Kamma and vipaka

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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ground
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:34 am

Sam Vega wrote:... My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs. I don't think it is a stupid question, as normally we think of intentions as bringing about an immediate mental change (as when I intend to think about an elephant, or recollect things that make me happy); or bringing about an immediate physical change (as when I intend to raise my arm, etc.). The rest of the universe seems immune and indifferent to my intentions. I cannot cause a change in the weather by means of an unmediated intention. Nor can I alter your thoughts by merely intending to.
...

If the answer is that this must be taken on faith, I am happy with this. I would in fact prefer it to sophistry intended to demonstrate that someone knows more than me. All vague ideas and admissions of bafflement are welcome, as they would reassure me!
Actually I don't care about a mechnism but I am content with being able to observe the recurring effects of actions and mental conditionings (thinking about, having intentions, i.e. creating habits) in what is called "this present life".
It is all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself.

Kind regards

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:18 am

chownah wrote:Sam Vega,
In the original post you wrote:
"My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs."

I suggest that there is no "mechanism that brings this about."....or at least there is no mechanism that we can rationally understand that does this......the Budda seems to teach a sort of mechanics for some things but I'm pretty sure that this is just conventional speech and it is best to remember that all dhammas are empty.......didn't the Buddha teach that the exact workings of kamma were not knowable?
chownah
It might be that there is no such mechanism, but I believe the Buddha said that things arise due to causes. The workings of kamma seem to require some kind of mediating cause which I don't understand. It might be, of course, that I/we can never understand it, but this is an odd statement as we can never know unless we try. Certainly I am prepared to take it on faith. I think that the Buddha's point about kamma being unknowable was relating to the specific outcomes of kamma, not a clearer understanding of the principle.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:26 am

TMingyur wrote:
Sam Vega wrote:... My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs. I don't think it is a stupid question, as normally we think of intentions as bringing about an immediate mental change (as when I intend to think about an elephant, or recollect things that make me happy); or bringing about an immediate physical change (as when I intend to raise my arm, etc.). The rest of the universe seems immune and indifferent to my intentions. I cannot cause a change in the weather by means of an unmediated intention. Nor can I alter your thoughts by merely intending to.
...

If the answer is that this must be taken on faith, I am happy with this. I would in fact prefer it to sophistry intended to demonstrate that someone knows more than me. All vague ideas and admissions of bafflement are welcome, as they would reassure me!
Actually I don't care about a mechnism but I am content with being able to observe the recurring effects of actions and mental conditionings (thinking about, having intentions, i.e. creating habits) in what is called "this present life".
It is all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself.

Kind regards
Well, it's good that you care enough about my caring in order to post! It may be all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself, but this formulation might not mean as much to other people as it does to you.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:40 am

Sam Vega wrote:Well, it's good that you care enough about my caring in order to post!
I understood that you requested responses, didn't you?
Sam Vega wrote: It may be all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself, but this formulation might not mean as much to other people as it does to you.
Of course. Everybody has to walk with her/his own shoes. I just showed one of my pairs.

Kind regards

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:02 am

TMingyur wrote:
Sam Vega wrote:Well, it's good that you care enough about my caring in order to post!
I understood that you requested responses, didn't you?

Yes, I did! As I said, it is good of you and all the others to care enough to take time out to reply.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by chownah » Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:12 pm

Sam Vega,
From your posts I think that you might find the Wings to Awakening section on Kamma interesting....have you see it already?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part1-b" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I usually just think of kamma as being intention (since this is how the Buddha defined it most clearly) and intentions arise in concert with the indulging in a doctrine of self so if you can get a grip on that imaginary self then the issue of kamma should be under control also....at least that is my usual approach to my practice....that is to focus on the doctrine of self which is present when intentions arise and then to dispel the doctrine of self....more or less........so....anyway......I don't usually concern myself with the mechanisms of kamma if there are any that are comprehendable and frankly its kind of hard for me to exactly understand what kind of thing you might see as a mechanism but it seems like Thanisarro Bhikkhu's writings sort of approach kamma from a mechanistic perspective so let me know what you think.
chownah

