Our lives and existence are based on constantly getting into debt and then paying off debts. This latter is done by Nature whether we like it or not. When we steal, kill, lie, or do any of the dasa akusala, we get into debt, and the nature keeps track of that via kammic energy.
- We are reborn to pay debts. This is another way of looking at the cycle of rebirths. Nature will automatically make sure that the largest debts are paid off first; this is how the next existence (bhava) is determined.
- During a given lifetime, debts are paid off when suitable conditions appear; see, “Annantara Samanantara Paccaya“.
- Nature is the final arbitrator. A criminal may be able to get away with a crime by hiring a good lawyer, but will have to pay for the crimes in the nature’s court. Similarly, when we do something good, we will get the rewards regardless of whether we wish for anything in return or not. Most people do not realize this because of the time delay between the act (kamma) and its result (kamma vipāka).
1. When we do either a moral or an immoral act, that is done with an intention and has some energy associated with it. This is called kammic energy. That energy resides in the universe until spent or otherwise reduced by some means (this is related to quantum entanglement; see, “Quantum Entanglement – We are All Connected“). It is really the principle of energy conservation in physics.
- We can become indebted to a living being or to the “world as a whole”.
- There were no vinaya rules in Buddha säsana for about 20 years after the Buddha attained Enlightenment. When Buddha Dhamma started flourishing, unscrupulous people started becoming monks to live a comfortable life depending on the kindness of the devotees. The Buddha admonished them about the consequences of becoming indebted and started setting up the vinaya (“vi” + “naya”, where “naya” in Pāli or Sinhala means debt) rules to rein in those people.
2. When there is an energy imbalance, nature tries to bring it to balance. For a given individual (in the conventional sense), i.e., a life stream (absolute sense), the biggest imbalances are settled first.
- Thus at death when patisandhi takes place, the biggest kamma seed with highest imbalance come into play, and releases that energy by initiating the next birth in the corresponding “bhava“; see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein“. Thus the next “bhava” is determined by the biggest kammic seed at the end of the current “bhava” (this is really a simple interpretation of a complex process).
- During a lifetime (pavutti vipāka), in addition to the energy content, the prevailing conditions also come into play for delivering kamma vipāka or the release of kamma seeds. This is why we can prevent many bad kamma vipāka from come to fruition by acting with yoniso manasikara or by “being mindful”; see, “What is Kamma? Is Everything Determined by Kamma?“.
- In both cases (patisandhi and pavutti vipāka), “matching conditions” plays a big role; see, “Annantara and Samanantara Paccaya“. For example, a seed does not germinate if it is in a dry place; it needs to be in the ground with water and sunlight in order to germinate.
3. Getting back to the issue of coming to equilibrium, a stone is in equilibrium when it stays on the ground. If we pick it up and throw it up it goes up because we gave it some energy. But now it is not in equilibrium, and it will fall down to find its equilibrium position on the ground. The only difference with kammic energy is that the kammic energy could be released much later; it has to find suitable conditions to release that energy; see, “Saṅkhāra, Kamma, Kamma Bīja, Kamma Vipaka“, and “Paṭicca Samuppāda – Overview“; Thus the release of kammic energy is more akin to the process of germination of a seed; there is a time lag until suitable conditions appear.
- A seed, when placed in the ground, germinates and becomes a tree by releasing the energy that is trapped in the seed. When the energy is all spent, the tree will die. Unless the tree itself made more seeds during its lifetime, that tree is the only “result” of that original seed.
4. Through numerous lives in the past we have accumulated innumerable number of both good and bad kammic energy packets, or kamma bīja, or kamma seeds and we keep producing them in this lifetime too; some are big and some are small (actually, those done beyond 91 mahā kappā have lost their energy; like everything else in this world, kammic energy is not permanent either). The small kammic seeds bring in results (vipāka) during any lifetime, and the really big ones (kamma patha) are the ones that determine “bhava” for a new life at the cuti-patisandhi moment.
- Does that mean we have to remove all kamma seeds to stop rebirth, i.e., to attain Nibbāna? No. A new “bhava” is grasped at the “upādāna paccayā bhavo” step in the Paṭicca Samuppāda cycle; see “Akusala-Mula Paṭicca Samuppāda“. If one has removed ignorance (avijjā) and understood the true nature of the world, then there is no “tanha” and thus there is no upādāna at the “tanha paccayā upādāna” step, and thus no “bhava“, and no “jāti” or rebirth.
- However, in order to remove ignorance (avijjā), we have to purify our minds. For that we need to understand the true nature of “this world”, i.e., anicca, dukkha, anatta. For that we need to get rid of the five hindrances (panca nivarana) that are covering our minds and not letting the mind comprehend anicca, dukkha, anatta. That is where the removal of bad kamma seeds and accumulation of good kamma seeds (i.e., doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds) become important; of course “deeds” here include actions, speech, and thoughts.
5. The point is that every time we do a moral or an immoral act we generate a kamma seed that embeds the “javana power” of the thought that led to the act; see, “Javana of a Citta – The Root of Mental Power“. The kammic power associated with a moral act can be considered surplus in one’s “account” that can be used to enjoy things in life; an immoral act leads to a debt, i.e., it appears on the negative side of the ledger. If one does an immoral act against another living being, then one be in debt to that being until it is paid off; see, “Kamma, Debt, and Meditation“.
6. The nature tries to keep things in balance: the good kamma bring good results and bad kamma brings bad results when the nature implements this balancing act. In both cases, we can take advantage of this by arranging conditions for good kamma seeds to germinate and not letting bad kamma seeds to germinate; see, “What is Kamma? Is Everything Determined by Kamma?“. The development of good habits and getting rid of bad habits go along with this process; see, “Habits and Goals“, and “Saṃsāric Habits and Āsavas“. Please review these links carefully. All these tie up together.
7. Thus we are bound to this saṃsāra or the cycle of rebirths because we do things to make an “imbalance” either via moral or immoral deeds: good deeds lead to good rebirths and bad one to bad rebirths. They both extend the sansaric journey. However, it is essential to engage in moral deeds in order to avoid birth in the four lowest realms (apāyā), where the suffering is great AND also there is no opportunity to moral deeds. Thus one MUST do moral deeds until one attains Nibbāna.
- Moral deeds WILL have their consequences (they add up in the “plus side of the ledger”), whether or not one wishes for anything in return, i.e., the nature will pay back. However, if one does a moral deed AND wishes for something other than Nibbāna, then that is done with greed, and thus one is simultaneously doing an immoral act.
- Only an Arahant does not do any moral or immoral deeds that have kammic consequences that are potent enough to bring rebirth. All an Arahant does is low-level saṅkhāra or “kriya” (like walking and talking), and is “in equilibrium” with nature.
8. When one goes “off the equilibrium”, greed and hate intensify and one is likely do immoral acts to become indebted. On the other hand, when one is in some kind of a samadhi, the mind is close to equilibrium, and thus greed and hate are under control. If one attains rupavacara and then arupavacara jhānā then the mind gets even more closer to equilibrium. Samadhi attains perfection when one becomes an Arahant.
- This is why one needs to stay away from doing immoral acts, if one wants to get results in meditation. A purified mind can easily get to samadhi; see, “The Basics in Meditation“.
- One becomes indebted via greed, hate, or ignorance (here ignorance means not knowing the true nature of the world or anicca, dukkha, anatta); thus there is lobha vinaya, dosa vinaya, and moha vinaya.