described by the four results.[g] Small wonder that we place so much emphasis on mindfulness and attention. What we do in each moment is very important!

Positive and negative actions[edit]

According to the theory of action and result (karmaphala), our karmic actions are the principal cause of our happiness or suffering. From the Buddhist point of view, a positive or wholesome action is one that will lead to greater happiness for ourselves and others, and a negative or unwholesome action is one that will lead to greater suffering for ourselves or others.

Ringu Tulku explains:[12]

We create [karmic results] in three different ways, through actions that are positive, negative, or neutral. When we feel kindness and love and with this attitude do good things, which are beneficial to both ourselves and others, this is positive action. When we commit harmful deeds out of equally harmful intentions, this is negative action. Finally, when our motivation is indifferent and our deeds are neither harmful or beneficial, this is neutral action. The results we experience will accord with the quality of our actions.

Traditional Buddhist texts identify three root wholesome mental factors and three root unwholesome mental factors. Damien Keown explains:[13]

What, then, makes an action good or bad? From the Buddha’s definition [...] it can be seen to be largely a matter of intention and choice. The psychological springs of motivation are described in Buddhism as ‘roots’, and there are said to be three good roots and three bad roots. Actions motivated by greed, hatred, and delusion are bad (akusala, Sanskrit: akuśala) while actions motivated by their opposites — non-attachment, benevolence, and understanding – are good (kusala, Sanskrit: kuśala).

Overcoming habitual tendencies[edit]

According to Buddhist philosophy, even very strong patterns of behavior or habitual tendencies can be overcome by gaining insight in the workings of karmic action and result. Ringu Tulku states:[14]

Understanding how cause and effect operate is the key point of Buddhist ethics. We need to know how negative actions harm ourselves and others, and how positive deeds benefit ourselves and others, in both short-and long-term ways. [...] Of course, because of habitual tendencies, even when we know our actions aren’t beneficial, sometimes we still do them. But the more mindful we are and the more certain we become of how karma works, the more our old habits fall away. It’s extremely important to understand how our actions are connected with their results. It’s like knowing that if you put your hand in a fire, your hand will get burned. It is not a moral issue of right versus wrong but a matter of understanding cause and effect. From the Buddhist point of view, positive and negative deeds are not a moral issue; they are based on recognizing that positive actions bring benefit, and negative actions bring harm.

Ajahn Sucitto emphasizes the importance of gaining insights through direct experience; he states:[8]

[...] in Buddhism the foundation [of the path] is the understanding that we can learn from contemplating and considering our direct experience. [..] Through noticing the results of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we learn what gives the best results—hence a path gets established beneath our own feet.

Right view (understanding action and result)[edit]

Understanding karmic action and result (karmaphala) is considered essential to the development of right view, a key aspect of the Buddhist path.[c]

The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa emphasizes the importance of understanding karma in order to follow the Buddhist path; he states:[6]

Attaining certain knowledge of the definiteness, or nondeceptiveness, of karma and its effects is called the correct viewpoint of all Buddhists and is praised as the foundation of all virtue.

Ajahn Sucitto emphasizes the importance of understanding karma on an experiential level; he states:[8]

The point of right view is to start learning very directly and thoroughly about cause and effect on an experiential, rather than abstract or theoretical, foundation. And we deepen our ability to learn by applying the other seven path-factors. So one aspect of right view is understanding that to get out of the jungle we need a path. The first step, then, is to establish that path, and in Buddhism the foundation for that is the understanding that we can learn from contemplating and considering our direct experience. Right view, then, focuses on cause and effect. Through noticing the results of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we learn what gives the best results—hence a path gets established beneath our own feet.

Rebirth[edit]

In Buddhist philosophy, the driving force behind rebirth in the six realms of samsara is karma.[h] Sogyal Rinpoche explains:[19]

The kind of birth we will have in the next life is determined, then, by the nature of our actions in this one. And it is important never to forget that the effect of our actions depends entirely upon the intention or motivation behind them, and not upon their scale.

In the Buddhist view, therefore, the type of birth we have in this life is determined by our actions or karma from our previous life; and the circumstances of our future rebirth are determined by our actions in this life.[i] This view does not imply any blame or judgement of beings who are born into difficult circumstances or into the lower realms. From the Buddhist point of view, all beings have been circling in samsara from beginningless time, sometimes in the upper realms, sometimes in the lower realms, so there is no justification for judging beings who are less fortunate than ourselves, since we have all experienced every type of misfortune and good fortune in our previous lifetimes.[22] In the Buddhist view, a proper understanding of samsara will lead one to have compassion for all beings, including ourselves, who are trapped in this cycle of birth and death.

Thubten Chodron explains that a proper understanding of karma and rebirth can help us take responsibility for our present situation, but without blaming ourselves. Thubten Chodron states:[web 6]

This means taking responsibility for our own situation, which is not the same as blaming ourselves. We don't blame ourselves. It's not that we're bad people because we're in samsara. It's not that we're sinners and we deserve to suffer, or any of that kind of stuff, but it's just when I'm not mindful, when I don't take care of myself, when I don't explore what's reality and what isn't, I continually get myself into messes. In some ways this is very empowering because if we get ourselves into the messes, we're also the ones who can get ourselves out of them. All we have to do is stop creating the causes. It's not a question of perpetuating some external being so that they bestow grace or they move the puppet strings differently. It's a thing of generating our own wisdom and compassion, bringing those to the forefront, and then freeing ourselves. Buddhas and bodhisattvas help, of course. They influence us. They guide us, but we're the ones responsible. This is very similar to modern psychological theory, isn't it? Be responsible for your own jams instead of pointing it off on someone else.
At the same time as we're doing this, we have to have a lot of compassion for ourselves. Compassion is the wish for others to be free of suffering. We also have to have that same wish for ourselves. It's not, "Oh, I'm in samsara because look what a creep I am, and I deserve this." It's, "No. I'm a sentient being. I have the clear light nature of the mind. I can be happy. I can become a Buddha. But I need to treat myself better." So practicing Dharma is a way of treating yourself better.

Thubten Chodron emphasizes that the cause for our rebirth in samsara are the kleshas (disturbing emotions) that lead to the creation of karmic results. If we can overcome our kleshas, then we will no longer generate the karmic results that leads to rebirth in the six realms.[web 6]

Characteristics[edit]

Karma does not imply predestination[edit]

The Buddhist theory of karmic action and result does not imply that our lives are predetermined because of our previous karma.[web 7] In the Buddhist view, our current situation is due to our past karma, but our future depends on the actions that we take from this moment onward. The effects of karma have been compared to the flow of a river; while it may not be possible to stop the river or reverse its direction, it is possible to divert the course of the river in a new direction.

Rupert Gethin states:[23]

From the Buddhist perspective certain experiences in life are indeed the results of previous actions; but our responses to those experiences, whether wished for or unwished for, are not predetermined but represent new actions which in time bear their own fruit in the future. The Buddhist understanding of individual responsibility does not mean that we should never seek or expect another’s assistance in order to better cope with the troubles of life. The belief that one’s broken leg is at one level to be explained as the result of unwholesome actions performed in a previous life does not mean that one should not go to a doctor to have the broken leg set.

Karmic results are not a judgement[edit]

In Buddhist philosophy, karmic results are not considered to be a "judgement" imposed by a God or other all-powerful being, but rather the results of a natural process.[j]

Khandro Rinpoche explains:[1]

Buddhism is a nontheistic philosophy. We do not believe in a creator but in the causes and conditions that create certain circumstances that then come to fruition. This is called karma. It has nothing to do with judgement; there is no one keeping track of our karma and sending us up above or down below. Karma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or first action, and its effect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have many fruitions, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full field of grain, a small amount of karma can generate limitless effects.

Karmic results are nearly impossible to predict with precision[edit]

The precise results of a karmic action are considered to be one of the four imponderables.

In the Buddhist view, the relationship between a single action and its results is dependent upon many causes and conditions, and it is not possible for an ordinary being to accurately predict when and how the results for a single action will manifest. Ringu Tulku Rinpoche states:[web 8]

Sometimes, in order to help us understand how particular actions contribute to particular kinds of result, such as how good actions bring about good results and how bad actions bring about bad results, the Buddha told stories like those we find in the Jataka tales. But things do not happen just because of one particular cause. We do not experience one result for every one thing that we do. Rather, the whole thing—the entire totality of our experience and actions—has an impact on what we become from one moment to the next. Therefore karma is not just what we did in our last life, it is what we have done in this life too, and what we did in all our lives in the past. Everything from the past has made us what we are now—including what we did this morning. Strictly speaking, therefore, from a Buddhist point of view, you cannot say that there is anything in our ordinary experience that is not somehow a result of our karma.

Bhikkhu Thanissaro explains:[26]

Unlike the theory of linear causality — which led the Vedists and Jains to see the relationship between an act and its result as predictable and tit-for-tat — the principle of this/that conditionality makes that relationship inherently complex. The results of kamma[k] experienced at any one point in time come not only from past kamma, but also from present kamma. This means that, although there are general patterns relating habitual acts to corresponding results [MN 135], there is no set one-for-one, tit-for-tat, relationship between a particular action and its results. Instead, the results are determined by the context of the act, both in terms of actions that preceded or followed it [MN 136] and in terms one’s state of mind at the time of acting or experiencing the result [AN 3:99]. [...] The feedback loops inherent in this/that conditionality mean that the working out of any particular cause-effect relationship can be very complex indeed. This explains why the Buddha says in AN 4:77 that the results of kamma are imponderable. Only a person who has developed the mental range of a Buddha—another imponderable itself—would be able to trace the intricacies of the kammic network. The basic premise of kamma is simple—that skillful intentions lead to favorable results, and unskillful ones to unfavorable results—but the process by which those results work themselves out is so intricate that it cannot be fully mapped. We can compare this with the Mandelbrot set, a mathematical set generated by a simple equation, but whose graph is so complex that it will probably never be completely explored.

Karmic results can manifest quickly or be delayed for lifetimes[edit]

It is believed that the results of karmic actions can manifest quickly, or they can be delayed for years or even lifetimes. A contemporary Buddhist teacher explains:[2]

Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened. Although the results of our actions may not have matured yet, they will inevitably ripen, given the right conditions.

