Tamotama Sutta (Four Kinds of People)

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    • #48355

      I found this sutta particularly interesting. I’m not sure if anyone in this forum or Sir Lal has already discussed it. I’ll write about it based on my understanding and the teachings I’ve heard, but please correct me if you notice any errors. Tamotamasutta 

      Bhikkhus, these four types of people are found in the world.

      What four?

      1. The dark bound for darkness,

      2. The dark bound for light,

      3. The light bound for darkness

      4. The light bound for light.

      And how is a person dark and bound for darkness?

      It’s when someone is reborn in a low family—a family of corpse-workers, bamboo-workers, hunters, chariot-makers, or scavengers—poor, with little to eat or drink, where life is tough, and food and shelter are hard to find.

      And they’re ugly, unsightly, deformed, sickly—one-eyed, crippled, lame, or half-paralyzed. They don’t get to have food, drink, clothes, and vehicles; garlands, fragrance, and makeup; or bed, house, and lighting.

      And they do bad things with body, speech, and mind.

      When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a place of loss, an undesired place, the underworld, hell.

      That’s how a person is dark and bound for darkness.

      And how is a person dark and bound for light?

      It’s when some person is reborn in a low family …

      But they do good things with body, speech, and mind.

      After death, they’re reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.

      That’s how a person is dark and bound for light.

      And how is a person light and bound for darkness?

      It’s when some person is reborn in an eminent family—a well-to-do family of aristocrats, brahmins, or householders—rich, affluent, and wealthy, with lots of gold and silver, lots of property and assets, and lots of money and grain.

       And they’re attractive, good-looking, lovely, of surpassing beauty. They get to have food, drink, clothes, and vehicles; garlands, fragrances, and makeup; and bed, house, and lighting.

      And they do bad things with body, speech, and mind.

      When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a place of loss, an undesired place, the underworld, hell.

      That’s how a person is light and bound for darkness.

      And how is a person light and bound for light?

      It’s when some person is reborn in an eminent family …

      And they do good things through body, speech, and mind.

      After death, they’re reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.

      That’s how a person is light and bound for light.

      These are the four people found in the world.

      • The first person born in darkness and ending in darkness is one of the most common types in the world. It can often be observed in poor countries and harsh environments in rich or middle-income countries(for example, ghettos in the USA or Europe). Many people born there perform one of the ten Akusalas regularly. Others may do anantariya Kamma, like killing their parents. We can also see the phenomenon of drug cartels in Latin America, rebel groups in Africa, terrorist groups in the Middle East, and gang members in North America and Europe. The majority of these people were born into poverty or an unpleasant situation such as a physical or mental handicap or lack of some kind.
      • The second person is the one who, despite his unpleasant situation, resists the urge to commit the 10 akusalas to benefit from the Kāma ragā. This type of person is also seen in poor countries. He cultivates honesty and integrity and helps others despite their difficulties. At the supramundane level, these are those who, despite their births, accumulate Kusalas and even manage to attain one of the fruits of magga phala. Examples in the suttas are Venerable Arahant Losaka Thera and Venerable Arahant Sunita Thera. Despite their births in lower-class families, they reached the Arahant stage.
      • The third type of person is the second most common. These are people who have high social levels or leadership positions. Unfortunately, this type of situation is favorable to the accumulation of akusala. Think, for example, of a business manager who exploits his employees to the maximum to increase his profits. Think, for example, of all the celebrities and rich people who are involved in scandals of adultery, rape, pedophilia, exploitation, and fraud(paradise paper). Think of those political leaders who provoke wars, finance the arms industry instead of health, steal resources from weaker countries, and are directly or indirectly involved in the deaths of millions of people Like Genghis Khan, Idi Amin Dada, Alexander the Great, Henry Kissinger and Wu Zetian. Think of these religious leaders who keep their followers in destructive, erroneous beliefs. They even promise them paradise if they indulge in murder, rape, lies, terrorism, and the destruction of others for the sake of their beliefs, like Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi. Think of all those scientists who use their discoveries and research for selfish and dark purposes, like Wouter Basson. It’s all well and good to be wealthy and socially educated, but it’s a double-edged sword. The vast majority of the time, humans get hurt with this sword. They are so intoxicated by their fame and wealth that they always want more, no matter if it destroys others. Our Bodhisatta often avoided the life of a king or ruler. He ended up becoming an ascetic. The reason is that he fears being a king who makes unhealthy decisions that will land him in the Apayas. We can see it in the Temiya Jataka. On the supramundane level, think of those who had the opportunity to attain nibbāna but ended up falling into the Apayas. Devadatta and King Ajatasattu are examples.
      • The fourth type is a person who does not allow their wealth or other qualities to intoxicate their mind to the point that it prevents them from performing Punna Kamma. Think of all the rich, intelligent people, politicians, scientists, and celebrities who put their talents and possessions to the service of others. They are rarer than the others, but they are there. One of the examples that comes to my mind is soccer player Marcus Rashford, who donates several million dollars to vulnerable children. Robert Badinter, a former Minister of Justice in France, recently died. He passed a law for the abolition of the death penalty in France even though the vast majority of people were against him, and he even received death threats during his political career. I’m thinking of the YouTuber Mr Beast. He uses his popularity and wealth to help millions of people worldwide. All these people are doing a lot of punna kamma. However, at the supramundane level, the goal is not Punna Kamma but Kusala Kamma, which leads to magga phala. For example, Punna Kamma gives beauty, intelligence, wealth, etc. But what’s the point of having all this if it’s to be reborn in an apayas a few lives later?? The actual use of this is the establishment of conditions conducive to the development of Kusalas. Putting one’s possessions at the disposal of the Sangha, such as offering the four necessities (housing, alms, clothing, and medicine) to the Bhikkhus, building monasteries and stupas, using one’s intelligence to learn and teach the Dhamma, using one’s beauty to speak to others and encourage them to perform Punna Kamma and take an interest in the Dhamma, Use their social status to promote the Dhamma. Examples are Venerable Sariputta and Venerable Arahant Sona Kutikanna, who had an attractive voice. He did not use it for speaking or singing obscenities but for the best thing ever: teaching the Dhamma. Venerable Sariputta already had great wisdom before meeting Lord Buddha Gautama. It was this wisdom that led him to come out of his erroneous beliefs and become Sotāpanna with a single verse. His exceptional wisdom is a Punna Kamma, which facilitated the conditions for his Kusalas to bring him to the sotāpanna stage. The Punna Kamma is a support for the Kusalas Kammas. However, an anantariya kamma, which is extreme akusala, can block the arrival of the Kusalas. For example, Lord Buddha said that King Ajatasattu had the necessary wisdom to become a sotāpanna. However, he committed anantariya Kamma (he killed his father, King Bimbisara), which blocked his Kusalas. So Lord Buddha speaks mainly of those who, thanks to Punna Kamma, have good births and qualities conducive to achieving Magga phala. Anāthapindika is a good example. It was he who donated the Jetavanārāma monastery, thanks to his wealth, to Lord Buddha, and he became Sotāpanna. Not only does he win at the mundane level, but also the supramundane level. He will never again lack anything on the social level thanks to his donations to the Maha Sangha and those made to Lord Buddha, and thanks to reaching the sotāpanna stage, he will never be blinded by his glory to the point that he commits akusala leading to rebirths in the Apayas.

