Talk:Karma in Buddhism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Yoga (Rated Stub-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Yoga, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Yoga on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Stub-Class article Stub  This article has been rated as Stub-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Note icon
This article has been automatically rated by a bot or other tool as Stub-Class because it uses a stub template. Please ensure the assessment is correct before removing the |auto= parameter.
WikiProject Buddhism (Rated C-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article falls within the scope of WikiProject Buddhism, an attempt to promote better coordination, content distribution, and cross-referencing between pages dealing with Buddhism. Please participate by editing the article Karma in Buddhism, or visit the project page for more details on the projects.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Religion (Rated C-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Religion, a project to improve Wikipedia's articles on Religion-related subjects. Please participate by editing the article, and help us assess and improve articles to good and 1.0 standards, or visit the wikiproject page for more details.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.


WikiProject Philosophy (Rated C-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Philosophy, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of content related to philosophy on Wikipedia. If you would like to support the project, please visit the project page, where you can get more details on how you can help, and where you can join the general discussion about philosophy content on Wikipedia.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.

April 2007[edit]

This article contained a fair amount of nonsense, and hardly anything is sourced. For the monent I've altered it to agree with Theravada doctrine, except where it specifically refers to Mahayana. I hope people who know about other schools can note any differences. Peter jackson 14:46, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Proposed External Link: karma-Buddhism Yahoo Group[edit]

karma-Buddhism Yahoo Group with researched posts Dhammapal 12:44, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

Errors in the article?[edit]

I'm note sure how the following quote from the page makes sense: "In Buddhism, Karma is simply there as a guide and an indication of what the reason for your present state is and how one's future can be made better by self effort. Fatalism and pre-determinism is the anti-thesis of the notion of perfection or self-conquest -- which is the primary aim of Buddhism." In particular, Buddhism never advocates any "self effort" as there is no "self" to excert the effort, and an enlightened being only observes (hence, generating no karma). There are no goals of "perfection or self-conquest" in Buddhism, only the idea of realizing the truth (since an elightened being has no clinging, it can't possibly have goals). It seems as the entire passage is wrong, but I don't feel I have sufficient knowledge to modify the article.

I'm not sure that the revisions improve the article. This article lacks citations for assertions such as Karma only refers to "cause" -- and this is important because if you look at the way Karma is generally used everywhere, nobody uses such a definition in practice. This might be a place where one should talk about the different views of Karma within Buddhism rather than adding a sectarian view and not citing the source other than a personality. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:51, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Universal karma[edit]

  • [2] Seems to be important, but maybe it does not match with wikipedia's linklines.
Austerlitz -- (talk) 10:20, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

the article has the word arhaticide, can someone please explain what that is, word is not found in any online dictionaries, is it spelled correctly?[edit]

someone needs to explain the meaning of "arhaticide" please. thanks —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:47, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

It's a neologism for sure, but it seems like the most concise way to spell it out - it means just what it appears to mean: killing an arhat. The meaning should be clear from both the construction and the context.Sylvain1972 (talk) 05:12, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
"Killing an arhat" would probably be a more straightforward way of doing this than a neologism. Human fella —Preceding undated comment added 07:39, 2 April 2010 (UTC).


This sutta is given as a source for a claim which is controversial in some circles about whether or not karma is the supreme natural law. The Theravada position seems to be that it is just one of several laws, but I'm trying to clarify my understanding. However, I can't find this sutta online; or else I did find it but didn't see how it supported the claim -- see linked fromñcaka%20Nipāta&collection_name=Pali&division=AN&acronym=5&type=Subdivision Paxfeline (talk) 07:27, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

I think the only public English translation of it is the Pali text society edition. The sutta you linked is AN 5.11 not AN 5.110, unfortunately. You could ask User:Peter jackson for more about this. He has the PTS translation I believe, and I think he knows Pali anyway, so he could look at the Pali source too, which is online. Mitsube (talk) 08:12, 25 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your reply. I also noticed that the text is labeled "011" instead of "110" but wasn't sure if I was just missing something else. I suppose I should email to let them know their link is incorrect. Thanks for the pointers on where to look. Paxfeline (talk) 09:21, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

Fallacious justification for claim of non-determinism[edit]

In the section on "Karmic action & karmic results vs. general causes and general results", we find the following text: "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)"

This reasoning is fallacious. If a given type of event can be brought about by multiple types of causes, it doesn't either: A) Imply that causation by a given type of cause (here, karma) is non-deterministic (i.e. that that type of cause "could have" failed to bring about that effect in any given case), or B) That there is not deterministic causation by the whole list of possible types of causes.

