Buddhist Views of Karma and Rebirth
Mingjie Feng A00384367
22 March 2017
Buddhist Views of Karma and Rebirth
Most people try their best to avoid thinking about death because thoughts of death
bring sadness and negative emotions. Yet, if one thing is certain in life, it is that we will
all die sooner or later as part of the natural process of birth, old age, and death. Therefore,
we should always keep in mind the impermanence of life. Some people are fearful of
death, and that brings pain and negative energy. However, Buddhists believe that there
is rebirth after death and that the ego is an illusion. In the sections that follow, I will
discuss rebirth after death, how rebirth occurs, how the ego is an illusion, and how
karma play a role in death.
Death and the Impermanence of Life
Buddhism was developed out of the teachings of Siddhartha. He lived sometime
between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE in Northern India. Buddhism has played an
important role in the social, spiritual, and cultural life of Asia. Buddhism spread to the
West in the 20th century.
According to the Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda (2005) “death is not the
end; life has no beginning and no end” (page 58). It is like a flowing river, which means
that our life does not have an end but is ever changing. After death, a person can either
return to earth in another body or enter nirvana. Nirvana literally means “extinguishing
or unbinding.” In Buddhism, nirvana refers to “a transcendent state in which there is
neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects
of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism”
There are various perspectives among Buddhists as to what happens after death.
From a Buddhist point of view, our lives are “fragile and impermanent” because death
and its causes are uncertain—we may succumb at any moment. No one knows when
the day of death will be or how death will occur, but death will come. No one knows
when this life of ours will simply cease. Only one thing in existence is stable and lasts—
the impermanence of life.
Rebirth is a fundamental concept of Buddhism, normally referred to as
"transmigration" or “nirvana.” Nirvana is the condition of conclusive freedom from the
cycle of death and resurrection. Nguyen Tang (1999) puts it this way: “death is not the
end of life. It is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still
remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new
life” (page.12). Where a person will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation
of positive and negative actions. The resultant karma (cause and effect) is the result of
one’s past actions.
Buddhists believe that life continues after death and that we are caught in a cycle
of rebirth. The basic belief is that karma determines the type of life a person will have
after the current one.
According to class 5 note (2017), Good karma will result in the
next life being blessed and leads to rebirth in one of six realms: the heavenly realm, the
realm of asura, the realm of hungry ghosts, the realm of hell, the animal realm, or the
human realm. Heaven in the West means a place of peace and eternal bliss, whereas the
Buddhist nirvana is a place away from suffering. Asuras in Buddhism are evil spirits,
and those who are reborn in that realm must have had an unpleasant character. Hungry
ghosts people who were greedy or corrupt in their former lives. Many Christian
traditions consider hell to be a place of spiritual desolation and misery. In Buddhism,
“naraka” is a place of torment. Buddhists believe that there is no eternal heaven or hell.
Rather, when people die their souls are sent to hell as a punishment or in order to
compensate for what they have done and to allow them to think about their actions. If
a person is judged as having bad karma, his or her soul will be born into one of the
realms of suffering and pain.
According to Jane Alexander (2009), there are eight cold narakas and eight hot
narakas. The eight cold narakas are arbuda, nirarbuda, atata, hahava, huhuva, utpala,
padma, and mahapadma. Arbuda is “A dark, frozen plain surrounded by icy mountains,
swept by blizzards. People live alone and naked, the extreme cold blistering their
exposed bodies” (Alexander.2009). Nirarbuda is “Even colder than Arbuda. People’s
blisters burst open leaving bodies covered with frozen blood and pus” (Alexander.2009).
In atata, “People are so bitterly cold that they continually shiver, making an ‘at-at’
sound” (Alexander.2009). In hahava, “The extreme cold causes people to wail in pain,
making the sound ‘haa, haa’” (Alexander.2009). Huhuva is the "chattering teeth"
naraka, where beings shiver as their teeth chatter, making the sound “hu, hu”
(Alexander.2009). Utpala is the "blue lotus" naraka, where the intense cold makes the
skin turn blue like the colour of an utpala water lily. Padma is the "lotus" naraka, where
blizzards crack open frozen skin, leaving a person raw and bloody (Alexander.2009).