Twelve Nidanas[edit]

Main article: Twelve Nidanas

The twelve links of dependent origination (aka twelve nidanas) are said to provide a detailed example of how karma works--they illustrate how the disturbing emotions (kleshas) lead to the creation of karma, which leads to rebirth in samsara. In this way, the twelve links present the process of karmic action and result in detail.[27][28]

These twelve links can be understood to operate on an outer or inner level.[29]

  • On the outer level, the twelve links can be seen to operate over several lifetimes; in this case, these links show how our past lives influence our current lifetime, and how our actions in this lifetime influence our future lifetimes.[29]
  • On the inner level, the twelve links can be understood to operate in every moment of existence in an interdependent manner.[30] On this level, the twelve links can be applied to show the effects of one particular action.[29]

By contemplating on the twelve links, one gains greater insight into the workings of karma; this insight enables us to begin to unravel our habitual way of thinking and reacting.[29][30][31]

Three types of misunderstanding[edit]

Contemporary Buddhist scholar P. A. Payutto identifies three ways of misunderstanding karma (as described in the Pali cannon):[32][l]

  1. Past-action determinism (Pubbekatahetuvada): The belief that all happiness and suffering, including all future happiness and suffering, arise from previous karma, and human beings can exercise no volition to affect future results.
  2. Theistic determinism (Issaranimmanahetuvada): The belief that all happiness and suffering are caused by the directives of a Supreme Being.
  3. Indeterminism or Accidentalism (Ahetu-appaccaya-vaada): The belief that all happiness and suffering are random, having no cause.

These three misunderstandings are designated as "wrong views", and they are said to lead to inaction and destroy motivation and human effort, and to undermine the concept that a human being can change for the better no matter what his or her past was.

Karma is continually ripening, but it is also continually being generated by present actions, therefore it is possible to exercise free will to shape future karma. P.A. Payutto writes, "the Buddha asserts effort and motivation as the crucial factors in deciding the ethical value of these various teachings on kamma."[32]

Buddha's realization of[edit]

According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha gained full and complete insight into the workings of karma at the time of his enlightenment.[m] Contemporary scholars Smith and Novak relate:[35]

During the first watch of the night, Gautama saw, one by one, his many thousands of previous lifetimes. During the second watch, his vision widened. It surveyed the death and rebirth of the whole universe of living beings and noted the ubiquitous sway of the law of karma—that good actions lead to happy rebirths, bad actions to miserable ones. During the third watch, Gautama saw what made the whole thing go: the universal law of causal interdependence. He called it dependent arising, and later identified it as the very heart of his message. Thus armed, he made quick work of the last shreds of ignorant clinging that bound him to the wheel of birth and death.

Within the Buddhist discourses[edit]

Within the Pali suttas[edit]

According to contemporary scholar Bruce Matthews, "there is no single major systematic exposition" on the subject of karma within the suttas of the Pali canon, and "an account has to be put together from the dozens of places where karma is mentioned in the texts."[36] Matthews notes, however, that "the doctrine of karma was seen as crucial for the average persons religious vocation" in the early stages of Theravada Buddhism.[37]

Contemporary scholar Wataru Ryose notes that the Buddha emphasized his doctrine of karma to the extent that he was sometimes referred to as kammavada (the holder of the view of karma) or kiriyavada (the promulgator of the consequence of karma).[38][n]

Intention and the moral quality of actions[edit]

"It is intention that I call karma"[edit]

In the Nibbedhika Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya 6.63) the Buddha said (translation by Bhikkhu Thanissaro):[web 9]

"Intention (cetana) I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect."

There are many different translation of the above quote into English. For example, Peter Harvey translates the quote as follows:[9]

"It is will (cetana), O monks, that I call karma; having willed, one acts through body, speech, and mind." (A.III.415).

Peter Harvey explains the meaning of the above quote as follows:[9]

It is the psychological impulse behind an action that is 'karma', that which sets going a chain of causes culminating in karmic fruit. Actions, then, must be intentional if they are to generate karmic fruits [...].

Intention vs. outward appearance[edit]

According to Buddhist theory, every time a person acts there is some quality of intention at the base of the mind and it is that quality rather than the outward appearance of the action that determines the effect. If one appears to be benevolent but acts with greed, anger or hatred, then the fruit of those actions will bear testimony to the fundamental intention that lay behind them and will be a cause for future unhappiness.

Wholesome vs. unwholesome actions[edit]

The Buddha spoke of wholesome[o] actions (P. kusala-kamma, S. kuśala-karma) that result in happiness, and unwholesome actions (P. akusala-kamma, S. akuśala-karma) that result in unhappiness.

In MN 3.66, the Buddha explained that it was impossible for virtuous action to produce unfavorable results, and for nonvirtuous action to produce favorable results.[39] For example, a good deed may produce merit which ripens into wealth; however, if that deed was done too casually or the intention behind it was not quite pure, that wealth so obtained sometimes cannot be enjoyed (AN.4.392-393).

Fixed results vs. non-fixed results[edit]

There are two classes of determined deeds which always produce good or bad results (fixed results, P. niyato-rasi) respectively, and a class of deeds which may produce either good or bad results (non-fixed results, P. aniyato-rasi) presumably depending on the context, although the Buddha does not elaborate (DN 3.217). Good karma is described as generating merit (P. puñña, S. puñya), whereas bad karma is described as demerit (apuñña/apuñya or pāpa).[40]

Karmic results[edit]

"I am the owner of my karma"[edit]

In the Upajjhatthana Sutta (AN 5.57), the Buddha states:[41]

"I am the owner of my karma. I inherit my karma. I am born of my karma. I am related to my karma. I live supported by my karma. Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit."

Karma and rebirth[edit]

The Buddha spoke of karma as the determining factor of the realm of one's subsequent rebirth.

The Cūlakammavibhanga Sutta ("The Shorter Exposition of Action," Majjhima Nikaya 3.203) describes the types of rebirth that various kinds of actions produce. For example, negative actions such as killing lead to rebirths in the lower realms (such as the hell realm), and virtuous action such as gracious behavior under duress leads to rebirth in the human or other higher realms.[42]

According to this sutta, within human rebirths in particular, virtuous actions lead to desirable qualities such as physical beauty and good fortune such as wealth, influence, and so forth; on the other hand, non-virtuous actions lead to ugliness, poverty, and other misfortunes.[43]

The Mahākammavibhanga Sutta ("The Greater Exposition of Action," MN.3.208) is a similar exposition, with the additional stipulation that other rebirths may intervene between the time of the virtuous or non-virtuous actions and the rebirth that they impel.[44]

In the Lakkhana Sutta (Digha Nikaya 30), the Buddha explains that his thirty-two special physical characteristics are the fruition of past karma.

Contemporary scholar Bruce Matthews asserts that the Cūlakammavibhanga Sutta (MN.3.203) indicates that karma provokes "tendencies or conditions rather than consequences as such."[37][web 10]

Inevitability of results[edit]

In AN 5.292, the Buddha asserted that it is not possible to avoid experiencing the result of a karmic deed once it's been committed.[45]

In the Anguttara Nikaya, it is stated that karmic results are experienced either in this life (P. diṭṭadhammika) or in a future lives (P. samparāyika).[46] The former may involve a readily observable connection between action and karmic consequence, such as when a thief is captured and tortured by the authorities,[46] but the connection need not necessarily be that obvious and in fact usually is not observable.

Among the results which manifest in future lives, the five heinous actions (P. ànantarika-kamma) provoke a rebirth in hell immediately subsequent to death, according to the Vinaya. The five heinous action are: matricide, patricide, killing an arhat, intentional shedding of a Buddha's blood, and causing a schism in the sangha (Vinaya 5.128).

The Buddha makes a basic distinction between past karma (P. purānakamma) which has already been incurred, and karma being created in the present (P. navakamma).[47] Therefore in the present one both creates new karma (P. navakamma) and encounters the result of past karma (P. kammavipāka). Karma in the early canon is also threefold: Mental action (S. manaḥkarman), bodily action (S. kāyakarman) and vocal action (S. vākkarman).[48]

Karmic action & karmic results vs. general causes & general results[edit]

The Buddha's theory of karmic action and effect did not encompass all causes (S. hetu) and results (S. vipāka). Any given action may cause all sorts of results, but the karmic results are only that subset of results which impinges upon the doer of the action as a consequence of both the moral quality of the action and the intention behind the action.[49] In the Abhidharma they are referred to by specific names for the sake of clarity, karmic causes being the "cause of results" (S. vipāka-hetu) and the karmic results being the "resultant fruit" (S. vipāka-phala).[50] As one scholar outlines, "the consequences envisioned by the law of karma encompass more (as well as less) than the observed natural or physical results which follow upon the performance of an action."[51]

The law of karma also applies "specifically to the moral sphere . . not concerned with the general relation between actions and their consequences, but rather with the moral quality of actions and their consequences, such as the pain and pleasure and good or bad experiences for the doer of the act."[51]

The theory of karma is not deterministic, in part because past karma is not viewed as the only causal mechanism causing the present. In the case of diseases, for instance, he gives a list of other causes which may result in disease in addition to karma (AN.5.110).

Conditioning factors[edit]

The Buddha's theory of moral behavior was not strictly deterministic; it was conditional. His description of the workings of karma is not an all-inclusive one, unlike that of the Jains. The Buddha instead gave answers to various questions to specific people in specific contexts, and it is possible to find several causal explanations of behavior in the early Buddhist texts.[52]

In the Buddhist theory of karma, the karmic effect of a deed is not determined solely by the deed itself, but also by the nature of the person who commits the deed and by the circumstances in which it is committed.[53]

A discourse in the Anguttara Nikaya (AN.1.249) indicates this conditionality:[54][web 11]

A certain person has not properly cultivated his body, behavior, thought and intelligence, is inferior and insignificant and his life is short and miserable; of such a person ... even a trifling evil action done leads him to hell. In the case of a person who has proper culture of the body, behavior, thought and intelligence, who is superior and not insignificant, and who is endowed with long life, the consequences of a similar evil action are to be experienced in this very life, and sometimes may not appear at all.

Nearly impossible to predict[edit]

In AN.2.80, The Buddha declared that the precise working of how karma comes to fruition was one of the four incomprehensibles (P. acinteyya or acinnteyyāni) for anyone without the insight of a Buddha. The Buddha sees the workings of karma with his superhuman eye. (MN.1.183)

Karma & Nirvana[edit]

There is a further distinction between worldly, wholesome karma that leads to samsāric happiness (like birth in higher realms), and path-consciousness which leads to enlightenment and nirvana. Therefore, there is samsāric good karma, which leads to worldly happiness, and there is liberating karma—which is supremely good, as it ends suffering forever. Once one has attained liberation one does not generate any further karma, and the corresponding states of mind are called in Pali Kiriya. Nonetheless, the Buddha advocated the practice of wholesome actions: "Refrain from unwholesome actions/Perform only wholesome ones/Purify the mind/This is the teaching of the Enlightened Ones" (Dhp v.183).

