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According to the traditional Buddhist dogma the fourth noble truth or eight-fold path is the way to attain Enlightenment then again some sects in Buddhism accept karma as a factor. Not knowing (gnosis) what your karma was in your previous life and how it affects your current life to attain Enlightenment makes you wonder about the illusory nature of karma or Buddhism itself.

What's the view Buddhism has on your own chances to obtain Enlightenment? Is it because Enlightenment is just like truth and there are different degrees of Enlightenment? Is it because Enlightenment is like a path or direction you take in existence like a boat that heads west but the wind (karma) sometimes prevents you from moving forwards? Is it because Enlightenment is just like a riddle the Buddha plays to tell you about that characteristic of perception that makes you realize something that was always there but you were unaware of, or perhaps Enlightenment is the ultimate version of that? Or perhaps there is no Enlightenment and it's just the pursuit of it that gives us purpose in life and therefore less suffering (as long as we take the middle way of course...)?

"There is no spoon" The Matrix

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Enlightenment comes as a natural result of the meditation practise. When you practise meditation with proper effort you'll realize very quickly that this is path of freedom from suffering. So with experience a person realizes the benefits of meditation and that realization can lead the person to get involved with meditation more deeply.

It is "not" possible for a person to not become enlightened If s/he is able to get rid of his physical and mental addictions, learns to practise mindfulness correctly and practises mindfulness and meditation for long periods of time. But modern life's requirements, the person's attachment to wrong ideas/beliefs and the possible mental or physical problems limits a person's conditions to do what is necessary in the path of freedom from suffering. So the chances to have success in the path is not just about freewill or karma. It's about both of them.

You don't need to be a Buddhist or subscribe to any religion or tradition to have benefits from spirituality. Also Buddhism really leads people to become Non-Buddhists If one follows Buddhism correctly. Just like Thich Nhat Hanh said "Buddha is made of non-Buddha elements".

If you want to start to walk in the path, this map can be helpful to you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErN4a5qvxok

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    I agree with your view but the idea of meditation being the only way or exclusive way to attain enlightenment it's controversial even in this network you can find that debate. – user2428 Feb 14 at 9:52
  • You're right but I think that doing meditation naturally leads people to stop doing things that is harmful for a person's state of mind and also leads people to do things that is helpful in the spiritual path. I started practising mindfulness after reading Eckhart Tolle's books and I did naturally what the Buddhist precepts and principles recommends us to do. I didn't know so much about the Buddhism for more than a year but I was living like a Buddhist Lol – Murathan1 Feb 14 at 10:00
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    @PbxMan this site is not a forum and you keep using it as such. Comments are not meant for discussion, only for a brief clarification of some details in the answer. – Andrei Volkov Feb 14 at 11:23
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Yes christian intellectuals cannot get out of their awful dichotomy free will-determinism, so when they get curious about the dhamma, they completely fail to understand it.

First since you care about kamma, you can read this https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/kamma.html instead of wikipedia.

Second, the path is not about free will, choices, or lack of control, ''accepting reality'', suspension of ''agency'', of choices. The path is about bhavana, which is cultivation. Like the buddha says, there are two paths; the path of craving as explained here http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/pts/sn/04_salv/sn04.36.023.wood.pts.htm and the opposite, which is a more complicated path for puthujjanas addicted to sensuality, and he calls that the noble path. He even says that the purpose of the holy life is to end dukkha by following the noble path... Then of course, puthujjana who are not bikkhu do not like that there is no explicit purpose of their lay life (there is not precisely because they are not bikkhu). Thus, the people who are not bikkhu can do what they want, there is no goal, no rules, for the lay followers and they really do not like that.

So the method to stop being a bad puthujjana, in order to become a good puthujjana, or even better to stop being a puthujjana is to stop the bhavana of craving and to start the bhavana of non-craving. You can say that developing the citta and the mano towards nibanna is a choice over developing the citta and the mano towards samsara, a choice which comes from only you, or some other people influence you to go towards one direction over another, but at the end of the day, there is only effort directed either towards craving or the cessation of craving.

Since puthujjanas are in love with what is toxic, namely sensuality, what they experience, what they feel, the aggregates, whatever is dukkha, the bhavana is about developing repulsion towards what is indeed, really, totally dukkha, which is thus any vedana, sanna, vinnana, sankhara, citta whatever is foudn in the ''dependent origination'', like that

These five things, bhikkhus, if developed and practiced frequently, lead exclusively to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to awakening, to Nibbāna. Which five? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells observing foulness in the body, perceiving unattractiveness in food, perceving non-delight in the entire world, observing impermanence in all Fabrications, and he has the perception of death well established internally. These five things, bhikkhus, if developed and practiced frequently, lead exclusively to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to awakening, to Nibbāna.

So the path is not about choices, it is about how much energy is dedicated to the bhavana of rigth samdadhi of the citta and how much energy is dedicated to craving.

