Monday, December 12, 2005

Are Enlightened Ones subject to Karma?

An old fox-spirit once asked Ven Bai Zhang whether a great practitioner of the Dhamma was still subject to Karma. This fox-spirit had in the past answered wrongly to this same question and was thus reborn as a fox for many lives. Ven Bai Zhang replied:

"He is not ignorant of karma."

The fox-spirit was awakened upon hearing Bai Zhang's answer and was released from his animal body. What does it mean by being not ignorant of karma? It means that the enlightened person has thoroughly understood how karma works and no longer creates any more new karma - thereby transcending the cycle of cause & effect altogether, entering Nibbana.

Some people think that Karma is an all-powerful force that controls the entire fabric of the universe, so much so that even the Buddha is subjected to its effects. Although it is true that not even the highest supernormal powers can alter karma, but it is also a wrong view to believe that everything is pre-destined and cannot be changed. If it was so, then there is really no point for us to follow the Dhamma because ultimately we cannot escape our karma and may never attain Nibbana. On the contrary, it is precisely bcos there is a possiblity of release from the samsaric cycle of karma & rebirth that the Buddha preached the doctrine to us, such that whoever follows the holy path can also reach a place beyond birth & death, beyond karma like he did. Karma is like seeds planted in your Store Consciousness (called the Alaya). In order for these seeds to grow & bear fruit, conditions like sunlight, water, fertilizer are needed. Similarly, although we may have planted seeds of negative karma in our past lives, as long as we do not create the conditions (by continuing to do unwholesome deeds) for them to bear evil fruit, we don't really have to worry about them. Bear in mind that the store consciousness, the most subtle essence of our Self, is in reality an illusion. It is in fact simply another name for fundamental ignorance. Whatever good & evil karmic seeds planted in it throughout the countless eons are just as unreal as the field itself. Once we awaken to the truth, we will understand that they are just like all experiences we have in our dreams - ultimately non-existent.

1 comment:

hoangkybactien said...

Wayne, how about this:

Karma is like Earth's gravity. And
enlightened beings are like Issac Newton who knew that: if he places himself or anything above the ground level, he or those things will eventually fall to the ground level due to gravitational force!

Therefore, having understood the nature of the Earth's gravity thoroughly, Newton will always, in his daily activities, keep himself at the ground level, leaving zero chance to be fell by gravity.

Ancestor Bai Chang gave a perfect answer to the fox spirit, and thus, helped liberate him.


Karma is an inherent characteristics of the mind.

It's not something external.