Sivaka sutta (SN 36:21) and Vipaka ( regarding anittha, ittha)

A friend wrote to me:

I’m reading through Nina van Gorkoms “Abhidhamma in Daily Life”, and I wonder if you could help with these two questions which have arisen for me.

  1. NvG says (p.7) “…when someone speaks unpleasant words to us, the moment of experiencing the sound (hearing- consciousness) is akusala vipāka, the result of an unwholesome deed we performed ourselves.”

  2. Is this always so, or is the above just an example? Is it always the case that experiencing a sound (or maybe a sound which is unpleasant words) is the result of something we have done earlier? Is this not contrary to the Sivaka Sutta, SN 36.21?

Regarding #1
Rupa that is experienced through the five sense doors is classified as: undesirable
(anittha),
moderately desirable (ittha) or extremely desirable (ati-ittha). The English translations of these pali terms should not be confused with LOBha or Tanha (translated as greed and desire).
In the former case it is merely showing that nature of the rupa - that it is because of past kusala kamma that one experiences it.

Take the case of hearing the Buddha speak- the sound contacting the ear base is ati-ittha (it is inherently very “desirable” or “good” or “nice” or “pleasant” or … ) but someone who doesn’t follow the Buddha might have extreme dosa (aversion) in the minddoor processes immediately following hearing the sounds…
\

From the Dispeller of Delusion(Sammohavinodani) p9-11:

Rupa sadda (visible data, sounds)…there are none which are
disagreeable that are born of profitable kamma; all are agreeable
only…But a disputatious speaker (vitandavadin) said 'There is no
intrinsic agreeable and disagreeable’It is according to the likings
of these or those individuals)[and the vitandavadin goes on to give
an example of how to people in some distant place worms are
considered a delicacy whereas most people find them repulsive , he
also says the same about peacocks flesh].
He should be asked ‘But how? Do you say that there is no
distinguishing an object as intrinsically agreeable or
disagreeable?’ 'Yes: I say there is not?..[
it continues a little
more
and then refutes the vitantavadin (sectarian of another school)]

QUOTE

'‘It is through perversion of perception that the same object is
agreeable for one and disagreeable for another. But there is the
distinguishing of an object as intrinsically agreeable or
disagreeable’…the elder Tipitaka Cula-Abhaya said: 'The
agreeable and disagreeable are distinguishable according to vipaka
(kamma result) only, not according to javana (impulsion that follows
the vipaka). But it is impulsion through perversion of perception
(sannavipallasa)only that lusts for the agreeable and hates the same
agreeable; that lusts for the disagreeable and hates the same
agreeable. Only by way of vipaka however is it rightly
distinguishable. For resultant consciousness (vipaka citta) cannot
be
mistaken. If the object is agreeable it is profitable result that
has
arisen; if disagreeable, it is unprofitable result that has arisen.
Although those of wrong view on seeing such exalted objects as
the enlightened one(buddha) shut their eyes and feel domanassa
(unpleasant feeling)[arising during the javana stage]and on hearing
the Dhamma they stop their ears nevertheless their eye-consciouness,
ear-consciousness , etc are only profitable kamma result (vipaka).
Although dung eating pigs on smelling the odour of dung become
joyful, thinking;‘we shall get something to eat’ nevertheless their
eye-consciousness (a vipaka) in the seeing of the dung, nose
consciousness (a vipaka) in smelling its odour and tongue
consciousness (a vipaka)in tasting its flavour is only unprofitable
result."" ENDQUOTE


It is true that often we cannot be sure whether the present vipaka
is
the result of kusala kamma or akusala kamma. .
And if we still think in wholes and situation we cannot understand
vipaka either:
For instance, take the case of touching a soft, warm dog poo and how most
people think this is entirely akusala. However, the commentary (see
sammohavinodani p11 )notes that in such a case
that the vipaka through body sense is actually result of kusala vipaka (because
soft and warm) while through the eyesense and nose sense akusala- for
obvious reasons. In a short moment these different vipakas alternate
many times, but one might not be aware of how it is changing.

Even in the above example someone might object and say ‘what if
there were little hard bits in the poo; wouldn’t it be akusala
through the bodysense then?’ And, yes maybe it would in that case.
But the examples are given to help us see these matters so we can
study dhammas directly and see for ourselves, not to cover every
possible hypothetical case.

Or someone is wearing an expensive diamond ring. Through the bodysense it is result of akusala vipaka (very hard) on finger but they are so absorbed in the story , the idea of this treasure on their finger that they are not aware at all of the realities.

  1. Is it always the case that experiencing a sound (or maybe a sound which is unpleasant words) is the result of something we have done earlier? Is this not contrary to the Sivaka Sutta, SN 36.21?

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak … .than.html

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove Monastery, the Squirrel’s Feeding Place. There Moliyasivaka the wanderer went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “Master Gotama, there are some brahmans & contemplatives who are of this doctrine, this view: Whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither-pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before. Now what does Master Gotama say to that?”

[The Buddha:] “There are cases where some feelings arise based on bile.[1] You yourself should know how some feelings arise based on bile. Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise based on bile. So any brahmans & contemplatives who are of the doctrine & view that whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither-pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before — slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world. Therefore I say that those brahmans & contemplatives are wrong.”

“There are cases where some feelings arise based on phlegm… based on internal winds… based on a combination of bodily humors… from the change of the seasons… from uneven[2] care of the body… from harsh treatment… from the result of kamma. You yourself should know how some feelings arise from the result of kamma. Even the world is agreed on how some feelings arise from the result of kamma. So any brahmans & contemplatives who are of the doctrine & view that whatever an individual feels — pleasure, pain, neither pleasure-nor-pain — is entirely caused by what was done before — slip past what they themselves know, slip past what is agreed on by the world. Therefore I say that those brahmans & contemplatives are wrong.”

In the Abhidhamma
there are 4 types of cittas when classified as jati: Vipaka(result),
kiriya , akusala and kusala.
In a process of cittas that experiences
an object such as sound only one moment is vipaka, result. The rest
are of the other jatis(not the result of kamma). The vipaka is like a
flash and then many, many more moments that are not vipaka.

Now that very insignificant vipaka citta is certainly conditioned by
kamma, that is by kamma done at an earlier time in the same life or in
previous lives. However, even that vipaka is not conditioned solely by
kamma.

The Sammohavinodani, chapter on Paticcasamuppada (PTS)p181 notes

that there is no single fruit from a single cause*

“> for here there is no single nor multiple fruit of any kind from a single cause, nor is there a
single fruit from multiple causes, but only multiple fruit from multiple
causes. BUT with one representative fruit and cause given thus ‘avijja
paccaya vinnana’ etc. For the blessed one uses one representative cause
and fruit when it is suitable for elegance in teaching and to suit the
inclinations of those being taught. And he does so in some instances
because it is a basic factor and in some instances because it is obvious
and in some instances because of being not shared”…“he mentioned a
single cause in the passage ‘diseases due to phlegm’(in the sutta above)
because of obviousness,for here it is phlegm that is obvious, not kamma
and so on.”"

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