QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT KAMMA AND ITS FRUIT, Part II
I understand that the active side of our life consists of unwholesome states of mind or akusala cittas and wholesome states of mind or kusala cittas. Akusala cittas can perform unwholesome deeds and kusala cittas can perform wholesome deeds. All through one’s life one accumulates both unwholesomeness and wholesomeness.
There are other cittas which are the result of one’s deeds: those are called vipākacittas. The result of unwholesome deeds or akusala kamma is akusala vipāka; the result of wholesome deeds or kusala kamma is kusala vipāka. Vipāka is the passive side of our life; we undergo vipāka. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling through body contact are vipāka.
I can understand this because sense-impressions are impressions which one undergoes. The cittas which think about those impressions, and which like or dislike them, are no longer result or vipāka; they are cause. They are akusala or kusala cittas. But I still doubt every time I see there is the result of akusala or kusala kamma I did in the past. Can you prove this to me?
This cannot be proven in theory. One can know the truth only through direct experience.
There are three kinds of wisdom. The first kind stems from thinking about the realities of life such as impermanence, old age, sickness and death. The second kind is understanding developed through the study of the Buddhist teachings. The third kind of wisdom is the direct experience of the truth.
The first and the second kind of wisdom are necessary, but they are still theoretical understanding; they are not yet the realization of the truth. If one accepts the Buddha’s teachings because they seem to be reasonable, or if one accepts them on the authority of the Buddha, one will not have the clear understanding that stems from the direct experience of the truth. Only this kind of understanding can eliminate all doubts.
We read in the Gradual Sayings
(Aṅguttara Nikāya, Book of the Threes, Ch. VII, §65, Those of Kesaputta) that when the Buddha was staying in Kesaputta the Kālāmas came to see him. They had heard different views expounded by different people and had doubts as to who was speaking the truth and who falsehood. The Buddha said:
- "Now look you, Kālāmas. Be not misled by report or tradition or hearsay. Be not misled by proficiency in the collections, nor by mere logic or inference, nor after considering reasons, nor after reflection on and approval of some theory, nor because it fits becoming, nor out of respect for a recluse (who holds it). But, Kālāmas, when you know for yourselves: These things are unprofitable, these things are blameworthy, these things are censured by the intelligent; these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to loss and sorrow—then indeed do you reject them, Kālāmas."
The Buddha then asked the Kālāmas whether greed, malice and delusion, and the evil deeds they inspire, lead to a man’s profit or to his loss. The Kālāmas answered that they lead to his loss. The Buddha then repeated that when they know for themselves that these things are unprofitable and lead to sorrow, they should reject them. Thereupon the Buddha spoke about non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion, and the abstinence from evil deeds these inspire. He said that when the Kālāmas know for themselves that these things are profitable and conduce to happiness, they should undertake them.
We have to find out the truth ourselves, by experiencing it in daily life. In being aware of all realities of daily life one develops the third kind of wisdom.
In the practice of vipassanā
or "insight," we learn to understand all realities of daily life, in being aware of them at the moment they occur. We learn to be aware of what happens at the present moment. We will know what seeing, hearing, thinking, etc., really are if we are aware of those realities at the moment they occur. Only the present moment can give us the truth, not the past or the future. We cannot experience now the cittas we had in the past; we cannot experience the cittas which performed akusala kamma or kusala kamma in the past. We can only experience cittas of the present moment. We can experience that some cittas are akusala, some are kusala, and some are neither, that they have different functions. If we learn to experience the cittas of the present moment, we will gradually be able to see realities more clearly. If we realize enlightenment, or the experience of Nibbāna, all doubts about realities will be eliminated. Then we will see the truth.
I would like to be enlightened in order to know the truth.
If you only have wishful thinking about Nibbāna, you will never attain it. The path leading to Nibbāna is knowing the present moment. Only if we know the present moment will we be able to eliminate ignorance about realities and the idea of "self" to which we are still clinging. We should not cling to a result which might take place in the future. We should instead try to know the present moment.
Is it not possible for me to know whether seeing and hearing at this moment is akusala vipāka or kusala vipāka?
Sometimes you can find out. For instance, hearing is kusala vipāka when the sound is produced by kusala cittas. Someone who speaks to you with compassion, produces the sound with kusala cittas. When you hear that sound there is kusala vipāka. Often it is not possible for us to know whether there is akusala vipāka or kusala vipāka. Moreover, it is not of great use to know this, because we cannot do anything about our own vipāka.
It is enough to know that akusala kamma brings about akusala vipāka, and that kusala kamma brings about kusala vipāka. It is important to remember that vipāka is caused by our own kamma, that the cause of vipāka is within ourselves and not outside ourselves.