Maha padma is the "great lotus" naraka, where the entire body cracks into pieces and
the internal organs are exposed to the cold, also cracked by blizzards (Alexander.2009).
There are also eight hot narakas. In sañjīva “The ground is iron heated by a vast
fire. People attack each other with iron claws. Yama’s attendants attract with fiery
weapons. Molten metal is dropped on people. Many are sliced into pieces”
(Alexander.2009). Kālasūtra is like sanjiva, but black lines are also drawn on the body,
along which Yama’s attendants cut with saws and axes” (Alexander.2009). In samghāta,
“Vast rocks come together, smashing people in between; when the rocks move apart,
the bodies are revived, only to be crushed again” (Alexander.2009). In raurava, the
"screaming" naraka, beings run wildly about, looking for refuge from the burning
ground (Alexander.2009). Mahāraurava is the "great screaming" naraka, where there is
greater suffering and more screaming (Alexander.2009). Tapana is the "heating" naraka,
where hell guards impale beings on a fiery spear until flames issue from their noses and
mouths (Alexander.2009). In pratāpana, people are impaled as in tapana, but it is more
bloody still, as here Yama’s servants use tridents to pierce their victims’ bodies instead
of spears (Alexander.2009). Avīci is the "uninterrupted" naraka. Here, beings are
roasted in an immense blazing oven with terrible suffering (Alexander.2009).
Where a person goes after death is in accordance with the severity of one’s karmic
actions. Buddhists believe that none of these places are permanent and that a person
does not remain in any place indefinitely. Life does not end, and the life of the soul
goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. I agree with the view
that the spirit lives on after death. I believe that the body should turn to dust again and
that the spirit goes back to God, who gave it. In China, some people believe that there
are souls wandering the streets because they died unsatisfied. They had an incomplete
dying wish, so their souls could not be reborn. Buddhists, say we should not fear death,
as it will lead to rebirth. According to Thich Nguyen Tang (1999), “The fear of death
stemmed from the fear of cease to be existent and losing one’s identity and foothold in
the world” (page.14). If we expect death to come before its arrival, we notice
impermanence in the changes we see around us and in aging and suffering due to losing
our youth. There's no need to complicate life, because our time is short and death is our
fate. When we are young, we are strong and beautiful; as we age, we approach the final
moments of life.
The Ego is an Illusion
In Buddhist thought, the self is related to the five skandhas: form, sensation,
perception, concept formation, and consciousness. According to the Class 4 notes,
(January 26, 2017) “From the Buddhist perspective people can’t actually see things as
they are when they are caught in the habitual patterns of ego. “ (pp. 3-4) we may see
only a part of reality or we may even be imagining reality based on the prejudices and
attachments of the past and not the present. The illusion of ego is that we are seeing
something that is an actual experience within an objective reality.
No one has ever seen the face of ego; we only see the surface of the self. I think
self is an illusion, because people are easily influenced by outside information. We can
disguise and cater to our own desires. When we face a serious threat, we become crafty
to protect ourselves. We live in a cause-and-effect world, and every decision I have
ever made has come out of an unimaginably complex chain of cause and effect. The
ego is not an independent entity. It is just the union of the spirit with the other three
components: the body, emotion, and thought.
A newborn child does not have the ability to think or imagine independently.
When, then, does the ego come into existence as the child grows? As I mentioned, the
ego is an illusion. It could easily be influenced by outside information. When a child is
born, the first thing it becomes aware of is not itself; the first thing it becomes aware of
is the other. The ego is an accumulated phenomenon; our ego development has to do
with living with others. If a child lives totally alone, he or she will never grow an ego.
