The Jedi Way and Buddhism - Part 5

14 years 8 months ago #21293 by Garm

We cannot stand outside the network of cause and effect that is life. We are part of the perpetual movement of life.

Anakin Skywalker was born a slave on the remote world of Tatooine, who by chance met Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon began Anakin’s training that put him in a position to be tempted by the dark side. He also met and fell in love with a girl named Padme; they married and had two children, Luke and Leia. Years later Luke’s insight and compassion help Anakin awaken to the truth of things so that he could turn on his Sith Master.

Through Anakin we can see that life is a vast web of cause and effect, conditioning all aspects of our universe. We can look deeper into the influences that shape Anakin’s life – Without the Emperor and his entire Sith legacy there would be no threat to the Republic. There would have been no trade embargo of Naboo, succession movement, no crisis in the Senate, no Clone Wars, and no destruction of the Jedi Order.

Without the trade embargo of Naboo, Anakin would have never been a Jedi, met Palpatine, and turned to the dark side. Had he not turned to the dark side he would have never battled his son. In fact Luke would have never been born if he had not met Padme, their meeting contingent on the trade embargo.

Seen from this perspective Vader’s act of killing the Emperor began long before Luke was born. It began before Anakin was born. Each of their lives and actions played a critical role in setting up Anakin’s act of turning on his Master, but they were all conditioned by their interaction with the world.

When Obi-wan said the force ‘partially’ controls our actions, it is like saying life conditions us. We are active participants in our lives. We are conditioned by the universe, but conversely we condition it as well.

While life partially controls or conditions or actions, it is also influenced or ‘commanded’ by those same actions; the force obeys our commands. Luke’s destiny appeared to have only two possible conclusions, either he would do as Obi-wan and Yoda instructed – destroy his father, or turn to the dark side. Everything in his life propels him this. Yet when he gets to the point to where he would have to choose, he does neither. Instead he tosses his lightsaber aside; he does not kill, and he does not fall to the dark side. He makes a choice that was not controlled by destiny.

We live in a deeply interconnected relationship with all life. That interconnection means that you affect me and I affect you, moreover that interconnection means I affect me.

The fact of impermanence reveals that we are never the same person from one moment to the next. Our thoughts and actions of today affect the “me” of tomorrow. Life partially controls who we are, but it’s also conditioned by our will and actions.

Karma is an intentional action or thought. It is the action of thought itself, and not the result of an intentional action or thought, as is sometimes believed. Reading this post is “Karma”; the resulting insight one acquires from reading this post is ‘Karmaic fruit” – the results of Karma coming to fruitation. For there to be karmic fruit there must be intentional thought or action.

“Good” Karma is action that leads to freedom from suffering. If our actions are “good,”
it is likely we will experience happiness tomorrow. If they are “bad,” suffering will result.

Buddha put it this way, “The doer of evil reaps suffering, here and hereafter, in both states remembering, ‘I have committed evil; not only here, but hereafter,’ he experiences more suffering because he has gone to a state of suffering. The doer of good deeds reaps happiness, here and hereafter, in both states remembering, ‘I have done good deeds; not only here, but hereafter,’ and there is more joy because he has gone to a blissful state.” (it is important to understand the word hereafter, it refers simply to the moments, days, and years yet to come in our lives.) Karma is not a cosmic justice system of reward or punishment. If you break your leg today it is not because you swore at your brother yesterday. The remorse you feel for swearing at your brother is the fruit of karma, not the bone fracture. Remember, if one performs a kind act in hope of being rewarded by the stars or God, then that deed is not “good” karma.

Regret itself can be “good” or “bad”. Dwelling on our regret and treating ourselves callously for our unskilled past can create a guilt complex that will perpetuate a stream of “bad” karma in our lives. However, regret that is investigated can offer insight that leads to “good” karmic results.

Han Solo’s apparent regret for choosing greed over his friends, abandoning the rebels to fight the Death Star without him is of the latter type. Han was sensitive and thoughtful enough to recognize that his greed had produced suffering, and so instead of wallowing in guilt and deepening his suffering, Han was wise enough to let go of his selfish desire and acts for the benefit of others when he returns and helps Luke complete the final trench run.

