Sound, reliable, sources / Karma / Abortion

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Posted by Tim C. ( on May 26, 2000 at 02:16:15:

In Reply to: Lama Yeshe on the importance of using reliable sources posted by Tim C. on May 26, 2000 at 01:27:49:

Dear Katie:

The reason that I posted the quote by Lama Yeshe under your inquiry is because I believe the issue of abortion is way too complicated for any one of us to answer with true understanding. Basically, why I posted this is to discredit us lay-persons (to some extent) who utilize this cyber-sangha. I believe, for any of us to say "this is definitely good" or "this is definitely bad" or "this is definitely neutral" is mere nonesense. Those of us who have studied Buddhism are well aware that there are many factors regarding positive karmic actions, negative karmic actions, as well as neutral karmic actions.

A quick example is of the non-vituous action of lying. We are not to lie, correct? Imagine standing or sitting in the woods and a deer runs past you. A hunter came running up to you in the woods with his rifle drawn and asked you, "Which way did that deer run?" You several choices of what to say. What I would do is point in the oppostie direction of where the deer ran and say, "that way." I would be lying, but what was my motivation? Positive, to save the deers life and to save the hunter from the possible negative karma he would incur from killing the deer? Negative, to intentionally decieve the hunter and cause him suffering? I would have to say to save the deers life, and in all Buddhist discussions of karma, one's motivation is a crucial aspect of whether the action reaps positive, negative, or neutral effects. In this case, one could assume that although I (by principle) defied the scriptural suggestion to "refrain from lying," my intention was good and virtuous and therefore by saving the animals life by lying, I might accumulate some beneficial karmic imprints.

Secondly, I want to suggest that Lord Buddha never decreed (to the best of my knowledge) that the sutras which will exist in year 2000 will be the supreme authority which should govern ALL behavior. While this is the case in many world religions, I do not believe this to be the case in Buddhism. That is why the spiritual master or guru is written of being so important in the scriptures--one who uses "skillful means" to guide the practitioner on the path. True dharma, true truth exists within each of us, not within the paper on which the texts are printed. The texts are roadmaps, directions and suggestions of how to realize this truth or dharma. Dharma exists with or without texts (although by no means am I trying to deny dharma texts and scriptures as being anything but absolutely neccessary).

What I am trying to say is that there are many different factors which cause one to act or not act (many different causes and effects)--and virtuous and non-virtuous actions do not exist in and of themselves, independent from individuals. If the nature of all persons, phenomena, etc. is interdependence then the same interdependence is is seen with intention, motivation, the act, the feelings following the act, etc. regarding vituous and non-virtuous actions. If you and I both commit the same action and you do motivated by a good-heart or altruistic intention your karmic imprints will be positive. If I commit that act (which may benefit others) but do so with a selfish, self-centered, and greedy motivation the my karmic imprint (although our actions are identical) will be negative.

In closing, what I am suggesting is that abortion cannot be answered as being definitively good or definitievely bad or definitively neutral without taking all the contributing factors into consideration. I have known girls who use abortion as a form of birth-control, who have had 10-20 abortions because they don't like using condoms (or whatever else). I have likwise know 15-year old girls who were raped, the attacker using a knife or other weapon to keep the victim from struggling too much, and impregnated, and had an abortion. In this case, one saw abortion as no big-deal, just a form of birth control. The other saw abortion as a big-deal, who still feels bad years and years after, but saw no way this child would do anything but suffer many different deprivations. While the action in these two different scenarios is the same, motivation, intention before, during, and after the fact are all different. Therefore, the karmic imprints should be different.

Well, what I have attempted to do is both suggest that we (being that we are all lay-persons) may not be the most credible sources of definitive wisdom, as well as present the different aspects of karmic imprints--that they are not just determined by "do this" and "don't do this." There are no ten-commandments in Buddhism for there are many more dynamics to action then just the act itself.

Good luck on your path.


Tim C.

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