Что такое карма?

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What is Karma?

Karma is an impersonal, natural law that operates in accordance with our actions. It is a law in itself and does not have any law-giver. Karma operates in its own field without the intervention of an external, independent, ruling agent.

KARMA can be put in the simple language of the child: do good and good will come to you, now, and hereafter. Do bad and bad will come to you, now, or hereafter.

In the language of the harvest, karma can be explained in this way: if you sow good seeds, you will reap a good harvest. If you sow bad seeds, you will reap a bad harvest.

In the language of science, karma is called the law of cause and effect: every cause has an effect. Another name for this is the law of moral causation. Moral causation works in the moral realm just as the physical law of action and reaction works in the physical realm.

In the DHAMMAPADA, karma is explained in this manner: the mind is the chief (forerunner) of all good and bad states. If you speak or act with a bad mind, then unhappiness follows you just as the wheel follows the hoof of the ox. If you speak or act with a good mind, then happiness follows you like the shadow that never leaves you.

Karma is simply action. Within animate organisms there is a power or force which is given different names such as instinctive tendencies, consciousness, etc. This innate propensity forces every conscious being to move. A person moves mentally or physically. His motion is action. The repetition of actions is habit and habit becomes one’s character. In Buddhism, this process is called karma.

In its ultimate sense, karma means both good and bad, mental action or volition. ‘Karma is volition,’ says the Buddha. Thus karma is not an entity but a process, action, energy and force. Some interpret this force as ‘action-influence’. It is our own doings reacting on ourselves. The pain and happiness a person experiences are the results of his or her own deeds, words and thoughts reacting on themselves. Our deeds, words and thoughts produce our prosperity and failure, our happiness and misery.

Karma is an impersonal, natural law that operates strictly in accordance with our actions. It is a law in itself and does not have any lawgiver. Karma operates in its own field without the intervention of an external, independent ruling agency. Since there is no hidden agent directing or administering rewards and punishments, Buddhists do not rely on prayer to some supernatural forces to influence karmic results. According to the Buddha, karma is neither predestination nor determinism imposed on us by some mysterious, unknown powers or forces to which we must helplessly submit ourselves.

Buddhists believe that one will reap what one has sown; we are the result of what we were, and we will be the result of what we are. In other words, we are not absolutely what we were, and we will not continue to remain as what we are. This simply means that karma is not complete determinism. The Buddha pointed out that if everything is fixed and determined, then there would be no free will and no moral or spiritual life. We would merely be the slaves of our past. On the other hand, if everything is undetermined, then there can be no cultivation of moral and spiritual growth. The Buddha again declared the truth of the Middle Path: that karma is to be understood as neither strict determinism nor absolute indeterminism but as an interaction of both.

Misconceptions Regarding Karma

The misinterpretations or irrational views on karma are stated in the ANGUTTARA NIKAYA which suggests that the wise will investigate and abandon the following views:

  1. the belief that everything is a result of acts in previous lives;
  2. the belief that everything is the result of what is willed by a Supreme Creator; and
  3. the belief that everything arises without reason or cause.

If a person becomes a murderer, a thief, or an adulterer, and, if his or her actions are due to past actions, or are caused by the whim of a Supreme Being, or if it happened by mere chance, then this person could not be held responsible for his or her evil action as everything was predetermined.

Yet another misconception about karma is that it operates only for certain people according to their faiths. But the destiny of a person in the next life does not in the least depend on what particular religion he or she chooses. Whatever one’s religion may be, one’s fate depends entirely on deeds committed by body, speech and thought. It does not matter what religious label one holds, one is bound to be in a happy world in the next life so long as one does good deeds and leads an unblemished life. One is bound to be born to lead a wretched life if one commits evil and harbours wicked thoughts in the mind. Therefore, Buddhists do not proclaim that they are the only blessed people who can go to heaven after their death. Whatever religion is professed or without any religious label, karmic thoughts alone determine a person’s destiny both in this life and in the next. The teaching of karma does not indicate a post-mortem justice. The Buddha did not teach this law of karma to protect the rich and to comfort the poor by promising illusory happiness in an after life.

According to Buddhism karma explains the inequalities that exist among mankind. These inequalities are due not only to heredity, environment and nature but also to karma or the results of our own actions. Indeed karma is one of the factors which are responsible for the success and the failure of our lives.

Since karma is an invisible force, we cannot see it working with our physical eyes. To understand how karma works, we can compare it to seeds: the results of karma are stored in the subconscious mind in the same way as the leaves, flowers, fruits and trunk of a tree are stored in its seed. Under favourable conditions, the fruits of karma will be produced just as with moisture and light, the leaves and trunk of a tree will sprout from its tiny seed. The taste of the fruits also carry forward just like karmic energy creates the effect.

