Sunday, August 31, 2008

Is Afghanistan the Sign That the Democratic Party Is Self-Destructively Chasing Moby Dick?

By Gregory Wonderwheel
August 31, 2008

In the best tradition of propaganda sloganeering, the Democrats labeled each day of their recent convention with a titled slogan intended to tell the party faithful what the sermon was to be about. The final day of the convention culminating in Barack Obama’s acceptance speech was titled with the religiously tinted slogan, “Change You Can Believe In.” Let the buyer beware. As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in January 1849, “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing” (“plus çça change, plus c'est la mêê me chose," commonly rendered as "the more things change, the more they stay the same"). With a triumph of staging, Barack Obama is selling the elixir of change in the political market places as well as preaching it from the political pulpits, still one must ask in all honesty and daring to speak truth to the power of Democratic propaganda: Where is the “change” when it is more of the same thing?

The 2008 Democratic convention is now history, yet like the lingering sour taste of the 2004 Democratic convention, the unsettling queasy sensations of altitude headiness now roll down the mountain like echos from Mile High Stadium. In 2004, the hope for change in the face of 18 months of war, was dashed in the hearts and minds of progressives who watched the micro-managing by the Kerry campaign turn what should have been a calling to the nation of a clearly enunciated antiwar message. Instead, we witnessed the nominee “report for duty” and promise that if he were elected he would win the war the right way.

Now, in 2008, we have just witnessed this election season’s central hope for change -- a world without lies and deception leading us to war – be dashed once again in the Democratic Party’s search for the great white whale, the White House. Obama staked his claim on the party’s nomination by asserting the evidence of his good judgement against the war in Iraq, and as his reward, in the convoluted primary process of caucuses and open or closed party voting, the majority of voters agreed. However, the progressive anti-war sentiments that are hung on the hook of hope espoused in the mantra of change by Obama continue to fall on the deaf ears of this captain of the Democratic Party as surely as First Mate Starbuck’s pleas to turn back were unheard by Captain Ahab. Progressives say to Obamam as did Starbuck to Ahab, "Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man." Just so to you Obama, in your voyage to war in Afghanistan, Obama beware of Obama; beware of thyself.

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is quite instructive for those seeing insight into he ways of the Democratic Party. We progressives among the Democrats are too as the native islander and harpooner Queequeg was: pagans among the Christians. The protagonist storyteller Ismael relates how he learned of the cannibal Queequeg’s desire to see the world among the Christians:

For at bottom- so he told me- he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a pagan.

Among those of us who belong to the progressive persuasion, there are those who convert to the self-delusions of the Democratic Party like pagans converting to Christianity, yet others of us remain unconvinced. We observe the practices of the Democrats and are soon convinced that even liberal Democrats can be both miserable and deceptive, and arriving at the conclusion that it is a deceptive world in all political meridians, we choose to remain and die progressives. Many progressives rather than return to their native lands live among the Democrats and look to Democrats themselves to be better, and like Queequeg say, "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians."

In such spirits, progressives like Katerina Vanden Heuvel of The Nation writes in her essay titled “Don’t Make Afghanistan the Democrats’ War”:

Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq, he argued for the need "to end the mindset that took us into" that war. So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment is now ramping up his rhetoric about how we need to end the war in Iraq to focus on what he calls the "central front in the war on terror"--Afghanistan.

However, one didn’t need to be schooled in Melville to see in their Convention the persistence of the same old mindset by the Democrats in their clear call to arms to Afghanistan. Now that the people, who were bamboozled by a lying president into believing that a war with Iraq was both legitimate and moral, have mostly woken up from that hypnotic delusion, they seem all too willing to be entranced into a similar slumber regarding Afghanistan. Here are some examples of the mesmerising mantra delivered on the day of “Change You Can Believe In”:

Barack Obama said:

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.

Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration (Ret), a self-confessed recent Republican said,
When I consider who should be commander-in-chief, I ask four questions.

First, who has the judgment to make the right decisions about when to use force? In his words of caution before the invasion of Iraq, and in his consistent calls for more force against al-Qaida and the Taliban, Barack Obama has shown the judgment to lead.

And on the previous day labeled with the slogan, “Securing America's Future” Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden chanted:
For the last seven years, this administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front against terrorism.
Should we trust John McCain’’s judgment when he said only three years ago, ““Afghanistan——we don’’t read about it anymore because it’’s succeeded””? Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?

