Monday, October 31, 2011

Reincarnation/Transmigration

"Reincarnation" normally is understood to be the transmigration of a soul to another body after death. There is no such teaching in Buddhism. One of the most fundamental doctrines of Buddhism is anatta, or anatman -- no soul or no self. There is no permanent essence of an individual self that survives death.

However, Buddhists often speak of "rebirth." If there is no soul or permanent self, what is it that is "reborn"?

What Is the Self?

The Buddha taught that what we think of as our "self" -- our ego, self-consciousness and personality -- is a creation of the skandhas. Very simply, our bodies, physical and emotional sensations, conceptualizations, ideas and beliefs, and consciousness work together to create the illusion of a permanent, distinctive "me."

The Buddha said, “Oh, Bhikshu, every moment you are born, decay, and die.” He meant that, every moment, the illusion of "me" renews itself. Not only is nothing carried over from one life to the next; nothing is carried over from one moment to the next.


This takes us to the Three Marks of Existence, in particular anicca, "impermanence." The Buddha taught that all phenomena, including beings, are in a constant state of flux -- always changing, always becoming, always dying.

What Is Reborn?

In his book What the Buddha Taught (1959), Theravada scholar Walpola Rahula asked,

"If we can understand that in this life we can continue without a permanent, unchanging substance like Self or Soul, why can't we understand that those forces themselves can continue without a Self or Soul behind them after the non-functioning of the body?

"When this physical body is no more capable of functioning, energies do not die with it, but continue to take some other shape or form, which we call another life. ... Physical and mental energies which constitute the so-called being have within themselves the power to take a new form, and grow gradually and gather force to the full."

Zen teacher John Daido Loori said,

"... the Buddha’s experience was that when you go beyond the skandhas, beyond the aggregates, what remains is nothing. The self is an idea, a mental construct. That is not only the Buddha’s experience, but the experience of each realized Buddhist man and woman from 2,500 years ago to the present day. That being the case, what is it that dies? There is no question that when this physical body is no longer capable of functioning, the energies within it, the atoms and molecules it is made up of, don’t die with it. They take on another form, another shape. You can call that another life, but as there is no permanent, unchanging substance, nothing passes from one moment to the next. Quite obviously, nothing permanent or unchanging can pass or transmigrate from one life to the next. Being born and dying continues unbroken but changes every moment."

Thought Moment to Thought Moment

The teachers tell us that "me" is a series of thought-moments. Each thought-moment conditions the next thought-moment. In the same way, the last thought-moment of one life conditions the first thought-moment of another life, which is the continuation of a series. "The person who dies here and is reborn elsewhere is neither the same person, nor another," Walpola Rahula wrote.

This is not easy to understand, and cannot be fully understood with intellect alone. For this reason, many schools of Buddhism emphasize a meditation practice that enables intimate realization of the illusion of self.

Karma and Rebirth

The force that propels this continuity is karma. Karma is another Asian concept that Westerners (and, for that matter, a lot of Easterners) often misunderstand. Karma is not fate, but simple action and reaction, cause and effect. Any thought, word or deed conditioned by desire, hate, passion and illusion create karma. When the effects of karma reach across lifetimes, karma brings about rebirth.

The Persistence of Belief in Reincarnation

There is no question that many Buddhists, East and West, continue to believe in individual reincarnation. Parables from the sutras and "teaching aids" like the Tibetan Wheel of Life tend to reinforce this belief.

The Rev. Takashi Tsuji, a Jodo Shinshu priest, wrote about belief in reincarnation:

"It is said that the Buddha left 84,000 teachings; the symbolic figure represents the diverse backgrounds characteristics, tastes, etc. of the people. The Buddha taught according to the mental and spiritual capacity of each individual. For the simple village folks living during the time of the Buddha, the doctrine of reincarnation was a powerful moral lesson. Fear of birth into the animal world must have frightened many people from acting like animals in this life. If we take this teaching literally today we are confused because we cannot understand it rationally.

"...A parable, when taken literally, does not make sense to the modern mind. Therefore we must learn to differentiate the parables and myths from actuality."

What's the Point?

People often turn to religion for doctrines that provide simple answers to difficult questions. Buddhism doesn't work that way. Merely believing in some doctrine about reincarnation or rebirth has no purpose. Buddhism is a practice that enables experiencing illusion as illusion and reality as reality.

The Buddha taught that our delusional belief in "me" causes our many dissatisfactions with life (dukkha). When the illusion is experienced as illusion, we are liberated.

Karma: The Sanskrit word karma means "volitional act" or "deed." The law of karma is a law of cause and effect, or an understanding that every deed produces fruit.

Karma is created by the intentional acts of body, speech, and mind. Only acts pure of desire, hate and delusion do not produce karmic effects. Once set in motion, karma tends to continue in many directions, like ripples on a pond.

Karma is not mysterious or hidden. Once you understand what it is, you can observe it all around you. For example, let's say a man gets into an argument at work. He drives home in an angry mood, cutting off someone at an intersection. The driver cut off is now angry, and when she gets home she yells at her daughter. This is karma in action -- one angry act has touched off many more.

However, if the man who argued had the mental discipline to let go of his anger, the karma would have stopped with him.

Rebirth: Very basically, when the effects of karma continue across lifetimes it causes rebirth. But in light of the doctrine of no-self, what exactly is reborn?

