rebirth and kamma


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Presentation based on Bhikkhu Bodhi's recorded lectures on 'Buddha's Teaching As It Is'.

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rebirth and kamma

  1. 1. Buddha’s Teaching As It Is – Bhikkhu Bodhi<br />PowerPoint presentation on Bhikkhu Bodhi’s recorded lectures on ‘Buddha’s Teaching As It Is’. Materials for the presentation are taken from the recorded lectures (MP3) posted at the website of Bodhi Monastery and the notes of the lectures posted at<br />Originally prepared to accompany the playing of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s recorded lectures on ‘Buddha’s Teaching As It is’ at Dharma Study Class at PUTOSI Temple, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.<br />The study on the subject begins in November, 2010.<br />
  2. 2. Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa<br />Rebirth and Kamma<br />Bhikkhu Bodhi<br />Lecture 5<br />
  3. 3. Rebirth & Kamma – Part I. <br />Rebirth<br />
  4. 4. Human Destiny After Death<br />The question of human destiny after death is probably one of the most critical questions we can raise. Nowadays it has become fashionable to dismiss this question as unimportant. But if we reflect on the extent to which our views influence our action we will see that it is quite essential to gain some understanding of the complete context in which our lives unfold. Moreover our views on the afterlife will determine what we regard as important in this present life. <br />
  5. 5. Human Destiny After Death<br />If we dismiss the idea of a future life as imaginary, then it will make sense to devote ourselves completely to worldly concerns. On the other hand, if we accept the idea of some life after death, then that will influence our path of conduct in this life, a path that gives meaning to renunciation, contemplation and spiritual exertion.<br />
  6. 6. Human Destiny After Death<br />There are three possible positions that can be taken on human destiny after death. One position, the outlook of materialism, simply denies that there is an afterlife. It holds that the human being consists of organic matter. It regards the mind as a by-product of organic matter, and after death, with the break up of the physical body, all consciousness comes to an end, and the life process is completely extinguished. Nothing remains but the dead matter of the body.<br />
  7. 7. Human Destiny After Death<br />Asecond alternative is the view held in Western theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam in their orthodox forms. They believe in an eternal afterlife. According to these religions, we live a single life on earth and after death we live eternally in some state of existence determined by our present beliefs and conduct, either in an everlasting heavenly or else in an eternal hell.<br />
  8. 8. Human Destiny After Death<br />Then there is a third view, a view which prevails in the religions of the East, Hinduism and Buddhism. This is the idea of rebirth. According to this, the present life is only a single link in a chain of lives that extends back into the past and forward into the future. This chain of lives is called samsara. <br />The word “samsara" means literally "continuing on", "wandering on". It signifies the repetitive cycle of birth, growth, ageing, death and rebirth.<br />
  9. 9. Hinduism & Buddhism Compared<br />Now though Buddhism and Hinduism share the concept of rebirth, the Buddhist concept differs in details from the Hindu doctrine. The doctrine of rebirth as understood in Hinduism involves a permanent soul, a conscious entity which transmigrates from one body to another. The soul inhabits a given body and at death, the soul casts that body off and goes on to assume another body. The famous Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita, compares this to a man who might take off one suit of clothing and put on another. The man remains the same but the suits of clothing are different. In the same way the soul remains the same from life to life to life, but<br />
  10. 10. Hinduism & Buddhism Compared<br />the psycho-physical organism it takes up differs from life to life.<br />The Buddhist termfor rebirth in Pali is "punabbhava" which means "again existence". Buddhism sees rebirth not as a transmigration of a conscious entity but as the repeated occurrence of the process of existence. “Punabbhava” may be rendered as ‘repeated or renewed becoming”. There is a continuity, a transmission of influence, a causal connection between one life and another. But there is no soul, no permanent entity which transmigrates from one life to the next.<br />
  11. 11. Rebirth Without a Transmigrating Soul<br />The concept of rebirth without a transmigrating soul commonly raises a certain question: How can rebirth occur without a soul or self to undergo the process of being reborn? How can we speak of ourselves as having lived past lives if there is no soul, no single self going through these many lives? To answer this we have to understand the nature of individual identity in a single life time; how individual identity is possible in one life time without a self or soul. The Buddha explains that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of the five aggregates. <br />
  12. 12. The five aggregates fall into two types of processes. First there is a material process, which is a current of material energy. Then there is a mental process, a current of mental happenings, mind and the mental factors. Both these currents consist of elements that are subject to momentary arising and passing away.<br />What we call a physical body is not a single substantial entity, but a combination of many elements, pulsations of matter connected together in lines of transmission becoming manifest at the material level.<br />Rebirth Without a Transmigrating Soul<br />
