Why Do People Enjoy Immoral Deeds? – Ditthi Is Key

1. Most of us feel uncomfortable when we do something immoral or unethical. For example, I remember how my heart rate went up when I stole a cookie or a candy when I was little. We all know how the heart rate goes up and the whole body gets tense when we get angry. Those are definitely not enjoyable moments.

  • Therefore, immoral deeds normally make one uncomfortable and even feel like one is “on fire” in extreme cases. This is called “täpa” (“burning”)in Pali or Sinhala. In the Satipattana sutta, “atäpi sampajänö” means having a mindset to avoid such deeds; see, “Satipatthana Sutta – Structure“.
  • When one stay away from bad deeds, the heart “cools down”; this is Nibbana or “nivana” or “niveema” (“cooling down”).

2. When a thought comes to our mind (mostly triggered by seeing, hearing something related), the decision to act on it may come automatically based our “gathi“. If an “enemy” comes into our view when we are walking down the road, thoughts of anger may arise immediately leading to a “fire” in the heart, depending on how “bad” we perceive that person to be. Here the cetasikadosa” dominates our thoughts. Such thoughts that come automatically to one’s mind are due to one “gathi” and are the strongest; sometimes they are labelled as “asankharika” citta.

  • Other times, one may hesitate to do an immoral act, but after deliberation or due to encouragement by others may go ahead and do it; such thoughts are called “sasankharikacitta.
  • When I was thinking about stealing cookies as a child, if I did it with a prompting by a sibling, or I myself did it after not been able to overcome the greed, that would have been a “sasankharika citta“.
  • In another example, the stronger version of “lobha” may be in our minds when we compete for something valuable. Here the desire is not only to acquire it, but we also do not want others to have it. Here the “fire” in the heart is more noticeable compared to the above case of desiring a cookie, which comes under “raga” category.
  • So, there are many shades of strength for both good and bad thoughts.
  • Even if we do some of these “bad deeds” once in a while, we feel that it is wrong to do them. The stronger the bad deed, the stronger that we “feel” them.

3. However, some people seem to enjoy doing bad deeds. We have heard about people who got tens or hundreds or stab wounds when they died in knife attacks. The person who did the stabbing seem to have been enjoying it; killing of a person does not need that many stabbings. This is a rare event that we all agree is disgusting; we are horrified by the mere thought of it.

  • But there are milder versions that seem “normal” to more of us.
  • Some people get enjoyment watching other people suffer, say when engaged in a fight. We have seen pictures of people kicking the opponent while the opponent was down on the ground, even unconscious. This is of more common occurrence in torturing animals. Many people enjoy watching “cock fights”.
  • In the even more common occurrence of fishing, most people do not “see” the suffering of a fish as it is writhing in agony hanging by the hook, or convulsing while fighting for “water to breath”. These are not immoral people, but their perception about animals has been cultivated to the point that they do not see animals as living beings.

4. Ditthi or “wrong vision” play a key role in generating feelings and desires. If we have been taught that killing animals is not an immoral thing to do, then we do not feel uncomfortable doing such an act. People enjoy fishing or hunting because they do not perceive killing fish or deer as an immoral thing to do.

  • Instead of getting a “fire” in the heart, they feel a joy while fishing or hunting.
  • And this is not restricted to any particular religion. I know many “Buddhists” who enjoy fishing and hunting. On the other hand, most “Buddhists” consider drinking to be immoral, even though “drinking” per se is not one of the dasa akusala (of course excessive drinking can induce one to do immoral things). It just depends on what “ditthis” one has.
  • In parts of India, some people believe that washing in a particular river will help “wash away” bad merits. But then the fish in that river should be completely devoid of any bad merits, since they live their whole lives in water. Even such “apparently harmless” wrong visions still cover the mind, and prevent the mind from seeing the reality.
  • The problem is that most such ditthis propagate from generation to generation without people actually examining the sense of such beliefs.

