Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Karma Theory & Science.

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

I'm sorry for this sudden rush of questions, but I thought you might be interested in this question which I posted to Ven. Jundo's website forum where there is presently some interesting discussion on the concept of karma and the realities it describes:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hi,

In chapter 84 of Shobogenzo, Sanji-No-Go ('Karma in Three Times') Dogen presents the Buddhist theory that addresses the occurence of "accidents" or the 'wild card' element of phenomena. As a theory it may be applicable to the 'chance occurence' element now identified as a facet of the workings of the universe identified at sub-atomic level. [It would, of course, suggest an ordered universe which I think Mr. Einstein would approve of greatly... he had warm compliments for Buddhism!]

The Buddhist theory states that things seem to occur in a random way due to karmic potentialities ripening over three times: immediately, after a short time, and after a long time (including in subsequent lives).

Nishijima Roshi's comment at the start of this chapter contains:

"In the second and third cases [of the three times], it is often difficult to believe that the whole world is governed completely by the law of cause and effect. But if we affirm that there are three kinds of time lag between conduct and its effect, we can affirm the validity of the law of cause and effect in all cases without exception." (My emphasis added)

But can we affirm the validity of this theory?

Regards,

Harry.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Also, Doesn't this theory seem a little 'one dimensional' and simple compared to Master Dogen's description of the condition/movements of Time-Existence in "Uji"?

Thank-You.

9 Comments:

Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry san,

Thank you very much for your very interesting questions, and my snswers are as follows.

The first problem, which Ven Jundo wrote in his blog, I haven't read it yet, and so I would like to tell my answer later.

On the problem of Sanji-No-Go, I hope that this chapter belongs to the third phase, that is, Philosophy of Action. Therefore the problem belongs to the real conduct, and we can think that when someone has committed murder, just he is committing it, his physical and mental conditions are seriously disturbed.
And since then he has become so afraid to be caught by police at every moment, and he have to continue his fear until he will be caught by police, or he himself die.

And I think that all kinds of human conducts have always the four kinds of cause and effect inevitably.

I think that the cause and effect, you have explaied is just the cause and effect in second phase, or scientific phase, and in that case the scientific cause and effect work 100%.

Therefore in Buddhism we discuss all philosophical problems on the basis of four philosophies.

And so I would like to ask you, when you want to think about a Buddhist philosophical problem, I would like to ask you to consider the problem on the basis of four philosophies without fail.

The four philosophies are of course idealistic philosophy, materialistic philosophy, philosophy of action, and Reality itself.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

11:54 PM, February 21, 2008  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hello,

Just to clarify, I did not write that message in my blog. It is a comment posted by a member, and I have not read it yet. :-)

Gassho, Jundo

12:43 AM, February 22, 2008  
Blogger HezB said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank-you very much. Am I to understand that you are not interpreting the "Time Lag" theory literally where it states that karma may be carried across subsequent lives (which I take at face value to mean a literal 'rebirth' scenario?)... or maybe my understanding of the Buddhist understanding of this idea is not correct?

I quite agree with your interpretation of the theory in the philosophy of action in the first cases of 1. Immediate karmic results and 2. longer term karmic results of actions occurring within our human life (as my experience seems to support both of these).

As to the last case, number 3. 'Karmic potentials manifesting across lives': I do not know how to interpret this as it is beyond my experience of reality. While I quite accept that "I" will be many things in the course of time, as the universe will generously redistribute my substance continually, I cannot see a reason to accept that I will again have a 'life' in the literal sense after this one. Do you feel that we can accept this 'subsequent lives' third case of the 'Time Lag' theory in a non-literal sense and that in doing this it still remains a valid Buddhist teaching?

Please forgive me if I am missing something obvious, but the applications of the 'Three Philosophies and One Reality' theory are quite large, and the average human brain is quite limited!

Thanks & Regards,

Harry.

12:59 AM, February 22, 2008  
Blogger HezB said...

Yes, I wrote the comment to Ven. Jundo's website, Roshi.

Sorry for any ambiguity.

Regards,

Harry.

1:02 AM, February 22, 2008  
Blogger Jared said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Could you please talk more about how it is possible for us to hold all four philosophies at once? From what I understand of Idealism and Materialism, there is no way to hold them both at once since they are contradictory. By this do you mean that we should hold the philosophy of Dualism? Or is there a Buddhist principle to be found in contradiction?

2:56 AM, February 23, 2008  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Harry San,

Thank you very much for your questions. But at the same time I think that it is necessary for us to identify our definition of some Buddhist words first.

For example the Sanskrit word "karman" is usually used as an special meaning, that any action has some kind of fatalistic effect inevitably, but I, who has understood the total meaning of Buddhist theory on the basis of Master Dogen's thoughts, do not permit such a traditional wrong understanding of the word at all.

Therefore in my case it is completely impossible for me to recognize the existence of so-called karmic results at all.

Following Master Dogen's opinion he denied the existence of life after death in Bendo-wa, or Soku-shin-ze-butsu, and so I do not believe in the existence of the life after death.

I think that the "Three Philosophies and One Reality" are just the Buddhist Tuth itself, and so if someone like to understand Buddhism, it is inevitable for him to study the "Three Philosophies and One Reality" first, I think.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


Dear HezB San,

I am sorry my misunderstanding.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


Dear Jared San,

Thank you very much for your questions.

Of course the four philosophies are all independent philosophies, and so it is impossible for us to understand them one by one separately.

But at the same time those four contradictory philosophies are necessary for us to understand the real situation of the Universe itself.

When we think about the four philosophies, please remember Hegelian Dialectic. In his dialectic there are also three kinds of contradictory philosophies, but his dialectic has also explaind only one philosophical system.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

11:03 PM, February 23, 2008  
Blogger HezB said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank-you for these clarifications.

Regards,

Harry.

12:45 AM, February 24, 2008  
Blogger Jared said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank you for your helpful response!

In the "four philosophies" you mentioned, is Reality (the fourth) the resolution and merging of the former three, as the Synthesis is the resolution and merging of the Thesis and Antithesis in Hegelian Dialectic?


Also, how does Zen Buddhism view logic? It would seem that Zazen and Koan practice do not value logic very much, but your apparent application of a systematic philosophy system to understand the nature of reality seems very logical.

Thank you,
-Jared

5:32 AM, February 24, 2008  
Blogger Rich said...

Hezb said:
"While I quite accept that "I" will be many things in the course of time, as the universe will generously redistribute my
substance continually, I cannot see a reason to accept that I will again have a 'life' in the literal sense after this one. Do you feel that we can accept this 'subsequent lives' third case of the 'Time Lag' theory in a non-literal sense and that in doing this it still remains a valid Buddhist teaching? "

Since reality is just here and now do you think by 'subsequent lives' they meant a future moment. Moments have a birth and death. Obviously your body may not be in a future moment but the universe of reality will be. I think this because it was there before my body was born so it will be there after my body dies. So, I don't think I have a problem with 'time lags' and 'subsequent lives' from the present moment perspective.

Also, I am trying to think of things from the viewpoint of the four philosophies which I understand better now, thank you.

11:36 PM, February 24, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home