Kamma : Buddhist Cause and Effect

By Dhammika
Courtesy Vesak Lipi

This aspect of the Dhamma namely Kamma as one’s refuge is emphasized in several places in the Sutta Pitaka. A notable instance and an oft-quoted passge occurs in the AnguttraNikaya,Panchaka Nipata-pp. 87 and 88. “My Kamma is my possession. My Kamma is my inheritance. My Kamma is the womb that bears me. My Kamma is the race to which I am skin. My Kamma is my refuge.”

The point that I want to establish is that the Buddha-Dhamma insist on an ethical basis, which is vitally necessary for good actions ( kusala-kamma), while being the initial practical step, is fundamental to the development of mind leading to its complete liberation; and in the meantime, while we are occupied in working to gain this supreme achievement, it is in itself an incentive to gain happiness in spheres of weal (sugati). The Buddha, of course, does not encourage nor does he praise the doing of good with a view to gain mundane (lokiya) happiness. In no uncertain terms does He condemn the conduct of a monk who has entered the Path of Holiness but forgets or neglects his spiritual functions. Speaking of a Sekha, that is a monk who has from the stage of a Sotapanna proceeded to the stage of an Anagami and its Fruit, He says: “Here O Bhikkhus, a Sekha Bhikkhu is always busy doing many things, and is clever in what he does, neglects solitude and does not apply himself to inner tranquility.

This is the first thing conducive to the deterioration of the Sekha” (Anguttra Pancaka Nipata).
Where does Kamma originate? It has its origin in the human mind.

There are two distinct types of Kamma, namely: good or bad Kamma. Therefore the Dhammapada opens its pages of wisdom:-
“All mental states have mind as their forerunner As the chief; and of mind are they made.”

In other words, all that we are is what we have thought and done. If we act as the result of a good thought, then that action is good, is wholesome. It is a good Kamma. If we act as the result of an impure thought, then action is bad, is unwholesome. It is a bad Kamma. Good Kamma bestows on us happiness, while bad Kamma bestows on us pain or suffering. If the mind views the object (mental or physical) presented before it rightly, then the resultant thought is good and the act that follows (verbal or bodily) is good. If the views the object presented before it wrongly then the act that follows (verbal or bodily) is bad. It is thus patently clear that our mind is, on the one hand, a benefactor; and, on the other hand, is a malefactor.

Kamma, therefore, is a law unto itself. It is a natural law (Kamma-niyama). A little thinking will tell you that it operates on all planes of existence which are 31 all told. It operates from the highest Brahma realm to the lowest Avici hell. It operates on the principle: good begets good, and evil begets evil. No one can cheat this Law, nor escape its consequences. But, if man so chooses, he can “employ” it to help him go beyond the universe by self-purification, that is by uprooting the baser instincts of greed, ill-will and delusion.

It is said that Adam and Eve transgressed an express command of God, and thereby committed the original sin, and for which their progeny been called upon to suffer. Is this compatible with God’s avowed attribute of: omipotence, ommiscience, and ommipresence. Is not God himself partly responsible for the moral lapse of Adam and Eve? He could have foreseen and taken immediate action and thus made Paradise a Heaven on earth for ever, and saved himself the trouble of appearing on this earth in human flesh and Jesus Christ, the Saviour. On this point permit me to quote Einstein: “If this being (God) is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an Almighty Being?

“In giving out punishment and rewards, He would to a certain extent pass judgements on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?”