Abhidhamma in Daily Life (by Ashin Janakabhivamsa)

by Ashin Janakabhivamsa | 66,666 words

English translation of "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" by Professor Ko Lay. Revised by Sayadaw U Silananda, International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, 1999...

Part 2 - The Doer Gets The Direct Effect

We have seen that beings are reborn in new existences one after another. Since the forces of past deeds done with avijja (ignorance) and tanha (lust) from the previous life, propel one into the next, the new being is none other than the one from past life. One’s cetana (volition) in this life disappears soon after but the effect, the influence of that cetana, follow one’s body-continuum until it has been fully manifested. Thus the benevolent effects of one’s good deeds follow one providing good protection just as a shadow follows the shape; and the evil effects of one’s unwholesome acts follow one constantly just as the cart wheel follows the oxen, awaiting opportunity to produce retribution. Thus we must realize that evil effects of one’s misdeeds will directly go to the doer himself and to no where else. We cannot say, “I am in this life so I will enjoy it; another being in the next existence will suffer.” A person is responsible for his misdeeds, his evil actions directly. We must well understand that it is you and not another being that suffers from the ill effects of misdeeds you have done in this life.

The Same Kamma Effect

In the Jatakas we find two persons did certain deeds together and thus enjoy the same effects in their next existences. Those who had done charity together, observed precepts together, felt appreciative joy even when not doing the wholesome deed together, as when the husband earns money and the wife does charity with that money, they all enjoy the good results together. The two persons, doing good deed together, may develop attachment wishing to enjoy the good company and hear good words of each other - this is a wholesome wish (samma chanda); or the attachment may arise due to more intimate feelings towards each other - this is a unwholesome wish (tanha chanda). These two wishes may arise with the consciousness either before or after a joint meritorious deed. Then such mental attachment accompanies the effects of their cetana and kamma actions, when they meet again in some future existence, enjoying the same good results of their past deeds in fulfillment of samma chanda or tanha chanda. This is commonly called 'same kamma effects'.

People enjoying the same kamma effect can be seen in the lives of Bodhisattvas and their wives. Such couples had vowed to each other to be partners in the noble effort. For example Bodhisattva (later Gotama the Buddha) and Yashodhara, Venerable Kassapa and Mai Buddha, King Mahakappina and his queen Anoja, etc. had been partners in countless past lives in search of parami perfections. Together with them came the Venerable Shariputra, Moggallana, Anuruddha and Rahula, the Theris Khema, Uppalavanna, Queen Gotami and Emperor Shuddhodana, who in their past existence, had been closely associated with them in doing good deeds.

Akusala Kamma Partners

On the other hand there also are partners in doing evil deeds. When unwholesome deeds are done together they are reborn with evil results. Once upon a time a husband and wife were shipwrecked and stranded on an island. Being hungry, they killed some birds together and ate the flesh. They suffered together in hell. And, in the time of Gotama they became Prince Bodhi (son of King Utana) and consort respectively, and they had together killed and ate the birds in the past life, they were both sterile and thus had no children.

If the wife or the husband had not agreed to killing birds either or the other could be blessed with the power of protection. Since both collaborated in the misdeed, they both suffered the fate of childlessness. The unwholesome deeds done together will produce the same evil effects in future existences. In the case of husband and wife, one should stop the other in doing evil, and vice versa. Otherwise, both will suffer together the results.

The Benefits of Good Deeds enjoyed Collectively

The benefits of good deed enjoyed collectively can be seen in families, small communities or in societies, whose members had collectively performed good deeds in the past. For example, during the region of King Batika, eaters of beef are fined. Those who could not afford the fines were made to serve as sweepers in the palace. Among them was a beautiful girl with whom the king fell in love. So she was given the name Samadevi and kept in the palace as the king’s personal maid. Her relatives were pardoned from punishment and were looked after by royal decree. This is an instance of collective enjoying of benefits, due to the good kamma of one member. Some may assert here that members of that group must also have good kamma results of their own. But their past kamma had only very feeble effects, which cannot have fructified without the good results of Sumavati’s past kamma.

The Indirect Consequences of Akusala Kamma

Sometimes past unwholesome deed may bring evil effects to other people indirectly. In the time of Kassapa Buddha, an Arahat came to put up at a monastery presided by an abbot. The wealthy donor of the monastery was devoted to the visiting Arahat and paid great respects but the abbot became very jealous. The donor invited both the abbot and the Arahat for morning meal and the abbot, out of sheer envy, went alone to the donor’s house. He purposely struck the monastery bell with his fingertips so as not to awake the Arahat. He even told the donor that the guest was so fond of sleep that he could not wake him up. (Note the sign of stinginess, macchariya in his words and actions).

However, the donor saw into the abbot’s thought and gave him a bowl of food for the Arahat. The abbot threw away the food on the roadside out of jealousy.  He thought that if the guest received such good food, then he (the guest) would remain for ever at his monastery.

But the guest, being an Arahat, knew the abbot’s mind and departed through air - by his abhinna - before he arrived. When the abbot did not find his guest he then felt remorse, anxiety and sorrow. He had done great injustice to the monk due to his extreme selfishness. As he suffered great remorse physically and mentally he soon passed away only to be reborn in hell.

After suffering in hell, he had five hundred rebirths as a demon, another five hundred as a dog; and in all these existences he never was well fed.

In the time of Gotama the Buddha he was conceived in the womb of a poor woman in a fishing village. As his past evil was so strong, the whole village suffered from increasing poverty. Then the village suffered seven great fires and was penalized seven times by the king.

Finally the villages found out by means of successive eliminate selection process, that it was the household of the unborn child who brought all the ill-luck and drove away the family. The mother looked after the boy for some years and then abandoned him, leaving for his use a begging bowl.

At the age of seven, while begging for food, he met the Venerable Shariputra who ordained him a samanera. He became a monk in due course by the name of Losaka Tissa. Then he practiced samatha (concentration) and vipassana (insight) diligently until he became an Arahat because of observance of Síla as an abbot in his past life.

But the puissance of his past misdeed was so severe that the had to suffer even as an Arahat. He never got enough alms-food. Seeing his plight, his teacher Venerable Shariputra accompanied him in his alms round. But in his company the Venerable Shariputra himself did not get alms-food so that he had to go out alone for alms-food again. After partaking of a meal the Venerable asked his donors to send a bowl of food to the Losaka Tissa Thera. The servants who were sent with the bowl ate the food on the way. When the Venerable Shariputra came to know that the food did not reach the monk, he asked for a bowl of delicious food from King Kosala and fed the Arahat with the bowl held in his hand; least the bowl would disappear. This was the monk’s last full meal and he entered Parinibbána then and there.


In this episode one person’s misdeed done during the time of Kassapa the Buddha effected the whole community when he was reborn in a fishing village. Even his teacher the Venerable Shariputra did not get alms food because he was accompanied by Losaka Tissa Thera, the doer of the unwholesome deed in the past. This is ample proof that the effects of misdeeds effect with him in the series of existences. Therefore everyone should think of their well-being in samsara, and lest they too should suffer indirect ill effects, take care to distance themselves, et least in mind, if not in body from evil individuals even if they happen to be relatives. Only then will one be free from the evil aura of unwholesome deeds and become virtuous persons in the existences to come.

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