Yoda tells Luke, “If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-wans apprentice.”

The teaching of Karma demonstrates that our actions today stay with us and impact us tomorrow. If we take Yoda’s words as absolute truth we may think that we are dominated by our choices and actions, that they entirely consume us, but recall the following:

“You cannot escape your destiny,” Obi-wan tells Luke. “You must face Vader again.”
“I can’t kill my own father.” Replies Luke.
“Then the Emperor has already won.”

Later as Luke stands over his fallen father, the Emperor is ecstatic. He says, “Good! Your hate has made you powerful. Now fulfill your destiny and take your fathers place by my side!”

Luke sees through the shroud of the dark side. To kill Vader as Obi-wan wants, will place Luke exactly exactly where the Emperor wants him – at the Dark Lords side. Either choice will produce the same result; the dark side. But Luke is not controlled by destiny. He is free to choose, and his choice saves the galaxy.

We must not believe that everything that happens is simply fate or our past actions cast us into a specific pattern of behavior from which we cannot escape. There is no doubt that Vader’s karma leads to the dark side and keeps him there for decades, but his will allows him to choose a different path. That new path saved his son and freed Anakin from the dark side.

Our paths need not “forever dominate our destiny.” We have will, and we choose our actions for good or ill. If we pay attention to the teachings of karma, we see it emphasizes rather than ignores the importance of human will.

The teaching of Karma become more complicated, when we realize that karmic fruit can ripen not just in this lifetime, but in the next. There is no permanent separate self and there is no soul. (hang on, don’t flame me yet…read through and see my personal comments at the end of the topic) On the other hand there is rebirth. It is important to see rebirth as moment-to-moment and forever. Each moment of life is a birth and a death. Joy arises in us and fades away, perceptions come and go, a skin cell dies and another is born, Therefore we have lived through countless deaths since we logged onto the Temple today. Every moment we are born, and every moment we die, and through it all we we continue. Death – the final destruction of our main reactor core – is no different.

This of course, is hard to swallow. When someone we knows dies they are not just different, they are gone. Buddhism uses a rainbow to describe the process; what happens to a rainbow when the sun sets and night falls? Does it die? Does it become nothing? The rainbow has not become nothing because we do not see it; it has only changed. The rainbow is no longer here for us to enjoy as a rainbow, neither our friend nor the rainbow have become nothing. If we look deeply we will see that the shape we take after our bodies shut down is a continuation of what we were at the instant of death. This means that our will, desires, feelings, and so forth carry on.

One Buddhist Monk put it this way: “As there is no permanent, unchanging substance, nothing (like a self of soul) passes from one moment to the next. So quite obviously, nothing permanent or un-changing can pass or transmigrate from one life to the next. It is a series that continues unbroken, but changes every moment.”

The Buddha used a simple model to express the insight of no self rebirth. He took a lit candle indicated that the flame represented a human being. Then taking another candle he touched the unlit wick to the flame of the first. The wick caught fire and there was flame on the second candle. The flame is not the flame from the first because they are on two different candles. At the same time, however, we cannot say that they are wholly different because one directly gave rise to the other. The flame on each is an extension of the one before it. None is the same and none are different.

“Similarly,” Continues the monk quoted above, “A person who dies here and a person who is born elsewhere is neither the same person, nor another. It is the continuity of the same series. The difference between birth and death is only a thought moment. The thought moment of this life conditions the first thought moment of the next life.”

So the question is what exactly is reborn? Well…nothing is reborn – but everything continues. Life is movement. Life is continuation. We can experience karmic fruit from a past life because we are a continuation of that life. Birth and death are merely ideas – nothing separates us from one moment to the next.

Seeing life as continuity, not being caught in the ideas of birth and death is itself freedom.

The above is typical of the Buddhist view of Karma, life, death, and rebirth. Personally I do not agree with a lot of these views but, I present the article as it is a large part of Buddhism and should be here.

It is up to each of us to weigh the ideals for ourselves.

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