The classical Hindu understanding of reincarnation is that a soul, or atman, is reborn many times. But the Buddha taught the doctrine of anatman -- no soul, or no-self. The various schools of Buddhism approach this question in somewhat different ways.

One way to explain rebirth is to think of all existence as one big ocean. An individual is a phenomenon of existence in the same way a wave is a phenomenon of ocean. A wave begins, moves across the surface of the water, then dissipates. While it exists, a wave is distinct from ocean yet is never separate from ocean. In the same way, that which is reborn is not the same person, yet is not separate from the same person.

Three Marks of Existence: The Buddha taught that everything in the physical world, including mental activity and psychological experience, is marked with three characteristics -- impermanence, suffering and egolessness. Thorough examination and awareness of these marks helps us abandon the grasping and clinging that bind us.

1. Suffering (Dukkha)

The Pali word dukkha is most often translated as "suffering," but it also means "unsatisfactory" or "imperfect." Everything material and mental that begins and ends, is composed of the five skandhas, and has not been liberated to Nirvana, is dukkha. Thus, even beautiful things and pleasant experiences are dukkha.

2. Impermanence (Anicca)

Impermanence is the fundamental property of everything that is conditioned. All conditioned things are impermanent and are in a constant state of flux. Because all conditioned things are constantly in flux, liberation is possible.

3. Egolessness (Anatta)

Anatta (anatman in Sanskrit) is also translated as nonself or nonessentiality. This is the teaching that "you" are not an integral, autonomous entity. The individual self, or what we might call the ego, is more correctly thought of as a by-product of the skandhas.

Wheel of Life: The rich iconography of the Wheel of Life can be interpreted on several levels. The six major sections represent the Six Realms. These realms can be understood as forms of existence, or states of mind, into which beings are born according to their karma. The realms also can be viewed as situations in life or even personality types -- hungry ghosts are addicts; devas are privileged; hell beings have anger issues.

In each of the realms the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara appears to show the way to liberation from the Wheel. But liberation is possible only in the human realm. From there, those who realize enlightenment find their way out of the Wheel to Nirvana.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What is Karma?

What goes around comes around

Chickens come home to roost

They'll get what's coming to them

The meaning is that evil is returned to the wrong-doer and they will eventually suffer for what they did. This, in essence is the Law of Karma. That we receive what we give. That all our actions reflect back upon us, either in this world or in the subsequent ones.

Karma is based on logic. It is an unavoidable consequence of our creations. When we create anything, we also create other things which might not be what we intended. If I get angry and with another harm, then I create a state in which I am harming another and another is harmed. I create a state in which I am happy with the suffering of another. But also create a state in which another is unhappy and suffering. I create a state in which I am joyful that my enemy is justly harmed. And a state in which another is resentful and angry that they have been wrongly treated.

This relates to the GAMES of life. In whichever game we play certain causes and effects arise. And certain rules are required. So when we create anything, whether a good intention or a bad one, other side-effects are necessarily produced. Imagine a world where no one harmed another in any way. And I harm another. I create someone who harms another and one who is harmed. This did not exist before. But now the world contains suffering.

And in the present life, or in subsequent ones, there are those who suffer and those who harm. And I, and others, play all these roles. In the beginning before harm was created, it was impossible to suffer. But when I do harm then suffering exists to my detriment. Of course, I am not alone, and others who create harm also create suffering and we continue to play our games in a world with suffering.Now after many eons, we wonder why there is suffering. And why there is harm. Yet this is the result of our own creations.

Now, after many lifetimes of creating harm and consequentially suffering, we live in a world with both. This is our Karma and this is the Law of Karma. When we create PITY, for example, we also create those who are pitied. When we create HELP, we also create those who are in a bad way and need our help. The roads to creating suffering are many

We create our Karma now, at this second. And we continue out of habit to create bad and good Karma. Karma does not exist lurking in the past as a thing to punish or reward us, but exists and is created now, newly, in every second. We can create Karma with supposedly good intentions, as mentioned previously.

When we think, act and speak with that which produces good for all, then we begin to resolve the issue of Karma. (That is the unwanted issue. Logically Karma always follows.) In some way we need to change our habits and thinking and create Karma which makes a better existence. But what is this thinking. When we wish to be powerful, we necessarily create those who are weak. When we wish to be master, we create slavery. These may not be our intentions, but what we create - what we cause - has certain unavoidable effects which rebound upon us all. (Because we have all created the harm.)

We can resolve the issue by thinking, acting and speaking such that the consequences are what we would also accept ourselves. We may wish to be master, but we might not want to be a slave. By wishing to be master we unavoidably create the state of slave for ourselves, and those we love.

However when we intend to UNDERSTAND, then we create UNDERSTANDING and that which is UNDERSTOOD. These may be desirable states. When we wish others well, then we create the state of being wished well. Therefore, this may be acceptable to all.When we create the state of BEING HAPPY, we also create, the state of BEING HAPPY (the same?) which is acceptable to all.When we create the state of RESPECTING ALL we also create the state of BEING RESPECTED which is acceptable to all.

Actually, this means acceptable to us in all its forms. We need to create states that are acceptable to us in all their forms. Actually, the so called 'Golden Rule' is a rule for creating good karma. It has never been expressed properly, but it is the rule, 'Do to others what you would like them to do to you.' We need to capture the idea of the law rather to be bothered by its wording.

