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The Roots of Good and Evil: An Anthology by Nyanaponika Thera
|Contents| I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII |
11. The Cause of Action
12. The Ten Ways of Action
13. The Roots of the Ten Unwholesome Ways
14. Rebirth and Its Cessation
Comment on Section II
15. The Exposition of Prevalence (ussada-kittana)
There are; O monks, three causes for the origin of action (kamma): greed, hatred and delusion.
From greed, O monks, no greedlessness will arise; it is greed that arises from greed. From hatred no hatelessness will arise; it is hatred that arises from hatred. From delusion no non-delusion will arise; it is delusion that arises from delusion.
Due to actions born of greed, born of hatred, born of delusion, neither divine beings will appear, nor humans, nor any other kind of happy existence.12 Rather the hells, the animal kingdom, the realm of ghosts or some other kind of woeful existence will appear due to actions born of greed, hatred and delusion.
These are, O monks, three causes for the origin of action.
There are, O monks, three other causes for the origin of action: non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion.
From non-greed, O monks, no greed will- arise; it is nongreed that arises from non-greed. From non-hatred no hatred will arise; it is non-hatred that arises from non-hatred. From non-delusion no delusion will arise; it is non-delusion that arises from non-delusion.
Due to actions born of non-greed, non-hatred and nondelusion, neither the hells will appear, nor the animal kingdom, the realm of ghosts, nor any other kind of woeful existence. Rather divine beings, humans or some other kind of happy existence will appear due to actions born of nongreed, non-hatred and non-delusion.
These are, O monks, three other causes for the origin of actions.
In this text the Buddha implicitly rejects the maxim that 'the end justifies the means'- a doctrine widely followed in politics and sometimes even by religious institutions. Our text further declares as groundless the hope of those who apply this maxim in the belief that they will be rewarded in a future life for serving their cause by uprighteous means in this life, or in the case of non-religious application, that a future generation will reap the reward of present violence and repression in an ideal society or 'paradise on earth'.
Our text further negates the notion
that lustful passion, or actions usually regarded as immoral or sinful,
need not be obstacles to liberation or salvation, and can even aid their
attainment. Such ideas, in varying formulations, have been mooted in the
antinomian sects belonging to several of the world's great religions.13The
notion that the end justifies the means occurs also in the basic principle
of the intentional theory of ethics: 'Whatever is done with the intention
of doing good to the world is right or virtuous.' All such notions, the
Buddha's statement implies, are untenable, undermined by the deep psychological
connections of the roots.
If a noble disciple knows what is unwholesome and knows the root of the unwholesome; if he knows what is wholesome and knows the root of the wholesome - he is then, to that extent, one of right understanding; he is one whose understanding is correct, who has firm confidence in the teaching, and has arrived at (the core of) the good law.
And what is unwholesome? Killing is unwholesome, taking what is not given is unwholesome, sexual misconduct is unwholesome; lying is unwholesome, tale-bearing is unwholesome, harsh language is unwholesome, vain talk is unwholesome; covetousness is unwholesome, ill-will is unwholesome, wrong views are unwholesome.
And what is the root of the unwholesome? Greed is a root of the unwholesome, hatred is a root of the unwholesome, delusion is a root of the unwholesome.
And what is wholesome? Abstaining from killing is wholesome, abstaining from taking what is not given is wholesome, abstaining from sexual misconduct is wholesome; abstaining from lying . . . from tale-bearing . . . from harsh language . . . from vain talk is wholesome; noncovetousness is wholesome, non-ill-will is wholesome, right understanding is wholesome.
And what is the root of the wholesome? Non-greed is a root of the wholesome, non-hatred is a root of the wholesome, non-delusion is a root of the wholesome.
In this discourse, spoken by the venerable Sariputta, the unwholesome and the wholesome are explained by the 'ten ways of unwholesome and wholesome action' (akusalakusala-kamma-patha), which extend to deeds, words and thoughts. They are also called the ten bad and ten good ways of conduct.
