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Four Lectures

Nyanatiloka Mahathera

ISBN 955-24-0120-8

Originally published by
Bauddha Sahitya Sabha: 1949, 1956, 1968

Wheel Publication no. 394/396

Copyright 1994 by the Buddhist Publication Society

KANDY, Sri Lanka

* * *

DharmaNet Edition 1995

Transcribed directly from BPS Pagemaker files

Formatting: John Bullitt

This electronic edition is offered for free distribution
via DharmaNet by arrangement with the publisher.

DharmaNet International
P.O. Box 4951, Berkeley CA 94704-4951

The Ten Fetters of Buddhism

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       I.   The Essence of Buddhism (Radio Lecture, Colombo, 1933)
       II.  Kamma & Rebirth (Lecture, Ceylon University, 1947)
       NOTE: Chapters I and II Only.  See below.
                            * * * * * * * *
                        THE ESSENCE OF BUDDHISM
  I shall give a short exposition of the essence of the genuine teaching 
  of the Buddha, such as we still find it in the Buddhist scriptures 
  handed down to us in the Pali language.
    There are many among the listeners who are not Buddhists, and to 
  whom therefore, in many cases, the original teaching of the Buddha is 
  a thing almost unknown. It goes without saying that it will not be 
  possible for these, within the limits of the time allowed to my talk, 
  to gain a thorough and full understanding of such a profound and wide 
  subject. Yet some of you may pick up and take hold of certain ideas 
  that appear important; and these may prove an inducement to further 
  inquiry into this immensely profound world of thought. Even should 
  these words have no other effect than to remove at least some of the 
  many prejudices and false ideas about the Buddha's doctrine, it would 
  be ample reward.
    Does it not, for instance, appear ironical that this most sober of 
  all the religious doctrines is still considered by many Westerners as 
  some sort of idolatry or mysticism? Did not the German philosopher 
  Friedrich Nietzsche, already long years ago, understand and lay stress 
  upon this //absolute soberness// and clearness of Buddhism when he 
       Buddhism is a hundred times more realistic than Christianity. It 
       has entered upon the inheritance of objectively and coolly 
       putting problems. It came to life after several hundred years of 
       philosophical development. The notion of "God" is done away with 
       as soon as it appears. Prayer is out of the question. So is 
       asceticism. No categorical imperative. No coercion at all, not 
       even within the monastic community. Hence it also does not 
       challenge to fight against those of a different faith. Its 
       teaching turns against nothing so impressively as against the 
       feeling of revengefulness, animosity and resentment.
    Now, before beginning with the exposition of the Buddha's teaching, 
  we should get acquainted in a few words with the personality of the 
  Buddha. The term "Buddha" literally means the "Enlightened One." It is 
  a name won by the Indian sage Gotama on his enlightenment under the 
  Bodhi-tree at Buddhagaya in India. He was born as the son of an Indian 
  king on the borders of modern Nepal, about 600 years before Christ. In 
  his 29th year he renounced the worldly life and exchanged his princely 
  career for that of a homeless mendicant. After six years of hard 
  striving he at last attained his goal: deliverance from the round of 
  rebirths, or Samsara. The Buddha describes this time in his own words 
  as follows:
       Bhikkhus, before I had attained to full enlightenment, myself 
       being still subject to birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow and 
       impurity, I too was seeking after that which is subject to birth, 
       decay, disease, death, sorrow and impurity. And so, bhikkhus, 
       after a time, while still young, a black-haired lad, in my 
       youthful prime, just come to budding manhood's years, against the 
       wishes of father and mother weeping and lamenting, I cut off hair 
       and beard and, clad in the yellow robe, went forth from home to 
       homelessness. Thus vowed to homelessness, I was striving after 
       the highest good, the incomparable path to supreme peace.
    At first the future Buddha learnt under two great yogis who had 
  attained to a high state of supernormal psychical powers and 
  faculties. But neither of them could satisfy him, as their teachings 
  did not lead to real everlasting peace and deliverance of mind. So he 
  left them again after having fully realized their teaching. Thereafter 
  he met five ascetics, who were practising the severest forms of 
  self-torture and mortification of the flesh, with the hope of gaining 
  deliverance in this way. The future Buddha became one of their party. 
  He subjected himself with utmost perseverance to extreme fasting and 
  self-torture, till at last he looked like a mere skeleton. And utterly 
  exhausted, he broke down and collapsed. He now came to understand that 
  bodily mortification is vain and useless, and will never lead to peace 
  of heart and to deliverance. He henceforth gave up fasting and bodily 
  mortification and sought refuge in moral and mental development. And 
  with calm and serene mind he began to look into the true nature of 
    Wherever he turned his eyes, he found only one great reality: the 
  law of suffering, the unsatisfactoriness of all forms of existence. He 
  understood that the destiny of beings is not the outcome of mere blind 
  chance, nor does it depend upon the arbitrary action of an imaginary 
  creator, but that our destiny is to be traced back to our own former 
  actions, or kamma. He beheld the sick and the leper, and he saw in 
  their misery and suffering only the result of actions, or kamma, done 
  in former lives. He beheld the blind and the lame, and he saw in their 
  debility and helplessness only the painful harvest of seeds sown by 
  themselves in former lives. He beheld the rich and the poor, the happy 
  and the unhappy; and wherever he turned his eyes, there he saw this 
  law of retribution, the moral law of cause and effect, the Dhamma.


    This Dhamma, or universal moral law discovered by the Buddha, is 
  summed up in the Four Noble Truths: the truths about the universal 
  sway of suffering, about its origin, its extinction, and the path 
  leading to its extinction.
    (I) The First Truth, about the universality of //suffering//, 
  teaches, in short, that all forms of existence are of necessity 
  subject to suffering.
    (II) The Second Truth, about the //origin of suffering//, teaches 
  that all suffering is rooted in selfish //craving// and //ignorance//, 
  in //tanha// and //avijja//. It further explains the cause of this 
  seeming injustice in nature, by teaching that nothing in the world can 
  come into existence without reason or cause; and that not only all our 
  latent tendencies, but our whole destiny, all weal and woe, results 
  from causes which we have to seek partly in this life, partly in 
  former states of existence.
    The second truth further teaches us that the future life, with all 
  its weal and woe, must result from the seeds sown in this and former 
    (III) The Third Truth, or the truth about the //extinction of 
  suffering//, shows how, through the extinction of craving and 
  ignorance, all suffering will vanish and liberation from this Samsara 
  be attained.
    (IV) The Fourth Truth shows the way, or the means by which this 
  goal is reached. It is the Noble Eightfold Path of right 
  understanding, right thought, right speech, right bodily action, right 
  livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration of 
    From these Four Noble Truths we shall pick out and clear up such 
  points as are essential for a general knowledge of the Dhamma. In 
  doing so, we shall at the same time refute a number of widespread 
  prejudices concerning the Buddha's teaching.