There seems to be a misunderstanding here whereby "the doctrine of karma is deterministic" is confused with "the doctrine of karma holds that karma is the only type of cause." I'm not expert enough to correct this confidently, but I would be pleased if someone who was took care of this. Human fella (talk) 07:56, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Well, let's first define determinism. American Heritage Dictionary has the following: "n. The philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs." The Online Etymology Dictionary has "in theology (lack of free will); in general sense of 'doctrine that everything happens by a necessary causation.'" Maybe the sentence in question should read, "The theory of karma is not comprehensively deterministic"? Sylvain1972 (talk) 14:13, 2 April 2010 (UTC)
Hm. Not sure I see how that helps. The point is that the text in question implicitly presents itself ("karma is not deterministic... because..." etc.) as offering some point against the view that the karma doctrine is deterministic (the definitions you present seem perfectly workable), but in fact it does no such thing. Asserting that there are other types of causes fails altogether to bear on the question of whether the actions of karma are deterministic, or indeed whether the world view that it forms a part of is deterministic. Imagine if I were to say "The doctrine of people falling off a cliff because they slip on a banana peel is not deterministic, because people are caused to fall off of cliffs by events other than slipping on banana peels." You can see that this makes no sense, because the existence of other causes of falls off of cliffs bears neither on the question of whether banana-peel induced cliff falls are deterministic (ie brought about inevitably by antecedent events), nor on whether falls off of cliffs in general are deterministic (in that same sense). Human fella (talk) 13:44, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, it seems to me that what the article is trying to say is that there seems to be a sense that in theories of determinism, particularly theological determinism, everything is said to happen by a necessary causation and furthermore the agent of necessary causation is ultimately singular--an omnipotent deity. In which case, a model whereby causation can be attributed to multiple factors cannot be properly called determinism.Sylvain1972 (talk) 18:14, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

9/1 edits[edit]

I reverted these because reliably sourced sections were deleted and too many tags were added to what are clearly reliable sources. You may not agree with David Loy (and I myself don't), but he is an academic who is published widely and his opinions are valid in the section.Sylvain1972 (talk) 14:48, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Most of my edits were valid, and you should not have mass reverted all of them, just because you disagreed with some of them. If you disagreed with something, you should say why, and discuss it here or re-add that part, not blanket remove everything. I've undone your removal of my edits, and we can discuss each of them here. I'll momentarily discuss each of them. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 14:57, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

A few notes on my edits:

  • Tagged sources -- You said "many tags were added to what are clearly reliable sources". No, they were not. Academic publishers and scholarly journals were not tagged. These are "clearly reliable sources". Things like "kalachakranet"[3] were tagged. Could you explain to me how this is a "clearly reliable source" under WP:RS? In general, we should use scholarly sources, per WP:RS, since this topic is widely covered enough in the scholarly literature, that we don't need to resort to less scholarly sources.-- Jrtayloriv (talk) 15:04, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Loy -- I did not say that Loy's views were removed because they are not valid. I said that they were given undue weight. See WP:UNDUE. His views on Karma do not warrant 3 or more paragraphs. After hundreds of years of Buddhist studies, why do David Loy's views warrant such enormous weight? (Especially when there are plenty of higher-quality scholarly sources on the subject)
This not even close to an undue weight problem. We're talking about three short paragraphs in a relatively small section of a long article. In this particular section ("Modern interpretations and controversies") most of the hundreds of years of Buddhist studies are not relevant--they were already given a thorough airing in the balance of the article. Aside from his academic credentials, Loy is widely published and read by the general Buddhist audience and is one of the most most prominent voices on the subject.Sylvain1972 (talk) 19:03, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Anyhow, I don't know if there is anything else you disagreed with, but that's because you didn't say what you disagreed with and why. If you have any other problems, please let me know, and we'll discuss them. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 15:04, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

