Master Karma

Techniques For Maintaining Good Karma

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Note: The Glossary contains only concepts referred to in the book. Atman

Literally Sanskrit: breath, to breathe, often translated with soul, principle of life, spirit, at first principle of individual life, later also world soul. In the Upanishads (-> Veda) atman is mostly identified with brahman = principle of unity in or behind all diversity, so that atman and Brahman, the absolute reality, are one or not-two (in the understanding of the advaita- = Not-Two doctrine). The Hindu doctrine is rejected in the Buddhist doctrine about anatman = no-atman.


Literally Sanskrit: crossing, moving over. In Hinduism a figure of descent, especially of god Vishnu who turns himself to humans in a saving way; in earlier understanding: whenever one era calls for a new and just era. At first there were ten avatara; later the concept was expanded to historical personalities like the Buddha or Christ and others. In Indian theology the term is also used as translation of "incarnation."


Literally Sanskrit: the [to enlightenment] awakened one. In -> Mahayana Buddhism someone who is about to attain full enlightenment, but in the spirit of compassion for those still struggling on the way, he renounces the final step and turns back to the non-enlightened helping them to reach their final goal, too. For a great number of struggling faithful and trustful humans Bodhisattvas (-> Kuan-yin) are figures of invocation and helpers on the way to fulfillment.

Brahman -> Atman


As Christ also Buddha is no name, but a title: the Awakened, the Enlightened One. Enlightenment is at first pronounced for the historical founder of the way to liberating enlightenment, Siddharta Gautama

Shakyamuni (560-480). However, since it is the goal of anyone to attain enlightenment, in view of the historical Buddha numerous people before and after him are said to have reached Buddhahood and, therefore, are called Buddha, too.

Discretio spirituum

Latin = discernment of spirits. It refers to the doctrine of discernment of spirits as it is explained in two sets of rules in the book of Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). Originally the doctrine goes back to the art of the Desert Fathers and their methods of coming to a clear judgment about one's inner motivations and of finding ways of distinction between the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the impulses of other "spirits." In the meantime the rules are applied wherever we are watching the guidance of the Spirit in the "signs of the time," therefore, not only in individual, but also in ecclesial and societal life.

Dominus Iesus

Dominus Iesus are the first two words of a Declaration of the Congregation of Faith which was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on August 6, 2000 and published in Rome on September 5, 2000. According to its subtitle the declaration is focused on two points, the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and of the Church. Undoubtedly the first part is emphasized. It has to be seen in connection with the notification on a book of Fr. Jacques Dupuis SJ dealing with questions of a Christian theology of religious pluralism, published a few months later on January 24, 2001.


Literally Greek: doxa = splendor, glory + logos = speech, a God glorifying speech or prayer. In the proper sense it is a mode of formal prayer by which God or Jesus Christ is mentioned and reference is made to eternity, and the assembly is invited to reply "Amen." See the conclusion of liturgical prayers like "God We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever." In a broader understanding of the term the doxo-logical structure reappears where one's life practice becomes a way of confessing God by following and surrendering oneself to Jesus Christ imbued by the power of his Spirit.


For many contemporaries an obscure notion - literally from Greek "underlying" -, it is one of the Greek concepts which were influential in the time of the early councils, especially Chalcedon, and became one of the pillars in explaining the relation between divine and human -> nature in the person of Jesus Christ (keyword: hypostatic union) and the inner-trinitarian relations between God (Father), Jesus (Son, Word) and Holy Spirit. One reason for an ambivalent understanding is the fact that the Latin translation of hypostasis was done in a rather inconsistent way, partly with substantia, partly with persona. Consequently the concept lost its proper meaning later on, and rendered the understanding of the pronouncements of Chalcedon rather difficult. -> Person