    Let us, however, first outline the Noble Eightfold Path, for it is 
  this path of righteousness and wisdom that really constitutes the 
  //essence of Buddhist practice// -- the mode of living and thinking to 
  be followed by any true follower of the Buddha.
    (1) The first stage of the Eightfold Path is, as already stated, 
  Right Understanding, i.e. understanding the true nature of 
  existence, and the moral laws governing the same. In other words, it 
  is the right understanding of the Dhamma, i.e. of the Four Noble 
    (2) The second stage of the Eightfold Path is Right Thought, 
  i.e. a pure state of mind, free from sensual lust, from ill-will, and 
  from cruelty; in other words, thoughts of self-renunciation, of 
  goodness, and of mercy.
    (3) The third stage is Right Speech. It consists of words which 
  are not false, not harsh, not scandalous, not frivolous, i.e. truthful 
  words, mild words, pacifying words, and wise words.
    (4) The fourth stage is Right Bodily Action, i.e. abstaining 
  from intentional killing or harming of any living creature, abstaining 
  from dishonest taking of others' property, abstaining from adultery.
    (5) The fifth stage is Right Livelihood, i.e. such a livelihood 
  as does not bring harm and suffering to other beings.
    (6) The sixth stage is Right Effort. It is the fourfold effort 
  which we make in //overcoming// old and //avoiding// fresh bad actions 
  by body, speech and mind; and the effort which we make in 
  //developing// fresh actions of righteousness, inner peace and wisdom, 
  and in //cultivating// them to perfection.
    (7) The seventh stage is Right Mindfulness, or alertness of 
  mind. It is the ever-ready mental clarity whatever we are doing, 
  speaking, or thinking and in keeping before our mind the realities of 
  existence, i.e. the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and phenomenality 
  (//anicca//, //dukkha//, //anatta//) of all forms of existence.
    (8) The eighth stage is Right Concentration of mind. Such a 
  kind of mental concentration is meant, as is directed towards a 
  morally wholesome object, and always bound up with right thought, 
  right effort and right mindfulness.
    Thus the Eightfold Path is a path of morality (Sila), of mental 
  training (Samadhi), and of wisdom (Panna).
    //Morality// therein is indicated by right speech, right bodily 
  action, and right livelihood. //Mental training// is indicated by 
  right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration of mind. And 
  //wisdom// is indicated by right understanding and right thought.
    Thus this liberating Eightfold Path is a path of inner culture, of 
  inner progress. By merely external worship, mere ceremonies and 
  selfish prayers, one can never make any real progress in righteousness 
  and insight. The Buddha says: "Be your own isle of refuge, be your own 
  shelter, seek not for any other protection! Let the truth be your isle 
  of refuge, let the truth be your shelter, seek not after any other 
  protection!" To be of real effect, to ensure an absolute inner 
  progress, all our efforts must be based upon our own understanding and 
  insight. All absolute inward progress is rooted in right 
  understanding, and without right understanding there is no attainment 
  of perfection and of the unshakable peace of Nibbana.
    Belief in the moral efficacy of mere external rite and ritual 
  (//silabbata-paramasa//) constitutes, according to the Buddha's 
  teaching, //a mighty obstacle to inner progress//. One who takes 
  refuge in mere external practices is on the wrong path. For, in order 
  to gain real inner progress, all our efforts must necessarily be based 
  on our own understanding and insight. Any real progress is rooted in 
  right understanding, and without right understanding there will be no 
  attainment of unshakable peace and holiness. Moreover, this blind 
  belief in mere external practices is the cause of much misery and 
  wretchedness in the world. It leads to mental stagnation, to 
  fanaticism and intolerance, to self-exaltation and contempt for 
  others, to contention, discord, war, strife and bloodshed, as the 
  history of the Middle Ages quite sufficiently testifies. This belief 
  in mere externals dulls and deadens one's power of thought, stifles 
  every higher emotion in man. It makes him a mental slave, and favours 
  the growth of all kinds of hypocrisy.

The Buddha has clearly and positively expressed himself on this point. He says:

"The man enmeshed in delusion will never be purified through the mere study of holy books, or sacrifices to gods, or through fasts, or sleeping on the ground, or difficult and strenuous vigils, or the repetition of prayers. Neither gifts to priests, nor self-castigation, nor performance of rites and ceremonies can work purification in him who is filled with craving.

[The Buddha said that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the real happiness of Nirvana.]

It is not through the partaking of meat or fish that man becomes impure, but through drunkenness, obstinacy, bigotry, deceit, envy, self-exaltation, disparagement of others and evil intentions -- through these things man becomes impure."


