A few days ago Sherwin B. Nuland died. Some of you may know him as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling book How We Die, published in 1994. Nuland sought to dispel the popular myth that most deaths take place the way they do in the movies – a few poignant, funny or enigmatic last words, then the eyes closing and then a peaceful and swift slipping away. As a doctor Nuland knew that only a few have the good fortune to end like that, and he did not flinch to describe in detail what it is often really like. It is for the most part pretty much how the Buddha described it – dukkha, sometimes extreme dukkha. Nuland added to this that modern medicine sometimes actually adds to the dukkha by prolonging it. Only recently I read an article in the local newspaper about the death by cancer of a Singaporean personality. The writer commented approvingly that “she fought it to the last”. This unhelpful attitude, so widely promoted nowadays, is also a cause of a great deal of pain and suffering in the months or weeks leading to up to death. The old idea of having the wisdom of knowing when your time has come, accepting it, and letting the process take its course, doesn’t accord with the popular insistence of putting a positive spin on everything. Nuland wrote: “If the classical image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded, what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.” Nuland was 83 and he died of can prostate cancer. I hope it was for him a peaceful and easy end.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Just the other day someone gave me a book that proved to be yet another translation of the Dhammapada. On seeing it my first thought was: “Here we go! Probably another rehash of an earlier rehash.” I was tempted to put it aside and not even bother flicking through it. But the blurb on the back about the translator (Ph.D in Sanskrit from Harvard, associate professor of religion, and meditation teacher at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies) made me think that it might be worth at least a quick look. Recently I wrote a review of the truly awful - one couldn’t in all honestly call it a translation or even a rendering – a massacre might be a better description, by Tai Sheridan which is everything a Dhammapada shouldn’t be. See http://sdhammika.blogspot.sg/search?updated-max=2013-09-07T01:25:00-07:00&max-results=7&start=21&by-date=false
Glen Wallis’ Dhammapada; Verses on the Way, is not only everything this little Buddhist classic should be, I would go so far as to say it is the best Dhammapada presently available.
Someone once said poetry translated from another language is like a desired woman; if its beautiful its not faithful and if its faithful its not beautiful. Well, Wallis seems to have managed to achieve both. His translation has a cadence that reads exceptionally well, and given Pali’s stylistic and grammatical particularities this is quite an achievement. And just as important, it is as faithful to the original as you could want. At the end of the translation Wallis has just over 100 pages of notes, but don’t let this put you off. These notes include a learned but accessible account of the history, grammar and meaning of the Dhammapada and its place in Indian Buddhist literature. His comments on some of the similes and his numerous quotes from the suttas illuminate the verses in a way that really gives them depth and increased understanding. Of course one could quibble (and so I will). “Unbinding” seems to be a rather odd translation/rendering of nibbana. But such minor things are more than made up for his truly informative comments on other technical terms. See what he says about bodhi on page 135. From now on I think I will stop using the terms “enlightened” and “enlightened one” and switch to “awakened” and “awakened one” instead. If you want a 100% word-for-word accurate translation of the Dhammapada get K. R. Norman’s The Words of the Doctrine with its 174 pages of notes on grammar, syntax, consonant groups, variant readings, the eastern form of am, etc, and do your best to keep awake. If you want an accurate, readable translation with helpful notes that is true to the Buddha’s Dhamma get Wallis’ The Dhammapada; Verses on the Way. I couldn’t recommend it higher.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
The Indasala Cave was the setting for one of the Buddha’s most profound discourses, the Sakapanha Sutta (D.II,263). In the discourse the Buddha addresses Pancasikha who is playing his harp and Sakya, also known as Indra. The discourse must have been a popular one in ancient times given how many depictions of the cave with the Buddha in it and Pancasikha standing nearby have survived to today. The stone railing at Bodh Gaya, the oldest surviving Buddhist art (150 BCE ?), includes a depiction of the scene.
Following Cunningham, I located the Indasala Cave in 1986, included it in my 1992 book Middle Land Middle Way; A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Buddha’s India and since then pilgrim’s have started visiting the place again. But now a website called Nalanda Insatiable in Offering (from now on NIO) is claiming another location for the cave. Don’t let NIO’s strange name put you off; it is a carefully researched and informative resource on the lesser known sites associated with the Buddha. According to NIO the cave is actually on a hill named Pawati some 20 k north-east from Giriek at the very end of the Rajgir hills. I visited Pawati during one of my journeys through Bihar years ago but failed to see the cave. It is a rather attractive place but is its cave the Indasala? NIO’s claim is base mainly on the fact that Pawati a steep-sided hill rising suddenly out of the surrounding plain and Xuanzang’s account of his visit to the cave says that it was on the side of “an isolated hill”. NIO has followed Samual Beal’s 1884 pioneering but inaccurate translation of Xuanzang’s travelogue. Unfortunately, the original Chinese says nothing about the hill being “isolated”, as Li Rongxi’s more accurate translation of 1996 shows. This, I think undermines NIO’s claim and thus we can still consider the earlier (Cunningham’s and my own) identification to be the true Indasala Cave. So if the cave on Pawati Hill is not the Indasala what is it? According to Udana 39 there was another cave near Rajagaha called Kapotakandara, the Pigeon’s Cave. Now another word for pigeon in Pali/Sanskrit is paravata which becomes parawa in Hindi. I suspect that Pawati is a contraction of parawata and that the cave on Pawati Hill is actually the Pigeon’s Cave.
You can find the NIO website at
The top photo is of Pawati Hill and the second is of me in the Indasala Cave in 1986Below are some ancient depictions of the Buddha delivering the Sakapanha Sutta. The last sculpture has some wild animals charming over the rocks around the Indasala Cave; a delightful touch.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Almost everyone has fallen in love at one time or another, perhaps several times. So for most people “love” is that exciting and sublimely agitating urge for intimacy with another, felt vaguely in the area of the solar plexus. Discussions on love almost always include something about what is called erotic love, romantic love or amour, eros to the Greeks, kāma, lokassādare or rati in Buddhism. This is the love that makes the world go around, as the saying goes. It is the love that has inspired some of civilisation’s greatest literature, art and music. It is the love everyone longs to experience and hopes will last forever.
Falling in love as we understand the experience today was not very common during the Buddha’s time, any more than it was in other ancient cultures. The prelude to and purpose of marriage was not love. People married to preserve property and produce legitimate progeny, and therefore most marriages were arranged by parents. Young people were paired off soon after they reached sexual maturity so they had very little opportunity to fall in love. If love grew, it did so after the marriage. Despite this, sometimes young people did manage to fall in love with each other or sometimes those already married fell in love with someone other than their spouses. Illicit romantic and sexual relationships happened despite the lack of opportunities and strong social disapproval.
Today romantic love commonly blossoms quite suddenly. One person sees another, is immediately attracted and then falls in love with them. He or she then attempts to make contact with the person they desire in the hope of attracting their attention and getting to know them better. If things go as hoped and their interest is reciprocated, a romance will result. If shyness, insurmountable social differences or other barriers make close contact with the loved person impossible, they may secretly worship them from afar, pining for them and dreaming or fantasising about a relationship with them.
Of course, not all love start by suddenly “falling” into it; sometimes it grows slowly. The scriptures identify at least four stages in this gradual awakening. It begins with seeing (dassana), seeing leads to association (samsagga), association leads to intimacy (visāsa), and intimacy leads to amorousness (otāra, A.III,67). Romantic love can last for weeks or months, although if requited it will last much longer. But sooner or later, it either fades, sours into dislike, or becomes more settled and evolves into conjugal love.
Romantic love has all the defining characteristics of other types, although in a much more exaggerated and unruly form. Couples in love are intensely interested in each other; much of their time together is spent talking to each other about the minute details of their lives. They care about each other too, about each other’s happiness and well-being and particularly that the love they share continues and grows stronger. They empathise with each other, and in romance this is usually described as “two hearts beating as one”. Desire for intimacy is heightened. During the first flush of love, the couple involved can hardly bear to be out of each other’s sight and the desire for sexual intimacy often has a desperate, urgent quality to it. In fact, so closely is romantic love associated with sex that the physical act of sex is commonly called “making love”. In no other type of love is positive feeling so dominant, sometimes overwhelmingly so, although it is commonly punctuated by episodes of despair and distress, anxious longing and shattered hopes. Arguments followed by reconciliations, or separations ending in reunions, seem only to intensify the partners’ attachment to and longing for each other’s company. Sometimes couples will even create such situations so that they can savour the reconciliation. The scriptures say: “When a couple or a husband and wife frolic in private with romantic love they chide each other ‘Dear One, you don’t really love me; your heart is elsewhere’. They chide each other like this falsely so that they can then love each other more passionately” (Ja.VI,378).
