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The Teaching of Lord Buddha (Dhamma)

Prepared by Ven.Vodano Sophan

The Teaching of Lord Buddha
describing briefly about those core teachings


[01]. First Discourse (Four Noble Truth)
[02]. The Great Law of Kamma (General Aspect)
[03]. The Great Law of Kamma (Detail Kamma in Buddhism)
[04]. The Great Law of Kamma (Detail Kamma in Buddhism)
[05]. Rebirth
[06]. Rebirth (Continue)


[01]. First Discourse (Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta)

The First Discourse:

As mentioned in Chapter-III, the Buddha expounded ‘Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta’ to the first five bhikkus (hereafter referred to as bhikkus or bhikku sangha), at the Deer Park in Isipatana in Benaris (Varanasi - in modern India). An extremely brief (introduction only) explanation of the important aspects will be given in this Chapter.

Dhammachakka is frequently referred to as “The Wheel of Truth”, “The Wheel of Righteousness” or “The Kingdom of Righteousness”. In this discourse, the word “Dhamma” has been taken as “wisdom” or “knowledge” and “Chakka” as founding or exposition. ‘Dhammachakkappavattana’ in this context is the exposition of the founding of wisdom.

In this discourse, the Buddha expounds the ‘Middle Path’ (Majjima Patipadaa) that he himself discovered having experienced the fruitlessness of the extreme attachment to sensual pleasures and self-mortification; hence became one of the most salient features in His teachings. He found, by himself, that the attachment to these extremes retards one’s spiritual progress and development and weakens one’s intellect.

The Buddha was conversant with both these views, criticized and spoke of them as useless from personal experience. He encouraged his followers into the most practicable, rational and beneficial path, which alone leads to perfect purity and deliverance from suffering.

The Two Extremes:
(1) Kaamasukhallikaanuyooga
(2) Atthakilamataanuyooga

Kaamasukhallikaanuyooga is the constant attachment to Sensual Pleasures, which is a base, worldly, ignoble and profitless indulgence.

Atthakilamataanuyooga is the addiction to Self Mortification, which is a painful, ignoble and profitless venture.

A recluse should avoid these two extremes (Anta).

Avoid these two extremes. The Tathaagata discovered the ‘Middle Path’ (Majjima Patipadaa) that promotes insight, knowledge, Peace (Vupasamaya), Higher wisdom (Abhinngnaanaya), Enlightenment (Sambhoodaaya) and attainment of Nibbaana.

Before proceeding further on the Middle Path, it will be necessary to learn The Four Noble Truths that the Buddha based his teaching on.

The Four Noble Truths

1. The Noble Truth of Suffering - Dukkha Sachcha
2. The Noble Truth of The Cause of Suffering - Samudaya Schcha
3. The Noble Truth of The Cessation of Suffering - Niroodha Sachcha
4. The Noble Truth of The Path Leading to The Cessation of Suffering - Dukkha Niroodhagaaminii Patipadaariya Sachcha

It should also be remembered, since The Four Noble Truths were found by the Buddha, they are called the ‘Ariya Sachcha’: thus –

1. Dukkha Ariya Sachcha
2. Dukkha Samudaya Ariya Sachcha
3. Dukkha Niroodha Ariya Sachcha
4. Dukkha Niroodhagaaminii Patipada-Ariya Sachcha

(1) The Noble Truth of Suffering: - Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering, to be united with the unpleasant is suffering, to be separated from the pleasant is suffering, not to get what one desires is suffering. Briefly, the aggregates of attachment (Ruupa (Matter), Vedanaa (Sensation), Sangngaa (Perception), Sankhaara (states of volitional activities) Vingngaana (Consciousness) are suffering. (These five aggregates of attachment are to be explained in due course).

(2) The Noble Truth of The Cause of Suffering: - It is the craving that produces Rebirth accompanied by passionate clinging, welcoming this and that (life). It is -

- the craving for sensual pleasures (Kaamatanhaa),

- craving for becoming or existence or craving in connection with the view of Eternalism – Saassata Ditthi (Bhavatanhaa), and

- craving for annihilation or craving connected with the view of nihilism – Uchcheeda Ditthi. (Vibhavatanhaa)

(3) The Noble Truth of The Cessation of Suffering: - It is the complete separation from, and destruction of, this very craving, its forsaking, renunciation, liberation and detachment (Nibbaana).