DHAMMAPADA Chapter X, Verse 141



"There are two extremes: addiction to sensual enjoyment, and 
  addiction to bodily mortification. These two extremes the Perfect One 
  has rejected, and discovered the //Middle Path// which makes one both 
  to see and to know, which leads to peace, to penetration, 
  enlightenment and liberation. It is that Noble Eightfold Path leading 
  to the end of suffering, namely right understanding, right thought, 
  right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right 
  mindfulness, and right concentration of mind."
    Inasmuch as the Buddha teaches that all genuine progress on the 
  path of virtue is necessarily dependent upon one's own understanding 
  and insight, all //dogmatism is excluded// from the Buddha's teaching. 
  //Blind faith// in authority is //rejected// by the Buddha, and is 
  entirely opposed to the spirit of his teaching. In the Kalama Sutta 
  the Buddha says:
       Do not go merely by hearsay or tradition, by what has been handed 
       down from olden time, by rumours, by mere reasoning and logical 
       deductions, by outward appearances, by cherished opinions and 
       speculations, by mere possibilities, and do not believe merely 
       because I am your master. But when you yourselves have seen that 
       a thing is evil and leads to harm and suffering, then you should 
       reject it. And when you see that a thing is good and blameless, 
       and leads to blessing and welfare, then you should do such a 
    One who merely believes or repeats what others have found out, such 
  a one the Buddha compares with a blind man. One who desires to make 
  progress upon the path of deliverance must experience and understand 
  the truth for himself. Lacking one's own understanding, no absolute 
  progress is possible.
    The teaching of the Buddha is perhaps the only religious teaching 
  that requires //no belief in traditions//, or in certain historical 
  events. It appeals solely to the understanding of each individual. For 
  wherever there are beings capable of thinking, there the truths 
  proclaimed by the Buddha may be understood and realized, without 
  regard to race, country, nationality or station in life. These truths 
  are universal, not bound up with any particular country, or any 
  particular epoch. And in everyone, even in the lowest, there lies 
  latent the capacity for seeing and realizing these truths, and 
  attaining to the Highest Perfection. And whosoever lives a noble life, 
  such a one has already tasted of the truth and, in greater or lesser 
  degree, travels on the Eightfold Path of Peace which all noble and 
  holy ones have trod, are treading now, and shall in future tread. The 
  universal laws of morality hold good without variation everywhere and 
  at all times, whether one may call oneself a Buddhist, Hindu, 
  Christian or Muslim, or by any other name.
    It is the //inward condition// of a person and his deeds that 
  count, not a mere name. The true disciple of the Buddha is far removed 
  from all dogmatism. He is //a free thinker in the noblest sense of the 
  word//. He falls neither into positive nor negative dogmas, for he 
  knows: both are mere opinions, mere views, rooted in blindness and 
  self-deception. Therefore the Buddha has said of himself. "The Perfect 
  One is //free from any theory//, for the Perfect One //has seen//: 
  Thus is //corporeality//, thus it arises, thus it passes away; thus is 
  //feeling//, thus it arises, thus it passes away; thus is 
  //perception//, thus it arises, thus it passes away; thus are the 
  //mental formations//, thus they arise, thus they pass away; thus is 
  //consciousness//, thus it arises thus it passes away."
    I. This important truth of the //phenomenality// and emptiness of 
  all existence can be, and ought to be, understood by everyone for 
    According to the Buddha's teaching, our so-called individual 
  existence is in reality nothing but //a mere process of physical and 
  mental phenomena//, a process which since time immemorial was already 
  going on before one's apparent birth, and which also after death will 
  continue for immemorial periods of time. In the following we shall see 
  that the above five //khandhas//, or //groups of existence//, in no 
  way constitute any real ego-entity, or //atta//, and that no 
  ego-entity exists apart from them, and hence that //the belief in an 
  ego-entity is merely an illusion//.
    That which we call our physical body is merely a name for a 
  combination of manifold component parts, and in reality constitutes no 
  entity, no personality. This is clear to everyone without further 
  argument. Everybody knows that the body is changing from moment to 
  moment, that old cells are continually breaking down and new ones 
  arising; in brief, that the body will be quite another body after a 
  few years, that nothing will have remained of the former flesh, bones, 
  blood, etc. Consequently, the body of the baby is not the body of the 
  school boy, and the body of the young man is not the body of the 
  grey-haired old man. Hence the body is not a persisting something, but 
  rather a continually changing process of arising and passing away, 
  consisting of a perpetual dying out and arising anew of cells. That, 
  however, which we call our mental life is a continually changing 
  process of feeling, perceptions, mental formations and states of 
  consciousness. At this moment a pleasant feeling arises, the next 
  moment a painful feeling; this moment one state of consciousness, the 
  next moment another. That which we call a being, an individual, a 
  person does not in itself, as such, possess any independent abiding 
  reality. In the absolute sense (//paramattha//) no individual, no 
  person, is there to be found, but merely perpetually changing 
  combinations of physical states, of feelings, volitions and states of 
    What we call "chariot" has no existence apart from and independent 
  of axle, wheels, shaft, etc. What we call "house" is merely a 
  convenient name for stone, wood, iron, etc., put together after a 
  certain fashion, so as to enclose a portion of space, but there is no 
  separate house-entity as such in existence.
    In exactly the same way, that which we call a "being," or an 
  "individual," or "person," or by the name "I" or "he," etc., is 
  //nothing but a changing combination of physical and mental 
  phenomena//, and has no real existence in itself.
    The words "I," "you," "he," etc., are merely terms found useful in 
  conventional or current (//vohara//) speech, but do not designate 
  realities (//paramattha-dhamma//). For neither do these physical and 
  mental phenomena constitute an absolute ego-entity, nor yet does there 
  exist, outside these phenomena, any ego-entity, self, or soul, who is 
  the possessor or owner of the same. Thus, when the Buddhist scriptures 
  speak of persons, or even of the rebirth of persons, this is done only 
  for the sake of easier understanding, and is not to be taken in the 
  sense of ultimate truth. This so-called "being," or "I," is in the 
  absolute sense nothing but a perpetually changing process. Therefore 
  also, to speak of the suffering of a "person," or "being," is in the 
  absolute sense incorrect. For it is //not a "person," but a 
  physico-mental process// that is subject to transiency and suffering. 
    In the absolute sense there are only numberless processes, 
  countless life-waves, in this vast ever-surging ocean of bodily 
  states, of feelings, perceptions, volitions and states of 
  consciousness. Within these phenomena there exists nothing that is 
  persistent, not even for the brief span of two consecutive moments.
    These phenomena have merely momentary duration. They die every 
  moment, and every moment new phenomena are born; a perpetual dying and 
  coming to birth, a ceaseless heaving of waves up and down. All is in a 
  state of perpetual flux; "//panta rhei//" -- //all things are 
  flowing// -- says the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. The old forms fall 
  to pieces, and new ones are born. One feeling disappears, another 
  appears in its place. One state of consciousness exists this moment, 
  another the following moment. Everywhere is found a perpetual change 
  of material and mental phenomena. In this way, moment follows upon 
  moment, day upon day, year upon year, life upon life. And so this 
  ceaselessly changing process goes on for thousands, even aeons of 
  years. An eternally surging sea of feelings, perceptions, volitions 
  and states of consciousness: such is existence, such is Samsara, the 
  world of arising and passing away, of growing and decaying, a world of 
  sorrow, misery, lamentation and despair.
    Without a real insight into this phenomenality, or //egolessness// 
  (//anatta//) or //impersonality// of all existence, it will be 
  impossible to understand the Four Noble Truths rightly.
    II. In this connection let us come back to the second noble truth, 
  the origin of suffering, rooted in selfish craving and ignorance 
  (//tanha// and //avijja//). In order to understand this truth better, 
  it will be necessary to speak of a doctrine which so often is wrongly 
  interpreted and misunderstood. It is the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth 
  (see Chapter II). With regard to this teaching, Buddhism is often 
  accused of self-contradiction. Thus it is said that Buddhism on the 
  one hand denies the existence of the soul, while on the other hand it 
  teaches the transmigration of the soul. Nothing could be more mistaken 
  than this. For //Buddhism teaches no transmigration at all//. The 
  Buddhist doctrine of rebirth -- which is really the same as the //law 
  of causality// extended to the mental and moral domain -- has nothing 
  whatever to do with the brahmin doctrine of reincarnation, or 
  transmigration. There exists a fundamental difference between these 
  two doctrines.
    According to the brahmanical teaching, there exists a soul 
  independently of the body which, after death, leaves its physical 
  envelope and passes over into a new body, exactly as one might throw 
  off an old garment and put on a new one. Quite otherwise, however, is 
  it with the Buddhist doctrine of rebirth. Buddhism does not recognize 
  in this world any existence of mind apart from matter. //All mental 
  phenomena are conditioned// through the six organs of sense, and 
  without these they cannot exist. According to Buddhism, //mind without 
  matter is an impossibility//. And, as we have seen, the mental 
  phenomena, just as all bodily phenomena, are subject to change, and no 
  persisting element, no ego-entity, no soul, is there to be found. But 
  where there is no real unchanging entity, no soul, there one cannot 
  speak of the transmigration of such a thing.
    How then is rebirth possible without something to be reborn, 
  without an ego, or soul? Here I have to point out that even the word 
  "rebirth," in this connection, is really not quite correct, but used 
  as a mere makeshift. What the Buddha teaches is, correctly speaking, 
  the //law of cause and effect// working in the moral domain. For just 
  as everything in the physical world happens in accordance with law, as 
  the arising of any physical state is dependent on some preceding state 
  as its cause, in just the same way must this law have universal 
  application in the mental and moral domain too. If every physical 
  state is preceded by another state as its cause, so also must //this 
  present physico-mental life be dependent upon causes anterior to its 
