Question and Answers
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Questionnaire No 12 and Answers of First Year Diploma Course
Q.1 Write an essay on the core teaching of all Buddhas. When and where was this discourse delivered?
“Not to do any evil, To cultivate good, To purify one’s mind, – This is the advice of the Buddhas.“
In most Theravada countries it is the custom for Buddhists to hold elaborate festivals to honor 28 Buddhas. For example, in various parts of Myanmar,
festivals are held to pay homage to 28 Buddhas, especially in the fair
weather season. The twenty eight Buddhas are said to have attained
enlightenment from the time Gautama Buddha attained his first definite prophecy (assurance that one will definitely become a Buddha one day) from Dipankara Buddha. According to most Buddhist traditions, Maitreya Bodhisattva is expected to be the 29th Buddha.
|Sanskrit name||Pāli name|
These are the Buddhas before our present Buddha including Buddha Gotama as described in the Pali Scripture.
|1. Buddha Tanhankara|
4. Buddha Dipankara
The Bodhisatta was
then Ascetic Sumedha when he made a verbal aspiration before the Buddha
Dipankara and a definite proclamation was made to be the Buddha Gotama
5. Buddha Kondanna 6. Buddha Mangala 7. Buddha Sumana 8. Buddha Revata 9. Buddha Sobhita 10. Buddha Anomadassi
11. Buddha Paduma
12. Buddha Narada
13. Buddha Padumuttara 14. Buddha Sumedha 15. Buddha Sujata 16. Buddha Piyadassi 17. Buddha Atthadassi 18. Buddha Dhammadassi 19. Buddha Siddhattha 20. Buddha Tissa 21. Buddha Phussa 22. Buddha Vipassi 23. Buddha Sikhi 24. Buddha Vessabhu 25. Buddha Kakusandha 26. Buddha Konagamana 27. Buddha Kassapa 28. Buddha Gotama
Explaining the significance of the 28 Buddhas, Chandakitthi
Thera says they have been identified as the ones from whom Gautama the
Buddha as a Bodhisatva obtained ‘niyatha vivarana’ (asseveration) over
many centuries. The details have been recorded in Buddha Vansaya, a
Tripitaka volume. The Bodhisatva obtains ‘niyatha vivarana’ in three
ways - by seeing a Buddha, by meeting a Buddha and by getting a Buddha
to pronounce that he would definitely become a Buddha. The Buddhas fall
into three categories - ’saddhadhika ‘ - those whose forte is piety and
devotion, ‘pragnadhika’ - wisdom being their highlight and
‘veerayadhika’ - those with courage and bravery.
Q.2. How can the middle path be exdplained in terms of ethics, psychology and philosophy?
Emotions are generally regarded in the mind of the Buddhist as
aspects of our personality that interfere with the development of a
spiritual life, as unwholesome states ethically undesirable, and
roadblocks to be cleared in the battleground between reason and emotion.
In keeping with this perspective emotions are described as states of
“agitation” or “imbalance.”1
While a large number of emotional states discussed in Buddhist texts
fit in to this description, are we to accept that all the emotions are
of this sort? Within the field of experimental psychology, some accept
that emotions can be both organizing (making behavior more effective)
and disorganizing. In the field of ethics, the place of emotions in the
moral life is a neglected subject, but a few voices in the contemporary
world have expressed opinions which bring out the relevance of the
psychology of emotions to moral assessment, reminding us of the very
refreshing discussions in Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. In
these discussions too there is an acceptance of the creative role of
emotions in the moral life of man. It may be that there is an emotional
aspect of man that distorts his reasoning, feeds his prejudices and
darkens his vision, but should we not look for an emotional facet in man
that expands one’s horizons of thinking, breaks through our egotism,
sharpens a healthy sense of the tragic and evokes the ennobling emotions
of sympathy and compassion for fellow man?
There are young people all over the world today torn between the
world of the senses with its excitement and boredom and “path of
renunciation” about which they are not clear, as it combines a sense of
rebellion, escape, mystery, and a search for the exotic East. I am sure
the message of the Buddha presents to them a philosophy of life that
will combine non-attachment with zest for doing things. This evening,
let us turn our minds towards an aspect of this modern predicament, with
the hope of discovering a little light in the ancient wisdom of the
Buddha, a light that may help us to see clearly the nature of the little
world of turmoil that surrounds us.
Our discussion today is not a matter of mere academic interest. The
recent drama competition organized by the Kandy Y.M.B.A., an attempt to
present a drama based on the Buddhist Jataka stories, is the kind of
venture that makes us think that the “education of the emotions” is not
alien to the Buddhist tradition. This talk will be concerned with the
psychological, the ethical and, to a limited extent, the aesthetic
dimension of emotions.
An emotion is the meaning we give to our felt states of arousal.
Psychologists consider emotions to be complex states involving diverse
aspects. On the one hand an emotion is a physiological state of arousal;
on the other, it also involves an object as having a certain
significance or value to the individual. Emotions are dynamically fed by
our drives and dispositions; they are also interlocked with other
emotions, related to an individual’s beliefs, a wide-ranging network of
symbols and the “cultural ethos” of a society.
Emotions basically involve dispositions to act by way of approach or
withdrawal. Let us take an example to illustrate this. A man who walks a
long distance across a forest track feels thirsty, he is attracted by
the sight of water in a passing stream and he approaches; but there is a
fierce animal close to the stream and he is impelled to withdraw or
fight; if he withdraws he might then have a general feeling of anxiety,
and if he gets back home safely he will be relieved. Thus perception of
objects and situations is followed by a kind of appraisal of them as
attractive or harmful. These appraisals initiate tendencies to feel in a
certain manner and an impulse to act in a desirable way. All states of
appraisal do not initiate action; for instance, in joy we like a passive
continuation of the existing state and in grief we generally give up
hope. Though there may be certain biologically built-in patterns of
expressing emotions, learning plays a key role. Learning influences both
the type and intensity of arousal as well as the control and expression
The emotional development of people has been the subject of serious
study. There are significant differences in the emotional development of
people depending on the relevant cultural and social variables. In
fact, certain societies are prone to give prominence to certain types of
emotions (a dominant social ethos). There are also differences
regarding the degree of expressiveness and control of emotions. The
important point is that each of us develops a relatively consistent
pattern of emotional development, colored by the individual’s style of
An emotion occurs generally when an object is considered as something
attractive or repulsive. There is a felt tendency impelling people
towards suitable objects and impelling them to move away from unsuitable
or harmful objects. The individual also perceives and judges the
situation in relation to himself as attractive or repulsive. While a
person feels attraction (saarajjati) for agreeable material shape, he feels repugnance (byaapajjati) for disagreeable material shapes. An individual thus possessed of like (anurodha) and dislike (virodha) approaches pleasure-giving objects and avoids painful objects.2
Pleasant feelings (sukhaa vedanaa) and painful feelings (dukkhaa vedanaa)
are affective reactions to sensations. When we make a judgment in terms
of hedonic tone of these affective reactions, there are excited in us
certain dispositions to possess the object (greed), to destroy it
(hatred), to flee from it (fear), to get obsessed and worried over it
(anxiety), and so on. Our attitudes which have been formed in the past
influence our present reactions to oncoming stimuli, and these attitudes
are often rooted in dynamic personality traits. These attitudes,
according to Buddha, are not always the result of deliberations at a
conscious level, but emerge on deep-rooted proclivities referred to as anusaya. Pleasant feelings induce an attachment to pleasant objects, as they rouse latent sensuous greed (raagaanusaya), painful feelings rouse latent anger and hatred (pa.tighaanusaya). States like pride, jealousy, elation, etc., can also be explained in terms of similar proclivities (anusaya).3 It is even said that such proclivities as leaning towards pleasurable experience (kaama raagaanusaya) and malevolence (byaapaadaanusaya) are found latent even in “an innocent baby boy lying on his back.”4
The motivational side of the emotions can be grasped by a study of the six roots of motivation (muula). They fall into two groups, wholesome (kusala) and unwholesome (akusala). The unwholesome roots are greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), and delusion (moha),
while the wholesome roots are non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion.
Greed generates the approach desires in the form of the drive for
self-preservation (bhava-ta.nhaa) and the drive for sensuous pursuits (kaama-ta.nhaa); hatred generates the avoidance desires in the form of the drive for annihilation and aggressive tendencies (vibhava-ta.nhaa).5
In keeping with our initial observations, non-greed, non-hatred, and
non-delusion should be considered as the springs of wholesome or
ethically desirable emotions. In fact, in a study of the impact of the
wholesome roots on the forms of wholesome consciousness, the following
significant observations has been made by the Venerable Nyanaponika Maha
“Non-greed and non-hate may, according to the particular case, have
either a mainly negative meaning signifying absence of greed and hate;
or they may posses a distinctly positive character, for example:
non-greed as renunciation, liberality; non-hate as amity, kindness,
forbearance. Non-delusion has always a positive meaning: for it
represents the knowledge which motivates the respective state of
consciousness. In their positive aspects, non-greed and non-hate are
likewise strong motives of good actions. They supply the non-rational,
volitional or emotional motives, while non-delusion represents the
rational motive of a good thought or action.” 6
In the light of this analysis it is plausible to accept non-greed and
non-hatred as the sources of healthy and positive emotions. It is also
interesting to note that non-delusion is the basis of good reasons for
ethical behavior. A wrong ethical perspective also may be conditioned by
one’s desires and emotions. In the light of the Buddha’s analysis, a
materialistic ethics, influenced by the annihilationist view (uccheda di.t.thi),7 may itself be conditioned by desires. On account of desire there is clinging (ta.nhaa-paccayaa di.t.thi-upaadaana.m), and clinging is said to be of four forms, one of which is clinging to metaphysical beliefs.8
Thus there can be rational motives for good actions as well as
rationalizations influenced by emotions. What is of importance in the
observation we cited is that the Buddhist psychology of emotions does
provide a base for creative emotional response, a point which, if
accepted, has significant implications for Buddhist ethics, social
theory and even art and aesthetics.
While we shall come to the role of the creative emotions as we
proceed, let us now examine in detail the specific emotions discussed by
Buddha. First we shall discuss the nature of fear, anger, guilt, and
grief, and then move on to the four sublime states of loving-kindness,
compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
Regarding the range of our analysis, our study of emotions is
basically limited to the psychodynamics of emotional states. However,
there is a significant range of factors emerging out of socio-economic
structure of a particular society. Differing economic and social
structures stimulate differing types of psychological drives.
Sometimes, even when the socio-economic conditions change, the character
structure of individuals is slow to change. In general, whether it be
the desire to acquire or desire to share and care for others, these
desires are in truth dependent on certain social structures for
nourishment and existence. The desires to save and hoard, to protect and
accumulate, to spend and consume, to share and sacrifice, have
significant relations to the values embedded in a certain society. The
emergence of greed and hatred or compassion and sympathy is related to
the value system of a society.
