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Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Chapter 10: The Son

Abstract:  The behavior of Siddhartha's son is used as an example of karma.

I. The son's karma can be inferred and studied..
    A. Karma is sometimes described as the general Buddhist principle of action and reaction applied to human action and experience.

      1. What a person does will inevitably have an effect on that person at present and in the future.

      2. The effect is determined in part by the character of the original action.  The "character" is more how we interpret the action  rather than how the action is "really"; i.e., note the intention rather than the actual effect.

      3.  Cf., Paul's Epistle to the Galatians 6:7, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap" or Job 4:8 "Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same."

    B. The doctrine of karma is a natural law immanent in the universe.

      1. It is a middle way between complete determinism and complete indeterminism.

      2. A Buddhist saying is "The present is a shadow of the past, the future is a shadow of the present."

    C. The doctrine of karma is not a doctrine of cause and effect but is more subtle.

      1. Every action willfully or intentionally performed by an agent tends to react upon that agent. 

      2. Karma is a natural law which cannot be suspended by a duty. Past misdeeds cannot be forgiven; they have made us what we are. 

      3. We should try to bring our actions into harmony with universal law. 

      4. Bad karma can be destroyed and good karma can be cultivated by letting some "causes" go—i.e., by selective attention. 
      How? 

      Just by letting them pass. The doctrine of inaction is similar to how one deals with distraction in meditation.

    D. So we create our own destiny—no one can save us the trouble of that creation.

      1. A Buddhist verse:

      Sow a thought and reap an act; 
      Sow an act and reap a habit; 
      Sow a habit and reap a character: 
      Sow a character and reap a destiny." 

      2. Or look at it from the opposite point of view. Our destiny issues from our character (not from events in the world because we in large part create those events through our own past decisions).

      Our character from our habits...
      Our habits from our acts... and so on.

      Compare this process to Aristotle's description of action.

    E. The Buddhist Analysis of Consciousness.

      1. Five kinds of sense-consciousness: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body. 

      2. Sixth consciousness: intellectual. The judgment which compares sense data with ideas. (E.g., consider the case of the person born blind suddenly made to see.) 

      3. Seventh is ego consciousness (unity of apperception).

        a. Awareness of oneself as an ego is ego consciousness.

        . b. Also included is our ability to discriminate between ourselves and others.

      4. Eight is storehouse consciousness (the nucleus of karmic energy). Compare this faculty to habit formation.

        a. It stores all the impressions of our deeds and experience. Logically it might be analyzed by intentional structures, dispositional qualities, or counterfactual conditionals. 

        b. Our life and character reflect our karma; hence, they are the architect of our destiny.

        c. "A bodhisattva is concerned about what he does (cause) but not about what he receives (effect)."

    F. Thus, the doctrine of karma teaches that man is the creator of his own life and destiny. All the good and bad that comes our way in life is a result of our own actions reacting upon us, in part, because those actions set up the range of possibilities of our future actions. 

    G. The Son's karma [95, D, 97 B]—He will have to go his own path.

      1. Siddhartha's love is like that of the Child-People—he tries to hold on to his son at all costs.

      2. Siddhartha's final and most difficult task is to realize that his son must go his own way. 

      3. What do...

      Momma's boy
      habits of rich
      fine food, soft be
      commanding servants

      lead to? ...     The road will be a difficult one.
II. Siddhartha preferred the sorrow of loving his son rather than the happiness which might result without him.
    A. Is this an impossible situation? How can Siddhartha solve it?

    B.  Question:  How can one be Buddha and love others?  Can you care for something without trying to change it?  How do you care for something you like or love?  Do you give it something extra? (Cf., caring for a plant—Do you give it extra water?)
    Vasudeva's answer: the river.

      1. The way of the world:  a thing is whatever it is; it will cause more harm to try to change it.

      2. Be nonjudgmental about what he should be;  we are not smart enough to determine what his path will be.  (Accept things as they are, if you have no power to change them.)

      3. Who do we think we are to take the life of another and make it into what we think it should be?

        a. One view of karma is noting that our mistakes and misfortunes  make us what we are.  Compare Socrates' tending of soul to karma.

        b. To seek to change another's mistakes is to limit not only what they learn about life but also to limit their resourcefulness in dealing with future problems.

        c. E.g., when one reminds another person about a daily responsibility and that person forgets, one can be turned into a nagger. By relying on you, that person is made worse.

      4. Siddhartha's natural answer is to use goodness and patience to win his son over, but this approach only aggravates the problem. Things are made worse by Siddhartha's love.

      Why are things made worse?
        a. His son will never measure up to his Dad.

        b. Siddhartha's unconditional love negates the son's self-esteem and ability to make decisions for himself because of the non-authentic feedback.

      5. Just as Siddhartha's father could not save him from his mistakes (and rightly so), he cannot save his son from taking his own path in life.

        a. You cannot change another's karma. You cannot control another person. "The child is the father of the man."

        b. You cannot alter another's destiny [98D].

    C. The problem, here, of course, is that this is the first time Siddhartha can love as the Child-People typically do.

      1. Human love is thus viewed as Samsara.

      2. The love here is viewed by Hesse as  an integral step in Siddhartha's own quest for enlightenment. Also, he seeks to illustrate that Siddhartha should shirk no experience since all experiences make us what we are.

        a. Siddhartha's love is a necessary experience for self-realization and growth.

        b. Without that depth of feeling, the crisis and the resolution of the crisis in enlightenment might not be possible.

        c. E.g., in Zen the koan is an artificial attempt to make one crazy--to burst into intuitive enlightenment (much like Govinda's enlightenment later).

III. Case Study of the Magical--Vasudeva, by clarity of unclouded perception can presage outcomes.
    A. "The oar was lost" [101].

    B. The ability to foresee the inevitability of certain circumstances seems magical.
IV. Siddhartha's Crisis of Letting Go: no goals, no happiness.
    A. Meditation: "The world is too much with us." He needs to escape Samsara.

    B. Does the dilemma of caring too much lead to an unhappy life?
Readings:
Zen Guide, "Karma."

 

 
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