The fact is, al-Qaida and the Taliban——the people who actually attacked us on 9/11——have regrouped in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and are plotting new attacks. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed Barack’’s call for more troops.

These calls for the continued war in Afghanistan are nothing more than a Democrats version of the Republican lies that got us into Iraq. Contrary to what the so-called foreign policy “expert” Biden claims, the fact is that the Taliban had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. There is as much evidence that the Taliban were the “the people who actually attacked us on 9/11" as there was that Saddam Hussein was buying yellow cake uranium and aluminum tubes for development of weapons of mass destruction, that is, none.

Now the question the American people must dare to ask themselves if they are ever to see the wizards behind the curtain of power in Washington DC is this: Was Biden’s false allegation that the Taliban attacked us on 9/11 just a campaign gaff or a part of the concerted plan by the military industrial complex to re-mesmerize the populace into continuing with the same war profiteering mindset that brought us Iraq?

I think the answer is abundantly clear by this thread woven through the convention advocating the need to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and stated explicitly also by Obama. The military contractors and war profiteers have seen the writing on the wall: that the war in Iraq is no longer popular. So what have they done? They have convinced the leadership of the Democratic Party, who are always afraid of being labeled "pacifists" or "wimps" unwilling to go to war, including Barack Obama, that reducing the war in Iraq is allowable as long as they can recoup some of their profits by increasing the war in Afghanistan with the hope of spreading it to Pakistan and Iran. And Obama has fully embraced this twisted vision of the new “just” war and appears dead set on making Afghanistan the Democrat’s war in yet another reprise on the theme of Viet Nam. This is nothing less than the Democratic leadership's purposeful collusion with the Republicans to transformation the American Dream into the Orwellian dream of perpetual war.

An honest person must ask, is this change we can believe in? Where is the change when all we are offered is the continued mindset of war with only a change in venue from Iraq to Afghanistan and with continued saber rattling threats of war with Iran? Where is the change when the lies of Hussein’s involvement in 9/11 are simply changed into lies about the Taliban being the perpetrators of 9/11?

While I detest the Taliban's politics and religious dictatorship, including their destruction of sacred Buddhist sites which is nothing less than the self-destruction of their own national heritage and potential sources of tourist income, the reality is that the Taliban never once threatened the United States and even now are only acting as nationalist insurgents seeking to throw out the current US-NATO invaders and occupiers, like they threw out the previous Soviet invaders.

There is absolutely no evidence of participation by the Taliban in 9/11 and when the USA wanted Bin Laden turned over, the Taliban did only what any sovereign government does in like circumstances, it exercised its sovereign right to hold an extradition hearing. This was, for example, what the government of the United Kingdom did when the Spanish authorities asked that Augusto Pinochet be handed over. The English did not hand him over without an extradition hearing in the courts with the right of appeal.

Would the USA turn over someone to Russia or China just because they demanded it be done without an extradition hearing? When the Taliban said they would hold an extradition hearing to determine whether Bin Laden should be turned over to the USA as soon as the evidence to do so was presented by the USA to the Afghanistan government, it was the USA that refused to participate by refusing to provide any evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11. Instead the USA and the Bush administration used the Taliban's adherence to and exercise of international law as an excuse to put into motion their pre- 9/11 plans to invade and occupy Afghanistan. Now Obama perpetuates the false legitimacy of those plans.

By failing to let the Taliban government hold Bin Laden under house arrest while an extradition hearing was conducted in tandem with continuing diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, the Bush administration was directly responsible for Bin Laden being able to escape under the cover of the fog of war.

In order to show they can be just as militaristic as Republicans, as if, after Presidents Wilson, FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton, anyone ever had any real doubts that Democrats can bomb and invade with the best of them, the Democrats are now urging a surge in the war in Afghanistan. The Democrats are using Afghanistan and 9/11 as their talisman for victory in their search for the White House just like Captain Ahab used his rage for his past injuries and peg leg in his search for the white whale. Yet Ahab at least was raging against the beast who was responsible for his injuries, while there no evidence at all that the Taliban government or the people of Afghanistan ever threatened the USA, either by 9/11 or at any other time. So we continue to invade and occupy Afghanistan unnecessarily killing innocent civilians and protecting the poppy growing and heroin trade, all based on lies that are just as pernicious and monomaniacally wrong as Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

There are some who fervently hope that Obama is just posturing and playing the war card for political gain, that once elected, Obama will remove it from the table. However, this seems like a false hope not even remotely connected to the hope that Obama is offering.

