‘Today is a result of yesterday, tomorrow is a result of today.’ To what extent is this statement an apt representation of Buddhist ethics?
‘Today is a result of yesterday, tomorrow is a result of today.’ – This statement, as a representation of Buddhist ethics, would seem to suggest the realm of ethical action is effectively deterministic. This raises many questions about the nature of Buddhist ethics, most significantly: Is this a coherent position? If today is a result of yesterday how can one be said to be possessed of free will? And if one has no free will surely one cannot be considered a moral agent – thus consequently, are responsible for one’s actions. In this essay I will consider the evidence and arguments supporting this interpretation, together with counter-arguments in order to discuss the statement and reasoning behind this, resulting in my conclusion that will encompass all these arguments.
Firstly I will look at morality in Buddhism as it is a Buddhist’s ethics which determine their behaviour which ultimately affects the results of tomorrow. Classifying Buddhist ethics can be considered an instance of virtue ethics, centred on the idea that the basis of morality is the development of good character traits which, in Aristotle’s system for example, include intelligence, wisdom (sila), and the ability to discern between good and bad. Peter Harvey contended that the Mahayana idea of skilful means (upaya) is similar to Christian situation ethics because it accepts ethical principles being overridden in certain situations in the name of wisdom and bodhichitta. Situation Ethics does not propose rules but rather suggests a guiding principle to decision making; Acting morally means acting in the most loving way in any situation.
Unlike the approach of upaya in Mahayanan Buddhism, situation ethics do not ignore or reject traditional values but is bound by them. Both systems may allow for ‘compassionate killing’. There is a story in the suttas of how in one of his past lives the Buddha killed a robber to stop him from killing a number of bodhisattvas and thus prevented the robber from suffering in the hells for aeons. The difference though, is that in Buddhism only a very advanced bodhisattva is permitted to break with the traditional values, while situation ethics can be applied by anyone with a loving heart: This can thus be understood as in Buddhism, a Bodhisattva can act unethically and leave no imprint on the future, yet an unenlightened Buddhists actions will have a negative impact. Many religions emphasise the importance of the notion of good and bad actions, however in Buddhism, pre-determining actions to be good or bad would be a fruitless exercise – Buddhists believe that reality of Dharma is beyond the concepts of good and bad; it contains both good and bad unseparated in a pre-conceptual state.
Trying to remove half of reality, by definition, would be unachievable, thus trying to remove ‘bad’, would be unachievable, and pointless. More than that, the conscious effort to try to remove half of reality is also a kind of affirmation of the existence of just that part that you are proposing to remove. Buddhism does not say that there is no morality; it encourages the central importance of morals and ethical behavior in all areas of life. Although Buddhism believes in right action, it insists that right action is not the same as the Christian concept of right action; that moral action does not always match our conceived notions of morality. Buddhism believes that only this place and this moment are real and all else – past and future – are not real existence. It therefore follows that the only place where conduct can be right or wrong is here and now.
So Buddhism emphasizes that right and wrong are concerned with the present moment, here and now. Acting morally means acting right at this very moment. Acting right at this moment is the only true morality. We can debate right and wrong as intangible concepts, but those abstractions are always detached from the real situation in front of us now, and so they are partial and can never be a complete guide to our action in the present; this notion would thus infer, in relation to the question I am researching, that past actions are not real existence, along with the future, therefore if the past is not real, how can it impact on tomorrow? It therefore follows that the only place where conduct can be right or wrong is here and now. So Buddhism emphasises that right and wrong are concerned with the present moment, here and now. Acting morally means acting right at this very moment. Acting right at this moment is the only true morality.
It can be discussed right and wrong as abstract concepts, but those abstractions are always detached from the real situation in front of a Buddhist now, and so they are partial and can never be a complete guide to our action in the present. This therefore would conclude that if right and wrong actions are only connected with today, and not the past nor future – No actions of yesterday impede on tomorrow. However this could be seen as a slight contradiction: Buddhism gives guidelines as to what good conduct is in the form of the Precepts – these are not meant to be rigid and a broken rule will not result in committing sin, like the Christian Ten Commandments;
However they are guidelines as to what right conduct is, but in actual situations conduct is decided by the state of the body/mind in the moment of acting, not by the precepts alone – therefore if one is broken, Buddhism urges a buddhist to regain the balanced state and act in the present rather than be punished for past bad conduct, which has passed and can never be changed – therefore if Buddhism states to live for today as the future and past are not real, yet the past bad conduct can’t be changed therefore has left a mark in Buddhists life, how can past bad conduct even be conceived or considered to never be allowed to change if the past does not exist?