The bliss of new love can be strong enough to affect a person’s appearance and behaviour. It can give them a smiling, dreamy, faraway look or a twinkle in their eyes. It can make them appear preoccupied and uninterested in normal activities or give them a spring in their steps, at least when their relationships are proceeding smoothly.
Apart from possessing the defining characteristics that all loves share, romantic love has its own unique features. It is initially triggered by visual contact. “Love goes to one who is seen, there is no attraction to one who is not seen” (Rāmāyaṇa V,26;39). Its primary focus is the body; for males the face, breasts and hips, and for females the face, shoulders and chest. Certain body shapes evoke more desire than others, depending on cultural norms, and some of these can be very peculiar. In China until the beginning of the 20th century, males found abnormally small female feet intensely erotic. Now most people would be revolted by such deformities. Only a hundred years ago in the West, a pale and pudgy was in, now tanned and slim is the fashion. In ancient India both men and woman were erotically aroused by what was called the tanuromaraji, the line of hair going from the pubis to the navel. Just how particularly romantic love can be about physical features is suggested by this description of female beauty from the scriptures. To be alluring to a man, a woman had to be “fifteen or sixteen, not too tall and not too short, not too thin and not too fat, not too dark and not too fair”. (M.I,88) The presence or absence of even small and otherwise insignificant features or details can make the difference between arousal and disinterest. The pathways of eroticism and romance are not always easy to fathom.
Another important feature of romantic love is its tendency to distort perception. Buddhist scriptures refer to being blinded (kāmandha), befuddled (kāmamatta) or intoxicated (kāmāsava) by love. A person in love sees everything about their beloved as exceptional. A young man might say of his beloved: “her hair is like silk”, “her teeth are like pearls”, or “her eyes sparkle like stars.” But when we observe her various body parts they do not seem to be significantly different from anybody else’s. People in love do not say things like this in flights of ecstasy; they really believe what they say. Love makes their eyes see things in a different if unrealistic light, which can lead to problems. When the wild passion fades as it inevitably must, and the loved one is seen with a more critical eye, disappointment can set in. What before was a cute or delightful quirk may become an annoyance. When one person is besotted by another who does not love them with equal passion or perhaps not at all, they can be open to being exploited by them. They might be asked for and gladly give expensive gifts, money and favours. The besotted person’s family and friends can see what is happening, that the love-struck is being taken advantage of, but they themself cannot see it. Romantic love can be, as they say, blind.
Most of all, romantic love seems to operate outside the will. The term “falling in love” is a very appropriate and descriptive one. As in actually tripping or being pushed and falling, you cannot stop until you hit the ground. A person does not choose or decide to fall in love; a surge of dopamine, oxytocin and other hormones in the system decides for them. The pull of romantic love and sexual delight, the promises they whisper in the ear, can be very hard to resist. Occasionally one of the Buddha’s monks would appear to be progressing well, developing calm and detachment, experiencing the joy of simplicity and silence. Then suddenly “he hears that in a particular village or town there are women or maidens fair to look upon, lovely, with the wondrous beauty of a lotus. When he hears this he loses heart, falters, cannot keep strong, and is unable to continue the training. Then he acknowledges his weakness, gives up the training and returns to the lay life”(A.III,90).
Abandoning the life of a celibate monk or nun for romance is one thing, but people sometimes take extraordinary risks or act with unbelievable irresponsibility because they are under the spell of sexual desire or romantic love. It is romantic love’s unruly, distorting and distracting qualities that made the Buddha very cautious of it, and of course he was by no means the only one. The Jains, Hindus, Stoics, Gnostics, and the early Christians all saw romantic entanglements as pulling one’s energy and attention away from more spiritual aspirations. Saint Paul said: “I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife” (1 Corinthians 7,1-35). Except for the reference to pleasing the Lord, the Buddha could have addressed these same words to his monks and nuns.
