Majjhima Nikaya


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Majjhima Nikāya
III. Upari Paṇṇāsa
4. Vibhaŋga Vagga

Sutta 136

Mahā Kamma-Vibhaŋga Suttaɱ

The Great Analysis of Kamma

A condensed adaptation/translation from the Pali
by Michael Olds

 


 

[1][chlm][pts][than][than.2][nymo][upal] I HEAR TELL:[1]

Once Upon a Time, The Lucky Man, Rājagaha
Bamboo Grove,
the squirrels' feeding place
came-a revisiting.

At this time Samiddhi (a novice Beggar) and Potali's son (a Wanderer of no particular sect) had this conversation:

Potali's son:

"I have heard it from the mouth of Gotama himself that Kamma of body is useless,
Kamma of speech is useless,
that only Kamma of mind is true,
and, furthermore,
that there is that attainment on attaining which one experiences the end of higher perception."[2]

Samiddhi:

"Do not say this, Potali's son!

Do not speak this way!

Do not misrepresent what The Potter would say,
for it is not good to misrepresent what the Potter would say,
nor would the Potter say such."

Potali's son:

"When one has intentionally done Kamma of body, speech or thought,
what does one experience?"

Samiddhi:

"Dukkha, friend Potali's son."

At this Potali's son,
neither accepting nor rejecting this statement,
went his way,
and Samiddhi came into the presence of Ananda who suggested that they go to Gotama for his reaction.

There Ananda puts the case to Gotama and Gotama replies:

"But Ananda, I do not acknowledge the first premise of the case Potali's son put forth; how can I comment on the whole conversation?

The question the wanderer Potali's son put was given a one dimensional answer by this foolish Beggar, Samiddhi.

What it needed was a multidimensional answer.

[3][4] Gotama goes on:

"Ananda, the wanderer Potali's son was really asking about the three sensations.

That foolish Beggar Samiddhi should have answered this way:

'When, friend Potali,
one has done a deed by body, speech or mind
with the intention of producing pleasure, pain, or not-pain-but-not-pleasure
he experiences pleasure, pain, or not-pain-but-not-pleasure as a result.'

If, Ananda, Potali's son had answered in this way, he would have answered properly.

Now, Ananda, there are foolish and inexperienced wanderers who are members of other sects who would find out about the Tathagata's Great Analysis of Kamma if you, Ananda, would listen while the Tathagata enumerates it's details."

Ananda:

"Now is the time for this, Lucky Man!

Now is the time for this Tathagata.

Now is the time that The Potter should enumerate the Great Analysis of Kamma.

When the Beggars have heard The Potter, they will keep it in mind!"

"Very well then, Ananda, lend ear, pay attention, I will speak!

"Bhante!"

"There are four types of persons existing in the world.

What four?

In the case of the first case,
there is the case of some person here who slaughters living creatures,
takes what has not been given to him
and abandons his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure,
speaks lies,
slander,
uses harsh language,
is a gossip,
is covetous,
cruel,
and holds low views[5].

He, at the breaking up of the elements at death
finds consciousness again in the Way of Woe,
as an animal,
or in Niriaya Hell.

In the case of the second case,
there is the case of some person here who slaughters living creatures, takes what has not been given to him and abandons his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, speaks lies, slander, uses harsh language, is a gossip, is covetous, cruel, and holds low views.

He, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in some Heaven world.

In the case of the third case,
there is the case of some person here who abstains from slaughtering living creatures, taking what has not been given to him and who does not abandon his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, he abstains from speaking lies, slander, the use of harsh language, is no gossip, is not covetous or cruel and holds High View.

He, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in some Heaven world.

In the case of the fourth case,
there is the case of some person here who abstains from slaughtering living creatures, taking what has not been given to him and who does not abandon his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, he abstains from speaking lies, slander, the use of harsh language, is no gossip, is not covetous or cruel and holds High View.

He, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an animal, or in Niriaya Hell.

Then we have the case, Ananda, of some sorcerer or Beggar who,
as a result of applying himself, making effort, hard work, and mental discipline
reaches such High state of mind that while High he sees with the dibbacakkhu, the divine eye superior to the vision of man,
some individual who slaughtered living creatures, took what was not given to him and who abandoned his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, spoke lies, slander, used harsh language, was a gossip, covetous, cruel, and held low views
and who, at the breakup of the elements at death
found consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an Animal, or in Niraya Hell.