My concern is that if you can't recognize Lamotte's translation of the Karmasiddhiprakarana as a reliable source, then you don't have sufficient familiarity with the field to be weighing in on what is and isn't a reliable source. You are tagging Numen, which is easily verifiable as a leading academic journal by anyone remotely familiar with Buddhist Studies, as not being a reliable source? Seriously? And to add an RS tag to a book by a tenured professor of Buddhist studies and published by a leading Buddhist publisher? That's just ridiculous. The RS tag isn't something to be added indiscriminately to articles when you have zero familiarity with what is and isn't a reliable source on the topic in question and can barely be bothered to find out.Sylvain1972 (talk) 18:33, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Shoot for FA?[edit]

This article is amazingly thorough. Perhaps we should aim to get some recognition for this. Credit goes mostly to Sylvain! Mitsube (talk) 05:06, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

I think that the sections on East Asian and vajrayana needs substantial improvement before it could deserve any recognition. but some parts are definately good. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Guttormng (talkcontribs) 15:39, 25 March 2011 (UTC)

Thanissaro Bhikkhu quote[edit]

The article, directly under the Mahayana heading, contains this quote without any context:

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, a Theravādin monk, speculates that the development of the karma doctrine in the direction of determinism necessitated the development of the Mahāyāna concepts of Buddha-nature and savior Buddhas (see Pure land):

[I]n later centuries, when the principle of freedom was

forgotten ... Past bad kamma was seen as so totally deterministic that there seemed no way around it unless you assumed either an innate Buddha in the mind that

could overpower it, or an external Buddha who would save you from it.[1]

Now, I do not know exactly why Thanissaro Bhikkhu is being used as an expert on Mahayana, because he is certainly not a specialist in this area. He is widely respected in Theravada Buddhism, but there should be no illusions that he is NPOV regarding Mahayana. His writings often contain tinges of spite and derision regarding Mahayana or bodhisattvas, or subtle attempts to write them off as being spurious inventions. In this case, Mahayana belongs to the dark "later days" of Indian Buddhism when "freedom" had been forgotten, and all the ignorant Buddhists could do was cling to nonsensical whims about savior buddhas. Frankly, this sort of quote isn't even on the NPOV radar, so I have removed it from the article. Tengu800 (talk) 00:52, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

AN 5.292[edit]

I can´t find this sutta online. Can you please offer a link or cite the original (English) quotation? Actually I am not sure if it is a good thing to cite this specific sutta at all. I think it is too fatalistic for an introductory text to karma without further explanation. Pilgrim72 (talk) 12:13, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

It is cited in a secondary source - I've now provided the citation. Whether or not it would be perceived as "too fatalistic" by some readers, besides being entirely subjective, is not something that is a legitimate consideration in editing wikipedia articles. They are intended to be accurate and NPOV as possible, not edited to make their subject maximally appealing to the imagined sensibilities of the readership.Sylvain1972 (talk) 16:57, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

DN 3.217[edit]

This does not seem to be a correct reference to sutta 3 in the Digha Nikaya (DN). In a commonly used English translation (Maurice Walshe) there is no subsection 217 to DN 3. Konetidy (talk) 17:36, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Unfortunately, there is more than one convention used in citing Pali scriptures. I'll dig up the secondary source where this reference was given. But from what I can tell from the Walshe this occurs on pg 484.Sylvain1972 (talk) 16:58, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

'blaming the victim'[edit]

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."[125]

I don't dispute the source of the above, but OTOH it doesn't suggest that there was any opportunity for a rejoinder either. I have no published source, but oral explanations from teachers of the same lineages as Geshe Sonam Rinchen have repeatedly clarified this issue as follows:

  • All beings have been generating karma endlessly.
  • Until we are very accomplished on the path or if we have purified or previously ripened it, the vast proportion of our negative karma is unripened, waiting for the circumstances under which it may ripen.
  • This implies that anyone (not just jews or any other group) in the same circumstances would have undergone the same fate.
  • The remarkable thing is regarding those for whom the karma wasn't present (and therefore didn't ripen)
  • It gives us an idea of how many people in the world would survive a global disaster of similar proportions - about 9%.
  • So, for any given circumstances (such as the holocaust) there is a 9/10 chance that you have the karma for that to ripen in you.

There are also all sorts of other problems about using terms like 'victim blame' - the notion of blame is not present in Buddhism, in that the agent of one's actions is not the person, but the intentions arising in a mental continuum. Instead we are, as Dennett (1992) puts it, “centers 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.

