Kamma and The Law of Kamma
Penyaji: Khemanando Bhikkhu
Kamma is a Pali word meaning action. It is called Karma in Sanskrit. In its general sense Kamma means all goo and bad actions. It covers all kinds of intentional actions whether mental, verbal or physical, thoughts, words and deeds. In its ultimate sense kamma means all moral and immoral volition. The Buddha says:” Citenaham Bhikkhave kammam vadami, cetayitva kammamkaroti kayena vacaya manasa….” It is Pali word meaning “Mental volition, O Bhikkhus, is what I call action (Kamma) . Having volition one acts by body, speech and thought (Anguttara Nikaya III,415). It refers to the intentional deeds we do with our body, speech and Mind through action, talking and thinking. Kamma is the law that every deed done, given the condition, will bear certain fruits. We can’t be free of our action. Everything what we do we will get result of it. The past and present influence the future. It likes our deeds. All of our deeds will make us in the future life. Today we can stay here it is influence on the past. So now we must improve ourselves to be good in order to make good in the future our live.
How Does Kamma Work?
All deeds leave imprint on our consciousness, which ripen into our experiences when the appropriate conditions come together. For instance, if we help someone with a kind heart, this action leaves a positive imprint on our mindstream. When conditions are suitable, this imprint will ripen in our receiving of help when we need it. Kamma seeds continue with us from lifetime to lifetime. However, if we do not create the cause or kamma for something, we will not experience that result. If one does not plant a certain seed that plant will not gain. In the Samyutta Nikaya I :227 the Buddha taught:
“According to the seed that is sown, so is the fruit you get. The doer of good will get good result, the doer of evil will get evil result. If you plant a good seed well, then you will enjoy the good fruits.”
What Are The Effect Of Kamma?
Kamma affect our future rebirth and influences what we experience during our lives: how others treat us, our wealth, social status etc. kamma also affect our personality and character: our talents, strong personality traits and habits. The kind of environment we are born into is also influenced by kamma. We are according to what we have done and we will be according to what we do. It is the cause and effect of our deeds. And it will happen to all people not only Buddhist people but also all sentient beings who live in this universe.
Everything that comes to us is right. When anything pleasant comes to us and makes us happy, we may be sure that our kamma has come to show us what we have done is right. When anything unpleasant comes to us, hurts us, or makes us unhappy, our kamma has come to show us our mistake. We must never forget that kamma is always just. It neither loves or hates, neither rewards nor punishes. It is never angry, never pleased. It is simply the law of cause and effect. Kamma knows nothing about us. Does fire know us when it burns us? No. it is the nature of fire to burn, to give out heat. If we use it properly it gives us light, cooks our food for us or burns anything we wish to get rid of, but if we use it wrongly it burns us and our property. Its work is to burn and our affair is to use it in the right way. We are foolish if we grow angry and blame it when it burns us because we get made a mistake.
What Kinds Of Kamma Are There?
If an action brings pain in the long term for oneself and others, it is unwholesome or negative kamma. And if it brings happiness, it is wholesome or positive kamma. Actions are not inherently good or bad, they are only so according to their motivations and the consequences they bring. Whatever happiness and fortune we experience in our lives comes from our own positive kamma or actions, while our problems result from our own negative actions. How is negative kamma created? There are ten unwholesome actions which should be avoided if one does not wish to create negative kamma, namely;
3. Sexual Misconduct
5. Tale Bearing
6. Harsh speech
7. Idle Talk
8. Craving (Greed)
9. Aversion (Anger)
10. And Wrong Views.
And how is positive kamma created? There are also ten wholesome actions which one ought to strive to do to create positive kamma. The ten wholesome actions also include the avoidance of the ten unwholesome actions, namely;
1. Charity (Dana)
2. Morality (Sila)
3. Meditation (Bhavana)
4. Reverence (Apacayana)
5. Service (Veyyavacca)
6. Transference of Merit (Pattidana)
7. Rejoicing in Other’s Merit (Pattanumodana)
8. Hearing the Dhamma (Dhammasavana)
9. Teaching the Dhamma (Dhammadesana)
10. And Correct Views (Ditthijukamma).
Can Kamma be Create Together?
Kamma is both collective and individual. Collective kamma is action done together as a group. For example, a group of soldiers may kill together when they just attack their enemy. The results of this action can be experienced together as a group, often in future lives. Yet each members of the group thinks, speaks and acts differently, thus also creating individual kamma, the result of which he will experience for himself. Everything what we do will give result for us. And the results of action will be responsible by individual and a group. We can’t escape for this because each action automatically gets result. It is good or bad everything depends on actions. Every action produces an affect and it is a cause first and effect afterward. We therefore speak of Kamma as the Law of Cause and Effect. Throwing a stone, for example, is an action. The stone strikes a glass window and breaks it. The “break” is the effect of the action of throwing, but it is not the end. It is same with someone who does something. What they do they will get result of the action. The more they do the more they get.
Who Controls Kamma?
There is no one decides the punishments for what we do. We create the causes of our actions, and we experience their results. We are responsible for our own experience. The Buddha discovered the law of kamma, He did not create it. And no one created it. By teaching the law of kamma, the Buddha shows us how to work within the functioning of cause and effect in order to attain True happiness and avoid suffering. So no one controls this kamma. It is automatically growing when the actions do. It is not like another religion which believes a Supreme Being controls all their actions. And the Supreme Being also is called creator. He creates everything that grows up around us. He also give punish to everyone who doesn’t believe him or commit the good actions. But the Buddha says in the Brahma Viharaparana, chants for the development of this quality, as follows:
Sabbe Satta All beings
Kammassaka are the owners of their kamma,
Kammadayada heirs to their kamma,
Kammayoni born of their kamma,
Kammabandhu related to their kamma,
Kammapatisarana supported by their kamma,
Yam kammam karissanti whatever kamma they shall do,
Kalyanam va papakan va good or bad
Tassa dayada bhavissanti of that they will get the results.
