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Ok, so i am kind of an outsider on this topic, so i assume i got something basic wrong. But even if thats not the case, please try to explain this to me:

As i understand it at this point, Karma works somewhat like this: Person A has bad/negative karma so Person B does something bad to them. Through this, Person As negative karma is quasi removed and Person B aquires negative karma for their bad deed.

Reaching nirvana requires one to reach karmic neutrality, having neither positive nor negative karma.

This setup leads me to one conclusion: Once basically everyone has reached nirvana, in the end there has to be one individual being that holds all the combined karma, and this one being has thus no chance of ever reaching neutrality and thus nirvana.

Now, i am pretty sure something in my setup is false, so can someone please explain it to me?

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Karma originally means "work" - intended actions.

Let's imagine we travel outdoors and find a good fruit. We eat it, it's tasty, then we go on. With regard to that experience, we can do different things, for example:

  1. We can develop clinging and desire to find more such fruits. So we put a lot of our energy in searching.
  2. We can let it go and just travel further, not bothering about more fruits. Realizing that we can find them, we remain attentive, but we do not invest our energy in searching. We continue to enjoy the travel as a whole, not losing the sight of the sky and everything else.

Then if we find more fruits, the result would depend on the attitude we developed:

If we have developed desire and clinging, we might feel fear that someone else might come here too, and take a part of "our" fruits. We develop greed and eventually regret that we don't see even more fruits.

Since that, finding fruits, we will feel vexation: excitement with a bit of fear, greed, jealousy and regret.

And when not finding enough fruits, we feel regret and anger (and greed, and jealousy to those who also found some).

But if we didn't develop desire and clinging, we didn't invest our emotional energy into the search, then we will remain calm and easy. New fruits wouldn't lead to vexations, and when we meet others, instead of jealousy and fear, instead of wishing to hide our fruits from them, we would like to share, to give them the fruits we found.

That's how karma works.

  1. Ignorance (Avidyā) - encloses our limited perception. It creates limited models -
  2. Mental creations (Saṃskāras) - such as "it's good to find such fruits", leading to -
  3. Consciousness (Vijñāna) - limited view of the world, such as becoming busy with chasing fruits, and neglecting other things in our travel -

and so on (see Twelve Nidānas).

Briefly speaking, intentional work, accompanied with limited consciousness, develops desire, and then both good and bad events would cause vexations.

That is the power of karma: we put our energy in something limited, it's like putting there a part of ourselves. Then that energy works separated from us. Thus we have lost our wholeness.

We feel that "external forces" influence us, pushing us to feel vexations, and pushing us to do this or that.

This is called karmic impulses.

In fact what really hooks us is not external forces, but our own energy which we invested earlier, separated from our wholeness.

Imagine this as particles of various colors, which we have thrown in some mental space. They got kinetic energy, so they remain flying in the space. That is called karmic seeds.

When we meet again with such particles, that kinetic energy pushes us to act and to perceive the world according to their direction, speed, color, etc. It is called manifestation of our karma.

So in order to remove our karma we have to withdraw our energy from the desires we developed.

It's just like habits: bad karma is bad habits, good karma is good habits - such as sharing with others, being friendly, kind and attentive, etc.

The point is to change our habits, just in Buddhism we analyze them really deeply, so we are able to find their weak spots and change them very efficiently.

PS. With this explanation you can understand why with bad karma we meet enemies where with good karma we meet friends.

  • So, basically, (just to make sure i get you right) everyone is solely responsible for their own karma, and there is no direct connection between Person A and Person B? – sam4ritan Jul 20 '17 at 6:33
  • @sam4ritan, divisions are illusory, see my answer to a related question: buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/21631/… Intended actions turn some "energy" into "matter", creating "moving objects". The sum of these "moving objects" is our "karmic body". It works when we act, defining what to do. But not only (1) karmic body, other energies also are in play: (2) of clear mind, (3) energies "from others". So we influence each other, including with our karma. So there's no strong separation, but no mechanical rule of exchange either. – chang zhao Jul 20 '17 at 16:11
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"Person A has bad/negative karma so Person B does something bad to them. Through this, Person As negative karma is quasi removed and Person B aquires negative karma for their bad deed."

