Understanding of Karma in Buddhism

Published: 2021-09-11 18:05:10
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Category: Zen Buddhism

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Contrary to Hinduism, Buddhists believe that the soul or rather the new form taken by an individual after rebirth is not the same (Anatman), rather, the new form is determined by the actions of that particular individual in the previous and present life. This is the concept of Karma in Buddhism religion. Regarding Anatman doctrine, the Buddha taught that there is no permanent soul or self that survives reincarnation, instead, we are temporary creations that do not survive death, consequently, the new being is determined by karma.
Karma, also known as Karman is a basically a Sanskrit term that means action. In Buddhism, it refers to actions driven by intentions (centana) that have impacts in future lives. According to the Buddhists, Karma’s implications are beyond life, excludes none including the enlightened and they believe that past evil actions of an individual are likely to follow him/her in the next life and cause misfortunes. An example is given of a Buddha whose cousin attempted to kill by dropping a boulder on him, though he survived with an injured foot, he later explained this as karmic retribution of him trying to kill his cousin in a previous life.The concept of Karma as understood by the Buddhists is similar to the natural law of gravity (action and reaction), cause and effect, that is, it isn’t a punishment from a god and neither is it an external force, but an individual is in control of our fates and as such, to abate karmic consequences, every individual should be conscious and be able to contain his/her behavior. For this reason, the Buddha taught about karmic conditioning (a process where a person’s nature is shaped by own moral actions) where every action taken by person directly translates into either positive or negative consequences in the future. For this reason, Buddhists are mindful of every action they take, their thoughts and words.
Moreover, the Buddhists believe that the Karma concept goes hand in hand with the concept of rebirth or reincarnation, (birth of a person in either human or non-human form after death). They believe that the form one takes in the new life is determined by karmic sum of the previous life thus the effects of actions in the previous life are likely to be revisited in the new form of life. Similarly, the goodness of one in the previous life are also likely to be revisited in the new life. However, they also believe that the actions in the present life also have impacts in the present life (what you do happens to you).
In as much as they acknowledge karma and its consequences, the Buddhists also acknowledge the existence of other forces shaping our lives, for instance in cases of natural calamities, they believe it’s not some form of collective karmic punishment, rather, there is need for compassionate response. Nevertheless, Buddhism also stipulates that acknowledging karma shouldn’t be a source of guilt, anxiety and vagueness but should be a source of confidence knowing well that our destinies lie in our hands and as such, people should not often feel powerless and blame themselves for their situations.
In summary, the Buddhists acknowledge the existence of Karma and not the Anatman concept of Hinduism and in order to shape their destinies, they are very careful and conscious of the actions, words and behavior in their present lives.

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