Is Everything Subject To Kamma?
The law of kamma does not apply to mindless actions such as walking, sitting or sleeping. Such actions do not produce effects apart from the actions themselves. However, kamma applies to the intentional thought one thinks. Similarly, accidents are considered neutral kamma because they are unintentional. However, we should always work towards increasing our mindfulness such that accidents do not occur. We can change kamma by ourselves because kamma is not inflexibly fixed, it does not mean predermination. Intentional actions at some time or other produce their effects when favouring conditions exist. Though people in their past action (kamma), it is possible to change, reduce or increase the effects of these past actions through present actions, which can affect the immediate future and future lives. Understanding the law of kamma helps one realize that we are whatever we make ourselves be. We are entirely responsible for our destiny.
How Do We Know Our Kamma?
The Buddha gave us general guidelines about the results of various actions. For example, the Buddha taught us that killing causes a short life and generosity result in wealth. However, only a Buddha Mind can understand the complete dynamics of kamma. There is flexibility in the functioning of actions and their results. While we know that constantly insulting others, for example, brings us an unfortunate rebirth. It is just exactly what form we will be reborn into varies. If the action was very heavy, for example, with strong anger we repeatedly abused many people and felt gratified that we had hurt their feelings. That result will be more unpleasant than if we causally teased someone and later regretted our insensitivity. The conditions present at the time that kamma seed ripens also influences what specific results it brings. Everything that comes to us is right. When anything pleasant comes to us and makes us happy, we may be sure that our kamma has come to show us what we have good done. When anything unpleasant comes to us, hurts us, or makes us unhappy, our kamma has come to show us our mistake. We must never forget that kamma is always just. It neither loves nor hates, neither rewards nor punishes. It is never angry, never pleased. It is simply the law of cause and effect.
Is Kamma Always Fair??
When we see dishonest people who are wealthy, or cruel people who are powerful, or kind people who die young, we may doubt the law of kamma. But many of the results experience in this life are the results of actions in previous lives, and many of the actions we do in this life will only ripen in future lives. This is called long term kamma. Short term kamma is that which show results within a short term of time. The wealth of dishonest people might be the result of their generosity in past lives. Their current dishonesty is however, leaving karmic seeds for them to experience poverty in future lives, likewise, the respect and authority given to cruel people is due to positive actions they did in the past. In the present, they are abusing their power, thus creating the cause for future pain. Those who die young are experiencing the result of negative actions such as killing done in the past lives. However, their present kindness is planting seeds or imprints on their mindstreams for them to experience happiness in the future.
Will We Surely Experience Negative Kamma?
When we seeds, even small ones, are planted in the ground, they will eventually sprout, unless they do not have the needed conditions for growth such as water, sunlight and fertilizers. The ultimate way to uproot karmic imprints or seeds is by meditation on the emptiness of inherent existence. This is the way to purity the disturbing attitudes and the karmic imprints completely. At our level, this may be rather difficult, but we can still stop the harmful imprints from ripening by purifying them. This is like preventing the seed from receiving water, sunshine and fertilizer. Doing much good too can dilute the ill effects of negative kamma. Purification is very important as it prevents future suffering and relieves guilt. By purifying our minds, we are able to be more peaceful and understand the dhamma better. The four opponent powers used to purify negative imprints or seeds are:
2. Determination Not to Repeat the Action
3. Taking the Threefold refuge and Generating Compassion towards others
4. Actual Remedial Practice (Any Positive Action, including Meditation and Chanting).
The four opponent powers must be done repeatedly. As we have done many negative actions, we cannot expect to counteract all of them at once. The stronger the four opponent powers are the firmer our determination not to repeat the action and the more powerful the purification will be.
Does Kamma Influence Whom We Meet?
Yes, but this does not mean that all relationships are predetermined. We may have certain related karmic to feel close or to have friction with certain people. But, this does not mean that our relationships with them must continue along the same lines. If we are kind to those who speak ill of us and try to communicate with them, the relationships will change, creating positive kamma that will bring happiness in the future. We are not karmically bound to others; there are no special people who are the one and only one for us. Since we had many past lives, we have had contact with every being some time before. Our relationship with any particular person also changes constantly. However, past karmic connections can influence our present relationships. For example, if someone has been our spiritual mentor in a past life, we may be drawn to that person in this lifetime. And when he or she teaches us the Dhamma, it may have a very strong effect on us. Because we have related karmic in our life and then it make us meet at present life. Everyone who is met by us has related karmic with us in the past life.
Could We Help Others If They Have Negative Kamma?
We know what it is like to feel miserable, and that is exactly how others feel when they are experiencing the results of their own destructive actions. Out of empathy and compassion, we should definitely help. But it is not so more we only can do offering merit to them (Pattidana). We can not do nothing unless offering the merits by good deeds such as charity or generosity, sustain the orphans and held the precepts. Though others created the causes to experience their difficulties, may be they also created the causes to receive help us. We are all alike in wanting happiness and trying to avoid pain or suffering. It does not matter whose pain or problem it is, we should try to relieve it. For instance, to think, “the poor are poor because of their own past lives. I would be interfering with their kamma if I tried to help,” is a cruel misconception. We should never rationalize our own laziness by misinterpreting cause and effect. Compassion and universal responsibility are very important for our ow