Although I gave examples of UNDERSTANDING, RESPECTING, BEING HAPPY, LOVE, etc, these are not without pitfalls. When we create UNDERSTANDING, we also create MISUNDERSTANDING. When we create LOVE, we also create HATE. Yet if we create UNDERSTANDING, or SEEKING UNDERSTANDING. Perhaps being INTERESTED then if we and others adopt this thinking, with awareness of its opposite, then we can avoid the negative consequences.

With UNDERSTANDING the negative is MISUNDERSTANDING. This is probably less severe than the negative of HAPPINESS (UNHAPPINESS). For this reason, although the pursuit of HAPPINESS good, it is often avoided because of the power of its negative. LOVE, too, has the opposite of BEING UNLOVED. And although LOVING is good, it does have a powerful negative. For this reason, BEING INTERESTED or UNDERSTANDING can be more powerful as an intention.

This may be the DESIRE FOR PERFECTION. When we desire perfection, we find it hard to RESPECT or LOVE others. We can never attain this desire. Nothing is PERFECT. So we create disillusionment and the desire for something better, when we may already have the best we can achieve. ACCEPTANCE, can therefore be a powerful force in creating good Karma.

I will not say much about ACCEPTANCE and the possible negatives. Except to say that here we refer to ACCEPTANCE as a temporary state, and as a counter to that great negative PERFECTION. Acceptance means the observation of what IS, rather than what could or might be. It means observing the world and existence without thought or prejudice. To fearlessly observe what exists. This also means BEINGNESS.

The ultimate solution is the UNDERSTANDING of the world in the fullest sense. It is a transcendence of the world. When we postulate EXISTENCE, we also postulate NON-EXISTENCE. This implies CHANGE. Where there is GOOD, and there is CHANGE, there is the LESS GOOD. (But also BETTER). Where our postulation leads to EXISTENCE, there is CAUSE and EFFECT. In this way, the whole nature of the physical world in which we live comes into existence. And so does the LAW OF KARMA.

When we can ACCEPT all of this with UNDERSTANDING then we resolve the issue.

We seek to UNDERSTAND and be INTERESTED, and ACCEPT what is. We ACT in ways that lead to results acceptable to us. We resolve confusion by taking one thing at a time and ignoring others. We CONTROL what we can control, and ignore, temporarily, what we cannot control. In resolving the issue of Karma we learn about ACCEPTANCE and avoid PERFECTION. We cannot resolve the whole issue at once, nor can we do what is PERFECT. We might choose to BE LOVING, even though there are possible serious side-effects. We do this with UNDERSTANDING and CHANGE the negative into the positive and wholesome. Resolving the issue of Karma can appear CONFUSING. We resolve this issue by doing one thing at a time.

Communication is a way of obtaining UNDERSTANDING. We understand by talking, listening, asking questions, looking and listening. We learn to BE the other person. And we resolve conflict through UNDERSTANDING. We know that desiring and seeking PERFECTION is a great evil.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Right Speech

Out of all the Precepts, Right Speech is the most troublesome for me. Taking a breath, delaying talk with a pause, being mindful of my behavior and truly listening are all things I must do to practice Right Speech.

Article from Tricycle Magazine
by Beth Roth

The Buddha was unequivocal about the importance of how we employ our human capacity for speech and verbal interaction. Right Speech, also called Wise Speech or Virtuous Speech, is speech that gives rise to peace and happiness in oneself and others. Right Speech is one of the Five Precepts for ethical conduct, along with protecting life and not killing, taking only what is freely offered and not stealing, using one’s sexual energy in ways that do not harm oneself or others, and refraining from the use of intoxicants to the point that they cloud the mind.

The Buddha taught that ethical conduct is the foundation of meditation practice, and is also the ground upon which our life and our spiritual journey rest. The Buddha called these precepts for ethical conduct ”The Five Gifts,” because by undertaking these trainings we offer a supreme gift to other beings and to ourselves: the gift of freedom from fear, hostility, and oppression.

In addition to being one of the Five Precepts, Right Speech is also one of the components of the Noble Eightfold Path, along with Right View, Right Intention, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Here again the word “Right” is not a moral judgment to be contrasted with bad or wrong, but means “leading to happiness for oneself and others.” The Noble Eightfold Path is a path to liberation, which is described as happiness, inner peace, and freedom from suffering in this lifetime. It is also the path that releases us from future rebirths into realms of suffering.

The Buddha was precise in his description of Right Speech. He defined it as “abstinence from false speech, abstinence from malicious speech, abstinence from harsh speech, and abstinence from idle chatter.” In the vernacular this means not lying, not using speech in ways that create discord among people, not using swear words or a cynical, hostile or raised tone of voice, and not engaging in gossip. Re-framed in the positive, these guidelines urge us to say only what is true, to speak in ways that promote harmony among people, to use a tone of voice that is pleasing, kind, and gentle, and to speak mindfully in order that our speech is useful and purposeful.

Right Speech is a mindfulness practice. By undertaking this practice, we commit to greater awareness of our body, mind, and emotions. Mindfulness makes it possible to recognize what we are about to say before we say it, and thus offers us the freedom to choose when to speak, what to say, and how to say it. With mindfulness, we see that the heart is the ground from which our speech grows. We learn to restrain our speech in moments of anger, hostility, or confusion, and over time, to train the heart to more frequently incline towards wholesome states such as love, kindness and empathy. From these heart states Right Speech naturally arises.

