AN INTRODUCTION TO ABHIDHAMMA
(Given at Zen Center, San Francisco)
Today’s subject is I think an interesting one and an important subject. Today's subject is Kamma. The spelling of the word in PÈÄi is K-A-M-M-A. The same word in Sanskrit is Karma. They mean the same thing, If you prefer Sanskrit, it should be Karma. In PÈÄi the conjunct consonants are assimilated or simplified. So ‘r’ and ‘m’ become ‘mm’.
What is Kamma? The word ‘Kamma’ has become a household word nowadays even in the West. Even non-Buddhists use this word. What is Kamma? Kamma is explained as an action or a deed. Basically the word ‘Kamma’ means work, or a job, or action, or deed. In the sense used here it means some cause that produces results. Kamma is defined as that by which actions are done or through which actions are done. That means not the actions themselves, or the deeds themselves are called ‘Kamma’ strictly speaking. Whenever we do something there arises in our minds a type of consciousness and that type of consciousness is accompanied by what we call volition (CetanÈ). That CetanÈ is what is called Kamma in this case.
Buddha explicitly said, “Volition or CetanÈ I call Kamma. Through volition one performs the action by body, by speech or by word.” The actions are divided into three –those done by body, those done by speech and those done by mind only. Whatever action we do there arises in our mind a type of consciousness that is either wholesome or unwholesome. That type of consciousness is accompanied by volition (CetanÈ). That CetanÈ is what we call Kamma.
Popularly we say ‘Kamma’ means action. ‘Kamma’ means good or bad deeds. Strictly speaking Kamma is the volition in our minds. Technically Kamma is the volition associated with the twelve unwholesome Cittas and so on.
I think you remember that CetanÈ accompanies every type of consciousness. CetanÈ is concomitant with all 89 or 121 types of consciousness. That means whenever a type of consciousness arises CetanÈ is also with it. However CetanÈ accompanying all types of consciousness is not called Kamma. Only CetanÈ that accompanies wholesome and unwholesome types of consciousness is called Kamma. There are twelve types of unwholesome consciousness and eight beautiful wholesome sense-sphere consciousness. Then there are five form-sphere Kusala Cittas and four formless-sphere Kusala Cittas. So how many do we have? 29. CetanÈ accompanying these 29 types of consciousness is called Kamma.
This Kamma is what is described as Sa~khÈra in the teaching of Dependent Origination. In the Dependent Origination we have twelve links. The first link is ignorance. What is the second link in the Dependent Origination? The second link is called mental formations. ‘Mental formations’ really means Kamma here. It is this Kamnma which produces results in this life or in future lives. CetanÈ accompanying these 29 types of consciousness is what we call Kamma.
In some Suttas some mental factors associated with volition (volition) are also called Kamma. If you want to read further, please, read the Expositor page 117. For the sake of convenience let us take it that CetanÈ is what is called Kamma. Let us forget the other Cetasikas that are associated with CetanÈ or volition being called Kamma.
CetanÈ is one of the 52 Cetasikas. It is different from other Cetasikas. Cetasika means mental factor or mental state. So it arises and disappears. CetanÈ also arises and disappears. CetanÈ is different from other Cetasikas because when it disappears it leaves the potential to give results in the continuity of beings. It leaves something
behind, some power, some ability to give results. When it disappears, it does not disappear altogether. It leaves some kind of potential to give results in the future. This potential or we can just call it Kamma is something like an investment. It is in store for us. Sometimes in our lives we do good Kamma and sometimes we do bad Kamma. So this Kamma is in store for us.
This Kamma or the potential to give results really gives results when conditions are favorable. When the conditions are not favorable for it to give results, then it will not give results at that time or at that location. But when the necessary conditions are met with, then Kamma or this potential gives results.
Although it is said that this potential is left by CetanÈ, when that CetanÈ disappears, we cannot say where Kamma is located, where it is stored. People often ask where Kamma is stored. It is not a modern question. King Milinda about five hundred years after the death of the Buddha asked the same question of the Venerable NÈgasena. He asked: “People do good deeds and bad deeds” or he said: “NÈmar|pa (mind and matter) do good deeds and bad deeds. Can you point out those and say they are here, they are there?’ “The Venerable NÈgasena said: “No. We cannot point out that Kamma is stored here or there.”
King Milinda was very fond of similes. So he said: “Please give me a simile.” Venerable NÈgasena said: “It is like fruit and trees. We cannot point out that fruit is stored in the roots, or in the branches, or whatever, but when the necessary conditions are fulfilled–when there is sunshine, when it is the season, when it gets moisture and so on–then the tree bears fruit. It becomes fruitful. But we cannot say fruits are stored here or there in the tree. In the same way it is impossible to say Kamma is stored here
or there.” But it Is stored and it is waiting to give results as soon as the conditions are favorable for it whether it is good Kamma or bad Kamma.
