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The Buddha said no: they join the mass of similar elements floating in (Akash) space. When the four elements from this floating mass join together, a new birth takes place.
The Hindu Law of Karma is based on the existence of a soul which is distinct from the body.
It affects the doer; and secondly it produces an impress upon his soul. Each act he does produces an impress upon his soul. When a man dies and when his soul escapes, the soul is full of such impressions. It is these impressions which determine his birth and status in his future life. This Hindu theory is inconsistent with the Buddhist theory of no-soul. For these reasons, the Buddhist doctrine of Karma cannot be, and is not, the same as the Hindu doctrine of Karma. It is therefore simply foolish to talk about the Buddhist doctrine of Karma being the same as the Brahminic doctrine of Karma.
According to the Hindu Law of Karma, what happens when a man does a karma is this: his act produces two-fold results.
And whatsoever food and drink the mother of him takes, thereby the man in mother's womb doth live and grow.
"Even so, your majesty," said that man in reply to the Rajah Pasenadi of Kosala, and after wandering through all Toranavatthu he saw not any one, either recluse or brahmin, on whom the Rajah Pasenadi might wait. Then that man saw the sister Khema, who had come to reside at Toranavatthu. ' you reply, 'That is not revealed by the Exalted One,' and when I ask..other questions, you make the same reply. Have you some accountant, some ready reckoner, or calculator, able to count the sand in [the] Ganges, thus: There are so many hundred grains, or so many thousand grains, or so many hundreds of thousands of grains of sand? To say, 'The Tathagata exists after death', does not apply. And he rose from his seat, saluted the Exalted One by the right, and went away. There is no doctrine in the Buddha's Dhamma which has created so much confusion as this doctrine of Karma. What is its place in the Buddha's Dhamma, and what is its significance which has already been told? Ignorant Hindus, out of sheer want of understanding, say by comparing merely the similarity of words, that Buddhism is the same as Brahmanism or Hinduism. The educated and orthodox section of the Brahmins also do the same.
Find out some recluse or brahmin such that I can wait upon him today." 11. "Then have you some accountant, ready reckoner, or calculator able to reckon the water in the mighty ocean, thus: There are so many gallons of water, so many hundreds, so many thousands, so many hundreds of thousand gallons of water? He is deep, boundless unfathomable, just like the mighty ocean. Thereupon the Rajah Pasenadi of Kosala was delighted with the words of the Exalted One, and welcomed them.
Maha-Kotthita asked, "How many things must quit the body before it is flung aside and cast away like a senseless log? Sariputta answered, "Vitality, heat, and consciousness." 32. Thus amplified, the real answer to the question, What happens when the body dies? He was not an annihilationist so far as matter was concerned. So interpreted, it is easy to understand why the Buddha said that he was not an annihilationist. For it would mean that energy is not constant in volume. This is the only way by which the dilemma could be solved. Now of this lady a lovely rumour has gone abroad, that she is sage, accomplished, shrewd, widely learned, a brilliant talker, of goodly ready wit. So the Rajah Pasenadi of Kosala went to visit the sister Khema, and on coming to her saluted and sat down at one side. To say, 'The Tathagata exists after death...exists not after death', does not apply. "So also if one should try to define the Tathagata by perception, by the activities, by consciousness..free from reckoning by consciousness is the Tathagata, deep, boundless, unfathomable as the mighty ocean. Pray, Lord, what is the reason, what is the cause, why this thing is not revealed by the Exalted One?
Just as in the case of a lamp, the light reveals the flame and the flame the light, so vitality depends upon heat and heat on vitality." 30. He was an annihilationist so far as soul was concerned. Annihilation in the sense that after death nothing is left, would be contrary to science. But, your majesty, there is a sister named Khema, a woman-disciple of that Exalted One. Yet free from reckoning as feeling is the Tathagata, maharajah, deep, boundless, unfathomable like the mighty ocean.
According to it, Karma includes Karma done in past life or lives. If a man is born in a poor family, it is because of his past bad karma. For in this interpretation of karma there is no room left for human effort. At the same time it does no harm to the doctrine, either to its de jure or de facto connotation. This restatement makes it possible to pose the two questions which could not otherwise be posed, and without answering which the matter could not be made clear. The first question is, how is past karma inherited? Is it an inherent characteristic, or [an] acquired characteristic? At first the Kalala takes birth, and thence the abudde. The past karma in the Hindu doctrine is the inheritance of the child by the child and for the child.
To examine this extended doctrine properly, it is better to change the language in which it is usually expressed. Instead of saying that past karma is transmitted, it should be better if it was said that past karma is inherited. This change of language enables us to test it by the law of heredity. The second question is, what is the nature of past karma in terms of heredity? Fertilisation consists in fusion of the head of the sperm with the nucleus of the egg. Each human being takes its origin from the union of two bits of living matter, an egg from the mother which has been fertilised by a single sperm from the father. That human birth is genetic is told by the Buddha to a Yakkha who came to discuss the matter with him. The Exalted One was then staying near Rajagraha, on the hill called Indra's Peak. Now that Yakkha drew near to the Exalted One and addressed him as follows: Material form is not the living soul'. How doth soul within the mother-cave suspended bide? It is implanted into the body from outside--the doctrine is unable to specify the source. Turning to the second question as to what is the nature of past karma, it must be determined whether it is an inherent characteristic or an acquired characteristic. Unless an answer to this question is forthcoming, it cannot be tested by the scientific theory of heredity. But assuming there is an answer one way or the other to this question, how is it possible to get any help from science [as to] whether it is a sensible theory or senseless theory? According to science, a child inherits the characteristics of his parents. In the Hindu doctrine of karma a child inherits nothing from its parents except the body.