many thanks for your reply! I very much like the way you describe the development of confidence and faith through practice. Also thanks a lot for the other very valuable comments you made on this topic!
Just in order to clarify one point. I had no intention to state that the idea of Karma or any other part of the Buddhist teachings should be compatible with science. On the contrary, on this point I pretty much agree with the position taken by Richard Gombrich in the interview.
My quarrel came about as follows: I had known the different positions/views mentioned above on Karma before this course and I had always sort of agreed with them. They always seemed plausible or at least possible. Also, within one Dhamma talk or within one book, the exposition was always quite consistent. When I saw a new exposition, I did not worry too much how it related to other expositions, as long as it was quite similar. Now, however, reading the different expositions in parallel, I was shaken up thinking that they are not the same, but that there are some fundamental differences! That made me feel a bit uneasy, because what had seemed to be clear before now seemed to stand on shaky grounds and I started questioning and comparing the assumptions behind these views.
However, thinking about Bhante Sujato’s reference to physical laws again, helped me to consilidate the issue. I have an engineering background, so I am quite familiar with these laws. Using the physical laws as a parallel helped me, because I am quite happy and successful in working with each of these laws on a certain case, if that law is applicable under the given circumstances. So here, in physics, I do accept that there are different models of reality with different precision, and I know that they all have their purpose. Additionally, when we really go to the roots of physics, we have to admit that we almost do not understand anything about the universe. (We calculate velocities and accelerations in space, but we know very little about what space itself is, why it behaves the way it does, nor why it exists. All visible matter in the universe can be traced back to be primarily empty space and energy, but nobody knows what exactly this energy is or why it is, we just know some properties of it.) Still we use these empirical laws successfully to describe certain aspects of reality and infer valuable conclusions from them.
In this way, the reference to the physical laws just helped me to accept that there may be different views on Karma within Buddhism, which are all part of right view (*). However, their propper application requires to have an idea of which relationships they capture and what cases each one applies to (**)… And I guess, that this is exactly what this course and the discussion we are having right now are about.
Thanks again for your patience and for this worthwhile discussion! May you too be happy and well,
P.S.: Sorry for my long posts. I am a not an English native speaker and sometimes I just dont know if it is ambiguous or clear, if I try to keep it short. So, when I have the time, I try to make it clear.
(*) For me it is quite an important insight that apparently all the things we think about, all the concepts are without any true foundation. This just seems to be an unwritten law, maybe just the nature of this mind. The mind just seems to be satisfied if there is a more or less consistent net of concepts, so that these can reinforce each other. But really, they are all just hanging in the middle of thin air. It is just like with all the material things that we are so familiar with, that we take for granted, they are all made up of mostly empty space and energy. Yet we have almost no clue about the nature of space nor the nature of energy (just look at the dark matter and dark energy discussions, or look at discussions about string theory). Whenever we probe deep enough into it, any concept just seems to dissolve into nothing. (Well, I thought I already knew that, but I just learned that I was not aware of it.) Maybe that is why the Buddha said that it is fruitless to ask how Karma works or where the Buddha goes after the death of the body, because in the end such a discussion leads no where - as you very skillfully noted.
(**) with applying the different views on Karma I do not mean that I want to predict all workings of Karma. However, I think it is still usefull for me to know for exmaple under what circumstances my actions by body, speach and mind produce Karma, because this right understanding (right view) shapes my intention to become right intention… Also, I was always pretty much put off, when someone said that sickness inevitably is a consequence of bad karmic actions in a past life… I actually do think that there possibly are cases, where someone might be having a sickness due to Karma. For example, someone after being distracted from practice by sensual desires in one life, might wish upon the breakup of the body to do better in the next life. Maybe that person had witnessed the hard striving and commitment of a sick person during that life and so the wrong view was aroused in him, that a sickness will help him become a more committed practitioner in the next life. So the stream of consciousness is pulled (consciously or unconsciously) to a fetus where it is obvious that a certain desease will develop. Of course this is very simplistic and it is not clear at all, whether the mind has the capability to know about the health of a fetus in the inbetween state (let alone knowing about the development of the health throughout the life to come), but it is at least one ‘explanation’ where not a bad act resulted in a punishment, but where a wrong view just led to choosing a sick body. Alternatively, of course, it could also just be bad luck that the fetus had a desease …