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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
FALL 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 43 global history who’s had more of an effect on everything else that came after. So we’re obviously talking about this in a way that we’re not familiar with; it’s very subtle. BUDDHADHARMA: Can it be said that, according to Buddhism, enlightenment is the state of producing no karma? RITA GROSS: That’s one classic definition of it. BUDDHADHARMA: So I suppose the other question, which we’ve hinted at, is why is it that not producing any karma is the greatest positive karma of all, from a relative point of view? RITA GROSS: In the most simple classical terms, it’s because karma is what fuels the rebirth process, and you want to halt samsaric rebirth. Positive karma only produces a better sam- saric rebirth, and we want to halt altogether whatever state perpetuates samsara. LARRY WARD: One way of describing enlightenment—meaning no karma—is as a particular presence of body-mind that is not perpetuating the samsaric experience. To encounter that mind, in oneself or in someone else, or even through the stream of history, is potentially transformational. I like to say enlight- enment leaves nothing in its wake, in the sense of positive or negative karma; it’s deeper than that. Here we’re getting into the difference between ultimate and relative truths. ANDREW OLENDZKI: Yes. Remember that samsara means “flow- ing on.” It comes from the root meaning “to flow like a river,” whether you’re flowing on from one lifetime to another or flowing on from one mind-moment to another. The awakened mind of the Buddha just stops flowing; it’s put to rest and becomes at peace. BUDDHADHARMA: What about the relationship between karma and shunyata, or emptiness? In the lingo of Beat Zen, what does karma matter if it’s all empty? What is the view of karma in the context of emptiness, and how do we look at it and give it weight—or not? LARRY WARD: First of all, it depends on how one defines empti- ness. Emptiness has been defined by some as purity of mind, meaning the mind is empty of defilements. Others have talked about emptiness as the realization of no self, or not self. The definition that’s most intriguing to me in this context, from the Avatamsaka Sutra, has to do with the interpenetration of all reality. If emptiness is one way of describing how reality ©iSTOCKPHOTO.COM/BO1982