Scherer B. (Canterbury, Great Britain) Karma: The Transformations of a Buddhist Conundrum
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INTRODUCTION [1]


This paper discusses one of the most fundamental Buddhist conundrums: karma. The concept of causality will be analysed both from a philosophical and an historical angle. After the introduction, the different philosophical approaches to karma in Classical India are evaluated and the historical emergence of the Buddhist concept of causality is placed in the context of its vedic, Jaina and Ājīvika competitors. The andragogical nature of the Buddhist teachings is adduced in order to propose a solution to the Early Buddhist karma conundrum. A discussion of the transformations of the Buddhist karma theories ensues. The paper concludes with observations on the far-reaching reinterpretation of causality within the Tantric tradition in Modern Engaged Buddhism.

Karma theories depart from the general observation that everything one thinks, says or does creates consequences.[2] Accordingly, future pleasant, unpleasant or neutral conditions are effectuated. This is the law of cause and effect: karma (pāli kamma). «Karma» literally means «action»; it does not necessarily denote only a law of nature as such, but can include specific contexts and imprints (vāsanā) in the consciousness (vijñāna) which express themselves in past, present and future conditions. Early Buddhist teachings identify karma as the glue and motor of conditioned reality, saṃsāra: The world exists due to karma; by karma everyone exists. The beings are fettered by karma, just as a chariot wheel is pinned down by a peg (Suttanipāta 654).[3]

[1] An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the World View Society, Bath Spa University, on 13 March 2007. I am grateful to linda Smith for her meticulous proofreading.
[2] On the polarisation into body speech and mind cp. e.g. AN 53, 11; MN 56; Abhidharmakośa iv.i.
[3] kammunā vattati loko / kammunā vattatī pajā / kammanibandhanā sattā / rathassāīva yāyato pTS [pali Text Society edition] p. 121; = v. 657 BJT [Buddha Jayanta Tripitaka edition] p. 200; = v. 659 Chaṭṭhasaṇgāyana, p. 173; cp. Krishan 1997, 60.
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The effects of actions do not vanish with death in a causal chain of births or rebirths but, unlike its rival Indian philosophies, Buddhism sees this dependently arising chain as a mere continuation without any substantial or ontological identity (soul, Self) being passed on from birth to birth: continuity without identity. One can liken this process to a chain of domino tiles, one pushing over the next; or to streams of waves in an ocean or to recurring patterns in a rainbow — discernable but insubstantial or lacking intrinsic existence. Hence, the Buddhist theory of karma is a conundrum from the start: developing and transforming gradually in competition and exchange with Brāhmaṇical and heterodox Indian philosophies, the Buddhist concept of karma forms a powerful yet disturbing philosophical riddle.

KARMA THEORIES IN INDIA: TYPOLOGY


The essential constituents of karma theories in Indian philosophical thought have been described as 1) causality, 2) ethicisation and 3) rebirth.[4] Still, the exact interplay between causality, ethics and metaphysics in Indian philosophy proves a nexus too complex to reduce to a single, simple typology. The ingredient «ethicisation,» for instance, does not characterise all early Indian concepts of karma — e.g. the vedic pre-Upaniṣadic ritualistic karma theory[5] and the determinist Ājīvika concept of rebirth.[6] Another component is the question of transferability of merit; this concept is common to vedic, Jaina and certain Buddhist theories, but alien to Yoga and Advaita vedānta.[7]

Moreover, one can analyse the divergent philosophical karma theories with a fourfold logical tool box comprising A) action/cause, B) result/effect, C) causal relation/the link between A) and B), and D) additional causal factors; in that case, one actually detects a huge variety of karma theories in India, rendering it impossible to speak of a single Indian theory of karma. The logical and historical connections between the different systems are not yet fully understood.[8] In order to investigate Buddhist views on ethicised

[4] Ramanujan, in: Doniger 1980, p. xi.
[5] Cfp Krishan 1997, pp. 9–11.
[6] See below.
[7] See potter 1980.
[8] potter 2001, p. 239.
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causality and rebirth, it is necessary to contextualise the philosophical tenets, starting historically with pre-Buddhist India.

