Re: [Pali] RE: kamma and grace
- Dear Danya,
On your interesting thesis we even had a small discussion here among
friends. Actually, before you came up with your "working thesis" on grace,
we automatically thought of the (christian) concept of grace in a buddhist
context and couldnt bring them together in any way (especially thinking of
grace in a protestant context - it is sooo apart from the Buddhist point of
view - none taking responsibility for your actions other than you. Yourself
the one who eventually has to cross the stream, albeit taking the help of
other kalyana mittas.)
I understand now, that you try to explain the Buddhas to be special
embodiements of the Dhamma, especially in a sense that they possess for
instance the 10 powers and have accumulated sila, samadhi and panna during
inamaginable long aeons - thus they would be kind of a "representative
reality" (sic) who - because of their "grace" convey or "bestow" the dhamma
on other beings even though they are murderers like Angulimala.
Well, i think that the term, as it is so bound up with some of the most
contrary concepts to Buddhist thought (as Yong Peng pointed out) and
Angulimala in fact (as Nina pointed out) was already "under the surface"
ready for understanding the dhamma, that it will be very difficult (to say
the least) to come to terms with it in a Buddhist (tipitaka) context.
That said, i wish you much luck for solving this task, but i am curious to
know, how you came to relate so diverse ideas to each other?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Danya Furda" <dfurda@...>
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2003 8:25 PM
Subject: RE: [Pali] RE: kamma and grace
> Thanks for your help and suggestions. For the purposes of my thesis, I am
> defining grace as "a gift or favor given by a representative of ultimate
> reality without regard to the recipient's virtue and without which
> liberation would not be possible." Many religious traditions embrace a
> concept of grace in this sense. There does not need to be a god or God to
> have a concept of grace. Grace needs not to be a technical term
> by Christian theology. I am arguing here, however, that buddhas are
> beings and possess abilities and qualities not possessed by human beings
> even by devas.
> The concept of grace (as defined above) was brought to my attention while
> reading Peter Masefield's excellent book, Divine Revelation in Pali
> Buddhism. I guess my question in terms of grace is whether or not anyone
> else has come across other resources which explore the idea that a buddha
> an essential element for Dharma to be transmitted to others.
> Thanks Nina for the info on kamma. It appears that kamma is operative
> regardless whereas grace can only occur when a buddha is present in the
> world to reveal the Dharma to those ready to hear it. Also, I am
> distinguishing between the concept of grace and that of compassion. For
> something to be "grace," rather than just simply "compassion," it must
> to assured ultimate liberation.
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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- Grace is a concept that arises with in theistic context. Grace is given by
god, though there is nothing we do to deserve it. Quite the contrary, being
sinners, we do not.
>Dr Masefield's work has receivedMasefield's book is generally regarded by Buddhologists as eccentric, which
>high regards throughout buddhist circles.
- Hi everyone,
Offhand two main points of contact occur to me between Buddhism and
"Grace". I'm not sure how theologically correct these are, but they
might be worth looking at.
1) In the Pali Canon and in stories such as in the Dhp-a the act of
putting faith in the Buddha is often enough for someone to get a
heavenly rebirth. This sounds a lot like the Christian idea of faith
being salvific. The difference would be that Christianity sees heaven
as the end of the line, whereas Buddhism sees it as a state from
which a being eventually falls.
I haven't checked the Angulimala Sutta, but IIRC he gains this sort
of faith to begin with. He then, of course, goes on to become an
2) Pure Land Buddhism goes further and allows for faith in Amitabha
to enable one to be reborn in a heavenly realm as a non-returner.
