Brief introduction for Beginners
Extracts from the internet and books. (May blessings and appreciation go to the authors of these articles).
What is Karma ? 什么是因果报应
Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning actions – all good and bad actions. It covers all kinds of intentional actions whether mental, verbal or physical thoughts, words and deeds. In its ultimate sense Karma means all moral and immoral volition.
Every action produces an effect and it is the “cause” first, then the “effect” afterwards. Therefore, we speak of “karma” as the law of cause and effect. For example, throwing a stone at a window is a “cause” and the broken window is the “effect”. The ‘effect” of this broken window can further create another “cause” of getting money to replace which can be used for many other purposes. The domino effect upon one is a feeling of disappointment and may make one irritable and if one is not careful, this irritability can become the “cause” of doing something else, thus, no end to the cycle of cause and effect. Therefore, it is necessary for us to do a good, helpful action which will return to us in good “Karma” and make us strong enough to start a better Karma.
The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not accumulate fresh Karma as they have destroyed all their passions and desires.
In other words, Karma is the law of moral causation. It is action and reaction in the ethical realm. It is natural law that every action produces a certain effect. So if one performs wholesome actions such as donating money to charitable organisations, one will experience happiness. On the other hand, if one performs unwholesome actions, such as killing a living being, one will experience suffering. This is the law of cause and effect at work. In this way, the effects of one’s past karma determine the nature of one’s present situation in life.
The Buddha said, "According to the seed that is sown,
So is the fruit you reap
The door of good will gather good result
The door of evil reaps evil result.
If you plant a good seed well,
Then you will enjoyed the good fruits."
Karma is like a law itself. The law of Karma has no law giver. It operates in its own field without the intervention of an external independent agency.
Principles of Cause and Effect
As one sows, so shall one reap. Every effect arises from a cause. Under certain conditions, a cause will come to an effect. This is a universal principle, on which Buddhist morality is based.
If you want to know the causes in your past life,
The way you live at present is the effect of your past life.
If you want to know what your future life will be,
What you do at present is the cause of your future life.
In the world, some beings are fortunate while others are less fortunate. Some are happy while others are less happy. Why?
The Buddha has specifically stated that Karma explains the differences between living beings. It is also Karma that explains the circumstances that living beings find themselves in.
When people are happy and contented, they tend to take life for granted. It is when they suffer, when they find life difficult, then they begin to search for a reason and a way out of their difficulty. They may ask why some are born in poverty and suffering, while others are born in fortunate circumstances. Some people believe that it is due to fate, chance, or an invisible power beyond their control. They feel that they are unable to live the life they desire so as to experience happiness always. Consequently, they become confused and desperate. However, the Buddha was able to explain why people differ in their circumstances and why some are more fortunate in life than others.
The Buddha taught that one’s present condition, whether of happiness or suffering, is the result of the accumulated force of all our past actions or karma..
Law of Karma
Karma is neither fate nor predestination.
Literally, Karma means "action", "to do".
Action itself is considered neither good nor bad, but only the intention and thought make it so. Thus, Karma is an intentional, conscious, deliberate and wilful action. Karma is volition.
Every action must have a reaction, i.e. an effect. The truth applies both to physical world (expressed by the great physicist Newton) and to the moral world.
Law of Karma is an important application of the Principle of Cause and Effect in morality.
The denial of the Law will destroy all moral responsibility.
There are two kinds of Karma:
- Good Karma (Kushala) 慈善业
This is the effect caused by benevolent and wholesome actions. Those intentional actions, , out from kindness, compassion, renunciation and wisdom, which are beneficial to ourselves and to others
- Bad Karma (Akushala) 恶业
This is the effect caused by unwholesome actions. It refers to those intentional actions springing out from greed, hatred and illusion which cause pain and sufferings to oneself and to others.
For unintentional actions, such as walking, sleeping, breathing, they have no moral consequences, thus constitute neutral Karma or ineffective Karma.
