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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
42 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 3 discursiveness itself be considered an example of how karma arises again and again? RITA GROSS: It could, although I don’t think the question we should concern ourselves with is whether we’ve totally uprooted karma but rather whether can we see that negative habitual patterns are not as strong as they used to be and that positive patterns are growing. Anyone who has practiced seri- ously for some time has had the experience of habit energy not being as thick and strong as it once was. Otherwise, we wouldn’t keep practicing. Of course, the point in the long run is not just building up a lot of positive habits; positive karma still leads to rebirth. BUDDHADHARMA: Yes, that is actually where I was going to take us next in this discussion, because we have discussed karma primarily in the context of being positive and negative, but at the same time there is another, deeper level of karma—you could say the karma of fundamental ignorance, which causes us to posit dualistic existence altogether. And in that context, the issue is not so much whether we create more positive than negative karma but whether we can get to the point where we’re not creating karma at all. What about that more basic karma of ignorance, which causes us to perceive reality as we do? LARRY WARD: I think all practitioners have experienced moments where we were in a state of neither negative nor positive karma, but rather in a state of suchness (to use the Yogacara term) of direct experience of what is present. The hope for the arhat is that out of this awakened space within comes compassionate and wise action, which is a quality of wisdom and action that transcends the positive and negative dualisms of the relative world. ANDREW OLENDZKI: It’s addressing a very subtle transformation of mind. The end of karma altogether really only happens to an awakened person. There’s some way in which we’re always grasping after something with our mind, even if it’s grasping after something healthy when we’re already healthy. Then there’s a fundamental nongrasping, when the mind is no longer seizing on anything, not imputing causes and effects and setting those into motion. The idea that the Buddha pro- duced no karma upon his awakening has always struck me as paradoxical, because there’s probably no single person in PLANTING KARMIC SEEDS Thich Nhat Hanh explains how our actions, experiences, and perceptions become stored as karmic seeds in the alaya consciousness. According to the teachings of Manifestation Only (Vijnaptimatra) Buddhism, our mind has eight aspects, or, we can say, eight “consciousnesses.” The first five are based in the physical senses. The sixth, mind consciousness (manovijnana), arises when our mind contacts an object of perception. The seventh, manas, is the part of consciousness that gives rise to and is the support of mind consciousness. The eighth, store consciousness (alayavijnana), is the ground, or base, of the other seven consciousnesses. The primary function of store consciousness is to store and pre- serve the “seeds” (bijas) of our experiences. The seeds buried in our store consciousness represent everything we have ever done, experienced, or perceived. The seeds planted by these actions, experiences, and perceptions are the “subject” of conscious- ness. Maintaining all the seeds—keeping them alive so that they are available to manifest—is the most basic function of store consciousness. Seeds give phenomena the ability to perpetuate themselves. If you plant a seed in springtime, by autumn a plant will mature and bear flowers. From those flowers, new seeds will fall to the earth, where they will be stored until they sprout and produce new flowers. Our mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown—seeds of compassion, joy, and hope, seeds of sorrow, fear, and difficulties. Every day our thoughts, words, and deeds plant new seeds in the field of our consciousness, and what these seeds generate becomes the substance of our life. There are both wholesome and unwholesome seeds in our mind-field, sown by ourselves and our parents, schooling, ances- tors, and society. If you plant wheat, wheat will grow. If you act in a wholesome way, you will be happy. If you act in an unwhole- some way, you will water seeds of craving, anger, and violence in yourself and in others. The practice of mindfulness helps us identify all the seeds in our consciousness and with that knowledge we can choose to water only the ones that are the most beneficial. As we cultivate the seeds of joy and transform seeds of suffering in ourselves, understanding, love, and compassion will flower. Adapted from Transformation at the Base, published by Parallax Press The end of karma altogether really only happens to an awakened person. — Andrew Olendzki ©iSTOCKPHOTO.COM/BO1982