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prayer wheel

Karma of Buddhist !

This article looks at the Buddhist concept of karma.

Tibetan Buddhists use prayer wheels to spread good karma
Tibetan Buddhists use prayer wheels to spread good karma

Solely through our actions?

Early Buddhist writings (particularly SN 36.21: see related links for an annotated translation) suggest that not all that we experience is the result of past action; it may be due tonatural events of one sort or another. This is one point on which earlyBuddhism appears to differ somewhat from later Tibetan teachings,which suggest that all the good and bad thingsthat happen to us are the results of past actions.
Whilst there might be doubt, or different opinions, about why weare experiencing some sort of misfortune, there is no doubt that we can resolve any suffering in the presentmoment through the Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and action based upon good motives.

Beyond this life

For Buddhists, karma has implications beyondthis life. Bad actions in aprevious life can follow a person into their next life and cause bad effects (which Westerners are more likely to interpret as 'bad luck').
Even an Enlightened Oneis not exempt from theeffects of past karma. One story tells that theBuddha's cousin tried tokill him by dropping a boulder on him. Although the attempt failed, the Buddha's foot was injured. He explained that this waskarmic retribution for trying to kill his step-brother in a previous life.
On a larger scale, karmadetermines where a person will be reborn and their status in theirnext life. Good karma can result in being born in one of the heavenly realms. Bad karma can cause rebirth as an animal, or torment in a hell realm.
Buddhists try to cultivate good karma and avoid bad. However, the aim of Buddhism is to escape the cycle of rebirth altogether, not simply to acquire good karma and so to be born into amore pleasant state. These states, while preferable to human life, are impermanent: even gods eventually die.


The word karma means 'action', and this indicates something important about the concept of karma: it is determined by our own actions, in particular by the motives behind intentional actions.
Skilful actions that lead to good karmic outcomes are based upon motives of generosity; compassion, kindness and sympathy, and clear mindfulness or wisdom. The opposite motives of greed, aversion (hatred) and delusion, when acted upon, lead to bad karmic results.
Karma is not an external force, not a system of punishment or reward dealt out by a god. The concept is more accurately understood as a naturallaw similar to gravity.
Buddhists believe we are in control of our ultimate fates. The problem is that most ofus are ignorant of this, which causes suffering.The purpose of Buddhism is to take conscious control of ourbehaviour.

Moral habits

The Buddha taught about karmic 'conditioning', which is a process by which a person's nature is shaped by their moral actions.
Every action we take molds our characters for the future. Both positive and negative traits can become magnified over time as we fall into habits. All of these cause us to acquire karma.
This shows why Buddhists place such importance on being mindful of every action they take.

Getting rid of karmic conditioning

Acting on karmic habits increases their strength. Buddhists gradually weaken any negative thoughts and impulses that they experience, through allowing them to arise and depart naturally without acting on them.
In this way karmic habits can be broken.

Rebirth and disability

This view of the world can raise a particularly charged question. Do Buddhists believe that disabled people are suffering for misdeeds in a past life?
The subject is more complicated than it appears, says the Venerable Robina Courtin, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, in this radio discussion on religious attitudes to disability.

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