Karma and Rebirth

Karma is the idea that our actions create results.  Karma is complicated.  It is the sum of our current and previous actions.  

On one level Rebirth is the idea that the cycle of life does not end when we die.   Without getting into the controversy over whether physical rebirth occurs or we go to heaven (or hell) after death, the idea of rebirth based on karma is an extremely valuable skillful means that effects our present experience.   We are being reborn each and every moment of our lives.  

What do we mean by skillful means?  One of the main tenants that the Buddha repeated over and over is that of right effort in dealing with stress and suffering. We make effort to generate desire by making an effort, arousing energy, applying the mind and striving to:

  1. promote the non-arising of unskillful states and thoughts that have not yet arisen;
  2. abandon unstillful states and thoughts that have arisen;
  3. promote the arising of skillful states and thoughts that have not yet arisen;
  4. maintain, sustain and promote skillful states and thoughts that have arisen.

 Rebirth and karma can also be viewed in terms of the results of our current perspective on life.  My current karma is determined mostly by how I react in the present to present and past actions.  In this way, what I am experiencing turns into a path instead of an absolute. 

In terms of recovery, this might mean to take each of the 12 Steps and seeing how they might affect us thru there development. How does accepting that one is an alcoholic or addict and that our lives are unmanageable effect our karma?  Does it help us for the sake of the non-arising of unskillful qualities (craving for a drink) that is not present? or help us to abandon the craving to drink? or for the arising of skillful qualities that take us away from a drink? or for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that take us away from drinking? Each of the 12 Steps in-turn can be used to reflect on and utilize as skillful means. 

 The Buddhist path is full of ways at looking at our recovery from various perspectives that are not typical in western culture.  Whenever we are disturbed it is the result of our past or current karma.  

Meditation and mindfulness practice allows us to look at our reactions to experience and to develop the views and attitudes and behaviors that promote freedom in all aspects of our lives.

The three baskets of Buddhism (morality (Śīla), meditation (Samādhi), and wisdom (Paññā)) directly relate to how we grow in understanding and effectiveness. The idea is that, as we go down the path, we pick up other attitudes and insights that provide us access to a deeper wisdom that is within us.  The path is seen as a training. 

The path that can lead to the end of suffering is referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path.

Dhamma Talk – Right Effort – Thanissaro Bhikkhu


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