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What is the cause of Karma? Ignorance avijja , or not knowing things as they truly are, is the chief cause of Karma. Dependent on ignorance arise activities avijja paccaya samkhara states the Buddha in the Paticca Samuppada Dependent Origination. Associated with ignorance is the ally craving tanha , the other root of Karma. Evil actions are conditioned by these two causes.

All good deeds of a worldling putthujana , though associated with the three wholesome roots of generosity alobha , goodwill adosa and knowledge amoha , are nevertheless regarded as Karma because the two roots of ignorance and craving are dormant in him. The moral types of Supramundane Path Consciousness magga citta are not regarded as Karma because they tend to eradicate the two root causes.

Who is the doer of Karma? Who reaps the fruit of Karma? Does Karma mould a soul? In answering these subtle questions, the Venerable Buddhaghosa writes in the Visuddhi Magga:. Is right discernment. For instance, the table we see is apparent reality. In an ultimate sense the so-called table consists of forces and qualities. For ordinary purposes a scientist would use the term water, but in the laboratory he would say H 2 0.

In this same way, for conventional purposes, such terms as man, woman, being, self, and so forth are used. The so-called fleeting forms consist of psychophysical phenomena, which are constantly changing not remaining the same for two consecutive moments.

Karma in Jainism

Buddhists, therefore, do not believe in an unchanging entity, in an actor apart from action, in a perceiver apart from perception, in a conscious subject behind consciousness. Who then, is the doer of Karma? Who experiences the effect? Volition, or Will tetana , is itself the doer, Feeling vedana is itself the reaper of the fruits of actions. Apart from these pure mental states suddhadhamma there is no-one to sow and no-one to reap.

Classification of Karma. A With respect to different functions, Karma is classified into four kinds:.

Every birth is conditioned by a past good or bad karma, which predominated at the moment of death. Karma that conditions the future birth is called Reproductive Karma. Though the present form perishes, another form which is neither the same nor absolutely different takes its place, according to the potential thought-vibration generated at the death moment, because the Karmic force which propels the life-flux still survives.

It is this last thought, which is technically called Reproductive janaka Karma, that determines the state of a person in his subsequent birth. This may be either a good or bad Karma. According to the Commentary, Reproductive Karma is that which produces mental aggregates and material aggregates at the moment of conception. The initial consciousness, which is termed the patisandhi rebirth consciousness, is conditioned by this Reproductive janaka Karma.

The element of cohesion apo. The element of heat tajo. The element of motion vayo. Odour gandha.

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Taste rasa. Sex-decad and Base-decad also consist of the first nine, sex bhava and seat of consciousness vathu respectively i. From this, it is evident that the sex of a person is determined at the very conception of a being. It is conditioned by Karma and is not a fortuitous combination of sperm and ovum cells. Immediately after conception till the death moment this Karma steps forward to support the Reproductive Karma. A moral supportive kusala upathambhaka Karma assists in giving health, wealth, happiness etc. An immoral supportive Karma, on the other hand, assists in giving pain, sorrow, etc.

For instance, a person born with a good Reproductive Karma may be subject to various ailments etc. An animal, on the other hand, who is born with a bad Reproductive Karma may lead a comfortable life by getting good food, lodging, etc. According to the law of Karma the potential energy of the Reproductive Karma could be nullified by a mere powerful opposing Karma of the past, which, seeking an opportunity, may quite unexpectedly operate, just as a powerful counteractive force can obstruct the path of a flying arrow and bring it down to the ground.

Such an action is called Destructive upaghataka Karma, which is more effective than the previous two in that it is not only obstructive but also destroys the whole force. This Destructive Karma also may be either good or bad. As an instance of operation of all the four, the case of Devadatta, who attempted to kill the Buddha and who caused a schism in the Sangha disciples of the Buddha may be cited.

His good Reproductive Karma brought him birth in a royal family. His continued comfort and prosperity were due to the action of the Supportive Karma. The Counteractive or Obstructive Karma came into operation when he was subject to much humiliation as a result of his being excommunicated from the Sangha. Finally the Destructive Karma brought his life to a miserable end. It produces its results in this life or in the next for certain.

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If good, it is purely mental as in the case of Jhana ecstasy or absorption. Otherwise it is verbal or bodily. On the Immoral side, there are five immediate effective heinous crimes pancanantariya karma : Matricide, Patricide, and the murder of an Arahant, the wounding of a Buddha and the creation of a schism in the Sangha. If, for instance, any person were to develop the jhana ecstasy or absorption and later were to commit one of these heinous crimes, his good Karma would be obliterated by the powerful evil Karma.

