Dhammā, Kamma, Saṅkhāra, Mind – Critical Connections

December 28, 2019


1. From the previous posts on Paṭicca Samuppāda in this series, we can make the following conclusions:

  • The MIND generates different types of saṅkhārā. They are involved in all thoughts (manō and vacī saṅkhārā), speech (vacī saṅkhārā), and bodily actions (kāya saṅkhārā.)
  • Therefore, saṅkhārā (generated with avijjā) are responsible for all ten types of akusala kamma. Of those ten, three with the mind, four with speech, and three with the body.
  • Such kamma create energies (or kamma bija) that are released to the world as “dhammā.” We will discuss some details here. This word dhammā is different from dhamma (teachings) in Buddha Dhamma.
  • Please review those previous posts as needed: “Paṭicca Samuppāda – Not ‘Self’ or ‘No-Self’
Manōpubbangamā Dhammā – Mind Is the Precursor of All

2. The first Dhammapada verse is “Manōpubbangamā Dhammā..” There are, in fact, two verses that go together. Those two verses have the following meanings:

  • All things and phenomena have mind as their forerunner. They all are mind-made.  If one speaks or acts with an evil mind (i.e., engages in dasa akusala), then suffering (dukha) will follow just as the wheels of a cart follow the footsteps of the ox that is pulling the wagon.
  • All things and phenomena have mind as their forerunner. They all are mind-made. If one speaks or acts with a purified mind (i.e., engages in dasa kusala and puñña kamma), happiness (sukha) follows one like one’s own shadow.
Dhammā Are Energies Created by Mind – With Mano Viññāṇa (Kamma Viññāṇa)

3. As I briefly stated in a previous post, dhammā are the underlying energies (or “kamma seeds” or “kamma bīja“) created by the mind. See,  “Mōha/Avijjā and Vipāka Viññāṇa/Kamma Viññāṇa.”.”

  • A seed has the POTENTIAL to give rise to a tree under proper conditions like good soil, water, and sunlight. In the same way, dhammā (a kamma bīja) has the POTENTIAL to give rise to things (both living and inert) in this word.
  • Paṭicca Samuppāda describes the complex process of a dhammā (a kamma bīja) giving rise to future lives. It also explains the arising of the external world that sustains life as well. We will address just the first part for now.
  • The “seeds” here — dhammā (a kamma bīja) — are “created and fed” by “kamma viññāṇa.
  • Only the mind can generate kamma viññāṇa. Such kamma viññāṇa arise via, “saṅkhārā paccayā viññāṇa” in Paṭicca Samuppāda. Since that happens ONLY in mind, kamma viññāṇa are ALWAYS manō viññāṇa. A kamma viññāṇa has ENERGY. Such kamma viññāṇa encompass our future hopes and expectations.
  • All the other five types of viññāṇa (cakkhu viññāṇa, sota viññāṇa, ghāna viññāṇa, jivhā viññāṇa, kāya viññāṇa) are ALWAYS vipāka viññāṇa. Mano viññāṇa could be EITHER vipāka or kamma viññāṇa. To recall how vipāka viññāṇa arise, see, “Chachakka Sutta – No “Self” in Initial Sensory Experience.”
  • Vipāka vedana that we experience arise with vipāka viññāṇa. See, “Vipāka Vēdanā and “Samphassa jā Vēdanā” in a Sensory Event.”
An Example Of a “Mild” Kamma Viññāṇa

4. Let us consider an example of how a kamma viññāṇa arises and how it could grow with saṅkhārā.

  • Suppose X needs to buy a car. He saw a car in a showroom and “fell in love with it.” Here the impactful ārammana was that moment of seeing his “dream car.” A kamma bīja was born at that time with that expectation via “saṅkhārā paccayā viññāna.”
  • He goes home and thinks about how to finance the purchase. He talks to his friends about how beautiful the car is, etc. All those are vacī saṅkhārā based on that car. Then he may go back to the showroom to look at it again and even to get a better price for the car. Those would involve kāya saṅkhārā.
  • Every time he thinks, speaks and acts on issues relating to that car, he is “feeding that viññāṇa” for buying the vehicle. That happens with “saṅkhārā paccayā viññāṇa,” and makes that viññāṇa stronger. We could also say that the kamma bīja or dhamma associated with that viññāṇa would grow.
  • The stronger that viññāṇa becomes, the more often will it “come back” to his mind (as a dhammā) via “manañca paṭicca dhamme ca uppajjāti manoviññāṇaṃ.” That is what Sigmund Freud called “the subconscious.” Of course, Freud had no idea of the working of the subconscious via kamma viññāṇa.
  • Now, one day, X buys the car. At that time, the kamma viññāṇa (kamma bīja) for that expectation will go away. Even if he did not buy the car, that kamma viññāṇa (kamma bīja) would have died if he lost his job unexpectedly and realized that he could not afford the car. In either case, it would no longer be in his “subconscious.”
An Example Of a “Strong” Kamma Viññāṇa Associated with a Pāpa Kamma

5. In the above example, we considered a relatively “mild” kamma. Even though there was some greed involved, that kamma (buying a car) was not a pāpa kamma. A pāpa kamma is a strong akusala kamma that could make one eligible for rebirth in the apāyā. Let us consider an example.