  13. 13. Rebirth Without a Transmigrating Soul<br />The mind also is not a single persisting entity enduring through time. The mind is a series of mental acts made up of the four aggregates, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. These mental acts are thought moments called in Pali "cittas". Each citta arises, breaks up and passes away. When it breaks up it does not leave any traces behind. It does not have any core or inner essence that remains. But as soon as the citta breaks up, immediately afterwards there arises another citta. Thus we find the mind as a succession of cittas, or series of momentary acts of consciousness. <br />
  14. 14. Rebirth Without a Migrating Soul<br />Now when each citta falls away, it transmits to its successor whatever impression has been recorded on itself, whatever experience it has undergone. Its perceptions, emotions and volitional force are passed on to the next citta, and thus all experiences we undergo leave their imprint on the onward flow of consciousness, on the "cittasantana", the continuum of mind.<br />This transmission of influence, this causal continuity, gives us our continued identity. We remain the same person or being through the whole lifetime because of this continuity even though there is no ego-entity, no self standing underneath the process.<br />
  15. 15. What Continues From Life to Life<br />The physical organism, the body, and the mental continuum, the stream of cittas, occur in close interconnection. The body provides the physical basis for the stream or succession of cittas, and the mental process rests upon the body as its instrument or basis. When death comes, the physical body can no longer function as the physical support for consciousness. However, when the body breaks up at death, the succession of cittas does not draw to an end. In the mind of the dying person there takes place a final thought moment called the "death consciousness", which signals the complete end of alife. <br />
  16. 16. What Continues From Life to Life<br />Then, following the death consciousness, there arises the first citta of the next life which springs up with the newly formed physical organism as its basis, a newly fertilized ovum. The first citta of the new life continues the stream of consciousness which has passed out of the old deceased body. <br />The stream of consciousness is not a single entity, but a process, and the process continues. <br />The death consciousness in the series is followed by a new moment of consciousness called the relinking consciousness orpatisandhicitta. The relinking consciousness inherits all the impressions of past<br />
  17. 17. What Continues From Life to Life<br />experience undergone in the current of consciousness in the previous life and many lives before that. In this way all the impressions recorded and stored up in the mental continuum get transmitted to the first citta of the new life. When this first citta passes away, it passes its storage of experience along with the new addition on to the second citta; the second passes on to the third, the third to fourth, and so on.. citta to citta from birth to death. When that life comes to an end, aagin the stram of cittas will pass on to the next life. When the stream of cittas passes on to the next life it carries the storage of impressions along with it. The entire process is repeated.<br />
  18. 18. Preservation of Identity - Illustration<br />An illustration may help us understand how this preservation of, identity can take place without the transmigration of any "self-identifiable" entity. Suppose we have a candle burning at 8 o'clock. If we come back in an hour, at 9 o'clock, we see that the candle is still burning, and we say that it is the same candle. This statement is completely valid from the standpoint of conventional linguistic usage. But if we examine this matter close-up, we'll see that at every moment the candle is burning different particles of wax, every moment it is burning a different section of wick, different molecules of oxygen. <br />
  19. 19. Preservation of Identity - Illustration<br />Thus the wax, wick and the oxygen being burnt are always different from moment to moment, and yet because the moments of flame link together in a continuum, one moment of flame giving rise to the next, we can still say it is the same flame. But actually the flame is different from moment to moment. The flame itself is an entirely different phenomenon. It is conditioned by wax, the wick and air, and apart from them there is nothing.<br />
  20. 20. Transmission of the Flame<br />Now we go on to the next step. Suppose the flame reaches the bottom of the candle, we take a new candle, put its wick to the flame of the old candle and catch the flame from the old candle on to the new one; then the flame on the old candle goes out. So the flame has now been transmitted to the new candle. Is it the same flame or a different flame? From one angle, we can say it is the same flame because it follows in continuity, it belongs to the same series.<br />
  21. 21. Transmission of the Flame<br />But now the flame is burning with a new physical base, with a new candle as its support. It is burning up new particles of air, new pieces of wax, a new section of wick. We can say it is the same flame as the flame of the old candle because it caught fire from that and it continues the succession. But there is no absolute identity of one flame with the other, because there is no condition contributing to that flame that is absolutely identical with the previous condition. But we can't say that it is a different flame. To call it a different flames would not be in conformity with conventional usage. Conventionally we say it is the same flame, and yet there is no absolute or ultimate identity because the whole flame is just a process of combustion that goes on differently from moment to moment.<br />
  22. 22. Simile of the Candle<br />We can apply this simile to the case of rebirth. The body of the candle is like the physical body of the person. The wick might be compared to the sense faculties that function as the support for the process of consciousness. The particles of oxygen are like the sense objects and the flame is like consciousness. Consciousness always arises with the physical body as its support. It always arises through a particular sense faculty, e.g. eye, ear, nose, etc. It always has an object, e.g. sight, sound, etc. The body, the sense faculty and the object keep constantly changing and therefore consciousness and the mental factors are constantly changing.<br />