KARMA BEFORE BUDDHISM: VEDA


The Indian concepts of karma and rebirth can be traced back into the vedic period of Indian culture; the vedic sacrifice itself was called «karma» and this is the famous definition of karma in the Śatapatha Brāhmaa (ŚB), 1.1.2.1: yajño vai karma. In the Saṃhitas, the concept of rebirth was not yet developed; instead, one finds the idea of punar-mtyu «re-death» or «repeated death». This concept points to the fate of a deceased ancestor (pit) when the descendants do not maintain the ‘nourishment’ of the new body by fulfilling the death rituals. The sacrificial act (yajña karma) produces a ‘treasure’ (nidhi) or nourishment: the ‘desired reward’ (ihapūrta). This forms the analogous compensation for the ritual act in the other world. For instance, the funeral liturgy of the Atharva Veda (Av 18.2.57) calls upon the dead to follow the ihapūrta. The transactional side of karma was not ethically charged. In the vedic śraddhā rituals as described in the Ghya Sūtras (roughly contemporaneously with Jainism and Buddhism) we find the concept of the transference of merit (sukta / puya) fully developed. As discussed, this transaction is effected by means of ritual and the transfer is enacted from the surviving relatives to the deceased person, especially from children to parent. In this context, metaphors relating to food prevail.[9]

In Upaniṣadic times, slightly before and/or roughly contemporaneously with the rise of Jainism and Buddhism, karma was firstly ethicised and connected to good or bad rebirth. For instance, the Bhad Ārāyaka Upaniad states «merit (puya) is produced by a meritorious action, demerit (pāpa) by a demeritorious action» (BĀU 3.2.3).[10] Further, the notion of rebirth proper is developed: instead of any post-mortal entering of heavens or ancestor realms (pitloka), ethical retribution is instigated by rebirth in the saṃsāra, the cyclic existences comprising the birth realms of humans, animals, etc. The term karma now clearly expands beyond the limits of vedic sacrifice towards an ethical causal concept ontologically and/or metaphysically connected with Human existence. Still, it is up to Buddhism to develop fully the ethicisation of karma towards action as intention.

[9] Doniger 1980; lopez 1997, p. 16. 10 púya púyena kármaā bhavati pāpá pāpéna.
[10] pú ya pú yena kárma ā bhavati pāpá pāpéna.
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JAINAS AND ĀJĪVIKAS ON KARMA

Before looking at Early Buddhist notions of karma and the silent philosophical revolution which accompanies them, it is useful to briefly scrutinise other groups which were contemporary with the historical Buddha around the 6th/5th Century BCE.

The oldest strata of Buddhist texts refer to the Jainas as nigraa (nigaha) and to the Ājīvikas, followers of Makkhali Gosāla.[11] The Jainas were an earlier offshoot of the anti-brahmanical śramaṇa movement of mendicants, which also spawned Buddhism. This movement is also connected to the Upaniṣadic quest for spiritual insight; the śramaṇas rejected the late vedic ritualism, class and gender roles and generally propagated asceticism as means to liberation (moka). The strict asceticism propagated by Jainism aims to redeem the multitude of monadic souls or life-essences (jīva) from their imprisonment in matter. The Jain dualism between materia (prakṛti) and spirit(s) accepts neither the existence of a creator God (as opposed to e.g. the Brahmanical prajāpati theology) nor any (anti-) ontological nominalism (as favoured by Buddhism). Karma is seen as a purely mechanical, material manifestation of pollution of the jīva(s) by entanglement with matter. Karma is a form of matter itself, being divided into eight types,[12] operating through body, speech and mind.[13] Hence, karma in Jainism relates to an objective realist concept of material causality; it is the causative force of sasāra (cyclic existence). The Jain model of karma is that of a ‘minimal transaction’ in the model of McKim Marriott[14] with maximal focus on the act itself: volition/intention does not figure in this model; karma evolves blindly, physically rather than ethically. The physical act itself counts for causality; it constitutes the transactional matter, clinging to the soul like dust and keeping it back in saṃsāra with its ‘downward gravity’ (adhogurutva). For instance, in Jain ethics it doesn’t matter if one intended to crush a bug or did so by accident — the karma generated is the same.