The practice of Right Speech requires that we attend to karma, or the law of cause and effect. We repeatedly observe that different kinds of speech create different kinds of results. Using speech in certain ways assures suffering, while speaking in other ways creates happiness. There is a Tibetan prayer that says, “May you have happiness and the causes of happiness. May you be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.” When we understand the workings of cause and effect, we can appreciate how profound this prayer is.

The teaching about Right Speech assumes imperfection. Our “mistakes” are a vital part of our learning. We need to lie, exaggerate, embellish, use harsh and aggressive speech, engage in useless banter, and speak at inappropriate times, in order to experience how using speech in these ways creates tension in the body, agitation in the mind, and remorse in the heart. We also discover how unskillful speech degrades personal relationships and diminishes the possibility of peace in our world.

Because Right Speech figures so prominently in the fundamental teachings of the Buddha, we know that what we might call Right Listening, as the complement to Right Speech, is also very important. But what exactly is Right Listening?

Webster’s dictionary defines ‘listen’ as “to pay attention to sound” and “to hear with thoughtful attention.” Yet effective listening means paying attention to more than just sound, and therefore requires that we use more than just our ears. As we are increasingly able to bring mindfulness to ordinary human interaction, we find that listening means attending to our physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions, as well as to the voice, facial expressions, gestures, pauses, underlying meanings, and rich nuances that accompany the spoken words of others.

This type of listening is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls “deep listening.” It is what physician Rachel Naomi Remen calls “generous listening,” what Buddhist teacher and Hospice trainer Joan Halifax calls “listening from the heart,” and what the Quakers call “Devout Listening.” Like any other mindfulness practice, Right Listening is both a skill and a way of being. In her book The Zen of Listening, Rebecca Sharif writes, “Listening is one of our greatest personal natural resources, yet it is by far one of our most undeveloped abilities.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Koan #80 - The Real Miracle

When Bankei was preaching at Ryumon temple, a Shinshu priest, who believed in salvation through the repitition of the name of the Buddha of Love, was jealous of his large audience and wanted to debate with him.

Bankei was in the midst of a talk when the priest appeared, but the fellow made such a disturbance that bankei stopped his discourse and asked about the noise.

"The founder of our sect," boasted the priest, "had such miraculous powers that he held a brush in his hand on one bank of the river, his attendant held up a paper on the other bank, and the teacher wrote the holy name of Amida through the air. Can you do such a wonderful thing?"

Bankei replied lightly: "Perhaps your fox can perform that trick, but that is not the manner of Zen. My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Basics: A Brief Summary of Buddhism

• What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a "religion" to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.


• Is Buddhism a Religion?


To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a discipline, a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

• How Can Buddhism Help Me?

Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

• Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?

Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.

• Who Was the Buddha?

Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death at the age of 80.

• Was the Buddha a God?

He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

• Do Buddhists Worship Idols?

Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.

• Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?

One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.

• Are There Different Types of Buddhism?

There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching — the Dhamma or truth.

• Are Other Religions Wrong?

Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

• Is Buddhism Scientific?

Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith.

• What did the Buddha Teach?

The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

• What is the First Noble Truth?

The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

• What is the Second Noble Truth?

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

• What is the Third Noble Truth?

The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

• What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

• What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

• What are the 5 Precepts?

The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

• What is Karma?

Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

• What is Wisdom?

Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

• What is Compassion?

Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

• How do I Become a Buddhist?

Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way.

Wat Phra Singh Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photos by James Clark, Nomadic Notes

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poem

Few people believe their
Inherent mind is Buddha.
Most will not take this seriously,
And therefore are cramped.
They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings,
Resentments, and other afflictions,
All because they love the cave of ignorance.
Fenyang

Koan #45 - Right and Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again bankei disregarded the matter. this angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they woudl leave in a body.

When bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. "You are wise brothers," he told them. "You know what is right and what is not right. You may somewhere else to study if ou wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave."

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Koan #61 - Gudo and the Emperor

The emperor Goyozei was studying Zen under Gudo. He inquired: "In Zen this very mind is Buddha. Is this correct?"

Gudo answered: "If I say yes, you will think that you understand without understanding. If I say no, I would be contradicting a fact which many understand quite well."

On another day the emperor asked Gudo: "Where does the enlightened man go when he dies?"

Gudo answered: "I know not."

"Why don't you know?" asked the emperor.

"Because I have not died yet," replied Gudo.

The emperor hesitated to inquire further about these things his mind ould not grasp. So Gudo beat the floor with his hand as if to awaken him, and the emperor was enlightened!

The emperor respected Zen and old Gudo more than ever after his enlightenment, and he even permitted Gudo to wear his hat in the palace in winter. When Gudo was over eighty he used to fall asleep in the midst of his lecture, and the emperor would quietly retire to another room so his beloved teacher might enjoy the rest his aging body required.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Back to Basics - The Noble Eightfold Path

To achieve Nirvana, or the end of suffering, Buddhist followers must follow the Noble Eightfold Path as set forth by Buddha over 2,500 years ago. The eight steps of the path form the fourth truth of the Four Noble Truths, which are among the most fundamental of Buddhist teachings.

The Eightfold Path is often depicted as a Dharma wheel, closely resembling a ship’s wheel. The eight steps comprising the path or wheel result in a practical guide to ethics, mental rehabilitation, and mental deconditioning.