To illustrate how a Buddhist might approach some of the ethical problems of today, you can look at the example of abortion. The early scriptures of Buddhism (The Pali Canon) are clear in seeing human life as starting with conception: ‘when there is the union of the mother and father, and it is the mother’s season, and the being to be reborn is present, through the union of these three things the conception of an embryo in a womb takes place’. The word ‘being’, however, should not be thought of as a ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ but consciousness being operated on by the force of (karma) that determines where the rebirth will be (according to previous deeds).
When looking at such issue, we can see how it is an obvious moral problem as it has not been discussed at length in Buddhist literature; however there are references in the Pali canon that indicate the practice was regarded as wrong. Buddhist disapproval of abortion is related to the belief that in rebirth and teachings on embryology. It is widely held that conception marks the moment of rebirth, and that any intentional termination of pregnancy after that time constitutes a breach of the first of the Five Precepts (panca- sila), ‘not to kill or injure living creatures’, this could also be related the idea of euthanasia in Buddhism. This notion is an avowed view of most Buddhists however this position is not reflected in the abortion statistics in Buddhist countries: In more conservative countries such as South Asia, abortion is generally illegal, unless there is a threat to the mothers life, however illegal abortions are common with 300,000 per annum in Thailand, and in various east Asian countries abortions are even more numerous, such as one million per annum or greater is sometimes cited for countries such as Japan and South Korea.
The fourth Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path, sets out the main features of the Buddhist way of life addressing the nature of past behaviour affecting the future. The Buddha offered this path as the middle way, a way of life that does not fall into extreme views or extremes of behaviour but encourages balance and controlled moderation. Buddhist ethics are not based on the pursuit of sensual or other pleasures, and they also don’t encourage extremes of deprivation, poverty or self-sacrifice.
The various moral guidelines should be taken responsibly but with a light touch: ‘Ethical conduct (sila) is built on the vast conception of universal love and compassion for all living beings, on which the Buddha’s teaching is based’ (Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, London: Gordon Fraser, 1928). In relation to what is good or bad in Buddhism, the main principle is linked to intention and the determining factor is whether the act is out of selfish desire and craving, out of anger or hatred, or out of mindlessness and ignorance. Any actions that are motivated that way will result in caused suffering to us and to others. However, if the act is motivated by love and compassion they will bring well-being and happiness – An action characterised by this moral quality (kusala-kamma) is bound to result (eventually) in happiness and a favourable outcome. Actions characterised by its opposite (akusala-kamma) lead to sorrow. This would thus infer that if actions result in happiness or sorrow, all actions of the past affect tomorrow.
In Buddhism, ethical behaviour is ultimately dependent on the mind and not on the body. On the basis of the Buddha’s advice, Buddhism has developed into many various types of ethical guidance that Buddhists do their best to follow. The ethical disciplines of Buddhism can be divided into the guidelines for lay people, and the guidelines for monastics. Within Theravada Buddhism, ethical action must always be motivated by ahimsa, the wish not to cause harm, and for Theravada monks, the main ethical guidelines are the 227 precepts of a monk. In Mahayana, ethical action must always be motivated by the bodhichitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others, in contrast to lay ethics where there is no need to attain enlightenment as there is no time to achieve such state. Ethical behaviour on the bodhisattva path consists of the six paramitas or transcendental actions.
When one becomes a Buddhist one begins by taking the Three Refuges, refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The main commitment is to refrain from harming others and to adopt the approach of non violence (ahimsa). Non violence is a prevalent principle of Buddhist ethics as stated in the Dhammapada 5: ‘In this world hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate’ (Dominique Side, Buddhism, Oxfordshire: Phillip Allan, 2005, p151). Lay people can also take one or several of the Five Precepts, which are five basic vows that strengthen the Buddhist way of life: I undertake to refrain from, 1) killing, 2) taking what is not freely given, 3) misusing sexuality, 4) harmful speech, and 5) taking intoxicants. As well as giving guidelines on what not to do, Buddhism encourages positive actions.