This explanation of the unwholesome enumerates ten cases of definite immoral behaviour. Even the last three items, referring to unwholesome mental kamma, have in this context an immoral character. As ways of unwholesome mental action, they signify the covetous desire to appropriate others' property; the hateful thoughts of harming, hurting or killing others; and those wrong views which deny moral causality and thus give room and justification for immoral acts.
These ten, however, do not exhaust the range of the term unwholesome. As mentioned earlier, the range of the unwholesome is wider than that of the immoral. It is not restricted to violations of the ten bad courses, but comprises all deeds, words and thoughts motivated by any degree of greed, hate and delusion.
To give a few examples: fondness for
good food, music or physical comfort is not immoral, but as an attachment
which binds us to the world of sense experience, it is kammically unwholesome.
The same holds true for sexual acts, words and thoughts directed to one's
marriage partner. These, too, according to the moral code of lay society,
are not immoral. Yet as strong manifestations of craving, they fall under
the unwholesome root 'greed'. One's personal stupidity, narrowness of view,
ignorance of what is truly beneficial and similar limitations of mind are
not immoral and need not have immediate immoral consequences. Yet they
are great impediments to the acquisition of liberating wisdom and bind
one firmly to samsara. Therefore, they too are unwholesome, being forms
of the unwholesome root 'delusion'.
Killing, I declare, O monks, is of three kinds: motivated by greed, motivated by hatred, motivated by delusion.
Also the taking of what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying, tale-bearing, harsh language, vain talk, covetousness, ill-will and wrong views all these, I declare, are of three kinds: motivated by greed, motivated by hatred, motivated by delusion.
Thus, O monks, greed is an originator of the kammaconcatenation, hatred is an originator of the kamma-concatenation, delusion is an originator of the kamma-concatenation. But by the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion, the kamma-concatenation comes to an end.
There are, O monks, three causes for the origin of action (kamma): greed, hatred and delusion.
An action performed out of greed, born of greed, caused by greed, originating in greed;
an action performed out of hatred, born of hatred; caused by hatred, originating in hatred;
an action performed out of delusion, born of delusion, caused by delusion, originating in delusion --
such an action will ripen wherever the individual is reborn; and wherever the action ripens, there the individual will reap the fruit thereof, be it in this life, in the next or in future lives.
It is as with seeds that are undamaged and unspoiled, unimpaired by wind and heat, capable of sprouting, sown well in a good field, planted in well-prepared soil. If there is plentiful rain, these seeds will come to growth, increase and reach full development. Similarly, an action performed out of greed, hatred or delusion will ripen wherever the individual is reborn; and wherever the action ripens, the individual will reap the fruit thereof, be it in this life, in the next life or in future lives.
There are three other causes for the origin of action: nongreed, non-hatred and non-delusion.
If an action is performed out of non-greed, born of nongreed, caused by non-greed, originating in non-greed, and if greed has entirely gone;
if performed out of non-hatred, born of non-hatred, caused by non-hatred, originating in non-hatred, and if hatred has entirely gone;
if performed out of non-delusion, born of non-delusion, caused by non-delusion, originating in non-delusion, and if delusion has entirely gone -
such an action is thereby given up, cut off at its root, made (barren) like a palm-stump, brought to non-existence and is no longer liable to arise in the future again.
It is as with seeds that are undamaged and unspoiled, unimpaired by wind and heat, capable of sprouting, sown well in a good field. If now a man were to burn them, reduce them to ashes and then scatter the ashes in a strong wind or throw them into a stream's rapid current which carried them away - then these seeds would have been utterly destroyed, made unable to sprout again.
Similarly, if an action is performed out of non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion, and if greed, hatred and delusion have entirely gone-such an action is thereby given up, cut off at its root, made (barren) like a palm-stump, brought to non-existence and is no longer liable to arise in the future again.
