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We are on page 13, the three warnings. We are not done with the First Noble Truth yet, the Noble Truth of Suffering. “Did you never see in the world a man, or a woman, eighty, ninety, or a hundred years old, frail, crooked as a gable roof, bent down, resting on crutches, with tottering steps, infirm, youth long since fled, with broken teeth, gray and scanty hair or none, wrinkled, with blotched limbs? And did the thought never come to you that you also are subject to decay, that you also cannot escape it?” These are the warnings that we usually ignore. These are some of the signs that the Bodhisatta say before his renunciation. He saw such signs and he was reminded of the world being oppressed by old age, disease, death and also the value of renunciation. So when we see an old man or an old woman, we have to think that we are also subject to becoming old and so on.


“Did you never see in the world a man or a woman who being sick, afflicted, and grievously ill,” and so on. This is disease.


The next paragraph is what? “Did you never see in the world the corpse of a man or a woman” and so on. The third one is death. Seeing old age, disease and death, we should take lessons from that and apply the understanding or the knowledge of these things to ourselves.


Then we come to saÑsÈra. SaÑsÈra is stated to be the round of rebirth. Actually it is not a round thing, but it is like a stream going on and on and on. “Inconceivable is the beginning of this SaÑsÈra.” The actual word used in PÈÄi is ‘not known’. Instead of inconceivable, it is not known. The beginning of this saÑsÈra is not known. There can be no knowledge of the beginning of this saÑsÈra.


“SaÑsÈra means perpetual wandering.” That means a person being born again, and again, and again. It is something like me going on a journey and stopping at various cities, towns, and villages. That long journey is called ‘saÑsÈra’.


The beginning of that saÑsÈra is not known. It is inconceivable. It cannot be known. “Not to be discovered is any first beginning of beings, who obstructed by ignorance, and ensnared by craving, are hurrying and hastening through this round of rebirths.” We are in the middle of saÑsÈra. All of us are in the middle of saÑsÈra. We cannot know the beginning of saÑsÈra. We cannot know when we first became a being.


If we accept the law of cause and effect, I think that we can understand that there is no beginning of saÑsÈra. According to the law of cause and effect, according to the law of kamma, there must always be causes for something. This life is the result of kamma in the past life; and that life is the result of another life, and another life, and so on into infinity. We cannot come to any definite point and say that this is the beginning of saÑsÈra; this is the beginning of ourselves. That is because the law of kamma does not allow for a first cause, a first beginning. Every beginning must have causes, conditions, and so on. So the beginning of this saÑsÈra is not known.


What about the end, the end of saÑsÈra? First let me tell you the PÈÄi word used for beginning is ‘agga’. The word ‘agga’ can mean a beginning or it can mean an end. It is just an extreme or a limit. This word ‘agga’ is commented upon in the Commentaries to mean both a beginning and an end. The end is also not to be known because we do not know when this saÑsÈra will end for us. There will be an end of it when we become Arahants, or when we gain enlightenment, or when we become Buddhas. Then when we die as an Arahant or a Buddha, there will be no more of this saÑsÈra. But we do not know when this will come. So the beginning and the end of saÑsÈra is not known according to the Commentaries.


“SaÑsÈra - the wheel of existence, literally the ‘Perpetual Wandering’ - is the name given in PÈÄi scriptures to the sea of life ever restlessly heaving up and down, the symbol of this continuous process of ever again and again being born, growing old, suffering, and dying. More precisely put: SaÑsÈra is the unbroken sequence of the fivefold Khandha-combinations, which, constantly changing from moment to moment, follow continually one upon the other through inconceivable periods of time. Of this SaÑsÈra a single lifetime constitutes only a tiny fraction. Hence, to be able to comprehend the First Noble Truth one must let one’s gaze rest upon the SaÑsÈra, upon this frightful sequence of rebirths, and not merely upon one single lifetime, which, of course, may sometimes be not very painful.”


SaÑsÈra is explained in the Commentaries as a series of aggregates, bases, and elements which goes on and on without break. That is saÑsÈra. So if it is asked what is saÑsÈra, then the answer is that saÑsÈra is the sequence of five aggregates are known to many people. The twelve bases and the eighteen elements are more or less the same as the five aggregates. So the five aggregates arising and disappearing, arising and disappearing in this life, and then the next life and the next life - this going on and on, the sequence of the five aggregates and others is called ‘saÑsÈra’. SaÑsÈra is defined in that way.


SaÑsÈra is compared to an ocean in our books. Just as it is very difficult to see the end of the ocean, the ocean is inconceivable, so saÑsÈra is like the ocean; one does not know where it starts or where it will end. In this saÑsÈra a life only constitutes a tiny fraction. We can look upon saÑsÈra as a beach and our life as a single grain of sand on that beach. SaÑsÈra is so immense.