By achieving these eight steps, a Buddhist follower will eliminate all suffering and reach the desired state of Nirvana. The follower does not have to complete the steps sequentially, but rather, he may obtain them simultaneously. The steps include:

Right Understanding

The Right Understanding is crucial to understanding the Buddhist belief system, particularly the identification, causes, consequences of, and through these eight steps, the elimination of suffering. The Right Understanding also conveys an understanding of the Buddhist philosophy of the non-permanence of the self.

Right Thought

To have the Right Thought, a follower should fully understand his purpose in following the teachings of the Buddha, as well as his outlook on the world and world issues.

Right Speech

The focus of the Right Speech is to avoid harmful language, such as lying or unkind words. It is far better to use gentle, friendly and meaningful words, even when a situation calls for a truth that may be hurtful, despite the follower’s best intentions.

Right Action

The Right Action forms a list of fundamental ethical behaviors all practicing Buddhists should follow. These are the Five Precepts:

To refrain from destroying living beings
To refrain from stealing
To refrain from sexual misconduct (adultery, rape, etc.)
To refrain from false speech (lying)
To refrain from intoxicants which lead to heedlessness


Right Livelihood

Those seeking enlightenment should pick the Right Livelihood to support the other fundamentals of Buddhism. Followers should avoid employment in positions where their actions may cause harm to others, be it directly or indirectly.

Right Effort

Buddhists recognize that human nature limits the mind at times and causes ill thoughts. Unlike Right Thought, the Right Effort focuses on working to remove the bad thoughts and replace them with positive, more pleasant thoughts.

Right Mindfulness

The Right Mindfulness, along with Right Concentration, is the foundation behind Buddhist meditation. Monks, or other followers, should focus their minds on their body, emotions, mental workings, and mental qualities, but not on worldly desire and aversion while meditating.

Right Concentration

Coupled with Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration lays the framework for proper meditation. Rather than focusing on the mental aspects, the Right Concentration gives instructions as to how to work through the steps of focus in effective meditation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Way to The End of Unhappiness Part 8

Right Intention (Samma Sankappa)

The second factor of the path is called in Pali samma sankappa, which we will translate as "right intention." The term is sometimes translated as "right thought," a rendering that can be accepted if we add the proviso that in the present context the word "thought" refers specifically to the purposive or conative aspect of mental activity, the cognitive aspect being covered by the first factor, right view. It would be artificial, however, to insist too strongly on the division between these two functions.

From the Buddhist perspective, the cognitive and purposive sides of the mind do not remain isolated in separate compartments but intertwine and interact in close correlation. Emotional predilections influence views, and views determine predilections. Thus a penetrating view of the nature of existence, gained through deep reflection and validated through investigation, brings with it a restructuring of values which sets the mind moving towards goals commensurate with the new vision. The application of mind needed to achieve those goals is what is meant by right intention.

The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness. Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention. The intention of renunciation counters the intention of desire, the intention of good will counters the intention of ill will, and the intention of harmlessness counters the intention of harmfulness.

The Buddha discovered this twofold division of thought in the period prior to his Enlightenment (see MN 19). While he was striving for deliverance, meditating in the forest, he found that his thoughts could be distributed into two different classes. In one he put thoughts of desire, ill will, and harmfulness, in the other thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness.

Whenever he noticed thoughts of the first kind arise in him, he understood that those thoughts lead to harm for oneself and others, obstruct wisdom, and lead away from Nibbana. Reflecting in this way he expelled such thoughts from his mind and brought them to an end. But whenever thoughts of the second kind arose, he understood those thoughts to be beneficial, conducive to the growth of wisdom, aids to the attainment of Nibbana. Thus he strengthened those thoughts and brought them to completion.

Right intention claims the second place in the path, between right view and the triad of moral factors that begins with right speech, because the mind's intentional function forms the crucial link connecting our cognitive perspective with our modes of active engagement in the world. On the one side actions always point back to the thoughts from which they spring. Thought is the forerunner of action, directing body and speech, stirring them into activity, using them as its instruments for expressing its aims and ideals. These aims and ideals, our intentions, in turn point back a further step to the prevailing views. When wrong views prevail, the outcome is wrong intention giving rise to unwholesome actions.

Thus one who denies the moral efficacy of action and measures achievement in terms of gain and status will aspire to nothing but gain and status, using whatever means he can to acquire them. When such pursuits become widespread, the result is suffering, the tremendous suffering of individuals, social groups, and nations out to gain wealth, position, and power without regard for consequences. The cause for the endless competition, conflict, injustice, and oppression does not lie outside the mind. These are all just manifestations of intentions, outcroppings of thoughts driven by greed, by hatred, by delusion.

But when the intentions are right, the actions will be right, and for the intentions to be right the surest guarantee is right views. One who recognizes the law of kamma, that actions bring retributive consequences, will frame his pursuits to accord with this law; thus his actions, expressive of his intentions, will conform to the canons of right conduct. The Buddha succinctly sums up the matter when he says that for a person who holds a wrong view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes grounded in that view will lead to suffering, while for a person who holds right view, his deeds, words, plans, and purposes grounded in that view will lead to happiness.[16]

Since the most important formulation of right view is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, it follows that this view should be in some way determinative of the content of right intention. This we find to be in fact the case. Understanding the four truths in relation to one's own life gives rise to the intention of renunciation; understanding them in relation to other beings gives rise to the other two right intentions.