Immanence -> Transcendence Individuality -> Person Karma

Sanskrit: act, action. It is one of the most fundamental notions of Indian thought and spirituality. In Vedic writings (-> Veda) karma is used for ritual actions and sacrifices, but also for acts ordered or prohibited by divine order. Good karma and bad karma cause and influence the cycle of rebirths; by this it gets moral evaluation. Thus karma presupposes a causality infringing on several existences, it is connected with the belief in reincarnation, and implies moral standards. Because of the interconnectedness of all being karma is an underlying factor of history which by itself is not restricted to the existence of single persons, but exercises an impact on history as such. Because of its moral implication karmic existence is not to be considered as a mechanistic determinism, although the problem of free will has not been solved in a satisfying way so far. And yet, the various reflections and interpretations of karmic life convene in the conviction that people have to overcome karmic life and yearn to be rescued from it (in Hindu language: moksha = liberation).


Sanskrit: mercy, compassion, "sympathy." The notion signifies together with -> Prajnâ = wisdom the two sides of an enlightened existence.

Kenotic Christology/Theology

"Kenotic" is derived from the Greek verb kenoun = to empty out, or the noun kendsis, also ekkenosis = act of emptying. The verb is applied to Jesus of Nazareth in whom God "emptied himself," and became man = non-God and surrendered himself into death (see Phil 2:9). The approach received new actuality as soon as it was compared with -> Shunyata = emptying, emptiness in -> Mahayana Buddhism where it plays a central role in the understanding of way and goal of Buddhist life. In consequence, more than "(absolute) nothingness," the notion of "emptiness" gained high importance in Buddhist-Christian dialogue.


Chin., Sanskrit Avalokiteshvara, Jap. Kannon is one of the most popular -> Bodhisattva in -> Mahayana Buddhism. Originally he, later on she is associated with Amida Buddha or Buddha Amithaba (Sanskrit), the Lord of the West where in the Buddhist universe the "Pure Land" of fulfillment is located. He is the Bodhisattva of compassion and mercy and in this capacity invoked by numerous people in Central and East Asia. In Japan where Kannon is often represented as woman with child, figures of Kannon served in the time of Christian persecution as concealed figures of Mary the mother of Jesus.

Mahayana Buddhism

= Buddhism of the Great Vehicle. Next to Hinayana Buddhism = Buddhism of the Little Vehicle, it is the second large group and form of Buddhism, today mainly spread in Central and East Asia. Tibetan Buddhism is part of the Great Vehicle; however, often as Diamond Vehicle also considered a third form of Buddhism. Mahayana is a "great vehicle" (i.e., crossing to the other shore) because more than in original Buddhism Buddha's way and teaching is opened up to and facilitates a saving way for all living. In the history of Buddhism there is a continuous endeavor to restore the universality of the liberating way. It can be easily perceived in the fact that the rigorous forms of "Self Power" or meditative Buddhism (Chin. Chan; Jap. Zen) provoked the complementary form of "Other Power" or Amida Buddhism, in which the invocation of the "Other Power" of Amida Buddha and his Bod-hisattvas (-> Kuan-yin) became very popular in China, Korea and Japan. A further step was done in the development of strong lay organizations in the 20th century.


Literally Sanskrit: circle. Mandalas are in Hinduism and Buddhism quadrate or/and circular pictorial images which are used in meditative practices, and by forms and colors give access to the inner world and the dwelling of the divine. Also modern psychology discovered in the art of mandala painting routes to one's own interior and self. In Christianity mandala forms have been rediscovered in classical images and icons of Christ and Mary. A special place is to be allocated to the visionary illustrations of St. Hildegard of Bingen (Germany).


= Christian heresy in which one of the two -> natures of Jesus Christ is belittled or denied. Whereas in earlier times mostly Christ's humanity was reduced, in our days more often his divinity is contested.

Nature (in theology)

"Nature" in theology is not understood as the universe, the growing and in cyclical terms renewed world of all living beings. It is a notion borrowed from Greek philosophy, and signifies the essence of a being. What at first was applied mostly to finite beings was later on also used for the essence of God who was considered Being as such. In this sense humanity and divinity are two "natures," human and divine nature which both are fully realized in the one person of Jesus of Nazareth.


