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Karma: What It Is, What It Isn't, Why It Matters

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  235 ratings  ·  27 reviews
A jargon-free explanation of two central teachings of the Buddha: karma and rebirth.

The Buddhas teaching on karma (literally, action) is nothing other than his compassionate explanation of the way things are: our thoughts and actions determine our future, and therefore we ourselves are largely responsible for the way our lives unfold. Yet this supremely useful teaching is
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 30th 2015 by Shambhala
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St Fu
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Hard to give a ratings when your karma is on the line. Rate it too high and you attract those who won't find it helpful. Too low and it may dissuade those who should read it from doing so. Luckily intent is important. I'm trying. I went with the middle way of 3 stars.

The takeaways for me are:
1) Don't avoid good karma just because your goal is no karma.
2) You need your bad thoughts to have something to turn away from.
3) Being in the world isn't to be avoided.

In particular, number 3 says not to
C. Varn
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book in that it messages to explain the complications of an often misunderstood Buddhist doctrine, but Kyabgon goes further and explains the pre-Buddhist developments of the concept and contrasts Buddhist ideas of karma with its development in Hinduism and, in the second half of the book, contrasts and compares with Christian doctrines as well. Kyabgon makes more references and explains in the concept in a rational way, but does "modernize" the traditional concept in a way that ...more
Analouise Keating
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An insightful, deeply considered discussion of karma and related teachings. Highly recommended.
Jun 20, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began reading this book very quickly. I had to stop, read Peter Pan, and then start over and read this book very slowly. It did not really help me.

The 10th - and final - chapter begins with this sentence: "Karma is a very complicated topic in one sense, as we have seen, and yet we do not wish to become more confused than we already are."

That statement sums up this book for me. I give the topic a 5, the book a 2, overall a 3.0.
Russell Paradis
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book taught me so much about karma. It really helped me shed the notions of what I thought it was. This book has a clear and very simple way of explaining how a belief in or even just an openness to karma can enrich our lives. The discussion on perspectives of death in Christianity and Buddhism are very beneficial for those of us who will die someday. Haha (just a little Buddhist humor)
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was interested in the concept of karma even before I married a devout Buddhist. But since then, I have become even more curious about it. I wanted to find out more about karma than simply what is said and thought in mainstream American culture. As it turns out, karma is a very complex idea that is not easily understood. The author tries to explain it from a historical perspective, and eventually he turns to the Buddhist perspective, both from the Buddha's own teachings but also how things have ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rinpoche Traleg Kyabgon's final completed book. Written in his usual measured, accessible and precise style. A relatively short introductory level book outlining some of the complexities and misconceptions surrounding the central Buddhist idea of Karma.

Like many westerners, I struggle with some aspects of reincarnation, but this teacher gently points the way past this hang up towards a paradoxical balance between continuity of causality, yet discontinuity of 'identity' in reincarnation.

Forked Radish
Jul 04, 2020 marked it as books-to-avoid
Why is karma krap? You are your life. Therefore, if you were a different person in a previous life then that person is no different from all the other people who have ever lived. If you were the same person in a previous life then you must be an unaccountable, sequential, identical twin. Karma is an example of aporia or krap.
P.S. Buddha rejected the concept of karma in the Dhammapapa (the collected sayings of Buddha). However, the author talks of "Buddha's teaching" which encompass the
Renee Legris
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual-path
If you really want to understand the Buddhist view of karma, read this book. The author very patiently walks you through how it works and what it means, and how you can learn to "cultivate" karma. I was surprised how many things I have misunderstood for a long time. Authentic dharma, but friendly to Westerners.
Bohdan Pechenyak
Perhaps the clearest and most comprehensive treatment of the Buddhist concept and theory of karma, with background history in Hinduism. Written in a precise, clear language that is devoid of jargon and excessive use of foreign terms, which is an advantage to those unfamiliar with Buddhism and other Asian dharmic traditions.
Jane Roe
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nice read. Even more entertaining than my favorite philosophy books. Not esoteric at all as misleadingly pointed out by one of the commenters. Quite the opposite, it's a scientifically solid survey of how the term came to be.
Ash Todd
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This book offers a better understanding into how 'karma' impacts our lives and suggestions on ways to accept things as they are...
Sandra Paul
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a book I will come back to re-read in the future. It was not an easy read, but offers much to be reflected upon
James Crouse
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dharma
Excellent treatment of Karma
Gene Bobker
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love TR teachings.
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Hes using too many words to describe very easy ideas. I would have apppreciated more if he would not try so hard to prove that he knows english. By and large there are interesting informations. ...more
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tonya Jakubowski
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's much more information on karma than I was interested in.
Renetta Neal
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Much food for thought :-)
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege of attending a 2 1/2 day teaching by Traleg Rinpoche maybe a year or so before his death. At that time, he presented a number of teachings from his then "upcoming" book on Karma. I must say that it was the one of the best teachings on Buddhism I ever attended. In addition, Traleg Rinpoche was a very engaging individual. He mixed a lot of humor into his teachings. The teaching was illuminating and actually fun. For whatever reason, I forgot about his then upcoming book and ...more
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
I really enjoyed this little gem. Rinpoche's explanations are clear and precise. He packs a wallop in a very short text. I was amazed at his brilliant explanation of the Yogacara philosophy in 6 pages! Other complicated and extensive subjects were equally handled in very succinct and informative manner. Of course one can do more exploration and extensive studying, but for a wider audience it was perfect. I also recommend reading his brilliant text on Mahamudra: Mind at Ease.
Eugene Pustoshkin
Thats a very good book that takes a rational and contemporary, yet fully traditional in the best sense of this term view on the notion of karma. The first historical chapter is not the strongest, but in the following chapters things get very interesting. I especially enjoyed the chapter on bardo. Very profound teachings, and the author convinced me to pay more attention to the Buddhist vision of karma. ...more
Alycee Lane
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The author presents a concise, accessible and engaging explanation of an oft-misunderstood Buddhist concept. Glad I read it, especially since it helped me to understand karma better -- the history of the idea, its misinterpretation in western discourse, and how it fits into Buddhist cosmology.
Ellen Keener
Oct 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Learned a lot. Writing about complicated subject with clarity.
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it
esoteric. i don't understand what im reading. i only remember: no karma is best, better than good karma. guess i don't believe it. for now.
José Marcio da Silva
Condução segura sobre a exposição do assunto deste a origem. Ótimas reflexões sobre as consequências do carma em nossas vidas.
Guida Catarina
rated it it was amazing
Feb 16, 2019
rated it liked it
Feb 17, 2018
Bruce Fogg
rated it it was amazing
Jun 15, 2020
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Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche (19552012) was the ninth incarnation of the Traleg tulku line, a line of high lamas in the Kagyu lineage of Vajrayana. He was a pioneer in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to Australia.

Traleg Rinpoche was born in 1955 in Kham (Eastern Tibet), and two years later was recognized by HH 16th Gyalwa Karmapa as the ninth incarnation of the Traleg Tulkus and enthroned as the Abbot of

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“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
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“Buddha teaches that there are many causes and many conditions and always refers to causes and conditions in the plural, never just as cause and effect. We are presented with a very complex picture of how things work.” 1 likes
“He believed fully that whatever suffering we experience is due to our own doing, and not due to a divine hand. Therefore, the pacification of suffering is also in our own hands. This was his idea of karma.” 1 likes
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