Kamma

« KAMMA »

 

“I am the owner of my kamma, kamma is my heritage. I am born from the womb of my kamma, kamma is my relative, kamma is my refuge. Whatever the kamma I do, whether good or bad, I shall become an heir to that.”  The Buddha says that this fact should be reflected upon constantly by men and women and by monks and laymen. Why is it so important to meditate on this so repeatedly? What follows will answer.

 

The literal meaning of the word kamma means action or doing. But, the Buddha says “I declare, O’ monks, that volition (intention) is kamma. Having willed one creates kamma by body, speech and thought.” It is not mere action but the motivation or intention behind it that counts.

 

Intention is not only what we do, but also what we think or speak. There is much difference between what we do with intention and what we do without intention. When we walk we trample insects and ants by accident. They are killed, but we do not see. If we set fire to a pile of cut grass collected in our lawn where insects and ants live we kill them. In either case it is not counted as kamma of killing, because we have no intention to kill them.

 

On the other hand if we spray poison and kill troublesome insects that crawl in the kitchen at night, then that is kamma of killing, because we do that act intentionally. We intend to kill them. So let us understand very clearly the difference between action and intention.

 

First we think and then we act. We need to exercise thoughtfulness very carefully and watch how we think. Unless we learn to think positively in a manner harmless to ourselves and others, we will not create good kamma. Good thoughts make way to create good deeds by body and speech.

 

Some people tend to do good kamma so that they can have a good birth next time. But one should never do any good kamma hoping happiness and other benefits. They come naturally in accordance with the law of kamma. Good actions should be done knowing that otherwise there will only be unhappiness and misery for oneself and others. Doing good is necessary in order to live peacefully in this life. Concern about good results is a desire and that may bring about disappointment in the long run.

 

We should fashion our life in such a way as to reduce our attachments and desires which are the causes of our problems and suffering.

 

Two people can do the same act but the results would not be the same. For instance a moral and an immoral person commit two bad deeds. Say both of them kill two birds. The consequences that follow will vary. The immoral person undergoes much painful experiences in the course of his future lives, and perhaps in this life too, but the moral person is subject only to some minor suffering only in this life.

 

A pinch of salt put into a small cup of water makes it undrinkable, but if the same amount of salt is put into a river nothing happens. The water of the river remains as it was before. It will not become salty and undrinkable. This is because unlike in the cup the volume of water in the river is so large that a pinch of salt seems to have no effect on it. Similarly, the Buddha says the effects of the same evil deed committed by two people depend on the moral condition of the doers.

 

The question some people ask is why some persons doing all sort of unwholesome deeds still seem to be living in comfort and pleasure. They enjoy health, wealth and long life. Do not they deserve immediate punishment? They surely do that. But kamma needs ripening to give its effects, just as a seed of mango or apple planted needs time to grow and show up a sprout and then a plant and finally fruits.

 

No one can escape from the painful results of evil deeds. Kamma is impartial. It does not have preferences. It is the law of cause and effect. It acts upon every individual irrespective of who he or she is.

 

When talking about kamma, what is most important is the mind or consciousness. Our words and deeds are coloured by the mind we experience at such moments. When the mind is unguarded the deeds of body and speech are unguarded. When the mind is guarded the deeds of body and speech are guarded.

 

Buddha says:

“The mind comes first among all things, mind is chief and mind creates all deeds. If one speaks or acts with a wicked mind then pain follows him as a wagon-wheel follows the hoof of the draught animal”

 

“The mind comes first among all things, mind is chief and mind creates all deeds. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind then happiness follows him like never departing shadow.”

 

“According to the seed that is sown so is the evil fruit you reap therefrom. Doer of good will gather good, doer of evil will gather evil.”

 

The benefits of understanding the law of kamma are clear. First, such an understanding prevents us from doing unskilled deeds that gives rise to suffering, second, it encourages us to do skilled deeds which result in happiness. Our actions could be seen to spring from three root causes. These are greed, hatred and delusion or their opposite non greed, loving kindness and wisdom. Acts motivated by the negative causes are morally unwholesome. Evil and good actions produce their respective consequences for which the doer of action is responsible.

 

Confused by the seeming disparity that exists among human beings a young man named Subbha questioned the Buddha regarding it:

 

“What is the reason, what is the cause, O’ lord, that we find amongst mankind the short-lived and the long-lived, the diseased and the healthy, the ugly and the beautiful, the powerless and the powerful, the poor and the rich, the low born and the high born, the ignorant and the wise?”

 

The Buddha ‘s reply was:” All living beings have kamma as their own, their heritage, their congenital cause, their relative, their refuge. It is kamma that differentiates men into low and high states.

 

Our loved ones, our precious things, our wealth and many more we cling to greedily in this life have to be left behind sooner or later. They are not our own. But, what is our own is our kamma. That is what goes with us from life to life. That is what makes our life happy or miserable. We can take with us only our kamma. Nothing else.

 

Ven. Katuagastota Uparatana Nayaka thera

President,

Wheaton International Buddhist Center

Maryland, USA

 

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