In the Buddha’s advice to a young man called Sigala, recorded in the Pali Canon, the Buddha explained the positive approach can be applied in daily life within the framework of the Six Relationships: 1) Take care of your family 2) Take care of your marriage 3) Keep good company 4) Develop good relationships between teachers and students 5) Develop good relationships between employers and employees, and 6) Develop a supportive and harmonious relationship with the monastic Sangha. The importance of love and compassion is also outlined in 118 of the Dhammapada, ‘Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again and you will be filled with joy’ (ibid, p153). This statement could be interpreted as if you continuously do good the outcome tomorrow will leave you filled with joy, therefore suggesting the idea of free will in Buddhism.
In the Noble Eightfold Path, ethical conduct includes three factors which overlap with the Five Precepts and Six Relationships: 1) Right Action, 2) Right Speech, and 3) Right Livelihood. Lay morality rests on the principle that lay people aim to minimise their bad actions and maximise their good so they have a better rebirth.
Human actions (karma) in the Buddhist framework were to be determined based on both the intent or motive (chetanaa) and the consequences (vipaaka) of the action. In the Dharmaniyama (moral duty code), theories of causality in Buddhism were challenged in the view that human destiny was unaffected by the ethics or morality of human actions. It countered the doctrine of amoral causation (akriyavaada) whose supporters argued that there was no merit in doing good and no demerit for doing evil.
In Buddhist teachings, individual karma is created by situations and moral predicaments, thus the outcome of a Buddhists future will be a result of yesterday’s actions. Every action a Buddhist performs can leave an imprint and their karmic potential will allow for its own effect. Positive or virtuous actions give way to future happiness, and negative, non – virtuous actions will result in future suffering. This connection between actions and their effects is known as the law of karma; this law is the foundations to Buddhist morality (sila). In the Buddha’s teachings, Sila was spoken of vital importance as it allows for higher attainment of wisdom (panna) and concentration (Samadhi); this was mentioned in his Visuddhimagga: ‘A wise man, after establishing well in virtue, develops consciousness and understanding’ (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/panadpa8.htm).
The law of karma is seen as a natural law just like physical laws like gravity. Karma is unlike morality in other religions as it is not operated by God or any other supreme being because Buddhism does not require supernatural intervention. The idea that karma works without any outside intervention means that the result of karma is not a reward, nor is it a punishment because they believe that this infers dependence upon a supreme power in judgement, whereas in Buddhism there is nobody to judge us, we determine our future by the way we act and the way we think, this idea is expressed clearly in the first verse of the Dhammapada, ‘What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind. If a man speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering follows him as the wheel of the cart follows the beast that draws the cart’ (Dominique Side, Buddhism, Oxfordshire: Phillip Allan, 2005, p130). This quote is an excellent example for evidence in supporting the question being asked in this essay, as it addresses the idea that not only our actions, but also our thoughts build our future and that impurities of the mind cause future suffering.
A Common misinterpretation of karma is that it is a law of fate; however the idea of fate implies determinism, which would allow for no change or freedom, thus an idea seen in many theistic religions such as the notion that God determines life. This idea of determinism could be firstly viewed as a completely contrasting idea to that in Buddhism. Determinism is the philosophical proposition that everything is determined causally by an unbroken chain of prior events. However determinism has been expressed as the doctrine of Dependent origination in Buddhism and is an important factor in the evidence regarding my question. The doctrine of dependent origination is fundamental in connecting moral responsibility and causation, especially the ontological status of all matter. The doctrine teaches that all phenomena occur from dependence on causes and circumstances and lack intrinsic nature.
The doctrine is expressed in its simplest form in phrase ‘idam sati ayam bhavati’, which means when this exists, that arises, which logically can be expressed as, when condition A arises, condition B arises, thus its reversal would be that when A doesn’t exist, B won’t. It is indicated in early sources that the Buddha became fully enlightened under the Bodhi tree when he fully realised the profound truth of Dependent Origination, thus that all matter is conditioned and arise and cease in a determinate chain of events. Therefore in relation to moral responsibility, it could be said that nothing happens out of its own volition, so there are no forces or metaphysical realties, such as a god or soul to act as a determiner, so it could be argued that moral responsibility is one’s own, yet with a chain of causation, and no self, it could also be said one cannot be responsible if one doesn’t exist.
A way of classifying Buddhist ethics in Western terms is by relating it to ‘soft determinism’. Soft determinism is a midpoint between the hard determinism of philosophers such as Hobbes, Hume and John Stuart Mill, where the assertion of cause and effect is universal, therefore moral freedom is not possible; and libertarians who believe that uncaused, unconditional choices can be made and that free will exists, as Immanuel Kant stated free will was essential for morality, ‘In morals, the proper and inestimable worth of an absolutely good will consists precisely in the freedom of the principle of action’ (Robert A Bowie, Ethical Studies, Nelson Thornes, 2001, p59).
There is an important relationship between freedom and moral responsibility; it has been commonly held that we should be morally responsible for actions that we freely perform. If we can only blame or praise people for actions they freely and knowingly undertake, then it is vital that we have the freedom to act, morality depends on freedom. Immanuel Kant wrote ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, therefore we can’t blame someone for something they cannot do; If people are not free, the prospect of making moral decisions in denied, thus if an external influence causes human actions, people cannot be morally responsible.
Hard determinists believe that ‘we are not free and cannot be held morally responsible for our actions’ (Omar Khayyam – R A Bowie, Ethical Studies, p91). This idea has some ethical similarity to the traditional Judeo-Christian idea of Predestination, it can be summarised as ‘all our choices, decisions, intentions, other mental events, and all our actions are no more than effects of other equally necessitated events’ (Honedrich, ibid, p91). Hard determinism insists that all actions have a prior cause. However, this idea has a number of profound consequences; it puts doubt in our hopes for the future and how we consider the morality of others. If we praise a person for their good action, we are mistaken as it is not their action, it has been pre-determined. Additionally, if our actions are determined humans cannot deliberate rationally, we are, to an extent, illusive to the fact we can’t decide for ourselves what we wish to do.
Buddhism accepts the idea of determinism but rejects the idea of an agent and thus the idea that freedom is free will belonging to an agent. The Buddha said ‘There is free action, there is retribution, but I see no agent that passes out from one set of momentary elements into another one, except the connection of those elements’.
Buddhism believes in neither absolute free will nor determinism, it preaches a middle doctrine, called pratitya-samutpada in Sanskrit, which is often translated as ‘inter-dependent arising’: ‘When this exists, that exists; From the arising of this, that arises; When this does not exist, that does not exist; From the cessation of this, that ceases’ (Majjhima Nikaya, 1.262-64, D. Side, Buddhism, 2005, p97). It is part of the theory of karma. In Buddhism it is taught that the notion of complete freedom of choice is unwise, because it denies the reality of physical needs and circumstances. Similarly incorrect is the idea that we have no choice in life or that our lives are pre-determined. To deny freedom would be to undermine the efforts of Buddhists to make moral progress through our capacity to freely choose compassionate action. Pubbekatahetuvada, the belief that all happiness and suffering arise from previous actions, is considered an incorrect view according to Buddhist doctrines.
Libertarianism however, rejects the idea of determinism. If we wish to retain the idea of moral responsibility and accept that a person can, when confronted with the choice between right and wrong, act as a free agent, one must accept the idea of libertarianism. Libertarians do not reject the idea of determinism completely, in general they agree that the inanimate world is mechanistic – that all events are mechanically caused and therefore predictable – and that all the mechanical chains of cause and effect may extend to the animate world. They deny the principle of universal causation applying to human action and that accordingly human behaviour is predictable. Libertarians distinguish between a person’s formed character or personality and his or her moral self.
David Hume described liberty in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: ‘By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may’ (R A Bowie, Ethical Studies, 2001, p93). They believe we are not compelled to act morally by forces outside our moral consciousness. Moral actions are not chance or random events, but result from the values and character of the moral agent. An important argument for libertarianism is the human sense of decision making. While we have a sense of freedom, a sense of deliberating over our options, determinists maintain this is an illusion of freedom. Libertarianism does not explain human action, yet many would argue surely action needs a cause? Libertarianism attributes our moral judgement to an objective source, unmoved by environmental or upbringing, but this is questionable.
Buddhists therefore do not agree with hard determinism in that Buddhists do not believe in an external cause, like libertarians, however they do not completely agree with the libertarian notion of complete free will. To resolve the debate on relating Buddhism to either Determinism or Libertarianism and thus create a type of determinism to which Buddhist causality can relate to, A.J. Ayer advocates a type of soft determinism which accepts that everything has a cause but which defines particular actions as free volitions. An action can be a free volition provided that ‘1) If you had had the volition not to do the action you would not have done it and 2) Nobody compelled you to do it.’ for Ayer we have responsibility for our volitional actions. In order to explain the difference between phenomena that are caused and free volitions, some soft determinists distinguish between the internal and external causes of an action, for example between its contingent and mental causes.