If we glance through the discourses of the Buddha as preserved in the
Pali canon, the available material on the nature of emotions appears to
be dispersed and colored by the nature of the diverse contextual
situations where emotions are discussed. However, in general there
appear to be four types of situations where the nature of emotions is
discussed: emotions obstructing the ideal of good life sought by the
layman, emotions that interfere with the recluse seeking the path to
perfection, emotions enhancing the layman’s ideal of good life, and
emotions developed by the recluse seeking the path of perfection. The
grouping of emotions in this manner brings an ethical and spiritual
dimension to the psychology of emotions in Buddhism. In the context of
the psychology of the West, the undesirable emotions are those that
create adjustive problems and impair our mental health, and those
desirable are valuable as an adaptive resource. Delineation of mental
health merely in terms of adjustment is being questioned in some
psychological groups in the West, and new horizons have emerged, a trend
which might help to bridge the gap between the psychology of Buddhism
and the currently dominant psychology of the West.9
Fear generally arises as a response to a danger which is of a
specific nature, whereas anxiety arises as a reaction to a danger which
is not clearly seen. In anxiety, both the nature of the object and one’s
attitude to it are not clearly recognized. However, these states fade
off into each other in certain contexts. Bhaya in Pali can be rendered as fear, fright, or dread.
Regarding the genesis of the emotion of fear, there are at least two
clear types of situations which cause fear. Fear is often caused by
strong desires (ta.nhaaya jaayati bhaya.m)10
Strong desires and attachment to either persons or things cause fear
because if we cling to some precious and valuable object, we have to
defend it against loss or theft; thieves can even be a serious threat to
one’s life. If one is tremendously attached to a person, and if the
person is struck by a serious sickness, a concern for his well-being
turns into a fear. The possibility of death causes anguish and anxiety.
It is the same with the attachment to one’s own self: a threat to one’s
life, sickness, the threat of losing one’s job or reputation — all these
situations are conditions for the emergence of fear. It is due to the
strong self-preservative drive (bhavata.nhaa) which in turn is fed by the bhavaraaga anusaya
(the lurking tendency to crave for existence) that fear becomes such an
agitating condition. Apart from the drive for self-preservation, the
desire for power, lust, jealousy and pride are intimately related to the
emergence of fear. As we mentioned earlier, some emotions are
interlocked with other emotions, as is the cause, for instance, with
jealousy, pride, and fear.
The second type of fear is the consequence of leading an undesirable
life. Here the emotion of fear is related to the emotion of guilt. In
this context the emotion of fear has an unhealthy destructive aspect and
a positive healthy aspect. If a person is burdened with a heavy sense
of pathological remorse, it has a bad effect; it creates worry and
restlessness. On the other hand a lively sense of moral dread and shame (hiri-ottappa) prevents man from taking to an evil life and forms the basis of responsibility and a civic sense.
The damaging aspect of a heavy conscience in respect to morals has
been the subject of discussion since the work of Sigmund Freud. In
admonishing both the laymen and the recluse regarding the bad effects of
a pathological sense of guilt, the Buddha refers to a person who is
subject to anxiety, fear and dejection: a person who has done the wrong
thing fears that other people talk about him, and if he is in a place
where people meet together, he fears that others are talking about him.
When he sees others being punished by the king, he thinks that the same
will happen to him and is disturbed by this possibility. Finally, when
he is resting on a chair or the bed, these thoughts come to him and he
fears that he will be born in a bad place. “Monks, as at eventide the
shadows of the great mountain peaks rest, lie and settle on the earth,
so, monks, do these evil deeds… lie and settle on him.”11 The kind of fear and guilt that disturbs the man here is different from a healthy and productive sense of shame and fear (hiri-ottappa). In the Anguttara Nikaya there is a reference to four types of fears: Fear of self-reproach (attaanuvaada bhaya), fear of others’ reproach (paraanuvaada bhaya), fear of punishment (da.n.da bhaya) and fear of lower worlds (duggati bhaya). In this context these fears have a good effect on the person: “he abandons evil,” and “develops the practice of good.”
Fear is often found mixed with hatred (even self-hate) and
discontent, and this is often so in the emergence of pathological guilt.
Kukkucca, which can be rendered as uneasiness of conscience,
remorse or worry, is considered a hindrance to spiritual development. It
is associated with a hateful and discontented consciousness, similar to
the Freudian super-ego consisting of aggressive elements. Among people
who are disappointed with the way that they have lived in the past, some
successfully change into better and productive men; others who take a
more unrewarding line display a complex admixture of fear, hatred, and
The religious melancholy, the self-punishing ascetics, and similar
types have an unproductive sense of fear and dread. Restlessness and
worry are described in the Nikayas with an apt analogy: if a pot of
water were shaken by the wind so that the water trembles, eddies, and
ripples, and a man were to look there for his own reflection, he would
not see it. Thus restlessness and worry blind one’s vision of oneself,
and form an obstruction to the development of tranquility and insight.13
Hiri-ottappa (shame and dread), however, is a positive and
healthy sense which must be cultivated and developed. In the words of
Mrs. Rhys Davis, “Taken together they give us the emotional and conative
aspects of the modern nation of conscience, just as sati represents it on its intellectual side.”14 He who lacks these positive emotions lacks a conscience.
In a recent study of “Morality and Emotions,”15
Bernard Williams says that if we grasp the distinction made in Kleinian
psychoanalytical work between “persecutory guilt” and “reparative
guilt” we do not neglect the possibility of a creative aspect for
remorse or guilt: “He who thinks he has done wrong may not just torment
himself, he may seek to put things together again. In this rather
evident possibility, we not only have in general a connection between
the emotions and the moral life, we also have something that illustrates
the point… about the interpretation of a set of actions in terms of
an emotional structure.”
It is also of interest to note that a student of Buddhism in the West
has made an analysis of the “Dynamics of Confession in Early Buddhism.”16
Teresine Havens too says that in place of the external rites of
purification (like bathing in the river, etc.) advocated by existing
religions, the Buddha advocated a radical inner transformation of the
affective side of man. According to Havens, the Buddha was as realistic
as Freud or St. Paul in accepting and “recognizing the egocentric,
lustful, hostile and grasping proclivities in unawakened man.”17
While advocating a method to uproot these traits, the Buddha “condemned
worry over past offenses as a hindrance to concentration and found a
religion which in general seems to have produced far fewer neurotic
guilt feelings than has Judaism and Christianity.”18
The Buddha has thus presented the principles of the catharsis of
emotions, which have certainly caught the eyes of many contemporary
students of Buddhism in the West.
Often we make a distinction between fear and anxiety. Fear is a
response to a specific situation or a particular object. It is specific
and demonstrable, whereas dread is objectless, diffuse, and vague. In
anxiety both the nature of the object and one’s attitude to it are not
Anxiety is generally caused by ego-centered desires of diverse types.
There are some anxieties or vague apprehensions which under clear
analysis can be reduced to some specific fear. For instance, a person
approaching the possibility of marriage may feel some fear due to
financial problems or a sense of apprehension whether the marriage would
be success, but such vague apprehension could again under analysis be
explained in a specific form. The Buddha says that there is a more basic
type of anxiety due to our deep-rooted attachment to the ego. Thus in
the words of Conze there is a type of “concealed suffering”19
which lies behind much of everyday apprehensions. These emerge from the
nature of the basic human condition: something which, while pleasant,
is tied up with anxiety, as one is afraid to lose it. Here anxiety is
inseparable from attachment; something while pleasant binds us to
conditions which are the grounds on which a great deal of suffering is
inevitable, like the possession of a body; and finally the five
aggregates (khandha) have a kind of built-in anxiety.
Inability to face the inner vacuity of the so-called ego results in a
flight from anxiety: some facets symptomatic of this overt anxiety are
the frantic effort of people to join clubs, compulsive gregariousness,
seeking to fill one’s leisure by frantic activity such as motoring, and
such diversions which will help people to avoid being alone.20
The love of solitude and the way of silence advocated by the Buddha is
anathema to large numbers of people who live in the “lonely crowd”!
The Buddha traces this predilection of the “anxious” man to his
inability to grasp the basic truth of egolessness, which is the key to
understand any form of anxiety. The belief in “I” and “Mine,” though it
gives a superficial feeling of security, is the cause of anxiety, fear,
and worry. The discourse on The Snake Simile refers to anxiety (paritissanaa)
about unrealities that are external and those that are internal;
external unrealities refer to houses or gold that one possesses, or
children and friends, and internal to the non-existing “I”.
The Bhaya-bherava Sutta (Discourse on Fear and Dread) says that
purely subjective conditions can cause fear in a recluse who has gone to
the forest. If a recluse who has gone to the forest has not mastered
his emotions like lust and covetousness, is corrupt in heart, etc., the
rustling of fallen leaves by the wind or the breaking of the twig by an
animal can cause fear and dread. Thus, whether we are dealing with the
fears of man attached to his possessions, the anxieties of one torn
between conflicting desires, the fear and dread arising in the recluse
gone to the wilderness, or the fears consequent on leading a bad life —
in all these senses, the Buddha is for us a “dispeller of fear, dread,
Now the most important question is, “Is there no creative existential
stirring that awakens man to his real predicament?” There are
references to authentic religious emotions caused by the contemplation
of miseries in the world. The emotion of sa.mvega, translated as
“stirring” or “deeply moving,” can be an invigorating experience which
enhances one’s faith and understanding of Dhamma. 22 The sa.mvega that is referred to here as an emotional state of existential stirring should be distinguished from paritassanaa, which is a kind of anxiety.
The doctrine of the Buddha is compared to a lion’s roar.23
In the forest, when the lesser creatures hear the roar of the king of
the beast, they tremble. In the same way when the devas who are
long-lived and blissful hear the doctrine of conditioned origination
they tremble, but they yet understand the Buddha’s doctrine of
impermanence. This should be compared with the state paritassanaa,
where a person finds his eternalism challenged, but sees the doctrine
of the Buddha through the eyes of an annihilationist, and laments, “‘I’
will be annihilated.” When sa.mvega is kindled in a person, he sticks to the doctrine with more earnestness.
Fear is something which by its very nature entails “avoidance,” but
there is a strange phenomenon which may be described as “flirting with
fear.” There are people who search for forms of entertainment and sports
which excite a mild degree of fear, like participating in mountain
climbing that can be dangerous, motor sports, fire walking, etc.; there
are others who like to read, see, and talk about gruesome incidents. A
person who goes to see wildlife would like a little excitement rather
than plainly see the animals at a distance. This kind of ambivalent
nature is found in behavior where a mild degree of fear created by
situations helps people to break through monotony and boredom. Also
disgust with life and one’s own self can make people court situations,
which are a danger to their life. Freud’s study of the death instinct
(which we have elsewhere compared with vibhava ta.nhaa) might
shed some light on this rather dark facet of human nature. Even in
ancient Rome it was said that people wanted both bread and circus. It is
possible that situations of disorder, turmoil, and violence, etc., are
fed by this ambivalent nature.
Another facet of this compulsion to “flirt with fear” is found in the
strange delight people find in violating taboos, laws, and commands.
When desires are curbed through fear they are repressed and emerge
through other channels. The coexistence of states which are condemned at
the conscious level and approved at the unconscious level partly
explain this compulsion to violate taboos. There are other types of
irrational fears presently unearthed in the field of abnormal
which stresses that an undesirable situation has to be avoided on the
basis of understanding rather than by an irrational fear or a process of
This brings us to the final aspect of the questions regarding the
emotion of fear. The Buddha was not much directly concerned with the
question whether the spontaneous expression of an emotion is good or
whether it should be inhibited. He held that, rather, by a process of
self-understanding, diligent self-analysis, and insight one can come to
the point where emotions will not overwhelm him.