When we see how our own lives are pervaded by dukkha, and how this dukkha derives from craving, the mind inclines to renunciation — to abandoning craving and the objects to which it binds us. Then, when we apply the truths in an analogous way to other living beings, the contemplation nurtures the growth of good will and harmlessness.

We see that, like ourselves, all other living beings want to be happy, and again that like ourselves they are subject to suffering. The consideration that all beings seek happiness causes thoughts of good will to arise — the loving wish that they be well, happy, and peaceful. The consideration that beings are exposed to suffering causes thoughts of harmlessness to arise — the compassionate wish that they be free from suffering.

The moment the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path begins, the factors of right view and right intention together start to counteract the three unwholesome roots. Delusion, the primary cognitive defilement, is opposed by right view, the nascent seed of wisdom.

The complete eradication of delusion will only take place when right view is developed to the stage of full realization, but every flickering of correct understanding contributes to its eventual destruction. The other two roots, being emotive defilements, require opposition through the redirecting of intention, and thus meet their antidotes in thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness.

Since greed and aversion are deeply grounded, they do not yield easily; however, the work of overcoming them is not impossible if an effective strategy is employed. The path devised by the Buddha makes use of an indirect approach: it proceeds by tackling the thoughts to which these defilements give rise. Greed and aversion surface in the form of thoughts, and thus can be eroded by a process of "thought substitution," by replacing them with the thoughts opposed to them.

The intention of renunciation provides the remedy to greed. Greed comes to manifestation in thoughts of desire — as sensual, acquisitive, and possessive thoughts. Thoughts of renunciation spring from the wholesome root of non-greed, which they activate whenever they are cultivated. Since contrary thoughts cannot coexist, when thoughts of renunciation are roused, they dislodge thoughts of desire, thus causing non-greed to replace greed.

Similarly, the intentions of good will and harmlessness offer the antidote to aversion. Aversion comes to manifestation either in thoughts of ill will — as angry, hostile, or resentful thoughts; or in thoughts of harming — as the impulses to cruelty, aggression, and destruction. Thoughts of good will counter the former outflow of aversion, thoughts of harmlessness the latter outflow, in this way excising the unwholesome root of aversion itself.

Koan #56 - What Are You Doing? What Are You Saying?

In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion.

The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned hat the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstances did the teacher even claim "I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.

The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."

"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."

"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."

The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"

Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Way to The End of Unhappiness Part 7

Superior Right View

The right view of kamma and its fruits provides a rationale for engaging in wholesome actions and attaining high status within the round of rebirths, but by itself it does not lead to liberation. It is possible for someone to accept the law of kamma yet still limit his aims to mundane achievements. One's motive for performing noble deeds might be the accumulation of meritorious kamma leading to prosperity and success here and now, a fortunate rebirth as a human being, or the enjoyment of celestial bliss in the heavenly worlds.

There is nothing within the logic of kammic causality to impel the urge to transcend the cycle of kamma and its fruit. The impulse to deliverance from the entire round of becoming depends upon the acquisition of a different and deeper perspective, one which yields insight into the inherent defectiveness of all forms of samsaric existence, even the most exalted.

This superior right view leading to liberation is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. It is this right view that figures as the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path in the proper sense: as the noble right view. Thus the Buddha defines the path factor of right view expressly in terms of the four truths: "What now is right view? It is understanding of suffering (dukkha), understanding of the origin of suffering, understanding of the cessation of suffering, understanding of the way leading to the cessation to suffering.

The Eightfold Path starts with a conceptual understanding of the Four Noble Truths apprehended only obscurely through the media of thought and reflection. It reaches its climax in a direct intuition of those same truths, penetrated with a clarity tantamount to enlightenment. Thus it can be said that the right view of the Four Noble Truths forms both the beginning and the culmination of the way to the end of suffering.

The first noble truth is the truth of suffering (dukkha), the inherent unsatisfactoriness of existence, revealed in the impermanence, pain, and perpetual incompleteness intrinsic to all forms of life.




This is the noble truth of suffering. Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association with the unpleasant is suffering; separation from the pleasant is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.

The last statement makes a comprehensive claim that calls for some attention. The five aggregates of clinging (paƱcupadanakkandha) are a classificatory scheme for understanding the nature of our being. What we are, the Buddha teaches, is a set of five aggregates — material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness — all connected with clinging.

We are the five and the five are us. Whatever we identify with, whatever we hold to as our self, falls within the set of five aggregates. Together these five aggregates generate the whole array of thoughts, emotions, ideas, and dispositions in which we dwell, "our world." Thus the Buddha's declaration that the five aggregates are dukkha in effect brings all experience, our entire existence, into the range of dukkha.

But here the question arises: Why should the Buddha say that the five aggregates are dukkha? The reason he says that the five aggregates are dukkha is that they are impermanent. They change from moment to moment, arise and fall away, without anything substantial behind them persisting through the change. Since the constituent factors of our being are always changing, utterly devoid of a permanent core, there is nothing we can cling to in them as a basis for security. There is only a constantly disintegrating flux which, when clung to in the desire for permanence, brings a plunge into suffering.

The second noble truth points out the cause of dukkha. From the set of defilements which eventuate in suffering, the Buddha singles out craving (tanha) as the dominant and most pervasive cause, "the origin of suffering."