5. Ditthi is one of the key immoral cetasika (mental factors), and the opposite samma ditthi or panna (wisdom) is of course a “moral cetasika“.

  • A key point about cetasika is that moral and immoral cetasika DO NOT arise together in a citta. A thought is either moral OR immoral. A moral thought has one or more of “moral cetasika” such as alobha, adosa, compassion, etc. and an immoral thought has one or more of immoral cetasika such as lobha, dosa, shamelessness, fearlessness of wrong, etc.

6. The cetasikapiti” (pronounced “peethi” or “preethi”) which means “joy” is one that can be associated with either a kusala or akusala thought.  The same thing is true for the cetasikas chanda (liking) and viriya (effort). These three cetasika are included in the six types of cetasika called “particulars” that can be in either type of thought, kusala or akusalasee, “Cetasika (Mental Factors)“.

  • Thus if one does not believe that killing fish or other animals is immoral and can lead to bad results in future lives, then a person with that ditthi can enjoy fishing/hunting (piti), can form a liking for it (chanda), and enthusiastically make preparations for fishing/hunting trips (viriya).
  • On the other hand, someone with samma ditthi will definitely feel at least uncomfortable in doing such an act, will not like it, and will not strive to do such acts. He/she will gain joy by doing things with thoughts that have only moral cetasika, and also may have chanda and viriya associated with such activities.

7. Thus there are many types of  “micca ditthi” that tend to make people comfortable with immoral acts.

  • It must be noted that the word “ditthi” is used in Buddha Dhamma to specifically denote micca  ditthi or “wrong vision”. The opposite is samma ditthi or panna (wisdom).
  • Some people do not have a problem with killing other human beings if those are presumed to be “non-believers”. They have been taught all their lives that it is “good thing to do” and will pave the way to heaven.
  • It is amazing how one’s mind can be made to accept certain activities as “acceptable” by conditioning over time, especially if started at young age. This is also called “brain washing”. This is why ditthis are very difficult to break. Yet, with a determined mindset, one can break ditthis.
  • The key is to critically evaluate both sides of the particular issue at hand. Does it make sense to say one can go to heaven by killing people? Other than someone’s promise, is there any truth to that statement? Is there a doctrine that EXPLAINS HOW “killing unbelievers can pave the way to heaven?”.
  • The key problem is that human mind likes to “take the easy way”. It is easier to try to justify one’s vision or position rather than trying to spend time looking deeper into the issue to make an informed decision. But one needs to think about the consequences that can last for unimaginably long times.

8. Some people just  enjoy killing other people; serial killers are a good example. Such people have extreme version of the moha cetasika; they are totally and completely morally blind.

  • While most of us cannot even fathom, “how can such a person go to sleep at night?” after killing another person for fun, they actually sleep well with a content (but perverse) mind.
  • People like Pol Pot and Hitler planned systematic killing of millions of people for many years. In their “ditthi” that was the right thing to do, and many others started believing in that “ditthi” too.

9. This is why getting rid of “ditthi” and embracing samma ditthi is the first step in the mundane Eightfold Path first and then in lokottara Eightfold Path; see, “What is Unique in Buddha Dhamma?“.

  • Having wrong kinds of vision (ditthi) can be very dangerous, since one may not even realize that one is doing immoral things because of that ditthi. Such ditthis can only be removed via learning Dhamma. One becomes a Sotapanna just by eliminating such wrong visions and perceptions. The three sanyojana (or samyojana) that are removed at the Sotapanna stage (sathkaya ditthi, vicikicca, silabbata paramasa) all arise due to micca ditthi.

10. When we analyze at the akusala citta we can see why.  All immoral acts are done with just 12 types of akusala citta: eight based on lobha (greed), two based on patigha (dislike), and two based on moha (ignorance).