However the Buddha had a deep enough understanding of the human heart to know that despite the many tribulations romantic love could bring, it was also a source of great happiness and a real benediction. He often spoke of what he called “the satisfaction and the dangers (assādañ ca ādīnava) in sensual pleasure” (M.I,85), of which romance and sex were the most significant. And there is satisfaction in romantic love – the wonderful feeling of being cherished and having someone to cherish, the companionship, the fun, the exhilaration of sex and the delight of sharing things. It can also nourish virtues such as loyalty, giving, unselfishness and patience.
The Buddha was also realistic enough to understand that whatever he said most people would fall in love and probably wish to marry. Therefore he encouraged his lay disciples to be responsible in their intimate relationships. The third of the Five Precepts, the rules of behaviour that all Buddhists undertake to live by, is the vow “I take the Precept to avoid sexual misconduct”. Although this precept is primarily about sexual behaviour it overlaps with romantic love because the two are so closely connected. Wrong sexual behaviour was, the Buddha said, intercourse with those under the guardianship of their parents, i.e. under-aged; those protected by Dhamma, i.e. monastics or those who had taken a vow of celibacy; those already married; those undergoing punishment, i.e. prisoners; or those bedecked in garlands, i.e. already engaged to be married (A.V,264). This does not mean that one already married will never fall in love with such people but it would be wrong from the Buddhist perspective to encourage and pursue such feelings. Romantic love should not be confused with dalliance (nandi or kāmarāga). There can be sex without love just as there can be love without sex. Some people have a strong appetite for sexual gratification and little or no interest in emotional involvement or long-term commitment. They may pretend to be emotionally attached to someone but only as a strategy to get more sex. The Buddha called this sort of thing “sport” (dava), perhaps similar to the Greek ludus, and is what we are talking about when we say that a particular person “sees love as a game.”
Monday, February 3, 2014
Over the next few weeks I am going to talk about love, a project not as easy as it might seem. Because although love is often talked about, eagerly professed, praised, and said to be the solution to many, sometimes to all, problems, there is no consensus as to exactly what it is. It is quite normal to speak of true love, puppy love, hard love, love at first sight, the love that dares not speak its name, platonic love, unrequited love, love-hate relationships, universal love and love with open eyes. Psychologists refer to “love styles” or “bond varieties”. We also have many words and phrases for those mind states that are not love but which hover around its edges - affection, fondness, warm feelings, kind regard, closeness, liking, devotion and so on. The Buddhist scriptures contain numerous words for love such as ādara, atthakāma, dalhabhatti, hita, kāma, lokassādara, manāpa, matteyya, mettā, paṭibaddhacitta, paṭisanthāra, pema, petteyya, piya, sambhajeyya, sampiya, siniddha, sineha and vissāsa. Some of these words are synonyms, while some refer to distinct types of love. Although it is not always easy to find exact English equivalents for them, others can be identified with certainty. For example paṭibaddhacitta means infatuation, petteyya is love of one’s father, kāma is erotic or sensual love, and vissāsa means innocent trusting love, such as small children have. However, the most widely known Buddhist word for love is mettā, Sanskrit maitrī. Okay! So what is maitrī? It is usually translated as universal love or loving-kindness, i.e. a love that is undiscriminating and free from clinging and attachment. The Culla Niddesa defines mettā like this: “Mettā means having a friendly nature and behaving with friendliness.” Buddhaghosa was being more specific when he wrote: “Mettā is characterised as promoting the welfare of others and its function is to focus on their welfare. It manifests as the removal of annoyance and its proximate cause is seeing the lovable nature of beings. It succeeds when it makes ill-will subside and it fails when it gives rise to clinging attachment.”(Visudhimagga 318).
Personally, I think the best definition of mettā comes, not from the Buddhist tradition, but from the Bible. In his epistle to the Corinthians St. Paul used the Greek word agape, which is usually rendered as charity or love or sometimes brotherly love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” This passage is not just beautifully written but accurately descriptive. What Christianity calls agape would be the same as what Buddhists call mettā. This is more than a happy coincidence; it could act as a meeting point between the two religions.
