Pāpa Kamma Versus Akusala Kamma

November 14, 2018; revised November 16, 2018 (#3 and #6)

Difference Between Akusala and Pāpa Kamma

1. While akusala kamma are “immoral deeds”, pāpa kamma are “highly immoral deeds”. That is the main difference.

  • In some English translations that I have seen, both pāpa kamma and akusala kamma are translated as, “bad deeds”. However, there is a huge difference.
  • It is critical to understand that if one has not removed the 10 types of micchā ditthi, it is POSSIBLE for one to commit pāpa kamma.

2. As we have discussed before, mōha is the stronger version of avijjā. If one has mōha, then one also has lōbha and dōsa, which are stronger versions of rāga (kāma rāga, rūpa rāga, arūpa rāga) and patigha; see, “Lōbha, Rāga and Kāmaccanda, Kāmarāga” and “Lōbha, Dōsa, Mōha versus Rāga, Patigha, Avijjā“.

  • We know that akusal-mūla Paticca Samuppāda cycles start with “avijjā paccaya sankhāra“, and NOT “mōha paccaya sankhāra“.
  • Before one starts focusing on understanding Paticca Samuppāda cycles, one must have reduced mōha to avijjā level.

3. Paticca Samuppāda (starting with avijjā) describes processes that lead to births in the sugati or “good realms” (human realm and above), as well as births in dugati or “bad realms” or apāyās (the four lowest realms).

  • One does need to apply Paticca Samuppāda to determine births done with pāpa kamma, but it is not even necessary: they INVARIABLY lead to births in the apāyās.
  • Put it in another way, pāpa kamma done with those highly potent apunna abhisankhāra ALWAYS lead to births in the apāyās.
  • The bottom line is that one is capable of doing pāpa kamma (does not mean one will always do) as long as one has one or more the 10 types of micchā ditthi. When one gets rid of all those micchā ditthi, one does not have mōha anymore; it is reduced to avijjā.
Sutta Descriptions – What Are Pāpa Kamma?

4. Pāpa kamma are described in several suttas, but let us focus on the Pathama Pāpadhamma Sutta (AN 4.207). I will just provide the translation to save space.

Bhikkhus, who is a highly immoral person (pāpō)? One who is engaged in the destruction of life or initiates, encourages, praises, helps destruction of life (in a habitual way) is a highly immoral person destined to be born in the apāyās…”.

  • The rest of the sutta lists six MORE deeds in the same way: Taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, immoral speech, Intoxication (drinking, taking drugs, etc), and micchā ditthi.
  • For example, the full description of the last one is: One who has micchā ditthi or initiates, encourages, praises, encourages others to have such views (in a habitual way).
  • It is important to note that just one action does not make one a pāpō” or a “highly immoral person”. There is a second related sutta: “Dutiya Pāpadhamma Sutta (AN 4.208)“.

(By the way, I just realized that I have been writing micchā ditthi as micchā ditthi in many posts. I will try to make the correction in existing posts. It is not a big error, but it is always good to follow the Tipitaka words as they are written).

5. The “Ducca­rita­ Vipāka­ Sutta (AN 8.40)” is another sutta that state eight immoral actions that could make one born in the apāyās. Duccarita” means “highly immoral character” so a “duccarita puggala” means the same as “pāpō” or “a highly immoral person”.

Here is the translation of that sutta.

(1) “Bhikkhus, the destruction of life, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also have a short life span.

(2) “Taking what is not given, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one is likely to face loss of wealth.

(3) “Sexual misconduct, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also be exposed to enmity and rivalry.

(4) “False speech (per Dhamma, not strictly lying), repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also be exposed to false accusations.

(5) “Divisive speech, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also be exposed to being separated from one’s loved ones.

(6) “Harsh speech, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also be exposed to disagreeable sounds.

(7) “Idle chatter, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also be exposed to others distrusting one’s words.

(8) “Intoxication (drinking, taking drugs, etc), repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to rebirths in hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of hungry ghosts; when one is born as a human after paying off most of the vipāka, one will also be exposed mental problems.”

6. There is also a set of suttas (AN 10.211 through AN 10. 220) that state that dasa akusala (taking a life, stealing, abusing sense pleasures, speaking untruth, slandering, harsh speech, gossiping, greed, ill-will, wrong views or micchā ditthi) lead to rebirth in the apāyās.

