Your understanding of the Dhamma is very good.
As to the past kamma of children born of some defect or are victims of
miscarriage, it is to be understood, as you presumed, that it is due to their
kamma. This may prompt some to question if we condemn the children who have
already suffered enough. It may look so. I know a few pediatricians who look
for an answer why children have to suffer while they are all innocent.
Therefore, it is very necessary to take kamma in the context of rebirth. The
teaching of rebirth is not unique to Buddhism. It is shared in Hinduism and
Jainism in much similar way. A belief in rebirth suggests that there have been
many lives in the past and there will be endless lives, unless we become fully
enlightened, in the future. An action, wholesome or unwholesome, may be
accomplished in one life and its result obtained in another. They, action
and its result, may also take place in the same life. Kamma is thus not fix,
and therefore not a fate.
We all ponder why a certain bad thing has to happen to certain children, say,
cancer or AIDS. Before we continue to seek the answer to this mystified part
of life, can we not also apply the same question to the good side? Say,
without doing anything, why certain people have a lot to go for? Meaning, what
is the basis of the good result they are enjoying? It hardly enters people's
mind that this is equally a mystified question.
Lee Shin Long, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of
Singapore, had a place booked for him at a colelge in Cambridge when he was just
one week old! That was possible at that time because both parents were educated
there. He obviously shared the good fortune that his parents had. By virtue of
being their child, he had many opportunities open to him since a week old.
So, being in a company of people with the same kamma (meanign to have done
something together in the past) he has benefitted more than any child born to the parents with average means.
His good fortune, in short, can be attributed to his past kamma. Then this
principle may be equally applied to the negative side of life.
Kamma explains why people are different in what they are. Kamma has its
original source in our intention. Our INTENTIONS are different, so are our
actions. Our intentions are made different by the six roots of the mind, called
hetu in Pali, half of which are unwholesome while the rest are wholesome. The three unwholesome roots, greed, hatred and delusion, dictate our intention to be
negative. With unwholese intention, the action/speech we perform has
unwholesome nature and will give unwholesome result.
But we do not know when the result of our kamma is going to be seen. This makes
the process of cuase and effect (the link between kamma and its result) more
difficult to comprehend.
In fact, before enlightenment, kamma remains only a belief in us. Once
enlightened, kamma becomes sure: the way it operates and how it links to its
effect. Enlightenment is described in three words: 1. seeing one's own kamma
(past lives) in action in various lives, 2. seeing others' kamma in the same
way and 3. having erdaicated all unwholesome roots (defilements). These three
enforce each other.
While accepting that the children who suffer are getting back what they did
in the past (life), this is NO reason whatsoever to be indifferent to their
suffering. After all, Buddhists are no less kind to children than other
believers. Whatever theory and explanation we may hold, a child who suffers
does suffer. The explanation is for us, adults, to console or satisfy our mind.
If a Buddhist cares to his/her best a child who suffers, while holding the
above view, I see no reason to condemn this person(adult). Instead, the child becomes an object of and a reason for compassion.
Divine-based or otherwise, any religious explanation may not relieve the pain of the child directly. But belief in the past kamma does teach others to be mindful of their actions and intentions. While perplexed as to when and what a
child did in the past to deserve a certain kind of suffering in this life, the child's mind is not directed to blaming others for the suffering, nor
would he be mumbling for unfair treatment.
As human beings lost in daily pursuits, we remember not many things of a day's
work. We lose the sight of link between cause and effect even here and now.
It is all quite possible that we lose trace between past cause (kamma) and
the present effect. So, a good and long memory is essential to verify kamma.
I cannot explain everything about kamma. However, I may add that kamma is not
and cannot be perceived as a mechanical, fixed thing like the creation theory
that is thought to fit in everything. First, we need to try and see how our
present thoughts operate and what kind of effect they have on our life yesterday
and today.I other words, how yesterday thoughts condition today's welfare or
misery. With that, it is to begin to understand "intention" and then its
On a separate question that you raised, I think it is the best to study with
a teacher. After all, the Dhamma has been handed down through traditions of
teacher-pupil. The Buddha is reported to have said more than five hundred times
in fourty five years that we need a teacher to overcome suffering.
In message <a8cklm+6cs1@...
> Dear Venerable Monks,
> For the past 10 years (off & on) I have been interested in learning
> about the teachings of Buddhism, but I seemed to have never had the
> time to actually delve into it. For much of my life, I seem to have
> been caught up in a neverending cycle of trying to deal with and
> solve my own problems -- as well as those of my family ----- and I
> seem to have made little, if any, head way.
> Recently, I have taken to reading about Buddhism beliefs again ---
> this time in more detail on a daily basis --- and find that what I
> have read makes more sense to me than anything else I have ever
> tried believing or living.
> I understand that past Karma (Kamma) plays a very important part in
> our lives, yet it seems we are able to change that Kamma, somewhat,
> by practicing self control, letting go and adapting a lifestyle
> of "always doing good". I'm also understanding that there is evil &
> suffering in this world and to accept this, without question, will
> enable us to live a more satisfactory life.
> I have many questions, but mainly -- I'm having the most difficulty
> difficulty with this: when a child suffers or dies, either from
> illness or at the hands of another, is it because of the "past life"
> (Kamma) of that child? If one were "reborn" in the womb and died
> before actually being physically born (as in a miscarriage), what
> would that mean?? I apologize for my ignorance, but I am still new
> to this.
> I love children and have always thought of them as innocent and
> pure. It is hard for me to comprehend & accept the physical &
> emotional suffering and/or death of any child without question. My
> heart has always ached for all those children throughout the world
> who are sick, hungry, cold, abused, and neglected. I've always prayed
> and hoped that the day would come when every child born could grow to
> be safe, strong and free -- yet I'm realizing now that praying &
> hoping are useless and that this is an "impossible dream".
> Could you pls help me to understand this aspect according to the
> teachings of Buddha?
> There are no Buddhist Centers near my home and I know of no one who
> can sort of be a "teacher" to help me along &/or instruct me. Would
> I be able to truly learn Buddhism on my own, by daily reading ,
> meditation and practice?
> Thank you much. ALEX
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