Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.5.10
Cūḷakammavibhaṅgasuttaṃ: The result of Unwholesome and Wholesome Actions – part one

Na antalikkhe na samuddamajjhe, na pabbatānaṃ vivaraṃ pavissa1;
Na vijjatī2 so jagatippadeso3, yatthaṭṭhito mucceyya pāpakammā.

Neither in the skies, nor in ocean’s midst, not in the mountain’s cavern,
Nor any other spot in this world can be found to dwell,
Where one could attain release from the effects of one’s evil actions.4

Kamma, or Karma is something that can never be understood within the context of other people. Although the saying: ‘It’s is her/his Karma’ is very common, it has likewise nothing to do with the explanation the Buddha refers to when he speaks of: ‘kammassakomhi, kammadāyādo kammayoni kammabandhu kammapaṭisaraṇo, yaṃ kammaṃ karissāmi– kalyāṇaṃ vā pāpakaṃ vā– tassa dāyādo’ 5 Although an Enlightened Being like the Tathāgata is able to perceive fate, arising and passing of others, an ordinary person may only be fortunate enough to grasp the principle of kamma within one’s own personal and limited context. Although the effects and manifestations of kamma are manifold, diverse and not linear – continuous checking of one’s volition therefore is a must.

Whenever the Buddha points to kamma, he refers to the volition that lies behind, that fosters, kindles and stirs any action: Cetanampi, yathāha – ‘‘cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi, cetayitvā kammaṃ karotī’’ti. Kasmā6 pana cetanā kammanti vuttā? Cetanāmūlakattā kammassa. – To speak of volition – “I say, O’ Bhikkhus, volition is kamma, volition makes kamma! And how is it, it is said that volition is kamma? Volition is the root and doer of kamma!” As it is said, beings should repeatedly check, reconsider and dwell on the fact that they are born from, are the heir of kamma: ‘……tassa dāyādo bhavissāmī’ti abhiṇhaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ.’ Remaining constantly at guard about one’s volition is the only tool one has avoiding evil actions and performing beneficial ones instead – irrespective of previous conditions and regardless of the time for the effects to ripen!

Still any person, especially a meditator will encounter positive impact of less perturbed emotions, of calming within, of diminishing sensational eruptions and of mental quietude that gets increased: - ‘Tattha kammaṃ nāma kusalākusalacetanā.’ – ‘Thus kamma is profitable and unprofitable volition.’

Two suttas are contained in the Majjimanikāya that dwell on the effects of kamma in more detail, the Cūḷakammavibhaṅgasuttaṃ and the Mahākammavibhaṅgasuttaṃ. The latter refers to statements of certain Brahmins who claim having attained knowledge about the future of beings by postulating kammic effects derived from their wholesome or unwholesome actions, likewise other Brahmins assert having seen the future of beings by denying all kammic effects. The Buddha refutes these statements and declares to Ānanda that there can be no doubt that the results of all actions will manifest themselves while at the same time one can not predict when they will ripen: - ……tassa diṭṭheva dhamme vipākaṃ paṭisaṃvedeti upapajja vā apare vā pariyāye. - ……he will experience the result of that either in this very existence, or in his next, or in some subsequent existence.

In the Cūḷakammavibhaṅgasutta Subha, a young student of the Brahmin caste visited the Buddha who was dwelling in Jetavana, the former park of prince Jeta donated by Anāthapiṇḍika at Sāvatthi. After the exchange of courteous greetings and courteous talk Subha sat down at one side and enquired about a query that troubled him. He expressed his observation that obviously there were beings that were distinguished as inferior and others, compared to these, as superior. Subha wanted to know the cause and the reason for this: “Ko nu kho, bho gotama, hetu ko paccayo yena manussānaṃyeva sataṃ manussabhūtānaṃ dissanti hīnappaṇītatā’’ti?7

Here the Buddha replied that beings were heir from, born of their kamma: ‘‘Kammassakā, māṇava, sattā kammadāyādā kammayonī kammabandhū kammappaṭisaraṇā. Kammaṃ satte vibhajati8 yadidaṃ – hīnappaṇītatāyāti.”

Subha, not satisfied with this short explanation requested the Buddha to go into more detail: “It would be good if the Respected Gotama would expose Dhamma to me and expose in more detail so that I will be able to understand clearly what the Respected Gotama has now explained in short!” - “Na kho ahaṃ imassa bhoto gotamassa saṃkhittena bhāsitassa vitthārena atthaṃ avibhattassa vitthārena9 atthaṃ ājānāmi. Sādhu me bhavaṃ gotamo tathā dhammaṃ desetu yathā ahaṃ imassa bhoto gotamassa saṃkhittena bhāsitassa vitthārena atthaṃ avibhattassa vitthārena atthaṃ ājāneyya’’nti.

The Buddha then expounds how the kammic effect of previous good and bad deeds manifest in future becoming. The discourse here is split in two parts – those explanation more fitting to the chapter of sammā-ājīvo are introduced in the next chapter.10
[1] pavissa/pavisitvā: pavisati (ger.): enter, go into

[2] vijjati: vindati (pass.): to be found, to exist

[3] jagatippadeso: jagati + p + padeso: world, earth + spot, place

[4] Pāpavaggo, Dhammapadapāḷi

[5] 'Kamma is my only possession, I am heir to my kamma, I am born from my kamma, kamma is my relative, kamma is my reconciliation, whatever kamma I perform, wholesome or unwholesome, I will be the heir thereof ' - See Lesson 2.1.3 Abhiṇhapaccavekkhitabbaṭhānasuttaṃ - Born of One's own Kamma

[6] kasmā: abl. of ko: what, of what sort?

[7] hīnappaṇītatāyāti: hīna + paṇīta + tāyā + ti: low, inferior + high, exulted, excellent: inferiority and superiority

[8] vibhajati: distinguish, go into details

[9] vitthārena: in detail, expanded

[10] See lesson 3.6.7

Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.5.10

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Last modified: Thursday, 28 December 2023, 10:40 AM