Eight – Right View – Cause and Effect

“Bhikkhus, beings are the owners of their kamma, the heirs of their kamma; they have kamma as their origin, kamma as their relative, kamma as their resort; whatever kamma they do, good or bad, they are its heirs.”
– From AN 10.216 (https://suttacentral.net/en/an10.216)
“Volition is kamma, I say. For having willed, you act by body, speech or mind. (Ajahn Brahm’s translation)
“And what is the cause of kamma? Contact (PJ: between the physical object, the physical sense organ, and the organ’s consciousness) is the cause of kamma.
….
“And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma, I say, is three-fold: [to be experienced] in this very life, or in the next life, or in some subsequent life. This is called the result of kamma. (Ajahn Brahm’s translation)
“And what is the cessation of kamma? From the cessation of contact is the cessation of kamma; and just this noble eightfold path—right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samādhi—is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma.
– From section 5, AN6.63 (https://suttacentral.net/en/an6.63)
“Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?”
“Yes, lord. Why is that? There being only a small amount of water in the cup, it would become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink.”
“Now suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into the River Ganges. What do you think? Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?”
“No, lord. Why is that? There being a great mass of water in the River Ganges, it would not become salty because of the salt crystal or unfit to drink.”
“In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.”
– From AN3.100 (https://suttacentral.net/en/an3.100)
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“Kamma” is the Pali word for “action”, and is the cause of an effect. So basically, the concept of karma is about cause-and-effect: if you don’t put the causes in place, you won’t get the effects you want.

Like, no physical exercise leads to no physical fitness.
Improper nutrition leads to low physical well-being.
Overeating and bad hormonal balance leads to obesity….
You probably get the idea.

The most important points to highlight about the excerpts above are:

1. We own our kamma, and thus our fruit. This also means that YOU are responsible for your own happiness or misery: nobody else is! It might seem pretty extreme, but the flip side is extremely powering: you CAN do something about your unhappiness.
Don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t mean that you can control or influence everything in your life. But what you can influence is how you react with your motivations and intentions, and subsequently your actions by body, speech and mind. That is possible, because you own your kamma. And kamma is largely a mental attribute.

2. Your motivations and intentions are kamma. Actions done with the wrong motivation will yield wrong results. This is especially important to remember when we cover the module on Right Motivation and Intention. But it’s also important to ask the question before we act: what are our REAL motivations and intentions?
Another subtle point here is that your mental motivations and intentions ARE kamma. If you subtly wish someone to die, that’s pretty bad kamma (albeit it will be worse to act on it). A large part of your motivation stems from your perception of the situation: how could you see things differently?

3. Kamma leads to results. This means that you can actually DO something. Kamma is NOT destiny, but about your intentions and actions right NOW. If kamma has no results, then there’s no point to do anything. But kamma does lead to result, hence, there is a point to do something which leads to a good result.

4.The result of kamma isn’t always obvious, as the results can take place across a very long timeline: immediate results, results later in this life, and results after this life (if you believe in that). Consequently, thoughts like “oh, I did this, but it was pointless: there was no benefit” or “how come bad people get away with doing bad things?” are often not accurate, because these perspectives are not fully informed by a full view of how the kamma comes to fruit.

This also means that our main job is not to worry about the results, but to put the kamma in place. And so, we should focus on sowing good kamma wherever we can. This is especially important since one never knows when previous bad kamma will come to fruit, so you’d better start expanding your cup (like the salt crystal sutta)! Let the results take care of themselves after you’ve done your job (of taking good actions).

It should also be noted here that, there is nothing in the suttas about “burning off bad kamma”: in fact, the Buddha makes the point that you can only dilute bad kamma (as in the Salt Crystal sutta), but bad kamma isn’t something you “burn off” with any self-torture.

5. The Eightfold Path leads to the cessation of kamma. This doesn’t mean that you can’t act after you’re enlightened, but more that it leads to the cessation of generating new kamma resulting in rebirth.

Discussion questions
1. What are the three types of kammic results?
2. What unhappy situations are you facing where you blame others for your unhappiness? Discuss with someone how could you see this differently: what can you do differently to reclaim your happiness? What is within your influence and what is outside your influence?
3. Discuss with someone about a time when you did something with the best of intentions, but the result didn’t work as expected. What were your underlying motivations? How could you see the situation differently, e.g. from the eyes of the other person?

Daily Practices
1. Take the Five Precepts, and stick to them. If it helps you stick to it by a Five Precepts ritual, you can take the Precepts online via this link: https://bswa.org/practices/taking-five-precepts-online/
2. “Beyond keeping the 5 precepts, one should actively try to do good.” – Ajahn Brahmali. Do one good deed a day for someone else.
3. Keep a diary or logbook of the good acts you have done.

Guided meditation practice via audio-recording
1. Do a loving kindness guided meditation. A good example (about 30 mins, but fully guided): https://youtu.be/7Jb72-QgXOc