The Ājīvikas, another rival ascetic group, led by the Buddha’s contemporary Gosāla, seemed to have radicalised a purely mechanical

[11] See Bronkhorst 2000, p. 511
[12] Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 33, 1–15; see Krishan 1997, pp. 39–40.
[13] Tattvārtha Sūtra 5, 19. 14McKim Marriott 1976, see potter 1980, pp. 260–265.
[14] McKim Marriott 1976, see potter 1980, pp. 260–265.
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notion of causality and rebirth towards an ultimately unethical, un-karmic determinism with zero transaction. Still, it needs to be stressed that unlike in the case of Jainism, the Ājīvikas have neither survived nor left any primary textual sources; only secondary testimonies survive in the Buddhist or Jain polemics.[15] From the scant sources at hand one can deduce only that the Ājīvikas held strictly atheist and determinist or fatalist views: fate/destiny (niyati) governs the cycle of rebirth; there is neither freedom of will, nor any soteriological function of esoteric knowledge. Even the Ājīvika practice of asceticism was reportedly explained with a predetermined inclination dictated by destiny.

EARlY BUDDHIST CAUSALITY: CONUNDRUM AND PARADOX [16]


In contrast to the non-ethical Ājīvika concept of karma, the Buddhist teachings on causality developed the Upaniṣadic gradual process into full ethicisation.[17] Further, Buddhism diametrically opposed the Jain concept of minimal transaction by putting forward the re-interpretation of karma as intention-led action (‘maximal transaction’ with emphasise on the actor, not on the act).

In the Deep Penetration of Wisdom Sutta (Nibbedhikasutta) of the Aguttara-Nikāya, the Buddha states concisely: Monks! I define ‘mental resolution’ (cetanā) as karma.[18]

Still, by denying the existence of a soul or self (ātman), Buddhism created a paradox which spawned the different quirks of the Buddhist concepts of karma:[19] causality and re-birth without essence being passed on. At its beginning, Buddhist philosophy seems to be stranded with a seemingly purely mechanical process of dependent arising (pratītyasamutpāda), births following each other like flames being passed on from one torch to the other. The major role attributed to volition/intention within the causal

[15] In Buddhist literature, Jaina and Ājīvika positions were often linked and may have been mixed up, see Bronkhorst 2000. On the Ājīvikas generally see Basham 1953.
[16] On karma in Early Buddhism cp., e.g., McDermott 1980; Obeyesekere 1980; Sakaki 1986, pp. 24–41; Gombrich 1988, pp. 66–69; Gombrich 1996, Ch. 2; Krishan 1997, Ch. 6; Wayman 1997, 243–276.
[17] See, e.g., Gombrich 1988 & 1996.
[18] Cetanāha bhikkhave kamma vadāmi AN vol. III, p. 415 PTS, p. 208 BJT.
[19] Cp. McDermott 1980.
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nexus of reality appears to contradict this mechanical process. At this point, a psychological model of an empirical individual without inherent, independent essence is introduced: with an anti-Upaniṣadic assertion of a No-Self (anattā), Buddhism places the karmic intention (saskāra) into an intricate model of interaction: the five ‘heaps’ or ‘groups of grasping’ (upadāna-skandha). In this model, the conditioned and misguided notion of a ‘Self’ arises as the result of a process of demarcation, dualisation of reality into subject/object, and alienation of the part from the whole. This process could be likened to the misguided notion of separateness, for instance, a wave could «feel» with regard to the rest of the ocean. Our self-awareness as separate and individual (5th skandha: vijñāna) arises as the result of intentionally charged impulses (4th skandha: saskāra) towards reality (cf. 1st skandha: rūpa, form) as we perceive (2nd skandha: vedanā, feeling) and conceptualise (3rd skandha: sajñā) it. Buddhism recognised these immediate impulses of separation as fuelled by desire (‘I like something’, tā, rāga), or aversion (‘I dislike something’ dvea) or confusion (‘I am not sure’, mohā, avidyā). It is according to these basic categories that sentient beings are thought to be constantly pigeon-holing their environment and by doing so asserting their own identity i.e. demarcating the boundaries of the Ego. But since beings construct Egos without there being any inherent essence or Self, this individuation is ultimately the reason for them being in a state of suffering, i.e. of pain, change and not being enlightened. The three impulsive psychological reactions (like, dislike, confusion) are therefore characterised as the ‘roots of the unwholesome’ — the causes of difficult conditions.