  23. 23. Simile of the Candle<br />But because each act of mind follows in sequence and passes on the contents to the following, we speak of the body and mind compound as being the same person at different times. When the body loses its vitality and death takes place, that is like the first candle coming to an end. The transmission of the flame to the next candle, that is like the passing on of the current of consciousness to the next life. When the mental continuum takes up the new body, that is like the flame of the old candle passing on to the new candle. <br />Just as there is the causal transmission of the flame from one candle to the other, so in the same way there is a passing on of mind or mental process from one physical body to the next.<br />
  24. 24. Conception<br />The Buddha teaches that in order for conception to take place, the presence of the stream of mind or mental continuum is absolutely necessary. The Buddha says there are three necessary conditions for conception. <br />There has to be a union of the father and mother, the father to provide the sperm, the mother to provide the egg. <br />Second, it must be the mother's proper season. If the mother isn't fertile, conception won't take place. <br />
  25. 25. Does Rebirth Go On Continuously?<br />Third, there must be a stream of consciousness of the deceased person, the flow of mind that is ready and prepared to take rebirth. This third factor he calls the 'gandhabba'. Unless all these conditions are met conception does not take place.<br />Is there any causal structure behind this process of rebirth? Does it go on automatically and inevitably? Or is there some set of causes that sustains it and keeps it rolling? <br />The Buddha explains that there is a distinct set of causes underlying the rebirth process. It has a causal structure and this structure is set out in the teaching of Dependent Arising, "paticcasamuppada".<br />
  26. 26. Teachings of Dependent Arising<br />Now we will explain the teaching of Dependent Arising with specific connection to the rebirth process. <br />First, in this life there is present in us the most basic root of all becoming, namely ignorance. Due to our ignorance, we perceive things in a distorted way. Due to these distortions or perversions, things appear to us to be permanent, pleasurable, attractive and as our self. Due to these distortions there arises in us craving, craving for sense pleasures, for existence, for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch sensations, and ideas. <br />
  27. 27. Teachings of Dependent Arising<br />Basically there is craving for pleasant feeling. In order to experience pleasant feeling we require agreeable objects such as agreeable sights, smells etc. In order to obtain the pleasure these objects can give, we have to make contact with these objects. To contact these objects we need sense faculties that can receive the sense objects. In other words, we need the six sense faculties, e.g. the eye to receive sight, the ear to receive sound, etc. In order for the sense faculties to function we need the entire psycho-physical organism, the mind-body complex.<br />
  28. 28. Teachings of Dependent Arising<br />Thus on account of craving the mind holds on to this presently existing organism so long as it lives. But when death occurs the present organism can no longer provide the basis for obtaining pleasure through the sense faculties. <br />However, there is still the craving for the world of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches and ideas. So due to this craving for existence, consciousness lets go of this body and grasps hold of a new body, a fertilized egg. It lodges itself in that fertilized egg, bringing a whole storage of accumulated impressions over with it into the new psycho-physical organism. Thus we say the new being is conceived. <br />
  29. 29. Craving the Seamstress<br />Hence the Buddha calls craving the 'seamstress'. Just as a seamstress sews together different pieces of cloth, so does craving sew together one life to another. It ties together the succession of lives. Craving is so powerful that it can bridge the gap created by death and rebuild the whole house of sentient existence again and again. <br />
  30. 30. Rebirth & Kamma – Part I<br />Kamma<br />
  31. 31. What Causes Rebirth in a Particular Form<br />Now we come to the next question. We see a tremendous variety among the living beings existing in the world. People and animals are of many different sorts. So we ask what is it that causes rebirth in a particular form? Does it happen through coincidence, accident, by chance, without any reason; or is there some principle behind it? What is it that determines the form of rebirth we take?<br />
  32. 32. What Causes Rebirth in a Particular Form<br />The answer the Buddha gives to this question is the Pali word 'Kamma‘ (Skt: Karma). Kamma is the factor which determines the specific form of rebirth we take; and it is Kamma again which determines a good number of the experiences we undergo in the course of our life. The word Kamma means literally action, deed or doing. But in Buddhism it means specifically volitional action. <br />
  33. 33. Kamma - Volitional Action<br />The Buddha says:"Monks it is volition that I call kamma. For having willed, one then acts by body, speech or mind". What really lies behind all action, the essence of all action, is volition, the power of the will. It is this volition expressing itself as action of body, speech and mind that the Buddha calls kamma. <br />