  birth//. Thus, according to Buddhism, the present life-process is the 
  result of the craving for life in a former birth, and the craving for 
  life in this birth is the cause of the life-process that continues 
  after death.
    But, as there is nothing that persists from one moment of 
  consciousness to the next, so also no abiding element exists in this 
  ever changing life-process that can pass over from one life to 
    //Nothing transmigrates// from this moment to the next, nothing 
  from one life to another life. This process of continually producing 
  and being produced may best be compared with a wave on the ocean. In 
  the case of a wave there is not the smallest quantity of water that 
  actually travels over the surface of the sea. The wave-structure that 
  seems to hasten over the surface of the water, though creating the 
  appearance of one and the same mass of water, is in reality nothing 
  but a continued rising and falling of ever new masses of water. And 
  the rising and falling is produced by the transmission of force 
  originally generated by wind. Just so the Buddha did not teach that it 
  is an ego-entity, or a soul, that hastens through the ocean of 
  rebirth, but that it is in reality merely a life-wave which, according 
  to its nature and activities, appears here as man, there as animal, 
  and elsewhere as invisible being.
    III. There is another teaching of the Buddha which often gives rise 
  to serious misunderstanding. It is the teaching of //Nibbana, or the 
  extinction of suffering//. This third noble truth points out that, 
  through the cessation of all selfish craving and all ignorance, of 
  necessity all suffering comes to an end, to extinction, and no new 
  rebirth will take place. For if the seed is destroyed, it can never 
  sprout again. If the selfish craving that clutches convulsively at 
  life is destroyed, then, after death, there can never again take place 
  a fresh shooting up, a continuation of this process of existence, a 
  so-called rebirth. Where, however, there is no birth, there can be no 
  death. Where there is no arising, there can be no passing away. Where 
  no life exists, no suffering can exist. Now, because with the 
  extinction of all selfish craving, all its concurrent phenomena, such 
  as conceit, self-seeking, greed, hate, anger and cruelty, come to 
  extinction, this freedom from selfish craving signifies //the highest 
  state of selflessness, wisdom and holiness//.
    Now this fact -- that after the death of the Holy One, the Arahat, 
  this physico-mental life-process no longer continues -- is erroneously 
  believed by many to be identical with annihilation of self, 
  annihilation of a real being, and it is therefore maintained that the 
  goal of Buddhism is simply annihilation. Against such a misleading 
  statement one must enter an emphatic protest. How is it ever possible 
  to speak of the annihilation of a self, or soul, or ego, where no such 
  thing is to be found? We have seen that in reality there does not 
  exist any ego-entity, or soul, and therefore also no "transmigration" 
  of such a thing into a new mother's womb.
    That bodily process starting anew in the mother's womb is in no way 
  a continuation of a former bodily process, but merely a result, or 
  effect, caused by selfish craving and clinging to life of the 
  so-called dying individual. Thus one who says that the non-producing 
  of any new life-process is identical with annihilation of a self, 
  should also say that abstention from sexual intercourse is identical 
  with annihilation of a child -- which, of course, is absurd.
    Here, once more, we may expressly emphasize that without a clear 
  perception of the phenomenality or egolessness (//anatta//) of all 
  existence, it will be impossible to obtain a real understanding of the 
  Buddha's teaching, especially that of rebirth and Nibbana. This 
  teaching of //anatta// is in fact //the only characteristic Buddhist 
  doctrine//, with which the entire teaching stands or falls.
    IV. A further reproach, so often heard against Buddhism, that it is 
  a gloomy and "pessimistic" teaching, proves entirely unfounded by the 
  statements already made. For, as we have seen, the Buddha not only 
  discloses and explains the fact of misery, but he also shows the way 
  to find total release from it. In view of this fact, one is rather 
  entitled to call //the Buddha's teaching the boldest optimism ever 
  proclaimed to the world.//
    Truly, Buddhism is a teaching that //assures hope, comfort and 
  happiness//, even to the most unfortunate. It is a teaching that 
  offers, even to the most wretched of criminals, prospects of final 
  perfection and peace, and this, not through blind belief, or prayers, 
  or asceticism, or outward ceremonies, rites and rituals, but through 
  walking and earnestly persevering on that Noble Eightfold Path of 
  inward perfection, purity and emancipation of heart, consisting in 
  right understanding, right thought, right speech, right bodily action, 
  right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right 
  concentration and peace of mind.
                        The Noble Eightfold Path
             1. Right Understanding   | ---- Wisdom
             2. Right Thought         |
             3. Right Speech          |
             4. Right Bodily Action   | ---- Morality
             5. Right Livelihood      |
             6. Right Effort          |
             7. Right Mindfulness     | ---- Concentration
             8. Right Concentration   |
                            * * * * * * * *
                           KAMMA AND REBIRTH
  When beholding this world and thinking about the destinies of beings, 
  it will appear to most people as if everything in nature was unjust. 
  Why, they will say, is one person rich and powerful, but another 
  person poor and distressed? Why is one person all his life well and 
  healthy, but another person from his very birth sickly or infirm? Why 
  is one person endowed with attractive appearance, intelligence and 
  perfect senses, while another person is repulsive and ugly, an idiot, 
  blind, or deaf and dumb? Why is one child born amid utter misery and 
  among wretched people, and brought up as a criminal, while another 
  child is born in the midst of plenty and comfort, of noble-minded 
  parents, and enjoys all the advantages of kindly treatment and the 
  best mental and moral education, and sees nothing but good things all 
  around? Why does one person, often without the slightest effort, 
  succeed in all his enterprises, while to another person all his plans 
  fail? Why do some live in luxury, while others have to live in poverty 
  and distress? Why is one person happy, but another person unhappy? Why 
  does one person enjoy long life, while another person in the prime of 
  life is carried away by death? Why is this so? Why do such differences 
  exist in nature?
    Christianity does not provide us with any reasonable answer to 
  these questions, nor does it try to find an explanation for them. 
  Quite to the contrary! Take, for example, the poor, wretched child, 
  born in misery and among criminals, and actually trained to become a 
  criminal. Under such circumstances, and without the slightest moral 
  advice, will such a being ever be able to distinguish between moral 
  and immoral, between crime and virtue? No, under such conditions the 
  only way open for him is to become a criminal. And of such a poor and 
  pitiable being Christianity says -- apart from his present misery and 
  suffering -- that it is destined after death to eternal punishment in 
  hell. Could there be found in this world anything more unjust and 
  cruel than this kind of thinking? It is really the worst form of 
  fatalism and injustice! For how could a being under those conditions 
  ever be made responsible for his deeds? Now, as to the question why 
  such differences exist in the destiny of beings, this question is 
  satisfactorily answered solely by Buddhism.
    Of all those circumstances and conditions constituting the destiny 
  of a being, none, according to the Buddha's Teaching, can come into 
  existence without a previous cause and the presence of a number of 
  necessary conditions. Just as, for example, from a rotten mango seed a 
  healthy mango tree with healthy and sweet fruits never will come, just 
  so the evil volitional actions, or evil kamma, produced in former 
  births, are the seeds, or root-causes, of an evil destiny in a later 
  birth. It is a necessary postulate of thinking that the good and bad 
  destiny of a being, as well as its latent character, cannot be the 
  product of mere chance, but must of necessity have its causes in a 
  previous birth. 
    According to Buddhism, no organic entity, physical or psychical, 
  can come into existence without a previous cause, i.e. without a 
  preceding congenial state out of which it has developed. Also, no 
  living organic entity can ever be produced by something altogether 
  outside of it. It can originate only out of itself, i.e. it must have 
  already existed in the bud, or germ, as it were. To be sure, besides 
  this cause, or root-condition, or seed, there are still many minor 
  conditions required for its actual arising and its development, just 
  as the mango tree besides its main cause, the seed, requires for its 
  germinating, growth and development such further conditions as earth, 
  water, light, heat, etc. Thus the true cause of the birth of a being, 
  together with its character and destiny, goes back to the 
  kamma-volitions produced in a former birth.
    According to Buddhism, there are three factors necessary for the 
  rebirth of a human being, that is, for the formation of the embryo in 
  the mother's womb. They are: the female ovum, the male sperm, and the 
  karma-energy (//kamma-vega//), which in the Suttas is metaphorically 
  called "//gandhabba//," i.e. "ghost," or "soul." This kamma-energy is 
  sent forth by a dying individual at the moment of his death. The 
  father and mother only provide the necessary physical material for the 
  formation of the embryonic body. With regard to the characteristic 
  features, the tendencies and faculties lying latent in the embryo, the 
  Buddha's teaching may be explained in the following way: The dying 
  individual, with his whole being convulsively clinging to life, at the 
  very moment of his death sends forth kammic energies which, like a 
  flash of lightning, hit at a new mother's womb ready for conception. 
  Thus, through the impinging of the kamma-energies on ovum and sperm, 
  there appears just as a precipitate the so-called primary cell.
    This process may be compared with the functioning of the 
  air-vibrations produced through speech, which, by impinging on the 
  acoustic organ of another man, produce a sound, which is a purely 
  subjective sensation. On this occasion no transmigration of a 
  sound-sensation takes place, but simply a transference of energy, 
  called the air vibrations. In a similar way, the kamma-energies, sent 
  out by the dying individual, produce from the material furnished by 
  the parents the new embryonic being. But no transmigration of a real 
  being, or a soul-entity, takes place on that occasion, but simply the 
  transmission of kamma-energy.
    Hence we may say that the present life-process (//upapatti-bhava//) 
  is the objectification of the corresponding pre-natal kamma-process 
  (//kamma-bhava//), and that the future life-process is the 
  objectification of the corresponding present kamma-process. Thus 