He or she will remain like an animal, never progressing or evolving.
Karma’s Role in my Life
Karma is a Sanskrit term that means “action and the results of action.” (Class
5 note，2017 ). Any kind of intentional action, whether mental, verbal, or physical, is
regarded as karma. In the Buddhist tradition, karma refers to an action driven by
intention (cetanā) which leads to future consequences. Those intentions are considered
to be the determining factor in the kind of rebirth in samsara, the cycle of rebirth. Karma
is derived from the idea that one’s actions have an effect in both current and future lives;
this is because Buddhists believe in reincarnation and an endless cycle.
In general, karma is broken down into two groups: good karma and bad karma.
“Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad
intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering” (Y. Masih.1999). Bad
karma is created by wrong and negative actions, and negative energy initially originates
from negative activity. It can lead to misfortune in one’s current life or a poorer
condition. However, there are many ways to remove bad karma, which include taking
responsibility for yourself, admitting your wrongs, and improving your life. Severing
toxic ties is also important. Be polite and keep a respectful distance from those who
bring you more harm than good. Forgive everyone and try to find the grace to let go of
resentment and self-condemnation that arises from going over past mistakes.
Good karma is positive energy that initially originates from positive activity. It
can lead to positive consequences and better conditions in reincarnation. Good karma
produces a good effect on the actor, while bad karma produces a bad effect. Halbfass
(2000) notes that “good karma is considered as dharma and leads to punya (merit),
while bad karma is considered adharma and leads to pāp” (pp.84).
Buddhists believe that rebirth is the final process of death. The moment of death
does not always have to be perceived as a great defeat or heartbreak, because the cycle
of life is nature's law. Life fades, but life is also remodeled. It does not have to bring us
pain and regret, because the naraka process produces a repentance without regret,
leading to salvation. Ego is simply the symbol of yourself. The self is awareness of your
own being and existence. The self is created out of the senses and is an illusion of your
experience. Within the belief of reincarnation, the law of karma plays a major role.
Karma is a Buddhist term for the law of cause and effect. When you are kind and loving,
your karma is returned in the most desirable way. When you are rude and behave badly,
your karma is returned in the most unsatisfactory way. In other cases, the troubles which
befall us have no origin in the karma of former lives but belong entirely to causes in the
H&M Internal and External Environment Analysis
Internal Environment and the Value Chain
1. General administration: H&M intends to offer fashion and quality at the best
possible price. Also, the managers are given freedom and autonomy in the
decision-making process, which contributes to the success of H&M.
2. Human Resource Management: For H&M, the recruitment of talent is one of
the most important elements for their success. Creativity is the key factor; the
qualities of teams make the clothes different and therefore give H&M a
3. Technology development: H&M has developed a computer program to stay
connected to their customers through many different social network platforms and
various phone apps. They also aim to use a manufacturing process that will be the
most efficient, while avoiding high levels of waste.
4. Procurement: H&M design their products in-house, and rely on a network of
external suppliers to manage its buying and production processes. H&M
purchases garments from around 750 suppliers, with 60% of production taking
place in Asia and the remainder mainly in Europe. H&M’s close and effective
engagement with its supply partners helps to ensure the goods are produced at the
accurate quality and price.