He concludes "It is true, there are deeds which can be called "bad",
there is a result of bad deeds.

That individual I saw here doing bad deeds has been reborn in the Way of Woe, as an Animal, or in Niriaya Hell."

And then he goes on to say:

"It's true, everyone who does bad deeds ends up in the Way of Woe, as an Animal, or in Niriaya Hell.

Those who say so are telling the truth.

Those who say differently are wrong."

And in this way he stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

But then we have the case, Ananda,
of some sorcerer or Beggar making a similar effort and attaining the dibbacakkhu,
he sees some individual who slaughtered living creatures, took what was not given to him and who abandoned his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, spoke lies, slander, used harsh language, was a gossip, covetous, cruel, and held low views,
who, at the breaking up of the elements at death
found consciousness again in some Heaven world.

He concludes:
"It is not true that there are evil deeds,
deeds that can be called bad.

There is no result of bad deeds.

How do I know?

That individual I saw here doing bad deeds has been reborn in a Heaven World."

And then he goes on to say:

"Everyone who does bad deeds ends up in a Heaven World.

Those who say this know the truth.

Those who say differently are wrong."

And in this way he stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

And then we have the case, Ananda,
of some sorcerer or Beggar making a similar effort and attaining the dibbacakkhu,
he sees some individual who abstained from slaughtering living creatures, taking what has not been given to him and who did not abandon his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, he abstained from speaking lies, slander, the use of harsh language, was no gossip, was not covetous or cruel and held High View
who, at the breaking up of the elements at death found consciousness again in some Heaven world.

He concludes:
"It is true, there are deeds which can be called good,
there is a result f good deeds.

That individual I saw here doing good deeds has been reborn in a Heaven World."

And then he goes on to say:

"It's true, everyone who does good deeds ends up in a Heaven world.

Those who say so are telling the truth.

Those who say differently are wrong."

And in this way he stubbornly holds on to and stick to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

And then we have the case, Ananda,
of some sorcerer or Beggar making a similar effort and attaining the dibbacakkhu,
he sees some individual who abstained from slaughtering living creatures, taking what has not been given to him and who did not abandon his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, he abstained from speaking lies, slander, the use of harsh language, was no gossip, was not covetous or cruel and held High View
who, at the breaking up of the elements at death found consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an Animal, or in Niriaya Hell.

He concludes:

"It is not true that there are good deeds,
deeds that can be called good.

There is no result of good deeds.

How do I know?

That individual I saw here doing good deeds has been reborn in the Way of Woe, as an Animal, or in Niriaya Hell."

And then he goes on to say:

"Everyone who does good deeds ends up in the Way of Woe, as an Animal, or in Niriaya Hell.

Those who say this know the truth.

Those who say differently are wrong."

And in this way he stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

As far as this goes, Ananda, whatever sorcerer or Beggar says:

"There are bad deeds, there is result of doing bad deeds."

This much I give him.

And if he says:

"I saw such and such an individual who was of bad deeds reborn in this bad state."

This much I also give him.

But if he says:

"Everyone who does bad deeds is reborn in such and such a bad state."

This I do not give him.

And if he says:

"Those who know this know the truth, those who say otherwise are wrong."

This I do not give him.

And whoever stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

This I do not give him.

As far as this goes, Ananda, whatever sorcerer or Beggar says:

"There are no bad deeds, there is no result of doing bad deeds."

This much I do not give him.

And if he says:

"I saw such and such an individual who was of bad deeds reborn in this good state."

This much I give him.

But if he says:

"Everyone who does bad deeds is reborn in such and such a good state."

This I do not give him.

And if he says:

"Those who know this know the truth, those who say otherwise are wrong."

This I do not give him.

And whoever stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

This I do not give him.

As far as this goes, Ananda, whatever sorcerer or Beggar says:

"There are good deeds, there is result of doing good deeds."

This much I give him.

And if he says:

"I saw such and such an individual who was of good deeds reborn in this good state."

This much I also give him.

But if he says:

"Everyone who does good deeds is reborn in such and such a good state."

This I do not give him.

And if he says:

"Those who know this know the truth, those who say otherwise are wrong."

This I do not give him.

