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Karma and abuse

newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

Karma - bad things that happen to us are a result of bad karma in future lives.

But how can any act in a previous life cause a child to live for 19 years with abuse?

I was abused and raped from a young age and I can't agree that anything I did in a previous life could have made that my fault. I have spent years and years in therapy trying to believe that it wasn't my fault. But if its karma, then it was my fault after all?
Desperately need someone to clear this up for me.

And yes, I finally went to a temple and started some Buddhism classes. Although so far it's only confused me more!

Comments

  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    Thank you.
    Yes, not sure I agree with the teaching on Karma we were given last night. Which is where I got this idea from.

    That if a child gets murdered - for the child it's their bad karma from past lives. For the murdered its horrible karma for the future.

    I kinda very much disagree with that. Originally I was thinking there should be no negative karma for a child and only bad karma for the adult.

    The fact that I could in any way be responsible for what happened could be devastating for me. Even if it was in a past life. So thank you for clearing that up!

    lobsterHozan
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    <3

    In time we develop discernment and the ability to go beyond personal dukkha, sangha fairy tales/superceded information and confusion ...

    Excellent answer from @Fosdick

    @newlotus said:
    I kinda very much disagree with that. Originally I was thinking there should be no negative karma for a child and only bad karma for the adult.

    Exactly so. <3

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran

    The best answer I have found ....

    Sometimes, people ask me to explain why things happen the way they do. For instance, they might say, “I know this person who was good all her life. She never did anything wrong. She worked hard and was self-sacrificing. But she died in agony, of a terrible cancer. What did she do to deserve that terrible pain?” They want me to say, “Well, maybe in a previous life she did something nasty and now she’s paying for it.” That’s a popular explanation of how kamma works, but it’s only speculation. What we can say about this woman’s experience is this: “It happened because she was born. If she hadn’t been born, she wouldn’t have gotten sick, and she wouldn’t have died.”

    http://howtopracticezen.com/is-karma-too-pat/

    "'From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

    Metta

    KannonDhammaDragon
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Fosdick said:

    You are not responsible in any way for the abuse you suffered. The only responsibility, the only bad karma, belongs solely to those who abused you. Karma is action, and there are few actions that are worse or more damning than the abuse of a child. That you had to suffer for it is dukkha, not karma. You are blameless.

    100%

    And to be perfectly honest with you, I don't personally believe we always know what the Buddha meant with his teachings. If we did, there wouldn't be so many paths of Buddhism.

  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    No, the teachings don't seem super clear. But really I would have been surprised if a compassionate person (Buddha) said that abuse was the person's fault. Doesn't seem to fit!
    Thanks all :)

    dhammachickHozan
  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    @pegembara

    What a beautiful quote. TNH is amazing.

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    I had similar questions about karma when I first came to this forum. It seemed like a blame-the-victim philosophy. Surely that poor beggar on the street deserves his fate because he was greedy in a past life and has now gotten is comeuppance.

    I got quite a good answer to this question in this old thread: http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/5821/karma-and-blaming-the-victim

    My poor summary of this would go something like this: the karma you 'earn' (good or bad) in one life doesn't pay off in the next in the form of material rewards and/or punishment. Rather if you accumulated good karma in your past life, you strengthened your positive attitude and you will be able to deal will with the vicissitudes of this latest turn of samsara with great equanimity. Or if you planted negative karmic seeds, you will approach life with a poor attitude and cause much unnecessary suffering for yourself.

    In short, the abuse you experienced is not your fault, nor the fault of someone who lived decades ago. Please do not think that you deserved such a horrible fate, or that Buddhism supports such a view.

    Fosdick
  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    Yeah I can agree with that @nakazcid
    Things could have turned out very different for me with my history. But instead of having a negative effect on my life I think in the long term this will make me a better person. And it brought me to Buddhism.
    My friends have commented that they are glad I turned out good. That they wouldn't have been surprised if I turned into a druggie who lived on the street. But instead, I worked my ass off to support myself and pay for psychologist fees to make sure I stayed ok (ish).
    In the end, its made me who I am and paved my way to this life that I have now which is pretty good (mostly).
    So my good karma gave me the strength, compassion, and smarts to deal with it?