(4) The Noble Truth of The Path Leading to The Cessation of Suffering: -

It is the Noble Eightfold Path – namely, Right View (Understanding), Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

What is the ‘Middle Path’ referred to earlier as discovered by Tathaagata in this chapter, that promotes an individual’s sight, knowledge, peace, higher wisdom, enlightenment and finally leads to emancipation - Nibbaana? It is this Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya Atthangika Magga).

The Noble Eightfold Path:

A recluse treading the ‘Middle Path’ expounded by the Buddha, will invariably be treading this Noble Eightfold Path to attain Nibbaana and end suffering (end the cycle of repeated births and deaths).

1. Right View - Sammaa Ditthi

2. Right Thoughts - Sammaa Sankappa

3 Right Speech - Sammaa Vaachaa

4 Right Action - Sammaa Kammanta

5. Right Livelihood - Sammaa Aajiiva

6. Right Effort - Sammaa Vaayaama

7. Right Mindfulness - Sammaa Sati

8. Right concentration - Sammaa Samaadhi

(1). Right View is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. It is, in fact, the understanding of the reality of one’s own self. Samma Ditthi, therefore, is the ‘keynote’ of Buddhism, which is based on knowledge, and not on ‘beliefs’.

(2). Right Thoughts are of three-types:

- Renunciation thoughts - (Nekkhamma Sankappa) that are opposed or contrary to lustful desires and craving for luxury and sensual pleasures

- Benevolence thoughts - (Avyaapaada Sankappa), thoughts opposed to illwill.

- Thoughts of Compassion or Harmlessness - (Avihimsaa Sankappa), merciful and kindly thoughts that are opposed to cruelty.

(3). Right Speech is the refraining from falsehood, slandering, frivolous talks and abusive or harsh words.

(4). Right Action is the refraining from killing, stealing and unchastity.

(5). Right Livelihood is avoiding the five types of harmful trades –trading in [1] arms, [2] human beings, [3] flesh or breeding animals to be killed for flesh, [4] intoxicants, and [5] poison.

(6). Right Effort is fourfold – [1] the endeavour to discard evil that already exist in mind, [2] the endeavour to prevent the arising of evil thoughts, [3] the endeavour to develop unrisen good, [4] the endeavour to promote the good that has already arisen.

(7). Right Mindfulness is also fourfold, dealing with regard to body, sensations, mind and Dhamma. (This may need extensive explanation).

(8). Right Concentration is the one-pointedness of the mind.

Wisdom: Morality: Concentration:
The Noble Eightfold Path has been categorized into three groups of wholesomeness as follows:

1. Siila - *Right Speech, *Right Action, *Right Livelihood

2. Samaadhi - *Right Effort, *Right Mindfulness, *Right Concentration

3. Pangngaa - *Right View, *Right Thoughts.

It will be seen that the first two are grouped into ‘Wisdom’ (Pangngaa): the second three into ‘Morality’ (Siila) and the last three into ‘Concentration’ (Samaadhi)

In reality, the development of ‘Siila’, ‘Samaadhi’ and ‘Pangngaa’ are the three stages of the Path to Nibbaana – the ultimate objective.

All the above stages could be found embodied in an extremely simplified verse:-

“Sabba paapassa akaranang – Kusalassa upasampadaa

Sachitta pariyoodapanang – Eetang Buddhaanusaasanang”.

*Refrain from all evil; *Do what is good; *Cleanse the mind:

This is the advice of all the Buddhas.


[02]. The Great Law of 'Kamma'(Karma)

The Great Law of ‘Kamma’ (Karma)

‘Kamma’ – An Integral Part of the Doctrine:

Modern world is well aware of the ‘law of gravitation’ as discovered by the great scientist Albert Einstein, who watched an Apple fruit falling on the ground. He analysed the ‘cause’ for the Apple to come down to earth from its original place in the branch of the tree. He ventured to explore as to why it did not remain above the ground, or did not proceed elsewhere - in an upward or sideways fall and guessed that it should be due to the earth’s attracting, magnetic or gravitational nature. Today, science has proved it beyond all doubts.

It is beyond all disputes that there is a ‘cause’ for every happening or phenomena that takes place anywhere. Centuries before, the Buddha found the great Law of Kamma - that is (Volitional) Action and Reaction, and Cause and Effect, integral parts of His doctrine. This is, probably, why Albert Einstein said, "If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism".

Action and Re-Action:

We are already aware that Gothama Buddha was a contemporary of an era when search for spiritual advancement was at its peak in India. The concept of Karma, although existed even before the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gothama, it was the Buddha who expounded the highly analytical reflections on the Karmic (volitional) process. i.e., Action and Re-Action.

