Good Kamma! Bad Kamma! What Exactly Is Kamma?

Today, the information in most books on kamma and rebirth by Buddhist writers are actually an amalgam of ideas the Buddha taught together with ones that developed sometimes centuries after his passing. And it is all presented as if it were the words and ideas of the Buddha himself. This would be equivalent to quoting Aquinas or Kierkegaard and attributing it to Jesus. Often, what is presented as the Buddha’s teaching of kamma and rebirth is actually the ideas from the Milindapañha written perhaps 400 or 500 years after the Buddha, of Buddhaghosa who lived some 900 after him, or Anuruddha, the author of the Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha, who lived about 1400 years after him. This is not to say that these later ideas are necessarily wrong. Some of them help to clarify things the Buddha said or take them to their logical conclusions. But they are all the product of scholarly speculation and hypothesizing, while what the Buddha taught was the outcome of his awakening experience. Thus this book will look at kamma and rebirth based on how these doctrines are presented in the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka, the oldest and most authentic record we have of the Buddha’s teaching.

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