A Three Dimensional View of Karma in Early Buddhism

Abstract

Detailing the connection between the various functions of Buddhist karma theory and rebecoming is a profoundly difficult aspect of Buddhist philosophy. While there is no definitive answer to these questions, suggestions can be found in early Buddhism that may help to reconcile the early Buddhist interpretations of karma with other philosophical and scientific theories.A great difficulty in analysing the functional aspects of Buddhist karma theory is the conflation of karma as causality with karma as ethics to create a strongly deterministic ethical theory of karmic retribution which de-emphasises notions of free will and personal responsibility that are fundamental to Buddhist practice. This research is intended as a new model to evaluate karma in light of early Buddhist karma theory. Following this model may allow karma theorists to shed our accumulated assumptions from the Abhidharma and western philosophy that bring substance metaphysics into the analysis of Buddhist karma doctrine. This essentialism is an unnecessary obstacle to understanding. When karma as causality is located within early Buddhist process metaphysics it can easily be analysed in a practical fashion and is found to accord with contemporary thought. Karma as ethics is more properly analysed as a satisfactory, but underdeveloped ethical theory. Only with these conceptions in place can the connection between karma and rebecoming can be detailed

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