Pain and suffering: Is it bad?

Discussion in 'Eastern Religions and Philosophies' started by I am free, Sep 8, 2005.

  1. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Recently as I was browsing through some forums I came across an interesting statement which I quote (in my own words):
    This set me thinking - are all the people who die or suffer in earth quakes and floods and bomb-blasts the "victims" of their own karma? It does seem quite unbelievable doesn't it, that all of these people had "accumulated" enough karma to suffer and all were together at the same time?

    As I pondered on this, I asked myself, is pain and suffering and even death necessarily a result of "bad karma"? Am I looking at this purely from the human perspective that "It it does not feel good, then probably it is not good also?" Afterall, "no pain, no gain" is the mantra of body builders.

    Bad karma results in unpleasant experiences, Good Karma in pleasant experiences - is this assumption really true?

    Would love to know what all of you think...
    With Regards.
     
  2. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Thinking of karma as though it is something that is attached to individuals is really to consider it outside the spirit of Buddhism. Buddhism, after all, asks us to explore the realm of 'no self'...of there not being an ego or a 'seperate' individual to which things can happen and to which karma can attach itself.

    Karma cannot be defined, really. But, all in all, when I think of karma, I think of balance...karma, in action, is really just an undiscriminating equilibrium between this and that, good or bad, positive or negative, and so on.

    It's funny when I hear people commenting," Ahh well, it came back and bit me in the ass...that's karma, I guess." But this is really a very shallow way of looking at it. Karma, I believe, is not a 'give and take' philosophy...after all, this is a particular means of conceiving the world that the Buddha never considers to be very useful or liberating. Nor did the Taoists, either.

    Consider that 'karma' roughly means 'action', when translated. Karma is merely the observation that everything we do becomes entwined entirely in the infinite Here and Now. "Actions don't go away", karma says. It is this same attitude that underlies the realization that the entire Universe depends on each and every person to exist, just as much as we depend on it.

    When you start talking about good and bad, it's hard to say where one starts and the other ends. Good things look like bad things down the road, and bad things look like good things. Take a look at this old Taoist story:

    There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.

    What IS good and bad, after all? Just the head and tail, the back and the front. They are One, as the Buddha so often taught. Now, this doesn't mean that somethings aren't unfortunate and that other things aren't fortunate, just that these characterizations are just that...characterizations of 'characters' that only exists for a short amount of time before they morph into everything else.

    So, is pain and suffering bad? I think it's uncomfortable, and sometimes very difficult, but for many relatively ascetic Hindus or Buddhist monks, for instance, pain teaches best.

    A little extra note: I sometimes have fun trying to think of a good way to say what pain really is... "What is pain?" The funny thing is, it's like trying to define the color 'green', for instance...it seems that that we can talk about 'green' all day, but when we want to say what it actually is, all we can really do is point at it ("the color of grass")...
     
  3. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Hi Jiii,

    Thankyou for your very interesting post.

    I must admit I am not well versed with the Buddhism. Buddhism does have the concept of rebirth. How is rebirth related to karma?

    I am not sure I understood correctly what you meant. Are you saying that since my actions could have repurcussions not just for me but also for my neighbours, my family and my nation therefore in that sense karma is not just individual?

    My thoughts exactly, but then our views on karma differ. I would love to hear your thoughts on how karma affects our experiences whether pleasurable or painful.

    w Regards.
     
  4. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Well, even rebirth is difficult to 'pin down' (this may be a bit long-winded, sorry if I get boring). The entire Universe is like a pendulum in a certain sense...everything is revolving or switching...on/off. We are alive, and we thus have a gamut of experiences and memories, and when we die, that slate is wiped clean and we get to start again. This seems very boring or montonous, but the beauty of the whole thing is that once we are 'reborn', we start with a clean slate again...and we don't know anything about what happened before or who we were or what the Universe is. We get to rediscover it all over again, not knowing that we are doing it all over again.

    Now, karma in relation to rebirth.