This sounds, on the surface of it, to be very much based on 'other
power' like in Christianity, and to be fully salvific even in
I'm not sure, but perhaps this 'Pure Land' is related to the sorts of
very high heavens which can be attained by advanced meditators in the
Pali tradition. I'd be very interested in hearing if this has been
- Dear Everett, Bruce, Lennart and friends,
thanks. As much as I know about Pure Land school, there are some
differences. Anagamis have worked diligently on the path to reach the
stage of non-returners. Beings reborn in pure lands may not have
reached the stage of anagami yet, however pure land is a place where
no new kamma would be created, hence achieving the result of non-
Furthermore, the heavenly realm anagamis reside in is still within
the samsaric realm, which is a result of the collective karma of all
sentient beings in that realm/world. A pure land, on the other hand,
is a result of a Buddha's past vows. Amitabha's past vows was to
construct such a pure land. Shakyamuni's past vows was to reach out
to the beings in samsara.
Unlike a heavenly realm where beings enjoy the fruits of their good
karma (in Buddhist teachings), a pure land is a more conducive place
than samsara for beings to practice till they reach nibbana.
--- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Everett Thiele wrote:
> 2) Pure Land Buddhism goes further and allows for faith in Amitabha
> to enable one to be reborn in a heavenly realm as a non-returner.
> This sounds, on the surface of it, to be very much based on 'other
> power' like in Christianity, and to be fully salvific even in
> Buddhist terms.
> I'm not sure, but perhaps this 'Pure Land' is related to the sorts
of very high heavens which can be attained by advanced meditators in
the Pali tradition. I'd be very interested in hearing if this has
> Grace is a concept that arises with in theistic context. Grace is given bybeing
> god, though there is nothing we do to deserve it. Quite the contrary,
> sinners, we do not.I have heard this definition of grace, but I find it difficult to unravel.
Having married a Christian, I have learned that her church believes grace is
only given to those who practice Christianity correctly. In other words,
God (in the person of Christ) came into the world to teach how salvation
might be attained, but salvation must still be earned through individual
effort in the form of correct practice. Is this what is called "grace"?
The Buddha came into the world to teach how nibbana might be attained, but
nibbana must still be earned through individual effort in the form of
correct practice. Is this what is called "compassion"?
To my inexperienced mind, if there is something in the Christian idea of
"God's grace" that is not in the Buddhist idea of "Buddha's compassion", it
is that God created salvation, whereas the Buddha discovered nibbana. On
the other hand, Christians believe that God created everything else as well,
and Buddhists (as far as I know) simply don't address the question of why
reality should be so constructed that we can escape samsara.
If I have said anything someone knows to be wrong, let me know. This is one
of many topics I regularly come across in discussions with my wife.
(new to the group)
- Dear Brian,
I am afraid not so. Although, the Buddha taught out of compassion
(unconditional love), nibbana is not a physical location where there
is an archangel guarding the gates to determine whether you have met
the criteria to enter. Nibbana is a state which only one who have
reached it can truly experience it, but there are of course many
books that try to explain it. The Buddhist experience and knowledge
is far much beyond the scope that the Christian doctrine can grasp.
This is a philosophical difference.
Buddhists do not practise to earn Buddha's compassion to reach
nibbana, Christians practise to earn God's grace to enter heaven. The
relationship between Buddha and Buddhists is teacher and students,
while that of God and Christians is master and servants. This is a
theological difference. In fact, without the concept of creation in
Hinduism, Taoism or Judaism, Buddhism is not even a theology.
--- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Brian Tawney wrote:
The Buddha came into the world to teach how nibbana might be
attained, but nibbana must still be earned through individual effort
in the form of correct practice. Is this what is called "compassion"?
- --- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, Everett Thiele <rett@t...> wrote:
> 1) In the Pali Canon and in stories such as in the Dhp-a the act
> putting faith in the Buddha is often enough for someone to get afaith
> heavenly rebirth. This sounds a lot like the Christian idea of
> being salvific. The difference would be that Christianity seesheaven
> as the end of the line, whereas Buddhism sees it as a state fromDear Everett,
> which a being eventually falls.