    Maybe I will show the teacher this next week when she talks about Karma. As I very much disagree with her view of it! Could be interesting.

    FosdickDhammaDragonHozanlobster
  • gracklegrackle Veteran

    Harsh and deterministic teachings about Karma are in my opinion more to be found in the teachings of other religions which were in place prior to the teaching of the Buddha. Fairy tale teachings about Karma are lacking in both compassion and wisdom.

    DhammaDragonlobsterdhammachick
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @newlotus , You have now discovered that teachings passed on by different schools have different angles. In the end, it's down to a person's own understanding and interpretation, but your teacher would have been much wiser to have added the caveat "This is how I understand and see it: YMMV" Because imparting such teachings as sacrosanct indisputable fact, is liable to do more damage to his/her reputation and trustworthiness, than anything else.

    You only have to look at Hard-Line Theological Religious teachings, to see that.

    This is why many teachings are prefaced by "Thus have I heard:..." Which means 'This is what I've taken on board, you may already have heard, or believe different...'

    The sad fact is, that now you have heard this teacher say this, (and we have all reassured you we feel their teaching is flawed, to say the least!) you will actually harbour less respect for her, than before.

    It is also beholden upon a teacher to understand that the pupils they face, have all lived lives which may have been troubled, disturbed, distressing, and extremely painful. What you teach should be subject to scrutiny. HOW you teach it should be beyond reproach.

    lobsterHozanDhammaDragon
  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    This teacher isn't the main teacher. It's run by 2 other Lamas. I think further teachings are run by them.
    But yes she could have explained it more carefully. It is a sensitive subject and could have massive impacts on people. We will see how it goes. I might keep to my books in future. I learn more from then than anything else.
    I get guided with my meditation else from my psych who studies buddism also.

  • mosquitomosquito Explorer
    edited May 16

    On the sidenote I'd like to slightly counterweight the quote @pegembara wrote.

    I find it misleading: although it states the true thing, it doesn't say the whole truth (moves the weight of a thing from the center to periphery, so to say).

    Of course ones birth is a prerequisite for such and such a fate. But it's not the direct condition. Many people have been born, still a lot of them haven't been raped.

    --

    Now @newlotus - you are wise to think for yourself. My opinion (I emphasize it's just my opinion) is that as much as we can learn a lot from Buddhism (like the techinques to cope with our life-difficulties), we shouldn't rely on it completely, as on the single point of truth. Views, ideas, opinions (including mine here) can be helpful (or not), but still, they shouldn't be clung to, rather applied (when useful) and let go (thus - eventually transcended).

    The single point of truth is - what is. This life you've got, this moment you're alive in. That's not much (in terms of it's substantiality, so to say), so we tend to add to it - views, ideas, opinions. What Buddhism can do for us in this matter, is showing us again and again, that - no, we cannot fully rely on anything external, because it's clinging, and clinging eventually will leave us unsatisfied. (Same with staying in some moments longer than they last - iow "keeping them for too long".)

    (Of course, that's my take on "what Buddha really meant" - please digest and let go of it.)

    And saying it all, for me - Karma is just a concept, not a most fortunate one. I personally don't even think it's true. And by the way, for me always such discussions on Karma-like concepts reveal how much truth people can sacrifice not to let go of concepts they rely on.

    But I agree, it's hard to rely on nothing else, just ourselves - in this very moment that presents itself. Especially - doing it moment by moment. So we tend to add (cling) again and again - and after all find ourselves unsatisfied. For me here's just the Middle Way of applying "Buddhism" - clearing the mind, puryfing the heart, accepting what is (regardless of my likes and dislikes), realizing that this moment is the only moment for me to truly live, living (in this moment) the best I can. And repeating this freshness of view as I live on.

    And practicing like this - is it "Buddhism" or whatever else - somehow loosens the grip of suffering and doesn't bring more confusion. But you probably have to figure it all out for yourself anyway.

    Much metta to you!!!

    newlotuslobsterDhammaDragondhammachick
  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    @mosquito -Thankyou that was very helpful advice. Yes I can feel myself clinging to it but I'm trying to work it out. Not actually sure if I believe in Karma. Definitely not from a past life. That seems unhelpful and unproductive.