Continuing the war of occupation in Afghanistan will only further alienate the people of Afghanistan as the inevitable civilian casualties continue to add up. There is no military solution to an occupation opposed by nationalist insurgents.

In 1851 when Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick the world was not that different of a place from today. Ishmael, the narrator and sole survivor left to tell the tale of the demise of Captain Ahab, in a state of reverie considering his own fateful excursion into these well charted waters as a pawn in the greater story of world events recounts:

Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.

What “change to believe in” is this that Obama, now in 2008, over one hundred and fifty years after Melville wrote those words, can only offer us another “bloody battle in Afghanistan.”? What change is there when the bill of the grand program of the Democratic Party has the whaling voyage of the campaign placed in the fated interval between a “Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States” and a further battle in Afghanistan?

In the entire four days of their Convention, the only true progressive voice within the Democratic Party came on day two from candidate Dennis Kucinich who was relegated to five minutes of sub-prime time. Kucinich, in his speech censored by the Obama campaign that prevented him from calling for the incarceration of he Republicans for their crimes, was the only speaker to draw the direct connection between Iraq and Afghanistan and the looming threat of war with Pakistan when he said, “Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. No money to rebuild bridges in America.” Only Kucinich dared to speak truth to the actual power of the energy companies and weapons merchants who share control of he Democratic Party just as much they have control of the Republican Party:

Wake up, America. We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more. War against Iran will mean $10-a-gallon gasoline. The oil administration wants to drill more, into your wallet. Wake up, America. Weapons contractors want more. An Iran war will cost 5 to 10 trillion dollars.

The ongoing dilemma of progressives in relation to the Democratic Party is whether to ship on board the doomed Pequod of the Party as it sails in a voyage that offers once again to use militarism and war as the instrument of its foreign policy and as the rallying cry of a fake patriotism. I have total sympathy for progressives who refuse to climb on board this damned ship and chose instead to sail the seas aboard the more modest vessels like the Green Party, searching for lost progressives like the ship Rachel searched for its lost children thrown overboard from whale boats capsized by Moby Dick. But I also have complete sympathy for those progressives who sail with the Democratic Party in its compulsive quest and who say, paraphrasing Queequeg’s words, "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We progressives must help these Democrats."

Still, it does no good for progressives to attempt to help the Democrats by silence. Progressives who wish to help the Democrats must raise their voices without embarrassment to warn against the Ahab-like obsession with war in the Democratic Party's quest for the White House.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wake Up America - Best Speech at the convention.

So far the best speech at the convention by far was by Dennis Kucinich. It will be very hard for Obama to top "Wake Up America!"

Considering that Kucinich was given only 5 minutes and not the 20 he deserved, I'd go so far as to say it was the best 5 minute political speech in my lifetime of 58 years.

The Obama campaign made a big mistake putting Kucinich in the sub-prime time slot. So far Obama is running a "safe" campaign just like Kerry in 2004, and so far the polls show that Obama may get the very same result.

Putting the inspiring Kucinich into sub-prime time, and giving the uninspiring corporate spokesman Warner the keynote address shows the low note that the Obama campaign is playing, and the note sounds pretty sour too.

The Obama campaign is micro-managing and controlling the convention just like Kerry did in 2004, and they are driving the party into the same ditch.

Betsy Rothstein at TheHill Opens her report with
Obama tightens grip on podium speeches
Written by Betsy Rothstein

DENVER — Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is tightening the reins on campaign speeches and stressing that speakers emphasize a rags-to-riches theme.

Members of Congress and others who have been asked to address the convention must have their speeches approved by the Obama campaign. In many cases, the speeches are drastically changed — to the point where the original speech is completely scrapped, Democratic sources say.

This kind of propaganda management of the convention drains the life out of it. It is no wonder that most of the speeches are so poor. The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to learn some day that its vitality is in the free voices of the people, not in the scripted advertising of political professionals. If Candidate Obama won't let the authentic voices of his own Party speak, people had better get prepared now for the same or worse treatment from President Obama. Folks, people don't change when they get to the White House, they become more tight in their control not less.

Rothstein also reports on the Obama tampering and censorship with Kucinich's speech:
Yet not every speech has been completely overhauled. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who was asked by Obama to speak about the economy, was scheduled to deliver his speech Tuesday afternoon. The Obama campaign struck just one line from his speech, which slammed the Republicans and the Bush administration, according to a Democratic source.

That line, addressing Republicans, read: “They’re asking for another four years — in a just world, they’d get 10 to 20.”