The Gradual Sayings
(Aṅguttara Nikāya, Book of the Threes, Ch. IV, §35, The Lord of Death) tells of a man who had been negligent in the doing of good deeds, and was brought before Yama, the lord of death. Yama said to him:
- "My good man, it was through negligence that you did not act nobly in deed, word and thought. Verily they shall do unto you in accordance with your negligence. That evil action of yours was not done by mother, father, brother, sister, friends and comrades: not by kinsmen, devas, recluses and brahmins. By yourself alone was it done. It is just you that will experience the fruit thereof."
It is not important to know exactly at which moment there is akusala vipāka or kusala vipāka. However, it is most important to know exactly at which moments there is vipāka and at which moments we perform akusala kamma or kusala kamma. The moments we perform akusala kamma and kusala kamma will condition our future.
In order to know how and when one accumulates akusala kamma and kusala kamma one should know more about the cittas which perform kamma. I notice that the Buddha spoke about cittas in order to help people to have more understanding about their life and in order to encourage them to perform kusala kamma. Therefore I think that all through one’s life one should develop a clear understanding about cittas. Could you give me a definition of a citta ?
It is not possible to give a definition that will explain to you what a citta is. You should experience cittas yourself in order to know them. There are so many different types of cittas at different moments that it is impossible to give one definition for all of them. The most general definition is: it knows something. Citta is not like materiality, which does not know anything. The citta which sees knows colour, a citta which hears knows sound, a citta which thinks knows many different objects.
Why are seeing and hearing cittas? You explained before that seeing is not thinking, but only the experience of colour through eye-sense and that hearing is the experience of sound through ear-sense. Are those not merely physical processes instead of cittas which know something?
Eye-sense and ear-sense in themselves are not cittas, they are physical organs. But eye-sense and ear-sense are conditions for the arising of cittas. There is citta whenever an object, as for example colour or sound, is experienced. We should try to be aware of the citta of the present moment if we want to know what citta is. We should be aware of the seeing or the hearing that occurs right now.
Many people who are brought up in the West do not understand why it is not possible to give a clear definition of citta, and of everything the Buddha taught. They want to prove things in theory. This is not the way to find the truth. One should experience the truth in order to know it.
I still think of citta as a mind which directs seeing, hearing, thinking, etc. How can I find out that there is not a "self" which directs everything?
We can only find this out by being aware of different cittas. Thus we will experience that we cannot direct our thoughts. We are absent-minded when we do not want to be so, many odd thoughts arise, in spite of ourselves. Where is the self that can direct our thoughts?
There is one citta at a time; it arises and falls away completely, to be followed by the next citta, which is no longer the same. There is no single citta which stays. For example, seeing-consciousness is one citta, but hearing-consciousness is another citta.
I don’t understand why those functions are performed by different cittas. Why can’t there be one citta which stays and performs different functions, and why is it not possible that different functions are performed at the same time? I can see, hear and think at the same time.
Seeing occurs if colour contacts the eye-sense. Recognizing it or thinking about it occurs afterwards. Seeing is not performed by the same cittas as thinking about what one saw; seeing has different conditions. Hearing has again different conditions. Thinking about what one heard has conditions that are different from the conditions for hearing-consciousness.
You would not be able to notice that seeing and hearing are different if those functions were performed by one single citta at the same time. In that case you would only receive one impression instead of several impressions. We experience seeing and hearing as different impressions, even when they seem to occur at the same time. They have different places of origin and different objects, and they occur at different moments, though the moments can be so close that they seem to be one. Thinking about what one just saw occurs after the seeing-consciousness, thinking about what one just heard occurs after the hearing-consciousness. Seeing-consciousness occurs at a moment different from the moment the hearing-consciousness occurs. Therefore thinking about what one saw cannot arise at the same moment as thinking about what one heard. Thinking is done by many different cittas which succeed one another.
When we have learned to be more keenly aware of the citta which arises at the present moment, we will notice that seeing and hearing arise alternately, at different moments. We will notice that there isn’t one long moment of thinking, but different moments of thinking.
We will notice that thinking is very often interrupted by moments of seeing and hearing, and these again are conditions for new thoughts. We will find out how much our thoughts depend on different experiences of the past, on unwholesome and wholesome tendencies we have accumulated, on the objects we see and hear and on many other conditions.
You said that all cittas are beyond control, that they are "anattā." Akusala cittas and kusala cittas are conditioned by one’s accumulations. It is not in anyone’s power that they arise. You said that vipākacittas are "anattā" as well.
Sometimes it seems that I can have power over vipāka, that it is in my power to have kusala vipāka through the ear. Whenever I wish to hear a pleasant sound, I can put a record of classical music on my record-player.