    @federica - I am in therapy so am working through it all. I have PTSD so can let it go or face it super easily. But getting there.

    Thanks for clarifying :)

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I hope nothing I said hurt you or proved to be painful to consider. You must know that was not my intention.
    I realise you're working through it. My input was intended to fully support your progress. <3

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    What everyone else has said. But even if a person subscribed to that belief (that past life "sins" lead to abuse, disability etc in this life) remember it has nothing to do with you as a person and only an experience from a karmic stream experience. That has nothing to do with who you are in this life, or anything you did. Not everything that happens is paying back karma, either, under that belief system.

    Sometimes I think some teachers learn things from such a scholarly point of view that their compassion almost comes from logic rather than heart. They are so far removed from certain parts of life that they cannot relate to it and don't even realize that the things they are saying are very hurtful to people in certain circumstances, such as yourself. They forget not everyone has the level of understanding of teachings that they do, and often it's hard to impart those teachings into verbal instructions. I was at a retreat once where someone asked how they are supposed to love and appreciate a mother who abused them. The teacher said "you do it anyways, she loved you enough to give birth to you and you have to appreciate that." Well, "love" goes a lot farther than getting pregnant and squeezing a kid out of a uterus. But her experience and his logic did not jive She just felt hurt and frustrated and he kept telling her to get over it and love her abuser and excuse the mistakes. Well, forgiveness is a wonderful thing, but you don't simply "get over it" and he didn't seem to understand that. It is, I think, one of the major faults of monastic living. Especially for those who are put into it as children. Their ability to understand the lives others live becomes quite narrow and limited because they are sheltered from so much of it. Then they cannot relate and don't realize how what they say is hurtful.

    federica
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran
    edited May 16

    In his book "Good, Evil and Beyond," Pra Payutto includes three philosophical positions which are considered to be misunderstandings of the law of Karma:

    Beliefs that are contrary to the law of kamma:
    There are three philosophies which are considered by Buddhism to be wrong view
    and which must be carefully distinguished from the teaching of kamma:
    1. Pubbekatahetuvada: The belief that all happiness and suffering arise
    from previous kamma (Past-action determinism).
    2. Issaranimmanahetuvada: The belief that all happiness and suffering
    are caused by the directives of a Supreme Being (Theistic determinism).
    3. Ahetu-apaccayavada: The belief that all happiness and suffering are random,
    having no cause (Indeterminism or Accidentalism).

    Many conditions come into play for an event to take place in our lives, past kamma being one among them.

    “Listen, Sivaka.
    Some kinds of feeling arise with bile as condition …
    with changes in the weather as condition …
    with inconstant behavior as condition …
    with danger from an external source as condition …
    with kamma-results as condition.
    Any ascetic or Brahmin who is of the view that,
    ‘All feeling is entirely caused by previous kamma,’
    I say is mistaken.”
    [S.IV.230 (S.18/427/284)]

    Fosdick
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited May 17

    Many thanks @DhammaDragon for that quote. I was sure that something of the sort must exist.

    Reading this discussion, I've come to a revised understanding of Kamma and want to revise what I said earlier in the thread, that

    At best it is not a useful idea, and at worst it is speculative metaphysics and an impediment to happiness and progress in this life, here and now, which is all we need to care about.

    I now think that, differently understood, it can be a useful ( if still somewhat metaphysical ) idea after all. If Kamma is understood as manifesting in our lives as greater or lesser ability to deal with dukkha as it arises, then that seems to me to be potentially useful if for no other reason than to encourage us to work hard and do the best we can in this life.

    If, on the other hand, Kamma is understood to manifest as the physical, worldly conditions of our life - which pretty much represents my previous view of the subject - then that is definitely not useful, and encourages us only to feel doomed and helpless. Seems this way to me at the moment, anyway.

    DhammaDragonmosquito
  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    @karasti
    "The teacher said "you do it anyways, she loved you enough to give birth to you and you have to appreciate that." Well, "love" goes a lot farther than getting pregnant and squeezing a kid out of a uterus. "

    A teacher said that?!?! WOW! That's terrible!

    I agree with you. Love isn't giving birth to a child its how you treat the child after. And some mothers aren't capable of loving.