  34. 34. Kamma - Volitional Action<br />This means that unintentional action is not kamma. If we accidently step on some ants while walking down the street, that is not the kamma of taking life, for there was no intention to kill. If we speak some statement believing it to be true and it turns out to be false, this is not the kamma of lying, for there is no intention of deceiving. <br />
  35. 35. Three Doors of Action<br />Kamma manifests itself in three ways, through three "doors" of action. These are body, speech and mind. When we act physically, the body serves as the instrument for volition. This is bodily kamma. When we speak, expressing our thoughts and intentions verbally (signs, writing), that is verbal kamma, which can be performed either directly through speech or else indirectly through writing or other means of communications. When we think, plan, desire inwardly, without any outer action, that is mental kamma. What lies behind all these forms of actions is the mind and the chief mental factor which causes the action is volition.<br />
  36. 36. Types of Kamma Based on Ethical Ground<br />The Buddha divides kamma ethically right down the middle into two general classes, wholesome kamma ("kusala kamma") and unwholesome kamma ("akusala kamma").<br />Unwholesome kamma is action which is spiritually harmful and morally blameworthy.<br />Wholesome kamma is action which is spiritually beneficial and morally praiseworthy. <br />
  37. 37. Criteria: Intention<br />There are two basic criteria for distinguishing wholesome and unwholesome kammas – Intention and Roots. <br />Intention: One is the intention behind the action. If an action is intended to bring harm to oneself, harm to others or harm to both oneself and others, that is unwholesome kamma. <br /> Kamma which conduces to the good of oneself, to the good of others or to the good of both is wholesome kamma.<br />
  38. 38. Criteria: Roots of actions<br />The other criterion is the roots of action. All action arises from certain mental factors called roots. These are the causal factors underlying action or the sources of action.<br />All unwholesome actions come from three unwholesome roots, greed, aversion and delusion. Greed is selfish desire aimed at personal gratification, expressed as grasping, craving and attachment. Aversion is ill will, hatred, resentment, anger and a negative evaluation of the object. Delusion is ignorance, mental unclarity and confusion. <br />
  39. 39. Criteria: Roots<br />We also find the roots in the wholesome side: non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion. <br />Non-greed becomes manifest as detachment and generosity. <br />Non-aversion is expressed positively as good will, friendliness and loving kindness. <br />Non-delusion is manifested as wisdom, understanding and mental clarity.<br />
  40. 40. Roots<br />Due to these roots we have to be very careful when we judge actions of our own and of others. Often there can be a sharp difference between the outer action and the state of mind from which the action springs. <br />We might be doing a lot of good work for others outwardly, but the underlying motive behind our good work might be a desire to gain fame and recognition, a form of the unwholesome root, greed and craving for name and fame. <br />
  41. 41. Roots<br />Someone else might be sitting quietly meditating, seemingly aloof, but inwardly he might be developing a mind of loving kindness and compassion. He might be criticised for seeking only his own good, but he might be doing more to benefit the world than the active do-gooder who is driven by desire for name and fame.<br />
  42. 42. Ten Courses of Unwholesome Actions<br />Bodily:<br />Taking life;<br />Taking what is not given (stealing)<br />Engaging in sexual misconduct (adultery, etc)<br />Verbal:<br />Speaking falsehood <br />Speaking slanderous speech<br />Speaking harshly<br />Engaging in idle chatter and gossip<br />
  43. 43. Ten Courses of Unwholesome Actions<br />Mental:<br />Covetousness (yearning for possession of others)<br />Illwill (actively desiring harm, suffering and destruction to others)<br />wrong view (especially fixed views which deny efficacy of moral action) <br />
  44. 44. Ten Courses of Wholesome Actions<br />Avoiding the ten unwholesome actions, perform the opposite virtues:<br />Bodily:<br />Avoiding taking of life, one dwells with compassionate mind;<br />Avoiding stealing, one has an honest mind;<br />Avoiding sexual misconduct, one has a pure mind;<br />Verbal<br />4. Avoiding false speech, one speaks the truth;<br />5. Avoiding slandering, one speaks what brings harmony;<br />
  45. 45. Ten Courses of Wholesome Actions<br />Verbal<br />6. Avoiding harsh speech, one speaks gently and politely to others;<br />7. Avoiding idle chatter and gossip, one speaks meaningfully and significantly;<br />Mental<br />8. Avoiding covetousness, one is contented and satisfied with what one has;<br />9. Avoiding illwill, one develops loving-kindness;<br />10. Avoiding wrong view, one holds right view.<br />
  46. 46. Rebirth & Kamma – Part II<br />Kamma con’d<br />
  47. 47. Effects of Kamma – Willed Action<br />According to the Buddha, our willed actions produce effects. They eventually return to ourselves. One effect is the immediately visible psychological effect. The other is the effect of moral retribution. <br />Firstly let us deal with the psychological effect of kamma. Our volitional action determines our character. Every willed action has a tendency to repeat itself, to reproduce itself, somewhat like a protozoan, like an amoeba. When a willed action is performed it leaves a track in the mind, an imprint which can mark the beginning of a new mental tendency. As these actions multiply, they form our character. Our personality is nothing but a sum of all our willed actions, a cross-section of all our accumulated kamma. <br />
  48. 48. Effects of Kamma – Willed Action<br />So by yielding first in simple ways to the unwholesome impulses of the mind, we build up little by little a greedy character, a hostile character, an aggressive character or a deluded character. On the other hand, by resisting these unwholesome desires we replace them with their opposites, the wholesome qualities. Then we develop a generous character, a loving and a compassionate personality, or we can become wise and enlightened beings. <br />