Greed and delusion in their weakest forms are entirely eliminated on attaining Arahatship, while hatred down to its weakest form is fully abandoned at the stage of the non-returner. Section II of our text applies, therefore, only to actions performed at these stages of final emancipation. Only then are these actions finally 'given up' so that they can no longer lead to a future rebirth. It is thus only at Arahatship that all three unwholesome roots are 'entirely gone', though they are decisively weakened at the earlier three stages of emancipation.
The Arahat's action, as no longer productive of rebirth, occurs also as the fourth item in a fourfold division of kamma:
Dark action that brings dark results;
bright action that brings bright results;
partly bright and partly dark action which brings partly bright and partly dark results;
action neither bright nor dark which brings neither bright nor dark results and leads to the exhaustion of action.
Anguttara Nikaya, 4: 232;
Majjhima Nikaya 57
The text explains that this last type of action is the volition of giving up all acts of kammic formation, that is, the volition present in the states of consciousness pertaining to the four paths of emancipation. But this fourth type can also be understood as the actions an Arahat performs in ordinary life, for these do not lead him into kammic involvement or bind him to a future rebirth. His good actions may appear quite similar to the moral deeds of noble (though unliberated) worldlings, but the Arahat's actions are not motivated by the slightest trace of craving and ignorance. In the Arahat's mind there is no greed (craving) by way of wishing that his virtue be recognized and appreciated, no delusion (ignorance) by way of a proud satisfaction in 'being good', no illusionary expectations as to the result of these good actions; nor is there any other self-reference in any form whatever. An Arahat's good actions are a spontaneous outflow of a fully purified mind and heart, responding without hesitation to situations where help is needed and possible. But though his actions may be inspired by sympathy and compassion, beneath them there is detachment and deep serenity instead of emotional involvement. As long as the momentum of his life-force lasts, the Arahat lives on as an embodiment of wisdom and compassion. But as the Arahat's mind no longer clings to anything, not even to the results of his actions, there is no potentiality left for any future rebirth. The life-nourishing sap conveyed by the roots has ceased to flow, and the roots of continued existence themselves are cut off.
In some beings greed is prevalent, in others hatred or delusion; and again in others, non-greed, non-hatred or non-delusion are prevalent. What is it that governs this prevalence? It is the root-cause in the previous life that governs the prevalence of roots in the present life.
There is differentiation at the very moment of the accumulating of kamma. In one person, at the moment of (rebirth-producing) kamma-accumulation, greed is strong and non-greed is weak, non-hatred and non-delusion are strong and hatred and delusion are weak; then his weak non-greed is unable to prevail over his greed, but non-hatred and non-delusion being strong, can prevail over his hatred and delusion. Hence when a being is born through rebirth-linking caused by that kamma, he will be greedy, good-natured, not irascible, intelligent and having knowledge that can be likened to a lightning flash.
In another case, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, greed and hatred are strong, and non-greed and non-hatred are weak, but non-delusion is strong and delusion weak; then, in the way stated, that person will have both greed and hatred, but he will be intelligent and have flash-like knowledge like the Elder Datta-Abhaya.
When, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, greed, non-hatred and delusion are strong and the other roots are weak, then, in the way stated, that person will be greedy and dull-witted, but he will be good-natured and not irascible.
When, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, the three roots, greed, hatred and delusion are strong and non-greed, etc. are weak, then, in the way stated, that person will be greedy, given to hatred and given to delusion.
When, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, non-greed, hatred and delusion are strong and the others are weak, then, in the way stated, that person will have few (lustful) defilements, being unmoved even when seeing a heavenly sense-object; but he will be given to hatred and his understanding will be slow.
When, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, non-greed, non-hatred and delusion are strong, and the others weak, then, in the way stated, that person will not be greedy and will be good-natured, but he will be slow of understanding.
When, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, nongreed, hatred and non-delusion are strong, and the others weak, then, in the way stated, that person will not be greedy; he will be intelligent, but given to hatred and irascibility.
But when, at the moment of kamma-accumulation, the three (wholesome roots),. non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion are strong, and greed etc., are weak, then, in the way stated, he has no greed and no hate and he is wise, like the Elder Sangharakkhita.
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