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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
FALL 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 41 LARRY WARD: The only thing I’m really clear about (kind of) is this lifetime. But in terms of the habit energies, one way to describe them is as the momentum of our conscious and unconscious tendencies, be they wholesome or unwholesome. This momentum may continue into our next life and into future lives. Whatever form or fashion they may take, these tendencies—that momentum toward behavior, character, memory, and perception—continue. RITA GROSS: I would also say the fundamental phrase for me is “I don’t know.” But I do think it’s important to separate karma from rebirth to a certain extent. The deeds that I do in this life will not die with me or my body. They will con- tinue into the future, whether or not there is personal rebirth. Someone will reap the effects of the things I’ve done or haven’t done in this life, and that to me is motivation enough to do the best I can with the situation I have right now. LARRY WARD: My approach to the rebirth question is to come back to the present, to the states and traits that Andy pre- sented earlier. The question for me, from a meditative practice point of view, is if a state of hatred or irritation or anger comes up, is that state going to be reborn—not next year, but in the There are many ways to understand the meaning of karma from different points of view within Buddhism. To synthesize some of these in a simple way, according to the point of view of the vehicle of cause, karma is the activity of cause and result. Within this vehicle, there are various explanations for the basis of karma. The Vaisesika point of view teaches that karma originates in subjective conscious- ness; the Sutranta point of view teaches that karma originates in ordinary continuous mind; the Yogacara point of view teaches that karma originates in the basis of all phenomena; and the Madhy- amika point of view teaches that karma originates in interdependent circumstances. In the context of practice, all points of view within the vehicle of cause teach that there is a basis for enlightenment, a path that leads to enlightenment, and a result of enlightenment. According to the Vajrayana point of view of the vehicle of result, it is unnecessary to divide cause from result or to consider that any activity follows from or leads to another activity. From the beginning- less beginning, there is only the divisionless, pure nature of the man- dala of stainless buddhas, and there are not even the names of cause and result. By recognizing this, all activity becomes the spontaneous display of dharmakaya. With that point of view, we must abide in this recognition always, without the influence of the habit of ordinary mind’s delusion, until we have complete confidence. But as long as we have dualistic mind, we divide cause from result and root circum- stances from contributing circumstances. Through constantly making these divisions, we do not release samsara’s divided phenomena into nondualistic wisdom appearance. Instead, by grasping at appear- ances, we create duality, conceptions, passions, habits, and karma. Only buddhas do not have karma. All beings with dualistic mind are continually creating karma. There are many different methods according to different beings’ capacities for purifying the karma of dualistic mind. Hinayana practitioners, through aversion to the suf- fering of samara, try to abandon the causes of karma, which are ego and the passions that arise from ego, in order to attain the enlighten- ment of self-peace. Mahayana practitioners try to realize that there is no possessor of a self and no possessor of phenomena, so there- fore all phenomena become illusory with the freedom of nonattach- ment, which automatically opens immeasurable compassion towards beings who do not recognize this, in order to attain enlightenment for the benefit of countless beings. Vajrayana practitioners, through the pure perception of deity appearance, try to transform all karmic phenomena through nondualistic wisdom mind in order to attain enlightenment in the immeasurable, pure mandala of all buddhas. APPROACHES TO KARMA Thinley Norbu Rinpoche explains the Vajrayana view of karma and how it differs from other Buddhist schools. From White Sail by Thinley Norbu, published by Shambhala Publications next moment? One way to understand rebirth is as an exis- tential present moment, in terms of the continuation of whole- some momentum or unwholesome momentum. So rebirth can be understood in the present tense as well as in the long term. ANDREW OLENDZKI: Well said, Larry. I think these days a lot of us are rethinking this very question, given the challenges of explaining rebirth in a literal sense. Many of us are thinking of it more moment to moment—every single mind-moment is a rebirth, a new beginning, and the question that comes up in the literature is, are you the same person now that you were ten years ago? Or ten minutes ago? And how is who you are now going to affect who you are going to become ten minutes or ten years from now? That’s very valuable to think about, and it’s very helpful to practice with so that you bring the best possible quality of mind to every moment. In this way you do your best to work with whatever you’ve inherited from the past and also maximize your benefit to the future. BUDDHADHARMA: If we were to have what in the Vajrayana tra- dition we would call a moment of ordinary nonconceptual mind—a gap, as it were—could that simple transition from a sense of a pure openness to a reappearance of our normal