The effect of Karma may be evident either in short term or in the long term. Karma can either manifest its effects in this very life or in the next life or only after several lives.
Causes and Condition
Every cause has its effect. However, there must be auxiliary conditions that are ripe for the effect to happen. Karma, be it good or bad, can be affected by the conditions under which the actions are performed.
The conditions that determine the strength or weight of Karma apply to the subject and object of the particular action. Moreover, there are five conditions that modify the strength of Karma:
1. persistent, and repeated action
2. action done with great intention and determination
3. action done without regret
4. action done towards those who possess extraordinary qualities
5. action done towards those who have benefited one in the past.
Though Buddhism stresses on Karma, it rejects fate. One should take good actions all the time, and let all good conditions arise so that:
1. evil retribution has little chance to become effective
2. good retribution becomes more and more significant in enhancing our lives in happiness and wellness.
Conditions in Moral and Immoral actions and their effects:
There are 10 immoral actions (Karma).
- Killing: means the destruction of any living being including animals of all kinds. Five conditions are necessary, viz, a being, consciousness, intention to kill, effort and consequent death.
- The evil effects of killing are: Short life, full of diseases or sickness, constant grief caused by the separation from the loved ones and constant fear.
- Stealing: to complete the offence of stealing, five conditions are necessary, viz, property of other people, consciousness, intention of stealing, effort and consequent removal.
- The evil effects are poverty, wretchedness, unfulfilled desires and dependent livelihood
- The evil effects of sexual misconduct are: having many enemies, getting undesirable wives, birth as a woman or as an eunuch.
- The evil effects of lying are: being tormented by abusive speech, being subject to vilification, increditability and stinking mouth.
- The effect of slandering is the dissolution of friendship without any sufficient cause.
- The effects of harsh language are: being detested by others, although blameless and harsh voice.
- The effects are: disorderliness of the bodily organs and unacceptable speech.
- The effect of covetousness is fulfilment of one’s wishes.
- The effects of ill will actions are ugliness, various disease and detestable nature.
- The effects are: base attachment, lack of wisdom, dull wit, chronic diseases and blameworthy ideas.
- Chastity (sexual misconduct): Three conditions are necessary viz: intention to enjoy the forbidden object, effort and possession of the object.
- Lying: Four conditions are necessary, viz: untruth, intention to deceive, effort, and communication of the matter to others.
- Slandering: Four conditions are necessary, viz; division of persons, intention to separate them effort and communication.
- Harsh language: Three conditions are necessary, viz: someone to be abused, angry thought and using abusive language.
- Frivolous talk (Light heartedness or Playful talks) : Two conditions are necessary, viz: the inclination towards frivolous talks and its narration.
- Covetousness (Greed/envy): two conditions are necessary, viz: another’s property and strong desire for it.
- Ill will actions: two conditions are necessary, viz: another being and the intention of doing harm.
- False views: seeing things wrongly without understanding what they truly are: Two conditions are necessary, viz: perverted manner in which an object is viewed and the misunderstanding of it according to that view.
There are 10 moral actions:
- Generosity (Dana). The effect = yields wealth
- Morality (sila). The effect = causes one to be born in noble families in states of happiness
- Meditation (Bhaivana). The effect = helps to gain Higher Knowledge and Emancipation.
- Reverence (Apacayana) is the cause of noble parentage
- Service (Veyyavaccal) is the cause of large retinue (followers).
- Transference of merits (Pattidana) causes one to be able to give in abundance in future birth.
- Rejoicing in other’s merit (Pattanumodana) is productive of joy wherever one is born.
- Hearing the doctrine (Dhammasavana) is conducive to wisdom
- Expounding the doctrine (Dhammadessana) is conducive to wisdom.
- Forming correct views (Ditthijukamma), is conducive to wisdom.
Lessons taught By Karma. The more we understand the law of Karma the more we see how careful we must be in our actions, words and thoughts and how responsible we are to our fellow beings.