This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering. It is this craving which produces repeated existence, is bound up with delight and lust, and seeks pleasure here and there, namely, craving for sense pleasures, craving for existence, and craving for non-existence.

The third noble truth simply reverses this relationship of origination. If craving is the cause of dukkha, then to be free from dukkha we have to eliminate craving.

Thus the Buddha says:

This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering. It is the complete fading away and cessation of this craving, its forsaking and abandonment, liberation and detachment from it.

The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbana (nirvana), the unconditioned state experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames of greed, aversion, and delusion. The fourth noble truth shows the way to reach the end of dukkha, the way to the realization of Nibbana. That way is the Noble Eightfold Path itself.

The right view of the Four Noble Truths develops in two stages. The first is called the right view that accords with the truths (saccanulomika samma ditthi); the second, the right view that penetrates the truths (saccapativedha samma ditthi). To acquire the right view that accords with the truths requires a clear understanding of their meaning and significance in our lives.

Such an understanding arises first by learning the truths and studying them. Subsequently it is deepened by reflecting upon them in the light of experience until one gains a strong conviction as to their veracity.

But even at this point the truths have not been penetrated, and thus the understanding achieved is still defective, a matter of concept rather than perception. To arrive at the experiential realization of the truths it is necessary to take up the practice of meditation — first to strengthen the capacity for sustained concentration, then to develop insight. Insight arises by contemplating the five aggregates, the factors of existence, in order to discern their real characteristics.

At the climax of such contemplation the mental eye turns away from the conditioned phenomena comprised in the aggregates and shifts its focus to the unconditioned state, Nibbana, which becomes accessible through the deepened faculty of insight. With this shift, when the mind's eye sees Nibbana, there takes place a simultaneous penetration of all Four Noble Truths. By seeing Nibbana, the state beyond dukkha, one gains a perspective from which to view the five aggregates and see that they are dukkha simply because they are conditioned, subject to ceaseless change. At the same moment Nibbana is realized, craving stops; the understanding then dawns that craving is the true origin of dukkha.

When Nibbana is seen, it is realized to be the state of peace, free from the turmoil of becoming. And because this experience has been reached by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path, one knows for oneself that the Noble Eightfold Path is truly the way to the end of dukkha.

This right view that penetrates the Four Noble Truths comes at the end of the path, not at the beginning. We have to start with the right view conforming to the truths, acquired through learning and fortified through reflection. This view inspires us to take up the practice, to embark on the threefold training in moral discipline, concentration, and wisdom. When the training matures, the eye of wisdom opens by itself, penetrating the truths and freeing the mind from bondage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Way to The End of Unhappiness Part 6

As taught by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Mundane right view involves a correct grasp of the law of kamma, the moral efficacy of action. Its literal name is "right view of the ownership of action" (kammassakata sammaditthi), and it finds its standard formulation in the statement: "Beings are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions; they spring from their actions, are bound to their actions, and are supported by their actions. Whatever deeds they do, good or bad, of those they shall be heirs." More specific formulations have also come down in the texts.

One stock passage, for example, affirms that virtuous actions such as giving and offering alms have moral significance, that good and bad deeds produce corresponding fruits, that one has a duty to serve mother and father, that there is rebirth and a world beyond the visible one, and that religious teachers of high attainment can be found who expound the truth about the world on the basis of their own superior realization.

To understand the implications of this form of right view we first have to examine the meaning of its key term, kamma. The word kamma means action. For Buddhism the relevant kind of action is volitional action, deeds expressive of morally determinate volition, since it is volition that gives the action ethical significance. Thus the Buddha expressly identifies action with volition. In a discourse on the analysis of kamma he says: "Monks, it is volition that I call action (kamma). Having willed, one performs an action through body, speech, or mind."

The identification of kamma with volition makes kamma essentially a mental event, a factor originating in the mind which seeks to actualize the mind's drives, dispositions, and purposes. Volition comes into being through any of three channels — body, speech, or mind — called the three doors of action (kammadvara). A volition expressed through the body is a bodily action; a volition expressed through speech is a verbal action; and a volition that issues in thoughts, plans, ideas, and other mental states without gaining outer expression is a mental action. Thus the one factor of volition differentiates into three types of kamma according to the channel through which it becomes manifest.

Right view requires more than a simple knowledge of the general meaning of kamma. It is also necessary to understand:

(i) the ethical distinction of kamma into the unwholesome and the wholesome;

(ii) the principal cases of each type; and

(iii) the roots from which these actions spring.

As expressed in a sutta: "When a noble disciple understands what is kammically unwholesome, and the root of unwholesome kamma, what is kammically wholesome, and the root of wholesome kamma, then he has right view."

(i) Taking these points in order, we find that kamma is first distinguished as unwholesome (akusala) and wholesome (kusala). Unwholesome kamma is action that is morally blameworthy, detrimental to spiritual development, and conducive to suffering for oneself and others. Wholesome kamma, on the other hand, is action that is morally commendable, helpful to spiritual growth, and productive of benefits for oneself and others.

