Dharma World

July-September 2016, Volume 43

July-September 2016, Volume 43(PDF)

Contemporary Ideas about Karma

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines karma as “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.” Karma is a fundamental Buddhist concept. Buddhists hold that wholesome deeds and intentions create beneficial karma, and unwholesome deeds and intentions create harmful karma.

The consequences of a person’s deeds might not be revealed in his or her present life, but only in subsequent lives. This is why some people might not seem to “reap what they sow.”

It is questionable whether all Buddhists have subscribed to the doctrines of rebirth and karma as elaborated above. Over time, ways of mitigating or reversing the effects of karma appeared in Buddhist traditions, and many contemporary Buddhists believe in transmigration but do not think their everyday behavior will affect their future lives. Some may even reject karma and rebirth as fatalistic justifications for prejudice, such as sexual discrimination, or for such misfortunes as poverty, physical disability, and natural disasters.

What is karma? How do people today understand it? We may need to rethink karma, an important Buddhist concept that has often been misinterpreted and exploited for various reasons, so that Buddhism will continue to be a spiritual guide for people’s thoughts and deeds.

July-September, Volume 43 (PDF)

Understanding Karma for Today by Dominick Scarangello

Dominick Scarangello, PhD, specializes in early-modern and modern Japanese religions. He has taught at the University of Virginia and was the Postdoctoral Scholar in Japanese Buddhism at the Center for Japanese Studies, University of California, Berkeley (2013-14). Currently, he is an international advisor to Rissho Kosei-kai.

What Does Karma Really Mean? by David R. Loy

The true focus of the karma teaching is not on the consequences (effects) but on one’s actions (causes).

David R. Loy is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. He is a prolific author whose essays and books have been translated into many languages. He teaches in America and other countries on various topics, focusing primarily on the encounter between Buddhism and modernity and what each can learn from the other. See www.davidloy.org.

Karma as the Constructive Activity of Experience by Maria Heim

Karma . . . is not so much reaping what one sows but the constant work of fashioning who one becomes.

Maria Heim is Professor of Religion at Amherst College. She holds a PhD from Harvard University and did her undergraduate work at Reed College. She has held fellowships from Guggenheim and Fulbright. Her most recent book is The Forerunner of All Things: Buddhaghosa on Mind, Intention, and Agency (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is currently working on two projects: a study of emotions in classical Indian thought and a study of Buddhaghosa’s hermeneutics.

Chinese Buddhist Perspectives on Karma by Beverley McGuire

Neither a theodicy nor a license to judge other people’s actions, karma provides a means of confronting and responding to one’s own life and morality, but the most honest stance toward other people’s suffering is that of extreme humility.

Beverley McGuire is an Associate Professor of East Asian Religions at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She received her PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, and she specializes in late-imperial and modern Chinese Buddhism. She has published articles in Journal of Chinese Religions, Material Religion, and Religion Compass and a book entitled Living Karma: The Religious Practices of Ouyi Zhixu (Columbia University Press, 2014).

All Sentient Beings Are Bodhisattvas by Fumihiko Sueki

Modern Buddhists have . . . concealed [the] doctrine of karma and the cycle of rebirth or have sought to abandon it as violating the true teachings of the Buddha. But are they right to do so? Should we reject the concept of past and future lives and assume that our few decades in this life are all there is?

Fumihiko Sueki, PhD, is a professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies. He currently serves as president of the Japanese Association for Comparative Philosophy. His research focuses mainly on reconstruction of the intellectual history of Buddhism in Japan from ancient to modern times. He is the author and editor of a number of books, mainly on Japanese Buddhism and the history of Japanese philosophy and religion.


Do Not Do What Is Wrong by Nichiko Niwano

Nichiko Niwano is president of Rissho Kosei-kai and an honorary president of Religions for Peace. He also serves as an advisor to Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan).


Reviewing the Buddha’s Teaching on Karma and Its Social Ramifications by Jonathan S. Watts

The Buddha repudiated both past karmic determinism (pubbekaṭavāda) and theistic determinism (issarakaraṇavāda), because they lead to passive resignation and discourage taking action that can be of direct benefit.

Jonathan S. Watts has been a researcher at the Jodo Shu Research Institute in Tokyo since 1999 and at the International Buddhist Exchange Center in Yokohama since 2005. He has also been an associate professor of Buddhist Studies at Keio University, Tokyo, and has been on the executive board of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) since 2003. He has coauthored and edited Never Die Alone: Death as Birth in Pure Land Buddhism; Rethinking Karma: The Dharma of Social Justice; and This Precious Life: Buddhist Tsunami Relief and Anti-Nuclear Activism in Post 3/11 Japan.