In Buddhism, the term karma refers only to samsāric actions, the workings of which are modeled by the twelve nidanas of dependent origination, not actions committed by Arhats and Buddhas[citation needed].

Within Buddhist traditions[edit]

Early Indian Buddhism[edit]

As the earliest Buddhist philosophical schools developed with the rise of Abhidharma Buddhism, various interpretations developed regarding more refined points of karma. All were confronted with a central issue, as one scholar summarizes:[55]

When [the Buddhist] understanding of karma is correlated to the Buddhist doctrine of universal impermanence and No-Self, a serious problem arises as to where this trace is stored and what the trace left is. The problem is aggravated when the trace remains latent over a long period, perhaps over a period of many existences. The crucial problem presented to all schools of Buddhist philosophy was where the trace is stored and how it can remain in the ever-changing stream of phenomena which build up the individual and what the nature of this trace is.

As the Buddha had not offered elaboration in the early sutras that addresses this, the various schools proposed various similar yet distinct solutions.[56] As one scholar writes, "In certain cases it is apparent that concern with karma doctrine or vocabulary explanatory thereof played a distinctly causal role in sectarian evolution. In other cases it is safer to say that the concern for an intelligible karma vocabulary was one among many complex factors that helped give decisive shape and substance to already distinct or emerging sectarian positions."[57]

One scholar summarizes the various orientations as follows:[58]

Different sects gave different names to their theoretical candidates for the "carrier of the Karma" . . The following schools are associated with the following entities: Sammitīya—the avipranāśa or 'indestructible', a dharma of the citta-viprayukta class. Sarvāstivādin/Vaibhāṣika tradition—prāpti and aprāpti or adhesion and non-adhesion, and the avijñapti·rūpa or form that does not indicate. Sautrāntika tradition—the bīja or seed, the ekarasa-skandha or aggregate of unique essence, the mulāntika-skandha or proximate root aggregate and the paramārtha-pudgala. Yogācāra/Vijñānavādin tradition—the ālaya-vijñāna or store house' consciousness. Again, the central question that these entities seem to have been constructed to answer is that of how the karmic force inheres in the psychophysical stream without thereby coloring or pervading each discrete moment of that stream. What accounts for the "idling" or non-active aspect of defilement when a given thought is of a virtuous or morally indeterminate nature?

Dārṣṭāntika-Sautrāntika[edit]

The Dārṣṭāntika-Sautrāntika school pioneered the idea of karmic seeds (S. bija) and "the special modification of the psycho-physical series" (S. saṃtatipaṇāmaviśeṣa) to explain the workings of karma.[59]

Pudgalavāda[edit]

Although the views of the Pudgalavāda were considered somewhat heretical by other Indian Buddhist schools, they were in all likelihood the most populous non-Mahayanist sect in India, estimated at between a quarter of all non-Mahayana monks up to double the number of the next largest sect.[60][61] According to scholar Joseph Walser,

The Pudgalavādins argued that karma was a composite entity consisting of several temporal components and one atemporal one. Following the Buddhists sūtras, they claimed that mental saṃskāras (mental formations corresponding to karma) were of the nature of volition. Vocal and bodily karma, however, consisted only of the motion (gati) that could be observed. The motion itself is conditioned and therefore impermanent. The Pudgalavādins were, however, aware that the Buddha also taught the persistence of karma. In this the Pudgalavādins appealed to a text that was also considered authoritative by the Sarvāstivādins: “[Karma] does not perish, even after hundreds of millions of cosmic eras. When the complex [of conditions] and [favorable] times come together, they ripen for their author.” One particular subsect of Pudgalavādins—-the Saṃitīyas—-took the imperishability of karma to be one thing and the causes and conditions of karma to be another. They posited the existence of an entity called, appropriately enough, the “indestructible” (avipraṇāśa), separate from the karma itself. This “indestructible” acts like a blank sheet of paper on which the actions (karma) are written.[62]

. . .The Pudgalavādin Abhidharma puts a definite spin on the sūtra tradition in their claims that karma persisted because of avipraṇāśa (in the case of the Saṃitīyas) and in claiming that pudgala was neither saṃsṛkta nor asaṃsṛkta (in the case of all Pudgalavādins). Yet the payoff for these maneuvers was sufficient to warrant such a move.. . in positing an avipraṇāśa, the Saṃitīyas could appeal to the words of the Buddha saying that karma was indestructible. By claiming that the pudgala was existent, they could meaningfully talk about the owner of karma while at the same time be able to explain how this owner could move from saṃsāra to nirvaṇā."[63]

Vaibhāṣika-Sarvāstivādin tradition[edit]

The Vaibhāśika-Sarvāstivāda, which had by far the most "comprehensive edifice of doctrinal systematics" of the nikaya schools,[p] was widely influential in India and beyond--"the understanding of karma in the Sarvāstivāda in turn became normative not only for Buddhism in India but also for it in other countries."[64]

The Abhidharmahṛdaya by Dharmaśrī was the first systematic exposition of Vaibhāśika-Sarvāstivāda doctrine, and the third chapter, the Karma-varga, deals with the concept of karma systematically.[65]

Another important exposition, the Mahāvibhāṣa, gives three definitions of karma: 1) action, 2) formal vinaya conduct, and 3) human action as the agent of various effects. For the first usage, karma is supplanted in the text by the synonyms kriya or karitra, both of which mean "activity." The third usage, karma as that which links certain actions with certain effects, is the primary concern of the exposition.[66]

The 4th century philosopher Vasubandhu compiled the Abhidharma-kośa, an extensive compendium which elaborated the positions of the Vaibhāṣika-Sarvāstivādin school on a wide range of issues raised by the early sutras. Chapter four the Kośa is devoted to a study of karma, and chapters two and five contain formulation as to the mechanism of fruition and retribution.[48] This became the main source of understanding of the perspective of early Buddhism for later Mahāyāna philosophers.[67]

The notion of avijñapti—an unseen latent power that is nonetheless momentary—is significant to the Vaibhāṣika-Sarvāstivādin accounting of how karmic action precipitates karmic results.

Vasubhandu elaborates on the causes (S. hetu, Tib. rgyu) and conditions (S. pratyaya, Tib. rkyen, Pāli: paccaya) involved in the production of results (S. vipākaphalam, Tib. rnam-smin-gyi 'bras-bu), karma being one source of causes and results, the "ripening cause" and "ripened result."[web 12] Generally speaking, the conditions can be thought of as auxiliary causes. Vasubhandhu draws from the earlier Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma treatises to establish an elaborate Buddhist etiology with the following primary components:

Six Causes[edit]
  • Acting causes (S. kāraṇahetu, T. byed-rgyu) – all phenomena, other than the result itself, which do not impede the production of the result. This includes (a) potent acting causes, such as a seed for a sprout, and (b) impotent acting causes, such as the space that allows a sprout to grow and the mother or the clothes of the farmer who planted the seed.
  • Simultaneously arising causes (S. sahabhuhetu, T. lhan-cig 'byung-ba'i rgyu) – causes that arise simultaneously with their results. This would include, for instance, characteristics together with whatever it is that possesses the characteristics.
  • Congruent causes ( Skt. saṃmprayuktahetu, T. mtshungs-ldan-gyi rgyu) – a subcategory of simultaneously arising causes, it includes causes share the same focal object, mental aspect, cognitive sensor, time, and slant with their causes—primarily referring to the primary consciousness and its congruent mental factors.
  • Equal status cause (S. sabhagahetu, T. skal-mnyam-gyi rgyu ) – causes for which the results are later moments in the same category of phenomena. For example, one moment of patience can be considered the cause of the next moment of patience.
  • Driving causes (S. sarvatragohetu, T. kun groi rgyu) – disturbing emotions and attitudes that generate other subsequent disturbing emotions and attitudes in the same plane of existence, though the two need not be of the same ethical status.
  • Ripening cause (Skt. vipākahetu, T. rnam-smin-gyi rgyu) - the karmic cause or efficacy.[68]
Four Conditions[edit]
  • Causal conditions (S. hetupratyaya, T. rgyu-rkyen) - corresponds to five of the six causes, excepting the kāraṇahetu, which corresponds to the three conditions below
  • Immediately preceding conditions (S. samanantarapratyaya, T. dema thag rkyen) - a consciousness which precedes a sense or mental consciousness without any intervening consciousness and which produces the subsequent consciousness into an experience-ready entity
  • Focal condition (S. alambanapratyaya, T. dmigs-rkyen) - or "object condition" - an object which directly generates the consciousness apprehending it into having its aspect, e.g. the object blue causes an eye consciousness to be generated into having the aspect of blue
  • Dominating condition (S. adhipatipratyaya, T. bdag-rkyen) -
Five Types of Results[edit]
  • Ripened results (S. vipakaphalam, T. rnam smin gyi 'bras-bu) - karmic results.[68]
  • Results that correspond to their cause (S. niṣyandaphalam, T. rgyu-mthun gyi 'bras-bu) - causally concordant effects
  • Dominating results (S. adhipatiphalam, bdag poi bras bu) - the result of predominance. All conditioned dharmas are the adhipatiphala of other conditioned dharmas.[69]
  • Man-made results (S. puruṣakāraphalam, T. skyes bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu) - a result due to the activity of another dharma
  • Results that are states of being parted (S. visamyogaphalam, T. bral 'bras) - not actually a result at all, but refers to the cessation that arises from insight.

