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Can one gloss the doctrine of karma as the claim that we are only really hurting ourselves?

At least in everyday senses of suffering.

Perhaps not including sickness, old age, and death (these seem like counter examples).

But when we suffer from everyday pangs of frustration, due to e.g. frustration with our visual appearance, or lack of wealth (these are just examples).

Thanks for your contribution: looking for the limits of what is and is not our own fault.

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  • Can you refine the question to give a definition of what you mean by "hurting ourselves" and under what circumstances? Maybe you can give an illustrative example or an allegory? Try and come up with a counterexample and explain why it still fails and you can still "gloss" karma this way? – Yeshe Tenley Mar 19 at 12:33
  • Are you asking if we can interpret karma as a form of self-harm? If so that might be a better title, or at least some variation of that, which might draw in more interest. – NeuroMax Mar 19 at 21:33
  • Not to claim Alan Watts to be a great Buddhist scholar, but he glossed karma as "What you do, happens to you." Phrasing it in this neutral way, rather than just talking of hurt, gave him great leeway in using it as a teaching tool. – Cort Ammon Mar 21 at 0:00
  • can you define "ourselves"? – Andrei Volkov Apr 20 at 13:02
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Frustration and suffering arise from unskillful intentions. That's bad kamma.

DN33:1.11.154: There are deeds that are dark with dark result.

Harmony and happiness arise from skillful intentions. That's good kamma.

DN33:1.11.155: There are deeds that are bright with bright result.

More commonly, the two are mixed and muddied.

DN33:1.11.156: There are deeds that are dark and bright with dark and bright result.

However, the truly skillful do not accumulate kamma. They let go of kamma instead of piling it up.

DN33:1.11.157: There are neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the end of deeds.

Looking for the limit of faults is chasing the conditioned, the impermanent and the unsatisfactory.

Instead, look for the limitless in love, compassion, rejoicing and equanimity.

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  • Can you quote some evidence to support "However, the truly skillful do not accumulate kamma. They let go of kamma instead of piling it up"? – ruben2020 Mar 21 at 4:30
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    Indeed. One place is AN6.57: And how does someone ... give rise to extinguishment, which is neither dark nor bright? The "letting go of kamma" is from "kammakkhayāya" in DN33. – OyaMist Mar 22 at 22:08
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What is karma ?
Under ignorance karma is done by me but for enlightened beings all karma happens with end result as dukha or suffering... karma under ignorance bears fruits of good and bad for me... but for enlightened beings all karma results in dukha or suffering...

Does all karma results in hurting ourselves? Invalid question.,. Hurting happens but whose hurt is it anyway ? We can’t say... what happens is dukha or suffering.,, which can removed by giving up craving to enjoy feelings or attachments.., if we give up cravings for feelings or attachments ...the suffering disappears...,. Remember all feelings and attachments as not yours , as not me and not as myself...

What do you do with things not yours including karma? You don’t care ..., no matter what happens you let it be as not yours or not me or not as myself...,

Essentially you don’t let whatever happens as due to you or due to your self or due to something which belongs to you ..

This is how you escape karma.,,

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Can one gloss the doctrine of karma as the claim that we are only really hurting ourselves?

If the mind has right samadhi (which includes hyper sensitiveness), the mind can realize all bad kamma (be it mental, verbal or physical) is hurting oneself; because the mind can directly feel the bad vibrations of its nasty intentions.

However, for those without right samadhi, such as the common puthujjana (worldling), they must see how bad kamma hurts others.

But when we suffer from everyday pangs of frustration, due to e.g. frustration with our visual appearance, or lack of wealth (these are just examples).

The Buddha in the Sutta Pitaka (at SN 37.30) taught a woman that lacks beautiful visual appearance & wealth will still be accepted by others if she has ethical behaviour (morality). If we have faith in the Buddha of the Sutta Pitaka, we will be confident the most important thing is our ethical behaviour. For example, the Buddha in the Sutta Pitaka taught a woman, despite her genetic physical appearance, will look ugly & deformed when she is angry.

Here, Mallikā, a certain woman, is angry, often irritable. Even over a trivial remark, she is cross (abhisajjati), shaken, vexed, stubborn, and shows her temper (byāpajjati), anger and sulkiness. She is not a giver of food, drinks, cloth, vehicles, garlands, scents, ointments, beddings, dwelling or lightings, to recluses or brahmins. Furthermore, she is jealous in her heart; jealous of others‟ receiving gains, honour, respect, esteem, homage and worship; she is vengeful and holds grudges. If she falls away (cutā) and returns (āgacchati) to such a state, wherever she comes forth (paccājāyati), she is ugly, deformed, of very mean appearance and she is poor, having few things, of little wealth and little influence.

AN 4.197

AN 4.197 clearly shows how angry people hurt themselves.

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