Discovering the Lotus on This Shore: A Reading of Kenji Miyazawa’s “Okhotsk Elegy” by Jon Holt

Miyazawa wrote stories and poems in order to help others understand, venerate, and propagate the Lotus. In doing so, he created works that are both very Japanese and very worldly.

Jon Holt is an Assistant Professor of Japanese in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. His research interests include modern Japanese poetry, Japanese Buddhism, and manga. Recent publications include “In a Senchimentaru Mood: Japanese Sentimentalism in Modern Poetry and Art” (Japanese Language and Literature [2014]); and “Ticket to Salvation: Nichiren Buddhism in Miyazawa Kenji’s ‘Ginga tetsudō no yoru'” (Japanese Journal of Religious Studies [2014]). His translations of Amari Hayashi’s tanka recently appeared on asymptotejournal.com.


The Actual Refugee Crisis in Europe by Ignacio Marqués

We have seen European leaders meeting in Brussels to consider the promise of providing more facilities to Turkey if it agrees to stop the crowds of refugees and allow them to remain in its territory, forbidding their access to EU countries.

Ignacio Marqués, a Roman Catholic priest in Barcelona, founded the Sant Pau Centre Terapèutic there in 1984, Spain’s first Welcome Centre for helping sub-Saharan people. He was for ten years the Archdiocese of Barcelona’s episcopal delegate for migrants and gypsies, and promotes interfaith dialogue among people from 127 countries, including Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Christians. In May 2015 he visited Japan and spoke at Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma centers in Tokyo and Nagoya.

Niwano Peace Prize

Abiding by the Laws of Interdependence The 33rd Niwano Peace Prize Acceptance Address by Dishani Jayaweera, Cofounder of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation, Sri Lanka

The Niwano Peace Foundation awarded the thirty-third Niwano Peace Prize on May 12 to the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation (CPBR) of Sri Lanka for its distinguished contributions to peace building and reconciliation in Sri Lanka during and after the country’s twenty-six-year civil war and its help in rebuilding a society that honors diversity. The presentation ceremony took place in Tokyo. In addition to an award certificate, CPBR received a medal and twenty million Japanese yen. The cofounder’s acceptance speech follows.

The Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation (CPBR) of Sri Lanka was founded in 2002 by Ms. Dishani Jayaweera, a former attorney, and Dr. Jayantha Seneviratne, an expert in conflict transformation, who are Sinhala Buddhists by birth. CPBR is a nonprofit organization promoting peace building and nonviolent conflict resolution. It supports personal and societal transformation within and between ethnic, religious, linguistic, and regional communities in Sri Lanka, working at the grassroots, local, and national levels. To achieve goals of national reconciliation, CPBR focuses on people considered to hold the greatest influence and promise for transformation: religious leaders, women, and young people.

Founder’s Memoirs

The Asian Conference of Religions for Peace The 33rd Niwano Peace Prize Acceptance Address by Dishani Jayaweera, Cofounder of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation, Sri Lanka by Nikkyo Niwano

Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, was an honorary president of the World Conference of Religions for Peace and was honorary chairman of Shinshuren (Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan) at the time of his death in October 1999. He was awarded the 1979 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

The Threefold Lotus Sutra: A Modern Commentary (125)

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law Chapter 25: The All-Sidedness of the Bodhisattva Regarder of the Cries of the World (4) The 33rd Niwano Peace Prize Acceptance Address by Dishani Jayaweera, Cofounder of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation, Sri Lanka by Nikkyo Niwano

This is the 125th installment of a detailed commentary on the Threefold Lotus Sutra by the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano.

Dharma World

  1. Autumn 2019, Volume 46

    Manga, Anime, and Contemporary Religion

  2. Spring 2019, Volume 46

    Is Emptiness the Goal?

  3. July-December 2018, Volume 45

    The Buddhahood of Plants and Trees: The Environment and Buddha-Nature

  4. January-June 2018, Volume 45

    Buddhism’s One Vehicle in a World of Many Religions

  5. July-December 2017, Volume 44

    Religions Tackling Extremism

  6. January-June 2017, Volume 44

    Religion and Animals

  7. October-December 2016, Volume 43

    Features: Listening

  8. July-September 2016, Volume 43

    Contemporary Ideas about Karma

  9. April-June 2016, Volume 43

    Buddhism and Food

  10. January-March 2016, Volume 43

    Dual Religious Identity: Can One Practice Two Religions?