A recent study which attempts to work out a technique of living based
on Buddhist principles has something significant to say on this
Leonard Bullen says that there are three aspects to the disciplining of
emotions: first is the development of a habit of self-observation with
regard to one’s emotional condition (a detailed observation of the
mental state); the second involves the control of emotional
manifestations as they arise; and finally the development of a new set
of values, so that the situations which earlier elicited the responses
of fear will fail to do so. As Bullen himself points out, the
disciplining of emotions at the level of the individual has social
If we begin with ourselves we do not excite the emotions of fear,
hatred, jealousy, and pride in others. If others do not excite them in
us, we are not impelled to see the shadows of our own fears and
jealousies in the bosom of their own hearts. Self-analysis and
understanding when practiced with within a community has a reciprocal
The emotion of fear when it is generated at the social level creates
mutual mistrust, suspicion, and hatred. The roots of racial prejudices,
for instance, can be understood in the light of this phenomenon of
The problem of the young has to be dealt with at the level of the
family. It may be said in this connection that ambivalent feelings of
love and hatred within the family, irrational fears and guilt complexes,
have a very bad impact on children. At the school level the medium of
art, literature, and drama could do much to honestly encounter the
problem emerging out of the affective side of man.
If young people do not get a glimpse of their own emotional facets,
there is the possibility that they create their own forms of rebellion
and defiance. There are already in the West today emerging marginal
faiths of a highly exotic nature, some of which are generated by fears
and impulsion of immature minds; some of these “marginal faiths” may be
described as forms of siilabbatapaaraamasa (rite and ritual
clinging). On the other hand, there may be an unexpected ray of hope in
the rebellion of the young mind trying to break through certain forms of
conventional thinking, which to them lack the warmth, ardor, and
sincerity of a dynamic faith. It is by a spirited rejuvenation of our
own traditions that we respond to this challenge with sympathy and
understanding. Let our reflections this evening be a very humble attempt
to pursue the problem in this direction.
Emotions often create a kind of fog between the subject and the
object. In “approach desires,” like greed, there is an infatuation due
to which the person is blind to the undesirable aspects of the objects
which he longs to possess. In the case of “avoidance desires” generated
by fear, and more so by hatred, the subject projects his hatred in
perceiving the object; in extreme anger his vision is blinded, like the
fury of a serpent. Thus there is a positive attitude regarding things we
like and a negative aversion for those we dislike. If we desire to
avoid a situation or a person we dislike, and we cannot do so, there is
excited in us an urge to destroy, harm, fight, etc. The actual human
situation is a little more complicated, as sometimes a certain aspect of
an object attracts us, whereas another aspect repels us, and if so,
under certain conditions what is lovable will turn out to be repulsive.
The kind of emotional ambivalence that exists between parents and
children is a case in point. Then there are things that we consciously
like but unconsciously detest.
In the ethico-psychological analysis of emotions that we find in
Buddhism, there are a number of terms used to connote the existence and
expression of anger and hatred: dosa (hate), vyaapaada (ill-will), pa.tigha (aversion), kodha (anger), etc. Hatred is also related to the states such as issaa (envy), macchariya (jealousy) and hiina maana (inferiority conceit).
Dosa (hate) is one of the basic roots of immoral action, along
with greed and delusion. Sometimes in a particular situation all the
roots of immoral action may be excited: a person is longing to obtain
object X, but A stands in his way. Thus greed for X is followed by a
hatred for A, and the desire for X is in turn nourished by the root
delusion. The expression of hatred can take various forms, by way of
thought (wishing the person dies), by way of harsh words, and by way of
Due to certain forms of development that the human being has
undergone, people often do not speak out their feelings but, by a
process of repression and concealment, accumulate them. Accumulated
anger of this sort can explode in very many subtle forms, as such anger
exists at a subterranean level in the form of the pa.tighaanusaya.
A baby who is angry with the mother will direct this on to a doll —
this is called “displacement.” If a person takes pleasure in beating a
child, he will say it will do the child good — this is a form of
rationalization. A person who unconsciously hates a person can be
oversolicitous about his health — this is a reaction formation. If a
person suspects that another person is harboring a grievance against him
without grounds, he is merely projecting his own hatred onto someone
We have elsewhere discussed this concept of self-deception, but it is
relevant to the emotion of hatred for very good reason. Hatred is an
emotion which has been generally condemned by the Buddha, so it is
difficult to think of any positive forms it may take, such as “righteous
indignation” or a “just war.” Thus it expresses itself in many subtle
forms. If a person starves himself to death because of a social
grievance it may be a way of directing the accumulated hatred on to
himself. While suicide has been condemned by the Buddha, no form of
self-torture can be accepted according to the path of the Buddha. There
is a classic case of the child who refused to take medicine, and finally
through compulsion, drank it with a vengeance. It is in the
understanding of the deceptive spell of the aggressive urges in man that
the Buddha condemned the path of self-mortification (attakilamathaanuyoga). It is a way of life that generates suffering (dukkha), annoyance (upaghaata), trouble (upaayaasa) and fret (parilaaha). The Buddha advocated a middle path that will dry up both the roots of greed and hatred, and delusion too.
It is in an era close to ours that Sigmund Freud remarked that the
voice of aggression is sometimes subtle, invisible, and difficult to
unravel. It is perhaps the subtle appreciation26
of these psychological mechanisms in Buddhism which made Rhys Davis
remark that “compared with the ascetic excess of the times, the Buddhist
standpoint was markedly hygienic.”27
Not merely does the Buddha grasp the subtle mechanism through which the
aggressive urge manifests, but he has presented the finest antidote to
the spring of hatred in man preaching the doctrine of the four sublime
states. If the genius for both good and evil rests within ourselves the
Buddha has given us a sense of optimism to deal with the turmoil around
Though the Buddha attempted to deal with the emergence of hatred both
at the social and individual level, the inner transformation of the
individual is the basis on which the urge to aggression can be tamed.
Thus in working out the different levels of spiritual development, there
are references to the forms of anger, hatred, and ill-will that
obstruct man. Hatred in the form of vyaapaada is referred to as one of the hindrances (nivaara.na),
along with sensuality, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse, and
doubt. Vyaapaada is one of the fetters that bind beings to the wheel of
existence. Vyaapaada (ill-will), kodha (anger) and upanaaho (malice), issaa (envy) and macchariya are considered as defilements (upakkilesa)
in a list of sixteen defilements. These defilements have to be
eliminated for the development of insight. These states work in
significant combinations; for instance, in contempt there is a
combination of aversion and conceit, and denigration is a stronger form
of this contempt.28
Envy is fed by greed and aversion. If we succumb to the last defilement
of negligence, then these defilements will form into a layer which is
hard to break through, and has got hardened through habit. It is in this
way that we can account for the emergence of certain personality types,
and the type referred to as the dosa carita will be the very embodiment of hatred.
There is a graphic description of the angry man in the Anguttara Nikaya, some of which we shall reproduce briefly:
When anger does possess a man; He looks ugly; he lies in pain; What benefit he may come by He misconstrues as a mischance; He loses property (through fines) Because he has been working harm Through acts of body and speech By angry passion overwhelmed; The wrath and rage that madden him Gain him a name of ill-repute; His fellows, relatives and kin Will seek to shun him from afar; And anger fathers misery: This fury does so cloud the mind Of man that he cannot discern This fearful inner danger. An angry man no meaning knows, No angry man sees the Dhamma, So wrapped in darkness, as if blind, Is he whom anger dogs. Someone a man in anger hurts; But, when his anger is later spent With difficulty or with ease, He suffers as if seared by fire. His look betrays the sulkiness Of some dim smoky smoldering glow. Whence may flare up an anger-blaze That sets the world of men aflame. He has no shame or conscience curb, No kindly words come forth from him, There is no island refuge for The man whom anger dogs. Such acts as will ensure remorse, Such as are far from the true Dhamma: It is of these that I would tell, So harken to my words. Anger makes man a parricide, Anger makes him a matricide, Anger can make him slay the saint As he would kill the common man. Nursed and reared by a mother's care, He comes to look upon the world, Yet the common man in anger kills The being who gave him life. No being but seeks his own self's good, None dearer to him than himself, Yet men in anger kill themselves, Distraught for reasons manifold: For crazed they stab themselves with daggers, In desperation swallow poison, Perish hanged by ropes, or fling Themselves over a precipice. Yet how their life-destroying acts Bring death unto themselves as well, That they cannot discern, and that Is the ruin anger breeds. This secret place, with anger's aid, Is where mortality sets the snare. To blot it out with discipline, With vision, strength, and understanding, To blot each fault out one by one, The wise man should apply himself, Training likewise in the true Dhamma; \"Let smoldering be far from us.\" Then rid of wrath and free from anger, And rid of lust and free from envy, Tamed, and with anger left behind, Taintless, they reach Nibbana.
— AN 7.60
On the therapeutic side there are many contexts where the Buddha
offers advice to face situations, such that one’s anger, wrath, and
ill-will not be excited, and if one is agitated there are techniques to
get rid of them. This is not a process of repression by which you push
them into a lower level of consciousness, but a process by which
understanding, insight, and mindfulness lead one to control and
restraint. While the Buddhist analysis of genesis of emotional states
helps one to understand their emergence, positive techniques are
advocated to deal with them and this is done in the case of anger, fear,
greed, jealousy, or any such unwholesome emotional state. The
Vitakkasanthana Sutta recommends five techniques to deal with such
Grief is a universal phenomenon. It is basically a reaction to
bereavement, but it is also consequent on other types of losses. If
there has been a close identification with the person or the thing lost,
the person concerned feels as if a part of himself has been lost. The
most significant observations on the nature of “mourning and melancholy”
were made by Sigmund Freud.30
When an object is charged with a strong emotional cathexis, or in Buddhist terminology “clinging” (upaadaana),
a sudden loss or separation creates a disturbing vacuum. Feelings of
guilt, depression, and self-pity may color the emotion of grief in
various situations. The Attahasaalinii warns that sometimes people will
not be able to distinguish between sorrow and compassion; while the
distant enemy of compassion is cruelty, the close enemy is a kind of
self-pity filled with worldly sorrow.31
While a deep sense of compassion has a power to transform a person
spiritually, worldly sorrow binds him more insidiously to the wheel of
Sorrow, grief, and lamentation are all facets of dukkha and can be overcome only by grasping the philosophy of the “tragic” in Buddhism.32
Mourning and weeping are not effective in dealing with the tragic. We
should understand the causes and conditions of suffering and work out a
therapy to remove the causes of suffering. The Buddhist attitude demands
a sense of reality; this is different from either excessive mourning or
the use of diversions to drown one’s sorrow. Dukkha is a universal
feature of samsaric existence along with impermanence and egolessness.
The Buddha has said: “What is impermanent, that is suffering. What is
suffering, that is void of an ego.” To think that there is an ego where
there is only a changing psycho-physical complex is to create the
conditions that generate sorrow, grief and dejection.
The Buddhist philosophy of tragedy is contained in the four noble
truths: the truth of suffering, the origin of suffering, the extinction
of suffering, the eightfold path leading to the extinction of suffering.
The nature of suffering is thus described by the Buddha: birth, decay,
disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are
suffering. To be joined with the unpleasant and to be separated from the
pleasant is suffering; the failure to get what one wants is suffering.
In short, clinging to the five groups of mental and physical qualities
that go to make up the individual constitutes suffering. It is the last
part of the formula that gives a sense of depth to the meaning of
tragedy in Buddhism.
