Posted by: Soh
Kyle wrote in Facebook:

Kyle Dixon: Raan, you write:

"Ok the comment I made that brought about all this discussion was that I do not believe in karma or rebirth or any of that and Kyle told me it was not a matter of belief and went into a definition of karma that was not standard by common usage. I do understand that the Buddha's view on karma and reincarnation came from the insight of Anatta and so his understanding of these beliefs was different than the usual understanding.. assuming they obtain at all in reality, which at the time was the assumption. However to me it would be the same as describing the resurrection of Christ in terms of Anatta if it were assumed that this did indeed occur. However, I do not assume anything like that and find it irrelevant to awakening and liberation."

I'm curious because you speak of anātman, which traditionally is synonymous with emptiness and can be applied to anything, however I understand that you're using the term anātman [anatta] in the context of a 'self', 'entity', 'agent', 'individual', etc.

Realizing anātman as such, is predicated upon a prior impression that a truly established self or agent [ātman] exists within or apart from the aggregates. That conviction undoubtably occurs, so much so that the majority of individuals go about their entire lives never even questioning that impression of being an inherent identity or self. Those who do encounter the possibility that there is no inherent self will still struggle to actualize a genuine realization of that principle.

Awakening and liberation occur because those misconceptions are overturned via experiential insight into the unreality of a truly established individual agent or entity. If awakening and/or liberation are the cessation of that affliction, then why would that affliction be irrelevant to awakening or liberation?
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Kyle Dixon: Raan, you write:

"If instead the discussion of karma is a discussion of causality that is another matter entirely. The contention again was that Karma was not a belief and then the discussion of it became somewhat obscure without establishing it as anything more than a belief. If instead we are discussion causality which is more than a belief but a scientifically useful and proven concept then it is not a belief but then it is not karma in the sense that karma is used generally as per the dictionary and encyclopedic use of that term.. to say nothing of rebirth."

The difference between materialist causality, and the nature of karmic causality is incredibly vast. Honestly the true meaning of karma in the context of the buddhadharma does not even really apply to the materialist interpretation of causality. Sure, 'karma' means 'action' and so you can say that there are gross karmic forces playing out in the context of materialist causality, but the meaning is entirely different when compared to karmic causation associated with pratītyasamutpāda and so on.

Since ultimately causality of any stripe is empty, one would be hard pressed to state that 'causality' as a "scientifically useful and proven concept" is actually something which has been "proven". It is a useful inference, and is sound conventionally, however ultimately science is functioning within a certain paradigm which is predicated on various assumptions that one could argue fail to ultimately hold water, as everything ultimately does.

At any rate I believe your assertion that the reasoning behind 'karma' is obscure (or that the discussion "became somewhat obscure") is most likely a result of the type of view you hold. Without properly understanding causes and conditions in the context of buddhism these notions are most likely not going to make sense.
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Kyle Dixon: Raan writes:

"From the standpoint of Anatta realization there is apparently nothing and no one to be reborn and on one and nothing to which karma might apply even if these were not a matter of belief. So I have not seen yet how any of the above discussion or definition has established these as more than beliefs anyway. Do we need to swallow the litany of dependent origination blindly after all? I understand the intent of it certainly however I do not agree entirely with the order and structure. The question remains as to how ignorance might occur in the first place. It is tantamount to the Theistic "problem of evil" I have yet to see a Theodicy, if you will, of ignorance. But really when it comes down to it, it does not matter since a realization of Anatta dispels it all anyway."


Regarding the idea of no-self and rebirth: from the standpoint of anatta or otherwise there has never, ever once at any time been someone or something for karma to apply to. That is the entire point of this, and that is why realizing anatta, etc., is possible. If there truly were a 'self' endowed with valid existence then anatta would be an impossibility.

