A. I understand that akusala cittas which perform akusala kamma are cause and that those cannot bring a pleasant result; they will bring an unpleasant result, whereas kusala cittas which perform kusala kamma will bring a good result. Each cause will bring its result accordingly. Could you explain how the result is brought about? Is it a punishment or a reward for one’s deeds?
B. There is no question of punishment or reward because there is no one who punishes or rewards. It is the course of nature that one reaps what one has sown. Accumulated akusala kamma produces at the right time a citta which experiences an unpleasant object; this citta is the result of a bad deed one did in the past. Accumulated kusala kamma produces at the right time a citta which experiences a pleasant object; this citta is the result of a good deed one did in the past. The citta which is result is called “vipākacitta” There will be different results at different moments. For most people it is not possible to find out which deed of the past produces the result one receives at the present moment. However, it is of no use to know in detail what happened in the past; we should only be concerned about the present moment. It is enough to know that akusala kamma produces an unpleasant result and that kusala kamma produces a pleasant result. The result is produced either shortly afterwards or later on. We cannot blame other people for an unpleasant result we receive. An unpleasant result is the consequence of our own bad deeds.
A. How often during the day is there vipāka? Is there vipāka at this moment?
B. Yes, there is vipāka now, because you are seeing and hearing. Every time you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and experiencing a tangible object through the body-sense there is vipāka. All impressions that we experience through the five senses are vipāka
A. How can I find out whether there is pleasant or unpleasant vipāka? I am seeing right now but I have no pleasant or unpleasant feeling about it.
B. It is not always possible to find out whether the object is pleasant or unpleasant. When we see or hear we cannot always find out whether there is kusala vipāka or akusala vipāka. When we feel pain or when we are sick we can be sure that there is akusala vipāka. The moment of vipākacitta is very short, it falls away immediately.
When we see, we experience colour through the eyes. Then we like or dislike it, we recognize it, we think about it. The seeing of colour is vipāka. Like or dislike and thinking about the object are not vipāka. Those functions are performed by other cittas, which are akusala cittas or kusala cittas. The cittas that like or dislike, and the cittas that think about the object, are not results but causes; they can motivate deeds which will bring fresh results.
All cittas succeed one another so rapidly that there seems to be only one citta. We are inclined to think that like or dislike and thinking are still vipāka, but that is a delusion.
A. Does everyone receive both akusala vipāka and kusala vipāka?
B. Everyone has accumulated both unwholesome deeds and wholesome deeds, therefore everyone will receive both akusala vipāka and kusala vipāka. However, we can develop understanding of cause and effect and this helps us to be patient, even under unpleasant conditions. For instance, when we understand what vipāka is we will be less inclined to feel sorry for ourselves or to blame other people when there is akusala vipāka. If we feel sorry for ourselves or blame other people, there is a new accumulation of unwholesomeness and this will bring us more sorrow in the future.
A. But I cannot help disliking unpleasant vipāka. How can I change my attitude?
B. You can change your attitude by understanding what is vipāka and what is no longer vipāka. It is very important to know that the moment we feel dislike or regret is not the same as the moment of vipāka. People are inclined to think that the dislike which arises after the vipāka is still vipāka. When they say “This is just vipāka,” they do not distinguish unpleasant feelings from the moments of vipāka. If they do not really know what is vipāka and what is not vipāka but akusala citta, or akusala kamma, they accumulate unwholesomeness all through their lives. By ignorance, by not knowing when the citta is akusala, one accumulates unwholesomeness.
A. I am inclined to blame people who speak harsh words to me, even when I am so kind to them. Are those people not the cause that I receive unpleasant vipāka?
B. We are inclined to think in this way if we haven’t yet understood what vipāka is.
Let us analyse what is really happening when we hear harsh words spoken by someone else. When those words are produced by akusala cittas, it is an unpleasant object we receive through the ear. It is not really we who receive the unpleasant object, but the vipākacitta receives the unpleasant object through the ear. The vipākacitta is the result of akusala kamma performed in the past. This was the right moment that the akusala kamma, performed in the past, caused vipākacittas to arise at the present moment. The person who speaks harsh words to us is not the cause of akusala vipāka; the cause is within ourselves. Someone who speaks harsh words to us is only one of the many conditions for vipākacittas to arise. Our own accumulated akusala kamma is the real cause of akusala vipāka.
A. It seems to me that kamma is a fate which directs our lives.
B. Kamma is not an unchangeable fate outside ourselves, but our own accumulated unwholesome and wholesome deeds, and at the right moment it will produce its results in the form of vipākacittas.