Too bad that was censored. I bet it would have brought the roof down.

Here's the YouTube video of Dennis' speech.

Here's the text from the Convention website (edited to what Dennis actually said.)

Dennis Kucinich, (OH-10)Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 04:35 PM

Hello Fellow Democrats. Are you ready for November?

This one's for you, Stephanie.

Fellow Democrats let's go to Election Day. It’s Election Day 2008, and we Democrats are giving America a wake-up call. Wake up, America. In 2001, the oil companies, the war contractors and the neo-con artists seized the economy and added 4 trillion dollars of unproductive spending to the national debt. We now pay four times more for defense, three times more for gasoline and home heating oil and twice what we paid for health care.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, their pensions. Trillions of dollars for an unnecessary war paid for with borrowed money. Tens of billions of dollars in cash and weapons disappeared into thin air, at the cost of the lives of our troops and innocent Iraqis, while all the president’s oilmen are maneuvering to grab Iraq’s oil.

Borrowed money to bomb bridges in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. No money to rebuild bridges in America. Money to start a hot war with Iran. Now we have another cold war with Russia, and the American economy has become a game of Russian roulette.

Now, if there was an Olympics for misleading, mismanaging and misappropriating, this administration would take the gold. World records for violations of national and international law. They want another four-year term to continue to alienate our allies, spend our children’s inheritance and hollow out our economy.

We can’t afford another Republican administration. Wake up, America. The insurance companies took over health care. Wake up, America. The pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing.

Wake up, America. The speculators took over Wall Street. Wake up, America. They want to take your Social Security. Wake up, America. Multinational corporations took over our trade policies, factories are closing, good paying jobs are being lost.

Wake up, America. We went into Iraq for oil. The oil companies want more. War against Iran will mean $10-a-gallon gasoline. The oil administration, they want to drill more, into your wallet. Wake up, America. Contrators, those war contractors want more. An Iran war will cost 5 to 10 trillion dollars.

Now, this administration can tap our phones. They can’t tap our creative spirit. They can open our mail. But they can’t open economic opportunities. They can track our every move. They lost track of the economy while the cost of food, gasoline and electricity skyrockets. Now they skillfully played our post-9/11 fears and they've allowed the few to profit at the expense of the many. Every day we get the color orange, while the oil companies, the insurance companies, the speculators, the war contractors get the color green.

Wake up, America. Now, this is not a call for you to take a new direction from right to left. This is call for you to go from down to up. Up with the rights of workers. Up with wages. Up with fair trade. Up with creating millions of good paying jobs, rebuilding our bridges, our water systems, our sewer systems, our ports. Up with creating millions of sustainable energy jobs to lower the cost of energy, lower carbon emissions and protect the environment.

Up with health care for all. Up with education for all. Up with home ownership. Up with guaranteed retirement benefits. Up with peace. Up with prosperity. Up with the Democratic Party. Up with Obama-Biden.

Wake up, America. Wake up, America. Wake up, America.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Karma and Rebirth

Some thoughts musing in response to comments about karma and rebirth.

It was said, "When the living being dies, the consciousness suddenly is disembodied."

There is no entity to be called "the consciousness" that becomes embodied or disembodied. Consciousness (used in the expansive sense that includes the unconscious or Alaya consciousness) is like a great river with many tributaries.

DNA is the materialist version of karma. The complexity of the structure and function of karma is as complex as the structure and function of DNA. That is why Buddha only gave the most simple teachings about karma of the kind "you reap what you sow" or "there is bright karma, dark karma, and mixed karma." These simple formulations of karma are helpful in creating the mental affinity for moral actions.

But to delve into the complex workings of karma can be counter productive by confusing people who have not had the deep experience of no self and then lead them to doubt karma and its efficacy. So Buddha usually would not provide detailed answers to questions about an individual's karma or past lives and only would offer vague or sketchy comments about them.

It was asked, "What is it that is reborn?"

There are two factors that lead to the complexity of thinking about karma. First that there is no self, only a self image, and second that karma doesn't function mechanically like a machine, but organically like life.

Because we find belief in a self that is embodied to be very comforting in the face of uncertainty and the unknown, we create many more or less gross to subtle images of the self to confirm our desire in a self to believe in. Thus we imagine that there is a thing that goes from life to life, something that wears the body like a robe and puts on a new embodiment in a new life like putting on a new robe. Seeking to know what this "something" is becomes the Buddha search and inquiry.