    First I should mention that in my most speculative of observations, we are being reborn every single moment. Why do I say this? Well, for instance, consider that you're manifestation...that is to say, the 'you' that is your body/mind organism...is a conglomerate of that which nourishes you. What you eat, for instance, later becomes the living flesh of your body (ex. 'you are what you eat'). That's the whole mysterious part of the food chain that doesn't often get taught in school. There, very literally, isn't a top to the food chain. From that perspective, I ponder...who am I? The 'me' that is the predator, or the me that is the resurrection of everything I ate that has found new life in 'me'. In other words, is my mind 'mine' or is it the reborn mind of the turkey sandwich I ate three weeks ago...the reincarnation of the turkey and the wheat? You can't really say, either way. So...does the Universe create you, or do you create the Universe? Strange to think about...

    Now, if we are speaking in terms of ourselves as being individuals, and I think we are, then I look at it like this. We are all born to certain walks of life...certain countries, families, traditions, cultures, etc, etc. Karma for the purpose of such rebirth looks at the transcience of our involvements and their usefulness. Everything we do now generates, in infinitely detailed ways, the way that the World will take its course in the future. What we do now, believing that it is 'absolutely the right thing to do' or 'the least painful way to handle this problem', may set a very painful precedent for the future in which we may be reborn under a different set of circumstances in a different culture where things don't affect us as individuals the same as they do now. Karma is something we all share...because from the perspective of each individual that there is, it's impossible to say if so and so is 'good' or 'bad' with any concreteness. And when we are reborn, that which we insist is good now, may end up being our greatest scourge in the next life.

    Well, from that perspective, my question would be...which individual? I mean, let's say it is individual...which individual gets preference? Its impossible to discern. The indivdual we are now is temporary...our bodies are smooth, but then wither...we live, then die...this is the course of things. To make concrete conclusions based on a perspective that is intrinsically transient is like the sky insisting, "Blue is the most favorable color...and I am it" just before it becomes overcast and turns grey, suddenly finding that it now has to try to negate what it said before to insist on grey. Just then, it will turn black with night. And the story goes on ad infinitum, until the sky settles...not getting 'hung-up' on how things look at any given point. Such things get us tied up with ourselves needlessly.

    If we say that karma is attached to, say, Johnny...then we must admit that, quite literally, we wouldn't be able to discern 'Johnny' without everything else that isn't 'Johnny'. And so, there isn't really a seperate 'Johnny'...he is an integrative expression of it all. Karma, the 'balance' that seems attached to him, is no more attached to 'Johnny' than it is to 'not-Johnny'...and we need both of these distinctions to draw the whole picture, in this case.

    So, as you can see, it gets tricky to talk about these things.

    Karma is our experiences, and our experiences are our karma. There isn't any literal division, so far as the Buddhist can tell. Action and reaction are like approaching a snake from the tail or the head. If we trace the action from the head back, its the exact same organism at the tail...mutually dependent, and discernable in passing as independent. Buddhism asks us to look at the World and see that it has no real beginnings and ends. That 'this' and 'that' are actually the same process...the same expression. That everytime we make a concrete frame of reference, the carpet is inevitably pulled out from under it. So how do we keep from 'standing on a carpet'?

    Dr. D.T. Suzuki, when asked what it is like to be enlightened, said," It's just like everyday life, except about two inches off the ground." You can't pull the carpet out from under something that isn't wrenched to its surface.

    These things are baffling to think about...thanks for getting me started ;-)
     
  5. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Pain reminds us we are still alive... Many times I have owed my life to pain... It is an "awakening" memo.
     
  6. Ciel

    Ciel in essence

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    Have you never been awoken by something beautiful 17th, pain diminishes a person in comparison to love.

    - c -
     
  7. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    good discussion thus far.

    perhaps a bit of technical clarification would be in order. Karma is, as the Buddha Shakyamuni explained it, simply intentional action, thought or word.