His subsequent birth would be conditioned by the evil Karma in spite of his having gained the jhana earlier. Devadatta lost his psychic power and was born in an evil state, because he wounded the Buddha and caused a schism in the Sangha. King Ajatasattu would have attained the first stage of Sainthood Sotapanna if he had not committed patricide. In this case the powerful evil Karma acted as an obstacle to his gaining Sainthood. This is that which one does or remembers immediately before the moment of dying.

Owing to the great part it plays in determining the future birth, much importance is attained to this deathbed asanna Karma in almost all Buddhist countries. The customs of reminding the dying man of good deeds and making him do good acts on his deathbed still prevails in Buddhist countries. Sometimes a bad person may die happily and receive a good birth if he remembers or does a good act at the last moment.

A story runs that a certain executioner who casually happened to give some alms to the Venerable Sariputta remembered this good act at the dying moment and was born in a state of bliss. This does not mean that although he enjoys a good birth he will be exempt from the effects of the evil deeds which he accumulated during his lifetime. They will have there due effect as occasions arise. At times a good person may die unhappy by suddenly remembering an evil act of his or by harbouring some unpleasant thought, perchance compelled by unfavourable circumstances.

In the scriptures, Queen Mallika, the consort of King Kosala, remembering a lie she had uttered, suffered for about seven days in a state of misery when she lied to her husband to cover some misbehaviour. These are exceptional cases. Such reverse changes of birth account for the birth of virtuous children to vicious parents and of vicious children to virtuous parents. As a result of the last thought moment being conditioned by the general conduct of the person.

It is that which on habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking. Habits whether good or bad becomes ones second nature, tending to form the character of a person. King Dutthagamini of Ceylon Sri Lanka was in the habit of giving alms to the Bhikkhus monks before he took his own meals. It was his habitual Karma that gladdened him at the dying moment and gave him birth in the Tusita heaven.

C There is another classification of Karma according to the time in which effects are worked out:. Immediately Effective Karma is that which is experienced in this present life. According to the Abhidhamma one does both good and evil during the javana process thought-impulsion , which usually lasts for seven thought-moments. The effect of the first thought-moment, being the weakest, one may reap in this life itself. This is called the Immediately Effective Karma. The next weakest is the seventh thought-moment. Its effect one may reap in the subsequence birth.

This, too, is called Defunct or Ineffective Karma if it does not operate in the second birth. The effect of the intermediate thought-moments may take place at any time until one attains Nibbana. There is no special class of Karma known as Defunct or Ineffective, but when such actions that should produce their effects in this life or in a subsequent life do not operate, they are termed Defunct or Ineffective Karma.

D The last classification of Karma is according to the plane in which the effect takes place, namely: Evil Actions akusala kamma which may ripen in the sentient planes kammaloka. Here are only four woeful kamalokas. Good Actions kusala kamma which may ripen in the sentient planes except for the four woeful planes. Good Actions kusala kamma which may ripen in the Realm of Form rupa brahamalokas. There are four Arupa Brahma Lokas. Questions on the Theory of Karma.

Question: Do the Karmas of parents determine or affect the Karmas of their children? Answer: Physically, the Karma of children is generally determined by the Karma of their parents. Thus, healthy parents usually have healthy offspring, and unhealthy parents have unhealthy children. The glorious and powerful Karma of our Buddha-to-be transcended the Karma of his parents which jointly were more potent than his own. Question: If the Karma of parents do not influence those of their children, how would the fact be explained that parents who suffer from certain virulent diseases are apt to transmit these evils to their offsprings?

Take, for example, two seeds from a sapling; plant one in inferior, dry soil; and the other in rich, moist soil. The result is that the first seed will sprout into a sickly sapling and soon show symptoms of disease and decay; while the other seed will thrive and flourish and grow up to be a tall and healthy tree. It will be observed that the pair of seeds taken from the same stock grows up differently according to the soil into which they are put. Thus, although the power of germination exists potentially in the seed the child , its growth is powerfully determined and quickened by the soil the mother and the moisture the father.

Therefore, even as the conditions of the soil and moisture must be taken as largely responsible factors in the growth and condition of the tree. So must the influences of the parents or progenitors, as in the case of the animal world be taken into account in respect to the conception and growth of their offspring.

If they are cattle then their issue must be of their species. If the human being is Chinese, then their offspring must be of their race. Thus, the offspring are invariably of the same genera and species, etc. It is apt to inherit the physical characteristic of its parents. Of course, it need hardly be pointed out that the evil influences of parents can also be counteracted by the application of medical science.