A. If a third person would pass and if he would hear harsh words spoken to me, he might have akusala vipāka as well, although the words are not directed to him. Is that right?
B. If it is the right moment for him to have akusala vipāka, he will receive the unpleasant object as well; he might have akusala vipāka through the ear. Whether the words are addressed to him or to someone else does not make any difference.
A. Is it right that the vipāka might not be as unpleasant for him as for the person to whom the harsh words are addressed?
B. Is it necessary to have aversion every time we hear an unpleasant sound?
A. No, it is not necessary.
B. Aversion has nothing to do with vipāka. Considering whether the words are addressed to oneself or to another person and the unpleasant feelings about it are no longer vipāka. If we feel aversion there are akusala cittas, conditioned by our accumulations of aversion in the past. There are some short moments of vipāka only at the moment we receive the sound, before the unpleasant feelings arise. Kamma conditioned the vipākacittas right at that moment. Kamma is the real cause of vipāka, not this or that person. If we want to have the right understanding of vipāka, we should not think in terms of “I,” “those people” and “harsh words.” If we think of people and if we consider whether harsh words are addressed to ourselves or to someone else, we will not see the truth. If we think in terms of cittas and if we understand conditions for cittas, we will understand reality. When someone speaks harsh words it is conditioned by his accumulated aversion. It is not really important whether he addresses those words to us or to someone else.
If we understand vipāka we will take the unpleasant experiences of life less seriously. It will be of much help to us and to other people if we try to understand ourselves, if we know different cittas arising at different moments. After we have had akusala vipāka we should try not to think much about it. When we think about vipāka it already belongs to the past. It is therefore better to forget about it immediately.
A. I still do not understand why I have to receive harsh words in return for my kindness. How can the result of kusala kamma be akusala vipāka?
B. This could never happen. Kusala kamma has kusala vipāka as its result; however, the good result might arise later on. It is not possible to tell at which moments akusala kamma and kusala kamma produce results. Akusala vipāka is not the result of one’s kindness; it is the result of one’s accumulated akusala kamma. Kindness will certainly bring a good result, but that might take place later on.
A. I cannot help feeling sorry for myself when there is akusala vipāka. What can I do to prevent the accumulation of more unwholesomeness?
B. When there are conditions for akusala cittas we cannot prevent their arising. They arise very closely after the vipāka, before we know it. They are “anattā,” they do not belong to a “self.” However, we can develop more understanding of the different phenomena that arise. The akusala cittas that arise after the vipāka are not the same as the vipākacittas and they have conditions different from the conditions for the vipākacittas.
If we understand that feeling sorry for ourselves and blaming other people is done by akusala cittas and that in this way we accumulate more unwholesomeness, we will be less inclined to do so. If we understand that at this moment we cannot do anything about the vipāka which has its cause in the past, we will be able to forget about it more easily. At the moment we are aware of akusala vipāka, it has fallen away already and belongs to the past.
Life is too short to waste energy in worrying about things of the past. It is better to accumulate kusala kamma by doing wholesome deeds.
We read in the Kindred Sayings (Saṃyutta Nikāya I, Sagāthā Vagga, Ch. III, Kosala, 111, §5) that King Pasenadi came to see the Buddha at Sāvatthi. The king had been zealously busy with all such matters as occupy kings. The Buddha asked him what he would do if he would hear from loyal men, coming from all four directions, about a great mountain, high as the sky, moving along and crushing every living thing. The Buddha said:
- “And you, sire, seized with mighty dread, the destruction of human life so terrible, rebirth as man so hard to obtain, what is there that you could do?”
“In such a mighty peril, lord, the destruction of human life so terrible, rebirth as man so hard to obtain, what else could I do save to live righteously and justly and work good and meritorious deeds?”
“I tell you, sire, I make known to you sire: old age and death come rolling in upon you, sire! Since old age and death are rolling in upon you, sire, what is there that you can do?”
“Since old age and death, lord, are rolling in upon me, what else can I do save to live righteously and justly, and to work good and meritorious deeds?”
Kamma amd its Fruit: Selected Essays
Edited by Nyanaponika Thera
Book Publication No. 413
Copyright © Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society, (1975, 1990, 2003)
BPS Online Edition © (2006)
Digital Transcription Source: Buddhist Publication Society
Rūpehi bhikkhave arūpā santatarā.
Arūpehi nirodho santataro ti.
“Bhikkhus, the formless is more peaceful than the form realms.
Cessation is more peaceful than the formless realms.”
(Santatarasutta, Iti 73)