  nothing transmigrates from one life to the next. And what we call our 
  ego is in reality only this process of continual change, of continual 
  arising and passing away. Thus follows moment after moment, day after 
  day, year after year, life after life. Just as the wave that 
  apparently hastens over the surface of the pond is in reality nothing 
  but a continuous rising and falling of ever new masses of water, each 
  time called forth through the transmission of energy, even so, closely 
  considered, in the ultimate sense there is no permanent ego-entity 
  that passes through the ocean of Samsara, but merely a process of 
  physical and psychical phenomena takes place, ever and again being 
  whipped up by the impulse and will for life.
    It is undoubtedly true that the mental condition of the parents at 
  the moment of conception has a considerable influence upon the 
  character of the embryonic being, and that the nature of the mother 
  may make a deep impression on the character of the child she bears in 
  her womb. The indivisible unity of the psychic individuality of the 
  child, however, can in no way be produced by the parents. One must 
  here never confound the actual cause -- the preceding state out of 
  which the later state arises -- with the influences and conditions 
  from without. If it were really the case that the new individual, as 
  an inseparable whole, was begotten by its parents, twins could never 
  exhibit totally opposite tendencies. In such a case, children, 
  especially twins, would, with positively no exception, always be found 
  to possess the same character as the parents.
    At all times, and in probably all the countries on earth, the 
  belief in rebirth has been held by many people; and this belief seems 
  to be due to an intuitional instinct that lies dormant in all beings. 
  At all times many great thinkers too have taught a continuation of 
  life after death. Already from time immemorial there was taught some 
  form of metempsychosis, i.e. "transformation of soul," or 
  metamorphosis, i.e. "transformation of body," etc., thus by the 
  esoteric doctrines of old Egypt, by Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, 
  Plotinus, Pindaros, Vergil, also by the African negroes. Many modern 
  thinkers too teach a continuation of the life-process after death.
    The great German scientist Edgar Dacque, in his book //The Primeval 
  World, Saga and Mankind//, speaking about the widespread belief shared 
  by all peoples of the world in a transmigration after death, gives the 
  following warning: 
       Peoples with culture and acquaintance with science, such as the 
       old Egyptians and wise Indians, acted and lived in accordance 
       with this belief. They lost this belief only after the rise of 
       the naively realistic and rationalistic Hellenism and Judaism. 
       For this reason it would be better, concerning this problem, not 
       to assume the bloodless attitude of modern sham-civilization, but 
       rather adopt a reverential attitude in trying to solve this 
       problem and grasp it in its profundity.
    This law of rebirth can be made comprehensible only by the 
  subconscious life-stream (in Pali, //bhavanga-sota//), which is 
  mentioned in the Abhidhamma Pitaka and further explained in the 
  commentaries, especially the //Visuddhimagga//. The fundamental import 
  of //bhavanga-sota//, or the subconscious life-stream, as a working 
  hypothesis for the explanation of the various Buddhist doctrines, such 
  as rebirth, kamma, remembrance of former births, etc., has up to now 
  not yet sufficiently been recognized, or understood, by Western 
  scholars. The term //bhavanga-sota//, is identical with what the 
  modern psychologists, such as Jung, etc., call the soul, or the 
  unconscious, thereby not meaning, of course, the eternal soul-entity 
  of Christian teaching but an ever-changing subconscious process. This 
  subconscious life-stream is the necessary condition of all life. In 
  it, all impressions and experiences are stored up, or better said, 
  appear as a multiple process of past images, or memory pictures, which 
  however, as such, are hidden to full consciousness, but which, 
  especially in dreams, cross the threshold of consciousness and make 
  themselves fully conscious.
    Professor James (whose words I here retranslate from the German 
  version) says: "Many achievements of genius have here their beginning. 
  In conversion, mystical experience, and as prayer, it co-operates with 
  religious life. It contains all momentarily inactive reminiscences and 
  sources of all our dimly motivated passions, impulses, intuitions, 
  hypotheses, fancies, superstitions; in short, all our non-rational 
  operations result therefrom. It is the source of dreams, etc."
    Jung, in his //Soul Problems of the Present Day//, says: "From the 
  living source of instinct springs forth everything creative." And in 
  another place: "Whatever has been created by the human mind, results 
  from contents which were really unconscious (or subconscious) germs." 
  And: "The term 'instinct' is of course nothing but a collective term 
  for all possible organic and psychic factors, whose nature is for the 
  greater part unknown to us."
    The existence of the subconscious life-stream, or 
  //bhavanga-sota//, is a necessary postulate of our thinking. If 
  whatever we have seen, heard, felt, perceived, thought, experienced 
  and done were not, without exception, registered somewhere and in some 
  way, either in the extremely complex nervous system (comparable to a 
  phonograph record or photographic plate) or in the subconscious or 
  unconscious, we would not even be able to remember what we were 
  thinking at the preceding moment; we would not know anything of the 
  existence of other beings and things; we would not know our parents, 
  teachers, friends, and so on; we would not even be able to think at 
  all, as thinking is conditioned by the remembrance of former 
  experiences; and our mind would be a complete //tabula rasa// and 
  emptier than the actual mind of an infant just born, nay even of the 
  embryo in the mother's womb.
    Thus this subconscious life-stream, or //bhavanga-sota//, can be 
  called the precipitate of all our former actions and experiences, 
  which must have been going on since time immemorial and must continue 
  for still immeasurable periods of time to come. Therefore what 
  constitutes the true and innermost nature of man, or any other being, 
  is this subconscious life-stream, of which we do not know whence it 
  came and whither it will go. As Heraclitus says: "We never enter the 
  same stream. We are identical with it, and we are not." Just so it is 
  said in the //Milindapanha//: "//na ca so, na ca anno//; neither is it 
  the same, nor is it another (that is reborn)." All life, be it 
  corporeal, conscious or subconscious, is a flowing, a continual 
  process of becoming, change and transformation. No persistent element 
  is there to be discovered in this process. Hence there is no permanent 
  ego, or personality, to be found, but merely these transitory 
    About this unreality of the ego, the Hungarian psychologist 
  Volgyesi in his //Message to the Nervous World// says: 
       Under the influence of the newest knowledge the psychologists 
       already begin to realize the truth about the delusive nature of 
       the ego-entity, the mere relative value of the ego-feeling, the 
       great dependency of this tiny man on the inexhaustible and 
       complex working factors of the whole world. ... The idea of an 
       independent ego, and of a self-reliant free will: these ideas we 
       should give up and reconcile ourselves to the truth that there 
       does not exist any real ego at all. What we take for our 
       ego-feeling, is in reality nothing but one of the most wonderful 
       //fata-morgana// plays of nature.
    In the ultimate sense, there do not even exist such things as 
  mental states, i.e. stationary things. Feeling, perception, 
  consciousness, etc., are in reality mere passing processes of feeling, 
  perceiving, becoming conscious, etc., within which and outside of 
  which no separate or permanent entity lies hidden.
    Thus a real understanding of the Buddha's doctrine of kamma and 
  rebirth is possible only to one who has caught a glimpse of the 
  egoless nature, or //anattata//, and of the conditionality, or 
  //idappaccayata//, of all phenomena of existence. Therefore it is said 
  in the //Visuddhimagga// (Chap. XIX):
       Everywhere, in all the realms of existence, the noble disciple 
       sees only mental and corporeal phenomena kept going through the 
       concatenation of causes and effects. No producer of the 
       volitional act or kamma does he see apart from the kamma, no 
       recipient of the kamma-result apart from the result. And he is 
       well aware that wise men are using merely conventional language, 
       when, with regard to a kammical act, they speak of a doer, or 
       with regard to a kamma-result, they speak of the recipient of the 
         No doer of the deeds is found,
         No one who ever reaps their fruits; 
         Empty phenomena roll on:
         This only is the correct view.
         And while the deeds and their results
         Roll on and on, conditioned all,
         There is no first beginning found,
         Just as it is with seed and tree. ... 
         No god, no Brahma, can be called
         The maker of this wheel of life:
         Empty phenomena roll on,
         Dependent on conditions all.
    In the //Milindapanha// the King asks Nagasena:
       "What is it, Venerable Sir, that will be reborn?"
       "A psycho-physical combination (//nama-rupa//), O King."
       "But how, Venerable Sir? Is it the same psycho-physical 
       combination as this present one?"
       "No, O King. But the present psycho-physical combination produces 
       kammically wholesome and unwholesome volitional activities, and 
       through such kamma a new psycho-physical combination will be 
    As in the ultimate sense (//paramatthavasena//) there is no such 
  thing as a real ego-entity, or personality, one cannot properly speak 
  of the rebirth of such a one. What we are here concerned with is this 
  psycho-physical process, which is cut off at death, in order to 
  continue immediately thereafter somewhere else.
    Similarly we read in the //Milindapanha//:
       "Does, Venerable Sir, rebirth take place without transmigration?"
       "Yes, O King."
       "But how, Venerable Sir, can rebirth take place without the 
       passing over of anything? Please, illustrate this matter for me."
       "If, O King, a man should light a lamp with the help of another 
       lamp, does the light of the one lamp pass over to the other 
       "No, Venerable Sir."
       "Just so, O King, does rebirth take place without 
    Further, in the //Visuddhimagga// (Chap. XVII) it is said:
       Whosoever has no clear idea about death and does not know that 
       death consists in the dissolution of the five groups of existence 
       (i.e. corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, 
       consciousness), he thinks that it is a person, or being, that 
       dies and transmigrates to a new body, etc. And whosoever has no 
       clear idea about rebirth, and does not know that rebirth consists 
       in the arising of the five groups of existence, he thinks that it 
       is a person, or being, that is reborn, or that the person 
