THE BUDDHA'S WORDS ON KAMMA
Four Discourses of the Buddha from
the Majjhima Nikaya
Edited with Preface and Introductions by
The Wheel Publication No. 248/249
BUDDHIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY
KANDY SRI LANKA
First Edition 1977
Second Edition (revised) 1993
Copyright 1977, 1993 by Buddhist Publication Society
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DharmaNet Edition 1994
This electronic edition is offered for free distribution
via DharmaNet by arrangement with the publisher.
P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951
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The Dog-Duty Ascetic DOG_DUTY.TXT
The Shorter Exposition of Kamma SHORTER.TXT
The Great Exposition of Kamma GREAT.TXT
The Brahmins of Sala BRAHMINS.TXT
Changes made in this edition ERRATA.TXT
About the BPS BPS.TXT
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Kamma concerns everyone. We make it, a great deal of it, every day
while we are awake. We decide whether or not to get up -- kamma.
(Good kamma if one gets up vigorously, bad kamma if slothfully or
grudgingly.) Let's have a cup of tea, breakfast -- maybe some greed
is involved, so bad kamma. We sympathize with someone's sickness and
give help -- good kamma. We get flustered because the bus is late to
take us to work -- bad kamma. Once we're there perhaps we get
impatient with someone, or angry with them, or threaten them --
worse and worse kamma. But perhaps we are generous and kindly to
someone there -- excellent kamma. Work brings on dull mental states,
then we shake ourselves out of that listlessness and resentment (bad
kamma) and vigorously try to get back to mindfulness (good kamma).
In the crowded bus returning home someone stamps on one's foot,
one curses -- bad kamma -- but after quick reflection one realizes
"Ah, no mindfulness" and this is good kamma. At home at last, one
comforts the sick, then plays with the children and tells them some
Jataka stories -- all good kamma. But then, tired and dull, one
switches the radio (and/or television) on and, not listening to it,
leaves it going as a sound to drown silence, then one eats too much
and feels lethargic -- bad kamma. But perhaps instead one pays
respect to the Buddha-image, does some chanting and then meditates
-- all kinds of good kamma. When the body is tired one goes to sleep
holding some meditation subject in mind -- good kamma.
All these decisions, choices and desires are kammas made in the
mind. More kamma is made when one talks after having decided. Still
more kamma is added if after this one acts as well.
"Good" and "bad" kamma are distinguished by //the roots// of the
actions. What is one's motivating force when one helps the sick?
This is a case where there are various possibilities. Is it just
because one wants rich Aunty's money when she dies, or out of
genuine compassion? Obviously, in the latter case much better kamma
is made. But there are examples where there is no doubt. One's toes
are stamped on and one curses: this can never be good kamma simply
because it is //rooted in hatred//. Or one gobbles down too much
food -- just //greed-rooted// kamma in this case. Again those dull
or day-dream periods at work, not looking at things as they are at
all, this is //rooted in delusion//. When any of the mentally
defiled states of mind has arisen, when these three "roots of evil"
are in control, then bad kamma is sure to be made.
Once it is made there is no way of erasing it or changing it and
some day or other it will begin to fruit. The fruit of bad kamma is
never happiness, as we can read in these discourses. It always comes
up as pain, anguish, frustration, or the limitation of
opportunities. Who wants them? Then make no more bad kamma! Everyone
has laid in a stock already quite capable of giving rise to
sufferings for lifetimes to come. There is no need to increase it.
Everyone wants happiness! But it too arises conditionally. Now a
great producer of happiness is the making of good kamma. What is
good about it? It is //rooted in non-greed// (generosity,
renunciation), or in //non-hate// (loving-kindness, compassion) or
finally in //non-delusion// (wisdom, understanding). The sure way to
gain happiness, then, is to make good kamma, as much as possible
It is only people who make a real effort to grow in Dhamma (that
is, to make good kamma), who have any chance to succeed in
meditation on the path to final liberation. Whatever one's goal in
this life -- happiness here and now, a good rebirth in the future,
or to end the whole birth and death process by attainment of
Nibbana, one cannot go wrong by making good kamma.
And what about those who do not believe in kamma and its fruits?
They still make it whether they believe or not! And they get the
fruits of the kamma they make, too. But the doing, not the
believing, is the important thing.
"Do good, get good,
do evil, get evil."
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