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Instant Kamma

September 6, 2013

Q: It seems like whenever I violate my integrity in the slightest or do any little thing wrong, I get an immediate reaction. Why is this?

The Arahant: It’s an example of ‘instant kamma‘. When a person’s kamma is very clean, when they are close to enlightenment, they have very little or no bad kamma. Consequently whenever they slip, the result comes immediately.

On the other hand, if someone’s kamma is very dirty, a real rascal, it often seems like they can get away with anything without a reaction. But don’t be fooled. The reason this happens is that they have so much bad kamma and the reaction they are due is so severe that it cannot be accepted in a human form; they will have to become an animal or go to hell to receive it.

Similarly, when a person has a tremendous amount of good kamma accrued, it may seem like they are not getting any result for it. That is also because they have so much good result coming that it cannot be received in a human form; they will have to become a deva or go to the Pure Abodes to receive it.

Vangisa:“I see this delightful and beautiful mansion, its surface of many a color, ablaze with crystal and roofed with silver and gold. A well-proportioned palace, possessing gateways, and strewn with golden sand. …

“Of what calming and self-restraint is this the result? By the fruit of what deed have you arisen here? How did this mansion come to be possessed by you? Tell it in full, O lady with thick eyelashes.”

Sesavati: “…In the eastern region of the excellent country of Magadha there is a village called Nalaka, venerable sir. There I lived formerly as a daughter-in-law and they knew me there as Sesavati.

“Scattering flower-blossoms, joyfully I honored the great Upatissa (Sariputta), skilled in deeds and worshipped by gods and men, who has attained the immeasurable quenching.

“Having worshipped him gone to the ultimate bourn, the eminent seer bearing his last body, on leaving my human shape I came to (the heaven of) the thirty (-three) and inhabit this place.” — Sesavati (KN.vv 3.7)

On the other hand, when someone loses their integrity, compromises their virtue or accepts wrong views, they can go to a terrible place in the next life:

“It’s not by reason of loss of relatives, loss of wealth, or loss through disease that beings — with the break-up of the body, after death — reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. It’s by reason of loss in terms of virtue and loss in terms of views that beings — with the break-up of the body, after death — reappear in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell.” — Sampada Sutta (AN 5.130)

The Buddha defined kamma very succinctly:

“Beings are owners of kamma, heir to kamma, born of kamma, related through kamma, and have kamma as their arbitrator. Kamma is what creates distinctions among beings in terms of coarseness & refinement.”— Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta (MN 135)

Of course, the devil is in the details. For example, you can’t counteract the results of bad kamma by performing good kamma. You will receive the results of both in the proper time. The Buddha summarized his instructions regarding kamma in terms of skillful and unskillful action:

“Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because it is possible to abandon what is unskillful, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’

“Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because it is possible to develop what is skillful, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful’.” — Kusala Sutta (AN 219)

Thus, skillful living is the key to all benefit and pleasure.

From → Q&A

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