It can be argued that while the external causes are determined, the psychological causes may not be; the Buddhist view is similar in that it states that physical objects and circumstances are always determined through causes and conditions. Physiological, physical and psychological causes are determined by mental decisions. Therefore a midway between the two contrasting theories is soft determinism and can most satisfactorily relate to Buddhist ethical principles. It would seem that we must choose between the belief in universal causation and, on the other hand, the belief in the existence of free will, it being accepted by both determinists and libertarians that these two beliefs are incompatible. The incongruity of the two however is rejected by soft determinists who say that human freedom and moral responsibility, is incomprehensible without determinism.
Soft determinists state the assumption that determinism is inconsistent with free will is the result of considerable confusion about what is meant by ‘free’. It is true that freedom as incompatible with fatalism, the view that human beings are powerless to change the cause of events, but it is not conflicting with determinism. Therefore soft determinists have labelled the two ideas; when the cause of action is internal, therefore out of your own volition, you acted voluntarily and of your own free will; but when the cause is external, for example contrary to your wishes or desires, you acted involuntarily and under compulsion. According to the soft determinist, this distinction between internal and external causes explains why freedom and moral responsibility is not only compatible with determinism but actually requires it.
Determinism is correct here in that for these actions to be uncaused would mean they would be completely unpredictable, impulsive and therefore irresponsible. Therefore when it is said a person acted ‘freely’ it is not meant as his or her action was uncaused but rather they were not compelled to do it, that they were under no kind of ‘external’ pressure, they themselves chose to act this way.
We can relate the soft determinist notion of labelling the distinction between action and cause to Buddhist morality; in actual situations a Buddhist’s conduct is decided by the state of their body/mind in the moment of acting, not by the Precepts alone. They try honestly to follow the Precepts, but if they break one of the Precepts, Buddhism urges them to recover and regain the balanced state and act right in the present, rather than to forfeit for past bad conduct, which has passed and can never be changed as it does not exist anymore. Buddhism says that whether or not one can act morally or right in this moment does not depend on the concept or belief of what it right and what is wrong, but on the state of our body and mind at this present moment.
The enlightenment (Bodhi) of the Buddha was both his liberation from suffering (dukka) and his insight into the nature of the universe; the Buddha was thus awakened to the truth of dependent origination. This is the idea that any phenomena only exists because of the existence of other phenomena in a complex web (Indra’s net) of cause and effect covering past, present and future.
Everything is dependent on everything else: A human being’s existence is dependent on the condition of everything else in the world (and universe) at that moment in time but equally the condition of everything in the world in that moment is dependent in an equally significant way on the character and condition of that human being. Indra’s Net is used in Buddhism as a metaphor for illustrating the concepts of emptiness of interconnectedness of all things. Everything in the universe is interconnected through this web of cause and effect thus all are interdependent. Therefore because all these things are transient (annicca) and conditioned it can be held that they do not ‘exist’, thus if they do not exist, can they be held morally responsible for their actions?
The Heart Sutra disagrees with the idea of dependent origination and says that there is no such law as karma or cause and effect. This still however relates to the idea of emptiness (sunyata) as noted by Nagarjuna that dependent origination and emptiness are ‘two sides of the same coin’. For Nagarjuna, emptiness should not be interpreted ontologically, but rather in the way of the parable of the raft: The Buddhist teaching (especially shunyata), is like the raft one constructs for the crossing of a river. Once the river is crossed, the purpose of the raft has been served. Therefore the raft is not needed anymore.
The same is true of emptiness: it should not be held on to; one who does hold on to it will have trouble functioning in life. Nagarjuna wrote extensively, and his teachings resulted in the formation of an Indian school called Madhyamika or the “Middle Way School.” Sunyata refers to the fact that no thing, including human existence, has ultimate substantiality, which in turn means that no thing is permanent and no thing is totally independent of everything else. In other words, everything in this world is interconnected and in constant flux. An appreciation of this idea of emptiness thus saves us from the suffering caused by our egos, our attachments, and our resistance to change and loss.