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by gavesako » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:22 pm

Tit for tat

Meaning: A blow or some other retaliation in return for an injury from another.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tit-for-tat.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

"Bhikkhus, for anyone who says, 'In whatever way a person makes kamma, that is how it is experienced,' there is no living of the holy life, there is no opportunity for the right ending of suffering. But for anyone who says, 'When a person makes kamma to be felt in such & such a way, that is how its result (vipaka) is experienced,' there is the living of the holy life, there is the opportunity for the right ending of stress."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes:

.. Another school, the Jains, accepted the Vedic premise that one's actions shaped one's experience of the cosmos, but they differed from the Vedas in the way they conceived of action. All action, according to them, was a form of violence. The more violent the act, the more it produced effluents, conceived as sticky substances that bound the soul to the round of rebirth. Thus they rejected the Vedic assertion that ritual sacrifice produced good kamma, for the violence involved in killing the sacrificial animals was actually a form of very sticky bad kamma. In their eyes, the only way to true happiness was to try to escape the round of kamma entirely. This was to be done by violence against themselves: various forms of self-torture that were supposed to burn away the effluents (asava), the "heat" (tapa) of pain being a sign that the effluents were burning. At the same time, they tried to create as little new kamma as possible. This practice would culminate in total abstinence from physical action, resulting in suicide by starvation, the theory being that if old kamma were completely burned away, and no new kamma created, there would be no more effluents to bind the soul to the cosmos. Thus the soul would be released.

Despite the differences between the Vedic and Jain views of action, they shared some important similarities: Both believed that the physical performance of an action, rather than the mental attitude behind it, determined its kammic result. And, both saw kamma as acting under deterministic, linear laws. Kamma performed in the present would not bear fruit until the future, and the relationship between a particular action and its result was predictable and fixed.

These divergent viewpoints on the nature of action formed the backdrop for the Bodhisatta's quest for ultimate happiness. On the one side stood the Ajivakas and Lokayatans, who insisted for various reasons that human action was ineffective: either non-existent, chaotic, or totally pre-determined. On the other side stood the Vedic and Jain thinkers, who taught that physical action was effective, but that it was subject to deterministic and linear laws, and could not lead to true happiness beyond the round of rebirth. The Buddha's position on kamma broke from both sides of the issue, largely because he approached the question from a radically new direction.

... To begin with, every act has repercussions in the present moment together with reverberations extending into the future. Depending on the intensity of the act, these reverberations can last for a very short or a very long time. Thus every event takes place in a context determined by the combined effects of past events coming from a wide range in time, together with the effects of present acts. These effects can intensify one another, can coexist with little interaction, or can cancel one another out. Thus, even though it is possible to predict that a certain type of act will tend to give a certain type of result — for example, acting on anger will lead to pain — there is no way to predict when or where that result will make itself felt.

The complexity of the system is further enhanced by the fact that both causal principles meet at the mind. Through its views and intentions, the mind keeps both principles active. Through its sensory powers, it is affected by the results of the causes it has set in motion. This allows for the causal principles to feed back into themselves, as the mind reacts to the results of its own actions. These reactions can form positive feedback loops, intensifying the original input and its results, much like the howl in a speaker placed next to the microphone feeding into it. They can also create negative feedback loops, counteracting the original input, in the same way that a thermostat turns off a heater when the temperature in a room is too high, and turns it on again when it gets too low. Because the results of actions can be immediate, and the mind can react to them immediately, these feedback loops can sometimes quickly spin out of control; at other times, they may provide skillful checks on one's behavior. For example, a man may act out of anger, which gives him an immediate sense of dis-ease to which he may react with further anger, thus creating a snowballing effect. On the other hand, he may come to understand that the anger is causing his dis-ease, and so immediately attempt to stop it. However, there can also be times when the results of his past actions may obscure his present dis-ease, so that he doesn't immediately react to it at all. This means that, although there are general patterns relating habitual acts to their results, there is no set one-for-one, tit-for-tat, relationship between a particular action and its results. Instead, the results are determined by the entire context of the act, shaped by the actions that preceded or followed it, and by one's state of mind at the time of acting or experiencing the result.

