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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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The Mechanism of Karma:
The Mahayana Presentation,
Except for Gelug Prasangika

Alexander Berzin
Berlin, Germany, March 9 – 11, 2001
Revised January 2004, August 2008

Chart for Understanding Karma

 
Phase 1: Immediately Before Committing an Action, Due to Karmic Aftermath of Previously Having Committed the Same Action
Impulse to Commit the Action

(physical, verbal, or mental karma)

Motivating Mental Framework
  • Distinguishing an Object
  • Causal Motivating Aim
  • Disturbing Emotion or Attitude

 

Phase 2: While Committing the Action
Action Itself

(karmic force)

Impulse to Start and to Continue the Action

(physical, verbal, or mental karma)

Accompanying Mental Framework
  • Distinguishing an Object
  • Contemporaneous Motivating Aim
  • Disturbing Emotion or Attitude

 

Phase 3: Karmic Aftermath of the Action That Is Left on the Mental Continuum Once the Action Has Ended
  • Network of Karmic Force
  • Karmic Tendency
  • Karmic Constant Habit
Phase 4: What the Karmic Aftermath of the Action Ripens Into in the Future
Ripens until Liberation as:
  • Experiencing Tainted Feelings of Some Level of Happiness
  • Feeling like Repeating the Action


  Ripens until Death after Liberation as:
  • Experiencing Things Happening Similar to the Past
  • Experiencing Tainted Aggregates and a Tainted Environment
Ripens until Enlightenment as:
  • Constant Limited Cognition

 

Simplified by omitting the mechanisms for the tainted feelings of some level of happiness experienced during phases 1, 3, 4, and 6.

Different numbers in the series refer to completely different types of actions, while different letters in the series refer to repetitions of the same type of action. In this chart, only repetitions of action #1 and its karmic aftermath are represented.

  Phase 1:  The Period of Time Four Steps before Committing Action #1B
Action #1A, Due to Karmic Aftermath #1A of Action #1 and Resulting in Karmic Aftermath #1B   Karmic Aftermath #2 of a Completely Different Action #2
Committing Action #1A, Which Will Lead to the Tendency to Repeat Action #1   Tendency for Tainted Feeling #2 of Some Level of Happiness

 

  Phase 2:  The Period of Time Three Steps before Committing Action #1B
Karmic Aftermath #1B   Experiencing the Ripening of Karmic Aftermath #2 as Activators, Aimed at Tainted Feeling #2 and Which Activate Karmic Aftermath #1B
Tendency to Repeat Action #1, Which Will Lead to Feeling Like Committing Action #1B   Tainted Feeling #2 of Some Level of Happiness
  • Regard
  • Craving
  • Obtainer Disturbing Attitude
  • Further Existence Impulse

 

  Phase 3:  The Period of Time Two Steps before Committing Action #1B
Experiencing the Ripening of Karmic Aftermath #1B as
Feeling Like Repeating Action #1, Which Will Lead to the Impulse to Commit Action #1B

 

  Phase 4:  Period of Time One Step before Committing Action #1B
Karma Causal Motivating Mental Framework for Committing Action #1B   Karmic Aftermath #3 of a Completely Different Action #3
Impulse To Commit Action #1B, Which Will Lead to Committing Action #1B
  • Distinguishing an Object
  • Causal Motivating Aim
  • Disturbing Emotion or Attitude
  Tendency for Tainted Feeling #3 of Some Level of Happiness

 

  Phase 5:  While Committing Action #1B
Action #1B Contemporaneous Motivating Mental Framework While Committing Action #1B   Experiencing the Ripening of Karmic Aftermath #3 as Activators, Aimed at Tainted Feeling #3 and Which Activate Karmic Aftermath #4 Karmic Aftermath #4 of a Completely Different Action #4
Committing Action #1B, Which Will Lead to the Tendency to Repeat Action #1 Yet Again
  • Distinguishing an Object
  • Contemporaneous Motivating Aim
  • Disturbing Emotion or Attitude
  Tainted Feeling #3 of Some Level of Happiness
  • Regard
  • Craving
  • Obtainer Disturbing Attitude
  • Further Existence Impulse
Tendency to Repeat Action #4, Which Will Lead to Feeling Like Repeating Action #4

 

  Phase 6:  After Committing Action #1B
Karmic Aftermath #1C   Experiencing the Ripening of Karmic Aftermath #4 as
Karmic Tendency to Repeat Action #1 Yet Again   Feeling Like Repeating Action #4