Theravādin tradition[edit]

In the Theravāda Abhidhamma and commentarial traditions, karma is taken up at length. The Abhidhamma Sangaha of Anuruddhācariya offers a treatment of the topic, with an exhaustive treatment in book five (5.3.7).[70]

Of particular interest is the Kathāvatthu, which "alone of the works of the Pali canon is directly concerned with conflicting views within the Buddhist community. . . A number of the controverted points discussed in the Kathāvatthu relate either directly or indirectly to the notion of kamma."[71] This involved debate with the Pudgalavādin school, which postulated the provisional existence of the person (S. pudgala, P. puggala) to account for the ripening of karmic effects over time.[71] The Kathāvatthu also records debate by the Theravādins with the Andhakas (who may have been Mahāsāṃghikas) regarding whether or not old age and death are the result (vipāka) of karma.[72] The Theravāda maintained that they are not—not, apparently because there is no causal relation between the two, but because they wished to reserve the term vipāka strictly for mental results--"subjective phenomena arising through the effects of kamma."[72]

The Visuddhimagga states that "the kamma that is the condition for the fruit does not pass on there (to where the fruit is)."[q]

In the canonical Theravāda view of kamma, "the belief that deeds done or ideas seized at the moment of death are particularly significant."[74]

As scholar Peter Harvey notes, "one curious feature of the Abhidamma view of the perceptual process is that the discernments related to the five physical sense organs are always said to be fruitions of karma."[75][web 13] However, in agreement with scholar L.S. Cousins he agrees that the most "plausible" explanation "is that karma affects discernment by determining which of the many phenomena in a person's sensory range are actually noticed . . in the same room, for example, one person naturally tends to notice certain things which give rise to pleasure, while another tends to notice things which give rise to some displeasure."[76]

As karma is not the only causal agent, the Theravādin commentarial tradition classified causal mechanisms taught in the early texts in five categories, known as Niyama Dhammas:[77][78]

  • Kamma Niyama — Consequences of one's actions
  • Utu Niyama — Seasonal changes and climate
  • Biija Niyama — Laws of heredity
  • Citta Niyama — Will of mind
  • Dhamma Niyama — Nature's tendency to produce a perfect type

The Theravāda Abhidhamma also categories karma in other ways:

With regard to function[edit]

  • Reproductive karma (janaka-kamma) - karma which produces the mental and material aggregates at the moment of conception, conditioning the rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi vinnana).
  • Supportive karma (upatthambhaka kamma) - karma ripening in one's lifetime which is of the same favorable or unfavorable quality as the reproductive karma which impelled the rebirth in question. That is to say, in the case of an animal with an unpleasant life, the karma creating unpleasant conditions would be considered supportive of the reproductive karma which impelled what is considered an unfavorable rebirth.
  • Obstructive or counteractive karma (upapiḍaka kamma) - the reverse of the former. In the example of the animal, an animal with a pleasant life would be said to have obstructive rather than supportive karma in relation to his reproductive karma.
  • Destructive karma (upaghātaka kamma) - karma powerful enough to counteract the reproductive karma entirely, by ending the life in question.

With regard to potency[edit]

  • Weighty kamma (garuka kamma) — that which produces its results in this life or in the next for certain, namely, the five heinous crimes (ānantarika-kamma)
  • Proximate kamma (āsanna kamma) — that which one does or remembers immediately before the dying moment
  • Habitual kamma (āciṇṇa kamma) — that which one habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking
  • Reserve kamma (kaṭattā kamma) — refers to all actions that are done once and soon forgotten

With regard to temporal precedence[edit]

  • Immediately effective kamma (diţţhadhammavedaniya kamma) - in the present lifetime
  • Subsequently effective kamma (upapajjavedaniya kamma) - in the immediately following lifetime
  • Indefinitely effective kamma (aṗarāpariyavedaniya kamma) - in lifetimes two or more in the future
  • Defunct kamma (ahosi kamma) - kamma whose effects have ripened already

With regard to the realm-setting of the effect[edit]

  • Unwholesome (akusala) kamma pertaining to the desire realm (kamavacara)
  • Wholesome (kusala) kamma pertaining to the desire realm (kamavacara)
  • Wholesome kamma pertaining to the form realm (rupavacara)
  • Wholesome kamma pertaining to the formless realm (arupavacara)

The Milindapañha and Petavatthu[edit]

The Milindapañha, a paracanonical Theravāda text, offers some interpretations of karma theory at variance with the orthodox position.[79] In particular, Nāgasena allows for the possibility of the transfer of merit to humans and one of the four classes of petas, perhaps in deference to folk belief (see below, The transfer or dedication of merit).[80] Nāgasena makes it clear that demerit cannot be transferred.[81] One scholar asserts that the sharing of merit "can be linked to the Vedic śrāddha, for it was Buddhist practice not to upset existing traditions when well-established custom was not antithetic to Buddhist teaching."[82]

The Petavatthu, which is fully canonical, endorses the transfer of merit even more widely, including the possibility of sharing merit with all petas.[80]

Mahayana tradition[edit]

Transfer or dedication of merit[edit]

Initially in the western study of Buddhism, some scholars believed that the transfer of merit was at first a uniquely Mahāyāna practice and that it was developed only at a late period, perceiving that it was somewhat discordant with early Buddhist understandings of karma theory.[83] Scholar Heinz Bechert dates the Buddhist doctrine of transfer of merit (Sanskrit: puṇyapariṇāmanā) in its fully developed form to the period between the 5th and 7th centuries CE.[83] However, Sree Padma and Anthony Barber note that merit transfer was well established and a very integral part of Buddhist practice in the Andhra region of southern India.[84] In addition, inscriptions at numerous sites across South Asia provide definitive evidence that the transfer of merit was widely practiced in the first few centuries CE.[85]

As scholar D. Seyfort Ruegg notes,

An idea that has posed a number of thorny questions and conceptual difficulties for Buddhist thought and the history of the Mahāyāna is that often referred to as 'transfer of merit' (puṇyapariṇāmanā). The process of pariṇāmanā (Tib. yons su bsno ba) in fact constitutes a most important feature in Mahāyāna, where it denotes what might perhaps best be termed the dedication of good (puṇya, śubha, kuśala[mula]; Tib. bsod nams, dge ba['i rtsa ba]) by an exercitant in view of the attainment by another karmically related person (such as a deceased parent or teacher) of a higher end. Yet such dedication appears, prima facie, to run counter to the karmic principle of the fruition or retribution of deeds (karmavipāka). Generally accepted in Buddhism, both Mahāyānist and non-Mahāyānist, this principle stipulates that a karmic fruit or result (karmaphala) is 'reaped', i.e. experienced, solely by the person - or more precisely by the conscious series (saṃtāna) - that has sown the seed of future karmic fruition when deliberately (cetayitva) accomplishing an action (karman).

The related idea of acquisition/possession (of 'merit', Pali patti, Skt. prāpti), of assenting to and rejoicing in it (pattānumodanā), and even of its gift (pattidāna) are known to sections of the Theravāda tradition; and this concept - absent in the oldest canonical texts in Pali, but found in later Pali tradition (Petavatthu, Buddhāpadāna) - has been explained by some writers as being due to Mahāyānist influence, and by reference to Nalinaksha Dutt's category of 'semi-Mahāyāna.'[86]

Scholar Tommi Lehtonen notes that (fellow scholar) "Wolfgang Schumann says that that "the Mahāyāna teaching of the transfer of merit `breaks the strict causality of the Hinayānic law of karman (P. kamma) according to which everybody wanting better rebirth can reach it solely by his own efforts’ . Yet, Schumann claims that on this point Mahāyāna and Hinayāna differ only in the texts, for the religious practice in South East Asia acknowledges the transference of karmic merit (P. pattidāna) in Theravāda as well."[87]

Indian Yogācāra tradition[edit]

In the Yogācāra philosophical tradition, one of the two principal Mahāyāna schools, the principle of karma was extended considerably. In the Yogācāra formulation, all experience without exception is said to result from the ripening of karma.[88][web 14] Karmic seeds (S. bija) are said to be stored in the "storehouse consciousness" (S. ālayavijñāna) until such time as they ripen into experience. The term vāsāna ("perfuming") is also used, and Yogācārins debated whether vāsāna and bija were essentially the same, the seeds were the effect of the perfuming, or whether the perfuming simply affected the seeds.[89] The seemingly external world is merely a "by-product" (adhipati-phala) of karma. The conditioning of the mind resulting from karma is called saṃskāra.[90][web 15]

The Treatise on Action (Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa), also by Vasubandhu, treats the subject of karma in detail from the Yogācāra perspective.[91] According to scholar Dan Lusthaus, "Vasubandhu's Viṃśatikā (Twenty Verses) repeatedly emphasizes in a variety of ways that karma is intersubjective and that the course of each and every stream of consciousness (vijñāna-santāna, i.e., the changing individual) is profoundly influenced by its relations with other consciousness streams."[90]

As one scholar argues, whereas in earlier systems it "was not clear how a series of completely mental events (the deed and its traces) could give rise to non-mental, material effects," with the (purported) idealism of the Yogācāra system this is not an issue.[92]

The Mahayana Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika-sutra) also is perhaps suggestive of the Mahāyāna tendency to attribute all happiness and suffering to karmic ripening:

The happiness and suffering of all beings,
are due to karma, the Sage taught;
Karma arises from diverse acts,
which in turn create the diverse classes of beings[93][dubious ][verification needed]

In Mahāyāna traditions, karma is not the sole basis of rebirth. The rebirths of bodhisattvas after the seventh stage (S. bhūmi) are said to be consciously directed for the benefit of others still trapped in saṃsāra.[94] Thus, theirs are not uncontrolled rebirths.[94]

Indo-Tibetan tradition[edit]

Mādhyamaka philosophy[edit]

Nāgārjuna articulated the difficulty in forming a karma theory in his most prominent work, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way): 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?[r] The Mūlamadhyamakavṛtty-Akutobhayā, also generally attributed to Nāgārjuna,[95] concludes that it is impossible both for the act to persist somehow and also for it to perish immediately and still have efficacy at a later time.[s]

Mādhyamaka schools deriving from Nāgārjuna subsequently took one of two approaches to the problem. The Svātantrika-Mādhyamaka generally borrowed the philosophy of karma from the Yogācāra. The Prāsaṅgika-Mādhyamaka refuted every concept of a support for ongoing karmic efficacy, while nevertheless postulating that a potential (T. nus pa) is formed which substantiates whenever the situation is ripe.[96] Candrakīrti, the definitive exponent of Prāsaṅgika, argued that because this potential is not a thing, that is, not an "inherently real phenomenon," it does not need to be supported in any way.[96] One scholar argues that "in India, the Prāsaṅgikas' various viewpoints of karma were never organized into a coherent and convincing system."[96]

Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, argued that the Prāsaṅgika position allowed for the postulation of something called an "act's cessation" (las zhig pal) which persists and is in fact a substance (rdzas or dngos po, S. vastu), and which explains the connection between cause and result.[97] Gorampa, an important philosopher of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, accused Tsongkhapa of a doctrinal innovation not legitimately grounded in Candrakīrti's work, and one which amounted to little more than a (non-Buddhist) Vaiśeṣika concept.[98] Gelugpa scholars offered defenses of the idea.[98]

Vajrayana tradition[edit]

In the Vajrayana tradition, it is believed that the effects of negative past karma can be "purified" through such practices as meditation on Vajrasattva.[99] The performer of the action, after having purified the karma, does not experience the negative results he or she otherwise would have.[100]

Karma Buddha family[edit]

The dhyani Buddhas, also called Five Wisdom Buddhas, are built on five Buddha families (Kullas, Buddhakula). One of them is named the Karma family presided by Buddha Amoghasiddhi.[101] The symbol/emblem of that family is the double vajra.[102]

East Asian traditions[edit]

Zen[edit]

Dōgen Kigen argued in his Shobogenzo that karmic latencies are emphatically not empty, going so far as to claim that belief in the emptiness of karma should be characterized as "non-Buddhist," although he also states that the “law of karman has no concrete existence.”[103]

Zen's most famous koan about karma is called Baizhang's Wild Fox (百丈野狐). 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." Because of his unskillful answer the teacher reaps the result of living 500 lives as a wild fox. 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.” Hearing this answer the old teacher is freed from the life of a wild fox. 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.