Generally the bhavana of the citta begins with sila, morality as they say today, which means it is about sati sampjanna, or mindfulness as they say today. When a bad puthujjana cultivate minduflness, this bad puthujjana has "sense-restrains'' and keep '''the five precepts'' and thus becomes a good puthujjana.

Minduflness is this stuff

And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu possessed of strength? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu remains with aroused energy, for abandoning unwholesome mental states, for acquiring wholesome mental states, he is steadfast, firm in his effort, without relaxingfrom his duty regarding wholesome mental states. This, bhikkhus, is how a bhikkhu is possessed of strength.

Bhikkhus, heedfulness should be practiced in four instances. Which four? Abandon bodily misconduct and develop bodily good conduct; do not be negligent towards it. Abandon verbal misconduct and develop verbal good conduct; do not be negligent towards it. Abandon mental misconduct and develop mental good conduct; do not be negligent towards it. Abandon wrong view and develop right view; do not be negligent towards it.

Bhikkhus, heedfulness, mindfulness and protection of the mind should be practiced by oneself in four instances. Which four? Heedfulness, mindfulness and protection of the mind should be practiced by oneself [thinking:] 'May my mind not become avid on account of things that induce avidity.' Heedfulness, mindfulness and protection of the mind should be practiced by oneself [thinking:] ' May my mind not become averse to things that induce aversion.' Heedfulness, mindfulness and protection of the mind should be practiced by oneself [thinking:] 'May my mind not become deluded on account of things that induce delusion.' Heedfulness, mindfulness and protection of the mind should be practiced by oneself [thinking:] 'May my mind not become intoxicated by things that intoxicate.'

As usual, puthujjanas do not know what is good and bad in life, so first they have to memorize it, which is that:

And what, bhikkhus, is the unwholesome? Destroying life, taking what is not given, misconduct in sensual pleasures, lying, malicious speech, frivolous talks, covetousness, ill-will and wrong view: this is called, bhikkhus, the unwholesome.

And what, bhikkhus, is the wholesome? Abstaing from destroying life, abstaining from taking what is not given, abstaining from misconduct in sensual pleasures, abstaining from lying, abstaining from malicious speech, abstaining from frivolous talks, non-covetousness, non-ill-will and right view: this is called, bhikkhus, the wholesome.

So instead of going with the flow of craving, so far the path is about restrain the toxic craving by restraining the senses and destroying bad thoughts. Mindfulness is the purification of the mano, or intellect like they say today.

When this is done, when mano is purified and the kaya, body is relaxed, the citta will be in samadhi, or concentration as intellectual puthujjanas say. When the citta is in samadhi, the citta is under control. THis is what control means for the buddha. Of course, for bad puthujjanas, control means changing things so that they can do whatever pleases them.

Sariputta, beggars, following upon his attainment of seven, controls the bent of his heart, is not controlled by the bent of his heart.

What are the seven?

Here, beggars, Sariputta has skill in serenity; skill in attaining serenity; skill in maintaining serenity; skill in rousing up serenity; skill in managing serenity; skill in the pastures of serenity; skill in abandoning serenity.

These then beggars, are the seven, following upon the attainment of which, beggars, Sariputta, controls the bent of his heart, is not controlled by the bent of his heart.

A few puthujjanas always claim that controlling the mind is bad, and letting thoughts come and go, no matter how bad they are, is the way to go, because Those people have no notion of right and wrong.

When the citta is in samadhi, there is no demerit at all, because demerit is this 5 things

Speaking of 'accumulations of demerit',{1} bhikkhus, one speaking rightly would speak of the five hindrances. These, bhikkhus, are truly accumulations of demerit, that is to say the five hindrances. Which five? The hindrance of sensual desire, the hindrance of ill-will, the hindrance of dullness and drowsiness, the hindrance of excitement and worry, and the hindrance of doubt. Speaking of 'accumulations of demerit', bhikkhus, one speaking rightly would speak of these five hindrances. These, bhikkhus, are truly accumulations of demerit, that is to say the five hindrances. http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/05/an05-052.html

On the contrary, the purification of mano and citta is a meritorious activity. This means that the karma associated to these action is meritorious and brings meritorious births.

And what are bright deeds with bright results? It’s when someone makes pleasing choices by way of body, speech, and mind. Having made these choices, they’re reborn in a pleasing world, where pleasing contacts touch them. Touched by pleasing contacts, they experience pleasing feelings that are exclusively happy—like the gods replete with glory. These are called bright deeds with bright results.