If the nature of the Buddhist analysis of Dukkha is
understood, within that setting the confrontation with genuine tragic
situations in life may have a positive role to play; it could break
through the natural slumber and complacency and create the sense of
urgency in the mind of the Buddhist. Authentic tragic experience (sa.mvega) should be a spur to the religious life and strengthen one’s faith in the doctrine.
The way in which the impact of genuine tragic situations may bring
about a spiritual alertness without falling into the unwholesome extreme
of morbidity is brought out clearly in the Anguttara Nikaya.33
A certain person hears that in a village or town someone is afflicted
or dead, and stirred in his way he realizes the truth; another beholds
with his own eyes… and realizes the truth; the third person sees a
kinsman afflicted and realizes the truth; and finally the person himself
is stricken with pain and suffering and this situation stirs him to a
realization of the truth of suffering. This is by analogy compared to a
steed that is stirred when the stick is seen, one stirred when the stick
touches the skin, a third when the flesh is pierced and a fourth when
the very bone is pierced by a stick. There is an element of stirring
(which the translator renders as agitation) which awakens a person to
the tragic sense of life and the emergence of faith in the doctrine.
Even if we call this a state of “agitation,” it is different from a
person whose fear, anger, or grief has been aroused. Even the sense of
the tragic in life can turn out to be a creative emotional response.
Not only does compassion form the basis for a wholesome dimension of
emotional warmth and positive concern for others, but it is specifically
advocated as a corrective to the elimination of hatred, fear, and
allied states. But it has its own alluring disguises and as stated
earlier it must be saved from the near enemies of worldly sorrow and
pseudo-love and superficial attachments.
The four sublime states (the Brahma Viharas) are mettaa (loving kindness), karunaa (compassion), muditaa (sympathetic joy) and upekkhaa
(equanimity). Their potentiality to deal with conflicts, jealousies,
prejudice, and hatred are immense, and at the social level very
significant. In the words of Ven. Nyanaponika: “They are the great
removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, the
great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence: levelers
of social barriers, builders of harmonious communities, awakeners of
slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revivers of joy and hope…”34
In the early part of the lecture it was mentioned that morality has a
significant relation to the psychology of human emotions. In the
context of the four sublime states, this observation has much relevance.
Gunapala Dharmasiri has pointed out that one type of moral
justification advocated by the Buddha was the appeal to sympathetic
“The simple fact that others are living beings is the reason why I
should not harm and this is based on an inference from one’s personal
experience to that of others: As all people dislike punishment and are
scared of death, one should not kill or harm others.” In the context of
the four sublime states, a kind of disinterestedness or neutrality is a
safeguard against the emergence of sentimental attachments.
These states are considered as boundless, as they are not limited,
narrowed down to a special person or persons. These are not merely
principles of conduct, but subjects of methodical meditation, and these
could only get rooted in a strong affinity with this unbounded outlook
by the integration of the meditational level and the practical level of
conduct. It is by meditative practice that they sink deeply into the
heart and thus later become spontaneous attitudes.36
In the four sublime states we see the finest base for a creative
emotional response, and moreover a response related to the emotion of
natural sympathy and concern for fellow beings.
Having dealt with the psychological and ethical aspects of the
emotions in Buddhism, it would naturally fall in line with our
discussion to say a few words on the aesthetic aspects too. These
comments are made as an incentive to further reflection rather than in
the form of a definitive statement.
In the course of our discussion it was observed that Buddhism upholds
the cultivation of good emotions and the elimination of unwholesome
emotions. Art and aesthetics is basically a medium of human
communication. Is there a facet of the aesthetic that can enhance the
education of the emotions? There are two sides to the question, one from
the standpoint of art, the other from the standpoint of Buddhism.
Let us take the standpoint of art first. There are three views on the
relationship between art and morality, out of which philosophers like
R.W. Beardsmore favor the third.37
The view called “Moralism” upholds that the aim of art is to teach
morality; “Autonomism” is the belief that the art has nothing to do with
morality. Both points are mistaken on Beardsmore’s view; art does not
crudely teach morality or deliberately eliminate it; rather, art can
give an understanding which makes moral judgment sensitive and
intelligent. In the recent development of what is called “Situational
Ethics,” examples from literature are used for the discussion of moral
issues. By thus reflecting on the conflicts and dilemmas of the
characters we can enrich our own sensibility. Without having undergone
the experience ourselves, moral and religious problems can be viewed
with a “sense of detachment.” Thirdly, the uses of pure reason are
sometimes limited, and the use of literary techniques are extremely
effective on occasions; the fact is quite obviously seen in the
importance of the Jatakas, the Thera- and Theri-gathas etc. Finally,
philosophers like Aristotle discovered a certainly cathartic purpose in
art. By the use of the sympathetic imagination, one tends to see the
common human nature that exists behind the façade of divisive doctrines.38
Now can a Buddhist absorb the aims of art and aesthetics in this
manner? As we have already mentioned, for the purpose of efficient
communication a wide variety of techniques have been used by the Buddha:
stories, fables, poetry, paradoxes, similes, etc. Some of these
techniques are well developed — for instance, in Zen Buddhism. Drama and
song are used today as media for depicting thematically a Buddhist
idea. Sculpture and painting have developed over the years with a
But there are problems in this area. Though the five precepts do not
directly prohibit artistic activity, the call to restrain the senses is
important. Also in the more stringent code of morality (the ten
precepts), and for monks, seeing dances and such forms of amusements is
prohibited. The crucial question is how do we differentiate between the
“sensuous” with its harmful effects and the “aesthetic”? O.H. de A.
Wijesekera, discussing the relationship between “Buddhism and Art,”39
says: “In the Sigala homily we have one of the best abstracts of the
Buddha’s attitude as to what a lay disciple should do and not do. One
will find that the Buddha there admonishes Sigala not to fall into the
error of developing a habitual liking for amusements, but he certainly
does not ask Sigala to cut himself off completely from all aesthetic
pursuits, only that which is bad and demoralizing.” Thus if we do not
adopt a very limited notion of the “sensuous” to eliminate the
aesthetic, education of the emotion through aesthetic media is possible.
Jothiya Dhirasekera says “…the Buddhist recognizes beauty where the
senses can perceive it. But in the beauty he also sees its own change
and destruction. He remembers what the Buddha said with regard to all
components things, that they come in to being, undergo change and are
It is because of the ability to look at life with equanimity that
Buddhism provided a base for the development of a very rich nature
poetry: the images of peace and tranquility, of change and continuity —
all these find graphic expression in Buddhist poetry.
There is also a devotional aspect of religion which finds fitting expression in aesthetic media, and within the concept of saddhaa, art and aesthetic can stimulate faith and reverence for the Dhamma.
To conclude — In the depiction of human tragedy, the lure of power,
the pitfalls of ambition, the roots of passion and the springs of
compassion, the Jatakas have already provided a veritable gold mine for
the education of the emotions. With the tranquility and peace that one
sees in the Samadhi statue or the beauty of the ancient cave paintings,
we enter into a dimension which is predominantly Buddhistic. These
observations are offered to re-activate a facet of human nature (namely
the affective side) that comes most naturally to man and harness this
potential in the wake of a higher spiritual transformation.
Q.3. How are the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ understood in Buddhism? Are they mere religious dogmas and concepts, or are they realities?
The problem of good and evil
kamma is directly concerned with good and evil, any discussion of kamma
must also include a discussion of good and evil. Standards for defining
good and evil are, however, not without their problems. What is “good,”
and how is it so? What is it that we call “evil,” and how is that so?
These problems are in fact a matter of language. In the Buddha’s
teaching, which is based on the Pali language, the meaning becomes much
clearer, as will presently be demonstrated.
English words “good” and “evil” have very broad meanings, particularly
the word “good,” which is much more widely used than “evil.” A virtuous
and moral person is said to be good; delicious food might be called
“good” food; a block of wood which happens to be useful might be called a
“good” block of wood. Moreover, something which is good to one person
might not be good to many others. Looked at from one angle, a certain
thing may be good, but not from another. Behavior which is considered
good in one area, district or society might be considered bad in
seems from these examples that there is some disparity. It might be
necessary to consider the word “good” from different viewpoints, such as
good in a hedonistic sense, good in an artistic sense, good in an
economic sense, and so on. The reason for this disparity is a matter of
values. The words “good” and “evil” can be used in many different value
systems in English, which makes their meanings very broad.
In our study of good and evil the following points should be borne in mind:
Our study will be from the perspective of the law of kamma, thus we
will be using the specialized terms kusala and akusala or skillful and
unskillful, which have very precise meanings.
Kusala and akusala, in terms of Buddhist ethics, are qualities of the
law of kamma, thus our study of them is keyed to this context, not as a
set of social values as is commonly used for the words “good” and
As discussed in Chapter One, the operation of the law of kamma is
related to other laws. Specifically, insofar as the inner life of the
individual is concerned, kammaniyama interacts with psychological laws
(cittaniyama), while externally it is related to Social Preference.
The meaning of kusala and akusala
kusala and akusala are sometimes translated as “good” and “evil,” this
may be misleading. Things which are kusala may not always be considered
good, while some things may be akusala and yet not generally considered
to be evil. Depression, melancholy, sloth and distraction, for example,
although akusala, are not usually considered to be “evil” as we know it
in English. In the same vein, some forms of kusala, such as calmness of
body and mind, may not readily come into the general understanding of
the English word “good.”
and akusala are conditions which arise in the mind, producing results
initially in the mind, and from there to external actions and physical
features. The meanings of kusala and akusala therefore stress the state,
the contents and the events of mind as their basis.
can be rendered generally as “intelligent, skillful, contented,
beneficial, good,” or “that which removes affliction.” Akusala is
defined in the opposite way, as in “unintelligent,” “unskillful” and so
The following are four connotations of kusala derived from the Commentaries:
Arogya: free of illness, a mind that is healthy; mental states which
contain those conditions or factors which support mental health and
produce an untroubled and stable mind.
2. Anavajja: unstained; factors which render the mind clean and clear, not stained or murky.
Kosalasambhuta: based on wisdom or intelligence; mental states which
are based on knowledge and understanding of truth. This is supported by
the teaching which states that kusala conditions have yoniso-manasikara,
clear thinking, as forerunner.
Sukhavipaka: rewarded by well-being. Kusala is a condition which
produces contentment. When kusala conditions arise in the mind, there is
naturally a sense of well-being, without the need for any external
influence. Just as when one is strong and healthy (aroga), freshly
bathed (anavajja), and in a safe and comfortable place (kosalasambhuta),
a sense of well-being naturally follows.
meaning of akusala should be understood in just the opposite way from
above: as the mind that is unhealthy, harmful, based on ignorance, and
resulting in suffering. In brief, it refers to those conditions which
cause the mind to degenerate both in quality and efficiency, unlike
kusala, which promotes the quality and efficiency of the mind.
order to further clarify these concepts, it might be useful to look at
the descriptions of the attributes of a good mind, one that is healthy
and trouble-free, found in the Commentaries, and then to consider
whether kusala conditions do indeed induce the mind to be this way, and
if so, how. We could then consider whether akusala conditions deprive
the mind of such states, and how they do this.