Tendai[edit]

The Japanese Tendai/Pure Land teacher Genshin taught a series of ten reflections for a dying person that emphasized reflecting on the Amida Buddha as a means to purify vast amounts of karma.[104]

Modern interpretations and controversies[edit]

Karma theory & social justice[edit]

Since the exposure of the West to Buddhism, 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.[105] As one scholar writes, "Some modern Buddhist thinkers appear largely to have abandoned traditional views of karma and rebirth in light of the contemporary transformation of the conception of interdependence," preferring instead to align karma purely with contemporary ideas of causality.[105] One scholar writes, "it is perhaps possible to say that both Buddhism and Buddhist ethics may be better off without the karmic-rebirth factor to deal with."[106] Often these critical writers have backgrounds in Zen and/or Engaged Buddhism.

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."[107] Dale S. 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.[108]

One scholar and Zen practitioner, David Loy, echoes these remarks. He writes, "what are we going to do about karma? There's no point in pretending that karma hasn't become a problem for contemporary Buddhism . .Buddhism can fit quite nicely into modern ways of understanding. But not traditional views of karma."[109] Loy argues that the traditional view of karma is "fundamentalism" which Buddhism must "outgrow."[110]

Loy argues that the idea of accumulating merit too easily becomes "spirtitual materialism," a view echoed by other Buddhist modernists,[111] and further that

Karma has been used to rationalize racism, caste, economic oppression, birth handicaps and everything else. Taken literally, karma justifies the authority of political elites, who therefore must deserve their wealth and power, and the subordination of those who have neither. It provides the perfect theodicy: if there is an infallible cause-and-effect relationship between one's actions and one's fate, there is no need to work toward social justice, because it's already built into the moral fabric of the universe. In fact, if there is no undeserved suffering, there is really no evil that we need to struggle against. It will all balance out in the end.[110]

While some strands of later Buddhist thought did attribute all experience to past karma, the early texts explicitly did not, and in particular state that caste is not determined by karma.[112]

Karma and the Holocaust[edit]

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.[109] 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,[113] and that the teachings on karma instead provide "a thoroughly satisfying explanation for suffering and loss" in which believers take comfort.[114]

The question of the Holocaust also occurs in the Jew in the Lotus: A Poet's Re-Discovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India, which describes a group of Jewish religious leaders who meet with the Dalai Lama. They ask one of the Dalai Lama's party, a Buddhist scholar named Geshe Sonam Rinchen, if the Holocaust would be attributed to past karma in the traditional Buddhist view, and he affirms that it would. The author is "shocked and a little outraged," because, like Loy, he felt it "sounded like blaming the victim."[115]

However, within Buddhism there problems about using terms like victim blame - the notion of blame is not asserted in Buddhism in that, firstly, there has never been any need to develop a theodicy; and, secondly, the agent of one's actions, the person, is not claimed as being objectively existent. Instead we are, as Dennett (1992) puts it, “centres of narrative gravity.” That is not to say that persons or their actions do not exist, but rather to say that our mode of existence is merely conventional, merely imputed. (For more on this see Garfield 2006 and Newland 2009). If we are to ascribe agency and responsibility (notions that underpin the idea of both 'victim' and 'blame') then we will be ascribing agency and responsibility to the nominal entity of 'person' only. The concepts that underlie Kamenetz's shock and outrage belong to metaphysical assertions which are themselves an anathema to Buddhist thought.[116]

Garfield also spells out that conflating the notion of Karmic consequence with the notion of justice (reward or punishment) substantially mistakes both the Buddhist account of karma and the structure of Buddhist ethics more generally. This is a consensus among even those who disagree dramatically among themselves about what the structure of Buddhist ethics is (cf. Goodman (2009), Garfield (in press) and Keown (2001). Karmic consequence is not reward or punishment; it is causal consequence. As such, there is no question of justice or injustice, just as there is no question of the justice or injustice of a billiard ball moving in response to being struck by a cue ball.

Moreover, Geshes such as Sonam Rinchen have been at pains to point out that all of us have rich karmic pasts filled with unripened causes that will manifest only when the circumstances that allow them to ripen occur. The fact that the Nazis discriminated against a particular community says nothing about the qualities or karmic heritage of the community. In other words, if we are to talk about 'blame' then it is something that we all should be concerned about.

Many modern Buddhists such as Thich Nhat Hanh prefer to suggest the "dispersion of karmic responsibility into the social system," such that "moral responsibility is decentered from the solitary individual and spread throughout the entire social system," reflecting the left-wing politics of Engaged Buddhism.[117]

Is there collective or national karma?[edit]

Other modern Buddhists have sought to formulate theories of group, collective and national karma which are not found in traditional Buddhist thinking. The earliest recorded instance of this occurred in 1925, when a member of the Maha Bodhi named Sheo Narain published an article entitled "Karmic Law" in which he invited Buddhist scholars to explore the question of whether an individual is "responsible not only for his individual actions in his past life but also for past communal deeds."[118]

As one scholar writes, "a systematic concept of group karma was in no sense operative in early Theravada" or other schools based on the early sutras. "Instead," he writes, "the repeated emphasis in the canonical discussions of karma is on the individual as heir to his own deeds. It is only in this century, then, that one finds a conscious effort to split with this tradition."

Buddhism does not deny that the actions taken by one generation of the citizens of a given country will have effects on later generations, for example. However, as noted above, all effects of actions are not karmic effects. Karmic effects impinge only on the mindstreams of those sentient beings who perform the actions. As Nyanatiloka Mahathera writes, individuals

should be responsible for the deeds formerly done by this so-called 'same' people. In reality, however, this present people may not consist at all of the karmic heirs of the same individuals who did these bad deeds. According to Buddhism it is of course quite true that anybody who suffers bodily, suffers for his past or present bad deeds. Thus also each of those individuals born within that suffering nation, must, if actually suffering bodily, have done evil somewhere, here or in one of the innumerable spheres of existence; but he may not have had anything to do with the bad deeds of the so-called nation. We might say that through his evil Karma he was attracted to the miserable condition befitting to him. In short, the term Karma applies, in each instance, only to wholesome and unwholesome volitional activity of the single individual.[119]

Thus, in the traditional view the effects of the actions of other beings—such as the leader of one's country, or prior generations of its citizens—might well serve as causes of suffering for an individual on one level, but not they would not be the karmic causes of the suffering of that individual—those causes would function in congruence with the karmic causes. There is, therefore, no "national karma" in traditional Buddhism.[120] One "scholar of engaged Buddhism" wrote an article asserting that the "collective karma" of the United States deriving from the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse would potentially "play out for generations,"[121] a view that is not supported by traditional Buddhist views of karma. The effects may well be felt by Americans for generations, but they would not constitute "collective karma."

"Collective karma" could be spoken of only in certain limited senses in the canonical tradition. In Vasubandu's Karmasiddhiprakarana, among other places, it is asserted that a group of individuals who collaborate and share the same intention for a planned action will all incur karmic merit or demerit based on that action, regardless of which individual actually carries out the action. The fruition of their merit or demerit, however, will not necessarily be experienced by each of the individuals together, and/or at the same time. Likewise, "family karma" is possible only when it refers to karmic dispositions which are similar in each individual family member.[122] One scholar points out, "statements concerning group karma . . .are subject to conceptual confusion. It is important to distinguish group karma from what might be termed conjunctive karma, that is, the karmic residues which we experience as a result of the actions of everyone or everything operating casually in the situation, but which are justified by our own accumulated karma. . . the actions of many persons . . .mediate our karma to us. But this is not group karma, for the effect which we experience is justified by our own particular acts or pool of karma, and not by the karmic acts or pool of the group, even though it is mediated by the actions of others."[123]

Is karma just "social conditioning?"[edit]

Buddhist modernists also 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."[124]

Essentially, this understanding limits the scope of the traditional understanding of karmic effects so that it encompasses only saṃskāras—habits, dispositions and tendencies—and not external effects, while at the same time expanding the scope to include social conditioning that does not particularly involve volitional action.[124]

Contemporary glosses[edit]

Many contemporary Buddhist teachers have provided brief explanations of karma as a means of introducing this concept to Western students. A sampling of these summaries is included here.

Phillip Moffitt (seeds of consequence)[edit]

Phillip Moffitt states:[125]

[Karma is] the seeds of consequence that will bloom in the future when conditions are suitable.

Ken McLeod (each action is a seed)[edit]

Ken McLeod states:[web 1]

Karma, then, describes how our actions evolve into experience, internally and externally. Each action is a seed which grows or evolves into our experience of the world. Every action either starts a new growth process or reinforces an old one as described by the four results. Small wonder that we place so much emphasis on mindfulness and attention. What we do in each moment is very important!

Sogyal Rinpoche (each action is pregnant with consequences)[edit]

Sogyal Rinpoche states:[2]

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.” Similarly he said: “Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.” Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened. Although the results of our actions may not have matured yet, they will inevitably ripen, given the right conditions.

Khandro Rinpoche (causes and conditions that create certain circumstances)[edit]

Khandro Rinpoche states:[1]

Buddhism is a nontheistic philosophy. We do not believe in a creator but in the causes and conditions that create certain circumstances that then come to fruition. This is called karma. It has nothing to do with judgement; there is no one keeping track of our karma and sending us up above or down below. Karma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or first action, and its effect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have many fruitions, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full field of grain, a small amount of karma can generate limitless effects.