  49. 49. Effects of Kamma – Willed Action<br />As we change our habits gradually, we change our character, and as we change our character we change our total being, our whole world. That is why the Buddha emphasizes so strongly the importance and need to be mindful of every action, of every choice, for every choice of ours has a tremendous potential for the future.<br />
  50. 50. Effect of Kamma – Moral Retribution<br />Now let us examine the effects of moral retribution. What is most important in Kamma is its tendency to ripen in the future and produce results in accordance with the universal moral law. <br />Whenever we perform an action with intention, such action deposits a "seed" in the mind, a seed with a potency to bring about effects in the future. These effects correspond to the nature of the original action. They follow from the inherent ethical tone of the action. Our unwholesome kamma comes back to us and lead to our harm and suffering. Our wholesome kamma eventually returns to us and leads to our happiness and well being. <br />
  51. 51. Operation of the Law of Kamma<br />Seen from this angle, from the standpoint of karmic law, the universe appears to maintain a certain moral equilibrium, a balance between all the morally significant deeds and the objective situations of those who perform them. <br />So the law of kamma is a moral application of the general principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, the working of kamma is not mechanical. Kamma is willed action and the kamma is something alive and organic. Therefore kamma allows much room for variation, for the play of living forces.<br />
  52. 52. Kamma – Like a Seed<br />First of all, not all Kamma has to ripen as a matter of strict necessity. Although it has the tendency to ripen, it does not ripen inevitably. Kamma is like a seed. Seeds ripen only if they meet the right conditions. But if they do not meet the right conditions they remain as seeds; if they are destroyed they can never ripen at all. Similarly, it can be said of kamma that kamma pushes for an opportunity to mature. It has a tendency to mature. If the kammafinds the opportunity then it will bring its results. If it does not meet the right conditions it won't ripen. One kamma can even be destroyed by another kamma. So it is important to understand that our present way of life, our attitudes and conduct, can influence the way our past kammas mature.<br />
  53. 53. Kamma – Like a Seed<br /> Some past kammas are so powerful that they have to come to fruition. We cannot escape them no matter what we do. But the greatest number of our past kammas are conditioned by the way we live now. If we live heedlessly, unwisely, we will give our past bad kammas the opportunity to ripen and this will either hinder the good kammas from producing their effects or else cancel out their good effects. On the other hand, if we live wisely now, we will give our good kammas the opportunity to mature and bar out our bad kammas or weaken them, destroy them or prevent them from coming to fruition.<br />
  54. 54. Types of Kamma - Time of Fruition<br />Kamma can produce results at different times, even in different lives. The Buddha says that there are three types of kammas distinguished by way of time of ripening. There are kammas which ripen in this lifetime; kammaswhich ripen in the next lifetime; and kammas that ripen some lifetime after the next. The last kind of kamma is the strongest. The first two kinds become defunct if they don't find an opening. They will never ripen if they don't get the opportunity to ripen either in the present life or in the next life. But the third type remains with us as long as we continue in Samsara. It can bring its results even after hundreds and thousands of aeons in the future.<br />
  55. 55. Types of Kamma - Time of Fruition<br /> This time lag helps us to understand what might seem to be a discrepancy in the working of kamma. Often we see good people who meet with much suffering and bad people who meet with great success and good fortune. This is due to the time lag in the maturing of the kamma. The good man is reaping the results of a bad kamma of the past. But he will eventually gain the pleasant results from the good kammas he is performing now. In the same way, the bad man is enjoying the results of his good kammas of the past. But in the future he will meet with the fruition of his bad kammas and must undergo suffering. <br />
  56. 56. Working of Kamma<br />The working of kamma is so complex and so subtle that it is almost impossible to make definite predictions. All that we can know with certainty are the tendencies, and that is enough to guide our actions.<br />
  57. 57. Ways by Which Kamma Produces its Results<br />Kamma produces its results in different ways. There are two general ways in which it comes to fruition:1. It produces the type of rebirth, the basic rebirth consciousness.2. It produces various results within the course of an existence.<br />At the time of death, a particular dominant kamma may come to the forefront of the mind and steer the stream of consciousness to the new existence. Once rebirth takes place, certain other kammas mature during the course of life bringing either favourable(wealth, etc) or unfavourable results. (poverty; spiritual obstacles, etc) <br />
  58. 58. Ways by Which Kamma Produces its Results<br />The good and bad results that arise from kamma are not rewards or punishments. They are not imposed by any outside power. Actions produce their results naturally through the law of cause and effect working in the moral realm. This natural law is called 'kamma niyama', the order of kamma, which functions autonomously. The Buddha explains how kamma is the cause of differences in the fortunes of people.<br />(a) Some people die prematurely because in the past they had destroyed life. The karmic result of killing is to be short-lived. Others live long because they were kind and compassionate, they had respect and reverence for life. <br />