Buddhism is never dealing with 'selves', it is dealing with causes and conditions, afflictive processes and habitual patterns. The 'self' is merely a useful (ultimately unfounded) convention attributed to the sum total of those processes. There is no self enduring from moment to moment, there is patterns of conduct, behavior, grasping, which are simultaneous causes and effects for further proliferation of the same expressions.

For example, from Nāgārjuna's Pratītyadsamutpādakarika:

"Empty dharmas are entirely produced
from dharmas strictly empty;
dharmas without a self and [not] of a self.
Words, butter lamps, mirrors, seals,
fire crystals, seeds, sourness and echoes.
Although the aggregates are serially connected,
the wise are to comprehend nothing has transfered.
Someone, having conceived of annihilation,
even in extremely subtle existents,
he is not wise,
and will never see the meaning of ‘arisen from conditions’."

And in his Pratītyasamutpādakarikavhyakhyana, Nāgārjuna states in reply to a question:

"Question: Nevertheless, who is the lord of all, creating sentient beings, who is their creator?
Reply: All living beings are causes and results."

And in the same text:

"Therein, the aggregates are the aggregates of matter, sensation, ideation, formations and consciousness. Those, called ‘serially joined’, not having ceased, produce another produced from that cause; although not even the subtle atom of an existent has transmigrated from this world to the next."

And lastly from Lopon Kunga Namdrol:
The point is that the question is phrased wrong requiring at best an ambigious answer that will confuse more than edify.

Buddha in fact discussed this with Sharputra saying that if he answers the question "yes there is something that undergoes birth" people will become confused and assuem there is a permanent self that undergoes retribution of action and so on. Likewise, if he answers the question "no, there is nothing which undergoes rebirth" likewise there are those who will assume there are no consequences of action and so on and will therefore feel no compelling need observe the principles of karma and so on.

Therefore when asked the question "what takes rebirth" he points out that question itself is flawed.

The question should be "Why is there birth?" The answere to that question is easy. There is birth, i.e. suffering, because of affliction and action.

As long as the aggregates are afflicted, afflicted aggregates will continue to be appropriated.

In Madhyamaka it is explained there is birth because of the innate self-grasping "I am" appearing to the afflicted mind. It is asserted that what appropriates birth in a new series of aggregates is the mental habit "I am." That "I am" is baseless, has no correspondence in the aggregates or seperate from them or in any one of them, just as a car is not found in its parts, seperate from them, or in any one of the parts. Nevertheless, the imputation "car" allows us to use cars effectively. Likewise, the mental habit "I am" is proper as both the agent of action and the object upon which it ripens even though it is basically unreal and has no basis in the aggregates, outside the aggregates, or in any one of them, but allows us to treat the aggreates as a nominally designated "person".
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Kyle Dixon So there is a conventional self, but that doesn't truly constitute a self. The self is an expression of karma, where there is karma there is conditioning, and the perception of a self appears as a result of those processes. There is no actual self (nor actual absence thereof) though, in any sense of the term.

If those karmic propensities are allowed to proliferate, then the conditions persist. The continuity of those afflictive propensities is reincarnation. What reincarnates is habitual patterns, however again, there is no actual self within that patterning. That is why when one's karma is exhausted then liberation occurs.

The entire occurrence is equivalent to an illusion, it is no different than going to bed at night and waking up the next morning with the impression that the same entity who went to sleep the night before is now waking up to begin a new day. Those processes of confusion beget further confused processes. When confusion is overturned, then those processes are seen for what they are, devoid of substantiality
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Kyle Dixon: And if the issue arises from a Zen standpoint; here are a few excerpts from Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō:

5.386 "If people who study Buddha Dharma have no genuine faith or true mindfulness, they will certainly dispense with and ignore [the law of] causality."

6.437 "denying karma is wrong view, zazen with wrong view is useless"

7.504 "Tathagatas [Buddhas] never go beyond clarifying cause and effect"

7.510 "Students of the way cannot dismiss cause and effect. If you discard cause and effect, you will ultimately deviate from practice-realization."
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