Although the Law of Kamma involves higher learning of the Abhidhamma - the Supreme Teaching of the Buddha, an introduction to its important aspects at this level, as briefly as possible would be helpful, because His teachings begin with the Law of Causation – action and its result which, in reality is Kamma.

‘Volition’ itself is Action:

Kamma is the Paali word for ‘Action’. Actions can belong to three areas, such as actions of the mind, body and word or speech. Kamma or action includes ‘good’ as well as ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ actions. The primary meaning of ‘Kamma’ is ‘Volition’ (Cheetanaa) or action prompted by will.

The ‘Mind’, being the forerunner for thoughts (Cheetanaa), the Buddha declared – ‘Cheetanaahang bhikkawee, Kkammang Vadaami’ - ‘Oh! Bhikkus, I declare, Volition is Action (Cheetanaa is Kamma) …’ Hence, ‘Abhidhamma’, commences with such exclamation of the Buddha.

The great guide or handbook on Buddha’s teachings abridged – ‘Dhammapada’ consisting of (423 verses) supreme extracts of invaluable essence from the Tripitaka exclamations, begins thus-

‘Manoo pubbangamaa Dhamma

Manoo setthaa manoomayaa.

Manasaa wee paduttheena

Haseeti waa, karooti waa

Takoo nang dukkhamancheeti

Chakkancha wahatoo padang’…

‘Mind is the forerunner for all thoughts. Mind is superior to thoughts. Thoughts are conceived by the mind itself. Hence, if one ventures to do anything or say anything with impure thoughts (impure mind), due to its effect (re-action), suffering keeps chasing behind him, in the manner the cart - wheel keeps following the bull’s steps’.

Wholesome/Unwholesome Actions:

Action is considered ‘evil’ or ‘unwholesome’ when it is motivated or instigated on Greed, Hatred or Delusion (Loobha, Doosha, Mooha). It is considered ‘good’ or ‘wholesome’ when action is motivated by opposite factors – (Aloobha, Adoosha, Amooha) when an action is free from greed, hatred or delusion.

It must clearly be understood that, although it is common practice to consider and speak of any results of actions to be ‘Kamma’, it is more appropriate for the results or reactions of our actions to be taken as ‘Kamma Vipaaka’. It should also be remembered that it is only actions accompanied by volition (Cheetanaa) that produce or bring about results or ‘vipaaka’. In other words, there should be the essential elements of intention, motivation and effort or knowledge for an action to become ‘kamma’. In fact, intentional and motivated action by deed, speech or thought process constitutes ‘kamma’.

Inequity Around Us Signifies:

No one could deny the inequity or the imbalance of life and destiny of persons around us. Some are physically maimed and/or mentally retarded, while others are fit. Some are born in circumstances of comfort, good health, wealth and affluence, while a great many others are born in conditions of suffering, misery, ill-health and poverty. Some live up to a ripe-old age, while others wither away in untimely death in their blossom of youth. Mentally disabled and/or physically weak are some, while certain others are endowed with fine intellect and physical strength.

Even a good and virtuous individual may find himself affected by misfortune. Some personnel once wealthy and affluent, could be found bestowed with poverty and suffering later on. This situation is undeniably ever prevalent around us.

Among other concepts, the Law of Kamma seeks to explain these manifest differences among persons. According to Buddhism, one of the important reasons is our own actions or deeds, past and present.

Kamma is One’s Earning; Inherant:

The Buddha said (Majjima Nikaaya): “Actions (Kamma) are one’s very own; actions are one’s inheritance; actions are one’s source of origin; actions are one’s kith and kin; actions are one’s support; actions divide beings into lowness and excellence”.

Thus, if a person kills a human being or an animal, as a result of his action, he may not live long, even when he is born as a human being – may be after very long and extensive decades of prolonged misery and suffering. Death may snatch him away at an early age and sometimes unexpectedly. Even if he lives long, may be endowed with incessant misery and suffering or bed-ridden for life. On the other hand, if one had been compassionate with loving-kindness to living beings, he may enjoy long life with comfort and happiness. Similarly, a greedy and miserly one, if reborn as a human being, will be poor, while a charitable person would gain birth in an affluent disposition.

Force Behind The Natural Law:

So, it will be seen that a person’s present birth and condition is a result of his past action or deeds (Kamma). In short, the force behind ‘Kamma’ is Tanhaa or craving that serves as the forerunner for re-birth. However, it should also be remembered that ‘Kamma’ is not the ‘only’ force behind conditioning one’s re-existence.