      The main lesson I learned is not to let ourselves be grossly intoxicated by our physical, material, and mental qualities. It is by being an arahant that one is no longer intoxicated by anything as he or she is no longer controlled by Kāma ragā, Rūpa Ragā, and Arūpa Ragā. Other Ariyas have subtle intoxicants. Anariyas have coarse and very visible intoxicants. See The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them?  We must use our qualities to get as close as possible to Nibbāna. Let’s say you are physically handsome. Instead of using it to manipulate others, why not use it to influence others to develop healthy habits? It is a psychological fact “people tend to listen to a person who has a good physical appearance”. It is not for nothing that Lord Buddhas all have attractive physical appearances. Beauty attracts people, and they will listen to whatever you say to them. I am sure many Anariya people who followed Lord Buddha followed him(in the first place) because of his beauty. There was even a story of a monk who was obsessed with the appearance of Lord Buddha. He was Venerable Vakkali, and he became an arahant. If you are healthy you could donate blood, plasma, platelets, and stem cells to hospitals in your country. If you are intelligent and understand the Dhamma, you can help others understand the difficult passages as well. In short, whatever personal qualities or skills you possess, put them at the service of the Dhamma and others. Doing our best to understand Tilakkhana (Annica, Dukkha, and Anatta) one can only progress towards the kusalas and move away from the akusalas. We will understand that there is no point in engaging in immoral actions, because it leads to more suffering and that even by doing simple moral actions we will sooner or later end up returning to square one by becoming those who are born and die in darkness. Our positive actions should only be the springboard toward Nibbāna. On attaining Nibbāna, positive actions will be natural, and negative ones will reduce from extremely destructive to weak until they become non-existent at the arahant stage. One will thus indeed be a person who goes from light to light on the supramundane level.

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    • #48359

      Thank you, Gad. It is an excellent sutta to discuss.

      • Yes. Unfortunately, only relatively few strive (or even know how) to go from “darkness to light.”
      • Nature’s magic show (“distorted sanna“) fools people. They think material things have kama guna, i.e., material wealth can bring long-lasting happiness: “Sotapanna Stage via Understanding Perception (Saññā).”
      • But it works the way. People do akusala kamma to gain and enjoy material things (for a short time) and pay dearly later.  
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      • #48360

        Thank you, Sir Lal 🙏🏿

        “Live now think later”. This is their motto, unfortunately, it is very widespread. Enjoy sensual pleasures at all costs and then end up in the Apayas.

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