  • Suppose X now wants to kill another human out of anger. The moment that he decides on that, his vacī saṅkhāra creates a new kamma bīja (and a kamma viññāṇa) on deciding to kill. His mind is “stuck with the idea of killing that person.” That is taṇhā. The conventional translation of taṇhā as “craving” is not quite right.
  • From that moment, any time that X is thinking about how to carry out the killing, that kamma bīja (kamma viññāṇa) will grow. It happens via “saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa,” where saṅkhāra are vacī saṅkhāra involved in his planning. This is “upādāna” (“upa” + “ādāna” or “keeping it close in the mind.” He often thinks about how to kill that person. He dwells on it.
  • Then, one day, X decides to shoot that person. Then he may go and buy a gun. That involves kāya saṅkhāra, and those will also contribute to the growth of that viññāṇa (kamma bīja.)
  • Then X shoots and kills that person. That is the strongest kamma and it is a kāya kamma done with kāya saṅkhāra. But all those vacī and kāya saṅkhāra involved were abhisaṅkhāra.
  • However, unlike in the previous case in #4 above, that kamma viññāṇa (kamma bīja) does not go away. That is because it is an akusala kamma. Even though the expectation accomplished, that kamma viññāṇa will instead be “established in the kamma bhava.” It will “follow him” just as the wheels of a wagon follow the footsteps of the ox in #2 above. That kamma viññāṇa will be “with him” for billions of years waiting for an opportunity to bring its results (vipāka.)
Abhidhamma Explanation

6. The following information is relevant but not essential. I include it for those who are familiar with Abhidhamma. It is a good idea to read it in any case, to get the basic idea. Our minds create ENERGY when we focus on ārammana. When a mind “gets strongly attached” to a ārammana, a particular type of citta vithi (atimahāntarammana or mahāntarammana) that runs in the mind.

  • Towards the end of such a citta vithi, seven especially powerful citta (javana citta) arise. Those javana cittā generate and release kammic ENERGY to the world. Those ENERGIES are dhammā or kamma bīja.
  • Such ENERGIES generate in the steps, “avijjā paccayā saṅkhārā, saṅkhārā paccayā viññāṇa, viññāṇa paccayā nāmarupa” in Paṭicca Samuppāda. That, of course, takes place during citta vithi.
  • These kammic energies generated in javana citta lie below the suddhāṭṭhaka level. A suddhāṭṭhaka is the smallest unit of matter in Buddha Dhamma. See, “The Origin of Matter – Suddhātthaka.”
  • That is a very brief explanation. One could read about citta vithi in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book, “Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma.” As I said, it is not necessary to fully understand that process. But that could fill “some gaps in the picture.”
Dhammā Are Rūpa Too!

Dhammā are also rūpa in Buddha Dhamma. As we have discussed, dhammā are pure energy that lies below “tangible matter” above the suddhāṭṭhaka stage.

7. Those energies released to the “unseen world” or “immaterial world” stay there as dhammā. Therefore, dhammā are “out there” in the world, just like other types of rūpa.

  • Another name for kamma viññāṇa or dhammā is kamma bīja. In Buddha Dhamma, such energies also come under the category of “rūpa.” More on that below.
  • While scientists can detect any of the other five kinds of rūpa with their instruments, dhammā can be detected only by the mana indriya in the brain.
  • Let me first clarify what I mean by “unseen world” or “immaterial world.” The world that we can “see” or “interact with” consists of the following. There are solid objects (people, animals, trees, houses, etc.) that we “see” with our eyes. They are “rūpa rūpa” or simply “rūpa.” There are sounds that we hear (sadda rūpa.) Things that we smell are odors (gandha rūpa.) We taste the essence (rasa rūpa) in the food we eat. And we touch solid objects (phoṭṭhabba rūpa.)
  • Dhammā are in a different category compared to other types of “tangible rūpa.” It may be a good idea to read the post Our Two Worlds: Material and Immaterial.

8. Long before Einstein made the connection between matter and energy via his famous E = mc^2 equation, the Buddha treated both matter and energy as “rūpa.”