In the next post I will look at other aspects of love.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
In my previous post I discussed the notion of collective kamma. I maintained that the idea is not mentioned in any classical Buddhist literature. However, at least one story from pre-modern times that I know of could be interpreted to imply collective kamma - a story about the Sakyans, the Buddha’s kinsmen. Viduudabha, the King of Kosala, massacred “all the Sakyans” including even “the suckling babes”, and they suffered this fate supposedly because “the Sakyans” had sometime previously poisoned a river in a dispute over water (Ja.IV,152). In reality, only a few Sakyans could have committed this evil deed, and although the Sakyan chiefs may have authorized it and a number of others may have approved of it, the majority, particularly the babies and children, would have had nothing at all to do with it. Thus the collective kamma idea is implicit in this story. How are we to explain this?
The story is not in the Tipitaka but comes from the Paccuppannavanna of the Jataka, a text of uncertain but late date. Some scholars consider it to have been composed in Sri Lankan rather than India. But whoever the author was it seems likely that he was just storytelling, rather than positing the idea of collective kamma as a specific doctrine. The fact that no later commentators took the story as a cue to develop the idea of collective kamma strengthens this assumption. Also, another retelling of the story, from the Mahavamsa Tika, says that there were survivors of the massacre, thus undermining that claim that “all Sakyans” suffered the negative vipaka of the kamma created by others.
That version of collective kamma which maintains that the consequences of deeds done by some within a group can be experienced by others within the same group, contradicts one of the most fundamental Buddhist concepts, that each individual is responsible for themselves.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
In recent decades something referred to as collective kamma or group kamma has been posited and discussed. According to this theory, groups of people or even whole nations can supposedly suffer the results (positive collective kamma never seems to be discussed, its always negative kamma). The revered Tibetan master Lati Rimpoche recently claimed that the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was the result of great wickedness they had all committed in previous lives. Others have claimed that the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge was likewise kammic retribution for past evil done by the Cambodian people.
Nothing like the idea of collective kamma is found in or even hinted at in the Buddha’s teachings. There is no Pali or Sanskrit words for collective kamma in the traditional lexicons. The idea is also absent from later Buddhist texts. In his Abhidharmakosabhasya Vasubhandu has a comment that could be interpreted as suggesting something like collective kamma. He says: “When many persons are united with the intention to kill, either in war, or in the hunt, or in banditry, who is guilty of murder, if only one of them kills? As soldiers, etc., concur in the realization of the same effect, all are as guilty as is the one who kills. Having a common goal, all are guilty just as he who among them kills, for all mutually incite one another, not through speech, but by the very fact that they are united together in order to kill. But is the person who has been constrained through force to join the army also guilty? Evidently so, unless he has formed the resolution: ‘Even in order to save my life, I shall not kill a living being’.” (Vasubandhu, Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya. Vol.1, translation by Leo M. Pruden 1991.
Let us consider Vasubhandu’s words carefully. All the persons mentioned in this example would have come together with a common negative purpose and thus would have all made some negative kamma, as Vasubhandu correctly says. However, the nature and intensity of their individual intentions may well have varied. Some might have been enthusiastic about what was planned, others less so, one or two may have had serious reservations. Further, the kammic background of each person would have been different. One could have been a hardened criminal who had committed many crimes before. Another might have been a novice in crime, while a third might have been basically good but weak and easily led into evil by his friends. With such a variety of motives and backgrounds how each member of the gang would have felt and acted subsequent to their crime is likely to have been just as diverse, ranging all the way from cruel satisfaction, to cold indifference, to regret.
Taking all these quite plausible and even likely differences into consideration, it is only realistic to imagine that the vipaka of each person in the group would be of very different strength and that it would manifest at different times and in very different ways. Thus a second look at this passage will show that it is not suggesting collective kamma.