If you have a book called Milinda's Questions, you may read that book. It is a very interesting book. It contains questions and answers, very difficult questions to answer. There are two English translations. One was made by Rhys Davids a long time ago, The Questions of King Milinda. Then I. B. Horner did a new translation. She named it Milinda's Questions. There are two volumes. (Very recently a book has been published called The Debate of King Milinda by Bhikkhu Pesala.)
What is Kamma? Kamma is volition or volition is Kamma. Sometimes some other mental factors arising together with volition are called Kamma. Kamma has the potential to give results in the future. We do not know where this Kamma is stored in our continuity, but it is somewhere.
What Kamma is not–when writing or speaking about Kamma, many people say different things about Kamma. Some say Kamma means both cause and effect. In this case technically speaking and in the Buddha's teachings Kamma is not the results but the cause. Although in popular speech we use the word ‘Kamma’ to mean its result, this is not correct strictly speaking.
If something good happens to you, you may say, “It is my good Kamma,” or if something bad happens you may say, “This is my bad Kamma.” People often say this. Actually it is not good or bad Kamma. It is the result of good or bad Kamma. If you are lucky and win the lottery you say, “It is my good Kamma.” Actually it is the result of your good Kamma. In popular speech we use Kamma to mean the results sometimes. Technically Kamma is never a
result but just the cause.
Even in our texts sometimes Kamma is used in the sense of results of Kamma. There is a verse in the Dhammapada: “Not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in the mountain cave is found a place on earth where abiding, one may escape from evil Kamma.”
In PÈÄi the word PÈpakamma (evil Kamma) is used. It really means from the consequences of evil Kamma. We will come to that in a moment. So in popular speech we may use Kamma to mean results. However technically Kamma never means results but the cause. People often ask whether Kamma is fate or predestination. My answer is that to some extent it seems to be. Many authors say it is not fate nor predestination. Maybe they mean it is not fate nor predestination in the Christian sense. It is not fate or predestination imposed upon us by an external agent or something. But when we read stories in Buddhist literature we cannot avoid thinking that Kamma is something like fate or predestination. Kamma may be to some extent predestination, but not imposed by any person or any agent. It is just a natural law. We will come to that later.
There is a book called Buddhist Legends. That book is a translation of the Commentary to the Dhammapada. The Dhammapada is a collection of verses only. The Commentary gives us stories leading up to the utterance of these verses by the Buddha. The Dhammapada contains mostly contemporary stories, stories or occurrences during the time of the Buddha, unlike the JÈtaka stories. JÈtaka stories are those that occurred long before Buddha came to the present world. Many stories are given there.
There are three stories given in connection with the verse given above. “Not in the sky” is one story. “Nor in mid-ocean”
is another story. “Nor in a mountain cave” is another story. So. there are three stories. I will only tell one story, the last one.
SayÈdaw: No. Buddhist Legends was published by Harvard University. It is in the Harvard Oriental Series. There are three volumes. Venerable NÈrada gives a very short account like a synopsis of the stories.
Once there were seven cowherds, boys. They used to tend cows. When they returned to their place, they saw a large lizard. They ran after the lizard in order to catch it. The lizard was quicker than the boys and went into an anthill. It is said that there were seven holes in the anthill. The boys decided that they could not catch the lizard on that day. They decided that they would catch it the next day. They closed the holes in the anthill so that the lizard was kept inside.
The next day they went to another place with the cows. They forgot about the lizard. On the seventh day they came back and saw the ant-hill. Then they remembered. They said, “What has become of the lizard there?” They removed the obstructions from the holes. The lizard had not eaten for seven days. In the books it says that the lizard was just skin and bones. It came out and when it came out, the boys had pity on it. They said, “We should not kill this lizard. It has suffered a lot. It has not eaten for seven days.” So they let it go.
In that Kamma they did not kill the lizard, but they imprisoned him. So from that life they died. They were reborn here and there. During the time of the Buddha they were seven monks. One day they went to see the Buddha. When they reached the monastery, they were given a cave in which to stay for the night or for as long as they
were there. There were seven beds in the cave. When the monks arrived, the cave was assigned to them. They slept in the cave. During the night a big rock, as big as a St|pa, fell down and blocked the entrance to the cave. So they could not get out. The monks outside with lay people tried to remove the big rock, but they could not. It went on for seven days. On the seventh day the rock rolled by itself. And so the cave was open again and the monks could come out. They asked the Buddha about this and the Buddha related this story; “Since you did not kill the lizard when you were boys, you did not suffer in hell, but for 14 consecutive existences you were without food for seven days.” The consequences of bad Kamma here cannot be escaped. It follows the man like the wheel following a draft-ox or like a shadow. So it is something like predestination that they are to be in that cave at that time and that the big rock was to fall and block the cave, and then on the seventh day the rock was to roll by itself and the monks came out again. It is something like fate or predestination. Therefore I think that Kamma is to some extent predestination. However not everything we experience in this life is the result of Kamma. We will come to that later.
