Dhammā, Kamma, Saṅkhāra, Mind – Critical Connections

December 28, 2019; revised February 17, 2022


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, saṅkhārās (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 kammā create energies (or kamma bija) released to the world (nāma loka) 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 the 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 pulling the wagon.
  • All things and phenomena have the 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. 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 get a better price for the vehicle. 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 it will “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 vehicle. Either way, 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 some greed was 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 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 to get the basic idea. A mind creates ENERGY when it focuses on an ārammana and attaches to that ārammana. Then a particularly strong citta vithi (atimahāntarammana or mahāntarammana) 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!

Dhammās are also rupā 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 “nāma loka” or “immaterial world” stay there as dhammā. Therefore, dhammā are “out there” in the world, just like other types of rupā. Our world consists of rupa loka and nāma loka. While rupā are in the rupa loka, dhammā belong to the nāma loka.

  • Another name for kamma viññāṇa or dhammā is kamma bīja. In Buddha Dhamma, such energies also come under the category of “rupā.” More on that is below.
  • While scientists can detect the other five kinds of rupā with their instruments, they cannot detect dhammā. Only the mana indriya in the brain can detect dhammā and pass them over to the hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind.)
  • The world 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 “rupā rupā” or simply “rupā.” There are sounds that we hear (sadda rupā.) Things that we smell are odors (gandha rupā.) We taste the essence (rasa rupā) in the food we eat. And we touch solid objects (phoṭṭhabba rupā.)
  • On the other hand, “nāma loka” has records (namagotta) of all the “mental aspects” like vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa. It also keeps records of kammic energies that we produce, which are dhammā.
  • Dhammās are in a different category compared to other types of “tangible rupā.” 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 “rupā.”

  • With advances in physics, it is now well-established that matter and energy are indistinguishable. For example, now scientists accept that light consists of particles (photons.)
  • We can see some of those “rupā,” i.e., rupa rupa. We also know how other types of rupa arise. For example, “sadda rupā” are sound energy. Still, scientists know that sound propagates through the air via “pressure waves.” We are familiar with the five types of “rupā” that we sense with our five physical senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body.)
  • Scientists cannot detect dhammā because they have tiny energies. They think memories are “stored in the brain.” That is not compatible with the ability of some children to recall past lives. Of course, the Buddha could remember 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 by the mana indriya.) Dhammā are “Vedanākkhandho … pe … viññāṇakkhandho, yañca rupāṃ anidassanaṃ appaṭighaṃ dhammāyatana pariyāpannaṃ..

  • That verse is in “2.3.2. Dukanikkhepa” of the Dhammasaṅgaṇī under subsection Sanidassanaduka.
  • The critical point to remember is that dhammās 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 generally 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 rupā 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 interested, details are at “The Origin of Matter – Suddhātthaka.”

  • As discussed, those “gross or dense rupā” that we detect with the five senses are the only rupā that modern science can detect.
  • However, scientists ran into problems when they started studying “matter” at very low densities (like electrons and photons). “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 still cannot 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 rupā 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.” This effect mystifies quantum physicists to this date.
  • However, the Buddha explained all that 2500 years ago. I have tried to explain this 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 with 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 materializes 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. The MIND 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. Such energies can be called 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 impossible to go into details (if we do, we will not get to finish the discussion on Paṭicca Samuppāda for a long time!)

  • It is not necessary to try to learn Abhidhamma in a rush. However, trying to understand the basic concepts is a good idea.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email