In this way, the combination of two causal principles — influences from the past interacting with those in the immediate present — accounts for the complexity of causal relationships on the level of immediate experience. However, the combination of the two principles also opens the possibility for finding a systematic way to break the causal web. If causes and effects were entirely linear, the cosmos would be totally deterministic, and nothing could be done to escape from the machinations of the causal process. If they were entirely synchronic, there would be no relationship from one moment to the next, and all events would be arbitrary. The web could break down totally or reform spontaneously for no reason at all. However, with the two modes working together, one can learn from causal patterns observed from the past and apply one's insights to disentangling the same causal patterns acting in the present. If one's insights are true, one can then gain freedom from those patterns. This allows for escape from the cycle of kamma altogether by developing kamma at a heightened level of skill by pursuing the noble eightfold path.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... e.html#act" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


See http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... 3-piya.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
and http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... 6-piya.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by gavesako » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:32 pm

In the course of his Awakening, the Buddha discovered that the experience of the present moment consists of three factors: results from past actions, present actions, and the results of present actions. This means that kamma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; while present actions shape not only the present but also the future. This constant opening for present input into the causal processes shaping one's life makes free will possible. ... However, the fact that the experience of space and time requires not only the results of past actions but also the input of present actions means that it is possible to unravel the experience of space and time by bringing the mind to a point of equilibrium where it contributes no intentions or actions to the present moment. The intentions that converge at this equilibrium are thus a fourth type of intention — transcendent skillful intentions — which lead to release from the results of mundane intentions, and ultimately to the ending of all action. * (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/su ... index.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. This constant opening for present input into the causal process makes free will possible. This freedom is symbolized in the imagery the Buddhists used to explain the process: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. * (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... karma.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)

Although the precise working out of the kammic process is somewhat unpredictable, it is not chaotic. The relationship between kammic causes and their effects is entirely regular: when an action is of the sort that it will be felt in such and such a way, that is how its result will be experienced (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-13" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;). Skillful intentions lead to favorable results, unskillful ones to unfavorable results. Thus, when one participates in the kammic process, one is at the mercy of a pattern that one's actions put into motion, but that is not entirely under one's present control. Despite the power of the mind, one cannot reshape the basic laws of cosmic causality at whim. These laws include the physical laws, within which one's kamma must ripen and work itself out. ... The point here is that old kamma does not override other causal factors operating in the universe — such as those recognized by the physical sciences — but instead finds its expression within them.

However, the fact that the kammic process relies on input from the present moment means that it is not totally deterministic. Input from the past may place restrictions on what can be done and known in any particular moment, but the allowance for new input from the present provides some room for free will. This allowance also opens the possibility for escape from the cycle of kamma altogether by means of the fourth type of kamma: the development of heightened skillfulness (kusala) through the pursuit of the seven factors for Awakening and the noble eightfold path — and, by extension, all of the Wings to Awakening [§§16-17] (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-16" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;).

The non-linearity of this/that conditionality (idappaccayata) explains why heightened skillfulness, when focused on the present moment, can succeed in leading to the end of the kamma that has formed the experience of the entire cosmos. All non-linear processes exhibit what is called scale invariance, which means that the behavior of the process on any one scale is similar to its behavior on smaller or larger scales. To understand, say, the large-scale pattern of a particular non-linear process, one need only focus on its behavior on a smaller scale that is easier to observe, and one will see the same pattern at work. In the case of kamma, one need only focus on the process of kamma in the immediate present, in the course of developing heightened skillfulness, and the large-scale issues over the expanses of space and time will become clear as one gains release from them. * (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... part1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)

Over the years many schools of meditation have taught that mental fabrications simply get in the way of a goal that's uncaused and unfabricated. Only by doing nothing at all and thus not fabricating anything in the mind, they say, will the unfabricated (nibbana) shine forth. This view is based on a very simplistic understanding of fabricated reality, seeing causality as linear and totally predictable: X causes Y which causes Z and so on, with no effects turning around to condition their causes, and no possible way of using causality to escape from the causal network. However, one of the many things the Buddha discovered in the course of his awakening was that causality is not linear. The experience of the present is shaped both by actions in the present and by actions in the past. Actions in the present shape both the present and the future. The results of past and present actions continually interact. Thus there is always room for new input into the system, which gives scope for free will. There is also room for the many feedback loops that make experience so thoroughly complex, and that are so intriguingly described in chaos theory. Reality doesn't resemble a simple line or circle. It's more like the bizarre trajectories of a strange attractor or a Mandelbrot set.