You put the record on because you know the conditions for the pleasant sound. Everything happens when there are the right conditions for it. It is impossible for anything to happen without conditions. When there is fire we use water to extinguish it. We cannot order the fire to be extinguished. We don’t have to tell the water to extinguish the fire; the water has the characteristic that it can extinguish the fire. Without the right conditions we would not be able to do anything.
With regard to the beautiful music which you can play, there have to be many different conditions for this pleasant sound. And even when there is this pleasant sound, you have no power over the kusala vipākacittas. If you really could direct them, you could make them arise at any moment, even without the record-player. We should remember that music is not vipāka, only the cittas which experience the pleasant object through the ear are vipāka. Do we really have power over these cittas?
There are many conditions which have to cooperate so that the vipāka can arise. There has to be ear-sense. Did you create your own ear-sense? You received ear-sense before you were born; this also is a result for which you did not ask. Moreover, do you think that you can have kusala vipāka as long as you wish and whenever you wish? When you have developed a keener awareness you will notice that the kusala vipāka and the other types of cittas arise alternately.
The vipākacittas are followed by cittas which are no longer vipāka, for example, the cittas which arise when you like the music which you hear and when you think about it. Or there might be cittas which think about many different things, perhaps with aversion or with worry. Or there might be thoughts of kindness towards other people.
The kusala vipāka will not only be interrupted by akusala cittas and kusala cittas, but by akusala vipāka as well. There is akusala vipāka when there are loud noises outside, when the telephone rings loudly, or when one feels the sting of a mosquito. There cannot be kusala vipāka at the moment there is an akusala citta, a kusala citta or akusala vipāka.
If you could make kusala vipāka arise at will, you could have it without interruption, whenever you wish. This is not possible. Moreover, if it were not the right time for you to have any kusala vipāka, you would not be able to receive a pleasant object: the record-player would be broken, or something else would happen so that you could not have kusala vipāka.
Is it not by accident that the record-player would be broken?
The Buddha taught that everything happens because of conditions. There are no accidents. You will understand reality more deeply if you think of cittas, and if you do not think of conventional terms like record-player, this person or that person. Vipāka are the cittas, not the record-player or the sound in itself. The record-player is only one of the many conditions for vipāka. The real cause of vipāka is not an accident, or a cause outside ourselves; the real cause is within ourselves.
Can you find another cause for akusala vipāka but your own akusala kamma, and for kusala vipāka but your own kusala kamma?
That is right, I can find no other cause. However, I still do not understand how akusala cittas which performed akusala kamma in the past and kusala cittas which performed kusala kamma in the past can produce vipāka later on.
It is not possible to understand how the events of our life are interrelated without studying cittas in detail and without knowing and experiencing the cittas which arise at the present moment. When one can experience what the cittas of the present moment really are, one will be able to understand more about the past.
When the Buddha became enlightened he saw how everything that happens in life has many conditions and he saw how things that happen depend on one another.
The teaching about the conditional arising of phenomena, the dependent origination (paṭiccasamuppāda
), is difficult to grasp. We read in the Kindred Sayings
(Saṃyutta Nikāya I, Sagāthā Vagga, Ch. VI, The Brahmā Suttas, Ch. 1, §1, The Entreaty) that the Buddha, when he was staying at Uruvela after he had just attained enlightenment, was thinking that the Dhamma he had penetrated was deep, difficult to understand:
- "And for a race devoting itself to the things to which it clings, devoted thereto, delighting therein, this were a matter hard to perceive, to wit, that this is conditioned by that—that all that happens is by way of cause."
At first the Buddha had no inclination to teach Dhamma, as he knew that a teaching which is "against the stream of common thought" would not be accepted by people who delight in clinging. The sutta continues:
- "This that through many toils I’ve won,
Enough! Why should I make it known?
By folk with lust and hate consumed
Not this a Dhamma that can be grasped.
Against the stream (of common thought),
Deep, subtle, fine, and hard to see,
Unseen it will be by passion’s slaves,
Cloaked in the murk (of ignorance)."
However, the Buddha decided out of compassion to teach Dhamma, for the sake of those who would be able to understand it. Do you still have doubts about the accumulation of deeds?
Is the deed you see a mental phenomenon or a physical phenomenon?
You can only see the action of the body, but the action is actually performed by cittas. We can never see the citta, but we can find out what the citta is like when the body moves in doing deeds. With regard to your question how deeds done in the past can produce a result later on, the answer is that deeds are performed by cittas. They are mentality and thus they can be accumulated. All experiences and deeds of the past are accumulated in each citta, which falls away and conditions the next citta. Whenever there is the right condition the kamma that is accumulated and carried on from one moment of citta to the next can produce vipāka.