And whoever stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

This I do not give him.

As far as this goes, Ananda, whatever sorcerer or Beggar says:

"There are no good deeds, there is no result of doing good deeds."

This much I do not give him.

And if he says:

"I saw such and such an individual who was of good deeds reborn in this bad state."

This much I give him.

But if he says:

"Everyone who does good deeds is reborn in such and such a bad state."

This I do not give him.

And if he says:

"Those who know this know the truth, those who say otherwise are wrong."

This I do not give him.

And whoever stubbornly holds on to and sticks to the view formulated by himself based on what he has seen for himself as
"This alone is the truth, everything else is false."

This I do not give him.

As far as this goes, Ananda,
in the case of some person here who slaughters living creatures, takes what has not been given to him and abandons his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, speaks lies, slander, uses harsh language, is a gossip, is covetous, cruel, and holds low views, who, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an animal, or in Niriaya Hell —
either bad Kamma to be experienced as Dukkha was done by him earlier,[6]
or bad Kamma to be experienced as Dukkha was done by him later,
or at the time of dying a low view was adopted and firmly held by him.

It was because of this that at the breaking up of the elements at death
he found consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an animal, or in Niriaya Hell.

But he who is of such Kamma and of such views
experiences its fruition either in the here and now
or in some other way.
[7]

As far as this goes, Ananda,
in the case of some person here who slaughters living creatures, takes what has not been given to him and abandons his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, speaks lies, slander, uses harsh language, is a gossip, is covetous, cruel, and holds low views, who, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in some Heaven world —
either good Kamma to be experienced as Sukkha was done by him earlier,
or good Kamma to be experienced as Sukkha was done by him later,
or at the time of dying High View was adopted and firmly held by him.

It was because of this that at the breaking up of the elements at death he found consciousness again in a Heaven World.

But he who is of such Kamma and of such views
experiences its fruition either in the here and now
or in some other way.

As far as this goes, Ananda,
in the case of some person here who abstains from slaughtering living creatures, taking what has not been given to him and who does not abandon his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, who abstains from speaking lies, slander, the use of harsh language, is no gossip, is not covetous or cruel and holds High View, who, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in some Heaven world —
either good Kamma to be experienced as Sukkhawas done by him earlier,
or good Kamma to be experienced as Sukkha was done by him later,
or at the time of dying High View was adopted and firmly held by him.

It was because of this that at the breaking up of the elements at death he found consciousness again in a Heaven World.

But he who is of such Kamma and of such views
experiences its fruition either in the here and now
or in some other way.

As far as this goes, Ananda,
in the case of some person here who abstains from slaughtering living creatures, taking what has not been given to him and who does not abandon his ethical conduct in the pursuit of pleasure, he abstains from speaking lies, slander, the use of harsh language, is no gossip, is not covetous or cruel and holds High View, who, at the breaking up of the elements at death finds consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an animal, or in Niriaya Hell —
either bad Kamma to be experienced as Dukkha was done by him earlier,
or bad Kamma to be experienced as Dukkha was done by him later,
or at the time of dying a low view was adopted and firmly held by him.

It was because of this that at the breaking up of the elements at death he found consciousness again in the Way of Woe, as an animal, or in Niriaya Hell.

But he who is of such Kamma and of such views
experiences its fruition either in the here and now
or in some other way.

So you see then, Ananda,[8]
there are unlucky deeds that outshine the unlucky,
there are unlucky deeds that outshine the lucky,
and there are even lucky deeds that outshine the lucky,
and there are lucky deeds that outshine the unlucky.

Thus spoke the Lucky Man.

 


[1]I think it is worth it to give the whole, lengthy Nidana (casting down, setting down, introduction), for this Sutta in that it shows a more fully developed case than the usual "he was here and said". Even so, I have eliminated the repetitions, which show a scrupulous attention to repeating the exact details of what was said and how during each progression of the case.

[ 2 ] One can easily see how this corruption of the Buddha's teaching came about from the view that Kamma of body is less significant than Kamma of speech, and Kamma of speech less than that of mind, and that there is an attaining of a state which is the ending of perception and sense experience.

[ 3 ] This means that while Samiddhi's answer was not exactly wrong in ultimate terms in that the eventual outcome as seen by Buddhists is that as a consequence of the attachment involved, even pleasant consequences of action come to an end bringing Pain, what was needed was to point out this more expanded way of seeing things to the Wanderer so as to make the Dhamma more palatable to him.

