Greetings once more. I bet you’re starting to regret you let me in here!
I was just listening to Venerable Nissarano discuss Karma and I was wondering:
If “I” (as a permanent, unique individual) do not get reborn, then why does the person I become in my next rebirth suffer the karmic consequences of my actions? How does the “energy” of my actions in this life find its way to “me” in rebirth?
I really appreciate the generosity you have all shown me. Many thanks.
What has helped me move closer to an answer to your question is a deep dive into Dependent Origination. I find DO to be continuously profound and illuminating the more it’s examined and meditated upon. DO makes sense of and arranges the conditioning and connecting influences and at the same time brings up more subtle questions and ponderables. Considering Dependent origination backwards and forwards, from avijjā to jarāmarana and from jarāmarana to avijjā, opens up the dhamma and shows its beautiful simplicity and complexity.
I think the heart of your question can be addressed by exploring the dynamic mutual reciprocal dependent relationship between viññanā and nāmarupā, how then viññanā is mistaken for self (what is not reborn) as well as the role of tanhā and upādāna in kammabhava.
No, not at all! The very core of the Buddhist way is Self Directed Enquiry … an investigation into the way things are and into the existential questions of Who and Why and What and How! The Dhamma is always evident, but we need to grow into a recognition of it. That takes time, energy and effort - but its well worth it!
So sorry: perhaps I made it intimidating by using the Pali terms instead of translated words. Personally, I find that many Pali words lose something in translation. Please don’t let that get in the way of looking into Dependent Origination. The Venerable Ajahn Brahmali is a wonderful source and has videos on DO to help you.
No apology necessary! In fact, you helped me understand the correct perspective from which to approach it. I.e. don’t just study it; rather, sense it, feel it, contemplate it. Don’t just think about it - see if it resonates.
In my experience, the bad things I do tend to weigh on my conscience for (sometimes quite) a while and the good things I do will lift my spirits for a while. When I’m depressed, I tend to subconsciously sabotage myself. While I’m happy, setbacks don’t seem to set me quite so far back.
There’s also no permanent “I” that travelled from 5-year-old you to current you. Yet, everything in your life is deeply affected by the choices you’ve made since you were 5. You’re not exactly the same nor completely different from 5yo you. Everything you are is self-created, isn’t it? As I understand it, it’s the same with rebirth. It’s this process of becoming that continues. So it’s not that you’re reborn as a completely different being and then BAM, you get your inheritance. But that your rebirth itself is your kamma.
I think it’s safe to say that the Buddha emphasized that there is no permanent self, that we are deluded by our conditioned reactions to what we come into contact with and we confuse consciousness with self. The Buddha was able to remove all impurities and obstructions of his mind to see the way things really are. By removing ignorance, the other links of dependent origination fell away, most notably craving and grasping. Without craving there is no condition for rebirth, no point in another round.
Sometimes I think about the activity that goes on within my fathom long body. There is delusion, intention, action. Then I think, what if I died right now, what would be left? I think only craving; the specific craving that my past actions have cultivated and brought me to this point. That thirst would continue and try to be quenched. The old body and circumstances don’t exist, there’s a new situation unfolding.