  59. 59. Ways by Which Kamma Produces its Results<br />(b) Some are sickly because they have injured and hurt other beings in the past.<br />(c) Those who were often angry and harsh in the past become ugly, those who were patient and cheerful become beautiful.<br />(d) Some are rich because they have been generous in the past, some are poor because they have been selfish.<br />(e) Some are influential because they have rejoiced in the good fortunes of others in the past. <br />
  60. 60. Ways by Which Kamma Produces its Results<br />(f) Some are weak and powerless because they have been envious of the good fortunes of others.<br />(g) Some are intelligent because they have been reflective and studious in the past, because they always enquired and investigated matters. Some are dull and stupid because they have been lazy and negligent, because they never studied and did not think. <br />
  61. 61. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />Every subsequent birth is conditioned by good or bad kamma which predominates at the moment of death – this kind of kamma is called reproductive kamma. <br />One of the main functions of Kamma is to generate rebirth consciousness. Which kamma will take on this role? Kammas that generate rebirth consciousness are ranked by way of priority of effect:<br />Weighty kamma; 3. Habitual kamma<br />Death-proximate ; 4. Other kamma<br />
  62. 62. Weighty Kamma – First Priority<br />1. Weighty Kamma: first priority goes to a very morally weighty, a very heavy kind of action. If a person has performed a very weighty, morally significant kamma in the course of his life, that kamma would take on the role of generating rebirth. There are certain types of kamma like this on the unwholesome side and on the wholesome side. <br />
  63. 63. Weighty Kamma – First Priority<br />On the unwholesome side, the heavy kammas are such acts as taking the life of one’s mother, taking the life of one’s father, taking the life of an Arahant, wounding a Buddha, and causing a schism in the Sangha, in the order of monks. If a person has performed one of these actions, then that kamma would come up at the time of death and determine rebirth in one of the states of misery, a very painful type of rebirth involving much suffering. <br />
  64. 64. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />On the other hand, the weighty wholesome kammas are the attainments of the higher meditative states, the jhanas - the stages of samadhi. These always produce a good rebirth, a rebirth in one of the higher worlds.<br />
  65. 65. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />2. Death-proximate Kamma: Then if there is no especially weighty heavy kamma, either good or bad, then the next kamma to take precedent in determining rebirth would be some strong ethical kamma performed close to the time of death. Thus if somebody generates a strong wholesome just before death, even though he has lived a bad life, if he really undergoes a genuine change of heart and starts generating strong wholesome kamma, that would become a wholesome death-proximate kamma which can produce a good rebirth in the next life.<br />
  66. 66. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />For example, a murderer who is about to be executed might suddenly become filled with remorse for his crime, he might become filled with compassion for people, he might really wish that he could turn over a new leaf, this could lead to a state of favourable rebirth in the next life. It doesn’t mean that he will escape from the effect of his evil kamma. His evil actions stored up in the mind are present and they would eventually catch up with him at sometime. But the form of rebirth in the immediately following life would be decided by that wholesome kammathat has come up just before death.<br />
  67. 67. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />On the other hand, somebody may have lived a very good life. But just before death, he might become very angry, very frightened, very greedily attached to his possessions, clinging tenaciously. That unwholesome death-proximate kamma can generate a lower type of rebirth, an unfortunate rebirth. Again that doesn’t mean that he would miss out on the fruits of his good deeds. Those good deeds can still produce their effects, either in the next life or in some future existence. But for his next life, that bad death-proximate kamma would take on the determinative role.<br />
  68. 68. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />3. Habitual Kamma: Then if there is no very significant death-proximate kamma, good or bad, the next kamma that would come up to generate rebirth would be habitual kamma, some action that we perform habitually in the course of our life time. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it is the habitual kamma that causes rebirth.<br />
  69. 69. Reproductive Kamma by Way of Priority<br />4. Other Kamma: If there is no special significant habitual kamma, then some other miscellaneous kamma that had been performed and stored up can come up to the mind at the time of death and bring about rebirth. This introduces the element of uncertainty or unpredictability about the rebirth process. There are sometimes unexpected occasions when some stored up kamma in the distant past suddenly comes up and takes on the rebirth determining role.<br />
  70. 70. Buddhist Cosmology – Planes of Existence<br />The next topic to be discussed is the plane of existence where kamma produces rebirth. This requires a short survey of Buddhist Cosmology, the Buddhist picture of the universe. <br />Buddhism divides the whole of sentient existence into three basic realms:I. The sense sphere realmII. The realm of fine materialityIII .The immaterial or formless realm<br />
  71. 71. Sense Sphere Realm – Six Planes<br />