       reappears in a new body. And whosoever has no clear idea about 
       Samsara, the round of rebirths, he thinks that a real person 
       wanders from this world to another world, comes from that world 
       to this world, etc. And whosoever has no clear idea about the 
       phenomena of existence, he thinks that the phenomena are his ego 
       or something appertaining to the ego, or something permanent, 
       joyful, or pleasant. And whosoever has no clear idea about the 
       conditional arising of the phenomena of existence, and about the 
       arising of kammic volitions conditioned through ignorance, he 
       thinks that it is the ego that understands or fails to 
       understand, that acts or causes to act, that enters into a new 
       existence at rebirth. Or he thinks that the atoms or the Creator, 
       etc., with the help of the embryonic process, shape the body, 
       provide it with various faculties; that it is the ego that 
       receives the sensuous impression, that feels, that desires, that 
       becomes attached, that enters into existence again in another 
       world. Or he thinks that all beings come to life through fate or 
         A mere phenomenon it is, a thing conditioned,
         That rises in the following existence.
         But not from a previous life does it transmigrate there,
         And yet it cannot rise without a previous cause.
       When this conditionally arisen bodily-mental phenomenon (the 
       fetus) arises, one says that it has entered into (the next) 
       existence. However, no being (//satta//), or life-principle 
       (//jiva//), has transmigrated from the previous existence into 
       this existence, and yet this embryo could not have come into 
       existence without a previous cause.
    This fact may be compared with the reflection of one's face in the 
  mirror, or with the calling forth of an echo by one's voice. Now, just 
  as the image in the mirror or the echo are produced by one's face or 
  voice without any passing over of face or voice, just so it is with 
  the arising of rebirth-consciousness. Should there exist a full 
  identity or sameness between the earlier and the later birth, in that 
  case milk could never turn into curd; and should there exist an entire 
  otherness, curd could never be conditioned through milk. Therefore one 
  should admit neither a full identity, nor an entire otherness of the 
  different stages of existence. Hence //na ca so, na ca anno//: 
  "neither is it the same, nor is it another one." As already said 
  above: all life, be it corporeal, conscious or subconscious, is a 
  flowing, a continual process of becoming, change and transformation.
    To sum up the foregoing, we may say: There are in the ultimate 
  sense no real beings or things, neither creators nor created; there is 
  but this process of corporeal and mental phenomena. This whole process 
  of existence has an active side and a passive side. The active or 
  causal side of existence consists of the kamma-process 
  (//kamma-bhava//), i.e. of wholesome and unwholesome kamma-activity, 
  while the passive or caused side consists of kamma-results, or 
  //vipaka//, the so-called rebirth-process (//upapatti-bhava//), i.e. 
  the arising, growing, decaying and passing away of all these 
  kammically neutral phenomena of existence.
    Thus, in the absolute sense, there exists no real being that 
  wanders through this round of rebirths, but merely this ever-changing 
  twofold process of kamma-activities and kamma-results takes place. The 
  present life is, as it were, the reflection of the past one, and the 
  future life the reflection of the present one. The present life is the 
  result of the past kammic activity, and the future life the result of 
  the present kammic activity. Therefore, nowhere is there to be found 
  an ego-entity that could be the performer of the kammic activity or 
  the recipient of the kamma-result. Hence Buddhism does not teach any 
  real transmigration, as in the highest sense there is no such thing as 
  a being, or ego-entity, much less the transmigration of such a one.
    In every person, as already mentioned, there seems to lie dormant 
  the dim instinctive feeling that death cannot be the end of all 
  things, but that somehow continuation must follow. In which way this 
  may be, however, is not immediately clear.
    It is perhaps quite true that a direct proof for rebirth cannot be 
  given. We have, however, the authentic reports about children in Burma 
  and elsewhere, who sometimes are able to remember quite distinctly 
  (probably in dreams) events of their previous life. By the way, what 
  we see in dreams are mostly distorted reflexes of real things and 
  happenings experienced in this or a previous life. And how could we 
  ever explain the birth of such prodigies as Jeremy Bentham, who 
  already in his fourth year could read and write Latin and Greek; or 
  John Stuart Mill, who at the age of three read Greek and at the age of 
  six wrote a history of Rome; or Babington Macaulay, who in his sixth 
  year wrote a compendium of world history; or Beethoven, who gave 
  public concerts when he was seven; or Mozart, who already before his 
  sixth year had written musical compositions; or Voltaire, who read the 
  fables of Lafontaine when he was three years old. Should all these 
  prodigies and geniuses, who for the most part came from illiterate 
  parents, not already in previous births have laid the foundations to 
  their extraordinary faculties? "//Natura non facit saltus//: nature 
  makes no leaps."
    How could we further explain that a child of righteous and bodily 
  and mentally healthy parents and ancestors, sometimes already 
  immediately after birth, shows signs of the criminal type, of criminal 
  tendencies, perceptible by the shape of the skull, by facial 
  expression, by attitude, movement, etc., recognizable to 
  phrenologists, physiognomists, etc.?
    In any case, we may rightly state that the Buddhist doctrine of 
  kamma and rebirth offers the only plausible explanation for all the 
  variations and dissimilarities in nature. From the apple seed only an 
  apple tree may come, no mango tree; from a mango seed only a mango 
  tree, no apple tree. Just so, all animate things, as man, animal, 
  etc., probably even plants, nay even crystals, must of necessity be 
  manifestations or objectifications of some specific kind of 
  subconscious impulse or will for life. Buddhism says nothing on the 
  last-mentioned points; it simply states that all vegetable life 
  belongs to the germinal order, or //bija-niyama//.
    Buddhism teaches that if in previous births the bodily, verbal and 
  mental kamma, or volitional activities, have been evil and low and 
  thus have unfavourably influenced the subconscious life-stream 
  (//bhavanga-sota//), then also the results, manifested in the present 
  life, must be disagreeable and evil; and so must be the character and 
  the new actions induced or conditioned through the evil pictures and 
  images of the subconscious life-stream. If the beings, however, have 
  in former lives sown good seeds, then they will reap good fruits in 
  the present life.
    In Majjhima Nikaya 135 a brahmin raises the problem:
       There are found people who are short-lived, and those that are 
       long-lived; there are found people who are very sick, and those 
       that are healthy; there are found people who are hideous, and 
       those that are beautiful; there are found people who are 
       powerless, and those that are powerful; there are found people 
       who are poor, and those that are rich; there are found people who 
       are of low family, and those that are of high family; there are 
       found people who are stupid, and those that are intelligent. What 
       then, Master Gotama, is the reason that among human beings such 
       inferiority and superiority are found?
    The Blessed One gave the reply:
       Beings are owners of their kamma, heirs of their kamma; kamma is 
       the womb from which they have sprung, kamma is their friend and 
       refuge. Thus kamma divides beings into the high and low.
    In Anguttara Nikaya III,40 it is said: "Killing, stealing, 
  adultery, lying, backbiting, harsh speech and empty prattling, 
  practised, cultivated and frequently engaged in, will lead to hell, 
  the animal world or the realm of ghosts." Further: "Whoso kills and is 
  cruel, will either go to hell, or if reborn as a human, will be 
  short-lived. Whoso tortures other beings, will be afflicted with 
  disease. The hater will be hideous, the envious will be without 
  influence, the stubborn will be of low rank, the indolent will be 
  ignorant." In the reverse case, a person will be reborn in a heavenly 
  world; or, if reborn as a human being, will be endowed with health, 
  beauty, influence, riches, noble rank and intelligence.
    George Grimm, in his book //The Doctrine of the Buddha//, tries to 
  show how the law of affinity may at the moment of death regulate the 
  grasping of the new germ. He says:
       Whoso, devoid of compassion can kill men, or even animals, 
       carries deep within himself the inclination to shorten life. He 
       finds satisfaction, or even pleasure, in the short-livedness of 
       other creatures. Short-lived germs have therefore some affinity 
       for him, an affinity which makes itself known after his death in 
       the grasping of another germ, which then takes place to his own 
       detriment. Even so, germs bearing within themselves the power of 
       developing into a deformed body, have an affinity for one who 
       finds pleasure in ill-treating and disfiguring other.
       Any angry person begets within himself an affinity for ugly 
       bodies and their respective germs, since it is the characteristic 
       mark of anger to disfigure the face.
       Whoever is jealous, niggardly, haughty, carries within himself 
       the tendency to grudge everything to others, and to despise them. 
       Accordingly, germs that are destined to develop in poor outward 
       circumstances, possess affinity for him.
    Here I should like to rectify several wrong applications of the 
  term "kamma" prevailing in the West, and to state once for all: Pali 
  //kamma//, comes from the root //kar//, to do, to make, to act, and 
  thus means "deed, action," etc. As a Buddhist technical term, kamma is 
  a name for wholesome and unwholesome volition or will (//kusala//- and 
  //akusala//-cetana//) and the consciousness and mental factors 
  associated therewith, manifested as bodily, verbal or mere mental 
  action. Already in the Suttas it is said: "Volition (//cetana//), 
  monks, do I call kamma. Through volition one does the kamma by means 
  of body, speech or mind" (//cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami; 
  cetayitva kammam karoti kayena vacaya manasa//). Thus kamma is 
  volitional action, nothing more, nothing less.
    From this fact result the following three statements:
    1. The term "kamma" never comprises the result of action, as most 
  people in the West, misled by Theosophy, wish this term to be 
  understood. Kamma is wholesome or unwholesome volitional action and 
  //kamma-vipaka// is the result of action.
    2. There are some who consider every happening, even our new 
  wholesome and unwholesome actions, as the result of our prenatal 
  kamma. In other words, they believe that the results again become the 
  causes of new results, and so //ad infinitum//. Thus they are stamping 
  Buddhism as fatalism; and they will have to come to the conclusion 