Kamma is not directed or controlled by a supernatural being. It is a natural law like the law of gravitation referred to at the beginning of this lesson. What is important is that the person who commits an act, whether good or bad; meritorious or evil, is responsible for its consequences. However, it does not necessarily mean that a person should suffer the consequences of all evil deeds committed in an earlier life or lives. Consequences of past unwholesome deeds or actions may be suppressed by one’s present meritorious and wholesome actions or good deeds. (These aspects would be delved in detail, in due course).

A quotation from the writings of a renown monk Ven. Nanavira Thera published in the ‘Wheel Publications’, decades ago, throws good light on the above concepts of Kamma:

“The depressing effects of bad kamma done in the past may last for many lives, not just for one; but, do not forget that good kammas also has its effects for a long time; sometimes for longer than bad kammas. And this is important: if we do good kamma now, we shall be reborn in a position to go on doing good kamma, for a man who is rich because of his past good kamma has the opportunity of doing more good kamma than a poor man who has not done good kamma in the past. And, remember also that although your past kamma is not good enough to make you rich and successful now, it is, non the less, very good kamma indeed, for you have been born a human being, during the time of a Buddha’s saasana. Next time you see a sick dog or cow dying of thirst, think, ‘I might have been born as that; and if I do wrong now, it is probable that I shall be born as that.’ It is always better to bear up when misfortune assaults us, but there is nothing else we can do: we inherit our past deeds.”

[03]. The Great Law of Kamma(Action) Continue...

Comprehension of Kamma

In Lesson VII, we learnt very briefly the natural law of “Kamma” or, in other words, “Volitional Action”, as well as Action and Reaction. We are now aware that Buddhism teaches us that -

- Good or wholesome actions produce good results

- Evil or unwholesome actions produce bad results

- Action causes Reaction

-‘Volition’ in itself is ‘Action’

- Present circumstances are reactions of the past actions

-‘Kamma’ is not enforced by any mysterious power

-‘Kamma’ is a ‘Natural Law’ (like ‘Law of Gravitation’)

- Not everything that happens is the result of ‘Kamma’

-“Actions (‘Kamma’) are one’s very own; actions are one’s inheritance; actions are one’s source of origin; actions are one’s kith and kin; actions are one’s support; actions divide beings into lowness and excellence”

- We shall be responsible for our own actions.

Exemption from Kamma
It must be emphasized that any action of a Buddha or an Arhant (one who attained sainthood) does not fall into the category of ‘kamma’. The Buddhas and Arhants do not accumulate fresh Kamma, having destroyed all avenues to passions, and are totally cleansed of defilements. In other words, Kamma is the law of moral causation.

It is action and re-action in the ethical realm, as explained earlier. As we sow we reap, either in this life, or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sawn in the past, or even in the present.

Kamma produces its just and due effect in due course. The ‘cause’ produces the ‘effect’ and the effect explains the cause alternatively, as they are closely inter-woven. It is manifest in the ‘seed’ producing the ‘fruit’ and the fruit explaining the seed, as they are inter-related.

Kamma Categorized

Kamma is categorized into two kinds of actions, namely

-‘Kusala Kamma’ and

-‘Akusala Kamma’

Good or meritorious actions are called ‘Kusala Kamma’ or wholesome actions, while evil or bad actions are called ‘Akusala Kamma’ or unwholesome actions.

Kusala Kamma
There are ten (10) kinds of Kusala Kamma or meritorious actions:

1. Daana (Generosity), that yields wealth

2. Siila (Morality), which enables rebirth in noble families and in states of happiness

3. Bhaavanaa (Meditation), which gives birth in Brahma Lookas (Realms of Form and Formless Realms) with higher states of wisdom

4. Apachaayana (Reverence), the cause of noble parentage

5. Veyyaavachcha (Service), which tends to produce a large retinue

6. Pattidaana (Transference of Merit), serves to promote Daana in abundance, in future births

7. Pattaanumoodanaa (Rejoicing in others’ merit), that will produce merit at any state of rebirth in future

8. Dhamma savana (Hearing the Doctrine), which promotes wisdom

9. Dhamma deesanaa (Preaching the Doctrine), which, also, promotes wisdom

10. Ditthijju kamma (Straightening of one’s own views), which strengthens one’s own confidence.

Akusala Kamma
There are ten (10) Akusala Kammas (unwholesome or evil actions) which are caused by deed, word (speech) and thought (mind), as stated in Chapter-VII. They are:-by deed – three (3):

Paanaatipaata (Killing) - ending the life of another living being
Adinnaadaana (Stealing) - robbing of others’ property or belongings.
Kaameesumichchaachaara (Unchastity) nonconfining to one’s own wife/husband

by word or speech –four (4):

Musaavaada (Lying) - telling the untruth
Pisunaavaacha (Slandering) – talk ill of others
Pharushaavaacha (Harsh speech) - using bad words or abusive language
Samphapphalaapa (Frivolous talk) – utterly vain speech (useless or empty talk)

by thought (mind) – three (3):

Avidyaa or Abhijjaa (Covetousness) – delusion or not seeing the truth
Vyaapaada (Ill-will) – hatred, resentment and anger
Michchaaditthi (False view) – living with false concepts

(More explanatory details pertaining to these Kusala/Akusala Kammas will be furnished in a future chapter).

Buddha’s Social Justice
It will be seen from the above Kusala and Akusala Kamma advocates, that the Buddha expounded his timeless (akaalika) doctrine with these exemplary principles to be observed by the laity, on terms ever undeniable and essential for the unhampered, smooth functioning of a just and righteous society, in a civilization where human values are treasured, safeguarded and handed down from generation to generation, by the unblemished observation of those invaluable ideals.

Man is responsible for the society. It is he or she who makes it good or bad through his or her own actions. Buddhism, therefore, advocates a ‘five-fold disciplinary code’ for man’s training and observation, in order to maintain social justice, fair-play, and peace and harmony added to virtuous and righteous living, whilst safeguarding his or her dignity and promoting his or her advancement and happiness - both metaphysically and spiritually.

The Buddha never enforced them as a set of ‘commandments’. Today, the code of ethics (the five-fold precepts) - the Panchasiila Patipadaa is observed voluntarily by billions of Buddhists the world over, with increasing devotion, reverence and homage to Buddha.

(As an opening step in the task of understanding the Dhamma, readers are welcome to learn by-heart the all-beneficial ‘Pancha Siila’!)

The Five-Fold Code or Precepts (Pancha Siila):

“Paanaatipaataa veeramanii sikkhaapadang samaadiyaami

Adinnaadaanaa veeramanii sikkhaapadang samaadiyaami

Kaameesumichchaachaaraa veeramanii sikkhaapadang -samaadiyaami

Musaavaadaa veeramanii sikkhaapadang samaadiyaami

Suraameeraya majjapamaadatthaanaa veeramanii sikkhaapadang - Samaadiyaami”

Given below is an approximate or simplified meaning of (code of ethics, as you may call it) the Paali five-fold simple behavioral needs required and recommended of all followers of the Dhamma:

1. “I shall refrain from killing”

2. “I shall refrain from stealing”

3. “I shall refrain from being unchaste”

4. “I shall not lie”

5. “I shall refrain from taking alcohol (or intoxicants)”


[04]. The Great Law of Kamma(Action) Continue...

Common Misconception
Among several misconceptions today’s majority Buddhists seem to hold, they also tend to attribute all happenings as effects of ‘Kamma’. This, too, is a sheer misconception. We learnt in our earlier lesson that everything cannot be asserted as ‘due to Kamma’. In other words, ‘Kamma’ is not the only criterion or reason for all phenomena. According to Buddhism, there are five (5) ‘Niyaama Dhammas’ or natural orders or processes that operate in the physical and mental realm (in Ruupa looka and Aruupa looka), of which ‘Kmma’ is just one of them.

The Five ‘Niyaamas’ or Orders
I . ‘Utu Niyaama’ – (physical, inorganic ord:er): Periodical or seasonal happenings like Winds, Rain or Snowfall and the changes in the climatic and weather conditions that vary according to their regional situation: the unmistakable order of the Seasons followed by the causes of wind, rain, heat and varying temperatures in the atmosphere etc.

II. ‘Biija Niyaama’ – (also, a physical organic order): The order of Germs and Seeds: which could be clearly ascribed to this order, such as: wheat is produced from the seed of wheat, rice from the rice seed, sugar produced from sugar cane or beat in which the ‘taste’ is contained, the peculiar characteristics of different fruits and nuts, the scientific theory of cells and genes etc. would speak for this natural order. The undeniable similarity between twins would be a good example of ‘Biija Niyaama’ among other examples.

III. ‘Kamma Niyaama’ – (order of action and reaction): Wholesome or good actions produce wholesome/good results, whereas unwholesome or (bad/evil) undesirable actions produce bad results. *

IV. ‘Dhamma Niyaama’ – (order of the Dhamma or norm): the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisatwa (before and after) the enlightenment and attainment of Buddha hood, during the life of the Buddha and Parinibbhaana etc. This could be defined as similar to the natural law of gravitation and other laws of nature, the outcome of righteousness and similar effects could be assigned for this

*”Desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results. As surely as water seeks its own level, so does Kamma, given the opportunity, produce its inevitable result – not in the form of reward or punishment, but as an innate sequence. This sequence of deed and effect is as natural and necessary as the way of the Sun and the Moon.

It is this doctrine of Kamma that gives consolation, hope, self-reliance and moral courage to a Buddhist. This belief in Kamma validates his effort and kindles his enthusiasm, because it teaches individual responsibility. The law of Kamma explains the problem of suffering, the mystery of so-called fate and predestination of other religions, and above all the inequality of mankind”.

- (Manual of Buddhism by Ven: Narada Thera)

V. ‘Chitta Niyaama’ – (psychic law or order of mind): thought process or the process of consciousness, intransigency or arising and perishing of consciousness, power of the mind, constituents of the thought process, telepathy, telesthesia, retro cognition, premonition, clairvoyance (the celestial eye) or ‘dibbachakku’, clairaudience (the celestial ear) or ‘dibbasoota’, ability to read others’ thoughts or ‘parachittavijaannagnaana’ etc., - psychic phenomena which are inexplicable to modern science. (These aspects could be minutely understood on learning the Supreme discourses in the ‘Abhidhamma’).

The foregoing are natural laws or orders by themselves to which all physical and mental phenomena could be categorized to these five process orders or ‘Niyaama Dhammas’

So, it should be clear that Kamma is only one of the five universal, natural laws that account for the diversity in the world.

Pessimism on Kamma
Although it requires extensive chapters on the Law of Kamma, some explanation would enlighten on common pessimism that exists on this all important subject.

Some laymen appear to think that because of the Law of Kamma, one’s future life is predetermined and has no control over it. It is true that one’s life is largely dependent on one’s own past actions, but it should be remembered that present actions could also influence the future life. So, one has the opportunity and free will to change one’s destiny for the better, by one’s own present and future actions of a skillful or wholesome nature.

The Law of Kamma was not ‘imposed’ by the Buddha on human beings, as in the case of many other religions where laws have been laid down by an ‘all-powerful and omnipotent God’. The Buddha as a teacher for Gods and humans alike discovered the Natural Law of Kamma, as explained in Chapter 7 and 8.

Kamma and Dhamma

Dhamma as expounded by the Buddha, is concerned with both present life and the future life of all living beings. Living beings are, no doubt, tied to a cycle of births, deaths and rebirths called ‘Samsaara’ whose beginning is inconceivable. The Buddhist concept of Kamma, therefore, is an important factor in the extraneous venture on eradication of Dukkha (suffering due to craving, hatred and ignorance that all beings undergo) by following the Noble Eightfold Path. In this endeavour, Dhamma would yield good results and happiness, not only during the ;Samsaaric cycle, but also in this very life, by resorting to skilful or good actions and refraining from unskilful or evil actions.

A life of virtue would ensure that one does not face serious difficulties in life and would enjoy the love and the respect of the society. Proper concentration, wholesome thoughts and right understanding of life with its impermanence, unsatisfactory nature with its absence of an unchanging or lasting self or soul, the suffering imminent in disease, decay, and death, would help to lead a happy and contented life and also benefit in future lives.


[05]. Rebirth

Kamma Influence

It is essentially the kamma of an individual that leads to his or her ‘rebirth’. One’s past Kamma primarily conditions the present existence. However, the future of the reborn is conditioned both by the past kamma as well as present kamma. The present is the invariable result of the past that assumes the role of parentage of the future. The present is clear and visible, while the past is memory and history. The future is based on forethought and inferences.

Authority on Rebirth

The greatest authority on the concept of ‘Rebirth’ is Buddha. His superior wisdom achieved by the total purification from defilements on the occasion of attaining Buddha hood, which is explained as “clairvoyant vision” the Buddha perceived thus:

“I perceived beings disappearing from one state of existence and re-appearing in another. I beheld the base and the noble, the beautiful and the ugly, the happy and the miserable, passing according to their kamma.”

It was not Buddha alone, who gained the ability and wisdom to perceive this phenomenon. Disciples who followed His instructions and teachings also attained this retro-cognitive wisdom. Consequently, a great many ‘Arahants’ were also able to see their past lives, to great extents at their own varying levels of attainment of this wisdom.

The development of this supernormal vision is not restricted to the Buddha and his disciples only. Any person could possess this faculty. Some Indian ‘Irshies’ even before the advent of the Buddha, developed such powers as clairaudience, clairvoyance, ability to read others’ thoughts and ability to predict others’ future.

Extraordinary Experiences

It has been experienced throughout the world, that there appear, from time to time, persons who are able to perceive their previous births. Such well attested instances have been even investigated by the modern world in several countries and found to be correct to great extents. Such persons had spontaneously developed the memory of their previous lives or at least of one previous birth. Extraordinary experiences of some modern psychics and strange cases of alternating and multiple personalities have thrown much light on the concept of rebirth.

The phenomenon of secondary personalities has to be explained either as remnants of past experiences or as ‘being possessed’. These aspects cannot be totally ignored. Hypnotic states of individuals have revealed their own past lives, while certain individuals were able to read the past lives of others.

Sometimes, we go through strange experiences which cannot be explained other than by attributing them to rebirth concept. How often do we come across places and meet with people whom we have never met in reality, but yet, inwardly feel strongly that they are quite familiar to us?

The very existence of a great personality like the Buddha himself is a glaring proof of the concept of rebirth. There also exist perfect individuals like the ‘Arahants’ and even others with highly developed perfections, the emergence of which could not have been the product of a single or sudden existence.

In addition to great philosophers, scientists, poets, artists, philanthropists and erudite thinkers, there had been very young children fluent in several languages foreign to their present birth. These situations cannot be explained other than to their individual past experiences and developments through very many past lives. We come across small children who have never learnt certain subjects (like mathematics) in their present life, but are extremely conversant and are extraordinary intellects. Could they, surely, be the product of a single existence or evolved suddenly…? Such personalities gained their present lofty heights, undoubtedly, due to their noble lives and gained similar experiences in the past.

To cut short an immense and lengthy accord of reasoning in exclamation of the exacting truth about ‘Rebirth’, let us conclude that if one believes in the present and in the future, it is nothing but logical to believe in the past.

The Cycle of Rebirth

The process of ‘becoming’ is fully explained in the ‘Patichcha Samuppaada’ – dependent arising or dependent origination. It should be clearly understood that Patichcha Samuppaada does not deal with the origin of life on earth (which does not concern in this truly extrenuous path to end suffering). It is only a discourse on the phenomenon of repeated births and deaths. It is not a theory of the evolution of the world from primordial matter.

Ignorance (Avijjaa) (of the Four Noble Truths) that clouds all right understanding, causes accumulation of kamma, which in turn, causes birth and death and the cycle of rebirth in the endless Samsaaric circle. As long as Kamma force prevails, there is rebirth.

Patichcha Samuppaada Discourse:

“Avijjaa pachchayaa Sankhaara

Sankhaara pachchayaa Vingnaana

Vingnaana pachchayaa Naama-Ruupa

Naama-Ruupa pachchayaa Salaayatana

Salaayatana pachchayaa Phassoo

Phassa pachchayaa Veedanaa

Veedanaa pachchayaa Tanhaa

Tanhaa pachchayaa Upaadaana

Upaadaana pachchayaa Bhavoo

Bhava pachchayaa Jaati

Jaati pachchayaa Jaraa-Maranang

Sooka parideevadukkhadoomanassupaayaasaa

Samudayoo hooti”

* Dependent on ignorance, arise volitional actions (Sankhaara). Moral and immoral actions whether good or bad, which are rooted in ignorance, tend to prolong wandering in Samsaara. However, good and virtuous actions (Kusala Kamma) are essential to get rid of the ills of this cycle of births and deaths.

* Dependent on Volitional Actions (Sankhaara) re-linking consciousness (Vingnaana) arises. This links the past with the present. Simultaneously with the arising of re-linking consciousness, there come into being Mind and Matter ( Naama and Ruupa).

* Inevitable consequences of Mind and Matter are the arising of the Six Senses (Salaayatana or Shadaayatana).

* Due to the Six Senses, Contact (Phassa) sets in.

* Contact leads to Sensation (Veedanaa).

* Dependent upon Sensation, arises Craving (Tanhaa).

* Craving produces attachment (Upaadaana).

* Attachment conditions Kamma (Bhava)

* Bhava in turn determines future Birth (Jaati).

* Old Age and Death (Jaraa-Marana) are the inevitable consequences of Birth.

Similarly, if on account of a cause, an effect comes to be, then if the cause ceases, the effect also must cease.

So, the complete cessation of Ignorance leads to the cessation of Birth and Death.