(ii) Innumerable instances of unwholesome and wholesome kamma can be cited, but the Buddha selects ten of each as primary. These he calls the ten courses of unwholesome and wholesome action. Among the ten in the two sets, three are bodily, four are verbal, and three are mental. The ten courses of unwholesome kamma may be listed as follows, divided by way of their doors of expression:

1.) Destroying life


2.) Taking what is not given

3.)Wrong conduct in regard to sense pleasures

4.) Verbal action:

* False speech

* Slanderous speech

*Harsh speech

* Idle chatter

* Covetousness

* Ill will

* Wrong view


The ten courses of wholesome kamma are the opposites of these: abstaining from the first seven courses of unwholesome kamma, being free from covetousness and ill will, and holding right view. Though the seven cases of abstinence are exercised entirely by the mind and do not necessarily entail overt action, they are still designated wholesome bodily and verbal action because they center on the control of the faculties of body and speech.

(iii) Actions are distinguished as wholesome and unwholesome on the basis of their underlying motives, called "roots" (mula), which impart their moral quality to the volitions concomitant with themselves. Thus kamma is wholesome or unwholesome according to whether its roots are wholesome or unwholesome. The roots are threefold for each set. The unwholesome roots are the three defilements we already mentioned — greed, aversion, and delusion.

Any action originating from these is an unwholesome kamma. The three wholesome roots are their opposites, expressed negatively in the old Indian fashion as non-greed (alobha), non-aversion (adosa), and non-delusion (amoha). Though these are negatively designated, they signify not merely the absence of defilements but the corresponding virtues. Non-greed implies renunciation, detachment, and generosity; non-aversion implies loving-kindness, sympathy, and gentleness; and non-delusion implies wisdom. Any action originating from these roots is a wholesome kamma.

The most important feature of kamma is its capacity to produce results corresponding to the ethical quality of the action. An immanent universal law holds sway over volitional actions, bringing it about that these actions issue in retributive consequences, called vipaka, "ripenings," or phala, "fruits." The law connecting actions with their fruits works on the simple principle that unwholesome actions ripen in suffering, wholesome actions in happiness. The ripening need not come right away; it need not come in the present life at all.

Kamma can operate across the succession of lifetimes; it can even remain dormant for aeons into the future. But whenever we perform a volitional action, the volition leaves its imprint on the mental continuum, where it remains as a stored up potency. When the stored up kamma meets with conditions favorable to its maturation, it awakens from its dormant state and triggers off some effect that brings due compensation for the original action. The ripening may take place in the present life, in the next life, or in some life subsequent to the next.

A kamma may ripen by producing rebirth into the next existence, thus determining the basic form of life; or it may ripen in the course of a lifetime, issuing in our varied experiences of happiness and pain, success and failure, progress and decline. But whenever it ripens and in whatever way, the same principle invariably holds: wholesome actions yield favorable results, unwholesome actions yield unfavorable results.

To recognize this principle is to hold right view of the mundane kind. This view at once excludes the multiple forms of wrong view with which it is incompatible. As it affirms that our actions have an influence on our destiny continuing into future lives, it opposes the nihilistic view which regards this life as our only existence and holds that consciousness terminates with death.

As it grounds the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, in an objective universal principle, it opposes the ethical subjectivism which asserts that good and evil are only postulations of personal opinion or means to social control. As it affirms that people can choose their actions freely, within limits set by their conditions, it opposes the "hard deterministic" line that our choices are always made subject to necessitation, and hence that free volition is unreal and moral responsibility untenable.

Some of the implications of the Buddha's teaching on the right view of kamma and its fruits run counter to popular trends in present-day thought, and it is helpful to make these differences explicit. The teaching on right view makes it known that good and bad, right and wrong, transcend conventional opinions about what is good and bad, what is right and wrong. An entire society may be predicated upon a confusion of correct moral values, and even though everyone within that society may applaud one particular kind of action as right and condemn another kind as wrong, this does not make them validly right and wrong.

For the Buddha moral standards are objective and invariable. While the moral character of deeds is doubtlessly conditioned by the circumstances under which they are performed, there are objective criteria of morality against which any action, or any comprehensive moral code, can be evaluated. This objective standard of morality is integral to the Dhamma, the cosmic law of truth and righteousness. Its transpersonal ground of validation is the fact that deeds, as expressions of the volitions that engender them, produce consequences for the agent, and that the correlations between deeds and their consequences are intrinsic to the volitions themselves.

There is no divine judge standing above the cosmic process who assigns rewards and punishments. Nevertheless, the deeds themselves, through their inherent moral or immoral nature, generate the appropriate results.

For most people, the vast majority, the right view of kamma and its results is held out of confidence, accepted on faith from an eminent spiritual teacher who proclaims the moral efficacy of action. But even when the principle of kamma is not personally seen, it still remains a facet of right view. It is part and parcel of right view because right view is concerned with understanding — with understanding our place in the total scheme of things — and one who accepts the principle that our volitional actions possess a moral potency has, to that extent, grasped an important fact pertaining to the nature of our existence.

However, the right view of the kammic efficacy of action need not remain exclusively an article of belief screened behind an impenetrable barrier. It can become a matter of direct seeing. Through the attainment of certain states of deep concentration it is possible to develop a special faculty called the "divine eye" (dibbacakkhu), a super-sensory power of vision that reveals things hidden from the eyes of flesh.

When this faculty is developed, it can be directed out upon the world of living beings to investigate the workings of the kammic law. With the special vision it confers one can then see for oneself, with immediate perception, how beings pass away and re-arise according to their kamma, how they meet happiness and suffering through the maturation of their good and evil deeds.