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All beings born of sexual cohabitation are the resultant effects of three forces: The old Karma of past existence; The seminal fluid of the mother, and The seminal fluid of the father. The physical dispositions of the parents may, or may not, be equal in force. One may counteract the other to a lesser or greater extent.

Answer: When a sentient being leaves one existence, it is reborn either as a human being, a celestial being, Deva or Brahama , and inferior animal, or a denizen of one of the regions of hell. Some assert that these transitional stages are possessed of the Five Khandhas Five Aggregates: they are Matter rupa ; Feeling vedana ; Perception sanna ; 4. Mental-activities sankhara ; and Consciousness vinnana.

Others again hold the fantastic and erroneous theory that these beings can, and so, fancy themselves to be in other than the existence they are actually in. Thus, to take for example one such of these suppositious beings. This belief in intermediate stages between existences is false, and is condemned in the Buddhist teachings.

A human being in this life who, by his Karma is destined to be a human being in the next, will be reborn as such; one who by his Karma is destined to be a Deva in the next will be appear in the land of the Devas; and one whose future life is to be in Hell, will be found in one of the regions of hell in the next existence. The conception, which is in accordance with the Dhamma, may perhaps be illustrated by the picture thrown out by a cinema projector, or the sound of emitted by the gramophone, and their relation to the film or the sound-box and records respectively. For example, a human being dies and is reborn in the land of Devas.

Though these two existences are different, yet the link or continuity between the two at death is unbroken in point of time. The same is true in the case of a man whose further existence is to be in hell. The distance between Hell and the abode of man appears to be great. Karma determines the realm of rebirth and the state of existence in that realm of all transient being in the cycle of existences, which have to be traversed till the attainment, at last, of Nibbana. The results of Karma are manifold, and may be effected in many ways. Religious offerings dana may obtain for a man the privilege of rebirth as a human being, or as a deva, in one of the six deva worlds according to the degree of the merit of the deeds performed, and so with the observance of religious duties sila.

The jhanas or states of absorption, are found in the Brahma world or Brahmalokas up to the summit, the twentieth Brahma world: And so with bad deeds, the perpetrators of which are to be found , grade by grade, down to the lowest depths of Hell. Thus are Karma, past, present and future were, are, and will ever be the sum total of our deeds, good, indifferent or bad. As was seen from the foregoing, our Karma determines the changes of our existences.

World of Men: 2. The Lowest plane of deva-world; 3. The region of hell; 4. Animals below men, and 5. Petas ghosts. Number 2 and 5 are very near the world of human beings. As their condition is unhappy, and they are popularly considered evil spirits. It is not true that all who die in this world are reborn as evil spirits; nor is it true that beings who die sudden or violent deaths are apt to be reborn in the lowest plane of the world of devas. Question: Is there such a thing as a human being who is reborn and who is able to speak accurately of his or her past existence?

Answer: Certainly, this is not an uncommon occurrence, and is in accordance with the tenets of Buddhism in respect to Karma. The following who form, an overwhelming majority of human beings are generally unable to remember there past existences when reborn as human beings: Children who die young. Those who die old and senile.

Those who are addicted to the drug or drink habit. Those whose mothers, during their conception, have been sickly or have had to toil laboriously, or have been reckless or imprudent during pregnancy. The children in the womb, being stunned and started, lose all knowledge of their past existence. The following are possessed of a knowledge of their past existences, viz: Those who are not reborn in the human world but proceed to the world of the devas, of Brahmas, or to the regions of Hell, remember their past existences.

Those who die suddenly deaths from accidents, while in sound health, may also be possessed of this faculty in the next existence, provided that their mothers, in whose womb they are conceived, are healthy. Again, those who live steady, meritorious lives and who in their past existences have striven to attain, often attain it. Lastly the Buddha, the Arahantas and Ariyas attain this gift which is known as pubbenivasa abhnna Supernatural Power remembering previous existences. Question: Which are the five Abhinna? Are they attainable only by the Buddha? The Abhinna are attainable not only by the Buddha, but also by Arantas and Ariyas, by ordinary mortals who practise according to the Scriptures as was the case with hermits etc, who flourished before the time of the Buddha and who were able to fly through the air and traverse different worlds.

In the Buddhist Scriptures, we find, clearly shown, the means of attaining the five Abhinna. And even nowadays, if these means are carefully and perseveringly pursued, it would be possible to attain these.

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