[06]. Rebirth (continue)

Planes of Existence & More on Rebirth

It is no easy task to create an article or a lesson for the consumption of Buddhist enthusiastics and children who might wish to surf this website. especially for readers who may be totally foreign to the most superior and advanced teachings of Abhidhamma. Going through several Buddhist manuals published from time to time in the English language, teachings about Rebirth and Places of Existence as well as other areas of teaching that has a direct link on the subject, it was considered the great works of Ven. Naradha Thera surpasses many other translations of the Pali texts in Buddha Dhamma. The following extracts from ‘A Manual of Buddhism’ by the great scholar monk would surely serve as the most appropriate approach of learning on the subject.

The 31 Planes of Existence:

There are 31 planes of existence according to Buddha’s teachings. They are:

(A) The Four States of Unhappiness (Duggati); viz:

(1) Niraya – woeful states, which are temporary, but not everlasting.

(2) Tirachchiina Yooni – the animal kingdom

(3) Peeta Yooni – the plane of Peetas or ghost-beings

(4) Asura Yooni – the plane of Asura demons.

(B) The Seven Happy States (Sugati), viz:

(1) Manussa – the realm of human beings

(2) 6 Devalookas – heavenly realms

(C) 16 Ruupalookas – Realms of Form

4 Aruupalookas – Formless Realms

How Rebirth takes place:

To the dying man is presented a Kamma, Kamma Nimitta, or Gati Nimitta. By Kamma, is here meant some action of his whether good or bad. It may be either a meritorious or a demeritorious Weighty Action (Garuka Kamma), such as Jhaanas (Esctasies), or parricide, and so forth.

These are so powerful that they totally eclipse all other actions and appear very vividly before the mental eye. If experience has afforded him nothing weighty, he may take for the object of his dying-thought a Kamma done immediately before death (Aasanna Kamma).

In the absence of an Aasanna Kamma, a habitual meritorious or demeritorious act (Aachinna Kamma) is presented, such as stealing in the case of a robber, or the healing of the sick in the case of a good physician. Failing all these, some casual act, that is, one of the accumulative reserves of the endless past (Katattaa Kamma), becomes the object of the dying-thought.

Kamma Nimitta is any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which was obtained at the time of the commission of the Kamma, such as knives in the case of a butcher, patients in the case of a physician, an object of worship in the case of a devotee, etc.

By Gati Nimitta is meant some sign of the place where one is destined to be reborn – an event that invariably happens to dying persons. When these indications of the future birth occur, if they are bad, they could be turned into good. This is done by influencing the thoughts may now act as the proximate Kamma and counteract the influence of the Reproductive Kamma, which would otherwise affect his subsequent birth.

These symbols of one’s destiny may be hellish fires, forests, mountainous regions, a mother’s womb, celestial mansions, etc.

Taking for the object of the dying-thought one of the above, a thought process runs its course even if the death were an instantaneous one. It is said that even the fly which is crushed by a hammer on the anvil also experiences such a process of thought before it actually dies.

Na Cha Soo – Na Cha Annaa:

By death is meant the ceasing of the psychophysical life of one’s individual existence. Death takes place by the passing away of vitality (Aayu), heat (Usmaa) and consciousness (Vinnaana).

In the words of a Western philosopher death is merely “the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon”. It is not the complete annihilation of the so-called being, for, although the organic life has ceased, the force, which hitherto actuated it, is not destroyed.

Just as an electric light is only the outward visible manifestation of invisible electric energy, even so we are only the outward manifestations 9of invisible Karmic energy. The bulb may break and the light may be extinguished, but the current remains and the light may be reproduced in another bulb.

At death the consciousness perishes only to give birth to another consciousness in a subsequent birth. This renewed life-flux inherits all past experiences.

This new being is neither absolutely the same as the past one owing to its different composition, nor totally different – being the identical stream of Karmic energy (na cha soo – na cha annoo).

The birth-process of the butterfly may be cited in illustration of this. It was first an egg, and then it became a caterpillar. Later, it developed into a chrysalis, and finally evolved into a butterfly. This process occurs in the course of one lifetime. The butterfly is neither the same as, nor totally different from the caterpillar. Here too, there is a flux of life or continuity.

No Transit Station:

The transition of the flux is also instantaneous. There is no room for an intermediate state (Antaraa Bhava). Buddhists do not believe that the spirit of the deceased person takes lodgment in a certain state until it finds a suitable place for its reincarnation.

Rebirth takes place immediately and there is no difference in time whether one is born in a heaven or in a state of misery, as an animal or as a human being.


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Started: Wed, August 13, B.E.2547,A.D.2003, Last Updated: May 8, B.E.2547, A.D.2004