I think a difference between most religions and Buddhism is that the
Buddha taught any attachment, even to him, is unwholesome.
The mind states which condition rebirth in deva realms are kusala
and all kusala cittas arise together with saddha. However faith - in
its normal usage - may include kusala confidence in the virtues of
the Buddha but it may also include attachment. Lobhamula citta
(mindstate rooted in attachment) cannot directly condition rebirth
in a heavenly realm.
Once the Buddha scolded Vakkali for his attachment to Buddha:
Yo kho Vakkali dhammam passati so mam passati Vakkali
whoever sees Dhamma, sees me [the Buddha]
- Dear Yong Peng and friends,
op 05-09-2003 13:17 schreef Ong Yong Peng op ypong001@...:
Beings reborn in pure lands may not have
> reached the stage of anagami yet, however pure land is a place whereN: According to the Theravada tradition, anagamis still perform kamma which
> no new kamma would be created, hence achieving the result of non-
bring result. We read in Buddhist Dictionary, Ven. Nyanatiloka: <Now, a
being through the disappearing of the five lower fetters (sa.myojana)
reappears in a higher world (amongs the devas of the 'pure abodes'
suddhaavaasa) and without returning from that world (into the Sensuous
Spere) he there reaches Nirvana> Thus, he is not reborn in a sensuous plane,
but still performs kamma in that higher plane.
Only the arahat does not perform any new kamma, although he still receives
results of former kammas for the remainder of his lifespan. That is why the
arahat has, instead of kusala citta, mahaakiriyacitta. Kiriyacitta is
inoperative, it does not bring result.
Y: Furthermore, the heavenly realm anagamis reside in is still within
> the samsaric realm, which is a result of the collective karma of allN: I have heard the word collective kamma before, but we read in the Suttas
> sentient beings in that realm/world.
time and again that the Buddha explained that beings are heirs to their own
kamma, kamma is the womb from which they are born. Kammassakata ~naa.na,
knowing kamma as one's own (saka) is clearly seen by insight knowledge,
vipassana ~naa.na. According to Theravada tradition there is no collective
kamma. This makes sense to me, because kamma is accumulated by each
individual in the cycle, va.t.ta. Kamma is mental, it is intention, and thus
it can be accumulated from moment to moment, from life to life.
There are people who are born in a country where there is hunger and war, or
people who are together in a accident. It may seem that they receive the
same result, but in reality this is not so. There are different moments of
pain, seeing, hearing, all results of kamma. A person may feel the pain of
hunger but the next moment he may hear a pleasant sound. All different
moments of vipaka and they cannot be the same for a group of people. There
are also different intensities of vipaka.
Instead of thinking of a whole situation of people, or groups of people who
receive vipaka, we should analyse different moments of citta, then we come
closer to reality. People react differently to the result they receive. Some
people react with kusala citta, others with aversion, with akusala citta.
The reason is that people have accumulated different inclinations, and
different defilements, kilesas. In the commentary it is explained that there
are three cycles: the cycle of kamma, the cycle of vipaka and the cycle of
kilesa. Kilesa motivates again kamma and this produces again vipaka and this
conditions again kilesa, and so we go on and on. Thus the three cycles keep
turning around in our lives.
- Dear Nina and friends,
thanks for everything, Nina. You are right about collective kamma, it
is commonly used in Mahayana schools, and a search on collective
karma will reveal that. I cannot for sure determine if the usage of
the word is more of a convenience, but I have the idea it appears in
I totally agree on the explanation you have given on the Theravada
perspective. And I apologise for my lack of knowledge and any
confusion due to that. Browsing the web, I have found what Sayadaw U
Silananda wrote on this topic:
One more thing that should not be applied to the doctrine of kamma is
the idea of mass kamma or collective kamma. There is no operation of
a collective kamma affecting a group of people. There may be, however
a group of people who do something together and who get the results
of their individual kamma together. In that case, the results of each
individual kamma is operating.