That's not Buddhist doctrine of Karma. According to buddhist texts, bad and good karma fruits from past deeds come to be when conditions for them arise. The way out of experiencing karma fruits is Nirvana. While in samsara, karma fruits are experienced differently according to the development of the person.

"Monks, for anyone who says, 'In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,' there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of stress. But for anyone who says, 'When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result is experienced,' there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress.

[...]

"Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"Yes, lord. Why is that? There being only a small amount of water in the cup, it would become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink."

"Now suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into the River Ganges. What do you think? Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"No, lord. Why is that? There being a great mass of water in the River Ganges, it would not become salty because of the salt crystal or unfit to drink."

"In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

[...]

"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

-- An 3.99

Also, the person who suffers bad deed from someone else does not have their own karma "removed". There's the possibility, however, of the suffering experienced to create conditions to develop good karma.

"Reaching nirvana requires one to reach karmic neutrality, having neither positive nor negative karma"

Reaching Nirvanas requires the cessation of the fetters, the abandonment of karma (through "karma to end all karma").

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Person A has unwholesome kamma, so unwholesome kamma make him get immorality resultant. Person A's kamma never force person B to do unwholesome kamma to person A.

person A can get immorality resultant from anyway such as back pain himself, no one pain him. So although if person B pain person A: there is just person A's kamma give immorality resultant to person A, not to person B. And there is just person B's kamma give immorality resultant to person B, not to person A.

Kamma give immorality/morality resultant to it's person. Kamma will not give immorality/morality resultant to the others.

There are the other causes by person A (except kamm-cause) that let's person B do kamma to person A. But person B get those other causes because of person B's kamma. There is still not person A' kamma give resultant to person B to let him meet person A and get those other causes work.

See kamma-paccaya and vipākapaccaya in paṭṭhāna. Learn abhidhamma to get the easiest way to understand tipitaka.

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The question itself is irrelevant to Buddhism and Buddhist practice. See The Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta (MN 63) e.g.

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.

"In the same way, if anyone were to say, 'I won't live the holy life under the Blessed One as long as he does not declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,'... or that 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,' the man would die and those things would still remain undeclared by the Tathagata.

In summation, there's just some shit that no one is ever going to know; there's no point worrying about it.

  • I am aware that there are thing outside of human understanding. Just like a cat may never entirely grasp the concept of television beyond its aspects of bright lights and sounds, such restrictions logically will also apply to humans. – sam4ritan Jul 20 '17 at 6:35
  • ...However, just stopping to ask questions altogether isn't helpful, since we'd never find out anything about anything. Imagine a caveman never wondering what fire was. For me, the trick is to try and find out where this final stop to human understanding lies – sam4ritan Jul 20 '17 at 6:43
  • I think it's perfectly reasonable to make an attempt at understanding, but to use the intellect in that attempt is an exercise in futility. – user698 Jul 20 '17 at 12:26
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I think a basic premise or setup is that, via bad karma people are reborn in a lower state (e.g. as an animal, as a hungry ghost, or in hell); and via good karma (which you didn't mention) they may be reborn in a higher state (e.g. as a semi-divinity or in some kind of heaven).

Whereas nirvana is neither of the above, e.g. it's "deathless", "immediate", "experienced in the here and how", and not associated with rebirth (quite the opposite: being liberated from samsara).

Also I'm not sure about your premise that Person A's karma is removed by Person B's deed, and transferred to person B. I think that we (e.g. if we are "Person A") are supposed to think of ourselves as being responsbible for our own karma.

