It’s not like billard balls…

More on the non-linear workings of Karma in the Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta (MN 136).

There are two kinds of deeds a person can perform:

– wholesome, skillful deeds,
(i) protects life
(ii) gives and shares charitably
(iii) respects sexuality
(iv) truthful
(v) benevolent words
(vi) kindly words
(vii) mindful talk
rooted in (a) generosity, (b) kindness and/or (c) wisdom

-unwholesome, unskillful deeds,
(i) harming life,
(ii) taking what is not given
(iii) indulging in sexual misconduct
(iv) lies
(v) speaks maliciously
(vi) uses harsh words
(vii) talks frivolously
rooted in (a) greediness, (b) anger and/or (c) delusion.

There are two results that a person can end up with after death and rebirth:

– a happy destination
– a woeful destination.

There are therefore 4 kinds of scenarios:
(1) Engage in wholesome conduct and is in a happy destination
(2) Engage in unwholesome conduct and is in a happy destination
(3) Engage in wholesome conduct and is in a woeful state.
(4) Engage in unwholesome conduct and is in a happy state.

These four scenarios are observable in our daily life, and an incomplete picture may lead us to jump to 4 kinds of conclusions:

(1) there is wholesome karma, and all who do good will end up in a happy situation
(2) there is no such thing as wholesome karma, and all who do good end up in a woeful situation
(3) there is unwholesome karma, and all who do evil will end up in a woeful situation
(4) there is no such thing as unwholesome karma, and all who do evil end up in a happy situation.

The problem with these 4 views is the indiscriminate use of the word “all”. The Buddha considers all 4 views as hasty conclusions.

A person who is in a happy destination, whether (1) has engaged in wholesome conduct or (2) has engaged in unwholesome conduct before, can be the result of (i) earlier “good” deeds, (ii) later “good” deeds, or (iii) attaining a right view at the moment of death.

A person who is re-born is a woeful state, similarly, whether (3) has engaged in wholesome conduct or (4) has engaged in unwholesome conduct before, can be the result of (i) earlier “evil” deeds, (ii) later “evil” deeds, or (iii) having a wrong view at the moment of death.

So,
there is kamma
   that is incapable of good result
      and appears incapable of good result;
there is kamma
   that is incapable of good result
      and appears capable of good result;
there is kamma
   that is capable of good result
      and appears capable of good result;
there is kamma
   that is capable of good result
      and appears incapable of good result.

The Visuddhimagga elaborates to classify karma into 3 sets of four:

(A) Time of effect
(1) Immediately effective following the act, or in the near future i.e. this life
(2) Subsequently effective but in a delayed future e.g. next life
(3) Indefinitely effective in a far future e.g. many lives later
(4) Lapsed or defunct and will fail to take effect due to stream-winning or enlightenment, etc.

(B) Order of effect
(1) Weighty karma that is so strong, it outweighs the effects of other karma
(2) Proximate karma that occurs at a crucial and appropriate moment to take effect immediately
(3) Habitual karma from habitual behaviour and hence habitual mental processes
(4) Reserve karma from past actions accomplished, but not of the above 3 types

(C) Functions
(1) Productive, creating new causes and conditions for future effects
(2) Reinforcing a effect that would already take place 
(3) Frustrating or obstructing or ameliorating an effect that would take place
(4) Intercepting a result that would have taken place

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2 Comments

  1. 20 September 2009 at 22:27

    […] (See my previous post on “timing of effect of karma“.) […]

  2. 18 October 2010 at 02:11

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂


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