For easy reference, the various characteristics of kusala found in the Commentaries can be compiled into groups, as follows:
1. Firm: resolute, stable, unmoving, undistracted.
2. Pure and clean: unstained, immaculate, bright.
3. Clear and free: unrestricted, free, exalted, boundless.
4. Fit for work: pliant, light, fluent, patient.
5. Calm and content: relaxed, serene, satisfied.
looked at the qualities of a healthy mind, we can now consider the
qualities which are known as kusala and akusala, assessing to see how
they affect the quality of the mind.
examples of kusala conditions are: sati, mindfulness or recollection,
the ability to maintain the attention with whatever object or duty the
mind is engaged; metta, goodwill; non-greed, absence of desire and
attachment (including altruistic thoughts); wisdom, clear understanding
of the way things are; calm, relaxation and peace; kusalachanda, zeal or
contentment with the good; a desire to know and act in accordance with
the truth; and gladness at the good fortune of others.
there is goodwill, the mind is naturally happy, cheerful, and clear.
This is a condition which is beneficial to the psyche, supporting the
quality and efficiency of the mind. Goodwill is therefore kusala. Sati
enables the attention to be with whatever the mind is involved or
engaged, recollecting the proper course of action, helping to prevent
akusala conditions from arising, and thus enabling the mind to work more
effectively. Sati is therefore kusala.
of akusala conditions are: sexual desire; ill will; sloth and torpor;
restlessness and anxiety; doubt[a], anger, jealousy, and avarice.
makes the mind spiteful and oppressive, clearly damaging the quality
and health of the mind. Therefore it is akusala. Anger stirs up the mind
in such a way that rapidly affects even the health of the body, and
thus is clearly akusala. Sensual desire confuses and obsesses the mind.
This is also akusala.
established an understanding of the words kusala and akusala, we are
now ready to understand good and bad kamma, or kusala kamma and akusala
kamma. As has been already mentioned, intention is the heart of kamma.
Thus, an intention which contains kusala conditions is skillful, and an
intention which contains akusala conditions is unskillful. When those
skillful or unskillful intentions are acted on through the body, speech
or mind, they are known as skillful and unskillful kamma through body,
speech and mind respectively, or, alternatively, bodily kamma, verbal
kamma and mental kamma which are skillful and unskillful as the case may
Kusala and akusala as catalysts for each other
act of faith or generosity, moral purity, or even an experience of
insight during meditation, which are all kusala conditions, can
precipitate the arising of conceit, pride and arrogance. Conceit and
pride are akusala conditions. This situation is known as “kusala acting
as an agent for akusala.” Meditation practice can lead to highly
concentrated states of mind (kusala), which in turn can lead to
attachment (akusala). The development of thoughts of goodwill and
benevolence to others (kusala), can, in the presence of a desirable
object, precipitate the arising of lust (akusala). These are examples of
kusala acting as an agent for akusala.
moral or meditation practice (kusala) can be based on a desire to be
reborn in heaven (akusala). A child’s good behavior (kusala) can be
based on a desire to show off to its elders (akusala); a student’s zeal
in learning (kusala) can stem from ambition (akusala); anger (akusala),
seen in the light of its harmful effects, can lead to wise reflection
and forgiveness (kusala); the fear of death (akusala) can encourage
introspection (kusala): these are all examples of akusala as an agent
example: the parents of a teenage boy warn their son that his friends
are a bad influence on him, but he takes no notice and is lured into
drug addiction. On realizing his situation, he is at first angered and
depressed, then, remembering his parents’ warnings, he is moved by their
compassion (akusala as an agent for kusala), but this in turn merely
aggravates his own self-hatred (kusala as an agent for akusala).
These changes from kusala to akusala, or akusala to kusala, occur so rapidly that the untrained mind is rarely able to see them.
Gauging good and bad kamma
has been mentioned that the law of kamma has a very intimate
relationship with both psychological laws and Social Preference. This
very similarity can easily create misunderstandings. The law of kamma is
so closely related to psychological laws that they seem to be one and
the same thing, but there is a clear dividing line between the two, and
that is intention. This is the essence and motivating force of the law
of kamma and is that which gives the law of kamma its distinct niche
among the other niyama or laws. Cittaniyama, on the other hand, governs
all mental activity, including the unintentional.
intention, through the law of kamma, has its own role distinct from the
other niyama, giving rise to the illusion that human beings are
independent of the natural world. Intention must rely on the mechanics
of cittaniyama in order to function, and the process of creating kamma
must operate within the parameters of cittaniyama.
an analogy of a man driving a motor boat, the “driver” is intention,
which is the domain of the law of kamma, whereas the whole of the boat
engine is comparable to the mental factors, which are functions of
cittaniyama. The driver must depend on the boat engine. However, for the
“boat engine” to lead the “boat,” that is, for the mind to lead life
and the body, in any direction, is entirely at the discretion of the
“driver,” intention. The driver depends on and makes use of the boat,
but also takes responsibility for the welfare of both boat and engine.
In the same way, the law of kamma depends on and makes use of
cittaniyama, and also accepts responsibility for the welfare of life,
including both the body and the mind.
is not much confusion about this relationship between the law of kamma
and cittaniyama, mainly because these are not things in which the
average person takes much interest. The issue that creates the most
confusion is the relationship between the law of kamma and Social
Preference, and this confusion creates ambiguity in regard to the nature
of good and evil.
often hear people say that good and evil are human or social
inventions. An action in one society, time or place, may be regarded as
good, but in another time and place regarded as bad. Some actions may be
acceptable to one society, but not to another. For example, some
religions teach that to kill animals for food is not bad, while others
teach that to harm beings of any kind is never good. Some societies hold
that a child should show respect to its elders, and that to argue with
them is bad manners, while others hold that respect is not dependent on
age, and that all people should have the right to express their
say that good and evil are matters of human preference and social
decree is true to some extent. Even so, the good and evil of Social
Preference do not affect or upset the workings of the law of kamma in
any way, and should not be confused with it. “Good” and “evil” as social
conventions should be recognized as Social Preference. As for “good”
and “evil,” or more correctly, kusala and akusala, as qualities of the
law of kamma, these should be recognized as attributes of the law of
kamma. Even though the two are related they are in fact separate, and
have very clear distinctions.
which is at once the relationship, and the point of distinction,
between this natural law and the Social Preference is intention, or
will. As to how this is so, let us now consider.
In terms of the law of kamma, the conventions of society may be divided into two types:
1. Those which have no direct relationship to kusala and akusala.
2. Those which are related to kusala and akusala.
conventions which have no direct relationship to kusala and akusala are
the accepted values or agreements which are established by society for a
specific social function, such as to enable people to live together
harmoniously. They may indeed be instruments for creating social
harmony, or they may not. They may indeed be useful to society or they
may in fact be harmful. All this depends on whether or not those
conventions are established with sufficient understanding and wisdom,
and whether or not the authority who established them is acting with
kinds of conventions may take many forms, such as traditions, customs
or laws. “Good” and “evil” in this respect are strictly matters of
Social Preference. They may change in many ways, but their changes are
not functions of the law of kamma, and must not be confused with it. If a
person disobeys these conventions and is punished by society, that is
also a matter of Social Preference, not the law of kamma.[b]
let us consider an area in which these social conventions may overlap
with the law of kamma, such as when a member of a society refuses to
conform to one of its conventions, or infringes on it.[c] In so doing,
that person will be acting on a certain intention. This intention is the
first step in, and is therefore a concern of, the law of kamma. In many
societies there will be an attempt to search out this intention for
ascertaining the quality of the action. That is again a concern of
Social Preference, indicating that that particular society knows how to
utilize the law of kamma. This consideration of intention by society is
not, however, in itself a function of the law of kamma. (That is, it is
not a foregone conclusion — illegal behavior is not always punished.
However, whether actions are punished or not they are kamma in the sense
that they are volitional actions and will bring results.)
for the particular role of the law of kamma, regardless of whether
society investigates the intention or not, or even whether society is
aware of the infringement, the law of kamma functions immediately the
action occurs, and the process of fruition has already been set in
speaking, the deciding factor in the law of kamma is whether the
intention is kusala or akusala. In most cases, not to conform with any
Social Preference can only be said to constitute no intentional
infringement when society agrees to abandon or to reform that
convention. Only then will there be no violation of the public
can be illustrated by a simple example. Suppose two people decide to
live together. In order to render their lives together as smooth and as
convenient as possible, they agree to establish a set of regulations:
although working in different places and returning from work at
different times, they decide to have the evening meal together. As it
would be impractical to wait for each other indefinitely, they agree
that each of them should not eat before seven pm. Of those two people,
one likes cats and doesn’t like dogs, while the other likes dogs and
doesn’t like cats. For mutual well-being, they agree not to bring any
pets at all into the house.
agreed on these regulations, if either of those two people acts in
contradiction to them, there is a case of intentional infringement, and
kamma arises, good or bad according to the intention that instigated it,
even though eating food before seven pm., or bringing pets into a
house, are not in themselves good or evil. Another couple might even
establish regulations which are directly opposite to these. And in the
event that one of those people eventually considers their regulations to
be no longer beneficial, they should discuss the matter together and
come to an agreement. Only then would any intentional nonconformity on
that person’s part be free of kammic result. This is the distinction
between “good” and “evil,” and “right” and “wrong,” as changing social
conventions, as opposed to the unchanging properties of the law of
kamma, kusala and akusala.
conventions which are related to kusala and akusala in the law of kamma
are those conventions which are either skillful or unskillful. Society
may or may not make these regulations with a clear understanding of
kusala and akusala, but the process of the law of kamma continues along
its natural course regardless. It does not change along with those
example, a society might consider it acceptable to take intoxicants and
addictive drugs. Extreme emotions may be encouraged, and the citizens
may be incited to compete aggressively in order to spur economic growth.
Or it might be generally believed that to kill people of other
societies, or, on a lesser scale, to kill animals, is not blameworthy.
are examples where the good and evil of Social Preference and kusala
and akusala are at odds with each other: unskillful conditions are
socially preferred and “good” from a social perspective is “bad” from a
moral one. Looked at from a social perspective, those conventions or
attitudes may cause both positive and negative results. For example,
although a life of tension and high competitiveness may cause a high
suicide rate, an unusually large amount of mental and social problems,
heart disease and so on, that society may experience rapid material
progress. Thus, social problems can often be traced down to the law of
kamma, in the values condoned and encouraged by society.
Preference and the law of kamma are separate and distinct. The fruits
of kamma proceed according to their own law, independent of any social
conventions which are at odds with it as mentioned above. However,
because the convention and the law are related, correct practice in
regard to the law of kamma, that is, actions that are kusala, might
still give rise to problems on the social level. For example, an
abstainer living in a society which favors intoxicating drugs receives
the fruits of kamma dictated by the law of kamma — he doesn’t
experience the loss of health and mental clarity due to intoxicating
drugs — but in the context of Social Preference, as opposed to the law
of kamma, he may be ridiculed and scorned. And even within the law of
kamma there may arise problems from his intentional opposition to this
Social Preference, in the form of mental stress, more or less depending
on his wisdom and ability to let go of social reactions.
progressive society with wise administrators uses the experience
accumulated from previous generations in laying down the conventions and
laws of society. These become the good and evil of Social Preference,
and ideally they should correlate with the kusala and akusala of
kammaniyama. The ability to establish conventions in conformity with the
law of kamma would seem to be a sound gauge for determining the true
extent of a society’s progress or civilization.
this context, when it is necessary to appraise any convention as good
or evil, it would best be considered from two levels. Firstly, in terms
of Social Preference, by determining whether or not it has a beneficial
result to society. Secondly, in terms of the law of kamma, by
determining whether or not it is kusala, beneficial to mental
conventions, even though maintained by societies for long periods of
time, are in fact not at all useful to them, even from the point of view
of Social Preference, let alone from the point of view of the law of
kamma. Such conventions should be abandoned, and it may be necessary for
an exceptional being with pure heart to point out their fault.
the case of a convention which is seen to be helpful to society and to
human progress, but which is not in conformity with the kusala of the
law of kamma, such as one which enhances material progress at the
expense of the quality of life, it might be worth considering whether
the people of that society have not gone astray and mistaken that which
is harmful as being beneficial. A truly beneficial custom should conform
with both Social Preference and the law of kamma. In other words, it
should be beneficial to both the individual and society as a whole, and
beneficial on both the material and psychic levels.
this regard we can take a lesson from the situation of society in the
present time. Human beings, holding the view that wealth of material
possessions is the path to true happiness, have proceeded to throw their
energies into material development. The harmful effects of many of our
attempts at material progress are only now becoming apparent. Even
though society appears to be prosperous, we have created many new
physical dangers, and social and environmental problems threaten us on a
global scale. Just as material progress should not be destructive to
the physical body, social progress should not be destructive to the
clarity of the mind.