Peter Harvey (a seed that results in certain fruits)[edit]

Peter Harvey states:[9]

Karma is often likened to a seed, and the two words for karmic result, vipaka and phala, respectively mean 'ripening' and 'fruit'. An action is thus like a seed which will sooner or later, as part of its natural maturation process, result in certain fruits accruing to the doer of the action.
What determines the nature of the karmic 'seed' is the will or intention behind the act: 'It is will (cetana), O monks, that I call karma; having willed, one acts through body, speech, and mind' (A.III.415). It is the psychological impulse behind an action that is 'karma', that which sets going a chain of causes culminating in karmic fruit. Actions, then, must be intentional if they are to generate karmic fruits [...].

Geshe Tashi Tsering (cause and effect)[edit]

Geshe Tashi Tsering states:[126]

[Karma is] the natural law of cause and effect whereby positive actions produce happiness and negative actions produce suffering.

Rupert Gethin (mental act or intention)[edit]

Rupert Gethin states:[127]

At root karma or 'action' is considered a mental act or intention; it is an aspect of our mental life. [The Buddha said:][t]
'It is "intention" that I call karma; having formed the intention, one performs acts (karma) by body, speech and mind.' [u]
Thus acts of body and speech are driven by an underlying intention or will (cetanā) and they are unwholesome or wholesome because they are motivated by unwholesome or wholesome intentions. Acts of body and speech are, then, the end products of particular kinds of mentality. At the same time karma can exist as a simple ‘act of will’, a forceful mental intention or volition that does not lead to an act of body or speech.

Etymology[edit]

The word karma derives from the verbal root kṛ, which means "do, make, perform, accomplish." Karma is "the nominative singular form of the neuter word karman, which means 'act, action, performance, deed.' In grammatical usage, karman refers to the direct object in a sentence, the recipient of the action indicated by the verb."[128][web 16]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The following comments by contemporary teachers and scholars define the term karma in the specific sense of meaning intentional "action":
    • Rupert Gethin states: [Karma is] a being’s intentional ‘actions’ of body, speech, and mind—whatever is done, said, or even just thought with definite intention or volition. - Gethin, Rupert (1998-07-16). The Foundations of Buddhism (p. 119). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
    • Rupert Gethin also states: At root karma or ‘action’ is considered a mental act or intention; it is an aspect of our mental life: ‘It is “intention” that I call karma; having formed the intention, one performs acts (karma) by body, speech and mind.’9 - Gethin, Rupert (1998-07-16). The Foundations of Buddhism (p. 120). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
    • Geshe Tashi Tsering states: One thing I want to make very clear is that karma, which is Sanskrit for action, is the cause and not the result. When we create an action of body, speech, or mind, the conscious or subconscious volition that causes that action also creates a potential that is deposited in the mental continuum, the stream of consciousness. When the appropriate conditions arise, this potential becomes manifest as a positive or negative result. Again, it is the mental action itself that is karma, and not the ripening result. - Tsering, Geshe Tashi (2005-06-10). The Four Noble Truths: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 1220-1226). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. ^ The following statements by contemporary teachers use the term karma in a general sense, to refer to the theory of karmic action and result (karmaphala):
    • Ken McLeod states: Karma, then, describes how our actions evolve into experience, internally and externally. Each action is a seed which grows or evolves into our experience of the world. Every action either starts a new growth process or reinforces an old one [...][web 1]
    • Khandro Rinpoche states: Karma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or first action, and its effect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have many fruitions, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full field of grain, a small amount of karma can generate limitless effects.[1]
    • Sogyal Rinpoche states: "In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result."[2]
    • Dalai Lama states: "Karma, then, is an instance of the general law of causality. What makes karma unique is that it involves intentional action, and therefore an agent."[3]
  3. ^ a b Karma is a foundational concept in Buddhist philosophy and it is essential to understand karma to follow the Buddhist path. For example:
    • Contemporary scholar Ulrich Timme Kragh states: "the Buddhist theory of action and result (karmaphala) is fundamental to much of Buddhist doctrine, because it provides a coherent model of the functioning of the world and its beings, which in turn forms the doctrinal basis for the Buddhist explanations of the path of liberation from the world and its result, nirvāṇa."[4]
    • Étienne Lamotte states: “The teaching of karma, or action, forms the cornerstone of the whole Buddhist doctrine: action is the ultimate explanation of human existence and of the physical world, and it is in terms of karma that the Buddhist masters have constructed their philosophy.”[5]
    • Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa states: “Attaining certain knowledge of the definiteness, or nondeceptiveness, of karma and its effects is called the correct viewpoint of all Buddhists and is praised as the foundation of all virtue.”[6]
    • Jeffrey Kotyk states: Karma is indeed the foundation of Buddhist thought [...] Being that understanding karma is absolutely essential for a practitioner of Buddhadharma it would be wise for any interested individual to thoroughly study the subject.[web 2]
    • Ken McLeod states: [...] the principle of karma is crucially important for our understanding of why we practice and what happens when we practice.[web 3]
    • Joseph Goldstein states: "According to the law of karma, the only things that can be said to truly belong to us are our actions and their results; the results of our actions follow us like a shadow, or, to use an ancient image, like the wheel of the oxcart following the foot of the ox. This principle is so fundamental and far-reaching that it was emphasized again and again by the Buddha and by the great enlightened beings up until the present."[7]
    • Ajahn Sucitto states: "Right view, then, focuses on cause and effect. Through noticing the results of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we learn what gives the best results—hence a path gets established beneath our own feet."[8]
  4. ^ In English, a variety of expressions are used to identify the theory of action and result (karmaphala). For example:
    • Peter Harvey states: "The law of karma is seen as a natural law inherent in the nature of things, like the law of physics."[9]
    • Geshe Tashi Tsering states: "the theory of karma is [...] simply the natural law of how things and events come into being. - Tsering, Geshe Tashi (2005-06-10). The Four Noble Truths: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 1198-1201). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
    • Ajahn Sucitto states: This principle of the cause and the results of action—even mental action—is what is meant by “the law of kamma.” - Sucitto, Ajahn (2010-09-14). Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching (p. 27). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
    • Dzongsar Khyentse states: [...] karma is simply a law of cause and effect, not to be confused with morality or ethics. - Khyentse, Dzongsar Jamyang (2011-03-11). What Makes You Not a Buddhist (p. 76). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
  5. ^ Bhikkhu Thanissaro emphasizes that causality is not a linear process.[web 4]
  6. ^ Karma actions are compared to seeds. For example:
    • Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen states: The ripening of karma can be understood by an analogy. When you plant one kernel of corn, you can see that the result is two or three ears of corn, each with many, many kernels. If you plant a single grape seed, it produces hundreds of grapes. It is the same with positive and negative actions.[11]
  7. ^ In the Tibetan tradition, a karmic action grows into four results: the result of full ripening, the result from what happened, the result from what acted, and the environmental result.[web 1]
  8. ^ The driving force behind rebirth in the six realms of samsara is karma:
    • Traleg Rinpoche states: "Rebirth does not occur in a haphazard way but is governed by the law of karma. At the same time, good and bad rebirths are not seen as rewards and punishments but as resulting from our own actions."[15]
    • Peter Harvey states: "The movement of beings between rebirths is not a haphazard process but is ordered and governed by the law of karma, the principle that beings are reborn according to the nature and quality of their past actions; they are 'heir' to their actions (M.III.123)."[16]
    • Damien Keown states: "In the cosmology [of the realms of existence], karma functions as the elevator that takes people from one floor of the building to another. Good deeds result in an upward movement and bad deeds in a downward one. Karma is not a system of rewards and punishments meted out by God but a kind of natural law akin to the law of gravity. Individuals are thus the sole authors of their good and bad fortune."[17]
    • Alexander Berzin states: "In short, the external and internal cycles of time delineate samsara – uncontrollably recurring rebirth, fraught with problems and difficulties. These cycles are driven by impulses of energy, known in the Kalachakra system as "winds of karma." Karma is a force intimately connected with mind and arises due to confusion about reality."[web 5]
    • Sogyal Rinpoche states: "The truth and the driving force behind rebirth is what is called karma."[18]
    • Sogyal Rinpoche states: "The kind of birth we will have in the next life is determined, then, by the nature of our actions in this one. And it is important never to forget that the effect of our actions depends entirely upon the intention or motivation behind them, and not upon their scale."[19]
    • Paul Williams states: "All rebirth is due to karman and is impermanent. Short of attaining enlightenment, in each rebirth one is born and dies, to be reborn elsewhere in accordance with the completely impersonal causal nature of one's own karman. The endless cycle of birth, rebirth, and redeath, is samsara." [20]
    • Rupert Gethin states: "What determines in which realm a being is born? The short answer is karma (Pali kamma): a being’s intentional ‘actions’ of body, speech, and mind—whatever is done, said, or even just thought with definite intention or volition. In general, though with some qualification, rebirth in the lower realms is considered to be the result of relatively unwholesome (akuśala/akusala), or bad (pāpa) karma, while rebirth in the higher realms the result of relatively wholesome (kuśala/kusala), or good (puṇya/puñña) karma."[21]
  9. ^ Sogyal Rinpoche states: As Buddha said, "What you are is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now." Padmasambhava went further: "If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions."[19]
  10. ^ In Buddhist philosophy, karmic results not considered to be a "judgement":
    • Damien Keown states:[24] "Karma is not a system of rewards and punishments meted out by God but a kind of natural law akin to the law of gravity. Individuals are thus the sole authors of their good and bad fortune."
    • Peter Harvey states:[9] - "The law of karma is seen as a natural law inherent in the nature of things, like the law of physics. It is not operated by a God, and indeed the gods are themselves under its sway. Good and bad rebirths are not, therefore, seen as "rewards" and "punishments", but as simply the natural results of certain kinds of action."
    • Dzongsar Khyentse states:[25] - "[Karma] is usually understood as a sort of moralistic system of retribution—“bad” karma and “good” karma. But karma is simply a law of cause and effect, not to be confused with morality or ethics. No one, including Buddha, set the fundamental bar for what is negative and what is positive. Any motivation and action that steer us away from such truths as “all compounded things are impermanent” can result in negative consequences, or bad karma. And any action that brings us closer to understanding such truths as “all emotions are pain” can result in positive consequences, or good karma. At the end of the day, it was not for Buddha to judge; only you can truly know the motivation behind your actions."
    • Khandro Rinpoche states:[1] - "Buddhism is a nontheistic philosophy. We do not believe in a creator but in the causes and conditions that create certain circumstances that then come to fruition. This is called karma. It has nothing to do with judgement; there is no one keeping track of our karma and sending us up above or down below. Karma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or first action, and its effect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have many fruitions, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full field of grain, a small amount of karma can generate limitless effects."
  11. ^ Bhikkhu Thanissaro uses the Pali spelling for karma.
  12. ^ Payutto cites the following texts from the Pali canon: AN.I.173; cf.Vbh.367; MN.II.214; AN.20/501/222; cf.Vbh.35/940/496; MN.14/2-11/1-13
  13. ^ The Buddha gained full and complete insight into the workings of karma at the time of his enlightenment:
    • Lama Surya Das states: "When the Buddha realized perfect enlightenment, the veils of illusion fell from his eyes. [...] His wisdom-eye fully opened, the truth of "what is" became evident. He said he perceived and remembered hundreds of past lives; he knew and understood the precise laws of karma and rebirth; he recognized the workings of ignorance, attachment, and desire. The awakened Buddha finally understood why life often seems so troubling."[33]
    • Joseph Goldstein states: "On the night of his enlightenment, when the Bodhisattva saw with his refined vision beings taking birth and dying, over and over again, driven by the winds of their karma, he understood clearly that different kinds of actions bring their respective results."[34]
  14. ^ Ryose references DN I, p.115 of the Rhys-Davids translation[38]
  15. ^ Other translations of kusala are proper, suitable, well, healthy, prosperous, auspicious, able, skillful, clever, etc.
  16. ^ Contemporary scholar Changhwan Park states: "one does not find anywhere else a body of doctrine as organized or as complete as theirs" . . ."Indeed, no other competing schools have ever come close to building up such a comprehensive edifice of doctrinal systematics as the Vaibhāśika." The Sautrantika theory of seeds (bija ) revisited: With special reference to the ideological continuity between Vasubandhu's theory of seeds and its Srilata/Darstantika precedents by Park, Changhwan, PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 2007 pg 2
  17. ^ Vism. 17.168. The translation is that of Bhikkhu Nyāṇamoli, The Path of Purification (Colombo: A. Semage, 1964). Cited in McDermott (1980) [73]
  18. ^ MMK (XVII.6), cited in Dargyay, 1986, p.170[55]
  19. ^ Mūlamadhyamakavṛtty-Akutobhayā, sDe dge Tibetan Tripi!aka (Tokyo, 1977) pp. 32, 4.5, cited in Dargyay, 1986, p.170.[55]
  20. ^ Additional formatting and text in brackets added for clarity.
  21. ^ Gethin includes the following footnote: Aṅguttara Nikāya iii. 415; cf. Atthasālinī 88–9

