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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
spring 2007| 64 |buddhadharma creating a religion and manipulating the world, but from the inside there’s no personal mission. Nobody is doing anything. buddhadharma: It seems easy for people to accept karma and vipaka on a small scale. I get angry, it colors my mind, and its effects come back to slap me in the face. It is much harder for people to accept the notion of karma working over lifetimes. What is the mechanism through which this happens? In a theistic religion, you have a godhead who has some kind of a ledger of justice that stores such information, but how do you talk about those things in nontheistic terms? It definitely befuddles people. robiN korNmaN: In the Mahayana, we talk about the alaya, the storehouse of consciousness, which stores the seeds of our actions that will bear fruit later on. buddhadharma: But that simply posits a place, as it were, where seeds are stored. It still begs the question, how does the actual mechanism of karma work? Of course there are sophisticated teachings in the Pali canon that make it clear that karma doesn’t travel from one consciousness to a new consciousness. It’s just a matter of one moment impinging on another, like dominos, but these teachings are all couched in similes or imagined con- ditions, such as the “relinking consciousness” that arises in the unborn child. It gives people something to visualize but does not present a convincing argument. ajahN amaro: Buddhadharma exists in the West within a very skeptical materialist society. In fact, people are often drawn to Buddhism because they have difficulty getting their minds around the metaphysical teachings in Christianity or Judaism. It seems important to me, then, to be faithful to the simple teachings. For example, the definition of mundane right view is recognizing the workings of karma – that there are past lives, there are future lives, and that they are the results of good and bad actions. Even though many of the canonical teachings and classi- cal commentaries stress seeing the rebirth process stretching over lifetimes, more often than not the Buddha talks about the rebirth process in moment-to-moment terms. Acting on an angry impulse, one is reborn into regret and so forth. And of course, the whole process cascades. Its workings are responsible for the day-to-day conditioning of human beings, for how soci- ety works, and how the whole world is structured. robiN korNmaN: Yes, in that sense, we can speak of societal and national karma. ajahN amaro: Yes, and on a very deep level, the tendencies of dif- ferent species, and the very fact of being born as a human being in a particular time and place, arise from certain causes and carry their own constellation of effects and imprints of memory. NormaN fisher: In trying to understand karma in a very deep way, I find the need to go beyond the doctrinal or philosophical. The understanding has to come from the deep experience of ongoing meditation practice. The short-range karma can become very clear, but long experience on the meditation cushion can allow you to realize that this moment contains dimensions that you will never be able to entirely grasp with your five skandhas and six consciousnesses. robiN korNmaN: Although you might be able to grasp it in other ➤ continued from page 57 To order, contact: Clear Light Publishing 888-253-2747 www.clearlightbooks.com ISBN 1-57416-088-5 To contact the author: www.JaneBay.com LOVE & LOSS A Story About Life, Death, and Rebirth A Memoir by Jane Bay “The essential question of spiritual life could be expressed as ‘How is it that some people emerge from suffering with great faith and compassion, while others remain feeling broken and alone?’ LOVE & LOSS is a beautiful exploration of that question, and a healing testament to the power of undying love.” -- Sharon Salzberg author, Faith “Jane Bay’s book will be a balm for anyone whose heart still aches from a profound loss.” -- Daniel Goleman – author, Social Intelligence