  11. October-December 2015, Volume 42

    The Modern Significance of Meditative Practices in Religions

  12. July-September 2015, Volume 42

    Religious Rituals and Their Meaning for Today

  13. April-June 2015, Volume 42

    Religion's Contributions to Society

  14. January-March 2015, Volume 42

    Cultivating Hearts That Welcome the Other

  15. October-December 2014, Volume 41

    Buddhism and Language

  16. July-September 2014, Volume 41

    Life After Death

  17. April-June 2014, Volume 41

    Building an East Asian Community: Roles of Religions

  18. January-March 2014, Volume 41

    Aging Societies and Religion

  19. October-December 2013, Volume 40

    Nuclear Power and Contemporary Religion

  20. July-September 2013, Volume 40

    Where Does the Buddha Live Now?

  21. April-June 2013, Volume 40

    Modern Meanings of Festivals

  22. January-March 2013, Volume 40

    Transforming Greed

  23. October-December 2012, Volume 39

    Religions Coping with Prejudice

  24. July-September 2012, Volume 39

    The Significance of Religious Communities

  25. April-June 2012, Volume 39

    Buddhist Teachings on Spiritual Liberation

  26. January-March 2012, Volume 39

    The Meaning of Modern Pilgrimage

  27. October-December 2011, Volume 38

    The Evolution of Funerals in Japan

  28. July-September 2011, Volume 38

    Buddhism in North America

  29. April-June 2011, Volume 38

    Religion and the Power of Women

  30. January-March 2011, Volume 38

    What Is True Wealth?

  31. October-December 2010, Volume 37

    Dialogue Draws Religions Closer

  32. July-September 2010, Volume 37

    Tackling the Question "What Is the Lotus Sutra?"

  33. April-June 2010, Volume 37

    Religion's Role in Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

  34. January-March 2010, Volume 37

    Help in Overcoming Alienation

  35. October-December 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Prayer

  36. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Media

  37. April-June 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Health

  38. January-March 2009, Volume 36

    The Changing Forms of the Family and the Role of Religion

  39. October-December 2008, Volume 35

    The Meaning of Giving in the Contemporary World

  40. July-September 2008, Volume 35

    Buddhism in the Face of Environmental Crisis

  41. April-June 2008, Volume 35

    The Many Forms of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin

  42. January-March 2008, Volume 35

    Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

  43. October-December 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Bioethics

  44. July-September 2007, Volume 34

    Respect for Ancestors

  45. April-June 2007, Volume 34

    Self-Examination and Peace Work

  46. January-March 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Social Responsibility: Boddhisattva Practice Today

  47. October-December 2006, Volume 33

    Buddishm in Dialogue

  48. July-September 2006, Volume 33

    Religions Working for Peace

  49. April-June 2006, Volume 33

    Creating the World of the One Vehicle: The Centennial of the Birth of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano

  50. January-February 2006, Volume 33

    The Human Condition and Religion: A Global Future?

  51. November-December 2005, Volume 32

    Remembering Hiroshima

  52. September-October 2005, Volume 32

    Spirituality and Development

  53. July-August 2005, Volume 32

    Women in Contemporary Japanese Religion and Society

  54. May-June 2005, Volume 32

    Rissho Kosei-kai 67th

  55. March-April 2005, Volume 32

    "Thousand Buddhas," Sanbanggulsa Temple, South Korea

  56. January-February 2005, Volume 32

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  57. November-December 2004, Volume 31

    Peace Building Through Multi-Religious Cooperation

  58. September-October 2004, Volume 31

    The Increasing Importance of Dialogue and Cooperation

  59. July-August 2004, Volume 31

    Paths to Reconciliation

  60. May-June 2004, Volume 31

    Religion in Crisis

  61. March-April 2004, Volume 31

    Spiritual Friendship

  62. January-February 2004, Volume 31

    Resolving Conflict

  63. November-December 2003, Volume 30

    Dividing Good From Evil

  64. September-October 2003, Volume 30

    Common Truths: Cooperation Among Religions

  65. July-August 2003, Volume 30

    Niwano Peace Foundation

  66. May-June 2003, Volume 30

    Religionists United in Prayer for Peace

  67. March-April 2003, Volume 30

    Life is Larger Than Globalization

  68. January-February 2003, Volume 30

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  69. November-December 2002, Volume 29

    Roundtable Disscussion at the World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom

  70. September-October 2002, Volume 29

    Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

  71. July-August 2002, Volume 29

    The Most Reverend Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Recipient of the 19th Niwano Peace Prize

  72. May-June 2002, Volume 29

    National Treasure Tapestry Illustrating Shakyamuni Sermon to the Faithful

  73. March-April 2002, Volume 29

    Celebration of the Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Birth

  74. January-February 2002, Volume 29

    Religious Delegates Gather in New York for WCRP Symposium