Is there such a thing as mass Kamma? The Venerable ©ÈÓatiloka, a German Buddhist monk, said: “There is no such thing as mass Kamma.” However there are stories which would suggest that there is mass Kamma. Actually there is no mass Kamma. There is Kamma of individuals ripening at the same time at the same place. There is no ripening of mass Kamma effecting individuals collectively, no one Kamma effecting a group of people. Sometimes people do something together and so the effect of these actions they get together. In this way we could say there is something like a mass Kamma, but actually there is no mass Kamma. There is individual Kamma giving results at the same time
and at the same place. ~ There are stories about this. one is the story of the destruction of the Buddha's relatives at the hands of ViÉ|Éabha. ViÉ|Éabha was the son of a slave girl and a Sakyan prince. It is said that those of the Sakyan clan were very proud. One day the son went to pay homage to his grandfather out of politeness. When he left the Sakyans washed the place with milk because the son of a slave had been there. In their view the place was polluted or something like that. You know the caste system in India. It happened that a man of the Prince ViÉ|Éabha went back to get something which he had left behind. So he heard about this and told ViÉ|Éabha. So ViÉ|Éabha knew he was the son of a slave girl and a Sakyan prince. Now he had a grudge against the Sakyan people. When he became king, he decided to kill all the Sakyan people.
He had a great army. He went out of the city with the army. Buddha wanted to protect his relatives. So the Buddha went out and sat under a tree which did not have good shade and the sun was shining. When ViÉ|Éabha came to the Buddha, he asked, “Why are you under such a small tree that does not cover all of you?” The Buddha said, “The shade of relatives is cooler than the shade of a big tree.” So ViÉ|Éabha got the hint that Buddha wanted him to spare his relatives. He went back to the city.
The next time he remembered the humiliation or insult, he got the army ready and went out again. The Buddha intervened again. Three times the Buddha tried to avert this danger. On the fourth time he saw that he could not do anything for his relatives. The Kamma that they did in the past was about to give results at that time. Nobody can interfere with the working of Kamma. The fourth time the Buddha did not go out.
ViÉ|Éabha went out and killed almost all the Sakyan people. It is said in the books that blood flowed like a river. After killing the Sakyans the army rested in a dry river bed. As they were sleeping that night very heavy rains came and a ‘flood took away all these people together with ViÉ|Éabha to the sea. There they became food of crocodiles, fish and others.
After the Sakyans died, the monks came to Buddha and said that it was not fair that Sakyans had to die in this way. Buddha said that if you look at this life only it would be unfair for them to die this way. However they got what they deserved because they did something in the past, In the past all of them conspired together and threw poison in the water. This is the result of their Kamma. They suffer the result of Kamma at the same time. The Kamma of each one gives results to that particular person. It is not one Kamma or a mass Kamma.
The second one is the story of SÈmÈvatÊ being burned with 500 women. SÈmÈvatÊ was a queen of a certain king. She was very dear to him. There was another queen who was jealous. One day Queen SÈmÈvatÊ with 500 women were burned when they were in the palace. The people bolted the doors and set fire to the building. So they burned with the building.
When the monks asked Buddha about this incident, Buddha said that they also got what they deserved as a result of what they did in the past. In the past they were queens of a certain king also. At that time eight Pacceka Buddhas (private or silent Buddhas)–they are between Buddhas and Arahants, higher than Arahants but lower than Buddhas–came to eat in the king's garden. Seven went back and one remained there. After eating he got into SamÈpatti attainment to enjoy the bliss of liberation. He went to a place where there was a
heap of straw and sat on it and went into JhÈna attainment. At that time the women were in the river playing with water. They were cold and wanted to warm themselves. They thought it was just a heap of straw. They set fire to the heap of straw in order to warm themselves. After some time they saw the monk, the Pacceka Buddha, sitting there. So they thought: “We have set fire to the monk. If the king knows this, we shall all be killed. So let us put some more straw and wood on it so that nobody knows.” They put some more wood on the heap and set fire to it. Then they left. That was the Kamma they did. As a result of that Kamma in the present life they were burned alive in the building. That also they suffered together because they did the Kamma together in the past.
The third one is about Prince Bodhi. The story of him is in the Majjhima NikÈya, the book of Middle Length Sayings, in the 85th Sutta of that NikÈya. There was a prince, Prince Bodhi. He invited the Buddha for alms one day. Before the Buddha came he spread a white cloth on the staircase. When the Buddha came, he invited him to step on the white cloth. The Buddha just stopped there and did not step on the cloth. He asked the Buddha to step on the white cloth three times. Buddha did not say anything, but he looked at Venerable Œnanda, his attendant. Venerable Œnanda knew Buddha would not step on the white cloth. So he said, “Prince, remove the cloth. Buddha will not step on this cloth.” He removed the cloth and Buddha went. The prince asked some questions and Buddha gave him a sermon.