  that, in this case, our destiny can never be influenced or changed, 
  and no deliverance ever be attained.
    3. There is a third wrong application of the term "kamma," being an 
  amplification of the first view, i.e. that the term "kamma" comprises 
  also the result of action. It is the assumption of a so-called joint 
  kamma, mass-kamma, or group-kamma, or collective kamma. According to 
  this view, a group of people, e.g. a nation, should be responsible for 
  the bad deeds formerly done by this so-called "same" people. In 
  reality, however, this present people may not consist at all of the 
  same individuals who did these bad deeds. According to Buddhism it is 
  of course quite true that anybody who suffers bodily, suffers for his 
  past or present bad deeds. Thus also each of those individuals born 
  within that suffering nation must, if actually suffering bodily, have 
  done evil somewhere, here or in one of the innumerable spheres of 
  existence, but he may not have had anything to do with the bad deeds 
  of the so-called nation. We might say that through his evil kamma he 
  was attracted to the hellish condition befitting him. In short, the 
  term "kamma" applies, in each instance, only to wholesome and 
  unwholesome volitional activity of the single individual. Kamma thus 
  forms the cause, or seed, from which the results will accrue to the 
  individual, be it in this life or hereafter. [1]
    Hence man has it in his power to shape his future destiny by means 
  of his will and actions. It depends on his actions, or kamma, whether 
  his destiny will lead him up or down, either to happiness or to 
  misery. Moreover, kamma is the cause and seed not only for the 
  continuation of the life-process after death, i.e. for the so-called 
  rebirth, but already in this present life-process our actions, or 
  kamma, may produce good and bad results, and exercise a decisive 
  influence on our present character and destiny. Thus, for instance, if 
  day by day we are practising kindness towards all living beings, 
  humans as well as animals, we will grow in goodness, while hatred, and 
  all evil actions done through hatred, as well as all the evil and 
  agonizing mental states produced thereby, will not so easily rise 
  again in us; and our nature and character will become firm, happy, 
  peaceful and calm.
    If we practise unselfishness and liberality, greed and avarice will 
  become less. If we practise love and kindness, anger and hatred will 
  vanish. If we develop wisdom and knowledge, ignorance and delusion 
  will more and more disappear. The less greed, hatred and ignorance 
  (//lobha//, //dosa//, //moha//) dwell in our hearts, the less will we 
  commit evil and unwholesome actions of body, speech and mind. For all 
  evil things, and all evil destiny, are really rooted in greed, hate 
  and ignorance; and of these three things ignorance or delusion 
  (//moha, avijja//) is the chief root and the primary cause of all evil 
  and misery in the world. If there is no more ignorance, there will be 
  no more greed and hatred, no more rebirth, no more suffering.
    This goal, however, in the ultimate sense, will be realized only by 
  the Holy Ones (Arahats), i.e. by those who, forever and all time, are 
  freed from these three roots; and this is accomplished through the 
  penetrating insight, or //vipassana//, into the impermanency, 
  unsatisfactoriness and egolessness of this whole life-process, and 
  through the detachment from all forms of existence resulting 
  therefrom. As soon as greed, hate and ignorance have become fully and 
  forever extinguished, and thereby the will for life, convulsively 
  clinging to existence, and the thirsting for life have come to an end, 
  then there will be no more rebirth, and there will have been realized 
  the goal shown by the Enlightened One, namely: extinction of all 
  rebirth and suffering. Thus, the Arahat performs no more kamma, i.e. 
  no more kammically wholesome or unwholesome volitional actions. He is 
  freed from this life-affirming will expressed in bodily actions, words 
  or thoughts, freed from this seed, or cause, of all existence and 
    Now what is called character is in reality the sum of these 
  subconscious tendencies produced partly by the prenatal, partly by the 
  present volitional activity, or kamma. And these tendencies may, 
  during life, become an inducement to wholesome or unwholesome 
  volitional activity by body, speech or mind. If, however, this thirst 
  for life rooted in ignorance is fully extinguished, then there will be 
  no new entering again into existence. Once the root of a coconut tree 
  has been fully destroyed, the tree will die off. In exactly the same 
  way, there will be no entering again into a new existence once the 
  life-affirming three evil roots -- greed, hate and ignorance -- have 
  been forever destroyed. Here one should not forget that all such 
  personal expressions as "I," "He," "Holy One," etc., are merely 
  conventional names for this really impersonal life-process.
    In this connection I have to state that, according to Buddhism, it 
  is merely the last kammical volition just before death, the so-called 
  death-proximate kamma, that decides the immediately following rebirth. 
  In Buddhist countries it is therefore the custom to recall to the 
  dying man's memory the good actions performed by him, in order to 
  rouse in him a happy and pure kammical state of mind, as a preparation 
  for a favourable rebirth. Or his relations let him see beautiful 
  things which they, for his good and benefit, wish to offer to the 
  Buddha, saying: "This, my dear, we shall offer to the Buddha for your 
  good and welfare." Or they let him hear a religious sermon, or let him 
  smell the odour of flowers, or give him sweets to taste, or let him 
  touch precious cloth, saying: "This we shall offer to the Buddha for 
  your own good and welfare."
    In the //Visuddhimagga// (Chap. XVII) it is said that, at the 
  moment before death, as a rule, there will appear to the memory of the 
  evil-doer the mental image of any evil deed, //kamma//, formerly done; 
  or that there will appear before his mental eyes an attendant 
  circumstance, or object, called //kamma-nimitta//, connected with that 
  bad deed, such as blood or a blood-stained dagger, etc.; or he may see 
  before his mind an indication of his imminent miserable rebirth, 
  //gati-nimitta//, such as fiery flames, etc. To another dying man 
  there may appear before his mind the image of a voluptuous object 
  inciting his sensual lust. 
    To a good man there may appear before his mind any noble deed, 
  //kamma//, formerly done by him; or an object that was present at that 
  time, the so-called //kamma-nimitta//; or he may see in his mind an 
  indication of his imminent rebirth, //gati-nimitta//, such as heavenly 
  palaces, etc.
    Already in the Suttas there are distinguished three kinds of kamma, 
  or volitional actions, with regard to the time of their bearing fruit, 
  namely: (1) kamma bearing fruit in this life-time 
  (//ditthadhamma-vedaniya-kamma//); (2) kamma bearing fruit in the next 
  life (//upapajja-vedaniya-kamma//); (3) kamma bearing fruit in later 
  lives (//aparapariya-vedaniya-kamma//). The explanations of this 
  subject are somewhat too technical for the general reader. They imply 
  the following: The kamma-volitional stage of the process in mind 
  consists of a number of impulsive thought moments, or 
  //javana-citta//, which flash up, one after the other, in rapid 
  succession. Now, of these impulsive moments, the first one will bear 
  fruit in this life-time, the last one in the next birth, and those 
  between these two moments will bear fruit in later lives. The two 
  kinds of kamma bearing fruit in this life-time and in the next birth 
  may sometimes become ineffective (//ahosi-kamma//). Kamma, however, 
  that bears fruit in later lives will, whenever and wherever there is 
  an opportunity, be productive of kamma-result; and as long as this 
  life-process continues, this kamma will never become ineffective. 
    The //Visuddhimagga// divides kamma, according to its functions, 
  into four kinds: generative kamma, supportive kamma, counteractive 
  kamma and destructive kamma, which all may be either wholesome or 
    Amongst these four kinds, the "generative" (//janaka-kamma//) 
  generates at rebirth, and during the succeeding life-continuity, 
  corporeal and neutral mental phenomena, such as the five kinds of 
  sense-consciousness and the mental factors associated therewith, such 
  as feeling, perception, sense-impression, etc.
    The "supportive" (//upatthambhaka-kamma//), however, does not 
  generate any kamma-result; but as soon as any other kamma-volition has 
  effected rebirth and a kamma-result been produced, then it 
  //supports//, according to its nature, the agreeable or disagreeable 
  phenomena and keeps them going.
    The "counteractive" (//upapilaka-kamma//) also does not generate 
  any kamma-result; but as soon as any other kamma-volition has effected 
  rebirth and a kamma-result been produced, then it //counteracts//, 
  according to its nature, the agreeable or disagreeable phenomena and 
  does not allow them to keep going on.
    Again, the "destructive" (//upaghataka-kamma//) does not generate 
  any kamma-result; but as soon as any other kamma-volition has effected 
  rebirth and a kamma-result been produced, then it destroys the weaker 
  kamma and admits only its own agreeable or disagreeable kamma-results.
    In the Commentary to Majjhima Nikaya 135, generative kamma is 
  compared with a farmer sowing the seeds; supportive kamma, with 
  irrigating, manuring, and watching the field, etc.; counteractive 
  kamma,with the drought that causes a poor harvest; destructive kamma, 
  with a fire that destroys the whole harvest.
    Another illustration is this: The rebirth of Devadatta in a royal 
  family was due to his good generative kamma. His becoming a monk and 
  attaining high spiritual powers was a good supportive kamma. His 
  intention of killing the Buddha was a counteractive kamma, while his 
  causing a split in the Order of monks was destructive kamma, owing to 
  which he was born in a world of misery. It lies outside the scope of 
  this short exposition to give detailed descriptions of all the 
  manifold divisions of kamma found in the Commentaries. What I chiefly 
  wanted to make clear by this lecture is: that the Buddhist doctrine of 
  rebirth has nothing to do with the transmigration of any soul or 
  ego-entity, as in the ultimate sense there does not exist any such ego 
  or I, but merely a continually changing process of psychic and 
  corporeal phenomena. And further I wanted to point out that the 
  kamma-process and rebirth-process may both be made comprehensible only 
  by the assumption of a subconscious stream of life underlying 
  everything in living nature.
                                 * * *
                          Notes to Chapter II
  [1] Here I should add that the Pali term //vipaka//, which I generally 
      translate by "effect," or "result," is not really identical with 
      these two English terms. According to the //Kathavatthu//, it 
      refers only to the kamma-produced "mental" results, such as 
      pleasurable and painful bodily feeling and all other primary 
      mental phenomena, while all the corporeal phenomena, such as the 
      five physical sense-organs, etc., are not called //vipaka//, but 
      "//kammaja//" or "//kamma-samutthana//," i.e. "kamma-born" or 