Moreover, and this is probably the most central issue in terms of the purpose of Karma in Buddhism, is that it is used as a didactic methodology for establishing a strong grounding in responsibility for one's actions, and it most emphatically is not used for explaining historic events. The entire emphasis of Karma within Buddhism is the inevitability of consequences to one's actions. (20040302 (talk) 11:36, 26 September 2013 (UTC))

Main Karma article needs attention[edit]

Perhaps some of the experts who wrote this article might like to look over the main Karma article? I've tagged it as "needs attention of expert" because it says many things that are not in accord with Buddhist ideas of karma.

First, a minor point, the Karma#Buddhism section says "Most types of karmas, with good or bad results, will keep one within the wheel of saṃsāra, while others will liberate one to nirvāna" - do any Buddhists say this? I thought that nirvana was liberation from cycles of karma - how can karma liberate you from karma?

Then the Karma#Corollaries_and_controversies section attributes difficulties to Buddhist ideas of karma making many false assumptions about what those ideas are.

I don't feel able to correct the article myself. Thanks! Robert Walker (talk) 17:11, 9 September 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for the comments. I will review the article. It may take a little while to get to. Cheers, Dorje108 (talk) 00:13, 11 September 2014 (UTC)
Okay great! No hurry, it's probably been like that for a fair while :)
I've found out a bit more since then, the issues in the section Karma#Corollaries_and_controversies mainly occur because it is incorrectly positioned and labelled - the source material is a series of articles about an attempt to apply Buddhist and Hindu ideas of Karma to construct a Theodicy (attempt to explain how a just God permits suffering) in theistic religions. Which explains a lot so I've suggested that it should be moved to the Western section and appropriately labelled.
However the short section on Karma#Buddhism I think also needs attention - I suggested adding the four characteristics of Karma from this article as bullet points, to permit easy comparison with the other ideas of karma on that page - just a suggestion - additionally though I think the paras already there need a review and rewrite. See Talk:Karma#Needs_attention_of_expert_in_Buddhist_teachings Robert Walker (talk) 10:33, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

Storing text from the "Buddhism" section in article "Karma"[edit]

This presentation of karma looks accurate, but I have not yet found any sources that present karma in the same manner, using similar language. So I am storing this text here so that we can research and determine the source for this presentation--specifically the presentation of karma as "within the group or groups of cause in the chain of cause and effect". I think this explanation is explaining karma with the context of the twelve links, which is important to note, but it is a somewhat advanced explanation, and not how karma is typically presented to beginners.

In Buddhism, karma (Pāli kamma) is strictly distinguished from vipāka, meaning "fruit" or "result". Karma is categorized within the group or groups of cause (Pāli hetu) in the chain of cause and effect, where it comprises the elements of "volitional activities" (Pali sankhara) and "action" (Pali bhava). Any action is understood as creating "seeds" in the mind that will sprout into the appropriate result (Pāli vipaka) when met with the right conditions.
Karma is one of five categories of causation, known collectively as niyama dhammas, the first being kamma, and the other four being utu (seasons and weather), bīja (heredity, lit. "seed"), chitta (mind) and dhamma (law, in the sense of nature's tendency to perfect). - Dorje108 (talk) 16:00, 13 September 2014 (UTC)

Omniscience article[edit]

First, thanks so much, Dorje108, for fixing the Karma article.

Just to say - this isn't directly to do with this article like the Karma article, just a mention in the intro. Also, like karma, it is a word that's easily misunderstood by Westerners, and has different shades of interpretation in Buddhism.

So anyway - just drawing attention in case anyone wants to take a look at it. The Omniscience#Omniscience_in_Buddhist_India section is highly technical (I haven't much idea what it is about myself). And I think there are useful things that could be said there to introduce the Buddhist idea of omniscience and especially its special characteristics compared with Western ideas.

See Talk:Omniscience#Omniscience_in_Buddhism_-_needs_more_work. Though once again I don't feel at all qualified to do that myself.

So - I just wondered if you Dorje108 or anyone else would like to have a look at it also.

Thanks! Robert Walker (talk) 15:11, 15 September 2014 (UTC)

Hi, Robert. I agree the Omniscience section could use work, preferable a separate article for "Omniscience (Buddhism)". I hope to get to this, but again it may really take a while for me to get to it. I also plan to make further changes to the article on Karma. Best regards, Dorje108 (talk) 00:54, 17 September 2014 (UTC)


  1. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "Freedom from Buddha-nature", page 4. Available online: [1].