The Commentaries explain why Buddha did not step on the white cloth. The prince did not have children. He wanted offspring. He thought, “If I do something good, I may get my wish for offspring.” So he decided to give alms to the Buddha. Also he made something like a wish in his mind that if I am to get a son, Buddha will step on the white cloth; if I will not get a son, then the Buddha will not step on the
white cloth. That prince had no children. He wanted offspring. If I do something good, I may get my wish for offspring–this was his thinking. So he decided to give alms to the Buddha. Also he made something like a wish in his mind that I am to get a son if the Buddha steps on the white cloth. If I will not get a son, then the Buddha will not step on that white cloth. With that in mind he asked the Buddha to step on it and the Buddha refused. This was because the Buddha saw that he was not going to have any offspring-in that life. In a past life both he and his wife were stranded on an island. Since there was nothing else there, they killed young birds and ate them. As a result of that in this life they were without offspring. It is said in the Commentaries that if one of them did not kill the birds, then they would have gotten a child. Both of them agreed with each other and killed the birds and ate them. As a result of that Kamma they were without a child. Two people doing the same bad Kamma together suffered the results of doing that bad Kamma together in this life. So there is something like mass Kamma but it is not one Kamma effecting many people. It is each Kamma effecting each person.
Now we come to the law of Kamma. The Law of Kamma is an important teaching in the Buddha's teachings. Before we study the Law of Kamma we should study Subha's questions and the Buddha's answers because this Sutta explains the inequality in human beings or in beings in general.
Once a Brahmin youth named Subha came to the Buddha and asked why some people although they are human beings are short-lived and some long-lived and so on. He wanted to know why some people although they were equal as human beings, why some lived long and others died young; why some people are sickly or always ill and others are healthy and so on. He asked the Buddha this question.
Buddha said: “Oh Brahmin youth, beings have Kamma as their own property. They are heirs of their Kamma. They have Kamma as their progenitor. Kamma is their kin. Kamma is their homing-place. It is Kamma that differentiates beings according to inferiority and superiority.” Buddha gave him a brief answer. Subha said: “I don't understand fully what you said."
Then the Buddha explained to him in detail. What he asked was why are people although they are equal as human beings, some live longer and some live shorter lives. The answer is that people are short-lived because they killed beings in the past. People are long-lived or live longer lives because they refrained from killing in the past. Killing causes short life and refraining from killing causes long life. Some are sickly because they persecuted beings and some are healthy because they refrained from persecuting beings.
Some people are ugly because they were resentful. ‘That means that they got angry very easily. Some are beautiful because they were not resentful. That means they avoid anger. Anger makes people ugly. That is true. I always say to people, “If you are angry, look at yourself in a mirror. You will see how ugly you are when you are angry and then it will dissolve when you look at yourself in a mirror."
Some people are not important nor influential persons and some people are significant and important persons. They are so because they we-re envious or they refrained from being envious. Those people who are envious become insignificant beings and those people who avoid envy become influential persons.
There are poor people and rich people. Poor people did not practice giving in the past. Rich people are those who practiced giving in the past, Giving is the first step in the practice, of Buddha's teachings. Giving makes the mind soft. If a person is not going to
get enlightenment in this life, the practice of giving is very helpful. Those who give are born rich or are born at least as well-to-do persons, and so they don't have to worry about their living. Also when people are well-to-do the circumstances are favorable for them to avoid evil deeds.
Some are low-born because they were haughty or they were proud. Some are high-born because they were not haughty or they were humble. Some are stupid because they did not ask questions. Some are wise because they asked questions. So I always say that Americans will be wise persons in their next lives because they ask many questions.
This is the answer given by the Buddha as to why people are not equal although they are equal as human beings. This is why some live long and some live short life and so on. The explanation is that they have different Kammas. Some people kill beings; so they will be reborn in hell for many years. After escaping from hell they will be reborn as human beings. When they are reborn as human beings, they will have a short life. Those who refrain from killing will not go to hell or the woeful states. When they are reborn as human beings, they will live long and so on. This is the explanation of inequality let us say in human beings. This is the answer given by Buddhism as to why people are not equal or the same. Venerable NÈgasena gave the same answer to King Milinda when he asked this same question. If you want to read Milinda's Questions, please read part one, page 89.
This Law of Kamma is the law of cause and effect. Where there is cause there is effect. No effect comes into being without a cause. It is the law of action and reaction. Nothing comes out of nothing according to this law.
It is a natural law. That is why it does not need a law-maker or law-giver. Nobody makes this law. It is a natural law like the
law of gravitation. Since it is a natural law, nobody can interfere with the working of Kamma. Buddha could not really save his relatives from being killed by ViÉ|Éabha. So it is a natural law and operates in its own field without the intervention of an external, independent, ruling agency. There is no law-giver although there is law. There is the natural law, but nobody including the Buddha can intervene in the operation of Kamma.
Understanding the Law of Kamma is one aspect of Right Understanding. We are encouraged to follow or practice the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path consists of eight factors. One of the factors mentioned there is Right Understanding. Right Understanding has different levels. The highest stage is at the stage of enlightenment, understanding the Four Noble Truths and the Right Understanding of NibbÈna. On the lower level the understanding of the Law of Kamma or the belief in the Law of Kamma is called Right Understanding. It is important for Buddhists. All Buddhists must have this understanding of the Law of Kamma.