In order to understand the First Noble Truth the author says that we must look at this saÑsÈra, not only in just this one life. You know if you were reborn as a brÈhma, there would not be much suffering or much pain there compared to what is experienced in human life. A person may be born as a human being, then perhaps as a brÈhma or celestial being, then back again as a human being, and maybe then even as an animal. This is a series of lives goes on and on, sometimes in good lives, sometimes in painful lives. If we look upon the whole of saÑsÈra, we can understand the Noble Truth of Suffering.


“The term ‘suffering (dukkha)’, in the First Noble Truth refers therefore, not merely to painful bodily and mental sensations due to unpleasant impressions, but it comprises in addition everything productive of suffering or liable to it.” Everything which produces suffering and which is liable to suffering - actually as I said the other day, everything that is in the world is suffering. Everything cannot escape the law of arising and disappearing.


“The Truth of Suffering teaches that owing to the universal law of impermanence, even high and sublime states of happiness are subject to change and destruction, and that all states of existence are therefore unsatisfactory, without exception carrying in themselves the seeds of suffering.”


In one of the Suttas the Buddha taught about the three aspects of life - enjoyment, misery, and getting out of it. Everything has these three aspects. There is something which we enjoy. After some time we get bored with it and then there comes what we call ‘misery’. Then when we reach that stage of seeing the misery of things, we want to get rid of them. And so there comes the getting out of them. So there are three stages. Buddha talked about these three stages of feelings. In talking about these feelings the Buddha said that when a person is in the first jhÈna, he is very happy. He is very peaceful. There is no bodily or mental affliction. There is nothing like that when a person is in the state of jhÈna. The person is very peaceful and in a very happy state. In the second jhÈna there is more happiness. In the third and fourth jhÈna there is more happiness. That is the good thing about feelings. They are enjoyable. But there is a bad thing about good feeling, even that very high kind of happiness, and that is that it is impermanent. The jhÈna feeling is very high, a very sublime feeling, but still it is subject to decay. It is subject to disappearing. The Buddha said that this is the bad thing about happiness; it is suffering because it does not last. It is subject to the law of impermanence. Apart from the happiness of NibbÈna, everything which we call happiness in this world in the view of the Buddha is suffering. ‘Suffering’ here means unsatisfactory.


“Which do you think is more: the flood of tears, which weeping and wailing you have shed upon this long way - hurrying and hastening through this round of rebirths, united with the undesired, separated from the desired - this, or the waters of the four oceans?” This is not difficult to understand. This is to show how long we have been in saÑsÈra. The flood of tears that we have produced, if we could store them, would be greater than the four great oceans.


“But how is this possible?” Because the beginning of this saÑsÈra cannot be known. And the beginning of the beings is also not known, going through the series of rebirths again and again.


“And thus have you long undergone suffering, undergone torment, undergone misfortune, and filled the graveyards full; truly, long enough to be dissatisfied with all the forms of existence, long enough to turn away and free yourselves from them all.” We have been in this saÑsÈra so long that we need to be bored with it. We need to want to get out of this saÑsÈra because when we look back, if we could look back, we would just find suffering. We have been in this saÑsÈra long enough to free ourselves from it.


This is the end of the First Noble Truth, the Noble Truth of Suffering. Buddha’s explanation of the Noble Truth of Suffering is what? Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering and so on. And on a higher level the Buddha said that all groups of existence or all aggregates of clinging are suffering. ‘The five aggregates of clinging’ simply means everything in the world.


When we talk about the First Noble Truth, we are only concerned with living beings, not with outside things. We cannot say that this cup is the First Noble Truth or that a tree is dukkha. When we talk about dukkha, we are concerned with living beings only, although this cup has a beginning and an end. This cup is impermanent. We cannot call it dukkha. So the First Noble Truth concerns living beings.


Now we come to the Second Noble. The Buddha discovered the Second Noble Truth, that is the Origin of Suffering. The Buddha equates suffering with the five aggregates, so with ourselves, let us say with our life. Let us suppose that we are convinced that it is nothing but suffering and we want to get out of this or we want to get away from this suffering. What must we do? We must find the cause of suffering. So long as we do not know the cause of suffering we will not be able to get out of suffering because if we do not want the result, we must attack the cause, not the result itself. We must attack the cause. When we attack the cause and when we can remove the cause, then the result will disappear by itself. That origin of suffering the Buddha found to be craving; that is the Second Noble Truth.


“What, now, is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering? It is craving, which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and bound up with pleasure and lust, now here, now there, finds ever-fresh delight.” What is important in this passage is craving. Craving is the origin of suffering.


What Buddha meant to say is that this suffering or our self is not the creation of any   being, or any person, and it is not uncaused. There is a cause for this suffering. And that cause or origin is craving or attachment. Craving and attachment are the same in the Buddha’s teachings.


This craving gives rise to fresh rebirth. So long as we have attachment or craving, we will do something good or bad to get out of suffering or whatever. There will always be wholesome actions or unwholesome actions so long as there is craving in us. These actions give results as rebirth. And so they lead to fresh rebirth. “It is craving, which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and bound up with pleasure and lust, now here, now there, finds ever-fresh delight.” So whenever a person is born in an existence, the first active consciousness which arises in his mind is accompanied by attachment. That is why we are so much attached to our lives, to our body and mind. Actually we begin our lives with attachment. So long as there is this attachment, there will always be rebirth, which is nothing but suffering. So the Buddha said that the cause of suffering or the origin of suffering is craving.