[4] There follows an absurd interruption by the Beggar Udayin who concludes: "If this is true what Samiddhi says, then whatever one experiences one experiences Pain," totally missing the fact that Gotama has just dismissed both Potali's son's question and Samiddhi's answer. This is met by Gotama as follows: "Now do you see, Ananda, this foolish Udayin's UnWay? I knew, Ananda, that this foolish man would open up this question to no purpose." The commentator says that he knew, not by psychic power, but by the fact that the man was squirming around in his seat, stretching out his neck, moving his jaws and twitching his face. A full reading of the Suttas is an absolute pleasure for anyone (even if just as literature) in terms of these asides.

[5] Miccha Ditthi contrary views; contrasted with Samma Ditthi, High Views, or the First Ariyan Truth. See: Glossology: The Four Truths.

[6] Than that period of his life noticed by the sorcerer or Beggar who is viewing his rebirth with the dibbacakkhu. It is interesting to note how the construction allows for phenomena observed from outside Time (the state of the Arahant, known as Akalika); that is that it is possible for an individual to be seen to be experiencing a life that was the result of a life that came, in the chronological view, after the life being observed. Numerous lifetimes are experienced in "do-over" mode, where at the end of the lifetime, the idividual reverts to some point in time 'earlier' in an identical life to the one just lived.

[7] There is no doing of an intentional act of mind, word, or deed without the experiencing of the consequences thereof.

[8] This translation altered as of 3.10.16 as a consequence of reading Dr. R. Githin, A Note on the Mahā Kamma-Vibhaŋga Sutta, JPTS, XXXII.
Previously: "So, Ananda, there are seeds of which have not germinated and appear not to have germinated; there are seeds of Kamma which have not germinated but appear to have germinated; there are seeds of Kamma which have germinated and appear to have germinated; and there are seeds of Kamma which have germinated which appear not to have germinated.
Which was guided by the same puzzle mentioned in this article, that is the thought that there needed to be a parallel between these four statements and the four cases of kamma previously discussed.
Pondering, I believe that it is unnecessary for there to be such correspondence, that this is not a summary, but a concluding statement. As a result it can be translated more or less literally and with a simple understanding of the Pali.
The alteration in the world of the doer of an intentional deed resulting from that deed can manifest either in Time (which is not to say chronologically, but in various sequences giving the illusion of chronological time) or simultaneously.
Seen from the point of view of Time, the energy projected into a deed does not stop at the execution of the deed, but continues to roll on and form it's rebounding consequences.
What actually happens is that this happens instantaneously as the deed is being done. So one way to visualize the situation is as that of a pile of consequences to be experienced.
In the case of the individual experiencing his kamma chronologically, there are some deeds which outshine other deeds and attracting the mind by the strength of their radiance are experienced first. When the splendour (or horror) of that deed is done, there is descent into the next most radiant, and so forth. As you can see, for an individual who is constantly generating deeds, to come to an end of kamma in this way would be impossible.
This is the manner of experiencing kamma that is being discussed by Gotama in this sutta, that is, the vision of the ordinary 'seer'. But there is another manner in which the consequences of kamma can be experienced, and this is the way which makes this concluding statement comprehensible and explains why it is not a 'summary':
For the individual approaching Arahantship, some deeds will outshine others in the same way as described above, but in this case the less radiant deeds will be allowed to inform the subjective experience. There will be imposed no chronological sequencing on the various consequences, hense this is is the experience of the world 'outside' or 'without' Time. The underlying pile will fit into the prevaling picture dimming, tainting and influencing it, but because in this way all the consequences of all previous deeds will be balanced out in the one picture, it is possible to see the end of that picture.
My say.

References:

WP: The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi: The shorter Exposition of Action, pp1053
PTS: Middle Length Sayings, III, translated by I.B. Horner: Discourse on the Lesser Analysis of Deeds, III.254
ATI: The Shorter Exposition of Kamma, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, trans
ATI: Nanamoli Thera, trans
WP: The Greater Exposition of Action, 1058
PTS: Discourse on the Greater Analysis of Deeds, III.254
ATI: The Greater Exposition of Kamma


 

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