"Narrative theology" reminds of the fact that theology in its origin does not start off with arguments; it rather lives from great narratives which we find in Holy Scripture. It begins with narrates of the creation and fall and depicts God's further conduct with his creatures in stories and events, all of which finds its continuation in the life story of Jesus of Nazareth. What, first of all, was given to us in a narrative way, has to be passed on to future generations in a similar way. Not withstanding all necessary and helpful reflections and argumentations, the Church is, first of all, a community focused on memories of its origin in Jesus Christ which have to be kept alive, and on narratives which have to be passed on. Consequently, today historical research is emphasized while dealing with Jesus of Nazareth before entering the problematic of interpretation and speculative reflection.

Negative Theology/Christology

The concept "negative theology" is originally connected with PseudoDionysius the Areopagite, a still not identified theologian of the 5. Century A.D.; he was occupied in speaking about God by concentrating on what God is not. This way of theologizing was continued in the Middle Ages by Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and others, later on by classical mystical theologians like John of the Cross in Spain, Master Eckhart and other representatives of Rhenish and Dutch mysticism, also by Nikolaus of Kues and others. It provoked new interest in a time when speaking of and believing in God becomes rather difficult. "Negative Christology" describes the limits of human understanding in positively explaining Jesus Christ, "truly God, truly man." Another starting point close to negative Christology became what is called -> kenotic Christology. Negative theology is intimately connected with analogous and symbolic speech.


Sanskrit: blowing away, extinguishing. The concept first used in Hinduism became the best known signification of the goal which people are striving for in Buddhism. Even if on behalf of the radical detachment of everything included concepts, nirvana is primarily expressed negatively, it is to be comprehended in an absolutely positive manner. Therefore, especially in -> Mahayana Buddhism we find positive expressions like enlightenment, liberation, bliss and others, too. See also -> Shunyata. Whenever nirvana is translated as "nothing(ness)," it by no means should be understood in a nihilistic way .

Person (in theology)

In theology the word originally derived from Latin is not to be interchanged simply with "human." Actually the Latin origin proves that "person" is not one of the classical concepts borrowed from Greek philosophy. Looking for points of contact there are two Greek terms: -> hypostasis and prosopon. Hypostasis is effective where - as with Boethi-us - person is conceived as the individual, unexchangeable substance of a rational being or of a spiritual -> "nature." In anthropological understanding being-by-and-in-oneself is stressed to the point that in his unexchangeability a person becomes incommunicable, that is to say, he is so unique in his inner core that he cannot communicate himself any further. However, the notion "person" comes more close to the

Greek prosopon = the mask of an actor who "sounds" or becomes audible through the mask (Latin personare), and by this he gets related to the auditor(s), that is to other people. Whereas the concept "substance" was completely inappropriate in the reflection of Holy Trinity unless it should end up in a belief in three gods (tritheism), relationality was a good starting-point. Without entering into the complex history of the concept, we have to maintain that in modern times the concept "person" consists of two elements of equal importance: individuality referring to the unexchangeable self-identity and relationality referring to and opening up ways of communication with others and the Other. It can be further discussed whether being-from-another does not deserve the primacy over being-by-and-in-oneself. And it can -theologically - be also asked whether personality should be thought from man to God, or, rather, from God to man. Anyway, the concept of person in its various facets is one of the most important concepts in intercultural and interreligious dialogue. It is not be neglected in a comparative study of Indian and Chinese anthropology and cosmology.