DHAMMAPADA Chapter X, Verse 141

141. Not nakedness, not platted hair, not dirt, not fasting, or lying on the earth, not rubbing with dust,

Walking naked and the other things mentioned in verse are outward signs of a saintly life, and these Buddha rejects because they do not calm the passions. Nakedness he seems to have rejected on other grounds too, if we may judge from the Sum‚gadh‚-avad‚na: 'A number of naked friars were assembled in the house of the daughter of An‚tha-pindika. She called ber daughter-in-law, Sum‚gadh‚, and said, "Go and see those highly respectable persons." Sum‚gadh‚, expecting to see some of the saints, like S‚riputra, Maudgaly‚yana, and others, ran out full of joy. But when she saw these friars with their hair like pigeon wings, covered by nothing but dirt, offensive, and looking like demons, she became sad. "Why are you sad?" said her mother-in-law. Sum‚gadh‚ replied, "O mother, if these are saints, what must sinners be like?"

Burnouf supposed that the Gainas only, and not the Buddhists, allowed nakedness. But the Gainas, too, do not allow it universally. They are divided into two parties, the Svetambaras and Digambaras. The Svetambaras, clad in white, are the followers of Parsvan‚tha, and wear clothes. The Digambaras, i.e. sky-clad, disrobed, are followers of Mah‚vÓra, resident chiefly in Southern India. At present they, too, wear clothing, but not when eating. See S‚stram Aiyar, p. xxi.

The gat‚, or the hair platted and gathered up in a knot, was a sign of a Saiva ascetic. The sitting motionless is one of the postures assumed by ascetics. Clough explains ukkutika as 'the act of sitting on the heels;' Wilson gives for utkatuk‚sana, 'sitting on the hams.'

Anguttara Nikaya, Tika Nipata, Mahavagga, Sutta No. 65, Verse 15

Underscoring in essence What The Buddha Said, the first Buddhist monk ever to hold a professorship in America, at Northwestern University, Walpola Rahula, writes in his book "What the Buddha Taught" (pp. 2-3), extrapolating from the Kalama Sutra how far the Buddha went: "He told the bhikkhus that a disciple should examine even the Tathagata (Buddha) himself, so that he (the disciple) might be fully convinced of the true value of the teacher whom he followed."

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration that 'The monk is your teacher.' (Kalama Sutra)


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Chapters III and IV Can Be Found by Clicking HERE

III. Paticca-Samuppada: Dependent Origination (Second Lecture under the Dona Alphina Ratnayaka Trust, University College, Colombo, 1938)

IV. Mental Culture (Based on a lecture delivered in Tokyo, 1920)