In this lesson, we draw inspiration from two discourses in the Pāli Canon, SN 35.146 & SN 12.37, where the Buddha discusses New and Old Kamma and how the body is a manifestation of Old Kamma.
Old karma, the culmination of our past actions and choices, spanning across lifetimes, intricately molds our present body and mind. Our physical senses, including our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, are all a manifestation of the past actions we have taken, whether they were wholesome or unwholesome. As a result, our current experiences and sensations are a direct reflection of our past karma. Additionally, our starting conditions at birth, such as our family background and social status, are the outcomes of our past karma in a previous existence. This encompasses the human realm in which we find ourselves and the opportunities and challenges that come with it.
New karma, on the other hand, refers to the actions we take in the present moment through our body, speech, and mind. The actions we take now will have an impact on our future experiences and the formation of our body and mind. It is important to be mindful of our actions and intentions in the present moment, as they will shape our future.
The elimination of unwholesome karma refers to the process of purifying our actions and intentions to eliminate any unwholesome tendencies that may have arisen from our past actions. By doing so, we can break the cycle of suffering and attain liberation.
The way leading to the elimination of unwholesome karma is through following the Noble Eightfold Path. This path includes Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. By practicing and cultivating these aspects of the path, we can purify our intentions and actions, leading to the elimination of unwholesome karma.
In essence, our past karma has created our present experiences, but our present actions can shape our future. By practicing mindfulness and cultivating wholesome intentions and actions, we can eliminate unwholesome karma and attain liberation from suffering.
To further illustrate this concept, let me share a parable:
Imagine a farmer who has planted a field of corn. The corn represents the results of the farmer’s past actions, which have led to the growth of the corn. However, the farmer also has the ability to cultivate the field in the present moment by watering and caring for the corn. This represents the farmer’s new actions, which will shape the future growth and yield of the corn.
Similarly, our past actions have led to our present experiences, but we also have the ability to shape our future through our present actions. By cultivating wholesome intentions and actions, we can eliminate unwholesome karma and attain liberation from suffering.
Old Kamma lies within us,
Generated by our past volition,
Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind,
All bear the mark of old Kamma’s fruition.
New Kamma is the present deed,
That which we create with body, speech, and mind,
Its fruit will ripen and surely lead,
To joy or suffering of various kind.
Unwholesome Kamma we must eliminate,
Bodily, verbal, and mental action to restrain,
Through the Noble Eightfold Path we cultivate,
And reach liberation from suffering’s chain.
Thus taught the compassionate Teacher,
For our welfare and to guide our way,
We meditate, and with diligence feature,
The old and new Kamma we lay.
So let us heed the Buddha’s call,
Meditate and strive with all our might,
Lest we regret and suffer the fall,
In darkness, lost and without light.
Our physical body is the result of our past actions, or karma, and the choices we have made throughout our lives.
The body we inhabit today is not something that we own or possess, nor does it belong to anyone else. It is the manifestation of our past deeds, our karma, that has taken shape as this physical form that we now inhabit. Every sensation, every experience we have through our body, is a result of this karma.
The term “volition” in this context refers to our intentions, choices, and actions that shape our karma. It is through these that we create our own destiny and the physical form that we inhabit. By being mindful of our choices and actions, we can take responsibility for our karma and strive to create positive effects for ourselves and those around us.
In summary, the concept of “The Body is Old Karma” reminds us that we are not separate from our past actions and choices. Our physical form is a result of our past deeds, and we must strive to be mindful of our actions in the present to create positive karma for our future.
In poetic terms, the discourse is teaching us that our bodies are old karma,
A result of past decisions and actions, that we cannot deny or escape. But by understanding dependent origination, and following the Noble Eightfold Path, We can eliminate negative consequences, and find liberation at last.
With ignorance as the root, volitional formations arise, Leading to consciousness, name-and-form, the senses, contact, and feeling’s guise. Craving, clinging, existence, birth, and aging-and-death follow, A whole mass of discontentedness, leading to sorrow, grief, and pain’s hollow.
But with the fading away of ignorance, volitional formations cease, And consciousness, name-and-form, and the rest are eliminated with ease. Birth and death, sorrow and pain, all come to an end, As we find liberation, and all suffering we transcend.
The teachings on old and new karma remind us that we are not separate from our past actions, and that our present actions will shape our future. By following the Noble Eightfold Path and cultivating wholesome intentions and actions, we can eliminate unwholesome karma and attain liberation from suffering. Let us be mindful of our actions and strive to create positive karma for ourselves and those around us.
Coach Nick’s journey towards discovering the teachings of the Buddha began after serving as an Army Intelligence Pilot. His search for a more meaningful and fulfilling life led him to learn, reflect, and practice Buddhism, which resulted in significant improvements in various aspects of his life.
Driven by a sincere interest in sharing the benefits of these teachings with others, Coach Nick travelled to Thailand in 2021 to immerse himself in a Buddhist community during the pandemic. Alongside his practice as a martial artist, he is also a devoted family man and father, striving striving to enlighten others on the path.
Coach Nick’s approach to sharing his knowledge and experience of the Buddha’s teachings is that of a practitioner, rather than a scholar. He has personally experienced the transformative power of the teachings and is eager to help others discover their benefits.