  • All “apayagami” deeds (those acts responsible for rebirth in the four lowest realms or apayas) are done with the first four lobha citta and the vicikicca citta; see, “Akusala Citta and Akusala Vipaka Citta“.
  • Those first four akusala citta are “ditthi sampayutta” or “done with wrong views”. The cetasika vicikicca also arises due to not knowing the true nature of the world, i.e., anicca, dukkha, anatta. Thus all five akusala citta that are removed at the Sotapanna stage arise due to micca ditthi, wrong visions about the world.

11. If one believes one is not doing an immoral act while doing that immoral act, then he/she is likely to do it with piti, chanda, and viriya., i.e., with joy, liking, and makes effort joyfully to get it done.

  • Of course ignorance of law is not an excuse, as stated in the latin phrase, Ignorantia juris non excusat. It holds true for the natural laws stated in Buddha Dhamma as well.
  • Even worse, according to Buddha Dhamma, immoral acts done with joy are the worst. That is why out of those first four lobha citta, those two done with joy are the absolutely worst: the “somanassa sahagata ditthi sampayutta citta” and the “somanassa sahagata ditthi sampayutta sasankharika citta“.
  • In English, these mean, “act done with joy and wrong vision due to gathi” and “act done with joy and wrong vision prompted by other factors”. The first is the worst since it comes automatically; the second citta arises after some deliberation, and thus has less potency, or javana.

12. Therefore, now we can see why some people do immoral acts with joy and make them even worse; they simply have wrong world views or ditthi. This is why learning Dhamma is so important.

  • As the Buddha said, “My Dhamma has never been known to the world before”. So, none of us will know precisely what is moral or immoral, without hearing or reading about them.
  • However, as humans we have the innate sense of knowing roughly what is moral/immoral. These come from our previous lives. But depending on the environment that we grew up, we may have acquired certain “wrong visions” or “micca ditthi” or “ditthi“.
  • This is why teaching children to be moral and making sure they associate with only “good friends” is critical. Those habits learned at young age can last a lifetime unless changed via a determined effort.
  • And since one person’s ditthi is different from another’s, it is absolutely critical to spend time and verify which ditthis are the wrong to be adhered to in the long term. Many people do not believe in rebirth, but according to Buddha that is a micca ditthi that can lead to the adverse outcomes in the future. One needs to examine the evidence and decide for oneself. In addition to looking at , “Evidence for Rebirth“, one should also examine, “Vagaries of Life and the Way to Seek “Good Rebirths”.

13. Finally, the reverse is true too: Those moral acts that are done with joy and knowledge (wisdom) or “correct views” (samma ditthi) will lead to vipaka or outcomes with highest merits.

  • Getting rid of wrong views is acquiring correct views or cultivating samma ditthi. The more one becomes knowledgeable in what is moral and what is not, one easily BECOMES joyful while doing moral deeds; joy and wisdom feed on each other. Of course, chanda and viriya will grow simultaneously too.
  • Thus the “somanassa sahagata nana sampayutta citta” or the “thought with joy and wisdom that comes out automatically” is the strongest moral citta (or kusala citta). The next highest is the “somanassa sahagata nana sampayutta sasankharika citta” or the “thought with joy and wisdom prompted by other factors”.
  • Here, wisdom starts at the mundane samma ditthi level, increases as one one embarks on the Sotapanna magga, then Sotapanna phala, and so on until becoming “fully enlightened” at the Arahant stage; see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart“.
  • The power or javana of a kusala citta is enhanced with enhanced wisdom. Thus the power of a citta of an Arahant is much stronger compared to that of a Sotapanna, and that of a Sotapanna is much stronger compared to a normal person.
  • Of course the javana of a citta with strong ignorance (moha) is strong too, and thus makes the deed even more potent and will bring about unbearably bad outcomes (vipaka).

14. Even though many people perceive Abhidhamma to be complex, if started with good basics, Abhidhamma helps clarify many complex issues very clearly. Learning about types of citta and how different cetasika play roles in one’s habits (“gathi“) will help clarify many issues.

Next, “Javana of a Citta – The Root of Mental Power“, ………….

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