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karma/morality to Bart/was Some Responses

Dec 14, 1999 07:28 AM
by Hazarapet

In a message dated 12/13/99 7:47:51 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

> I think that there is a basic assumption that a lot of people make
>  about karma which the Theosophical writings belie: that there is some
>  connection between karma and morality, that when we receive karma, it is
>  because we "deserve" it in a moral sense. Just because we cause
>  something to happen doesn't mean we deserve it to happen.

This is a much too narrow way of looking at ethics.  Karma is the verbal
noun form of kriy- (work, realization) that is the manifestation of four
(karana, cognate to kriya, karma) factors: efficient cause, material cause,
formal cause, and final cause (or purpose) in Indian philosophy.  Thus,
anything that happens is only partly my doing and only partly my
responsibility because my efficient causation is dependent upon factors
beyond my control.  Its like sailing.  I want to go from point A to point B.
That is my goal.  That is final cause.  I move the sails and rudder
dependently in response to how waters, tides, currents, and winds are in
action.  That is my efficient cause responding to forces while seeking goal.
The tides, winds, and currents, while in themselves efficient causes, are the
raw material or material cause of my action.
The world, in Hinduism and Buddhism and Theosophy, is the product of a
of forces, motives, actions, consequences, and sentient beings.  These
world-creating forces are ambivalent for a variety of reasons.  But, whether
in themselves they are efficient causes (mechanical or purposive from another
agency besides me) or someone's final causes, morally for me they are
material cause or the raw material or the lot dealt to me.  My responsibility
is what I make of it.  What I make of it is itself complex.  First, any
action has an infinite number of consequences.  So, any action has amoral and
moral aspects (the distinction is which ones can I be held accountable for -
a complicated topic in concrete situations).  Because of infinity of
unforeseen consequences from others or world, things happen to me that I do
not deserve.  The moral aspect of karma involves how I respond to my lot in
life and to my death.  Lets look at the complexity of a moral act.  Any moral
action is complex.  There is motive or intent which can be good or bad.
There is the action chosen as means to a goal (the match between the means
and the goal may be better or worse).   There is the goal (there are good
goals and bad goals).  And there are consequences (did I foresee, as much as
I should have, the possible good/bad consequences as part of the information
to make a decision about what means should be chosen to carry out my goal
and/or whether I should do anything at this time).  Any act can be evaluated
in any these respects (as indicated in parentheses).  Some one could have an
evil intent, yet incompetently, bring about an inadvertent good.  Someone
might have good intent and incompetently bring about evil.  Someone may
mismatch means to end.  Since there are usually many means to an end, someone
may still find an efficient means to and end but still incompetently not
consider consequences of the means (goal is intended consequence, but never
only one) that might dictate that an alternative means might be better, in
terms of consequences, to realize same goal.  So, assume a person has good
intent.  There is still the issues of whether they have the moral competence
to properly fulfill that intent by (1) choosing the right means and (2) the
right goal with (3) some foresight as to consequences.  Any single aspect
of an action can be evaluated as good or bad: intent, competence to choose
means to an end (both as means that will attain end AND not produce too many
negative consequences), good ends, and foresight of consequences.  It is
recognized that I cause more than I am morally responsible for (courts debate
of whether or not, and degree of, responsibility for unforeseen
consequences).  If I had good intent but did not know how to carry it out
well, did I or did I not consult with others, if there was opportunity, for
advice?  This is example of one type of consideration out of many others
given context.  But, basically, karma as moral
inheritance/consequence (the basis of belief in reincarnation) is about that
over which I had control or over how I defined myself/made myself to be in a
situation as a habit-forming process of building up a type of character.  The
Bhagavad Gita emphasizes that it is one's inner attitude to outside events
that determines your karma as moral
consequence.  In this, it is like teaching of Stoics who said universe
measures your
worth not by what happens to you but how you inwardly are in response to come
what may.  Tantric Buddhism says nirvana is samsara and samsara is nirvana.
The import of this, to paraphrase Milton, is the "mind is its own place and
can make a heaven of hell" but also, a hell out of heaven.  Soviet prison
cells and Russian Orthodox monk cells are very much alike.  It is the
character of person, whether brought into cell or created/discovered in that
cell, that makes difference between mad man and wise saint.  So, I meet
accidental death.  The moral issue is not whether I deserve to die but who am
I, what sort of being am I, in that moment of facing death.  How one spends
one's life up to that point determines the likely outcome of what that moment
might be because one has become a certain habit of a kind of response, a kind
of taking things one way or another, but its who you are inwardly.  Karmayoga
is to go on without attachment to outer circumstances.  One is measured by
how well or how bad one practices karmayoga.


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