There are three kinds of craving - sensual craving (kÈma taÓhÈ), the craving for eternal existence (bhava taÓhÈ), and craving for self-annihilation (vibhava taÓhÈ). These three kinds of craving are according to the Visuddhi Magga the modes of craving. When craving arises in the mode of desire for sense objects, it is called ‘sensual craving’ and so on. One and the same craving can arise in these three modes. Usually we just say that there are three kinds of craving.


The first one is sensual craving (kÈma taÓhÈ). “Sensual Craving (kÈma taÓhÈ) is the desire for the enjoyment of the five sense objects.” We are attached to things we can see. We are attached to sounds. We are attached to smells and so on. That is kÈma taÓhÈ, sensual craving, craving for or attachment to the sense objects. There are five sense objects.


The second one is craving for existence (bhava taÓhÈ). “Craving for Existence (bhava taÓhÈ)  is the desire for continued or eternal life, referring in particular to life in those higher worlds called the fine material and immaterial existences (r|pa and ar|pa bhava). It is closely connected with the so-called ‘Eternity Belief (bhava or sassatadiÔÔhi)’, i.e. the belief in an absolute, eternal Ego-entity persisting independently of our body.”


It is important to understand these three kinds of craving. The second craving is craving for existence. Here ‘craving for existence’ really means craving associated with the view that there is something which exists and lasts forever. That kind of craving is called in PÈÄi ‘bhava taÓhÈ’.


Bhava taÓhÈ is explained in the Commentary to the MahÈ SatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta. It is explained in that Commentary to mean craving for the sensual sphere also. The sensual sphere means the world of human beings, animals and lower beings. Craving for that kind of existence is also bhava taÓhÈ. Then craving which is accompanied by the eternalist view, the eternity belief, is also called ‘bhava taÓhÈ’. Craving for the higher worlds, r|pa bhava and ar|pa bhava (the fine material and the immaterial existences) is also called bhava taÓhÈ. Also attachment to the jhÈnas is called ‘bhava taÓhÈ’. There are four kinds of bhava taÓhÈ. I want you to remember that. You won’t find it in the books written in English yet. The first is craving or attachment for the sensual sphere. The second is craving accompanied by the eternalist view. The third is craving for the fine material and immaterial existences. The fourth is attachment to jhÈnas. JhÈnas are the cause of the fine material and immaterial existences. So they are also called ‘bhava taÓhÈ’. Here attachment to those jhÈnas is called ‘bhava taÓhÈ’.


Student: Bhante, why is the first one considered bhava taÓhÈ and not kÈma taÓhÈ?


Teacher: The attachment to or the craving for visible objects, audible objects and so on is called ‘kÈma taÓhÈ’, but craving for existence as human beings or lower celestial beings is called ‘bhava taÓhÈ’.


The third one is vibhava taÓhÈ (craving with self-annihilation view). That means craving accompanied by that view. There were two especially prominent views at the time of the Buddha. One was the eternalist view. That was the belief in an unchanging, everlasting entity called ‘Œtman’ or whatever. This Œtman or this entity lasts forever, lives forever. It is eternal. Then there is another extreme, another view. It says that there is no such thing as an eternal Œtman or whatever. When you die, you just die. After your body is cremated, nothing will come back. When your body is reduced to ashes, nothing will come back. Death is the end of everything for us. There is no rebirth; there is no existence after this life. That is the annihilationist view. It is like the communist view nowadays. They don’t believe in future lives. These are the two extremes. When craving is accompanied by the view that life ends with death, that there is no more after death, it is called ‘vibhava taÓhÈ (craving with the self-annihilation view)’.


Once I gave a book to a man with a translation of the Sutta, the First Sermon. The next week when he came back he said: “Buddhism allows suicide.” I was surprised. I asked: “Where did you get this information?” He said: “I read it in the Sutta. It said self-annihilation there.” So he thought self-annihilation was killing one’s self, destroying one’s life. But here it is not destroying one’s self, but it is the belief in one’s total destruction at death. So it is the belief that there is no rebirth after death. When craving is accompanied by such a view, it is called ‘vibhava taÓhÈ’. “It is the delusive materialistic notion of a more or less real Ego which is annihilated at death, and which does not stand in any causal relation with the time before death and the time after death.”


The word ‘vibhava’ has two meanings. One meaning is destruction of existence or annihilation of existence. But there is another meaning which is wealth. A wealthy man is called ‘vibhava’. There are people who interpreted these three in another way. That interpretation is not supported by any Commentary or any tradition. Modern people want to interpret in their own way. So they said that craving for wealth is vibhava taÓhÈ because ‘vibhava’ can mean wealth. Then what about the first one, kÈma taÓhÈ? Craving for wealth is craving for sensual objects. It is the same thing. So ‘vibhava’ here and in many places means annihilation, or destruction of self, or destruction of whatever one may call a being. These are the three kinds of craving - sensual craving, craving for existence associated with eternity view, and craving associated with annihilation or self-annihilation view.


Student: What about craving for power?


Teacher: It may be under the first one, sensual craving. Craving for power belongs to the sensual world. So it will go to the first one.


So craving is the origin of suffering. Then what is the origin of craving? Craving must have an origin, a cause, a condition. “But where does this craving arise and take root? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving arises and takes root.” We see a delightful thing. We see a beautiful thing and we are attached to it. We hear a beautiful sound or voice and we are attached to it.


“There this craving arises and takes root.” There is no problem with ‘arises’, but with ‘take root’ there is something. The PÈÄi word here is ‘nivasati’. ‘Nivasati’ means ‘to live’, ‘to stay’. So “Where does this craving arise and where does it stay?” ‘Take root’ may mean some other thing. Right? The PÈÄi word ‘nivasati’ means staying. The first arising is arising. Repeated arising is staying. It is explained that way in the Commentaries. We should say: “Where does it arise and where does it stay” or something like that.


Student: Perhaps ‘persist’?


Teacher: ‘Persist’, yes something like that. Then the other meaning is: “Where does it arise and where does it lie dormant?” The PÈÄi is anusaya.


Student: How can these things be the origin? Without a person they don’t have any meaning. Without a person how do they have any craving in them?


Teacher: No. They don’t have any craving in them. They are the conditions for craving.


Student: I cannot see a fancy car being a condition. I can see the mind as being a condition.


Teacher: The mind is conditioned by the car that you see. You see a car and you have a desire to possess the car, to own the car. That desire to own the car is conditioned by the car.


Student: The same conditions may give different results for different people. Everyone might not get the same result.


Teacher: That’s right. The Buddha said that wherever there are delightful and pleasurable things craving arises. Something delightful for you may not be so for the other person. For example, the car may be delightful for one person and for another person it may not. If it is not delightful for that person, then it will not be the origin of his craving, his attachment. If it is delightful for you (That means that you like it.), then there is attachment, there is craving. If you don’t like it, there is no craving for you, but there may be repulsion or you may be angry with it. We will come to that later. When the object is delightful, there is the likelihood that we will be attached to it. If the object is not delightful, there is the likelihood that we will have aversion towards the object. The Buddha’s advice is to steer between these two, not to be attached to the thing, as well as not to be repulsed, not to have aversion towards that thing, to be in the middle.


Towards these things attachment or craving arises, stays, or lies dormant. Actually attachment or the other mental defilements, which are called ‘anusaya’, lie dormant in us, not in the things themselves. But the things are the conditions for those anusaya to arise. So we say that the attachment is dormant in the object. Actually the objects are just the objects. When we see the objects, when we experience the objects and we are attached to them, then they are the conditions for the craving or attachment to arise in our minds. Actually the potential for them to arise is in our minds , not in the objects, but we cannot have the attachment or craving without the objects. That is why they are essential. They are necessary for craving and other mental states to arise.


The Buddha said: “Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, are delightful and pleasurable; there this craving arises and takes root.”


“Visual objects, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily impressions (That means touch.), and mind objects (That means objects other than the aforementioned.), are delightful and pleasurable; there this craving arises and takes root.”


“Consciousness, sense impression, feeling born of sense impression, perception, will, craving, thinking (vitakka), and reflecting (vicÈra), are delightful and pleasurable; there craving arises and takes root.”


These passages are taken from the MahÈ SatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta, the Sutta on the Foundations of Mindfulness. “This is called the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering” - so craving.


Student: What is the difference between vitakka and vicÈra?


Teacher: Vitakka is translated as initial application of mind to the object. VicÈra is sustained application of the mind to the object. Although they may arise together, they have this difference. Vitakka is something like a person taking another person to a place. VicÈra is lie a person being there, after having been taken. Vitakka is compared to the sound of a bell when you first ring it. VicÈra is compared to the ringing or vibration of the bell after it has been rung.


Student: That is not really ‘thinking’ and ‘reflecting’.


Teacher: ‘Thinking’ and ‘reflecting’ are not really accurate, but for general purposes we translate it as thinking because the literal meaning of vitakka is ‘to think’. Vitakka in Abhidhamma is a mental state. You know that. Vitakka is the mental state that takes the mind to the object, that pushes the mind towards the object. This is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering.


Dependent Origination of all phenomena is next. “If, whenever perceiving a visual object, a sound, odor, taste, bodily impression, or a mind object (dhamma object), the object is pleasant, one is attracted; and if unpleasant, one is repelled.” This is the normal happening. When it is pleasant, when it is beautiful, we are attached to it. When it is unpleasant, we may be angry with it.


“Thus, whatever kind of ‘feeling (vedanÈ)’ one experiences - pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent - if one approves of, and cherishes the feeling, and clings to it, then while doing so, lust springs up (There is lust or there is desire or liking.); but lust for feelings means ‘clinging (upÈdÈna)’, and on clinging depends the (present) ‘process of becoming’; on the process of becoming (bhava, here kamma-bhava, kamma-process) depends [future] ‘birth (jÈti)’; and dependent on birth are decay and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair.” In order to understand this, you have to understand PaÔicca SamuppÈda (Dependent Origination).


In Dependent Origination there are twelve links. The links that are relevant here are clinging, becoming and birth. You may go to page 46, the diagram. You find #8 is craving, #9 is clinging, and #10 is process of existence. When you have craving, that craving is clinging because clinging and craving are the same mental state with different degrees of intensity. Craving is less intense than clinging. The first attachment is craving. Later attachment is clinging. When there is clinging, according to Dependent Origination, there is the process of existence (kamma-bhava). ‘The process of existence’ simply means kamma. When there is clinging, there is kamma. When there is kamma, there is birth (jÈti), #11. This passage explains according to Dependent Origination, but it does not take all the factors of Dependent Origination here.


“On clinging depends the present process of becoming.” That means present good kamma or bad kamma, wholesome kamma or unwholesome kamma. “On the process of becoming depends future birth.” Here we do good kamma or bad kamma. As a result of that kamma, we will have rebirth. So there is future birth. “And dependent on birth there are decay and death” and so on.


Student: The word he translates as lust is what?


Teacher: Nandi. It means liking or pleasure.


Student: Lust has a very powerful sensual connotation. Is that so here?


Teacher: Yes, it is strong attachment.


“The formula of the Dependent Origination (PaÔicca SamuppÈda) of which only some of the twelve links have been mentioned in the preceding passage, may be regarded as a detailed explanation of the Second Noble Truth.” The doctrine of Dependent Origination teaches there is nothing that comes out of nothing. Everything must have a cause. Everything is related as cause and effect. The doctrine of Dependent Origination is the explanation of the Second Noble Truth, the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering.


In the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (the First Sermon) the Buddha said that the origin of suffering is taÓhÈ (craving).  Later on the author will tell us that craving alone is not the cause of suffering. Craving accompanied by ignorance and other unwholesome mental states is the cause of suffering. Although it is mentioned in the Sutta that craving is the origin of suffering, we must understand that it is craving plus ignorance and other unwholesome mental states.


Next is the present kamma results. These passages are not difficult to understand. Because of sensual craving people fight with people, princes fight with princes and so on. There is suffering. Also due to sensuous craving people will do other unwholesome actions like breaking into houses, robbing, plundering and so on. This is the misery of sensuous craving. Because we have sensuous craving, we fight with each other, we may break the rules of moral purity, we may do injustices to others and so on. This is the misery or bad side of sensuous craving. “Now, this is the misery of sensuous craving, the heaping up of suffering in this present life.” This is the result of present unwholesome kamma.


The next is the result of present unwholesome kamma in the future lives. “and further, people take the evil way in deeds, the evil way in words, the evil way in thoughts; and by taking the evil way in deeds, words and thoughts, at the dissolution of the body, after death, they fall into a downward state of existence, a state of suffering, into an unhappy destiny, and the abysses of the hells. But this also (There should be ‘also’.) is the misery of sensuous craving.” The other above is also the misery of sensuous craving. “But this also is the misery of sensuous craving, the heaping up of suffering in the future life.” This is the undesirable side or the bad side of sensuous craving. The good side of sensuous craving is that we get satisfaction from sensual pleasures. We get enjoyment from sensual pleasures. That is more or less the good side of sensuous craving. ‘Good’ means not according to the Buddha, but according to people.


     “Not in the air, nor ocean-midst,

      Nor hidden in the mountain clefts,

      Nowhere is found a place on earth,

      Where man is freed from evil deeds.”

This is from the Dhammapada. Buddha uttered this on the occasion of a death that had occurred at that time. I think a bird was flying. Some people were throwing a ring of fire up in the air. The bird accidentally hit the ring of fire and was burned and died. ‘Ocean-midst’ concerned a group of people who went on an ocean journey. Their boat got stuck at one place. When their boat was stuck, they thought that there must be some unlucky person on the ship. So they chose by lot. A woman was chosen and thrown away into the sea. Next we have ‘hidden in the mountain clefts’. There were seven monks who went into a mountain cave. A great rock fell from above and blocked the entrance of the cave. On the seventh day the rock by itself rolled away and so they could come out. These stories were related to the Buddha. The Buddha then uttered these verses. These people suffered these calamities because they did something in the past. The bird, who was burned, had burned someone in its past life. The woman, who was thrown in the sea, had in her past life thrown a dog into the river. The seven monks were seven boy in their past lives. They had closed the hole of a lizard, but on the seventh day they opened the hole. The lizard was not killed and so in this life they were not killed. When this was reported to the Buddha he uttered the verse:

     “Not in the air, nor ocean-midst,

      Nor hidden in the mountain clefts,

      Nowhere is found a place on earth,

      Where man is freed from evil deeds.”

Here ‘from evil deeds’ means from the consequences of evil deeds. Here the evil deeds have already been done. ‘To get free from’ means to get free from the consequences of evil deeds.


When Marvel was with me, there were mice at the monastery. He said that he would put something so that the mice could not come out and would die inside. So I told him to read this story. He did not dare do that. We cannot escape from the consequences of kamma.


Now we come to the real thing. What is kamma? “It is volition (cetanÈ) that I call kamma. Having willed, one acts by body, speech, and mind.” What is kamma? It is volition. ‘Volition’ means a mental state which arises in our mind when we do something. Sometimes we do something with our body. Sometimes we speak. Sometimes we just think. So we have body, speech and mind. Before we do anything or when we do something, there is this volition, this activity in the mind, this mental state, always arising. That mental state is called ‘kamma’, cetanÈ in PÈÄi. So kamma is one of the 52 mental states. Among the 52 mental states there is one called ‘cetanÈ’. That cetanÈ is called kamma, strictly speaking. Normally people would say that kamma means action. Actually kamma means something with which we do these actions. We have this volition, this will-to-do, and so we do. So kamma does not really mean action, but something with which we do actions. In PÈÄi it is kamma. In Sanskrit it is karma. Sometimes not only volition but other mental states are said to be kamma. Therefore in the commentaries it is said that volition and also other mental states accompanying it are called ‘kamma’. Sometimes by kamma we mean volition. Sometimes by kamma we mean other mental states, other cetasikas. But here only volition is mentioned by the Buddha. In other Suttas the other mental states also are mentioned as kamma.


Student: Does kamma also mean cause and effect?


Teacher: No. Kamma just means cause. In very rare cases kamma may mean the result of kamma, but this is very rare. The author will tell about this a little later. Sometimes, just as in the verse just mentioned, ‘freed from evil deeds’ - that means from evil kamma. Actually here it means the results of evil kamma. In rare cases, in some places, the word ‘kamma’ is made to mean the result of kamma. Technically speaking, kamma means the cause, never the result. When you say the law of kamma, it is the cause-effect relationship between things. But kamma itself is a mental state which arises in our mind whenever we do something wholesome or something unwholesome, or when we do something good or when we do something bad.


Student: How do you differentiate these types of volition like in the cases where persons commit acts of violence without thinking they say? What are the consequences of such actions? I know that in this country the judges usually give a lighter sentence or punishment. What is the Buddhist viewpoint about such things?


Teacher: Mind arises and disappears very fast. So there is always this volition accompanying thought moments. Volition or cetanÈ arises always with any kind of consciousness. It is among the universal mental factors. ‘Universal’ means that it is always present when a type of consciousness arises.


With regard to consequences it depends on many things. Let us suppose a person kills another person. The consequences depend upon the virtue of the person killed. If you kill a person is not virtuous and a person that is virtuous, the consequences are not the same. Also sometimes it depends upon how much effort you make. Killing an ant and killing an elephant is not the same. They do not have the same results. That is because killing an ant does not need much effort, but killing an elephant needs much more effort. In this case killing an elephant has more bad consequences than killing an ant.


Student: So it depends on your intention. You could kill a good person with bad intentions or you could kill a bad person with good intentions.


Teacher: But in Abhidhamma you do not kill with good intentions. At the moment of killing there is always unwholesome mental states, unwholesome consciousness. Before killing perhaps you may want for example to save a patient from suffering. Let us say a patient is suffering from a terminal illness. There is no chance of him getting cured. You may think that it is better for him to die than to suffer. You administer some medicine so that he will die. The intention may be good, but at the moment of giving the medicine, at the moment of killing, there is aversion in the mind. We cannot escape that. However, we may not be aware of that because the mind works very fast. So we may not be aware of that. At the moment of killing there is always the unwholesome type of consciousness.


Student: There are people who are trained to kill to defend their country. What would the Buddha say about that?


Teacher: Whether it is to defend one’s country or to defend one’s self, killing is killing. Killing cannot be otherwise.


Student: If it is done for a good reason or a good cause, does that give different consequences?


Teacher: In the teachings of the Buddha there is no killing with good intention. At the very moment when the act is done, there is always bad intention or unwholesome thoughts. We cannot avoid that. Without unwholesome thoughts we will not act at all. But as I said the effort that we make when we kill or the person whom we injure by doing something depending upon his virtue or lack of virtue and so on, the consequences or results may be more intense or less intense. Let us say a soldier kills another soldier from the other side to defend his own life or his own country. Whether he is defending his country or himself, because he kills the consequences are the same.


Student: Can a monk take medicine for worms? Worms are acknowledged as living beings.


Teacher: If you are to follow the Buddha’s advice, you would rather give up your life than kill a living being. But you may not be able to do that. You may want to take medicine to get rid of them. You know in one Sutta the Buddha said that even though your enemies are cutting you to pieces, if you have so much as a thought of anger towards them, you are not following his advice. It is something like Christ saying to give the other cheek. If we are to follow their advice, we should rather give up our life than to kill or cause another being to be killed.


Student; Let’s say there is a terrorist. He wants to kill five people. I kill him and I save five people. I actually save people.


Teacher: Killing cannot be otherwise. Killing is killing.


Student: If I don’t kill him, then if they are killed, it is like I killed them.


Teacher: No. We do not take you to be responsible for that.


Student: Can you for example throw yourself on the grenade? Can you take your own life?


Teacher: For monks it is forbidden for them to kill themselves. I don’t know about lay people. Killing one’s self is also killing.


Student: I can see the aversion in killing someone else, but I am not sure that I can see aversion in killing one’s self as self-sacrifice.


Teacher: At the very moment there may be aversion. There is aversion. There is a story  in MahÈyÈna literature of the Bodhisatta giving himself up to a hungry tiger.


Student: I thought there were JÈtaka tales in TheravÈda where the Bodhisatta gave up his life. That’s why there is the rabbit in the moon.


Teacher: Actually he didn’t die. The king of the gods came down to the human world to test him. He offered to give up his life, but he was saved by the king of the gods.


Student: I have a question about what the gentleman said about terrorists. You have said that we should not interfere with another person’s kamma. I mean if these five are going to be killed by the terrorist and you kill the terrorist, then you are interrupting the kamma of these five people.


Teacher: No.


Student: But you have saved five people by killing one person.


Teacher: I don’t know. It may be balanced. But we cannot say that there is no akusala, no unwholesomeness in killing. Whether it is killing for one’s country or killing to save beings, still killing is killing. There is unwholesomeness in killing. This killing may save 100 lives. By saving 100 lives you may get kusala, but I don’t know that because you are doing this by killing a being. Whether this being is going to kill another being is that being’s business and not yours.


Student: What about the Bodhisatta that fed himself to the tiger?


Teacher: That is not doing injury to give himself up to the tiger. It is not like killing a person so that this person cannot kill another person.


Student: It sounds like suicide to me.


Teacher: For Bodhisattas who make aspiration for Buddhahood, they have to do that. It is special conduct or special practice for them, for those who have aspired for Buddhahood giving up even one’s own life for the benefit of others.


Student: There was a monk in Vietnam who immolated himself. He was a MahÈyÈna monk who was of great learning and greatly revered for being very pure. That could not happen in the TheravÈda tradition?


Teacher: No. It is expressly forbidden to kill one’s self. All right. Let’s go a little further. Kamma is a very wide subject. “There are actions (kamma) ripening in hells..ripening in the animal kingdom..ripening in the domain of ghosts..ripening amongst me..ripening in heavenly worlds.” ‘Ripening’ means giving results in hells and so on. They are wholesome and unwholesome kamma.


“The result of actions (vipÈka) is of three kinds: ripening in the present life, ripening in the next life, (It is not ‘or’ here; it must be ‘and’.) and in any other future lives.” We should add ‘any other’. You will note in the paragraph at the bottom of the page it says ‘in any other future life’. Here it should also be ‘in any other future lives’. So there are three kinds of results of kamma. Some kinds of kamma can give results in this life. Some kinds of kamma can give results in the next life. And some can give results in other future lives other than the next life. We call this life the first life. The next life is the second life. From the third life onwards is called any other future lives. These are the three kinds mentioned in the Suttas.


In the PaÔisambhidÈmagga there is another kind of kamma. That is defunct kamma. That is the kamma that does not give result. It doesn’t get chance to give results. For example there is kamma which will give results in this present life, but it does not get the chance to give results in this life. If it does not get the chance to give results in this life, then its potential is spent. So it does not give results in the next life or the future lives. That kind of kamma is called ‘defunct kamma’.


Student: Wouldn’t that contradict the verse that we just read that no place can be found where a man can be freed from his evil deeds?


Teacher: No. For kamma to give results it needs conditions. Only when the conditions are favorable for it, does the kamma give results. Sometimes conditions are not favorable for it. Then it cannot give results. When its time is spent, it cannot give results. AngulimÈla killed many persons. Then he became an Arahant. So most of the unwholesome kamma was unable to give results for him. It is not because they cannot give results. In order for kamma to give results it needs certain conditions.


Student: So even if you have done something wrong, you can avoid the results by doing good kamma and avoiding the conditions for the bad kamma to give results.


Teacher: Yes. That is something like interfering with the working of kamma. Because we have been in this saÑsÈra a long time, we all have a lit of good and bad kamma in store. For bad kamma not to get chance to give bad results, we create unfavorable conditions for it. We do wholesome deeds here. So it is not favorable for it to give results. In this way it will become defunct.


There is another Sutta in the A~guttara NikÈya where it says that if you have a great amount of wholesome kamma, a little unwholesome kamma may not do much harm to you. It is like putting a small amount of salt in a pond. Conversely if you have not so great an amount of wholesome kamma, a little unwholesome kamma may do much harm to you. It is like putting a small amount of salt in a cup of water.


Student: So wholesome kamma and unwholesome kamma have to be balanced in order not to be reborn?


Teacher: They have to be avoided. Both have to be avoided. That is why the Arahants are called ‘those who have destroyed both wholesome and unwholesome kamma. Arahants and Buddhas are those who do not acquire fresh kamma, either good or bad kamma. Actually they do not have any bad kamma. Let us suppose the Buddha teaches people. When the Buddha is teaching people, he has a wholesome mind. However we do not say that he gets wholesome kamma by teaching. His mind is totally pure. There is no attachment, no ignorance in his mind. So whatever he does is just doing. It does not amount to being kamma. But for us who still have ignorance and attachment, whatever we do will be good kamma or bad kamma. So when I teach you, I get kusala. I get wholesome kamma. If the Buddha teaches you, he doesn’t get wholesome kamma.


Student: So if I do something without attachment, I don’t get kamma?


Teacher: ‘Attachment’ here does not mean at the moment. Here attachment must be totally eradicated from your system, from your mind. That is the difference. Whenever we do some meritorious deed, attachment is not there at that moment. We are temporarily free from all mental defilements. But that does not mean that we are totally from them. They will come back when there are conditions for them. In the minds of Buddhas and Arahants they will never come back. They have eradicated even the liability for them to arise in them. That is the difference.


So here we have three kinds of kamma - ripening in the present, ripening in the next life, and ripening in the life after the next on and on into future lives.


“All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs of their deeds; their deeds are the womb from which they sprang, with their deeds they are bound up, their deeds are their refuge. Whatever deeds they do - good or evil - of such they will be the heirs.” This is a very often repeated passage especially by monks. That is because monks are instructed to make reflections every day. One of the reflections is this: beings are owners of their kamma; whatever they do good or evil, they will be the heirs of that. The knowledge of beings being heir to kamma is very powerful when applied to situations where we are frustrated or indignant about something. Whenever we are faced with these unfavorable situations, we can just blame our kamma instead of blaming ourselves or blaming other people. I meet this undesirable situation or unfavorable situation simply because I did something bad in the past.


“And wherever the beings spring into existence, there their deeds will ripen; and wherever their deeds ripen, there they will earn the fruits of those deeds, be it in this life, or be it in the next life, or be it in any other future life.” That is good. The author makes different translations in different places of the same PÈÄi sentence. ‘In any other future life’ is very good.


SaÑsÈra is very long. Even this world will be destroyed, but we will not get out of this saÑsÈra. “Craving, however, is not the only cause.” In this passage the author says that not only craving but other mental defilements such as hatred, anger and so on are the cause. The most important is ignorance (avijjÈ). Craving and avijjÈ are the most important.


Now I want you to look at the book very carefully towards the bottom of the page. Mark, could you read some sentences?


Student: “Exactly defined kamma denotes those good and evil volitions (kusala and akusala cetanÈ), together with their concomitant mental factors (cetasikas) that produce or influence rebirth.”


Teacher: Please stop. Did you find those words in your books? As it is in this edition, it says ‘together with rebirth’. The editors are not so careful. We have found two omissions now. In some editions it says: “Exactly defined kamma denotes those good and evil volitions (kusala and akusala cetanÈ), together with rebirth.” So rebirth is kamma here. It is not. So people with that edition need to add “together with their concomitant mental factors (cetasikas) that produce or influence rebirth’. There are many words missing, maybe a line. It is a serious omission; maybe the typist missed one line. So we should have ‘together with their concomitant mental factors (cetasikas) that produce or influence rebirth’. What do you think of the word ‘rebirth’ here, Abhidhamma students? Do you agree with that?  “Kamma is something together with their concomitant mental factors (cetasikas) that produce or influence rebirth.” So kamma produces or influences rebirth. Do you agree with that?


Student: It seems you need a belief in reincarnation. I am having trouble with that. I am struggling with the need to believe in reincarnation.


Teacher: Rebirth, what do you think of that? Kamma gives results not as rebirth only. It gives results during life too. Right? In the course of life there are the results of kamma. The results of kamma arise not only at rebirth. We differentiate the results of kamma as two - the results exactly at the moment of rebirth and the results during the course of life, after relinking consciousness until we die. We see something good and we have seeing consciousness. That seeing consciousness is the result of past kamma. So it is not only rebirth here.


Student: That past kamma could have been during this lifetime and previous lives?


Teacher: In the previous lives we did something good or bad. So here we see something good or bad.


Student: It could also arise due to something we did good or bad in this life?


Teacher: Yes. So it is not only rebirth that is a result, but many things that arise during the course of a life. At the end the author says: “Once more the fact may be emphasized here that correctly speaking, the term ‘kamma’ signifies only the aforementioned kinds of action themselves (or volition), and does not mean or include their results.”


                                     SÈdhu!                 SÈdhu!                  SÈdhu!