Buddha gave a set of reflections on kusala and akusala for assessing
the nature of good and evil on a practical level, encouraging reflection
on both the good and evil within (conscience), and the teachings of
wise beings (these two being the foundation of conscience and
modesty).[d] Thirdly, he recommended pondering the fruits of actions,
both individually and on a social basis. Because the nature of kusala
and akusala may not always be clear, the Buddha advised adhering to
religious and ethical teachings, and, if such teachings are not clear
enough, to look at the results of actions, even if only from a social
most people, these three bases for reflection (i.e., individually,
socially, and from the accepted teachings of wise beings) can be used to
assess behavior on a number of different levels, ensuring that their
actions are as circumspect as possible.
the criteria for assessing good and evil are: in the context of whether
an action is kamma or not, to take intention as the deciding factor;
and in the context of whether that kamma is good or evil, to consider
the matter against the following principles:
into the roots of actions, whether the intentions for them arose from
one of the skillful roots of non-greed, non-aversion or non-delusion, or
from one of the unskillful roots of greed, aversion or delusion.
into the effects on the psyche, or mental well-being, of actions:
whether they render the mind clear, calm and healthy; whether they
promote or inhibit the quality of the mind; whether they encourage the
arising of skillful conditions and the decrease of unskillful
conditions, or vice versa.
1. Considering whether one’s actions are censurable to oneself or not (conscience).
2. Considering the quality of one’s actions in terms of wise teachings.
3. Considering the results of those actions:
a. towards oneself
b. towards others.
is possible to classify these standards in a different way, if we first
clarify two points. Firstly, looking at actions either in terms of
their roots, or as skillful and unskillful in themselves, are
essentially the same thing. Secondly, in regard to approval or censure
by the wise, we can say that such wise opinions are generally preserved
in religions, conventions and laws. Even though these conventions are
not always wise, and thus any practice which conflicts with them is not
necessarily unskillful, still it can be said that such cases are the
exception rather than the rule.
are now ready to summarize our standards for good and evil, or good and
bad kamma, both strictly according to the law of kamma and also in
relation to Social Preference, both on an intrinsically moral level and
on a socially prescribed one.
In terms of direct benefit or harm: are these actions in themselves
beneficial? Do they contribute to the quality of life? Do they cause
kusala and akusala conditions to increase or wane?
2. In terms of beneficial or harmful consequences: are the effects of these actions harmful or beneficial to oneself?
3. In terms of benefit or harm to society: are they harmful to others, or helpful to them?
4. In terms of conscience, the natural human reflexive capacity: will those actions be censurable to oneself or not?
In terms of social standards: what is the position of actions in
relation to those religious conventions, traditions, social institutions
and laws which are based on wise reflection (as opposed to those which
are simply superstitious or mistaken beliefs)?
to addressing the question of the results of kamma in the next chapter,
it would be pertinent to consider some of the points described above in
the light of the Pali Canon.
are skillful (kusala) conditions? They are the three roots of
skillfulness — non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion; feelings,
perceptions, proliferations and consciousness which contain those roots
of skillfulness; bodily kamma, verbal kamma and mental kamma which have
those roots as their base: these are skillful conditions.
are unskillful (akusala) conditions? They are the three roots of
unskillfulness — greed, aversion and delusion — and all the
defilements which arise from them; feelings, perceptions, proliferations
and consciousness which contain those roots of unskillfulness; bodily
kamma, verbal kamma and mental kamma which have those roots of
unskillfulness as a foundation: these are unskillful conditions.”
* * *
“There are two kinds of danger, the overt danger and the covert danger.
are the ‘overt dangers’? These are such things as lions, tigers,
panthers, bears, leopards, wolves … bandits … eye diseases, ear
diseases, nose diseases … cold, heat, hunger, thirst, defecation,
urination, contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and crawling
animals: these are called ‘overt dangers.’
are the ‘covert dangers’? They are bad bodily actions, bad verbal
actions, bad mental actions; the hindrances of sensual desire, ill will,
sloth and torpor, restlessness and doubt; greed, aversion and delusion;
anger, vengeance, spite, arrogance, jealousy, meanness, deception,
boastfulness, stubbornness, contention, pride, scornfulness, delusion,
heedlessness; the defilements, the bad habits; the confusion; the lust;
the agitation; all thoughts that are unskillful: these are the ‘covert
are called ‘dangers’ for what reason? They are called dangers in that
they overwhelm, in that they cause decline, in that they are a shelter.
are they called dangers in that they overwhelm? Because those dangers
suppress, constrict, overcome, oppress, harass and crush …
are they called dangers in that they cause decline? Because those
dangers bring about the decline of skillful conditions …
are they called dangers in that they are a shelter? Because base,
unskillful conditions are born from those things and take shelter within
them, just as an animal which lives in a hole takes shelter in a hole, a
water animal takes shelter in water, or a tree-dwelling animal takes
shelter in trees .. “
* * *
greed, aversion and delusion arise within his mind, they destroy the
evil doer, just as the bamboo flower signals the ruin of the bamboo
* * *
here, Your Majesty. These three things arise in the world not for
welfare or benefit, but for woe, for discomfort. What are those three?
They are greed, aversion and delusion …”
* * *
there are these three roots of unskillfulness. What are the three? They
are the greed-root, the aversion-root and the delusion-root of
itself is unskillful; whatever kamma is created on account of greed,
through action, speech or thought, is also unskillful. One in the power
of greed, sunk in greed, whose mind is distorted by greed, causes
trouble for others by striking them, imprisoning them, crushing them,
decrying them, and banishing them, thinking, ‘I am powerful, I am
mighty.’ That is also unskillful. These many kinds of coarse, unskillful
conditions, arising from greed, having greed as their cause, having
greed as their source, having greed as condition, persecute the evil
itself is unskillful; whatever kamma is created on account of hatred,
through action, speech or thought, is also unskillful. One in the power
of hatred … causes trouble for others … that is also unskillful.
These many kinds of coarse, unskillful conditions persecute the evil
itself is unskillful; whatever kamma is created on account of delusion,
through action, speech or thought, is also unskillful. One in the power
of delusion causes trouble for others … that is also unskillful.
These many kinds of unskillful conditions persecute the evil doer in
who is thus caught up, whose mind is thus infected, in the coarse,
unskillful conditions born of greed, hatred and delusion, experiences
suffering, stress, agitation and anxiety in this present time. At death,
at the breaking up of the body, he can expect a woeful bourn, just like
a tree which is completely entwined with a banyan creeper comes to
ruin, to destruction, to decline, to dissolution …
There are these three roots of skillfulness. What are the three? They
are the non-greed root, the non-aversion root and the non-delusion root
* * *
“Monks! There are three root causes of kamma. What are the three? They are greed … hatred … delusion …
kamma is performed out of greed … hatred … delusion, is born from
greed … hatred … delusion, has greed … hatred … delusion as its
root and as its cause, that kamma is unskillful, that kamma is harmful,
that kamma has suffering as a result, that kamma brings about the
creation of more kamma, not the cessation of kamma.
“Monks! There are these three root causes of kamma. What are the three? They are non-greed … non-hatred … non-delusion …
kamma is performed out of non-greed … non-hatred … non-delusion, is
born of non-greed … non-hatred … non-delusion, has non-greed …
non-hatred … non-delusion as its root and its cause, that kamma is
skillful, that kamma is not harmful, that kamma has happiness as a
result, that kamma brings about the cessation of kamma, not the creation
of more kamma …”
* * *
Kalamas. When you know for yourselves that these things are unskillful,
these things are harmful, these things are censured by the wise, these
things, if acted upon, will bring about what is neither beneficial nor
conducive to welfare, but will cause suffering, then you should abandon
“Kalamas, how do you consider this matter? Do greed … hatred … delusion in a person, bring about benefit or non-benefit?”
(Answer: Non-benefit, Venerable Sir.)
who is desirous … is angry … is deluded; who is overwhelmed by
greed … hatred … delusion, whose mind is thus distorted, as a result
resorts to murder, to theft, to adultery, to lying, and encourages
others to do so. This is for their non-benefit and non-welfare for a
long time to come.”
(Answer: That is true, Venerable Sir.)
“Kalamas, how say you, are those things skillful or unskillful?”
(Answer: They are unskillful, Venerable Sir.)
“Are they harmful or not harmful?”
(Answer: Harmful, Venerable Sir.)
“Praised by the wise, or censured?”
(Answer: Censured by the wise, Venerable Sir.)
“If these things are acted upon, will they bring about harm and suffering, or not? What do you think?”
(Answer: When put into practice, these things bring about harm and suffering, this is our view on this matter.)
that case, Kalamas, when I said, ‘Come, Kalamas, do not believe simply
because a belief has been adhered to for generations … nor simply
because this man is your teacher, or is revered by you, but when you
know for yourselves that these things are unskillful, then you should
abandon those things,’ it is on account of this that I thus spoke.”
* * *
following passage is from an exchange between King Pasenadi of Kosala
and the Venerable Ananda. It is a series of questions and answers
relating to the nature of good and evil, from which it can be seen that
Venerable Ananda makes use of all the standards mentioned above.
Venerable Sir, when foolish, unintelligent people, not carefully
considering, speak in praise or blame of others, I do not take their
words seriously. As for pundits, the wise and astute, who carefully
consider before praising or criticizing, I give weight to their words.
Venerable Ananda, which kinds of bodily actions, verbal actions and
mental actions would, on reflection, be censured by wise ascetics and
Ananda: They are those actions of body … speech … mind that are unskillful, Your Majesty.
King: What are those actions of body … speech … mind that are unskillful?
Ananda: They are those actions of body … speech … mind that are harmful.
King: What are those actions of body … speech … mind that are harmful?
Ananda: They are those actions of body … speech … mind that are oppressive.
King: What are those actions of body … speech … mind that are oppressive?
Ananda: They are those actions of body … speech … mind which result in suffering.
King: What are those actions of body … speech … mind which result in suffering?
Those actions of body … speech … mind which serve to torment
oneself, to torment others, or to torment both; which bring about an
increase in unskillful conditions and a decrease of skillful conditions;
Your Majesty, just these kinds of actions of body … speech … mind
are censured by wise ascetics and Brahmins.