The difficulty still lies with the notion of rebirth without a Self. Without employing an agent, patiens or subject to re-birth and suffering, how is it possible to console the concept of intention with a seemingly mechanical process of causation resulting in continuous re-becoming? Here it is vital to realize that karma in Early Buddhism is not only fully ethicised and intention-driven; but also karma appears to such a degree of a mental nature that accidental or even ignorant actions cause no offence (Milindapañhā, iv. 2. 27); non-intentional karma does not cause grave negative results (Harivarman, Satyasiddhiśāstra 2, 84). This feature of Early Buddhist karma theory was severely criticised by the Jainas (e.g. Sūtraktāga 2.6.26–8).[20]

[20] Cp. Krishan 1997, 62–66.
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SOLVING THE BUDDHIST RIDDLE: KARMA AND ANDRAGOGY


The philosophical dilemma of Early Buddhist karma theory remains: Without a quasi ontological assumption of mind as a mental essence and an ultimate reality, any notion of an intention driven causality seems to provoke more questions then answers. The solution to this conundrum may come by understanding the unique, non-ontological, non-cosmological speculative approach of Early Buddhism. This approach can meaningfully be described as scientifically empirical, as David Kalupahana in particular has demonstrated.[21] Richard Gombrich has analysed this scientific tendency in popperian terms as a «nominalist» approach.[22] Elsewhere, I have called this the «deconstruction of ontology by practice» — the Buddha’s refusal to develop ontology in favour of teaching an experience-oriented «pedagogy» (cf. SN Iv 15):[23] The Buddha purports only to show the method to permanent happiness. Since the Buddhist teachings aim at an audience of mentally healthy and mature humans, the term «andragogy» seems to be far better suited for this method than the rather patronising term «pedagogy».[24]

For instance, the Four Noble Truths can be interpreted as the blueprint of the empiric, scientific method of the Buddha: His teachings set out a fourfold medical model comprising I) symptomatic (suffering), II) diagnosis (cause of suffering = craving), III) prognosis (curable), and Iv) prescription (The Eightfold path, i. e. Buddha’s methods).[25] In another discourse, the famous Snake Simile Sutta (Majjhimanikāya 22), the Buddha states: «I only teach suffering and its ending».[26] In other words: The Buddha does not concern himself with ontology, cosmology and the conceptualisation of reality.

[21] Starting with his article «A Buddhist tract on Empiricism» in PhEW 19n1 (1969), 65–7, referring to SN Iv 15 Sabbasutta ~ Tsa-a-han-ching T. II, 91a-b.
[22] Gombrich 1996, pp. 1–7.
[23] Scherer 2006; however, this interpretation has recently attracted extensive criticism by David Montalvo (Montalvo 1999).
[24] The term «andragogy» derives from the Greek anr, andrós m. «man, human» as opposed to the term «pedagogy» which derives from the Greek paîs, paidós m. «boy, child».
[25] On the medical model in the Four Noble Truths see particularly Wezler 1984 and Halbfass 1991, Ch. 7 «The Therapeutic paradigm and the Search for Identity in Indian philosophy», pp. 243–263.
[26] Dukkhañceva paññāpemi dukkhassa ca nirodha; Alagaddūpamasutta MN 22 i 140.
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BUDDHIST TRANSFORMATIONS OF KARMA: TRANSFER OF MERIT AND MAHĀYĀNA


How did Buddhist karma theories evolve during the historic transformations of Buddhist philosophy? In Early Buddhism, «the result (phalam) of an action» was seen as «unalterable» (dhruvam).[27] On the other hand, the karmic seeds would surely develop differently, if mitigating, accelerating or repressive factors occur? The Māhāyana Śālistamba Sūtra[28] (around 250 CE) clarified the relationship between primary causes (hetu) and secondary causes or circumstantial conditions (pratyāya), allowing more flexibility in the explanation of the ripening of karma (karma-vipāka): the seed of rice (hetu) brings fruit according to its growth conditions (pratyāya). Influencing karmic seeds would hence relate to the conditions, not to the cause itself. And soon, mitigating factors would be identified in the form of transfer of merit and the compassion of the Bodhisattvas.

This line of thought seems to have been driven by the need to ameliorate the rigorous mechanics of karma. In theistic systems, normally the mercy of a/the God can take away the consequences of negative actions. How to meet this human need in a spiritual method involving no creator god, divine redemption and external salvation? At this point we find the Brāhmaṇical notion of transfer of merit (puyadāna) (re-) entering Buddhist thought, i.e. the idea that actions can counter or even annul the ripening of someone else’s actions (karma). This is seemingly a clear contradiction to the Buddhist emphasis that everybody is fully responsible for his/her own actions.[29] However, this paradoxical softening of the concept of karma in mainstream Mahāyāna thought clearly resonates with the prerogative of altruism; further self-responsibility also entails the freedom to act beneficially in each and every present moment anew. The affirmative and intentional focus of karma is the focus on the present shaping the future, rather than eradicating the past. As Śāntideva puts it in his chapter on patience in his Bodhicaryāvatāra:

[27] Aśvagoṣa, BC 20, 32, cf. Dhp 127. 167; Krishan 1997, pp. 68–70.
[28] See Ross Reat 1993.
[29] Cp. Brekke 1998, p. 296.
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Why did you act like this previously, so that you are now oppressed by others? All are subjected to karma. What is my role in any change here? However, having realized this, I make such efforts in the collection of merits, that all will mutually generate the attitude of loving-kindness (BCĀ 6, 68–69).[30]

Mahāyāna thought consequently developed the idea that far advanced realised beings (Bodhisattvas) are sometimes able to take away negative karma of other sentient beings. Also the notion of transference of merit as practised today in Theravāda society has been linked to that Mahāyāna thought, although without conclusive evidence.[31] It is important to note, that the mechanism of this apparent interfering with the course of causality is ultimately strictly consistent with the concept of karma: Buddhist karma is predominantly mental intention with mental and physical results; strong positive imprints can be left in the consciousness and can counter other/ earlier imprints; such positive counter-imprints can be the development of altruistic motivation such as willing to better the karmic position of a being by transfer of merit; and, at the other end of the transfer, the ultimate trust in the methods of the Buddha and the realisation of a Bodhisattva.[32]

As for karma within Mahāyāna philosophy, it is well known that Mahāyāna refocused from the Ābhidhārmic (scholastical) inventories and discussions about the ontological value of the basic components of reality (dharmas) on the ineffable experience of enlightenment. Nāgārjuna scrutinised karma mercilessly in chapters 8 and 17 of his Mūlamadhyamakakārikās, deconstructing any realist or nihilist notion of transaction in order to arrive at a cognitive aporia which leaves only the openness beyond substantialism and nihilism: śūnyatā, emptiness.[33] In Yogācāra philosophy, the ripening (vipāka) of mental imprints was elaborated with the introduction of «karmic seeds» (bīja) and karmic pregnancy within the field of storehouse consciousness (ālayavijñāna).[34]

[30] kasmādeva kta pūrva yenaiva bādhyase parai / sarve karmaparāyattā ko ‘ham atrānyathāktau // Eva buddhvā tu puyeu tathā yatna karomyaham / yena sarve bhaviyanti maitracittā parasparam //
[31] Cp. Gombrich 1971.
[32] Cp. also vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa, ch. 4 und 5.
[33] On MMK 17 see Kalupahana 1986, 243–262 & Sharma 1993.
[34] Cp., e.g., Schmithausen 1987, pp. 134–137 on Yogācārabhūmi 192, 6–9. On karma in Yogācāra philosophy see, e.g., prasad 1993, pp. 84–89.
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THE TANTRIC DISSOLUTION OF KARMA


Late Indian Tantric Buddhism brought with it an unprecedented radical and transgressive application of Buddhist teaching into a transformative practice; this practice often aims at enlightenment within a single lifetime. The methods used in Tantric Buddhism (both in their Indian expression and its successive Tibetan assimilation) imply a far-reaching modification to the karma conundrum: Tantric methods are seen as bringing karma towards accelerated ripening and even «destroying all permanent karma» (sarvānas thitakarmabhedavidhāna).[35] The triad of intention (motivation, view), selfresponsible action (meditation) and application counters and neutralises any mechanistic leftover in the concept of karma. The artificial and rapid ripening of karma seeds on the tantric trajectory is safeguarded by the special Tantric refuge into the three jewels and the three roots, the Bodhisattva promise, the blessing and power field of the transmission incorporated in the personal Teacher (guru, Tibetan: bla ma). The student — teacher relationship and the strict ritual context of a Tantric meditation trajectory include specific purifying preliminary practices (ngon ‘gro). During the first two of these practices, negative imprints of body, speech and mind are purified, just like dormant bombs are brought to a controlled explosion in a safe environment. Therefore, ripening karma seeds, although experienced unpleasantly — e.g. in form of disturbing emotions etc. — lack the full strength of their naturalistic, mechanical results. The powerful imprints of the student-teacher bond and the rigorous altruistic effort and the constant meditational encounter with enlightenment counter the full ripening.

