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Understanding Karma

Module 8 of An Introduction to Buddhism.

All beings are caught in the cycle of fortune and misfortune.

Photo by The Wellcome Collection

Reading Assignments

Biography of Shakyamuni Buddha – Ven Master Hsing Yun (.pdf) (.epub) (.pdf) (.epub)

We continue with Chapters 18–21 on the Buddha’s Enlightenment.

The main reading for this lesson is Chapter 7 of Being Nobody: “Karma and Rebirth”

And we continue with Chapter 2 of Path which explains why Karma is important to the Buddhist training.

We’ve been reading the Buddha’s biography, but who was the Buddha in his own words?

In this story, he calls himself the “Tathagata” or “Truth-Arriver”, and he responds to a question on what will become of him after his death. The Buddha explains that he doesn’t talk in such terms, as he has overcome all such notions as “I am the body” or “I am the mind” so how could such a question ever be answered? He ends the discourse by famously saying that all he teaches is suffering and the end of suffering, thus redirecting our attention from empty philosophical musings to the things that matter most.

(Optional Readings)

Fundamentals Chapters 8 and 9 are also on Karma and Rebirth.

Chapter 3 of WTBT analyzes the arising of suffering in particular as a function of our karma.


Rebirth and Karma – Bhikkhu Bodhi (.ogg)

Further Reading

A classic introduction to the Buddhist worldview, especially vis-a-vis science and monotheism, by the author of Burma’s first constitution.


This week’s reflection questions