But simply calling it "consciousness" that becomes embodied in the next life is not enough because that kind of "consciousness" just becomes a new self image to hang onto. Hanging on to that kind of self image creates the idea that there is a linear thread of a single chain through many past lives so that a person has one life, then another, then another, in a singular chain. This is a machine view and is not the way karma and rebirth function.

Karma and rebirth function like a great river. An image one should have in mind when considering karma is a map of a great river system like the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Congo, the Nile, or the Yangtze. When we are at any place in the river there are many tributaries that have flowed into the river. Isn't it interesting that where ever any two tributaries come together that only one tributary bears the name of the river? Why is the source of the Mississippi identified as one location and not as the many locations that comprise the source of each of the tributaries? Why is the source of the Missouri river not called the source of the Mississippi? The naming of rivers is a social convention in which the larger of the two tributaries at any point of convergence is considered the main stream of the river and bears the name of the great river while the other tributary gets another name.

Karma is like that also. If we follow our past lives "backward" we imagine there is only one mainstream and call that our chain of past lives, but in fact there are many tributaries of past lives,but our social convention is to ignore those that conflict with our self image of being a singular separate self or soul traveling from life to life. So to give a concrete example, if today we were to ask what was our past life in the year 1658 we would have very many tributaries of actual contributory lives but we would select only one life as the mainstream and call that "my" past life.

Because when people do remember past lives they sometimes do remember several past lives in the same time era, that can cause confusion by challenging the belief system that the self is a separate stream. If someone remembers two past lives in the same time period, that can cause them to doubt the veracity of their memories because we believe in a self and that the self can't be in two places at the same time. That doubt can then lead to a disbelief in or denial of karma, and that can then lead to a nihilistic view that disavows morality altogether. Thus for people who firmly believe in a self, talking too much or too openly about the intricacies of karma becomes counter productive. It is easier to believe in the simplistic self than to try to understand the nuances of the complexities of karma as it relates to the self image in the cream of Consciousness.

Similar patterns for the image of the organicity of the functioning of karma can also be found in the image of a tree with spreading roots and limbs, or in the veins of a single leaf. This non-linearity and non-machine view of karma must be understood if one wants to have a realistic appreciation of how karma and rebirth function.

Some one asked, "Am i to have blind faith that this boy who apparently was a caring good natured boy deserved this to happen because of some action many lifetimes ago?"

Please remember to not confuse the judgemental concept of "deserving" with the observation of "actions" and "results." Asking whether a person "deserves" what happens to them (or any of their circumstances) shows dualistic judgementalism.

For example, none of us knows whether the boy's circumstances were the results of past actions or were innocent uncaused bodhisattva actions. We easily observe that the emotional pain people feel is the result of being human and the functioning of the 5 bundles (skandhas) of our personalities. When apparently "bad things" happen to apparently "innocent" people, we should remember to reserve judgement on the big picture, because we don't know the karmic patterns involved. Of course that doesn't mean that we don't bring the perpetrators to face the judgement of society for their actions, and hopefully the judgement of society will be as compassionate and merciful as it is firm and corrective. (The Sutra of Angulimala is an important koan in this regard.)

Most important, since there was nothing you personally could do, do you know what causes you feel pain in relation to this event you only heard about? Obviously you felt great empathy for the boy and his family. Do you simply take such empathy at face value or do you inquire into it? How much of the pain arises from realizing that the world doesn't conform to our expectations? In other words, did the concept "deserving" arise in your mind or in the world? Before you heard the story you felt one way and then you heard the story and felt differently. Ask and inquire "who feels the pain" using your meditation as your crucible. The conundrum of Buddhism is that we have to let go of our tightly held concepts of "good and evil" in order to see our original face and awaken to the original good.

As I see it, we have to distinguish, on the one hand, the expedient use of the concepts of karma and rebirth used to help us disengage from our habitual models of the world and, on the other hand, the misuse of the concepts of karma and rebirth that turn them into doctrines and even dogmas that only get us more entangled in our habitual models of the world.

We use the self-image, centered on the concepts of "us," "our," "I", "me" and "mine", to make sense out of everything that happens in consciousness and to divide up all things (dharmas) into causes and results. But fundamentally the division of everything that happens into causes and results is arbitrary because each dharma-thing is simultaneously both a cause and result, and the arbitrary division relies on the contextual concepts of time and space that bind us within materialist world views.