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Khandro Rinpoche 2003, p. 95.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sogyal Rinpoche 2009, pp. 96-97.
  3. ^ a b Dalai Lama 1998, pp. 74-75.
  4. ^ a b Kragh 2006, p. 11.
  5. ^ a b Lamotte 1987, p. 15.
  6. ^ a b c Tsongkhapa 2000, p. 211.
  7. ^ Goldstein 2013, p. 8.
  8. ^ a b c Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 27.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Harvey 1990, pp. 39-40.
  10. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle loc: 1186-1201.
  11. ^ Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen 2009, pp. 55-56.
  12. ^ Ringu Tulku 2005, p. 31.
  13. ^ Keown 2000, Kindle loc: 829-836.
  14. ^ Ringu Tulku 2012, pp. 18-19.
  15. ^ Traleg Kyabgon 2001, p. 31.
  16. ^ Harvey 1990, p. 39.
  17. ^ Keown 2000, Kindle Location 794-797.
  18. ^ Sogyal Rinpoche 2009, p. 96.
  19. ^ a b c Sogyal Rinpoche 2009, p. 97.
  20. ^ Williams 2002, p. 74.
  21. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 119.
  22. ^ Patrul Rinpoche 1998, p. 61.
  23. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 27.
  24. ^ Keown 2000, Kindle loc. 794-796.
  25. ^ Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse 2011, p. 76.
  26. ^ Bhikkhu Thanissaro 2010, pp. 47-48.
  27. ^ Dalai Lama 1992, p. 8.
  28. ^ Sonam Rinchen 2006, p. 8-9.
  29. ^ a b c d Thrangu Rinpoche 2001, pp. 3,32.
  30. ^ a b Simmer-Brown 1987, p. 24.
  31. ^ Goodman 1992, p. Kindle Location 1492.
  32. ^ a b P. A. Payutto 1993.
  33. ^ Lama Surya Das 1997, p. 75.
  34. ^ Goldstein 2011, p. 74.
  35. ^ Smith & Novak 2009, p. 10.
  36. ^ Matthews 1986, p. 124.
  37. ^ a b Matthews 1986, p. 125.
  38. ^ a b Ryose 1987, p. 1.
  39. ^ MN 3.66, Bodhi 929-930
  40. ^ McDermott 1984, p. 32.
  41. ^ Upajjhatthana Sutta (AN 5.57)
  42. ^ MN.3.203, Bodhi pg 1053, 1055
  43. ^ MN.3.203, Bodhi pg 1053, 1055
  44. ^ MN.3.203, Bodhi pg 1058-1065
  45. ^ McDermott 1980, p. 175.
  46. ^ a b McDermott 1984, p. 21.
  47. ^ SN.4.132
  48. ^ a b Lamotte 2001, p. 18.
  49. ^ Reichenbach 1988, p. 399.
  50. ^ Waldron 2003, p. 61.
  51. ^ a b Reichenbach 1990, p. 1.
  52. ^ Kalupahana 1975, p. 127.
  53. ^ Kalupahana 1975, p. 131.
  54. ^ Kalupahana 1995, pp. 102-103.
  55. ^ a b c Dargyay 1986, p. 170.
  56. ^ Walser 2005, pp. 194-213.
  57. ^ Walser 2005, pp. 194-195.
  58. ^ Dowling 2006, p. 85.
  59. ^ Park 2007, pp. 234-236.
  60. ^ Lamotte 1998, pp. 539-544.
  61. ^ Williams 2005, pp. 84-101.
  62. ^ Walser 2005, p. 199.
  63. ^ Walser 2005, pp. 204-205.
  64. ^ Ryose 1987, p. 3.
  65. ^ Ryose 1987, pp. 3-4.
  66. ^ Ryose 1987, pp. 39-40.
  67. ^ Lamotte 2001.
  68. ^ a b Ronkin 2005, p. 25.
  69. ^ A Study of Dependent Origination: Vasubandhu, Buddhaghosa, and the Interpretation of Pratīyasamutpāda. by Susan C. Stalker Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1987 pg. pg 25
  70. ^ Matthews 1986, p. 132.
  71. ^ a b McDermott 1975, p. 424.
  72. ^ a b McDermott 1975, pp. 426-427.
  73. ^ McDermott 1980, p. 177.
  74. ^ McDermott 1980, p. 168.
  75. ^ Harvey 1995, pp. 431,443,556.
  76. ^ Harvey 1995, p. 152.
  77. ^ Rhys Davids 2007.
  78. ^ De Silva 1998, p. 41.
  79. ^ McDermott 1984, p. 110.
  80. ^ a b McDermott 1984, pp. 109-111.
  81. ^ McDermott 1977, p. 463.
  82. ^ McDermott 1977, p. 462.
  83. ^ a b Bechert 1992, note 34, pp. 99-100.
  84. ^ Padma & Barber 2009, p. 116.
  85. ^ Fogelin, Lars. Archaeology of Early Buddhism. 2006. p. 43
  86. ^ "Aspects of the Study of the (Earlier) Indian Mahāyāna by D. Seyfort Ruegg. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Volume 27 Number 1, 2004 pgs 52-53
  87. ^ Buddhism. An Outline of its Teachings and Schools by Schumann, Hans Wolfgang , trans. by Georg Fenerstein, Rider: 1973), p. 92. Cited in "The Notion of Merit in Indian Religions," by Tommi Lehtonen, Asian Philosophy, Vol. 10, No. 3, 2000 pg 193
  88. ^ Harvey 2000, p. 297.
  89. ^ Lusthaus 2002, p. 194.
  90. ^ a b Lusthaus 2002, p. 48.
  91. ^ Lamotte 2001, pp. 13,35.
  92. ^ Bronkhorst J, Karma and Teleology: A Problem and its Solutions in Indian Philosophy. The International Institute for Buddhist Studies of the International College for Advanced Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, 2000. pg [1]
  93. ^ Mind Training, By Gźon-nu-rgyal-mchog, Thupten Jinpa, Dkon-mchog-rgyal-mtshan. Wisdom Publications, 2005. ISBN 0-86171-440-7 [2]
  94. ^ a b Harvey 2000, p. 130.
  95. ^ The "Akutobhaya" and early Indian Madhyamika (Volumes I and II) (Buddhism, India, China, Tibet) by Huntington, Clair W., Jr. Ph.D. thesis. University of Michigan: 1986 pg 4
  96. ^ a b c Dargyay 1986, p. 172.
  97. ^ Dargyay 1986, p. 173.
  98. ^ a b Dargyay 1986, p. 176.
  99. ^ Kalu Rinpoche 1993, p. 204.
  100. ^ Thrangu Rinpoche 2012, pp. 20-21.
  101. ^ The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols by Robert Beer Shambhala: 2003. ISBN 1-59030-100-5 Pg 250
  102. ^ The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art by John C. Huntington, Dina Bangdel. Serindia Publications: 2003 pg 91
  103. ^ Dōgen Kigen, Shobogenzo: The Eye and Treasury of the True Law, trans. Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens, Vol. 1 (Sendai, Japan: Daihokkaikaku Publishing Co., 1975), p. 142 149.
  104. ^ Lopez 2001, p. 239.
  105. ^ a b McMahan 2008, p. 174.
  106. ^ "A Buddhist Ethic Without Karmic Rebirth?" by Winston L. King Journal of Buddhist Ethics Volume 1 1994
  107. ^ Critical Questions Towards a Naturalized Concept of Karma in Buddhism" by Dale S. Wright Journal of Buddhist Ethics Volume 11, 2004 pg 81[3]
  108. ^ Critical Questions Towards a Naturalized Concept of Karma in Buddhism" by Dale S. Wright Journal of Buddhist Ethics Volume 11, 2004 pgs 89-90[4]
  109. ^ a b Loy 2008, p. 55.
  110. ^ a b Loy 2008, p. 57.
  111. ^ Ken Jones, The Social Face of Buddhism: An Approach to Political and Social Activism, Wisdom Publications, 1989, quoted in "A Buddhist Ethic Without Karmic Rebirth?" by Winston L. King Journal of Buddhist Ethics Volume 1 1994
  112. ^ Matthews 1986, p. 126.
  113. ^ "Karmic Calculations: The Social Implications of Karmic Causality in Tibet Erin Burke. Chrestomathy: Annual Review of Undergraduate Research at the College of Charleston Volume 2, 2003 pgs 32-33
  114. ^ "Karmic Calculations: The Social Implications of Karmic Causality in Tibet Erin Burke. Chrestomathy: Annual Review of Undergraduate Research at the College of Charleston Volume 2, 2003 pgs 32-33
  115. ^ Jew in the Lotus: A Poet's Re-Discovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India by Rodger Kamenetz HarperOne: 1995. ISBN 0-06-064574-1 pg 122
  116. ^ Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose: Freedom, Agency and Ethics for Madhyamikas by Jay Garfield. 2013 In press. [5]
  117. ^ McMahan 2008, pp. 175-176.
  118. ^ Sheo Narain, "Karmic Law," The Maha Bodhi, Vol. XXXIII (April, 1925), pp. 197-198, as cited in “Is There Group Karma in Theravāda Buddhism?” by James P. Mc Dermott. Numen, Vol. 23, Fasc. 1 (Apr., 1976), pp. 67
  119. ^ Nyanatiloka Mahathera, Karma and Rebirth, The Wheel Publication No. 9 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1959), p. 17, as quoted in “Is There Group Karma in Theravāda Buddhism?” by James P. Mc Dermott. Numen, Vol. 23, Fasc. 1 (Apr., 1976), pp. 73
  120. ^ "New Voices in Engaged Buddhist Studies" by Kenneth Kraft, in Engaged Buddhism in the West ed. Christopher S. Queen, Wisdom Publications: 2000 ISBN 0-86171-159-9 pgs 499-500
  121. ^ "Bad Karma: Torturers are planting horrible seeds in their own hearts and minds. Unfortunately, the same is true for nations." by Deborah Caldwell on Beliefnet.com published 5-04, [6]
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  123. ^ Reichenbach 1990, p. 142.
  124. ^ a b McMahan 2008, p. 198.
  125. ^ Moffitt 2008, Kindle loc: 2869.
  126. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle loc: 2405-2406.
  127. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 120.
  128. ^ Chapple 1986, p. 2.