    If someone said that to me, monk, teacher or not they would cope it! People who say things like that obviously don't fully understand compassion, or what it is like to feel deeply hurt.

    And I'm using Buddhism to help me better understand the world and help myself. So I
    m not going to agree to something that will make me feel horribly depressed and self-loathing! That would just be foolish!

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited May 17

    @newlotus said:
    Yeah I can agree with that @nakazcid
    Things could have turned out very different for me with my history. But instead of having a negative effect on my life I think in the long term this will make me a better person. And it brought me to Buddhism.
    My friends have commented that they are glad I turned out good. That they wouldn't have been surprised if I turned into a druggie who lived on the street. But instead, I worked my ass off to support myself and pay for psychologist fees to make sure I stayed ok (ish).
    In the end, its made me who I am and paved my way to this life that I have now which is pretty good (mostly).
    So my good karma gave me the strength, compassion, and smarts to deal with it?

    Maybe I will show the teacher this next week when she talks about Karma. As I very much disagree with her view of it! Could be interesting.

    Good for you.

    "Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect."

    "And what is the result of stress? There are some cases in which a person overcome with pain, his mind exhausted, grieves, mourns, laments, beats his breast, & becomes bewildered. Or one overcome with pain, his mind exhausted, comes to search outside, 'Who knows a way or two to stop this pain?' I tell you, monks, that stress results either in bewilderment or in search. This is called the result of stress.

    "And what is the cessation of stress? From the cessation of craving is the cessation of stress; and just this noble eightfold path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.063.than.html

    DhammaDragonnewlotus
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
  • newlotusnewlotus Australia Explorer

    LOL sorry that's a bit funny!
    I have that magazine sitting on my coffee table but haven't read it yet :p

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @newlotus Yep, he said it. Also at the same retreat when a student expressed concern about having driven to the retreat and used fossil fuels and whether it's ok to do that in exchange for receiving teaching, the same teacher laughed and said it doesn't really matter what happens to the planet because we will just reincarnate on another one. I can't say I was impressed, lol.

    On one hand, I can see his point of understanding that we are blessed to be alive because someone chose to give birth to us, and that we should appreciate that. But appreciating that fact doesn't have to mean ignoring how an abusive parent behaved. One can look into an abusive person and see they abused because they were suffering themselves. But that is a very private and intense investigation for someone to go through and for him to suggest that an abused person should just get over it wasn't very compassionate if you ask me. Especially when he didn't know the person at all. Sometimes a teacher needs to put out some tough love. But that comes from having developed a relationship with that person. Which was not the case here. The teacher has returned for other retreats here and while it's rare where I live to have Buddhist teachers come at all, I have not gone back. I think teachers, when giving teachings to a broad spectrum of people, need to err on the side of gentleness, and that was definitely not his forte. He could have explained his point much better and in a more caring manner. The person who asked the question was clearly pained and troubled to hear that she should love her mother no matter what she did to her. I'm sure the teacher was approaching it as a typical Tibetan place where you honor your parents, especially your mother, for giving birth to you and you use that as a jumping off point to learn unconditional love for others. But that isn't how it is for everyone, and a person cannot learn unconditional love when they had a parent who didn't offer it.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited May 17

    Sometimes I think students feel constrained to seek out and abide by Buddhism's various tenets. I disagree: do not seek out Buddhism; let Buddhism seek you out. And no, this isn't just blowing holy smoke where the sun don't shine.

    There are some tough-nut teachings in Buddhism. We've all chewed on them. But when the chewing is fruitless (using the same tools to solve an old problem that the tools have not solved in the past) then it is time to set that aspect aside. Just keep up a good meditation practice and ... see what happens.

    I found, for example, that the precepts inched into my life without asking or begging and with no one around me selling them. They just stuck their snout in the door because practice showed there was no other option. Standing around trying to fix or affix the precepts was not useful to me. But the precepts themselves? That was a different matter.

    Big problems today may be big problems tomorrow. Or maybe not. They may never get solved. So ... practice anyway. I realize this is easier said than done, but, as with my version of the precepts, what other option is there?

    Best wishes.

    Fosdick
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