How Kamma affects our practice

Dear Bhante,
What is actually the main problem with wrong grasp on Kamma? I was talking to a friend the other day and we said that at least when people believe that everything is due to Kamma, they have strong fear of wrongdoing and they accept everything that happens to them with a lot of equanimity and acceptance. They seem to practise very well quietly and with contentment without asking for much. Some of them are even said to attain high meditative attainments. And this is what I see or hear about happening in a lot of traditional monasteries and retreat centres, like in Burma. Nevertheless, I argued that so long as your actions are founded on wrong view, it’s problematic. But I can only point out the negative side of the argument, such as people who believe in that way are very passive in helping less fortunate people. As in that’s what they fail to do. But I can’t think of what they are actually acting and doing that is problematic. It’s true that they seem to be content and practise well. Would you agree? Could you please comment?

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Hi Shirley, I was reading MN 57 about the “dog-duty ascetic” who thought he was practising well - as I understand it, the Buddha pointed out that he was practicing with wrong view, which he seemed to understand pretty quickly after speaking with the Buddha and he became an arahant not long after. So maybe there are worse things than practising with wrong view if one’s actions are wholesome - they won’t do so much harm but also won’t realise the end of their suffering. I agree about some of the teachings - there comes a point where you have to decide for yourself if you think a teacher is teaching the Dhamma or their own point of view. nicola

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Sure, yes, maybe it doesn’t matter for some people. But it does matter to the blind woman who was told that her blindness is the result of her bad kamma. It matters to the dalits of India, who are kept in virtual slavery because of their “bad kamma”. It matters to the disabled, who struggle to get funding and services when people think there is little merit to be had from helping those with bad kamma. It matters to the millions of women who are raped, beaten, and violated in Buddhist countries, and who struggle to find the voice and recognition to have their plight addressed. And that’s why it matters to me.

Thanks Bhante and Nichola.
Sorry I withdrew last post cuz I found a typo!!!
Ummm, I think my real question is slightly misunderstood. I just tell you what really bothers me instead. I think wrong view in understanding Kamma is obstructive to one’s practice, even if one doesn’t give a damn about the rest of the world. Even aside of not cultivating compassion and passive in achieving wholesome states, within the very framework of such practice that is based on wrong view. But I can’t pin-point exactly why and how I think and feel this way. In a way, it’s like someone believing in god, and she acts properly and content, and have faith that’s god knows and she will be given justly. So she develops wholesome states based on that wrong view. And to the world, what’s the problem? She is a good person. And it’s good. I don’t deny that. But in the context of reaching nibbana, right view is the first of the eightfold path. And understanding of Kamma is quite central to that right view, as I understand. So speech, actions, even livelihood that are based on wrong view, are somehow problematic. My point is it’s not just a little bit problematic, but very problematic in the context of the Path, I think or more like I feel. Then my question is precisely, how exactly are speech, actions, even livelihood that are based on wrong view problematic, if it’s indeed problematic, according to your experience, understanding and gut feeling. Cheers.
Ps when I address to Bhante, I don’t just mean Bhante Sujato, I also mean Bhante Brahmali. I hope to hear both teachers’ ideas and of course other people’s input as well. Thanks.

Okay, I think I understand a little better now.

I would agree, I think the understanding of kamma in the sense of “fate” is wrong view and an obstruction in the path. It may, as you point out, seem fine for many people, who use it as a kind of balm to ease the sufferings of life. It’s a coping mechanism; which is not such a bad thing. It’s better to cope than not. And as a coping mechanism it’s not all bad: at least it’s based on kamma, which is a simple empirical reality, not on a sheer fantasy.

Where it becomes a serious practical obstacle is, I think, when you start to go beyond just coping. The Buddha said that such a person will not genuinely practice the holy life:

If everything was caused in the past, does that not mean that nothing we do now matters? So where is the motivation for serious practice?