Web references[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala 
  • Bechert, Heinz (1992), "Buddha-field and transfer of merit in a Theravāda source", Indo-Iranian Journal (Vol. 35, Issues 2-3, July 1992, pp. 95-108) 
  • Bhikkhu Bodhi (translator) (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-331-1 
  • Bhikkhu Nanamoli (translator) (1995), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-072-X 
  • Bhikkhu Thanissaro (2010), Wings to Awakening: Part I, Metta Forest Monastery, Valley Center, CA 
  • Chapple, Christopher (1986), Karma and Creativity, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-88706-250-4 
  • Dalai Lama (1998), The Four Noble Truths, Thorsons 
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  • Dargyay, Lobsang (1986), "Tsong-Kha-Pa's Concept of Karma", in Neufeldt, Ronald W., Karma and Rebirth: Post Classical Developments, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-87395-990-6 
  • De Silva, Padmasiri (1998), Environmental Philosophy and Ethics in Buddhism, Macmillan 
  • Dowling, Thomas L. (2006), "Karma Doctrine and Sectarian Development", in Narain, A.K., Studies in Pali and Buddhism: A Memorial Volume in Honour of Bhikku Jagdish Kashyap, B.R. Publishing Corporation 
  • Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (2011), What Makes You Not a Buddhist, Shambhala, Kindle Edition 
  • Geshe Tashi Tsering (2005), The Four Noble Truths: The Foundation of Buddhist Thought, Volume I, Wisdom, Kindle Edition 
  • Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press 
  • Goldstein, Joseph (2011), One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism, HarperCollins, Kindle Edition 
  • Goldstein, Joseph (2013), Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, Sounds True, Kindle Edition 
  • Goodman, Steven D. (1992), "Situational Patterning: Pratītyasamutpāda", in Tarthang Tulku, Crystal Mirror Series I-III, Dharma Publishing 
  • Harvey, Peter (1990), Introduction to Buddhism, Cambridge University Press 
  • Harvey, Brian Peter (1995), The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvāṇa in Early Buddhism, Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-0338-1 
  • Harvey, Brian Peter (2000), An Introduction to Buddhist ethics: Foundations, Values, and Issues, Routledge, ISBN 0-521-55640-6 
  • Kalu Rinpoche (1993), Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha, Wisdom, ISBN 0-86171-118-1 
  • Kalupahana, David (1975), Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, University of Hawaii Press 
  • Kalupahana, David (1995), Ethics in Early Buddhism, University of Hawaii Press 
  • Keown, Damien (2000), Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition 
  • Khandro Rinpoche (2003), This Precious Life, Shambhala 
  • Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen (2009), A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path, Snow Lion 
  • Kragh, Ulrich Timme (2006), Early Buddhist Theories of Action and Result: A Study of Karmaphalasambandha, Candrakirti's Prasannapada, verses 17.1-20, Arbeitskreis für tibetische und buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, ISBN 3-902501-03-0 
  • Lama Surya Das (1997), Awakening the Buddha Within, Broadway Books, Kindle Edition 
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  • Lamotte, Etienne (1988), History of Indian Buddhism, Publications de l'Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 
  • Lamotte, Etienne (2001), Karmasiddhi Prakarana: The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu, English translation by Leo M. Pruden, Asian Humanities Press 
  • Leif, Judith (2009), Introduction to 'The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation' by Chogyam Trungpa (edited by Judy Leif), Shambhala 
  • Lopez, Donald S. (2001), The Story of Buddhism, HarperCollins 
  • Loy, David R. (2008), Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution, Wisdom, ISBN 0861715586 
  • Lusthaus, Dan (2002), Buddhist Phenomenology: A philosophical Investigation of Yogācāra Buddhism and the Ch'eng Wei-shih lun, RoutledgeCurzon, ISBN 0-415-40610-2 
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  • Matthews, Bruce (1986), "Chapter Seven: Post-Classical Developments in the Concepts of Karma and Rebirth in Theravada Buddhism", in Neufeldt, Ronald W., Karma and Rebirth: Post Classical Developments, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-87395-990-6 
  • McDermott, James Paul (1975), "The Kathāvatthu Kamma Debates", Journal of the American Oriental Society (Vol. 95, No. 3, Jul. - Sep., 1975) 
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  • McDermott, James Paul (1984), Development in the Early Buddhist Concept of Kamma/Karma, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, ISBN 81-215-0208-X 
  • McMahan, David L. (2008), The Making of Buddhist Modernism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518327-6 
  • Mingyur Rinpoche (2007), The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, Harmony Kindle Edition 
  • Moffitt, Philip (2008), Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Rodale, Kindle Edition 
  • Padma, Sree; Barber, A.W., eds. (2009), Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley of Andhra, State University of New York Press 
  • Park, Changhwan (2007), The Sautrantika Theory of Seeds (bija) Revisited (PhD thesis), University of California, Berkeley 
  • Patrul Rinpoche (1998), The Words of My Perfect Teacher, Altamira 
  • Reichenbach, Bruce (1988), "The Law of Karma and the Principle of Causation", Philosophy East and West (Vol. 38, No. 4, Oct 1988) 
  • Reichenbach, Bruce (1990), The Law of Karma: A Philosophical Study, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0-8248-1352-9 
  • Ringu Tulku (2005), Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion 
  • Ringu Tulku (2012), Confusion Arises as Wisdom: Gampopa's Heart Advice on the Path of Mahamudra, Shambhala, Kindle Edition. 
  • Ronkin, Noa (2005), Early Buddhist Metaphysics: the Making of a Philosophical Tradition, Routledge, ISBN 0-203-53706-8 
  • Ryose, Wataru (1987), A Study of the Abhidharmahrdaya: The Historical Development of the Concept of Karma In The Sarvastivada Thought (PhD thesis), University of Wisconsin-Madison 
  • Rhys Davids, Caroline Augusta (2007), Buddhism, Davids Press 
  • Simmer-Brown, Judith (1987), "Seeing the Dependent Origination of Suffering as the Key to Liberation", Journal of Contemplative Psychotherapy, (The Naropa Institute) (VOLUME IV) 
  • Smith, Huston; Novak, Philip (2009), Buddhism: A Concise Introduction, HarperOne, Kindle Edition 
  • Sonam Rinchen (2006), How Karma Works: The Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, Snow Lion 
  • Sogyal Rinpoche (2009), The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition 
  • Thrangu Rinpoche (2001), The Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination, Snow Lion 
  • Thrangu Rinpoche (2012), Pointing Out The Dharmakaya: Teachings On The Ninth Karmapa's Text, Nama Buddha 
  • Traleg Kyabgon (2001), The Essence of Buddhism, Shambhala 
  • Tsongkhapa (2000), Cutler, Joshua W. C., ed., The Great Treatise On The Stages Of The Path To Enlightenment Vol 1, Snow Lion 
  • Waldron, William S. (2003), The Buddhist Unconscious: The Alaya-vijñana in the context of Indian Buddhist Thought, Routledge 
  • Walser, Joseph (2005), Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture, Columbia University Press 
  • Wardner, A.K. (1970), Indian Buddhism, Delhi 
  • Watson, Burton (1993), The Lotus Sutra, Columbia University Press 
  • Williams, Paul (2002), Buddhist Thought, Taylor & Francis, Kindle Edition 
  • Williams, Paul, ed. (2005), Buddhism—Critical Concepts in Religious Studies II, Shi Huifeng 

Further reading[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Dalai Lama (1992). The Meaning of Life, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins. Wisdom.
  • Geshe Sonam Rinchen (2006). How Karma Works: The Twelve Links of Dependent Arising. Snow Lion
  • Gethin, Rupert (1998). Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-289223-1.
  • Khandro Rinpoche (2003). This Precious Life. Shambala
  • Ringu Tulku (2005). Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism. Snow Lion.
  • Gananath Obeyesekere (2002). Imagining karma: ethical transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek rebirth. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23243-3. 

Journal[edit]

External links[edit]