Therefore all phenomena are dependent originations, which means that they don’t exist, thus if they don’t exist, they are empty – which would thus mean that ethics itself is empty, thus it would be impossible to ever act ethically as there would not be such notion in existence. If everything is dependent causally, then it would seem impossible to act ethically: however a Buddhist would argue that the whole universe isn’t dependent causally, there is only one determining factor, Karma. Thus one of the possible arguments against karmic determinism is that karma is only one influencing factor and the universe has a random aspect to it, which could account for a degree of freedom.
Buddhist teachings explain how misleading states of mind keep you trapped in a recurring pattern of dissatisfaction by teaching about interdependent origination, the idea that things happen for a reason. Dependent Origination suggests that every event has a cause. For a Buddhist, life experiences, both good and bad, aren’t random, meaningless events, however, nor are they rewards, or punishments, as rewards and punishments require a controlling outside force sat in judgment such as a god, as there is no god in Buddhism blaming God or fate doesn’t work, experiences come from a result of a series of causes and effects that begin in a buddhists mind. In teachings known as the ‘Twelve links of dependent arising’, Buddha described the mechanism that drives you from realm to realm within a cyclic existence and keeps you trapped in suffering and dissatisfaction in these links; Buddha’s purpose for teaching these links, beginning with ignorance and ending with a corpse, was to make us aware of the way our ignorantly motivated actions unavoidably lead to recurring suffering, this suffering motivates a Buddhist to seek a way out, thus nirvana.
The Buddha taught that the way to achieve this freedom is by engaging in what he called the ‘Three Trainings’ which form the foundations to which the entire structure of Buddhist practice rests. These three trainings were: Moral Discipline, the strength; Concentration, the sharp aim; And Wisdom, the tool. If a Buddhist practices the three trainings in combination with one another, the Buddha stated that cyclic existence would end and one would feel the inexpressible peace of liberation. With moral self-discipline as a base, concentration allowing for inherent focus, wisdom can break through ignorance and help you free yourself from the cycle of recurring misery. In relation to the asking if today is a result of yesterday, it would suggest it is, however a Buddhist can change tomorrow’s outcome by having moral self discipline, concentration and wisdom.
If a Buddhist wants protection from suffering and from the danger of lower rebirth, they must try and not commit any more negative karma, however, this is also a problem in Buddhism as karma is generally negative, thus how can one create any more negativity if all karma is negative, thus everything really is Dukkha, therefore, in conclusion, it is apt to say that today is the result of yesterday’s actions. However, a Buddhist can purify negative karma that has already been committed. There are ten principle non-virtuous actions that should be avoided; Three actions of the body, four of speech, and three of the mind. The three non virtuous bodily actions are killing, stealing and sexual misconduct; the four non virtuous verbal actions are lying, divisive speech, hurtful speech and idle chatter and the three non virtuous mental actions are covetousness, malice and holding wrong views.
The best way for a buddhist to avoid negative actions is to practice consideration for others. All kind of non virtuous actions have three kinds of effects, the ripened effect, the effect similar to the cause and the environmental effect. The ripened effect of a negative effect is a rebirth in one of the three lower realms. A Buddhists previous actions will always have a definite outcome on tomorrow, however there are issues such as causality and free will which when taken into consideration make it hard to substantiate whether a Buddhist can be praised or blamed for such actions.
The idea of Sunyata means that if everything in existence is empty, morality itself is empty which would mean acting ethically would be impossible, therefore actions are empty so the law of Karma is flawed, this is a contradiction in Buddhist philosophy as it would mean that there can be no actions of yesterday impacting upon the present, therefore I could reach a conclusion disagreeing with the statement ‘Today is a result of yesterday, tomorrow is a result of today’ as it is impossible to be a result if there are no actions in existence allowing for a future; However, with many ideas in Buddhist philosophy contradicting each other it is hard to conclude on this question as there are too many conflictions between Karma being the universal law of cause and effect and dependent origination, as well as the idea that it is too simplistic a notion for today to be a result of yesterday as there are complicated ideas related to Buddhist ethics.
Damien Keown, Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Dominique Side, Buddhism, Oxfordshire: Phillip Allan, 2005.
Geshe Kelshang Gyato, Introduction to Buddhism: Cumbria; Thorpe Publications, 1992.
Michael Palmer, Moral Problems: The Lutterworth Press, 1991.
Robert A Bowie, Ethical Studies: Nelson Thornes, 2001.
Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught: London: Gordon Fraser, 1926.