  72. 72. Buddhist Cosmology – Human World<br />The Buddha points out that of all the planes of existence, the most fortunate for one seeking liberation is the human world, for it has a good balance between opposing factors of life. On the one hand, human life is not filled with unbearable suffering. It allows enough leisure, ease and comfort for us to reflect on the nature of existence so that we can develop our understanding.<br />On the other hand, the human world is not so intensely pleasant and enjoyable that we become deceived by pleasures and enjoyment. The lifespan is not so long that it deceives us into thinking that our lives are eternal. It is short enough for us to become aware of the truth of impermanence.<br />
  73. 73. Rebirth in the Sense Sphere Realm<br />Rebirth into the plane of misery comes about through the ten courses of unwholesome actions. These are given as taking life, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct; speaking falsehood, speaking slanders, speaking harshly, speaking idle chatters and gossips; having a mind of covetousness, a mind of illwill, and holding wrong view. These unwholesome kammas, if they take on rebirth-producing role bring about rebirth in the plane of misery.<br />
  74. 74. Rebirth in the Sense Sphere Realm<br />Cause for rebirth into the fortunate planes of sense sphere, human world and sense sphere heavenly worlds, are the ten courses of wholesome actions. These are abstaining from ten unwholesome ones, performance of works of merits (generosity, etc), observing moral disciplines, developing meditation (loving-kindness, purity of mind). When these take on the rebirth-generating role, they produce rebirths in the human and heavenly sense sphere worlds .<br />
  75. 75. Realm of Materiality (Form Realm)<br />Beyond the sense sphere heavens is the realm of fine material form.<br />This is a realm of subtle matter. Rebirth into this realm comes about through certain meditative states called jhanas, states of deep absorption when the mind is pure, serene and focused, and all thought processes quiet down. The jhanas have different levels of depth. When they are attained and mastered and kept at the time of death, then they produce rebirths in one of the heaves of fine material realm according to their level of depth.<br />
  76. 76. Realm of Materiality (Form Realm)<br />These states of existence in the fine material realm are much purer than even the heavens of the sense-sphere realm. There the mindis very pure, bright and luminous. The lifespan is incredibly long, lasting for many aeons. And the gross forms of matter are absent. Life in these realms eventually comes to an end and the person will be reborn elsewhere as determined by his kamma. <br />
  77. 77. Immaterial Realm (Formless Realm)<br />Beyond the four jhanas are the four higher levels of samadhi called the four formless attainment, states of extremely deep concentration. These are the sphere of infinite space, the sphere of infinite consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, and the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. Those who attain these states of concentration, master them and possess them at their time of death will take rebirth in the formless or immaterial realm. Here all matters come to an end. <br />
  78. 78. Immateriality Realm (Formless Realm)<br />These states of existence are entirely mental. The mind exists here without any material base, absorbed in pure peace, pure equanimity, for thousands of aeons. In these spheres too life finally comes to an end when the kamma that brought them here is exhausted and the stream of consciousness takes rebirth elsewhere as determined by kamma.<br />
  79. 79. Buddhist Cosmology and Rebirth<br />Now the question might be raised whether a person with an education in science can really believe a cosmology like this, which seems to be ancient, outdated and superstitious. Here I would like to give my a personal answer. To me the general form of this cosmology seems quite tenable. If we can see the logic behind the law of kamma, and then consider the different kinds of actions people are capable of performing, it becomes clear that there must be different planes of existence appropriate for the maturation of the different types of kamma<br />
  80. 80. Buddhist Cosmology and Rebirth<br />In the case of such evil kamma as killing thousands of people cruelly and heartlessly, for such kamma to meet its fruits the person performing such kamma has to be born in a realm of intense suffering, the hell realm. <br />On the other hand, if someone has performed very noble deeds such as giving up his limbs, his life or his wealth for the sake of others, if one has a loving and compassionate mind, there must also be a corresponding realm for such kamma to produce its due results. That is the heavenly realms. <br />
  81. 81. Buddhist Cosmology and Rebirth<br />Also, when we understand the different meditative attainments, the jhanas and the formless attainments, and see how those higher levels of consciousness, are so vastly different from the usual familiar consciousness, it becomes clear that they correspond to other planes of existence. <br />Thus the whole picture fits together quite logically.<br />
  82. 82. Mind – Architect of Our Universe<br />The dominant reason for rebirth is always found in our own mind. If we look into our mind, we can see that the different planes of existence are already contained in the mind in seed form. <br />The dominant forces in our minds will be human states, states tied to the human world. This is the basic "tone" of our consciousness. But at times there will arise states of intense hatred which might find expression as violence or cruelty. At such moments we are constructing for ourselves a hell world. Psychologically we might be living in hell and kammically those states are the seeds of rebirth into hell.<br />
  83. 83. Mind – Architect of Our Universe<br />At other times very noble thoughts will arise in us, making us feel divine or heavenly, thoughts such as supreme generosity, great kindness and compassion. With such thoughts, our world becomes very light and pure, almost like a heavenly world. These states of mind are, in fact, the seeds for rebirth in the heavenly worlds. <br />At times of blind desire, of brutishness, blind lust, or dull stupidity, we can see in ourselves the mind of an animal. These states are the seeds of animal existence.<br />