The earliest unambiguous mention of collective kamma that I have been able to find is in the eclectic and highly dubious writings of the occultist Helena Blavatsky (d.1891). In her The Key to Theosophy, 1889, Blavatsky make reference to what she called “National Karma”. The idea seems to have subsequently been taken up by various believers in the occult, then absorbed into New Age thinking, from where it has spread to Buddhism. It is surprising how many Buddhist teacher, learned and otherwise, speak of collective kamma as if it were a part of authentic Dhamma, despite its recent origin and it having no precedence in traditional Buddhism.
Nonetheless, it could be argued that just because collective kamma is not mentioned in any Buddhist scriptures does not mean that it is not a reality. After all, Buddhism does not have an exclusive claim to all truth. Perhaps Madam Blavatsky had insights into kamma that the Buddha or later Buddhist masters lacked. So it will be worthwhile to examine the idea of collective kamma more carefully to see if it has any validity.
There are various versions of the collective kamma idea. One maintains that large numbers of people can be reborn into a particular group which then suffers together because of their shared negitive kamma. Another versions of the idea maintains that a large number of innocent individuals belonging to a group can suffer the negative kamma made by a smaller number of individuals within the group. In both cases the suffering supposedly comes in the form of war, famine, plague, massive natural disasters, etc. The most recent mass tragedy to be dubbed an example of collective kamma was the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In the days immediately after this disaster a senior Singaporean monk was reported in the local newspaper as saying that most of the tsunami victims were fishermen suffering the kammic consequences of decades of killing fish.
There are numerous logical, evidential, doctrinal and even commonsense problems with the collective kamma idea in any of its forms. Let us examine some of them. Proponents of collective kamma are long on generalizations but noticeably short on details. How, for example, does kamma organize all its mass causes and effects? How and in what form does it store and process all the data needed so that one individual experiences this kammic consequence and another one experiences that? How do the logistics needed to guarantee that a large number of individuals are reborn at this time, within that group and at a certain location so as to experience the required suffering work? And what is the force or energy by which kamma makes all these extraordinarily complex arrangements? No explanations are forthcoming.
If we explore specific examples of what is claimed to be collective kamma we will see just how problematic the idea is. Let us look at the monstrous crimes the Nazis committed against European Jewry during the Second World War. If some form of collective kamma operates something like this would have be necessary. Kamma would have had to manipulate things so that six million evil-doers were reborn in what was to become Nazi occupied Europe and be living there between 1939 and 1945. Then it would have had to pre-plan and arrange the social and political situation in Germany so that a fanatical anti-Semite came to power. Concordant to this it would have been necessary to select millions of other people to be reborn in Germany with attitudes and outlooks that either supported Nazism, or were too apathetic or to frightened to oppose it. And when the required six million Jews had suffered sufficiently for their past evil deeds, kamma would have had to then arrange and manipulate innumerable complex causes and effects in such ways that the war ended. Kamma must be as powerful and as intelligent as any supreme being!
Let us examine the 2004 tsunami, another event often sited as an example of collective kamma. The tsunami killed some 200,000 people, injured another million and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless. Even the most ill-informed person knows that the directly observable cause of the tsunami was an earthquake that shifted the tectonic plates on the floor of the ocean off the coast of Sumatra. This released a vast amount of energy which in turn caused huge waves to form. For this to be collective kamma it would require several things. As with the Holocaust, kamma would have had to pre-plan things so that vast numbers of people were in the effected area, either because they were reborn there and lived there, or that they were visiting the area at the chosen time, i.e. in the late morning of the 26th December. Extraordinarily, amidst the chaos of the deluge, the panic, the collapsing buildings and the debris being swept along, kamma would have had to arrange things so that the thousands of victims involved got their exact kammic retribution, no more and no less – so that those whose kamma required them to be killed were killed, that those whose kamma required them to be seriously injured were so injured, that those who only had to sustain minor injuries did so, and those whose kamma required only that their houses be destroyed suffered only that loss, and so on. But even more extraordinary, for kamma to be responsible for the tsunami would require accepting that it is able to influence the Earth’s tectonic plates so that they moved to just the right extent and at just the right time so that the resulting waves play out thousands of people’s kamma. Apart from stretching credibility beyond breaking point, I reject the idea of collective kamma because if such a thing existed the Buddha would have mentioned it. And he does not.