(http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... nance.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)


For more, see:
Samsara Divided by Zero by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... nance.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-similarity" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by gavesako » Sat Oct 22, 2011 5:33 pm

1. When this is, that is.
2. From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
3. When this isn't, that isn't.
4. From the stopping of this comes the stopping of that.


... This formula is non-linear, an interplay of linear and synchronic principles. The linear principle — taking (2) and (4) as a pair — connects events over time; the synchronic principle — (1) and (3) — connects objects and events in the present moment. The two principles intersect, so that any given event is influenced by two sets of conditions, those acting from the past and those acting from the present. Because this is the pattern underlying dependent co-arising, it is a mistake to view dependent co-arising simply as a chain of causes strung out over time. Events in any one category of the list are affected not only by past events in the categories that act as their conditions, but also by the on-going, interacting presence of whole streams of events in those categories. All categories can be present at once, and even though two particular conditions may be separated by several steps in the list, they can be immediately present to each other. Thus they can create the possibility for unexpected feedback loops in the causal process. Feeling, for instance, keeps reappearing at several stages in the process, and ignorance can contribute to any causal link at any time. The importance of these points will become clear when we examine how to disengage the causal network so as to realize the third noble truth.

Because new input into the causal stream is possible at every moment, the actual working out of this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising can be remarkably fluid and complex. This point is borne out by the imagery used in the Canon to illustrate these teachings. Although some non-canonical texts depict dependent co-arising as a circle or a wheel of causes — implying something of a mechanical, deterministic process — the Canon never uses that image at all. Instead it likens dependent co-arising to water flowing over land: lakes overflow, filling rivers, which in turn fill the sea [§238]; while the tides of the sea rise, swelling the rivers, which in turn swell the lakes [SN 12:69]. This imagery captures something of the flow of give and take among the factors of the process. A more modern pattern that might be used to illustrate dependent co-arising is the "strange attractor": an intricate, interwoven pattern that chaos theory uses to describe complex, fluid systems containing at least three feedback loops. As we will see below, the number of feedback loops in dependent co-arising is far more than three.

The fluid complexity of dependent co-arising means that it is inherently unstable, and thus stressful and not-self. Although some non-Theravadin Buddhist texts insist that happiness can be found by abandoning one's smaller, separate identity and embracing the interconnected identity of all interdependent things, this teaching cannot be found in the Pali Canon. The instability of conditioned processes means that they can never provide a dependable basis for happiness. The only true basis for happiness is the Unfabricated.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #part3-h-3" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:11 pm

chownah:

Many thanks - I have read it, and will check it out again.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:20 pm

gavesako wrote:
Because new input into the causal stream is possible at every moment, the actual working out of this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising can be remarkably fluid and complex. This point is borne out by the imagery used in the Canon to illustrate these teachings. Although some non-canonical texts depict dependent co-arising as a circle or a wheel of causes — implying something of a mechanical, deterministic process — the Canon never uses that image at all. Instead it likens dependent co-arising to water flowing over land: lakes overflow, filling rivers, which in turn fill the sea [§238]; while the tides of the sea rise, swelling the rivers, which in turn swell the lakes [SN 12:69]. This imagery captures something of the flow of give and take among the factors of the process. A more modern pattern that might be used to illustrate dependent co-arising is the "strange attractor": an intricate, interwoven pattern that chaos theory uses to describe complex, fluid systems containing at least three feedback loops. As we will see below, the number of feedback loops in dependent co-arising is far more than three.