The working of karma can also be compared to a bank account: a person who is virtuous, charitable and benevolent in this present life is like a person who is adding to his or her “good karma” account. This accumulated good karma can be used to ensure a trouble free life. But the person must replace what is taken or else one day, the account will be depleted and that person will be bankrupt. Then who can be blamed for one’s miserable state? One can blame neither others nor fate. One alone is responsible. Thus a good Buddhist cannot be an escapist but must confront life as it is and not run away from it. The karmic force cannot be controlled by inactivity. Vigorous activity for good is indispensable for one’s own happiness. Escapism is the resort of the weak, and an escapist cannot run away from the effects of karmic law.

The Buddha says, ‘There is no place to hide in order to escape from karmic results’ (DHAMMAPADA 127).

Our own Experience

To understand the law of karma is to realise that we ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and our own misery. We are the architects of our karma. Buddhism explains that we have every opportunity to mould our own karma and thereby influence the direction of our lives. On the other hand, we are not complete prisoners of our own actions; we are not slaves to our karma. Nor are we mere machines that automatically release instinctive forces that enslave us. Nor are we mere products of nature. We have within ourselves the strength and the ability to change our karma. Our minds are mightier than our karma and so the law of karma can be made to serve us. We do not have to give up our hope and effort in order to surrender ourselves to our own karmic force. To off-set the reaction of our bad karma that we have accumulated previously, we have to do more meritorious deeds; and purify our minds rather than simply rely on worshipping, performing rites or torturing our physical bodies in order to overcome our karmic effects. Therefore, a person can overcome the effect of his or her evil deeds if he or she acts wisely by leading a noble life. We must use the qualities with which we are endowed to promote our ideal. The cards in the game of life are within us. We do not select them. They are traced to our past karma; but we can call as we please, do what suits us and as we play, we either gain or lose, depending on our skill or lack of it.

Karma is equated to the action of a person. This action also creates some karmic results. But each and every action carried out without any purposeful intention, cannot become a kusala-karma (skilful action) or akusala-karma (unskilful action). That is why the Buddha describes karma as volitional activities. That means, whatever good and bad deeds we commit without any purposeful intention, are not strong enough to be carried forward to our next life. However, ignorance of the nature of the good and bad effect of the karma is not an excuse to justify or avoid the karmic results if they were committed intentionally. A small child or an ignorant man may commit many evil deeds. Since they commit such deeds with intention to harm or injure, it is difficult to say that they are free from the karmic results. If that child touches a burning iron-rod, the heat element does not spare the child of pain. The karmic energy also works exactly in the same manner. Karmic energy is unbiased; like gravity it is impartial.

The radical transformations in the characters of Angulimala and Asoka illustrate human beings’ potential to gain control over karmic forces. Angulimala was a highway robber who murdered more than a thousand of his fellow men. Can we judge him by his external actions? For within his lifetime through sheer self -effort, he became an Arahanta and thus redeemed his past misdeeds.

Asoka, the Emperor of India, killed thousands and thousands to fight his wars and to expand his empire. Yet after winning the battle, he completely reformed himself and changed his career to such an extent that today, ‘Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines and shines almost alone, as a star,’ says the historian, H.G. Wells.

Other Factors which Support Karma

Although Buddhism says that a person can eventually control his or her karmic force, it does not state that everything is due to karma.

Buddhism does not ignore the role played by other forces of nature. According to Buddhism there are five orders or processes of natural laws (niyama) which operate in the physical and mental worlds:

  1. utu niyama (seasonal laws) relating to the physical inorganic order e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains, etc.,
  2. bija niyama (biological laws) relating to the order of germs and seeds,
  3. karma niyama (karmic law) relating to moral causation or the order of act and result,
  4. dharma niyama (natural phenomena) relating to electrical forces, movement of tides etc., and
  5. citta niyama (psychological laws) which govern the processes of consciousness.
Thus karma is considered only as one of the five natural laws that account for the diversity in this world.

Can Karma be Changed?

Karma is often influenced by circumstances: beneficent and malevolent forces act to counter and to support this self-operating law. The other forces that either aid or hinder this karma are birth, time or conditions, appearances, and effort.

A favourable birth (gati sampatti) or an unfavourable birth (vipatti) can develop or hinder the fruition of karma. For instance, if a person is born to a noble family or in a state of happiness, his fortunate birth will provide an easy opportunity for his good karma to operate. An unintelligent person who, by some good karma, is born in a royal family, will, on account of his noble parentage be honoured by the people. If the same person were to have a less fortunate birth, he would not be similarly treated.

