With the principle of conditional origin, two of the most famous and important – but often misunderstood – Buddhist teachings are connected with the basic facts of life and death. These are the teachings of karma and rebirth, First of all, it is important to understand that karma is only one of several applications of the principle of conditionality. Karma is nothing particularly mysterious, occult or strange. In short, it means that action has consequences – and consequences, which also have an effect on the acting person. It is important to emphasize this, for much confusion has arisen from the error that karma and the Buddhist doctrine are identical with the conditioned origin, and that all experiences are therefore karmic. That’s not correct.
The early Buddhist scriptures show Karma as one of five varieties of conditioned origin. These five so-called niyamas were systematically recorded in the Abhidharma texts , but apparently they were so deeply rooted in Buddhist history that even Buddhists often believe that the law of conditional origin is identical with the Karmage network. The five niyamas explain the conditional origin in a broader perspective. Then we can observe ’cause-effect ratios’ in the following areas:
- utu-niyama – conditional formation on the inorganic or physical plane of existence;
- bija-niyama – conditional origin on the organic or biological level of existence;
- citta-niyama – conditioned formation on the psychological or mental level of existence;
- kamma-niyama – conditional emergence on the voluntary or moral plane of existence;
- dhamma-niyama – conditional formation on the dharmic or truth level of existence.
This list of the five niyamas meets the fact that practically every event is conditioned by many factors at the same time. The Buddha explicitly emphasized that karma should only be regarded as the most important conditional factor of an occurrence if one can exclude all other niyamas with good reasons and great certainty. In practice, this will often be quite difficult, since in retrospect of an experience, it is impossible for practical reasons to establish all the factors that have led to this experience.
In view of this teaching, it is also clear that we are by no means compelled to abandon scientific explanations. The kamma-niyama enriches our often too exclusively materialistic-scientific views by the introduction of another, ethical-moral dimension.
If one connects the Karma to the doctrine of redemption – which one might not necessarily have to do – the cosmic significance of this moral-ethical dimension becomes clearer. It is said of the historical Buddha that in the night of his enlightenment he had first passed through the four dhyanas of the meditative deepening and entered into a state of deep meditation. In this extremely clear and supple mentality he had then turned his attention to the memory of his earlier births and had become aware of countless past lives. Later, the same night, he could see with his supernatural, divine eye, how human beings and other creatures disappear from the one state of existence according to their salutary and unhealthy actions, and reappear in another. – Interestingly, this view of the Buddha is not considered a necessary part of the experience of enlightenment, but as something that anyone can study, meditation and learn to reach the higher levels of meditation. While this is easier said than done, it is important to note that, according to Buddhist conviction, the doctrine of redemption is valid as “empirically” verifiable. As long as we can not verify them in our own experience, however, there will be little else left for us to accept as trustworthy (which may be relatively easy,
As already indicated, the doctrine of rebirth or, more precisely, of re-becoming usually called in a breath with the karma-niyama. It is undoubtedly closely connected with it, but without being identical with it. Recovery does not mean, in Buddhist understanding, that there is an immutable, immaterial being that moves from one physical body to the next. Such a conception would contradict the doctrine of the non-self. To believe at the time of death with the life of the body also the mental-mental life, is considered in Buddhism as an extreme and false view. However, it would be just as extreme and wrong to believe that any psychic element, such as an immortal soul, would survive death unchanged. Instead, the Buddha said that the ‘essence’ or ‘subject’ of one life is neither exactly the same nor completely different from the ‘essence’ of the other. Though he occasionally uses terms like “rebirth,” he always emphasizes that there is no one to be reborn. An illustration from everyday life can perhaps illustrate this: I can easily observe how an experience that I am now doing, perhaps the thought of a delicious meal, becomes the condition of a later experience – that I am grasping the telephone and myself with a friend or girlfriend to eat in a restaurant. My present thoughts, feelings, desires, words, actions, and so on, necessitate future corresponding events and experiences. These can, of course, be modified by the interaction with all possible other influences. So I like to be on the way to the restaurant, but get involved in a traffic accident and wake up in the hospital, where my friend and friend – maybe – visit me. In a comparable way, according to the doctrine of recovery, the first moment of consciousness of the next life arises as a function of the last moment of consciousness in this life, and the relationship between the two existences as well as the relationship between two directly successive experiences is a relationship of causal continuity , This is sometimes illustrated by the image of a flame which, in its advance, consumes one fuel bundle after another. the first moment of consciousness of the next life arises as a function of the last moment of consciousness in this life, and the relationship between the two existences as well as the relationship between two directly successive experiences is a relationship of causal continuity. This is sometimes illustrated by the image of a flame which, in its advance, consumes one fuel bundle after another. the first moment of consciousness of the next life arises as a function of the last moment of consciousness in this life, and the relationship between the two existences as well as the relationship between two directly successive experiences is a relationship of causal continuity. This is sometimes illustrated by the image of a flame which, in its advance, consumes one fuel bundle after another.