Following that, Venerable Ananda answered the King’s questions about skillful conditions in the same way, summarizing with:
actions of body … speech … mind which result in happiness, that is,
those actions which do not serve to torment oneself, to torment others,
nor to torment both; which bring about a decrease in unskillful
conditions and an increase in skillful conditions; Your Majesty, just
these kinds of actions of body … speech … mind are not censured by
wise ascetics and Brahmins.”
* * *
in the power of greed and desire … hatred and resentment … delusion
… with mind thus distorted … does not know as it is what is useful
to oneself … what is useful to others … what is useful to both
sides. Having abandoned desire … aversion … delusion, one knows
clearly what is useful to oneself … useful to others … useful to
* * *
kamma is like freshly squeezed milk — it takes time to sour. Bad kamma
follows and burns the evil doer just like hot coals buried in ash.”
* * *
who previously made bad kamma, but who reforms and creates good kamma,
brightens the world like the moon appearing from behind a cloud.”
* * *
“To make good kamma is like having a good friend at your side.”
* * *
For those bad actions through body, speech and mind, which are
discouraged by me, the following consequences can be expected: one is
blameworthy to oneself; the wise, on careful consideration, find one
censurable; a bad reputation spreads; one dies confused; and at death,
on the breaking up of the body, one goes to the woeful states, the
nether realms, hell …
For those good actions through body, speech and mind recommended by me,
the following rewards can be expected: one is not blameworthy to
oneself; the wise, after careful consideration, find one praiseworthy; a
good reputation spreads; one dies unconfused; and at death, on the
breaking up of the body, one attains to a pleasant realm, to heaven
* * *
abandon unskillful conditions. Unskillful conditions can be abandoned.
If it were impossible to abandon unskillful conditions, I would not tell
you to do so … but because unskillful conditions can be abandoned,
thus do I tell you … Moreover, if the abandoning of those unskillful
conditions was not conducive to welfare, but to suffering, I would not
say, ‘Monks, abandon unskillful conditions,’ but because the abandoning
of these unskillful conditions is conducive to benefit and happiness, so
I say, ‘Monks, abandon unskillful conditions.’
cultivate skillful conditions. Skillful conditions can be cultivated.
If it were impossible to cultivate skillful conditions, I would not tell
you to do so … but because skillful conditions can be cultivated,
thus do I tell you … Moreover, if the cultivation of those skillful
conditions was not conducive to welfare, but to suffering, I would not
tell you to cultivate skillful conditions, but because the cultivation
of skillful conditions is conducive to welfare and to happiness, thus do
I say, ‘Monks, cultivate skillful conditions.’”
* * *
there are those things which should be abandoned with the body, not the
speech; there are those things which should be abandoned with the
speech, not the body; there are those things which should be abandoned
neither with the body, nor speech, but must be clearly seen with wisdom
(in the mind) and then abandoned.
are those things which should be abandoned with the body, not through
speech? Herein, a monk in this Dhamma-Vinaya incurs transgressions
through the body. His wise companions in the Dhamma, having considered
the matter, say to him: ‘Venerable Friend, you have incurred these
offenses. It would be well if you were to abandon this wrong bodily
behavior and cultivate good bodily behavior.’ Having been so instructed
by those wise companions, he abandons those wrong bodily actions and
cultivates good ones. This is a condition which should be abandoned by
body, not by speech.
are the things which should be abandoned through speech, not through
the body? Herein, a monk in this Dhamma-Vinaya incurs some
transgressions through speech. His wise companions in the Dhamma, having
considered the matter, say to him: ‘Venerable Friend, you have incurred
these offenses of speech. It would be well if you were to relinquish
this wrong speech and cultivate good speech.’ Having been so instructed
by those wise companions, he abandons that wrong speech and cultivates
good speech. This is a condition which should be abandoned by speech,
not by body.
are the things which should be abandoned neither by body nor speech,
but which should be clearly understood with wisdom and then abandoned?
They are greed … hatred … delusion … anger … vindictiveness …
spite … arrogance … meanness. These things should be abandoned
neither by the body or speech, but should be clearly understood with
wisdom and then abandoned.”
These first five qualities are called the Five Hindrances (nivarana),
so named because they are obstacles to the successful development of
meditation or a clear mind.
Examples of such conventions are social codes of dress: before entering
a Buddhist temple in Thailand, for example, it is appropriate to remove
shoes and hat, whereas to enter a Christian church it is often required
to wear both.
c. — such as by refusing to remove one’s shoes in a Buddhist temple or to wear a hat in a Christian church.
d. Hiri: sense of shame; ottappa: fear of wrong doing.
Q.4. Are good or bad kammas theories or do they represent universal law?
of cause and effect is commonly known throughout science. For every
action there is a reaction or similarly, for every cause there is an
effect and from every effect there must have been a cause. This law is
an inescapable truth and until you learn and accept it you will be like
the cat chasing its tail.
people are living their lives reacting to one event after the next. They
presume life is just a random series of circumstances and that they
must deal with what life throws at them from moment to moment. They are
unaware that they are directly responsible for each and every event that
appears in their lives. Due to the law of cause and effect they have in
fact created the circumstances that have arrived in their reality from
their own thoughts, words and actions. These thoughts, words and actions
on the part of the individual are the cause and the resultant outcome
at some later date is the direct effect from the initial cause. To
follow the chain of events from a particular cause through to its effect
would be virtually impossible as a complex series of actions takes
place from the initial cause and the universe ultimately brings to us
the end effect from that cause.
Kamma is a
common word used to describe the law of cause and effect. People often
associate good actions with good kamma and believe if we do the right
thing by people then good things will come back to us and this is
absolutely correct. There is no specific time in which our good deeds
will be repaid to us but at some stage we will be rewarded. The same
thing goes for any bad things we do. We will accrue bad kamma if we do
wrongly by others and our bad deeds will come back on us.
of cause and effect applies to everything and everyone in the universe.
Although we cannot live outside the law, we can learn to live within the
law and learn to use it to our advantage. We have all been gifted with
the willpower to choose our thoughts, words and make decisions on our
own actions. With positive thoughts, words and actions we draw positive
people and events into our lives. We each know intuitively whether our
actions will benefit or hinder others and as we learn to incorporate
this law into our life we see the positive effects begin to appear in
our lives as we do and say the right things by other people and our
Learn to live in faith and know that due to the law of cause and effect, just like the law of attraction,
if we live with thoughts of fear this is exactly what will come back to
us. However, if we can change our thoughts to love and prosperity, this
is the effect that will appear in our life. Just as we trust in the
unfailing law of gravity, trust in the law of cause and effect and you
will work wonders in your life.
Q.5. When a person dies, is it the end of existence or is he reincarnated or reborn?
is the term the Buddhist use – Reincarnation or Rebirth? Do Buddhists
believe in soul or atma? If so, how? If not, why not? Explain.
Reincarnation is not a teaching of the Buddha. In Buddhism the teaching is of rebirth, not of reincarnation
The reincarnation idea is to
believe in a soul or a being, separate from the body. At the death of
the physical body, this soul is said to move into another state and then
enter a womb to be born again.
Rebirth is different and can be
explained in this way. Take away the notion of a soul or a being living
inside the body; take away all ideas of self existing either inside or
outside the body. Also take away notions of past, present and future; in
fact take away all notions of time. Now, without reference to time and
self, there can be no before or after, no beginning or ending, no birth
or death, no coming or going. Yet there is life! Rebirth is the
experience of life in the moment, without birth, without death; it is
the experience of life which is neither eternal nor subject to
Q.7. Soul believers say that if there is no soul or self who is reincarnated. What is the Buddhist answer?
That which is born, dies. Forms come and go. All that comes into
existence is impermanent; it is born and it dies. But the very essence
of what “I” am — the Buddha-nature — is unborn and undying.
are people and people do believe things, but Buddhism is concerned with
truth, not with belief, and the teaching is to see things as they are.
If we believe anything which has not been experienced, we should know
what we are doing. When we do not understand something, then to maintain
an open mind is the healthiest and wisest practice.
Q.8. What are the three characteristics of samsara, worldly existence?
According to the Buddhist tradition, all phenomena other than Nibbana, (sankhara) are marked by three characteristics, sometimes referred to as the Dhamma seals, that is dukkha (suffering), anicca (impermanence), and anatta (non-Self).
Together the three characteristics of existence are called ti-lakkhana, in Pali; or tri-laksana, in Sanskrit.
By bringing the three (or four) seals into moment-to-moment experience through concentrated awareness, we are said to achieve Wisdom - the third of the three higher trainings - the way out of Samsara. In this way we can identify that, according to Sutta, the recipe (or formula) for leaving Samsara is achieved by a deep-rooted change to our world view.
Before you go off
in search of awakenment,
see the Buddha
of your own mind.
Q.9. Is Nibbana a concept or a reality?
The concept of Nibbana was originally explained by the Lord Buddha
(566-486 BC). His Lordship reached Awakenment, at the age of 35,
awakening to the true nature of reality, which is Nibbana (Absolute
Truth). The word Nibbana comes from the root meaning ‘to blow out’ and
refers to the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred and delusion.
When these emotional and psychological defilements are destroyed by
wisdom, the mind becomes free, radiant and joyful and at death one is no
longer subject to rebirth. Nibbana is the ultimate happiness.
The Buddha describes the abiding in nibbana as a state of
‘deathlessness’ and as the highest spiritual attainment, the reward for
one who lives a life of virtuous conduct. Nibbana is meant specifically
as pertains gnosis that which ends the identity of the mind with
Nibbana can only be explained to the ‘unawakened’ by negation. Thus
the Buddha tries to explain this deep concept to one of his disciples.
He asks whether the fire, when it is extinguished, can be said to have
gone north, south, east, or west. Nibbana, however, cannot be described
as existing, not existing, both existing and not, or neither existing
Venerable Dr. Walpola Rahula explains the concept of Nibbana as
…The only reasonable reply is that it can never be answered
completely and satisfactorily in words, because human language is too
poor to express the real nature of the Absolute Truth or Ultimate
Reality which is Nibbana. Language is created and used by masses of
human beings to express things and ideas experienced by their sense
organs and their mind.
A supramundane experience like that of the Absolute Truth is not of
such a category. Words are symbols representing things and ideas known
to us; and these symbols do not and cannot convey the true nature of
even ordinary things. Language is considered deceptive and misleading in
the matter of understanding of the Truth. So the Lankavatara-sutra says
that ignorant people get stuck in words like an elephant in the mud.
Nevertheless, we cannot do without langauge.
It is incorrect to think that Nibbana is the natural result of the
extinction of craving. Nibbana is not the result of anything. If it
would be a result, then it would be an effect produced by a cause. It
would be ‘produced’ and ‘conditioned’. Nibbana is neither cause nor
effect. It is not produced like a mystic, spiritual, mental state, such
as dhyana or samadhi.
People often ask: What is there after Nibbana? This question cannot
arise, because Nibbana is the Ultimate Truth. If it is Ultimate there
can be nothing after it. If there is anything after Nibbana, then that
will be the Ultimate Truth and not Nibbana.
He who has realised Truth, Nibbana, is the happiest being in the
world. He is free from all ‘complexes’ and obsessions, the worries and
troubles that torment others. His mental health is perfect. He does not
repent the past, nor does he brood over the future.