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I am not a scholar nor enlightened so my answer needs to be understood in that context. Based on my studies, however, I have learned that the issue of Karma (Kamma) is so complex that only the Buddha and other Enlightened Ones truly understood/understand how it works. So not fully understanding it would not be unusual.

For me, to simplify to something I can understand, I have come to think of our Karma as ‘energy balance’, either positive or negative, attached to our non-selves, individually. By ‘balance’ I am speaking in the concept similar to a bank account balance in which our current Karma is the sum total of our deposits (gaining positive Karma) and withdrawals (gaining negative Karma).

Our current state of Karma is attained in us one of two ways. 1) the inherited Karma we get in our current life from our previous existences (this can either be positive or negative). 2) the Karma we have created ourselves by the intentional actions we have committed in our present life.

It is my understanding that others cannot ‘give’ us Karma - with the exception of that which we inherit coming into our current existence. We are solely responsible for the Karma we carry/create after that initial instant of beginning our current lives.

I believe that what the Buddha taught is that we must understand this individual responsibility. If we come into this life with negative Karma because of past existences, we must strive to create positive Karma to offset this. Even if we inherit a positive Karmic balance, we must strive to create more positive Karma to assist us in our quest for Enlightenment. If we do not achieve it in this life, the net positive Karma we pass on with the end of our life will assist the existence which inherits it in the future - making it easier for it to attain Enlightenment.

The net of it is that: 1) No - others cannot give or take Karma from us; though others’ actions can cause us to react in a way that has us adding or subtracting from our Karmic balance ourselves. 2) Striving for Karmic ‘neutrality’ is misunderstanding of the concept that the Enlightened Person has moved beyond the effects of Karma. Instead, we should continually strive to always do intentional actions which build more positive Karma to assist us (or our inheritors) in finding this Enlightenment.

I would appreciate those who are further in their understandings of the Buddha’s teachings to correct me in any misunderstandings I have presented here. Regards

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Another living being is not necessary for your Karma to come into fruition. A coconut can fall from a tree and kill you as a result of your past Karma. You see because of Vipaaka(result of Karma), you hear because of Vipaaka, you smell, taste, feel because of Vipaaka. You are born ugly, pretty, disabled, dumb, smart because of Vipaaka. You get sick because of Vipaaka and so on.

Bad Karma cannot make others think to harm you. Bad Karma can place you in a convenient position for another who may have the intention to harm you or it can simply put you in harm's way.

Also there are infinite number of beings in the universe. So your logic does not come into play.

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Yes, something is wrong with your logic. In Buddhism we don't talk about Person A harming Person B harming Person C etc. We talk about karma applying on oneself and whether Person B is harming oneself. Also in Buddhism Person B is a projection of oneself. Person B is harming oneself is the bad Karma of oneself projecting Person B harming oneself. We don't actually know for sure if the real Person B is harming oneself. In fact Person B can just be doing something normal - doing his own day to day work. However, because of our bad karma we see Person B harming oneself. This explains why oneself can be the last person to reach nirvana. - with Person B, Person C Person D etc having all reached Nirvana first.

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Let's see . What if you substitute the word Dharma in your logical analysis in the place of Karma. What could you conclude then?

  • OH, I just remembered , on one occasion, Kalu Rinpoche was teaching Dharma to a group of people in San Francisco, Some people asked a question about Karma, and he spoke for a while. During that time he mentioned that when a world system is created our karma goes ahead of us and conditions the creation, so that we are experiencing the result of our previous Karma in this life. So for us lay people we could think Karma doesn't always come after us, sometimes it comes before us. – Pasquale Jul 25 '17 at 22:25
  • The Buddha's teaching was a teaching of Awakening. We must awaken to understand This Teaching. – Pasquale Jul 25 '17 at 22:26
  • "Answering a question with a question" can be a valid form of teaching ... but not on this site. On this site people are expected to answer with an answer -- see Are the kinds of question, and what kinds of answers are good, considered on Buddhism.SE? – ChrisW Aug 10 '17 at 11:53

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