Demystifying ideas around karma (from Awakening From Belief 2), questions on whether karma from previous lives impact this life, karma and the death of children, and is there such a thing as burning off bad karma.
passage from article: Karma describes the way actions grow into experience… Every action either starts a new growth process or reinforces an old one as described by the four results. Small wonder that we place so much emphasis on mindfulness and attention. What we do in each moment is very important!
passage from article: Take a simple behavioral pattern such as starting something before we finish what we are currently doing… Once in place, such patterns permeate our lives. We repeat the same dynamic over and over again. We are complete automatons. We may appear to be as graceful and delicate as a fern, but it’s pattern, all the way down.
passage from article: Karma as instruction, however, is a different story… Karma as instruction means to observe our actions and appreciate how consequential each action is in reinforcing or dismantling an habituated pattern.
Advice regarding thoughts of life after retreat; importance of the four reminders: precious human existence, death and impermanence, karma and samsara; why traditionally loving-kindness practice is not to be directed at a child; primary practice; what is Mahamudra?; refreshing the mind through resting.; devotion as means of transforming energy; explanation of the guru yoga prayer, “The Magic of Faith: A Teacher Practice with Niguma.”
Understanding the rhythm of practice; with attention, peace and openness eventually arise; “Look in the resting, rest in the looking.”; summary of Ken’s approach in four principles: everything is evolving, evolution isn’t toward anything, actions have consequences, and we can’t know all of the consequences; approach life without expectation, recognize both mystery and significance in what occurs, and see what happens as part of a process.
Appearances and reality; what life is and staying present in it; the world in which we think we live and the world in which we actually live; where does Buddhism and politics come together; how does one work with psychological trauma in practice; working with fear; how does interdependent origination relate to our thoughts; karma, rebirth, and evolution; translating Buddhist poetry and spiritual writing; discussion of mantra at the end of the Heart Sutra
Morality; participants’ experience with meditation on morality; discussion of external authority; morality as discipline; morality as skillful means; advantages of practicing and disadvantages of refraining from moral discipline: exercise of discipline as stepping out of conditioned behavior; essential gesture: moral discipline is learned through interaction; classification: restraint, generating the good and wholesome, wake up to every aspect of our experience; primary characteristics; generating good and wholesome outcomes; descriptive guidelines for living awake; moving from ordinary moral discipline to the perfection of moral discipline; end outcome; meditation assignment: when you find yourself being impatient, what are you unwilling or afraid of seeing? The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 13.
Participant’s experience with meditation on laying to rest wrong action; taking the bodhisattva vow in the presence of a teacher; does spiritual understanding lead to appropriate action; insight and compassion; preparation for taking the vow: offerings (developing generosity), clearing away non-virtuous action (remorse, remedy, resolve, reliance); meditation instruction for upcoming week on rejoicing in virtue. Due to a recording error, the meditation instruction was added later. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 9.
Participants reflection on intentionally engaging in a non-virtuous act; patterned behavior as a way to avoid experience; ascription, inevitability and karma; how to respond to questions like “Do you believe in evil?”; loving-kindness and compassion as remedies to attachment to the pleasure of peace; the maturation of motivation and practice; is compassion the natural outcome of awareness or something one must cultivate?; meditation instruction for upcoming week: what is it like to receive kindness? The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 6 and Chapter 7.
Follow-up on free will and karma; ten non-virtuous acts; motivation/intention; the full ripening result; the results of a specific non-virtuous actions (taking life); the problem with purity; By not taking these mythic descriptions literally, are we somehow shutting the door to the mystery of life?; the three categories of non-virtuous acts; beliefs which prevent us from relating to what actually is; avoiding obsession; making the dharma relevant in western culture; Buddhism as “a” way or “the” way; karma and attachment to meditative states; description of janas; meditation for the upcoming week: the experience of lying. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 6.
Three analogies for karma: God’s will, gravity, and evolution; God’s will as explanation of mystery; gravity as absence of justice, etc.; evolution as contrast to cause and effect; karma’s function in spiritual life; karma is conditioning through intention and action; the three types of karma. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 6.
The session begins by explaining there are different levels of understanding found in the first two spiritual paths (traditional path and path of cutting through conditioning). These paths have a vertical dimension. A person can become aware of new levels in two ways: through interaction with a teacher or through interaction with fellow students who have more experience. Practice only grows if one works at the edge of one’s practice. Working the edge can be difficult: it is often experienced in the body as panic or nausea and in the mind as uncertainty, or confusion. Finding the edge often requires interaction with a teacher, especially if the student experiences a feeling of not getting anywhere, staleness, or coasting in practice. Physical signs of being over the edge include a sense of being out of balance, engulfed, isolated, failing, or bewildered.The discussion then turned to different levels of practice, this time from the perspective of ‘doing what you know needs to be done’ as opposed to ‘being good.’
The second approach discussed is to cut through four types of conditioning: sociological, psychological, perceptual, and cultural. To cut through sociological conditioning one contemplates on death and impermanence. Contemplating on karma cuts through psychological conditioning. Breaking through the I-other framework cuts through perceptual conditioning. And development of compassion cuts through cultural conditioning. The third approach is based on personal experience: study and practice everything you can, make the path your own based on what works for you, and stand in your own knowing. Discrepancies between your intention and experienced results are reliable indicators that you are not standing in your own knowing. A flat or stale practice may indicate you’ve exhausted your intention and signal the need for redefining your intention in practice. Keep an eye out for chronic imbalances, as they indicate something is not working.The session ends with a group discussion on whether or not compassion or forgiveness towards oneself is important, especially if there is no self, and how to detect imbalance.
Q&A based on students’ meditation on karma and how patterns shape experience.
Q&A session on teaching, making the practice your own, and working with the breath and body in meditation, collective (or national) karma, what is life, ultimate and relative truth
Living life without a belief system, the four conditions that generate karma and their four results, Q&A
Karma as instruction vs. karma as belief, meditation as building a capacity of attention, resting in the experience of breathing, Q&A