Good appearance (upadhi sampatti) and poor appearance (upadhi vipatti) are two other factors that hinder or favour the working of karma. If by some good karma, a person obtains a good birth, but is born deformed by some bad karma, then he or she will not be able to fully enjoy the beneficial results of good karma. Even a legitimate heir to a throne may not perhaps be raised to that high position if he happens to be physically or mentally deformed. Beauty, on the other hand, will be an asset to the possessor. A good-looking son of poor parents may attract the attention of others and may be able to distinguish himself through their influence. Also, we can find cases of people from poor, obscure family backgrounds who rise to fame and popularity as film actors or actresses or beauty queens.

Time and occasion are other factors that influence the working of karma. In the time of famine or during the time of war, all people without exception are forced to suffer the same fate. Here the unfavourable conditions open up possibilities for evil karma to operate. The favourable conditions, on the other hand, will prevent the operation of bad karma.

Effort or intelligence is perhaps the most important of all the factors that affect the working of karma. Without effort, both worldly and spiritual progress is impossible. If we do not make the effort to cure our disease, or to save ourselves from difficulties, or to strive with diligence for progress, then evil karma will find a suitable opportunity to manifest its due effects. However, if we endeavour to surmount difficulties and problems, our good karma will come to help. When shipwrecked in a deep sea, the Bodhisatva during one of his previous births, made an effort to save himself and his old mother, while the others prayed to the gods and left their fate in the hands of these gods. The result was that the Bodhisatva escaped while the others were drowned.

Thus the working of karma is aided or obstructed by birth, beauty and ugliness, time and personal effort or intelligence. However, people can overcome immediate karmic effects by adopting certain methods. Yet, they are not completely free from such karmic effects if they remain within this Samsara-cycle of birth and death. Whenever opportunities arise, the same karmic effects that were suppressed, can affect them again. This is the uncertainty of worldly life. Even the Buddha and Arahantas were affected by certain karmas, although they were in their final life.

The time factor is another important aspect of the karmic energy for people to experience the good and bad effects of previous actions. People experience certain karmic effects only within this lifetime while certain karmic effects become effective immediately hereafter in the next birth. And certain other karmic effects follow the doers as long as they remain in this wheel of existence until they stop their rebirth after attaining Nirvana. The main reason for this difference is owing to mental impulsion (Javana Citta) at the time when a thought arises in the mind to do good or bad.

Impartial Energy

Those who do not believe that there is an energy known as karma should understand that this karmic energy is not a byproduct of any particular religion although Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism recognize and explain the nature of this energy. This is an existing universal law which has no religious label. All those who violate this law, have to face the consequences irrespective of their religious beliefs, and those who live in accordance with this law experience peace and happiness in their life. Therefore, this karmic law is unbiased towards each and every person, whether they believe it or not; whether they have a religion or not. It is like any other existing universal law. Karma is not the exclusive property of Buddhism.

If we understand karma as a force or a form of energy, then we can discern no beginning. To ask where is the beginning of karma is like asking where is the beginning of electricity. Karma like electricity does not begin. It comes into being under certain conditions. Conventionally we say that the origin of karma is volition but this is as much conventional as saying that the origin of a river is a mountain top. Like the waves of the ocean that flow into one another, one unit of consciousness flows into another and this merging of one thought consciousness into another is called the working of karma. In short, every living being, according to Buddhism, is an electric current of life that operates on the automatic switch of karma.

Karma being a form of energy is not found anywhere in this fleeting consciousness or body. Just as mangoes are not stored anywhere in the mango tree but, dependent on certain conditions, they spring into being, so does karma. Karma is like wind or fire. It is not stored up anywhere in the Universe but comes into being under certain conditions.

Classification of Karma

Karma is classified in four ways according to:

  1. the time in which effects are worked out;
  2. function—Kicca;
  3. the priority of effect; and
  4. the place in which the karmic effects transpire.

There are moral and immoral actions which may produce their due effects in this very life. They are called “Immediately Effective— Dittha Dharma Vediniya Karma”. If they do not operate in this life, they become “ineffective—Ahosi”. There are some actions which may produce their effects in a subsequent life. They are termed “Subsequently Effective—Upapajja Vedaniya Karma”. They too become ineffective if they do not operate in the second birth.

Those actions which may produce their effects in any life in the course of one’s wondering in Samsara, are known as “Indefinitely Effective—Aparapariya Vedaniya Karma.” This classification of karma is with reference to the time in which effects are worked out.