Understanding of Kamma alone as one's own property in PÈÄi we call Kammassaka. Beings have Kamma as their property and nothing else. Whatever we suffer or enjoy in this life is the result of Kamma. However not everything that we experience or that happens to us is caused by Kamma.
Is everything due to Kamma? In the Buddhist Dictionary Venerable ©ÈÓatiloka again wrote, “Totally wrong is the belief that according to Buddhism everything is the result of previous action. Never for example is any Kammically wholesome or unwholesome volitional action the result of former action, being in reality itself Kamma.”
Student: I don't understand this.
SayÈdaw: “Never is any Kammically wholesome or unwholesome volitional
action the result of former action.” Any Kammically wholesome or unwholesome action is not the result of former action. It is the action itself. You have studied the types of consciousness. There are types of consciousness which are called resultants. The resultant consciousnesses are the results of Kamma. Others are not the results of Kamma. Wholesome consciousnesses, unwholesome consciousnesses, and also functional consciousnesses are not the results of Kamma. Not everything is due to Kamma. Not everything is caused by Kamma.
Let us say we see something desirable. That seeing consciousness is caused by Kamma. It is the result of Kamma. But our reaction to that seeing or to that object is not caused by Kamma. It is really the Kamma we accumulate. We perform a new Kamma. Our reaction to that object is not caused by Kamma although the seeing of that object is caused by Kamma. Not everything is due to Kamma.
Student: How is it caused by Kamma?
SayÈdaw: Seeing consciousness arises in your mind. That is the result of Kamma. When you see a desirable object, that is the result of good Kamma. When you see an undesirable object, that is the result of bad Kamma in the past.
Student: Seeing a jewel or a flower is the result of good Kamma?
Student: A person should appreciate the beauty? I'm not really clear on that. I know I hear what you are saying.
SayÈdaw: Seeing let us say a beautiful rose is the result of good Kamma.
Student: I don't understand exactly that part.
SayÈdaw: You did something good in the past and you get the result of that Kamma here. The rose is not the result of your Kamma. The
rose is a natural thing. It is inanimate. That you come across this rose, that you see this rose is the result of Kamma.
Student: But my appreciation . . .
SayÈdaw: ‘Appreciation’ can mean either Kusala or Akusala. If you have attachment to the rose, then your reaction is Akusala. It is not the result. Your reaction should be to see the true nature of things, that it is going to wither away, that it is impermanent and so on. Then you don't get attached to it. Then your reaction is Kusala.
Student: Then the admiration or appreciation of the object or person that is beautiful is what?
SayÈdaw: That appreciation can be either Kusala or Akusala. ‘Appreciation’ really means that you like something. So that liking is a kind of Lobha, a kind of attachment. It may not be a strong attachment. Still it is attachment. It may not give bad results in the woeful states but still it is Akusala. For example when you eat with attachment that is Akusala. Whatever things you come across in this life, whether they are good or bad, are the results of Kamma in the past. Your reaction is new Kamma that you do in this life. That is why I say that not everything is due to Kamma.
Student: Kamma is one's reaction to what is desirable?
SayÈdaw: Yes–to the objects whether desirable or undesirable. Not everything is the result of previous action. Wholesome and unwholesome actions are not the results of previous actions because they themselves are Kamma.
Who is the doer of Kamma? Who experiences the results of Kamma? These are very difficult questions to answer because Buddhism does not accept ‘person', or ‘being', or ‘Œtman'. But we say that if you do good
deeds here, then you will get good results in the future. We say you get good results now because you did good deeds in the past.
Student: Excuse me. Buddhism does not accept the continuity of an entity. Who does the Kamma? Who experiences the Kamma? If there is not continuity of an entity, who creates and experiences Kamma and its results?
SayÈdaw: No. It is you who creates Kamma. You create Kamma. You do Kamma.
Student: Did I understand correctly that in Buddhism there is no continuity of existence? There is no entity? Did I understand you?
SayÈdaw: I explained this last week when I talked about the death and relinking consciousness, the thought process. Buddhism accepts identity as well as diversity. There is continuity but no:~ identical mind and matter existing for a long time. At every moment new mind and matter arise and disappear. The next moment there is a new pair of mind and matter and so on. There is something like a continuity, but they are not identical. Nothing from this moment is taken over or goes over to another moment. That is how Buddhism accepts beings, rebirth and so on.
