Monday, December 03, 2012

The Science of Kamma–Dr Wong Yin Onn

This is my note on the Dhammatalk by Dr. Wong Yin Onn on 2nd December 2012.

What did I learn from this Dhammatalk?

The concept of Kamma


In understanding Kamma, it is important to understand that there is a difference between Kamma and Vipaka. Kamma is the cause while Vipaka is the effect. We often use the word 'Kamma' loosely to mean 'fate' but it is not so. Kamma is the intention while what is happening now is the Vipaka or the effect, result or fruition of what we had intended in the past.

“If one speaks or acts with a wicked mind, pain follows one as the wheel, the off of the draught-ox” - Dhammapada Verse 1

The main cause of Kamma is in the mind. When the mind is unguarded, bodily action, speech and thought are all unguarded. When the mind is guarded, bodily action, speech and thought are all guarded.

We should remember that Kammic causality is different from physical causality studied in physics. Kammic causality is much more subtle and may not be seen immediately.

Kamma is always changing and it is so complicated until only a Buddha can completely understand it. Not even other arahants can understand the working of Kamma and how each intention, action and time intertwine to produce the result. Because it is always changing, therefore we can change our lives, our destiny.

Kamma is not fate, Kamma is the opposite of fate! Since Kamma is an intentional action, the Buddha put the emphasis on the power of free will in shaping our future.

Kamma is about tendencies and not inevitable and unchangeable consequences. We have to remember that :

  • NOT everything happens by Kamma
  • Kamma vipaka (results of kamma) in an unconjecturable subject
  • Kamma is not deterministic, thus it can be modified or transformed

There are five orders of law -

  1. physical order,
  2. genetic order,
  3. order of action and result,
  4. order of the norm
  5. order of mind or psychological causation.

Not everything that happened is due to Kamma. The Law of Kamma is only one of the 24 causal conditions (paccaya) described in Buddhist philosophy.

An example of physical order was the tsunami that happened and killed so many people in Aceh, etc. It was not caused by kamma but more by physical order that the earth moved. Because the earth is moving, therefore there will be earth movement causing earthquakes, tsunami. Although our kamma might make us live there, but the incident was not solely caused by kamma.

An example of genetic order was genetic diseases in family such as diabetes or cancer. Because we were born with the genes, then we were predisposed with tendencies to get that particular disease and not solely caused by kamma because we can take action to avoid sugar or live a healthier lifestyle to avoid getting the disease.

Buddhism teaches Natural Causation that each time we intentionally do something, we modify our consciousness, so the person we are now is very much what we have done in the immediate and distant past; what we do NOW will make the person we will be in the future. What we do every moment changes the future.

There are four kinds of Kamma: (kukkuravatika sutta)

  1. There is dark kamma with dark ripening
  2. There is bright kamma with bright ripening
  3. There is dark-and-bright kamma with dark-and-bright ripening
  4. There is kamma that is not dark nor bright with neither-dark-nor-bright ripening that conduces to the exhaustion of kamma.

Since we are not awakened yet, what we often do is a mixed of dark and bright kamma. For example, when we give kathina dana, although it is a good kamma, yet sometimes inside we do it out of greed to get something in return.

The cessation of kamma – the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma is the noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

The strength of the kammic effect depends on its magnitude on the receiving party. The more severe, the greater the impact, whether positive or negative. The spiritual quality of the receiving party is also an important factor. For example, offering to a beggar is different from offering food to a Monk.

The Kammic strength is affected by kammic frequency. When a certain act is repeated frequently creating a habit, it can result in a major effect. The stronger the kamma, the higher its probability of creating an effect first.

Kamma is accumulative; good kamma leads to good conditions, bad kamma leads to unfavorable states.

Enlightenment leads to the END of kamma. We seldom think about ending kamma. We tend to rely on it instead of trying to end it. It is important to remember that we must aim to be liberated from kamma and not carry the burden of kamma anymore. Nibbana is freedom from kamma and its results.

Ending the Dhammatalk…

Thro’ many a birth in Samsara wandered I,
Seeking but not finding, the builder of this house.
Sorrowful is repeated birth.
O House-builder! you are seen.
You shall build no house again.
All your rafters are broken,
your ridge-pole is shattered.
To dissolution (Nibbana) goes my mind.
The End of Craving have I attained.
- Dhammapada (154)

May all beings be happy!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP