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The Daily Enlightenment
 Quote: Force Of Habit

As our habits either diminish or deepen,
it is crucial to deepen the wholesome ones
and to diminish the unwholesome ones.

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 Feature: Can Individuals Create Collective Karma Together?

The natural and impartial law of karma does not seek to consciously reward or punish us, while the positive and negative experience of karma can be purposely magnified or mitigated by us.

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Yes, a group of individuals can create and experience collective karma (共业). However, there is each individual's personal and differentiated karma (别业) at play too. Take for instance, a crew on a boat, who suffer from its capsize. This experience can be a mix of collective and individual karma, which is often the case. As another example, when, say, a platoon of soldiers kill many innocents in a village, they would have created similar and thus collective karma through their group efforts. Due to this collective karma, they might experience similar negative karmic results later… such as having an equivalently sudden and violent death in a natural disaster. This would be the functioning of their collective karma. We have to note, however, that this in no way implies they will have lower rebirths, as the destination of rebirth would depend on the quality of the last thought of each. Thus, we should never assume that all who have 'accidental' deaths will always fare for the worse.

Yet, at the same time, it is impossible for every individual in the platoon to have generated the same intensity of hatred, to have killed the exact same number of people, inflicting the same amount of intentional harm. In this sense, each created personal karma that differs from one another's. Hence, there is a mix of collective and differentiated karma created. You can think of the collective karma being the common denominator, while there is differentiated karma due to the distinct factors above. Using a simple example, a basket is collectively filled with somewhat similarly citrus fruits, but upon closer look, there can be different fruits, such as oranges and lemons. Using a global example, we humans, and all other sentient beings on planet earth are experiencing the collective karmic effects of the climate crisis. However, not every single being experiences it in the same way due to differentiated karma. One might experience it very adversely while another less so.

It is actually extremely difficult to determine if those who perished in a disaster definitely suffered due to collective karma, differentiated karma or a mix – as all three of below possibilities are possible – [1] They might have collectively created similar karma through one (or more) incident(s) together to experience. [2] They might have individually created similar karma through one (or more) incident(s) separately to experience it. [3] They might have created a mix of [1] and [2]. The Buddha taught that the exact intricate mechanics of karma are unfathomable to all who are not fully enlightened, who are non-Buddhas, due to our short-sightedness, thus lacking detailed perception of the web of many causes and conditions. As such, other than generally understanding the above, there is no need to speculate on the karmic reasons for why one or many experience suffering. We are victims of negative karma after all, suffering on the same boat adrift the sea of Samsara. What crucial is to do what we can to aid the suffering. It is what we hope others would do for us when we suffer too.

There can be different karma
among those with collective karma,
just as there can be collective karma
among those with different karma.


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 Excerpt: How Can Ordinary Beings Reach Pure Land?

As it is much harder for us
to attain liberation than to reach Pure Land,
the Buddhas urge us to reach it first,
so as to much easier attain liberation there.

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The Fifth Doubt: Doubt Of Attaining Birth Despite Being Bound

Question: Bound ordinary beings have evil karma that is thick and heavy, with all afflictions, that are not in the least severed. As the Western Pure Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)] transcends the three spheres, how can bound ordinary beings attain birth there?

Answer: There are two kinds of conditions. The first, is Self-Power. The second, is Other-Power. Practitioners with Self-Power, who cultivate the path in this world, in reality, still cannot attain birth in [the] Pure Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)]. Thus, the Garland Sūtra says, ‘From the beginning as bound ordinary beings, they have yet to know the Triple Gem, also not knowing the causes of good and evil, and their effects. Those who have just given rise to Bodhicitta, [should cultivate] faith as their fundamental practice. To abide in the family of the Buddha[s], [they should uphold the] precepts as their fundamental practice. Receiving the Bodhisattva precepts, life after life continually, if the practice of precepts is not transgressed, passing one kalpa, two kalpas, three kalpas, then can they attain the First Abode Of Aspiration To Bodhicitta. Thus cultivating the Ten Faiths, Ten Pāramitās et cetera, with immeasurable practices and vows, continually and without interruption, fully for ten thousand kalpas, then can they attain the Sixth Abode Of Right Mind. If they progress even further, they will attain the Seventh Abode Of Non-Retrogression, which is the Stage Of Seed-Nature.’ This is about Self-Power. After all, they still cannot attain birth in [the] Pure Land [of Amitā(bha) Buddha (Amituofo)].

Practitioners with Other-Power, if they have faith that Amitā[bha] Buddha’s [Amituofo] great compassionate power of vows, can gather sentient beings mindful of [Amitā(bha)] Buddha [Amituofo], and are able to give rise to Bodhicitta, practise the Samādhi From Mindfulness Of Buddha, have Revulsed Renunciation of this body in the three spheres, begin practising generosity, upholding of precepts and cultivating of blessings, and in the course of each practice, dedicate the meritorious virtues for the aspiration to be born in that Pure Land of Amitā[bha] Buddha [Amituofo], riding on the Buddha’s power of vows, there will be correspondence of potential and response, and they will immediately attain rebirth there... Continue Fifth Doubt here | See Fourth Doubt here

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 净土十疑论 The Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land ('The Faith Factor')
 隋天台智者大师著 Written by Sui Dynasty’s Tiantai Tradition’s Great Master Zhizhe
 优婆塞沈时安英译 Translated to English by Upāsaka Shen Shi’an
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