But the a pure citta and mano is not enough to stop karma and birth. The citta cannot be permanently in samadhi and therefore, another method must be found to keep a pure citta even when the citta is not in samadhi. In order to stop being a puthujjana, extra effort is required: the puthujjana has to go beyond merit-demerit and to become blameless. When it comes to the bhavana of samadhi, there are 4 bhavanas as listed here http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/04/an04-041.html

Sati sampajjana is the first bhavana that any puthujjana undertakes, then the bhavana of the citta is the jhanas. The other two bhavanas are about the transition from good puthujjana to non-puthujjana, which is done when the citta is in right samadhi, like this:

‘The first absorption is a basis for ending the defilements.’ That’s what I said, but why did I say it? Take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption. They contemplate the phenomena there—included in form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness—as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as an abscess, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as falling apart, as empty, as not-self. They turn their mind away from those things, and apply it to the deathless: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.’ Abiding in that they attain the ending of defilements. If they don’t attain the ending of defilements, with the ending of the five lower fetters they’re reborn spontaneously, because of their passion and love for that meditation. They are extinguished there, and are not liable to return from that world.

https://suttacentral.net/an9.36/en/sujato

or if the puthujjana fails to get the vipassanas, there only remains the option to go up to ''the attainment of the cessation of feeling and perception'' in order to keep the citta pure even when the citta is not in samadhi.

In terms of karma, the bhavana of samadhi and sati sampajanna and yoniso manasikhara is the ''kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result''

§ 30. "And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma? Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration."

So you can say that the noble path is still akarma, and when you say that, you must never forget that meritorious karma is not ''kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result''. DO not confuse the path of merit and the path of nibanna.

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Enlightenment is the ultimate achievable state, which is a Goal where many Buddhists practice towards, through the teachings of the Buddha.

The path, has already been outlined by Lord Buddha through his teachings. Some people walk in the right direction. Some people walk and rest, then walk again. Some people keep their heads down eyes closed wondering if this path exist, or even asking pseudo questions and writing pointless critiques.

Who you choose to be, as you said, Ultimately Up To You. Practice the Dhamma, or question the Dhamma.

Not knowing (gnosis) what your karma was in your previous life and how it affects your current life to attain Enlightenment makes you wonder about the illusory nature of karma or Buddhism itself.

Can you explain why "Knowing your past karma" has to be a pre-requisite to "practicing the teachings of the Buddha, i.e. Dhamma" ?

  • Because some people need logic and reason and ultimately truth because if you don't it's just religion just like any sect or dogma that tells you to kill and die for your god. – user2428 Feb 14 at 8:56
  • Our perception changes as wisdom cultivates. What seems illogical/unreasonable now may not seem so when you derive insight into many minor things in life. Of course, we should respect the fact that everyone has different starting point so don't expect everyone to perceive the Dhamma on the same level. As for the killing part, there are precepts in Buddhist teachings already. If you argue that killing is a wholesome thing to do then perhaps you are not so ready for this stuff yet. – Krizalid_13190 Feb 14 at 9:08
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I think the suttas say that:

  • There are or were beings "with little dust in their eyes" who benefit from hearing the Dhamma
  • Actions and, more specifically, intentions are karmic
  • "I am heir to my own karma" is a reason to be careful of what you do and what your intentions are; it may also be cause for equanimity (others inherit their own karma)
  • The results of karma might be good or bad, instead it's recommended that you work towards the end of karma (e.g. not "heaven" nor "hell" but rather "no further becoming")
  • There's a lot of past (the beginning of samsara isn't evident), presumably a lot of karma, nevertheless see above
  • Notions of "you" and so on, an emphasis on that, is part of what needs to be dropped on the path to enlightenment; according to some definition there are several stages of enlightenment and dropping self-view marks entry into the the first stage (also called "stream entry")
  • People are fortunate to have been born as people (rather than e.g. as animals) and born in a place and time when it's possible to hear the Dhamma. This is a lesson that you shouldn't waste the relatively rare opportunity of having been born human.

    I also read Tibetan-origin doctrine that you might view this (opportunity) as evidence of having sufficiently good karma (or perhaps as just blind luck), and therefore approach the doctrine and practice cheerfully.

  • I think that predeterminism ("nothing I do or want makes any difference because the future is predetermined") is probably one wrong view, and free will ("anything I want is what will happen") is another wrong view, opposite extremes.
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Past life kamma is not something mentioned in the Noble Eightfold Path (the original form is explained in SN 45.8). Also, please refer to MN 117, which make it absolutely clear the "Noble" Path does not include ideas of "my good & bad kamma". If all ideas of "self" cannot eradicated, the Noble Path cannot be attained. AN 6.63 makes it absolutely clear the Noble Path ends kamma. Kamma is not part of the Noble Path. Kamma-vipaka is a doctrine for puthujjana ('ordinary worldlings'), as explained in MN 117.

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    Hi DD! I thought Right View could be broken down into two categories: mundane RV and supramundane RV, whule both being part of that RV nonetheless. If that's the case, could one assume that kamma is part of the N8P? Kind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Feb 14 at 9:55
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    Thanks Brian. If MN 117 is read carefully, the kamma-vipaka of mundane RV is actually excluded from the Noble Path. Mundane RV is said to side with asava and, unlike the supramundane RV, is not described as "noble". My impression is MN 117 is a later addition to the suttas and was composed by an arahant to clear up the confusions as kamma-vipaka started to dominate Buddhist doctrine in the world. Kind regards. – Dhammadhatu Feb 14 at 12:02

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