There are four classes of karma according to Function—Kicca. Every birth is conditioned by past good and bad karma that predominates at the moment of death. The karma that conditions the future birth is called “Reproductive—Janaka Karma”. Now another karma may step forward to assist or maintain the action of this Reproductive Karma. Just as this karma has the tendency to strengthen the Reproductive Karma, some other action which tends to weaken, interrupt, the fruition of the Reproductive Karma may step in. Such actions are respectively termed “Supportive- Upatthambhaka Karma” and “Counteractive-Upapidaka Karma”. According to the law of karma, the potential energy of the Reproductive Karma could be nullified by a more powerful opposing karma of the past, which, seeking an opportunity, may quite unexpectedly operate, just as a powerful opposing force can check the path of the flying arrow and bring it down to the ground. Such an action is called “Destructive—Upaghataka Karma” which is more effective than Supportive and Counteractive Karma in that it not only obstructs but also destroys the whole force.

There are four classes of karma according to the priority of effect.

The first is Garuka, which means weighty or serious. This karma, which is either good or bad, produces results in this life, or in the next for certain. If good, it is purely mental as in the case of Jhanas – Ecstacies. Otherwise it is verbal or bodily.

The five kinds of Weighty Karma are:

  1. matricide;
  2. patricide;
  3. the Murder of an Arahant;
  4. the Wounding of a Buddha; and
  5. the Creation of a Schism in the Sangha.
Permanent Scepticism—Niyata Micchaditthi is also termed one of the Weighty Karmas.

In the absence of a Weighty Karma to condition the next birth, a death-proximate karma—Asanna might operate. This is the karma one does immediately before the dying moment.

Habitual—Acinna Karma is the next in priority of effect. It is the Karma that one habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking.

The fourth is the “Cumulative—Katatta Karma” which embraces all that cannot be included in the above three. This is as it were the reserve fund of a particular being.

The last classification is according to the place in which the karma effects transpire, namely:

  1. Evil Karma—Akusala, which may ripen in the Sentient Plane— Kamaloka.
  2. Good Karma—Kusala, which may ripen in the Sentient Plane.
  3. Good Karma, which may ripen in the realm of Form—Rupaloka.
  4. Good Karma, which may ripen in the formless realms— Arupaloka.

Is Everything Due to Karma?

Although Buddhism attributes the inequality of mankind as one of the chief effects amongst many, yet it does not assert that everything is due to karma. If everything is due to karma, a person would always be bad if it was his or her karma to be bad. One would not need to consult a physician to be cured of a disease; for if one’s karma were such, one would be cured.

Why Some Wicked People Enjoy While Some Good People Suffer

Some people ask, ‘If good begets good and bad begets bad why should many good people suffer and some wicked people prosper in this world?’ The answer to this question, according to the Buddhist point of view, is that although some are good by nature, they have not accumulated enough good merits in their previous birth to compensate for the bad effects of unwholesome karma in this present life; somewhere in their past there must have been some defect. On the other hand, some are wicked by nature and yet are able to enjoy this life for a short period due to some strong good karma that they accumulated in their previous birth.

For example, there are certain people who by nature have inherited a strong constitution and as a result enjoy perfect health. Their physical power of resistance is strong and hence they are not prone to illnesses. Although they do not take special precautions to lead a hygienic life, they are able to remain strong and healthy. On the other hand, there are others who take various tonics and vitamins—enriched foods to fortify themselves, but in spite of their efforts to become strong and healthy, their health does not show any improvement.

Generally speaking, whatever good and bad deeds people commit within this life-time, they will definitely experience the reaction within this life or hereafter. It is impossible to escape from their results simply by praying, but only by cultivating the mind and leading a noble life. This is not to say that everything that we suffer or enjoy today is completely controlled by our past actions, which we call Karma. The Buddha says that if this was so, then there would be no purpose in living a moral life, as we would then be simply victims of the past. Buddhists assert that while our lives were conditioned in the past, it is entirely within ourselves to change that condition and to create our future and present well being. Buddhists do not subscribe to predestination or fatalism as the only possible explanations for the human condition.

Buddhists are encouraged to do good deeds not for the sake of gaining a place in heaven. They are expected to do good in order to eradicate their selfishness and to experience peace and happiness at each present moment. When each present moment is carefully controlled the future well being is assured.

‘He for whom there is neither this shore nor the other shore, nor yet both, He who is free of cares and is unfettered. Him do I call a holyman’.
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Редакция перевода от 03.06.2016 11:17