In Western Science the concept of "cause and effect" is used to create the temporary illusions of power and control over everything that happens in the framework of time and space, whereas in Buddhism the concept of "cause and result" (karma) is used to transcend the temporary illusions of power and control over everything that happens to realize the unborn suchness that is timeless and spaceless (sunyata).

"I see you oh, Housebuilder, and you shall build no more, the rafters are broken and the ridge beam is shattered." Dhammapada (11:154)


Someone wrote: "Sometimes I think that Karma is misinterpreted. Like we think that when we die something that is in us like a spirit or a essence or anything for that matter is reborn. Also we hear often that some go to heaven and some to hell. If the Buddha said there is no soul then there is obviously nothing that goes to heaven and to hell. Perhaps when he talks of heaven hell and the hungry ghosts etc, he is using allegories for this world."
And another responded, "And if there's no soul or self, i shouldn't be held responsible for actions i did yesterday, last year, or even 10 seconds ago, because that obviously wasn't me. it's party time!"

These kinds of exchanges sadden me, because I would hope that inquirers would have a clearer appreciation of the teaching of karma. But they are also examples of how people may take such simplistic views of karma that they will rationalize their doubts into Nihilistic views such as "It's party time."

It is a basic fact of karma analysis that karma is not about "being held responsible" as if by some supreme being or celestial court of law. This is so in the manner that if you put your hand in a flame you will feel the pain; it is not that something or someone is "holding you responsible" for having put your hand in the flame. If you are in a car and driving toward a cliff, if nothing is done to change course or halt the car, then the car will go over the cliff. That is the karma dynamic: it is not that going over the cliff is being "held responsible" for driving the car in that direction. Same with karma, an action will have a result that the action is directed toward, unless an intervening action will change the course of events. Just karma physics.

Another karma metapohor is gardening. Certain seeds, once planted will sprout and grow and bear the result of what was sown. But if certain events prevent the development of the seed, then the karma of that seed won't be something to reap. But given the fruitful condition of most mind soil, most seeds do sprout, which is why people can't avoid karma simply by ignoring it with wishful thinking that they won't reap what they sow.

Karma is responsibility in the generic sense, in that karma is our ability to respond to our circumstances. We respond with thought, word, and deed, which is our karma. We have formed identities in consciousness, so our responses are in the form of action-intention complexes of mental (and emotional) formations in which the action and intention are inseparable. The coherence of the relations between all our action-intention complexes is what becomes the appearance of our identity or personality, which we then mistake as a "soul" or "self" when in fact there is no underlying "thing" at the core of the onion or the banana tree stalk.

In short, having "a soul" or "a self" has nothing to do with karma, while having a self-image or an identity has everything to do with karma.

The mechanism of rebirth and karma has nothing to do with something "like a spirit or a essence or anything" moving from life to life. Look at a wave in the ocean. It only appears that something is moving through the water. But a boat or a duck on the surface merely goes up and down as the wave passes by, the wave does not move the boat or duck horizontally because the water is not moving horizontally, even though it appears that something is moving horizontally. That is like karma. Each life is like an up and down motion, but over lifetimes there is a horizontal appearance of movement without any "thing" or "essence" actually moving from life to life. The wave is the appearance of an essence moving from life to life, but it is only the dynamics that are "transferred" not a "thing."

The wave dynamics appear in life to life because it is the ocean that is appearing in life to life, the wave dynamics are only an appearance of identity and are not separate from the ocean. There is no identity actually "moving," and no identity existing individually or separate from the ocean. This is why the Diamond Cutter Sutra says though there is the appearance of a living being, and the Bodhisattvas liberate countless living beings, in reality, no living being is liberated.

This is the simplest that I can make it.

People do have past life memories, and that does not mean that consciousness as a thing is transferred, only that the memory arises and falls in the continuum of time and space through the associations of identity. Many people are fooled into thinking because they have a memory of a past life that they "were" that person in the past life. It is not that simple.

In wave dynamics we can observe what are called interference patterns when waves cross each other. This can occur in karmic transmission of identity-waves so that several people can have similar cross-reference points. This is why certain powerful identities seem to resonate with many people who connect to past life memories. It is not always a wish fulfillment, because part of what makes a powerful identity pattern is the way that the karmic-waves have come together in focused conjunction in a wave formation that creates a big-wave identity-formation. When that identity "dies" the wave formations can divide again just as waves in water separate after they have moved through each other in the wave interference pattern.

In my experience, appreciating the wave dynamics of water and light (electromagnetic fields) are the best way to begin to understand how the dynamics of karma function.