Okay, “Enlightenment or bust” might be a bit dramatic, but…

"Dang Zang" is an empty name. The blog has to do with the dharma; material related to Buddhist teachings (Tibetan style in particular, Kagyu in even more particular), meditation, gurus and lamas be they genuine or flaky, books and events. I do have a more personal blog, Pica Pica, and a site for my work.

Oh yes, it's by Alex Wilding

Archive

  • A Brexit puzzle 03/07/2017
    No, not the one about “why did we ever…?” This: Let’s think of an election, perhaps a general election. A vital part of our democratic process, of course. Usually it’s a two-horse race with a few also-rans, so let’s just concentrate on the two main parties, and call them left and right. One side wins, […]
  • Kathmandu trip 30/06/2017
    For the last few weeks I’ve been writing up “what I did on my holidays” in Kathmandu this April. It’s on this site, but not on this blog. You’ll find it at http://alex-wilding.com/the-kathmandu-report/  
  • Untitled 27/02/2017
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/grandmother-deported-from-uk-… How is this fair? How is this not vindictive? How is this not a failure to use discretion? How is this not a failure of compassion? How is this not a failure of common sense? How is this not narrow-minded? How is this not mean-spirited? How is this not pig-headed? Sorry, pigs, it’s just […]
  • Donny, Theresa and the Brexit effect 29/01/2017
    In her attempt to pretend that there is enough other “free trade” out there in the world to compensate for the financial hit to the UK (lower wages and higher prices, to you and me) that Wrexit will cause, we have seen Theresa May cosying up to a variety of questionable characters, most notably the […]
Sunday February 8th, 2009. Posted by Alex:

Barmy Karma

On a list I read (the kagyu group at yahoo – in fact I’m the “owner” which means that, technically, I’m the big cheese there, for which reason I make a deliberate effort not to dominate the conversations) somebody recently made a passing remark that reminded me of some of the stupid ways the “karma” doctrine is sometimes misrepresented.

It’s well known that Buddhism puts a lot of store by karma, in the sense that whenever we act (“karma” literally just means “action”) we create consequences; these consequences will rebound sooner or later. The idea is that actions leave traces in the “substratum of our being” (so to speak), and that these traces eventually, when conditions permit, draw us back to circumstances that correspond to the original action.

Well you may or may not feel that what I’ve just said makes sense. But what am I complaining about? Most of all I’m complaining about the suggestion – and you do hear this suggestion – that literally everything that happens to us is a result of our past karma. This is such a disastrous idea that even if it could be true (which it can’t) one would wish for people not to believe it. Consider this:

I smash you in the face! Don’t blame me! It’s your karma. You are the one to blame. Hey, really I’m the victim here, as your karma made me do something bad! Oh and while we are about it, it’s your karma, and therefore your fault, that you are poor, ugly, stupid, deformed, sick, uneducated, born in a family and social class that gives you no options. What bad thing did you do in the past? Obviously only the rich, beautiful and powerful have good karma, so they deserve to be rich and powerful. The poor, the starving, slaves and everyone else has clearly earnt a hard life. Ha ha! I larf, and I larf and larf out loud at your misfortune!!!

So it’s an objectionable idea. It also makes no sense. The very idea of karma is that we can act, and our acts have consequences. What happens next therefore *has* to be open ended – conditioned in part by karma, perhaps, but not determined by it to the last detail. I may act in an unexpected way – so may you.

The possibilities of what the future might become therefore shift, within the constraints of karma and karmic “seeds” which might germinate or might lie dormant. It is like being in a river with a very powerful current – karma.You can’t avoid being swept along by it, but you can still swim, and this can affect whether you are smashed against the next rocks or manage to find your way to the bank.

So the idea is nonsense because, if every detail of what happens is a result of past karma, we are not free to act, therefore we cannot be responsible for our actions, and the whole silly doctrine disappears up its own backside.

For Buddhists it should also be significant that

  • according to “scripture”, events – death, for instance – can have several causes, of which karma is only one. Malice, environmental factors, and sheer bad luck are also possible causes, and
  • all the Buddhist practices intended to “purify past karma” make no sense if karma has already fixed everything that is happening and is going to happen.

End of rant, and not even a picture!

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