Blogs:Dorje108/Karma as action, genesis and fruition
This article by Ken (a version of which I discovered years ago) is already referenced in the current version of our article on karma:
But I have also recently discovered an audio of a Q&A session with Ken McLeod, in which he covers the same material, but expresses himself a little differently. That audio is here:
I found the description in the audio very helpful, so I have transcribed a few minutes from the audio and I am sharing it here. I have left the time markers in the transcript, and used ellipsis to indicate gaps in the transcript. Here is the transcript excerpt:
There is a lot of misunderstandings about karma… The whole notion of cause and effect, is a very inaccurate, is a Western way of looking at karma. And it’s completely problematic. Because in looking at karma in terms of cause and effect, you just wind up in a big mess.
[03.21] The term in Tibetan is composed of three words: le, gyu and dre.
Now le is the word for "action". It’s the word for work actually. And the word karma means action.
The second word gyu is usually what is translated by "cause". But in my mind it's a very inaccurate translation. Because in English we simply don’t say that an acorn is the cause of an oak tree. I mean, if you are a philosopher, you might say something like that. But most of us aren’t, so we use English more correctly than philsophers do.
[4:20] So an acorn isn’t the "cause" of an oak tree, it’s the "genesis" of an oak tree. That’s a very different thing.
And dre is the word for "fruit". It literally is the word for "fruit"... So it’s the result. And that is what is usually translated as “effect”. So a better metaphor for karma than cause and effect is this seed or genesis which grows into something. And that’s a different picture right there.
[5:00] We have to go a step further. In Eastern thought, you have “genesis”, which is my translation for this word gyu... And then there is another thing, and that is the conditions that allows something to grow, or prevents something from growing.
So if I plant a carrot seed in the ground, well if that is just straight sand, and there is not clay or anything like that, particularly if there are no nutrients, and if there is no water, what is going to happen to that carrot seed?
Well, it is just not going to do anything, it is just going to sit there like a grain of sand. So even though there is a genesis for a carrot there, no carrot comes out. There have to be the right conditions.
[6:00] So when we are talking about karma, we are talking about a way of looking at how experience arises, in terms of, certain experience arises from, there is a genesis for them, and then there have to be the right conditions for those things to happen.
As I said earlier… what we do in meditation is grow attention. One of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that we all have the genesis of attention in us. And… by arranging the right conditions, which is sitting relatively straight, and resting in the experience of breathing, we actually create the conditions for attention to grow in us. That’s karma.
There is more in the audio. I am not sure how much of the audio transcript is appropriate for me to post, so I have ended the transcript here. But the full audio is worth listening to.
Back to: Blogs