He lives fully in the present. Therefore he appreciates and enjoys
things in the purest sense without self-projections. He is joyful,
exultant, enjoying the pure life, his faculties pleased, free from
anxiety, serene and peaceful.
As he is free from selfish desire, hatred, ignorance, conceit, pride,
and all such ‘defilements’, he is pure and gentle, full of universal
love, compassion, kindness, sympathy, understanding and tolerance. His
service to others is of the purest, for he has no thought of self. He
gains nothing, accumulated nothing, because he is free from the illusion
of self and the ‘thirst’ of becoming.
Q.10. In Buddhism there are two truths which explain everything both concerning samsara and Nibbana. Explain.
Back in the days of the Buddha, nirvana (nibbana) had a verb of its own: nibbuti.
It meant to “go out,” like a flame. Because fire was thought to be in a
state of entrapment as it burned — both clinging to and trapped by the
fuel on which it fed — its going out was seen as an unbinding. To go out
was to be unbound. Sometimes another verb was used — parinibbuti — with the “pari-” meaning total or all-around, to indicate that the person unbound, unlike fire unbound, would never again be trapped.
Now that nirvana has become an English word, it should have
its own English verb to convey the sense of “being unbound” as well. At
present, we say that a person “reaches” nirvana or “enters” nirvana,
implying that nibbana is a place where you can go. But nirvana is most
emphatically not a place. It’s realized only when the mind stops
defining itself in terms of place: of here, or there, or between the
This may seem like a word-chopper’s problem — what can a verb
or two do to your practice? — but the idea of nirvana as a place has
created severe misunderstandings in the past, and it could easily create
misunderstandings now. There was a time when some philosophers in India
reasoned that if nibbana is one place and samsara another, then
entering into nirvana leaves you stuck: you’ve limited your range of
movement, for you can’t get back to samsara. Thus to solve this problem
they invented what they thought was a new kind of nibbana: an
unestablished nibbana, in which one could be in both places — nibbana
and samsara — at once.
However, these philosophers misunderstood two important
points about the Buddha’s teachings. The first was that neither samsara
nor nibbana is a place. Samsara is a process of creating places, even
whole worlds, (this is called becoming) and then wandering through them (this is called birth).
Nibbana is the end of this process. You may be able to be in two places
at once — or even develop a sense of self so infinite that you can
occupy all places at once — but you can’t feed a process and experience
its end at the same time. You’re either feeding samsara or you’re not.
If you feel the need to course freely through both samsara and nibbana,
you’re simply engaging in more samsara-ing and keeping yourself trapped.
The second point is that nibbana, from the very beginning,
was realized through unestablished consciousness — one that doesn’t come
or go or stay in place. There’s no way that anything unestablished can
get stuck anywhere at all, for it’s not only non-localized but also
The idea of a religious ideal as lying beyond space and
definition is not exclusive to the Buddha’s teachings, but issues of
locality and definition, in the Buddha’s eyes, had a specific
psychological meaning. This is why the non-locality of nirvana is
important to understand.
Just as all phenomena are rooted in desire, consciousness
localizes itself through passion. Passion is what creates the “there” on
which consciousness can land or get established, whether the “there” is
a form, feeling, perception, thought-construct, or a type of
consciousness itself. Once consciousness gets established on any of
these aggregates, it becomes attached and then proliferates, feeding on
everything around it and creating all sorts of havoc. Wherever there’s
attachment, that’s where you get defined as a being. You create an
identity there, and in so doing you’re limited there. Even if the
“there” is an infinite sense of awareness grounding, surrounding, or
permeating everything else, it’s still limited, for “grounding” and so
forth are aspects of place. Wherever there’s place, no matter how
subtle, passion lies latent, looking for more food to feed on.
If, however, the passion can be removed, there’s no more
“there” there. One sutta illustrates this with a simile: the sun shining
through the eastern wall of a house and landing on the western wall. If
the western wall, the ground beneath it, and the waters beneath the
ground were all removed, the sunlight wouldn’t land. In the same way, if
passion for form, etc., could be removed, consciousness would have no
“where” to land, and so would become unestablished. This doesn’t mean
that consciousness would be annihilated, simply that — like the sunlight
— it would now have no locality. With no locality, it would no longer
This is why the consciousness of nibbana is said to be “without surface” (anidassanam),
for it doesn’t land. Because the consciousness-aggregate covers only
consciousness that is near or far, past, present, or future — i.e., in
connection with space and time — consciousness without surface is not
included in the aggregates. It’s not eternal because eternity is a
function of time. And because non-local also means undefined,
the Buddha insisted that an awakened person — unlike ordinary people —
can’t be located or defined in any relation to the aggregates in this
life; after death, he/she can’t be described as existing, not existing,
neither, or both, because descriptions can apply only to definable
The essential step toward this non-localized, undefined
realization is to cut back on the proliferations of consciousness. This
first involves contemplating the drawbacks of keeping consciousness
trapped in the process of feeding. This contemplation gives urgency to
the next steps: bringing the mind to oneness in concentration, gradually
refining that oneness, and then dropping it to zero. The drawbacks of
feeding are most graphically described in SN 12.63, A Son’s Flesh. The process of gradually refining oneness is probably best described in MN 121, The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness,
while the drop to zero is best described in the Buddha’s famous
instructions to Bahiya: “‘In reference to the seen, there will be only
the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the
sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the
cognized.’ That is how you should train yourself. When for you there
will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in
reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only
the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no
you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with
that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither
here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of
With no here or there or between the two, you obviously can’t
use the verb “enter” or “reach” to describe this realization, even
metaphorically. Maybe we should make the word nirvana into a verb
itself: “When there is no you in connection with that, you nirvana.”
That way we can indicate that unbinding is an action unlike any other,
and we can head off any mistaken notion about getting “stuck” in total
LESSON 2919 Sat 2 Mar 2019
Tipitaka - DO GOOD BE MINDFUL is the Essence of the Words of the Awakened One with Awareness
Analytic Insight Net - FREE Online Tipiṭaka Law Research & Practice
112 CLASSICAL LANGUAGES Please Visit: http://sarvajan.ambedkar.org
(Discourse on the Net of Perfect Wisdom )
Silakkhandha Vagga, Digha Nikaya, Suttanta Pitaka
Being the first discourse of the first Nikaya, the
It is mentioned in the Sasanavamsa that
The Brahmajala sutta consists of two parts, the Sila (morality)
From the section on morality we come to know how the Buddha was head
The moral precepts are arranged according to the number—the
In the philosophical portion we find descriptions of various views
Strictly speaking, the number of views is eight, namely
Under the same heading of Speculation relating to the past,
The Extensionist views are mentioned in
The Equivocators (Amaravikkhepikas) or
As regards the other questions which Sanjaya avoided, the Buddha’s
Sanjaya Belatthiputta the heretical teacher was an eel-wriggler and
Another class of teachers held the Fortuitous-originist views, and they said the world and
Thus we get 18 views of those who reconstructed the ultimate
Speculators about the unconscious existence after death
And some held that the soul is neither conscious nor unconscious
These views are different ramifications of one question namely the
Then we find the Ucchedavada which was held by Annihilationists who in seven ways maintained the
1. The soul which is a product of the four elements (mahabhutas) 2.
Ditthadhamma-nibbana vadas were held by those who believed in the
At the end of each of the views the Buddha declared that in contrast
The Buddha declared that these sixty-two views are based upon
The great significance of the sutta may be judged from the statement
(Majjhima Vol 1. )
This page at
Nibbana.com was last modified: 10/23/2014 22:02:39
Brahmajala Sutta Part 01 (62 Pandangan Salah) “Cornelis Wowor, M.A”
21) Classical Chichewa-Chikale cha Chichewa,
Published on Feb 12, 2019
Brahmajala Sutta merupakan sutta yang pertama dari 34 sutta Digha
Nikaya. Sutta ini merupakan sebuah sutta yang sangat penting untuk
dipelajari dan direnungkan karena isi sutta ini menguraikan tentang
berbagai pandangan atau ajaran dari bermacam-macam aliran agama yang ada
serta berkembang pada masa kehidupan Sang Buddha. Khususnya bagi umat
Buddha yang sedang mempelajari Buddha Dhamma, maka dengan merenungkan
dan mengerti isi sutta ini, ia akan mendapatkan banyak informasi baru
tentang dasar teori tentang bagaimana pola pikir dan kedudukan ajaran
agama Buddha di tengah-tengah aneka ragamnya teori pandangan hidup dan
agama di dunia ini. Karena uraian yang ada dalam sutta ini, walaupun
telah diungkapkan oleh Sang Buddha pada lebih dari 2500 tahun yang lalu,
namun isinya sampai sekarang masih up to date. Ada dua pokok besar yang
diuraikan dalam Brahmajala sutta, yaitu tentang sila (peraturan
prilaku-moral) dan ditthi (pandangan atau teori ajaran). (https://samaggi-phala.or.id)
People & Blogs
22) Classical Chinese (Simplified)-古典中文（简体）,
古典音樂 古箏音樂 笛子音樂 放鬆音樂 輕音樂 平靜的音樂 - Beautiful Chinese Music, Guzheng vs Bamboo Flute Music Relaxing.
古典音樂 - Traditional Music
Published on Jul 28, 2018
古典音樂 古箏音樂 笛子音樂 放鬆音樂 輕音樂 平靜的音樂 - Beautiful Chinese Music, Guzheng vs Bamboo Flute Music Relaxing.
歡迎免費訂閱 古典音樂 - Traditional Music 頻道 在：https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTf0…
People & Blogs
23) Classical Chinese (Traditional)-古典中文（繁體）,
二胡名曲 古典音樂 放鬆音樂 輕音樂 安靜音樂 - Erhu Music Collection, Classical Chinese Music.
古典音樂 - Traditional Music
Published on Jun 16, 2018
二胡名曲 古典音樂 放鬆音樂 輕音樂 安靜音樂 - Erhu Music Collection, Classical Chinese Music.
歡迎免費訂閱 古典音樂 - Traditional Music 頻道 在：https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTf0…
People & Blogs
24) Classical Corsican-Corsa Corsicana,
Mulapariyaya Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya Bhikkhu Bodhi Part 111 mp3
Published on Mar 25, 2016
Exploring the word of Buddha, Majjhima Nikaya Bhikkhu Bodhi Part 111 mp3
M0110 MN-001 - Mulapariyaya Sutta
25) Classical Croatian-Klasična hrvatska,
Green Tara Mantra - 2 Hours
Published on Feb 16, 2016
Learn more information about this mantra from http://www.insightstate.com/video/gre…
Artist - Ani Choying Drolma
Image source - meditationonlongisland
People & Blogs
Music in this video
Licensed to YouTube by
Wind Music TV (on behalf of 風潮音樂); ARESA, União Brasileira de
Compositores, LatinAutor - PeerMusic, LatinAutor, Abramus Digital, BMG
Rights Management, and 8 Music Rights Societies
26) Classical Czech-Klasická čeština,
Published on Dec 20, 2014
Bedrich Smetana - The Moldau
Czech Classical music
I remembered this song from an 80’s audio cassette with Fairytales when I was 4 years old.
When I recently visited Prague, it was played all over in some of the dark-alleyed cobbled streets
of Praha near Carles Bridges , Stare Mesto, St.Vitus Cathedral and near the Astronomical clock.
So I had to check that piece out again !!
Note: This Smetana classical guy along with Dvorak is pretty much a godlike figure for Czechs.
Video made by Neueregel