  • With advances in physics, now it is well-established that matter and energy are indistinguishable. For example, now scientists accept that light consists of particles (photons.)
  • Some of those “rūpa” we can directly see, and we also know how others arise. For example, “sadda rūpa” are sound energy. Still, scientists know that sound propagates through the air via “pressure waves.” We are familiar with the five types of “rūpa” that we sense with our five physical senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body.)
  • Scientists have not been able to detect dhammā, and are unaware of them. They think memories are “stored in the brain.” That definitely is not compatible with the ability to recall past lives by many, including some children. Of course, the Buddha was able to recall past lives as far back as he wished (without seeing a “beginning”.) See, “Origin of Life – There is No Traceable Origin.”
Dhammā Are Anidassana Rūpa

9. The following information is relevant but not essential. It is a good idea to read it in any case, to get the basic idea. The Buddha stated that “dhammā cannot be seen or made contact with (other than with the mana indriya.) Dhammā are “Vedanākkhandho … pe … viññāṇakkhandho, yañca rūpaṃ anidassanaṃ appaṭighaṃ dhammāyatana pariyāpannaṃ..

  • That verse is in “2.3.2. Dukanikkhepa” of the Dhammasaṅgaṇī under the subsection Sanidassanaduka.
  • The critical point to remember is that dhammā include our memories (which are just records without energy) AND viññāṇa (which include kamma viññāṇa with kammic power.)

10. There is a lot to grasp here, but the main points are the following.

  1. Dhammā (used normally in plural) include kamma viññāṇa or kamma bīja.
  2. Dhammā also include memories from the past, including those from past lives. It is just that one may not be able to recall past lives until one attains jhāna and cultivates “pubbenivāsānussati ñāṇa.
  3. Those dhammā (including memories or “nāma gotta‘) are “out there” too, just like the other five types of rūpa are “out there.” But an average human is unaware of dhammā. It takes a Buddha (with a perfectly purified mind) to uncover such details about the world.
Dhammā Behave Differently Compared to “Normal Rūpa

11. Rūpa or “matter” behaves very differently below the suddhāṭṭhaka level. Again, we do not need to get into details, but it is essential to make that connection. For those who are interested, details at “The Origin of Matter – Suddhātthaka.”

  • As we discussed, those “gross or dense rūpa” that we detect with the five senses are the only rūpa that modern science is aware of.
  • However, when scientists started studying “matter’ at very low density (like electrons and photons), they ran into problems. “Matter” at the sub-atomic level behaves very differently, and those investigations led to the discovery of quantum mechanics. For example, electrons and photons do not obey the same laws as large particles like stones or tennis balls.
  • Even though scientists have made progress with quantum mechanics, they are still unable to explain some phenomena at the sub-atomic level. One key issue is that such “quantum particles” like electrons and photons seem to be interacting instantaneously across long distances. This phenomenon is known as “quantum entanglement.” See, “Quantum Entanglement – We Are All Connected.”

12. Those dhammā are kamma bīja lie below the suddhāṭṭhaka level. They interact with the mana indriya instantaneously.

  • All other types of rūpa detectable with the five physical senses are above the suddhāṭṭhaka level. However, some sub-atomic particles (closer to the suddhāṭṭhaka level) like electrons display the ability to interact instantaneously among themselves, just like dhammā. See, “Quantum Entanglement – We Are All Connected.” Quantum physicists are mystified by this effect.
  • However, the Buddha explained all that 2500 years ago. That is what I have tried to explain to the physics community over the past few years. They do not see that connection yet. But at some point, they will have to. For those of you who have a physics background, “Quantum Mechanics and Dhamma.”
Those Dhammā Could Bring Vipāka via Vipāka Viññāṇa

13. Under proper conditions (paccayā in Paṭicca Samuppāda,) kamma viññāṇa (or dhammā) COULD bring corresponding results (vipāka) and the associated viññāṇa are vipāka viññāṇa. That happens via all SIX sense faculties. As we discussed in previous posts, “cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhu viññāṇaṃ” through “mānañca paṭicca dhamme ca uppajjāti manō viññāṇaṃ.” All those are vipāka viññāṇa.

  • In other words, vipāka viññāṇa materialize via all six sense inputs (eyes, ears, tongue, nose, body, and mind.) We discussed that in several earlier posts on the Chacakka Sutta (MN 148.)
  • As we discussed in #2, #3 above, ONLY manō viññāṇa can also be kamma viññāṇa. Such kamma viññāṇa arise via “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra, saṅkhāra paccayā viññāṇa.

14. It is the MIND that generates saṅkhārā with INTENTIONS to do, speak, or think. Such kāya, vaci, and manō saṅkhārā lead to kamma done with actions, speech, and thoughts.

  • The strong saṅkhārā or abhisaṅkhārā generates kammic energy that are released to the world. Such energies are alternatively referred to as dhammā, kamma bija, or kamma viññāṇa. They can bring vipāka during a lifetime or bring future rebirths.

15. We have covered a lot of material in this post. It is not possible to go to details (if we do, we will not get to finish the discussion on Paṭicca Samuppāda for a long time!)

  • Feel free to ask questions. That is the only way for me to gauge whether I am proceeding too fast.
  • It is not necessary to try to learn Abhidhamma in a rush. However, it is a good idea to try to understand the basic concepts.
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