    So.. it isn't karma, per se, that one experiences. it is, rather, Vipaka, the fruit of karma, that one experiences and this Vipaka or fruit is determined to be either "bright" "dark" or "undifferentiated". Bright and dark are analgous to "positive and negative" and would be what are commonly referred to as "good" or "bad". Though, as jii explained, such conceptions are for expedient means.

    karma, in its cognitive sense, is a term which is best summed in the English phrase "you reap what you sow". though, what is reaped is not the grain but the fruit.

    an important point to bear in mind is that karma is not an inescapable thing.. one does not need to pay back the karmic bank, so to speak, for the full amount of the loan. There is a way to mitigate the amount of reaping that a being will do of the seeds that they have sown. If there were not, Liberation would not be possible.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  8. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    There is no love on a battlefield.

    But I have witnessed beauty and such, it isn't as awakening as pain and death. "Oh there is a flower, how nice." "Oh there is a bullet skimming off my friends helmet.. Inches away from missing me or him." I think when comparing the two you see that the pain and death side, makes you realise how fragile and short life is. Indeed that then makes you stop to look around and appreciate things and every breath, every step you take. :)
     
  9. Ciel

    Ciel in essence

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    I understand, in that scenario, it is very different, there can be no comparison. It is unfortunate humanity gains experience through such things. Did it lead you towards any sense of compassion in understanding this is how war propagates war...... ?

    - c -
     
  10. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    You mean how violence or hatred, spawns nothing but violence and hatred? And that no good comes from evil? And so forth...

    I think, any life shocking situation, where you should of... could of... would of.. but didn't die... Helps you to respect more things from life. *shrugs* Whats here today might not be tomorrow, so take advantage of it and appreciate it... I get that from recieving pain. I see pain as a wakeup call. Suffering however... Hmm.. Not sure.. I'd love to be able to smile and nod and agree with you all but I see more positive things lurking behind pain and suffering... You become stronger... You become more resilient. Can also help to motivate you and helps grow determination... Knocked down six times get up seven. :D
     
  11. Ciel

    Ciel in essence

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    17th, you dare to choose.
    Ma Karma may just be listening....... with interest.

    I see many innocent in this world who deserve to have their load lightened, thus lightening the load of world karma.

    - c -
     
  12. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    What is Ma Karma?

    Deserve to have their load lightened? by who and how?
     
  13. Francis king

    Francis king New Member

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    not adding anything new to the discussion, but backing vajradhara's explanation of what karma is. Karma is like the fruit of ur existence, but it is not some kind of celestial counterweight of justice making sure the bad get punished and the good triumph. Rather, it is ur own fruit, and, as karma comes from two seperate words, meaning making and measuring, then what u make, (or how u act), and how u measure (or judge) produces ur karma.

    there is a sutra called the rice seedling sutra, and in this sutra it shows u how karma is just one small part of ur existence, and instead of there just being karma, there are another 11 aspects of existence which help to shape ur existence, and these 12 things together are usually described as either "the 12 membered dependent arising" or "pratityasamutpada".
     
  14. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Thanks for the reply King, but, I understand what karma is. I wanted to know what Ma Karma is? The same thing?
     
  15. Francis king

    Francis king New Member

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    lol, dunno, angel...
     
  16. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hi 17th,

    Meditation practice: Stand up six times, sit down seven.:D

    s.
     
  17. MeditationMom

    MeditationMom New Member

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    Thank you for this post. There are so many karma discussions going on in various forums and I don't remember having seen it put this way. Nice clarification! The general misunderstanding is indeed that after "the bank account is paid up" then we finally "get" liberation, and that this is bound to take many, many life-times.

    Once we understand that karma is nothing but the mechanism of our own mind, we can be free. Liberation is closer than our own heartbeat.
     
  18. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste MeditationMom,

    thank you for the kind words and welcome to the forum :)

    if you derive any benefit from my words it is due to your own good karma ripening.


    enjoy your stay :)

    metta,

    ~v
     
  19. Nattering Nabob

    Nattering Nabob New Member

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    Desires, and the pleasures that they call forth, strengthen ego. The opposite of your desires, pain and suffering, can break down the ego.


    This is the value of not getting everything you want and of undergoing a little adversity.
     

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