In the ultimate analysis there is no doer of Kamma or no experiencer of results. “He sees no doer over and above the doing, no experiencer of the result over and above the occurrence of the result.” ‘He’ means a yogi, a practitioner of VipassanÈ meditation. When you practice VipassanÈ meditation and you reach that stage of VipassanÈ knowledge, then you see no doer above or apart from the doing. Apart from doing there is no one we can call a doer. Apart from the occurrence or the arising of result there is no one who experiences the result. That is true in the ultimate sense. But in the conventional sense we have to say we do say for example that
I get the good results of good Kamma in the past or the bad results of bad Kamma in the past. In the ultimate analysis we cannot find any doer or experiencer apart from the action of doing and the occurrence of the results. “He sees clearly with wise understanding that the wise say ‘doer’ when there is doing and 'experiencer' when there is experiencing simply as a mode of common usage". For convenience of usage we say ‘I get the results of’ or ‘I experience the results of past Kamma’, or ‘I am the doer of this Kamma’, or ‘I am the enjoyer or sufferer of the past Kamma”. But there is no doer or no one who reaches the result of the good or bad Kamma. “There is no doer of a deed or one who reaps the deed's results. Phenomena alone go on.” ‘Phenomena’ means mind and matter. Just mind and matter go on and on. “No other view than this is right."
Kamma and its results are two different things. This is also very important. Kamma is one thing and result is another. Although they are connected as Kamma and result, Kamma does not exist in the result and result does not exist in Kamma.
We must be very clear about this because in one system of Hindu philosophy, the SaÑkhya system, which believes that the effect already exists in the cause in an unmanifested form. When we say the result arises, we just mean that it manifests itself at that moment. According to that philosophy the effect already exists in the cause. At the moment of cause it is not manifest. We do not really see it, but when it becomes an effect we see it clearly. The effect is existent in the cause in an unmanifest form. When it becomes a result, it is manifested. This is the teaching of SaÑkhya philosophy.
Buddhism denies that. Buddhism teaches Kamma is one thing and result (Kamma-VipÈka) is another. They are not completely disconnected. They are connected as cause and effect. “There is no Kamma in result nor does result exist in Kamma. Though they are void of one another
there is no fruit without the Kamma. As fire does not exist inside the sun, a gem, cow dung or just outside them but is brought to be by its component parts, so neither can the result be found within the Kamma nor without. Nor does the Kamma still persist in the result it has produced. The Kamma of its fruit is void, no fruit yet, exists in the Kamma. Still the fruit is born from it wh6lly depending on the Kamma. For there is no Brahma god, creator of the round of rebirths. Phenomena alone flow on, cause and component, they are conditioned.” So Kamma and results are two different things.
That is why I am a little uncomfortable when I read in The Manual of Abhidhamma ‘The effect already blooms in the cause.’ I don't know what that means. It points to that SaÑkhya philosophy. We cannot say that the effect already blooms in the cause. If we say that then we virtually accept the teaching of SaÑkhya philosophy.
Cause or Kamma is one thing and effect is another. There is connection between them as cause and effect. That is why cause A produces effect A and not effect B. They have this connection as cause and result. Kamma is one thing and result is another. If you are interested, you may read some books on Indian philosophy. It is interesting because people in those days were always arguing with each other like in debates. People from this side would write something. Then there was a response from the other side. They give examples and both sides have convincing examples. According to the teachings of Buddha or TheravÈda Buddhism Kamma and its results are two different things. One is not to be found in the other.
There are different kinds of Kamma. Generally we say there is good Kamma or bad Kamma or Kusala and Akusala Kamma. Kamma is divided according to its function, according to its priority of result, time of the taking place of result and the place in which the results
The first division is according to function. Reproductive Kamma, supportive Kamma, obstructive Kamma and destructive Kamma are the divisions according to function. ‘Reproductive Kamma’ means the
Kamma that produces results. ‘Supportive Kamma’ does not produce results. It supports the results of another Kamma. ‘Obstructive Kamma’ is something like supportive Kamma. It is in the opposite sense. It can interfere with the result of*other Kamma. ‘Destructive Kamma’ is the Kamma that destroys the result of other Kamma. The Kamma can be ‘good or bad, Kusala or Akusala. According to functions there are four kinds of Kamma.
With respect to priority or result there are weighty Kamma, proximate Kamma, habitual Kamma and reserve Kamma. ‘Weighty Kamma’ means Kamma like in JhÈnas. With regard to unwholesome actions it would be like the Kamma of killing one's own father or one's own mother and so on. They are supposed to be very grievous offenses in Buddhism. So ‘weighty Kamma’ means those that give results in the next life. If you get Jh7ana in this life and you die with the JhÈna intact, then you will be reborn in the Brahmin world. You are sure to be reborn there. If you kill your father or mother according to the teachings of TheravÈda Buddhism, you are sure to go to the lowest of the hells. Student: May I ask what is the Kamma of women who have an abortion? SayÈdaw: Abortion may be legal. It is not wholesome. It is killing. So it is Akusala. Being legal and being Kusala or Akusala are different. It becomes legal because the government says it is alright to do that. So it becomes legal. It does not mean that it is ethical or that there are no bad effects from abortion or killing. Student: In the next life is she going to be sterile? It would seem
to me that would be the logical result that when they want a child, they cannot have it. SayÈdaw: Since it is killing, the results are bad in the future lives., Even though that person is a human being, he won't live long and so on.
'Proximate Kamma’ is the Kamma done at the moment of death. Before death people do Kamma. That Kamma is called ‘proximate Kamma’.
'Habitual Kamma’ is that Kamma which one does habitually in one's life. Paying homage to the Buddha every day, chanting every day, practicing meditation every day are examples of habitual Kamma.
'Reserve Kamma’ is the other Kamma, other than the three above. It is called reserve Kamma.
When there is weighty Kamma and proximate Kamma, the weighty Kamma will give result in the next life. When there is proximate Kamma and habitual Kamma, then proximate Kamma will give result in the next life. If there is habitual and reserve Kamma, then habitual Kamma will give result in next life. If there are no weighty, proximate or habitual Kamma, then reserve Kamma will give result in the next life. With respect to giving priority of giving results there are four kinds of Kamma.
'Proximate Kamma, is very important in Buddhism because it can cause even an evil person to be reborn in a good existence at least for a short time. There is a story of a man who had been a hunter all of his life. In his old age he was ordained as a monk. He had a son who was an Arahant monk. When he was about to die, he saw the bad signs of destiny. He was followed by dogs and other things. So he shouted something like ‘help'. The son knew that he was going to be reborn in hell. So he asked his pupils to take the father to the shrine and give him flowers to offer to the Buddha. When he offered flowers to the Buddha, he was changed. That Kamma became proximate Kamma that was
Kusala. Therefore the signs of destiny also changed to celestial beings and others. He died and was reborn as a celestial being. The son knew that he was not going to be there for long because all of his life he had been killing animals. So he went up to the celestial world and preached to him. He became a SotÈpanna. The father became enlightened. So proximate Kamma is important. When there are proximate Kamma and habitual Kamma, then the proximate Kamma will give results. There are four kinds of these Kammas.
With respect to time of taking place there is Kamma which gives results in the present life; there is Kamma which gives results in the next life; there is Kamma which gives results in other lives than the present or next life. This means from the third life onward. Suppose this life is the first life. The next life is the second life. And then the next is the third life. From the third life onward is the field of taking place of results of the third one. The fourth is defunct Kamma. Sometimes Kamma can give no results. That is because it has passed its time of giving results.
Suppose you do some Kamma and it can give results in this life. However there are no circumstances favorable for it to give results. So the time passes.
Student: It is like the statute of limitations.
SayÈdaw: That's right. The Kamma becomes defunct. It becomes ineffective.
There are some kinds of Kamma that gives results in the next life. we call it second life. And there is Kamma that gives results in the third life and so on. If the Kamma does not give results in the next life, then that Kamma becomes defunct. In the third one there can be no defunct Kamma because there are a long series of rebirths. So this Kamma may give results at some time. It is the hope of all people.
People often ask if a being is reborn as an animal for example, how
can he be reborn as a human being? As an animal what one is doing is mostly Akusala. This store of the third kind of Kamma is always with beings. Some Kusala Kamma a being did in the past may get chance to give results. Then that being can escape from being an animal or a being in hell. This is the hope we have with regard to our future, this third kind of Kamma. Nobody is free from the third kind of Kamma. Everybody has that Kamma, that store of Kamma.
Student: I am confused about the Kamma which does not give results. Would you give me an example? I don't understand. I thought Kamma was ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth'. What you said invalidates that concept because Kamma has another dimension.
SayÈdaw: You know the seven moments of Javana?
SayÈdaw: You don't know the seven moments of Javana. You have to go back to the thought process. In the thought process there are seven moments of Javana. Those are the moments when you acquire Kusala or Akusala Kamma. It is said in the books that Kamma arising with the first Javana will give results in this life.
If I say in English, you will not understand either. Javana is translated as a apperception or impulsion. I don't know any other English word for Javana. It is a moment when you experience the object fully. It is the moment when you acquire Kamma. it is said in the books that it runs for seven times. There are seven moments. The first moment gives results in this life. The last one, the seventh moment of Javana, gives results in the next life. Then the five in between are those which give results from the third life onwards. So if the first Javana does not give results in this life, it becomes defunct. It becomes nothing. If the seventh Javana does not give its results in the next life, it passes its time of ripening, so it does
not give results at all. But the five Javanas in between the first and the seventh can give results from the third life until you die as an Arahant. They do not become defunct until you become an Arahant. So defunct Kamma is not a separate Kamma from the first three. When the first three become ineffective, they are called defunct Kamma.
The last one is with respect to where the results take place. Unwholesome Kamma gives results in the four woeful states, in human world and in some celestial worlds. Wholesome Kamma pertaining to the Sense-Sphere gives results in every kind of existence. Wholesome Kamma pertaining to Form-Sphere gives results in the Form-Sphere only. Kamma pertaining to Formless-Sphere gives results in Formless-Sphere only. The resultant consciousnesses of Form-Sphere and Formless-Sphere only arise in the Form-Spheres (R|pÈvacara) and Formless-Spheres (Ar|pÈvacara) respectively. They do not arise in any other existences. But the wholesome Kamma pertaining to Sense-Sphere (KŒMŒVACARA) can give results anywhere.
What is the result of Kamma? What do we mean by the result of Kamma? Only two things. One is Cittas and Cetasikas. The second is R11pa or material properties born of Kamma. These are the only things that are really called the results of Kamma.
There are resultant types of consciousness and Cetasikas going along with them. They are called the results of Kamma.
There are some material properties in our bodies that are caused by Kamma. We have studied about matter some time in the past. There are material properties that are caused by Kamma. There are other material properties that are caused by Citta. Others are caused by climatic conditions and others are caused by food. Those that are caused by Kamma only arise in living beings. For example the eye sensitivity, the ear sensitivity and so on are caused by Kamma. When we
say ‘the results of Kamma’, we mean this, the material properties caused by Kamma and the resultant consciousnesses and Cetasikas accompanying those consciousnesses.
So as I said, a rose is not the result of Kamma. It is just there. It is simply there depending on the natural causes. But the seeing of it or your experience of it is caused by Kamma or actually the seeing consciousness is caused by Kamma. The consciousness by which you see the rose is caused by Kamma. The seeing consciousness is caused by Kamma. Your reaction to that object, to the rose, is the Kamma which you do in this life. In this way there is the result of Kamma and there is new Kamma. The result of this new Kamma will come later. This is the way Kamma goes on and on and on.
Student: If a man goes hunting because it is tradition or it is alright in his family, does he still get bad results? I have a relative who hunts and he is very close to me. He feels that he is not doing anything wrong. It horrifies me. He does not have the sense that it is wrong. Is he going to be adversely effected in his Kamma by this? I don't think the hunters have the sense that it is wrong.
SayÈdaw: But what if someone comes to kill him, would he take it as all right for them to kill him?
Student: Absolutely not.
SayÈdaw: Then how can he think that it is all right to kill animals?
Student: He would think it horrible if someone tried to kill him, but he thinks it is all right to kill animals.
SayÈdaw: So it is fair to kill others, but it is not fair to be killed.
Student: What happens to such a person?
SayÈdaw: He gets Akusala if he kills.
Student: If Kamma explains these phenomena, how do you keep people from becoming indifferent saying, “That person is poor because he
deserves it; people in World War II got killed because they did something to deserve it; bombs are falling on peoples’ heads so they must have done something to deserve it.” It seems to me that people would become indifferent to the suffering of other people. SayÈdaw: The Law of Kamma is just as it is. When people do good or bad Kamma, they are bound to get the results of their Kamma. But it does not mean that we are not to help people, that we are not to relieve people of suffering. As much as we can we must do what we can to relieve the suffering of people. If we cannot do any longer, any further, we have to blame it on Kamma. That is the point.
People often cross over to another territory. Compassion or KaruÓÈ is a good quality to promote or to cultivate. However in cultivating KaruÓÈ we often cross over into anger. For example people are now using animals in laboratories. We have compassion for these animals and we do not want them to suffer. At the same time we may be angry with the people who inflict pain on these dumb animals.
One time a woman told me that she suffered much when she heard things like that. So she had a lot of suffering. I told her that when we practice KaruÓÈ or compassion, we have to be aware of two enemies. one is the far enemy, the direct enemy and one is the near enemy, the indirect enemy. The direct enemy is cruelty. It is easy to understand. But the near enemy is depression or anger. We have to avoid this also. When we become indignant and we are angry, we are not practicing KaruÓÈ any longer. We have Akusala at that time.
We can do whatever we can to help people get relief from suffering. We do not close our eyes and say it is just the result of Kamma or whatever. What we are going to do for them is also the result of their
Kamma. Nobody can see the limit of Kamma. We must do whatever we can for other people.
Sometimes when we meet with failure instead of blaming it on others or blaming it on the situation, we have to blame ourselves because it is the result of our bad Kamma in the past. The knowledge of the Law of Kamma, the knowledge that beings have Kamma only as their property and so on helps us in many ways especially when we cannot be consoled by any other means.
Student: Didn't you say that not everything has to be because of Kamma? My idea is that you would help people because their situation might not be because of Kamma. It might be because of other causes, not their personal Kamma. Am I correct or am I wrong? It wouldn't stop me from trying to help someone.
SayÈdaw: yes. We do not know to what extent the other person has potential. What we do for them may be the result of their Kamma. We cannot see that their Kamma goes as far as this and no further. We cannot see that.
Student: During meditation you can experience different mental states. Can you experience Kamma?
SayÈdaw: At every moment of meditation there is Kamma because volition is always there. Volition is a Cetasika that accompanies every type of consciousness. So volition is always there.
Student: So you can always experience it?
SayÈdaw: Yes. You acquire Kamma through meditation, very powerful good Kamma, Buddha once said that the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is a great accumulation of Kusala and the hindrances are a great accumulation of Akusala.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!