The guardian and safety net of these shortcut methods, the realised Buddhist master or guru, is hereby seen as beyond karma. For instance, the late Indian Buddhist Mahāsiddha Saraha (9th Century CE ?) sings in one of his poetic-didactic expressions of his Tantric realisation of the Great Seal, Mahāmudrā (Dohākoa, People’s Treasury of Verse 43a, Jackson):

Hey, scrutinise your sensorial faculties! From these, I do not gather {anything}. Near the man who is done with karma (las), cut through the rope of mind (attain absolute certainty about the nature of mind).[36]

[35] That is the title of the ninth chapter of the Abhidhānottara Tantra, a text of the Yoginī Tantra class (translation in Kalff 1979, pp. 153–182). On karma in Tantra see also Stablein 1980 and Elder 1993.
[36] kye lags dbang po ltos shig dang / ‘di las ngas ni ma gtogs so / las zin pa yi skyes bu yi / drung du sems thag gcad par byos.
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In contrast to that, not liberated beings are characterised by their bondage to karma (Dohākoa, People’s Treasury of Verse 40 Jackson):

The mind is bound by karma; free of karma, the mind is free. By freedom of mind, it realises the indefinite ultimate nirvāa.[37]

Saraha’s spiritual songs of spontaneously/co-emergently arising (sahaja) realisation became a celebrated heirloom for his Tibetan successors. In the poetic language of these and similar Tantric songs, causality, rebirth, and their underlying philosophical concepts are deconstructed by realisation. In a Tantric Song of Practice (Caryāgīti) preserved in Old-Bengali, Saraha points to the liberating deconstruction of all concepts including karma and the Tantric experience of totality in the state of Great Seal, Mahāmudrā, the union of space and bliss:

The world, through false views, chains itself, generating existence and cessation (nirvāa) itself.
I, the Yogin without thoughts, do not know what Birth, Death and existence are.
Whatever is birth, this is also death. There is no difference between the living and the dead.
He, who fears birth and death in this world, — he may put his hope to the mercury elixir (i.e. the alchemical elixir of life).
They, who wonder around in the world of the moving and not moving and in the heavens of the 33, — is it not possible for them, to become free of old age and death?
Is birth due to karma, or karma due to birth? Saraha says, the teaching is without thought (goes beyond mental fabrication).[38]

[37] vajjhai kammea uo kamma-vimukkea hoi maamokkha / maamokkhea aūna pāvijjai paramaivvāa.
[38] CG 22, 1–6: apae raci raci bhaba nirbāā / michẽ loa bandhābae apaā // ambhe na jāahr acinta joi / jāma maraa bhaba kaïsaa hoi // jaïso jāma maraa bi taïso / jībante maalẽ nāhi biśeso // jā ethu jāma maraa bi sakā / so karaü rasa rasānere kakhā // je sacarācara tiasa bhamanti / te ajarāmara kimpi na honti // jāme kāma ki kāme jāma / Saraha bhaanti acinta so dhāma. (Kværne 1977, p. 168).
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CONCLUSION


The conundrum of karma continues to puzzle Buddhists and scholars alike; even in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition which prides itself on being the successor of late Indian Buddhist Tantricism, the radical Tantric deconstruction of concepts by experience did not prevent the reemergence of scholastic controversies about the subtleties of karma theory; it suffices to point to the strong criticism voiced by the 15th c. Sakya scholar Go rams pa regarding Tsong kha pa’s view on the substantiality of karma.[39]

Naturally, the karma riddle has been solved and will continue to be solved in different and sometimes surprising ways. In the modern critique of karma theories expounded by the movement called Engaged Buddhism, the common Buddhist karma theory is generally re-interpreted in order to make space for pro-active social engagement.[40] Most prominently, Dr Ambedkar’s political utilisation of Buddhism in his fight for Dalit (outcast) — rights in India has earned him the criticism of abandoning karma and enlightenment all together and reducing Buddhism to «a merely social system».[41] Still, one can argue that such uneasiness with karma, and even its occasionally being completely disregarded in Engaged Buddhism, shares much in its radicalism with the Tantric solution of the karma conundrum: Engaged Buddhism utilises the teachings for social liberation within conditioned reality, while Tantric practice employs radical methods for transpersonal liberation, transforming saṃsāra and its fuel, karma, in the process.

[39] See Dargay 1987, p. 176.
[40] pietz 2005, pp. 206–207.
[41] The Maha Bodhi 1959, pp. 352-353; see Queen 1996, p. 47.
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