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Karma, language, and action

In following the Horgan debate on MeFi, I encountered this, in a response to a Horgan critique of Buddhism:

.... Karma literally means "action." Action always produces results and so the word karma is often misunderstood as referring only to the results of our actions, not the actions themselves. In fact, action and its results are one and the same. Time, the thing which makes us see them as separate matters, is the illusion. Time is no more than a clever fiction we humans have invented to help organize stuff in our brains. ....

... which is, in turn, no more than a clever fiction that Buddhists have invented to help organize stuff in their brains. Because, of course, if the world is an illusion, then we can't prove the world is an illusion.

Tricksy, these Buddhists, is....

But I digress, as usual. What really interests me is the simple assertion that actions and their results are "one and the same", without any attempt to explain what that means. If you parse the language, what doubtboy is really saying is that the Buddhist term karma isn't a synonym for "action", it's a cognate. "Karma", that is, doesn't "mean" "action" -- it "means" (in English) "action plus result."

The two different conceptualizations of "action" let you reason to different ends -- they give you different kinds of power. One gives you power to include, the other gives you power to divide. As Pirsig pointed out in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the power to divide is powerful, too.

Where Buddhist practice starts to get really interesting (to me) is where it allows you to use both conceptualizations of "action" simultaneously. It's my experience that many dedicated students of Buddhism don't grok this possibility; I expect that doubtboy, like Pirsig, does.

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