A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw | 62,614 words

The Paticcasamuppada refers to “The Doctrine of Dependent Origination”. This is the English translation done by U Aye Maung Published by U Min Swe Buddhasasana Nuggaha Organization Rangoon, Burma....

Chapter 2 - Unwholesome Kammas

Opposed to punnabhisankhara is apunnabhisankhara or unwholesome kamma formations. These immoral deeds lead to lower worlds and evils in human life such as ugliness, infirmities and so forth. They number twelve in terms of consciousness, viz., eight rooted in greed (lobha), two rooted in ill will (dosa) and two rooted in ignorance (moha).

The lobha based dhammas comprise four with wrong belief and four without it. Of the four dhammas with wrong belief, two are joyful, spontaneous (asankharika) dhamma and joyful but unspontaneous (sasankharika) dhamma. The neutral (upekkha) unwholesome dhammas may be classified in the same way. Likewise there are two joyful lobha based dhammas without wrong belief and two lobha based dhammas without joy or wrong belief. Every kamma is characterized by one of these eight lobha based dhammas. The dosa based dhammas are of two kinds, viz., spontaneous kamma and unspontaneous kamma. This dosa based consciousness is the mainspring of anger, dejection, fear and revulsion.

The two kinds of moha based consciousness are doubt (vicikiccha) and restlessness (uddhacca). The former concerns doubts about the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, sila, samadhi, the idea of a future life and so forth. The latter refers to the person who is distracted and absent minded. The mind is seldom calm and it usually goes wandering when it is not restrained through the practice of bhavana. It is said, however, that uddhacca does not lead to the lower worlds. The other eleven unwholesome dhammas do so under certain circumstances and even in case of a good rebirth, they usually have bad kammic effects such as sickliness. These twelve kinds of unwholesome volition (cetana) are called apunnabhisankhara.

All over the world people wish to be happy and so they strive for their material welfare in the present life and hereafter. But it is greed and ill will that largely characterize their activities. Wholesome consciousness is confined to those who have good friends, who have heard their dhamma and who think rationally.

Some go morally astray, being misled by their selfish teacher. In the lifetime of the Buddha, a lay Buddhist abused good monks and so on his death he became a peta in the latrine of the monastery he had donated to the Sangha. He told the elder thera Moggallana about his misdeed when the latter saw him with his divine eye. What a terrible fate for a man who had materially supported the Sangha for his welfare in after life, but was misguided to the lower world by his teacher. This shows that the person whose company we seek should possess not only deep knowledge but also good character.

The mark of a good man is abstinence from any act, speech or thought that is harmful to other people. Those who keep company with good men or good bhikkhus have the opportunity to hear the good dhamma and if he thinks wisely, his thoughts will lead to wholesome kammas. On the other hand evil teachers or friends, false teachings and improper thoughts may lead to moral disaster. Some who bore unblemished character in the beginning were ruined by corrupt thoughts. They were convicted of theft, robbery or misappropriation and their long standing reputation was damaged once and forever. All their suffering had its origin in the illusion of happiness. Contrary to their expectations, they found themselves in trouble when it was too late. Some misdeeds do not produce immediate kammic results but they come to light in due course and lead to suffering. If retribution does not follow the evil doer here and now, it overtakes him in afterlife as in the case of the donor of the monastery who became a peta for his evil words.

His teacher who had misguided him fared worse after his death. For he occupied a place below his former pupil and had to live on his excreta. The kammic result of his misdeed was indeed frightful. He had committed it for his own end but it backfired and he had to suffer terribly for it.

Some jungle tribes make animal sacrifices to gods for good harvest, security, etc. These primitive beliefs still prevail among some urban people. Some worship the chief natas if he were the Buddha. Some kill animals to feed guests on the occasion of religious alms giving. Even some ignorant Buddhists have misgivings about this practice. Whatever the object of the donor, killing has bad kammic result and it is not a good deed despite the belief of the killer to the contrary.

A good deed bears the mark of moral purity. Killing or hurting a living being cannot be morally pure in any sense if you identify yourself with the victim. He faces death or endures ill treatment only because he cannot avoid it. He will surely retaliate if he is in a position to do so. Some people pray for vengeance and so the killer is killed in his next existence or he has suffer in hell for his misdeed. The Pitaka abounds in many instances of the kammic consequences of killing.

Some long for human or deva life and devote themselves to dana, sila and bhavana. Their good deeds serve to fulfil their wishes and lead to welfare in afterlife, but every life is subject to old age and death, and human life is inextricably bound up with ill health, and mental suffering. Some crave for the Brahma world and practise jhana. They may live happily for many kappas (world systems) as Brahmas. But when life has run its course, they will be reborn as human beings or devas and any evil deed that they do may bring them to the lower worlds. After all, the glorification of the Brahma life is an illusion.

The illusion of happiness is not confined to common people. The illusion (vipallasa and avijja) that makes us regard dukkha as sukha lingers at the first two stages of the holy path, and even at the anagami stage the yogi still mistakes material life (rupa bhava) and immaterial life (arupa bhava) for a life of bliss. So the object of the Ariyas at the first three stages is to do good. As for the common people, they are mired in all the four illusions that make them regard the impermanent as permanent, the dukkha of nama rupa as sukha, the impersonal as personality (atta) and the unpleasant as pleasant. Associated with these illusions are the four avijjas. Because of these misconceptions and ignorance, every bodily, verbal or mental action gives rise to good or bad kamma. A good kamma arises only from volitional effort coupled with faith, mindfulness and so forth. If the mind is left to itself, it is likely to produce bad kamma.

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