Pluralist theology of religion

Opposite to the doctrine that the attainment of salvation is exclusively (see "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" = "No salvation outside the Church") or inclusively (see Karl Rahner's "anonymous Christians" = "unknowingly bound to Jesus Christ) linked to Christianity, the authors of a pluralist theology of religion - above all John Hick, Wilfred C. Smith, Paul F. Knitter - assert or tend to assert that independently from Christianity and the salvific action of Christ other religions are ways of salvation. By this they react against Christian absolutism as displayed since the period of colonial conquest and missionary activities, as well as to the demand of equality of the partners in a process of dialogue. In the final instance, however, the question of truth is highly reduced, if not even excluded, so that the own convictions are often discussed in rather abbreviated ways. Undoubtedly also the representatives of a strongly pluralist approach are endeavored to offer their opinion as compatible with Christian understanding. However, since in many points they apparently leave behind the normative Christian teachings, the debate has to deal with philosophical (epistemological problems like the human ability of finding truth and others) and theological and Christological arguments as well. It has to be noted that the concept referred to here is not to be confused with other forms of pluralist theology, since, of course, inside the various theological disciplines we come across a plurality of conceptions and, consequently, the concept "pluralist theology" itself is applied today in various ways.


Both notions are mostly used in a rather undifferentiated way. Exactly speaking, "plurality" refers to the undeniable fact of diversity and multiplicity in societal life as well as in human language and thought, whereas "pluralism" in its strict sense is concerned with the causes of plurality, and often is used in a rather ideological way.


Sanskrit: wisdom, knowledge. In connection with enlightenment - in Mahayana Buddhism - wisdom is comprehensive knowledge and liberation by which humans find access to and realize the all comprising reality. Even if the concept seems to be concerned with the intellectual capacity of humans, it is not to be overlooked that it fundamentally refers to the spiritual side of human existence. The way to the plenitude of wisdom leads through Shunyata, the radical "emptying" or detachment of everything. However, prajna is not been realized without -> karuna, all comprising compassion with suffering and unenlightened creature.

Relationality -> Person Rigveda -> Veda Samsara

Literally Sanskrit: to go round, walk around. In Hinduism and Buddhism it refers to the basic teaching about the cycle or wheel of rebirths. According to the First Noble Truth preached by the historical -> Buddha the experience of the cycle of rebirths is summed up in the notion "suffering." All humans call for saving from suffering. Accordingly, the central message pronounced in the Third Noble Truth of Buddha's sermon proclaims the possibility of becoming freed from suffering (-> Nirvana). Only in modern times, especially in western countries, there are attempts to interpret reincarnation positively as stages of ascent to the desired goal.

Shunyata (Sunyata)

Substantive to Sanskrit sunya = empty. In its philosophical and religious meaning it originates from Nagarjuna, an Indian thinker of the 2nd Century A.D. Contrary to old Indian thought which - similar to occidental thought - ascribes to everything substance, and to humans a personal core, in Buddhist understanding everything exists without substantial permanence, self or ego. The two most common explanatory doctrines refer (1) to anatman = not-self, the missing of any immaterial supporter or subject of acts and experiences - against the affirmation of -> atman = principle of life, soul, etc., and (2) to Sanskrit pratltyasamutpada = [the law of] mutual causality, co-dependent origination or relations, by which everything originates and decays without determinate subject in reciprocal dependence; the law is another way to enunciate the painful cycle of rebirths. In consequence there is only one way of liberation: the realization of universal emptiness of everything, and - in religious terms - overcoming all forms of attachment in a comprising way of emptying-oneself. This leads - in other words - to -> nlrvana -in positive terms - to radical enlightenment and liberty which, however, cannot be described any further in its content by the use of language.


Literally it means to pass over, to traverse. The notion is used in philosophy and theology and signifies (1) the act of going beyond the realm of sensual experience and thought, (2) the "beyond" of experience and thought itself. In ordinary human speech transcendence becomes another expression for God who as creator cannot be part of creation. In this sense Christian theology insists on the fact that all created being is related to God, that, however, on behalf of his independence and free will an equal relation cannot be asserted from the side of the creator to creature. And yet, we should not overlook that in all his transcendence the same God is the inner essence and core of all created beings and that creation is not to be considered an isolated act at the beginning, but continues in the course of time. In this sense we speak about the immanence of God; immanence, however, is not to be interpreted in the sense that God's existence exhausts itself in his presence inside of created beings, and thus at the end creator and creature are identical (pantheism).

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