According to the book, there are five primary activities:
1. Inbound logistics
3. Outbound logistics
4. Marketing and sales
These activities all contribute to the physical creation of the product or service. (Strategy
Management book, P 84)
1. Inbound logistics
The inbound logistics are any activities that are focused on receiving, storing, and
distributing the inputs to product. (Strategy management book, P 88). H&M’s core value
are being efficient and fast and in order to achieve this, H&M monitors every step in the
supply chain. Suppliers need to sign the Sustainability Commitment in order to ensure an
optimal working condition. They also promote suppliers paying more attention to
sustainability. H&M has a complete monitoring system to ensure inbound materials meet
specifications. (Our Supply Chain) Afterwards, more than 90% of products are
transported by ships and trains from suppliers to warehouses. H&M also tries their best to
reduce the greenhouse gases emission. (Value Chain of HM)
H&M produces 80% of its products in advance and the remaining 20% will be
produced according to the most current market trends. Therefore, it could reduce the lead
time. What’s more, H&M does not own its own factories. Instead, it outsources to
independent suppliers, which are usually in Europe and Asia. In Asia, costs of production
are relatively lower since there is a greater labour force. In Europe, the style of cloth is
constantly changing, which allows them to keep costs low. As a result, the HM chooses a
suitable place that allows them to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
3. Outbound Logistics
It is important to build information and communication technology. For example,
in Germany, which is the one of H&M’s biggest markets, the suppliers always ship the
products to the central warehousing, located in Hamburg. If the product is prepared for
other regions, H&M’s information and communication system will respond fast and the
products would be delivered directly to the division or the specific stores. Its distribution
will deal with more than 160 million pieces and 20-55 new pieces will be delivered to
store in order to ensure there is enough inventory.
4. Marketing and sales
As mentioned above, H&M outsources its product to the supplier. However,
design is the core of H&M’s production. The designers of H&M come from all around
the world and they work in a design center in Stockholm, also named the “white room”.
Even if the designers could provide the latest fashion directors, the company also uses
fashion trend forecast companies in order to catch the needs and wants of customers.
After the customers purchase from H&M, they have the option to exchange the
goods or return within a specified amount of days. Customers can also easily ask for help
in store or call to H&M service department.
H&M Company has launched various high brand images that improve the
company’s reputation. Also, by utilizing resources and depending on the strong design
team, H&M is combining the core competencies of quality, fashion design with the best
price strategy, to ensure its competitiveness.
It is not rare to find high-quality clothing or clothes at a low price within today’s
fashion industry. The global market is full of aggressive competitors. The H&M
Company faces serious threats from its competitors such as Zara and GAP Inc. It has to
adopt strong promotion strategies as an effort of differentiation from its competitors.
It is difficult to imitate the system of H&M. H&M outsources its product to
suppliers and only cooperates with independent suppliers, making it difficult for
competitors to imitate this model. The culture and reputation of H&M is also very
Non-substitutable with other resources:
H&M has many competitors, such Zara and Gap, and they all focus on creating
fashion cloth, therefore, they have a similar product and intensive competition between
them. Therefore, H&M is substitutable with other resources.
External General Environment:
H&M's target demographic is fairly large as they are a retail clothing company.
They have, women's, men's, and children's clothing available. Their children's clothes
range from newborn all the way up to teens. Meanwhile their women's and men's are
more tailored for customers aged 18-45. Fashion is subjective so there may still be people
that don't fit in that age range that will buy their product but they will take up a very
small percentage of sales, as the products are not marketed to them.
H&M has suppliers and buyers all around the world, which means they are
exposed to a great deal of currency risk. Out of their 3,610 stores in 2015, 2,714 of them
were located in Europe, which means that the bulk of their revenue is in euros. H&M’s
largest suppliers are located in Bangladesh, as well as China, India, and Turkey.
Having revenue in one currency and expenses in another creates large currency
risk. As long as the currency of your revenues is high and the currency of your expenses
is low there is benefit to operating across these different markets. But, when that is not
the case there could be a large problem because you are now earning less money as a
result of the decrease of the revenue currency and you are spending more because of the
increase of the expense currency. This can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
Being so spread out around the world, H&M is also largely affected by the many other
macroeconomic factors such as unemployment rates, interest rates, and average income
in each nation that they operate.
3. Social Cultural:
H&M has worked hard to eliminate the low levels of women participation in
economic issues by employing a greater amount of women in board positions and
throughout their offices than men. They believe that this will allow women to showcase
their ability in the fashion industry.
H&M has also began work with the International Labour Organization with aims
to provide better wages for their employees and ensure optimal working conditions. The
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