  84. 84. Mind – Architect of Our Universe<br />We can sometimes see selfishness, possessiveness, intense clinging. At that time the mind becomes similar to the mind of a preta, an afflicted spirit, and we are planting the seed of rebirth in the preta world.<br />Again, there come up states of greed for power, jealousy and envy, competitiveness, the urge for power. At that time we have the mind of an asura and we lay the foundation for rebirth into the world of asuras.<br />
  85. 85. Mind – Architect of Our Universe<br />So what lies behind all these planes of rebirth is the mind. Therefore the Buddha says that mind is the architect of the whole universe. <br />We should not think of the rebirth process in terms of a human being appearing in different realms, moving from realm to realm. But rather these planes simply provide the field for the mind to work out the accumulated tendencies. The realms are only visible manifestations, the outer projections of the forces that work in the mind.<br />
  86. 86. We Are Not Prisoners of Our Past<br />The twin teachings on kamma and rebirth have several important implications for understanding our own lives. <br />First they enable us to understand that we are fully responsible for what we are. We can't blame our troubles on our environment, on our heredity, on fate or on our upbringing. All these factors have made us what we are, but the reason we have met these circumstances is because of our past kamma. This might seem to be at first a pessimistic doctrine. It seems to imply that we are the prisoners of our past kammas, that we have to submit to their effects. This is a distortion.<br />
  87. 87. We Are Not Prisoners of Our Past<br />It is true that very often we have to reap the results of our past kamma. But the important point to understand is that kamma is volitional action; and volitional action always takes place in the present, always and only in the present. This means that in the present we have the ability to change the entire direction of our life. <br />
  88. 88. We Are Not Prisoners of Our Past<br />If we closely examine our lives we'll see that our experience is of two groups: first, experience that comes to us passively, which we receive independently of our choice; and second, experience which we create for ourselves through our choices and attitudes. The passive side of experience is largely the effect of past kamma. We generally have to face this and learn to accept it. <br />But within those limitations there is a space, the tremendous space of the present moment, in which we can reconstruct our world with our own minds, NOW.<br />
  89. 89. We Are Not Prisoners of Our Past<br />If we let ourselves be dominated by selfishness, hatred, ambition and dullness, then, even if we are wealthy and powerful, we'll still be living in misery and suffering and keep planting seeds for rebirth in the world of suffering. <br />On the other hand, even if we are poor and in sad circumstances, with much pain and misfortune, if we observe pure conduct, develop a mind of generosity, kindness and understanding, then we can transform our world, we can build a world of light, love and peace, and even heaven on earth.<br />
  90. 90. Going Beyond Kamma – Aim of the Path<br />The ultimate aim of the path of the Buddha is not simply to achieve good results by performing good kamma. This is a mundane aim. The true aim of the path is to go entirely beyond the chain of kamma and results. <br />As long as we go on performing kamma and accumulating kamma, we remain subject to birth and death, and we will meet with suffering in its diverse forms. Whether one is living in a fortunate world or an unfortunate world is secondary. All states of existence are impermanent, without substance and unsatisfactory. <br />
  91. 91. Kamma and the Path of Liberation<br />Good kamma binds us to good results, bad kamma to bad results. Whether the results are good or bad, we are still in bondage. The aim of following the Dhamma is to reach the freedom that lies beyond kamma, beyond the cycle of kamma and results. That goal is to be reached by a special type of kamma, the kamma that leads to the end of kamma. This kamma is the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. <br />
  92. 92. Kamma and the Path of Liberation<br />Ordinary kamma is action generated due to clinging, clinging to good or bad actions. Clinging rests upon ignorance. The kamma of practicing the Path leads beyond clinging, the kamma of developing mindfulness and insight. By developing mindfulness and insight, by learning to see things as they really are (subject to conditions), we can put an end to clinging and break free from kamma. Then we discover the freedom beyond kamma, the freedom of liberation. <br />
  93. 93. Kamma and the Path of Liberation<br />The arahant, the liberated one, does not generate any more kamma. He continues to act and perform volitional actions, but without clinging. Hence his actions no longer constitute kamma. They don't leave any imprints upon the mind. They don't have the potency of ripening in the future to bring about rebirth. The activities of the arahants are called “kriyas", not kammas. They are simple actions. They leave no trace on the mental continuum, just like the flight of birds across the sky.<br />The arahants have broken the chains of kamma, and have reached final deliverance, freedom from all action and bondage.<br />
  94. 94. Craving the Seamstress<br />Thro’ many a birth in Samsara wandered I,<br />Seeking but not finding, the builder of this house. <br />Sorrowful is repeated birth.<br />O House-builder! you are seen. <br />You shall build no house again.<br />All your rafters are broken, <br />your ridge-pole is shattered.<br />To dissolution (Nibbana) goes my mind.<br />The End of Craving have I attained.<br />- Dhammapada (154)<br />