The fluid complexity of dependent co-arising means that it is inherently unstable, and thus stressful and not-self. Although some non-Theravadin Buddhist texts insist that happiness can be found by abandoning one's smaller, separate identity and embracing the interconnected identity of all interdependent things, this teaching cannot be found in the Pali Canon. The instability of conditioned processes means that they can never provide a dependable basis for happiness. The only true basis for happiness is the Unfabricated.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #part3-h-3" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Gavesako, I have just heard something very like this being spoken this evening. Were you by chance at Cittaviveka tonight?

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sylvester » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:48 am

daverupa wrote:This idea "cessation of a citta before the next citta" strikes me as interesting, in that I don't see the implied ontology here as being part of the Suttic worldview. Therefore, I don't see it as a problem needing to be overcome, but instead as a later imputation (momentariness :tantrum: ). Why each citta needs to be construed as sequential and singular in this way puzzles me; why not a notion of any instantiated citta as having variable degrees of "force" or "impact" with respect to moral valence? Perhaps sankharakhanda is able to sustain multiple intentional trajectories (via a plurality of underlying tendencies, for example)?
I think the plurality of anusayas is not permitted in the Pali Canon. The anusayas are said to specifically underlie particular feelings. DN 15 and another MN sutta expressly bar more than one type of feeling from being felt at a time. So, raganusaya could not possibly mingle with patighanusaya nor avijjanusaya.

As to alaya-vijnana: get thee behind me, Satan! :tongue:
Sear me, oh Muni, with the blaze of your divine eye!

I don't think a model which posits cittas rising and disappearing needs to be saddled with a radical Realist ontology. I've mentioned elsewhere that the Pali Commentarial treatment of sabhava and dhamma is so extreme (in one alternative), that it borders on Idealism.

The perduration of an amoebic-style citta might run into problems with the requirement for tajjo samanaharo posited by MN 28.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by gavesako » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:01 am

An interesting simile in this article:

5. Complexity of Kamma

This existence is so minute when compared with previous uncountable ones. Kamma in this existence is therefore a microcosmic.
For example, writing on a piece of paper with pen or pencil may be legible, but rewriting on the same piece several time over, words are harder to see and read. Only marks of the pen or pencil are left. The tracing of the words is therefore illegible. We can not distinguish which letter or word comes first or later. What is prior and what is later writing ? . Our countless existences or our own karma can also be compared. Our previous existences are complicated like our rewriting overlapping one another. The knotty kamma is compared to our rewriting . We can not relate whether which letter or mark comes first. The existences tell of our deed whether we have done good or bad, and to what extent we have done it. The complexity in this existence is that we can not set a precedent of our kamma like our own rewriting overlapping one another on the same piece of paper.

6. The implicit nature of the complexity of kamma

There is difference in indecipherable rewriting and kamma. If we continue writing on the same piece of paper with words overlapping one another , we do not know whether the writing is good or not in meaning.
But kamma though complicated is also known whether we have done good or evil, by judging from its outcome . The effects of the kamma reflect their causes.

http://www.nkgen.com/3001.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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cooran
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by cooran » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:20 am

Hello Bhante,

I am a little puzzled by this, and hope you may clarify it for me:
Animals can be reborn as thevadas or humans with the mighty power of kamma.

Indeed , this is a supreme truth. One may believe it or not, but this is the real truth. Nothing can change this truth . Whether one may believe it or not , one should be afraid to be reborn a human or a thevada.

In general , thevadas are reborn as humans, a more respectful form of existence than being reborn as thevadas. There has been surmise or conjecture that thevadas are reborn as humans due to the refined nature .

Certain persons are perfect in various aspects. They have good social strata , excellent complexion and gentle manner, including good intelligence.'

Some persons may not be completely perfect, but they are described being angels because of having good skin , manner and good personal attributes . Most humans believe that thevadas can also be reborn as humans.
with metta and respect,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by gavesako » Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:28 pm

I think this reflects the traditional beliefs as recorded in the cosmological text Traibhumikatha (see the thread devoted to that).
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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