Emergence is the only magic.

New kinds of things just by degree.
Something for nothing,
New features for free.

Bulletpoint Buddhism: Kamma

This is the second of my attempts to express Buddhist Concepts as completely and succinctly as possible. As with the first bulletpoints, this is my interpretation and it is incomplete.

I hope you like:)

  1. What Kamma is not:
    1. Kamma is not currency.
      1. It is not earned and spent and exchanged.
        1. In some Buddhist cultures Kamma as merit has emerged but this idea is not in the Core Dhamma.
    1. Kamma is not justice.
      1. It does not make judgments.
      2. There is no absolute morality with which Kamma could be somehow entwined.
    2. Kamma is not energy/matter/force
      1. There is no force of Kamma that flows through life effecting things.
      2. There is no wave of Kamma good or bad that can wash over you.
    3. Kamma is not the results of actions.
      1. It is not the fruit (vipaka)
  1. What Kamma is:
    1. Logically
      1. All causes have effects
      2. Some causes are moral
      3. Some effects are moral
      4. Some moral causes have moral effects.
      5. All effects are causes
        1. Kamma is moral causation.
          1. Etiology with moral quantifications and conditionals.
    2. Mentally
      1. Mental events events can cause other mental events.
        1. Eg: If I see a sunrise, one mental event, that can cause a change of emotion, another mental event.
      2. Mental states and systems are variously balanced between progressive/productive states and regressive/disruptive states.
          1. Eg: Mental States can be "good" (happiness, mindfulness...) or "bad"...
        1. The term "balance" represents the manifold systems and aggregates of mind such that the realised product, the experience settles one macro-state.
          1. Its as if the experience of all the merging causes the experience of now as it is becoming and that experience becomes realised as one particular quality of experience.
            1. Just as the many and various tributaries of a river become that river.
            2. The kamma I create comes back to me in many ways, but it all becomes just the one experience of any given moment.
      3. If a Mental state B is an effect of a Mental state A then there will be a consistent and contiguous distribution of balance between A and B.
        1. This is saying that the mentality of an individual will not not have any random changes of balance between productive and disruptive states.
        2. The disposition/satisfaction/contentment of individuals flows continuous and connected.
          1. There are no gaps in the mental/moral/physical causal chains.
        3. Eg: If I am very happy today, sad tomorrow and quite happy the day after, then this transition will be a continuous and connected change in my mental states.
        4. Think of how a vista of clouds will change when watched. Each new state leads into the next but there are never points of discernible transition or sudden changes of kind.
      4. Disruptive states will most likely produce more disruptive/bad/unwanted states.
      5. Productive states will most likely produce more productive/good/desired states.
    3. Socially
      1. The interconnected systems of individuals and groups has many paths for moral causation.
        1. This interconnected web of moral/other causation is the closest there is to a "force" of Kamma.
      2. Disruptive causes are more likely to have disruptive future effects.
      3. Positive causes are more likely to have positive future effects.
      4. We can think of decisions we make as having social feedback.
        1. Well intentioned decisions will have more positive social feedback than bad.
          1. This feedback may be extant and obvious
            1. Eg: Mary is a good person because she saved the orphans and this fact causes other people to be good to her and her to feel good about her self and other people to be good to others.....
          2. The feedback may be subtle
            1. Eg: The smile from a stranger causes you to.....
      5. Understanding the karmic relationship you have with others is essential to following Dharma.
    4. Altruistically
      1. Good actions have more ways to benefit the doer than bad actions.
      2. Kamma is the motivation/intention.
        1. It is not the fruit (vipaka)
    5. Individually
      1. Only the individual has awareness of the mental states they experience.
      2. Only the individual has potential causal control over their mental states.
      3. Mental states and decisions are causes.
      4. Only the individual can choose to cause a change in their mental states.
    6. Philosophically
      1. Kamma emerges when there is a sufficient depth/complexity of interconnected systems with choice/morality/self-interest to allow for macroscopic changes in the mental states of individuals.
        1. EG: You may feel "glum" for no reason you can pinpoint but there will be antecedent reasons/decisions of immense complexity that entail this "glumness".
          1. Antecedent causes could be material (more selenium!), sensory (my back aches) or more directly to do with thought and consciousness (life is rubbish today!) and there is a compatibility between them.
      2. Kamma supervenes upon/emerges from mental-moral-social systems where decisions are the significant motivator.

Bulletpoint Buddhism

I'm not a Buddhist scholar but I am a Buddhist and I like to think that I like to think.

Over the last seven years I have been pretty deeply involved in thinking about Dharma - the teachings of the Buddha, and trying to make this fit in with my personal attempts at understanding life and reality.

The Buddhism I have studied is the traditional teachings of the Buddha known as Therevadan Buddhism. I realised as soon as I started dipping my toes in this that it was much more level-headed and rational than I would have imagined; Dharma has evolved and taken up the effects of the cultures it took root in, this is never a bad thing, but, I believe, that it might make the core teachings less accessible to western rationalists, such as myself.

The following list of 3 Bulletpoints and their subs I believe captures the very core of Dharma; everything flows from the three doctrines of existence; Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha.

I have used the original Pali terms not to be pretentious but because, as an understanding will show, there simply are not the words or concepts in English to capture the essence of these complex, composite terms.

Please note that this is my interpretation and it is not complete.

Annica, Anatta and Dukka, The Three Marks of Existence

  1. Anicca: All causes have effects/All is impermanent
    1. Everything in existence changes over over time.
    2. All effects are causes.
    3. All causes have effects.
  2. Anatta: There is no soul/self/ego
    1. No Soul: The universe is self-contained and complete.
      1. There is no material beyond matter.
      2. No new ontological material or events are added to or connected with the universe it at any point in space-time.
    2. No Self: There is no thinker, only the thought.
      1. There is no central seat of experience;
        1. That idea is an illusion created as a by product of the fact that there are experiences.
      2. The totality of an individual is composed of an aggregate of the material and emergent mental sensations, experiences, thoughts and self awareness.
  3. Dukkha: Life is suffering
        1. This is the First Noble Truth, Dukka.
        2. Dukkha is unsatisfactoriness.
        3. Impermanence is Dukkha.
        4. Attachment to the idea of self is Dukkha
        5. The diminishing returns on excitement are Dukkha.
        6. Failed Expectations are Dukkha
        7. Angst and Pain are Dukkha
        8. Boredom is Dukkha
      1. Dukkha has a cause:
        1. This is the Second Noble Truth, Samudaya
        2. The precedent cause of Dukkha is the misvaluing of past and expected experience in an increasingly diminishing space of possible experiences.
        3. This creates a Tanha, a craving/thirst/want/attachment that necessarily has diminishing returns and cannot ever meet sustainable satisfaction criteria.
      2. Reducing Tanha reduces Dukkha:
        1. This is the Third Noble Truth, Nirodha
        2. All individuals have the capacity to manage their inner mental life and attempt to reduce Tanha.
          1. It may be possible to temporarily reduce the suffering of others but ultimately Dukkha can only be reduced from the inside.
        3. If Tanha is eradicated totally than Dukkha is eradicated totally (enlightenment).
      3. The Path to reduce suffering is The Noble Eightfold Path:
        1. This is the Forth Noble Truth, Magga.
        2. Magga divided into three domains, the Philosophical, the Moral, and the Mental
          1. Philosophical Development
            1. The Philosophical Aspect of Dharma is rich and challenging and consistent with contemporary science and philosophy.
              1. Right View
                1. To try to see the world as it really is.
                2. To understand Dharma and how the parts are connected.
                1. To be able to see Kammic Connections with increasing clarity internally and externally.
                  1. Kamma is the complex mental/moral/physical causal web that covers human experience and interaction.
                2. To be able to understand becoming and the origination of becoming.
              1. Right Thought
                1. Renouncing the self to become selfless.
                2. Cultivating compassion and morality
          1. Moral Development
            1. The moral aspect of the path is not based on the idea of a moral absolute but rather the practical and pragmatic point that you cannot travel well on the path if you are poisoned by the kammic results and internal/external distractions of the prohibited acts.
              1. Right Speech
                1. To always speak the truth. Honesty is essential to Practice of Dharma. Lies have kammic consequences that can never be predicted and should be avoided even in cases where it is not in ones self interest (though this would not be without exception, of course)
                2. To speak without anger and abuse
                3. To speak with good intention
                4. Not to gossip
              1. Right Action
                1. Not to kill. The taking of life, most especially human life, is wrong.
                2. Not to steal
                3. Not to commit sexual misconduct
                4. Not to be intoxicated.
              1. Right Livelihood
                1. Do not partake in activities that could increase the suffering of others.
          1. Mental Development
            1. Buddhism treats the mind as a body organ that can be exercised and trained.
              1. Right Effort
                1. To analyse and eradicate disruptive mental states
                2. To understand and induce beneficial mental states
              2. Right Mindfulness
                1. To practice inner attentiveness.
                2. To be focused and aware of the sensations, perceptions and thoughts that constitute the mind
              3. Right Concentration
                1. Suppressing worry, distraction, doubt, restlessness
                2. One pointedness of mind

The live and better formatted version of this can be viewed in my google docs here: