Sunday, October 23, 2011


All About Karma - Discovering Buddhism
Dhamma Video presented by Dharma Vision

(from The Buddha & His Teaching 
by Venerable Narada Mahathera)

The Cause of Inequality

Perplexed by the seemingly inexplicable, apparent disparity that exists amongst humanity, a young truth-seeker named Subha approached the Buddha and questioned him regarding it.

“What is the reason, 
what is the cause, O Lord, 
that we find amongst mankind 
the short-lived (appāyukā) and 
the long-lived (dīghāyuka),
the diseased (bavhābādhā) and 
the healthy (appābādhā), 
the ugly (dubbannā) and 
the beautiful (vannavantā), 
the powerless (appesakkā) and 
the powerful (mahesakkā),
the poor (appabhogā) and 
the rich (mahābhogā), 
the low-born (nīcakulinā) and 
the high-born (uccakulinā), 
the ignorant (duppaññā) and 
the wise (paññavantā)?

The Buddha’s reply was:
“All living beings 
have actions (Kamma) 
as their own,
 their inheritance, 
their congenital cause, 
their kinsman, 
their refuge. 
It is Kamma that 
differentiates beings into 
low and high states.”

Everything is Not Due to Kamma

Although Buddhism attributes this variation to the law of Kamma, as the chief cause amongst a variety, it does not however assert that everything is due to Kamma. The law of Kamma, important as it is, is only one of the twenty-four causal conditions (paccaya), described in Buddhist Philosophy.

Refuting the erroneous view that “Whatsoever weal or woe or neutral feeling is experienced, 
is all due to some previous action (pubbekatahetu),” the Buddha states:
“So, then, owing to previous action, 
men will become murderers, thieves, 
unchaste, liars, slanderers, 
babblers, covetous, malicious, 
and perverse in view. 
Thus for those who fall back on 
the former deeds as the essential reason, 
there is neither the desire to do, 
nor effort to do, 
nor necessity to do this deed or 
abstain from that deed.”

This important text contradicts the belief that all physical circumstances and mental attitudes spring solely from past Kamma. If the present life is totally conditioned or wholly controlled by our past actions, then Kamma is certainly tantamount to fatalism or pre-determination or pre-destination. One will not be free to mould one’s present and future. If this were true, freewill would be an absurdity. Life would be purely mechanical, not much different from a machine. Whether we are created by an Almighty God who controls our destinies and fore-ordains our future, or are produced by an irresistible past Kamma that completely determines our fate and controls our life’s course, independent of any free action on our part, is essentially the same. The only difference then lies in the two words God and Kamma. One could easily be substituted for the other, because the ultimate operation of both forces would be identical. Such a fatalistic doctrine is NOT the Buddhist law of Kamma.

The Five Niyāmas

According to Buddhism there are five orders or processes (Niyāmas) which operate in the physical and mental realms. They are:

1) Utu Niyāma, physical inorganic order; e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains, the unerring order of seasons, characteristic seasonal changes and events, causes of wind and rains, nature of heat, etc. belong to this group.

2) Bīja Niyāma, order of germs and seeds (physical organic order); e.g., rice produced from rice seed, sugary taste from sugar-cane or honey, and peculiar characteristics of certain fruits. The scientific theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to this order.

3) Kamma Niyāma, order of act and result; e.g., desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results.

As surely as water seeks its own level, so does Kamma, given opportunity, produce its inevitable result, — not in the form of a reward or punishment but as an innate sequence. This sequence of deed and effect is as natural and necessary as the way of the sun and the moon, and is the retributive principle of Kamma.

Inherent in Kamma is also the continuative principle.
Manifold experiences, personal characteristics, accumulated knowledge, and so forth are all indelibly recorded in the palimpsest-like mind. All these experiences and characters transmigrate from life to life. Through lapse of time they may be forgotten as in the case of our experiences of our childhood. Infant prodigies and wonderful children, who speak in different languages without receiving any instruction, are noteworthy examples of the continuative principle of Kamma.
4) Dhamma Niyāma, order of the norm; e.g., the natural phenomena occurring at the birth of a Bodhisatta in his last birth. Gravitation and other similar laws of nature, the reason for being good, etc. may be included in this group.

5) Citta Niyāma, order of mind or psychic law; e.g., processes of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of mind, including telepathy, telesthesia, retrocognition premonition, clair-voyance, clair-audience, thought-reading, and such other psychic phenomena, which are inexplicable to modern science.

Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws in themselves. Kamma as such is only one of these five orders. Like all other natural laws, they demand no lawgiver. 

Of these five, the physical inorganic order, the physical organic order and the order of the norm are more or less of the mechanical type though they can be controlled to some extent by human ingenuity and the power of mind. For example, fire normally burns, and extreme cold freezes, but man has walked unscathed over fire and meditated naked on Himalayan snows; horticulturists have worked marvels with flowers and fruits; and Yogis have performed levitation. Psychic law is equally mechanical, but Buddhist training aims at control of mind, which is possible by right understanding and skilful volition. Kamma law operates quite automatically and, when the Kamma is powerful, man cannot interfere with its inexorable result though he may desire to do so; but here also right understanding and skilful volition can accomplish much and mould the future. Good Kamma, persisted in, can thwart the reaping of bad. Kamma is certainly an intricate law whose working is fully comprehended only by a Buddha. The Buddhist aims at the final destruction of all Kamma. 

Kamma-Vipaka (fruit of action) is one of 
the four unthinkables (acinteyya), 
states the Buddha in 
the Anguttara Nikāya.

“According to the seed that’s sown,
So is the fruit ye reap therefrom
Doer of good (will gather) good.
Doer of evil, evil (reaps).
Sown is the seed, and planted well.
Thou shalt enjoy the fruit thereof.”
~ Samyutta Nikāya

“By self is evil done,
By self is one defiled,
By self is no evil done,
By self is one purified.
Both defilement and 

purity depend on oneself.
No one is purified by another.”
~ Dhammapada verse 165

佛 陀 与 佛 法
(in Simplified Chinese)

This Gift of Dhamma is published in 
conjunction of
Kathina Celebration
on 26th October 2011 at
Buddhist Hermitage Lunas
Lot 297 Kampung Seberang Sungai
09600 Lunas, Kedah

This book will be distribute for FREE during
the celebration of Kathina on 26th October 2011.

Special Thanks to 
Bro. Kang Phee Ho & family and
Committee Members of BHL
for making this book available for free distribution.