  • Therefore, pāpa kamma are the same as dasa akusala done with micchā ditthi. That means having micchā ditthi makes one’s mind “covered”, i.e., one has mōha.
  • It is important to note that some of dasa akusala can be done without micchā ditthi, and those are done with just avijjā.
Description of Pāpa Kamma

7. Those immoral actions in #4 through #6 above are basically all pāpa kamma.

  • It is important to note the emphasize on the phrase, ” repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated”.
  • For example, those who habitually go fishing and hunting would belong to this category. Also see #14 below.
  • Another way to say that is to say “cultivating (abhi)sankhāra“. One does such an action because it becomes one’s gati, i.e., it becomes a habit and it contributes to one’s character.
  • These are essentially the same as the descriptions in #4 above.

8. I want to emphasize that all of the following four actions contribute in each of the above listed immoral actions in #4 through #6 above (If done on a regular basis):

  • Doing it.
  • Assisting another person to do it.
  • Ordering (or instructing) another person to do it.
  • Praising someone who is doing it.

9. When one has mōha, one is capable of doing pāpa kamma without any remorse. That means one is not even close to being released from the apāyās.

  • This is a very simple fact that can save a lot of wasted time for many people. It is absolutely a waste of time to even try to understand Paticca Samuppāda if one still has any of the ten types of micchā ditthi, some of which are commonly held; see, “Miccha Ditthi, Gandhabba, and Sōtapanna Stage“.
  • I know I am going to make many people unhappy by making these statements. But it is better to learn the truth as soon as possible. We all have been trapped in this suffering-filled rebirth process for an unimaginable time, simply because we have not been able to understand this key point.
Nature’s Laws, Not Buddha’s Rules

10. These are not rules made up by the Buddha. Reducing mōha to avijjā level means one is not totally ignorant of the wider world of 31 realms. That REQUIRES an understanding of the laws of kamma, which in turn REQUIRES an understanding of the wider view of the Buddha (existence of 31 realms) AND a belief in the rebirth process.

  • That is because without that wider world view, it is not possible for laws of kamma to be effective: If there is no rebirth process, there are many things that cannot be explained; see, “Vagaries of Life and the Way to Seek “Good Rebirths”“.
  • Nothing happens without causes and conditions. Explanation of what happens around us REQUIRES the wider world view. Only a Buddha with a perfectly purified mind can discover these hidden laws of Nature.
  • Many people, especially in the Western world, have a hard time believing the above. They think Buddha is just “a better philosopher” who just came up with his own “world view”. However, if one can spend time examining Buddha Dhamma — including Abhidhamma — it will become clear.

11. Buddha Dhamma is self-consistent. The ten types of micchā ditthi are not made up by the Buddha. They really go against the nature of this world: kamma (actions) have consequences (vipāka); there is a rebirth process; there is a para lōka where gandhabbas live; there are instantaneous births in realms that we do not see, etc.

Sorting Out the Priorities

12. As I have discussed before, making progress is a step-by-step process. Before one can start on the Noble Eightfold Path, one must complete the mundane eightfold path where one gets rid of the ten types of micchā ditthi; see, “Is It Necessary for a Buddhist to Eliminate Sensual Desires?“.

  • A critical aspect of attaining the Sōtapanna stage is the comprehension of Paticca Samuppāda, how root causes lead to their effects where conditions (paccayā) play a key role.

13. These days, many people just start by trying to understand deep suttas that REQUIRE an understanding of Paticca Samuppāda and Tilakkhana.

  • However, many of them (including many bhikkhus) do not believe in rebirth, or that the concepts of para lōka and gandhabba are valid. They erroneously believe that gandhabba is a Mahayāna concept, but neither them or Mahāyānists understand what is meant by antarabhava; see, “Mental Body – Gandhabba“.
  • Getting to the Sōtapanna stage CANNOT be done by just reading a few posts. One has to make a real effort to understand the key concepts involved, and live a moral life.

14. Making progress on the Path requires working on two fronts:

  • One needs to understand the key basic concepts in Buddha Dhamma like dasa akusala and micchā ditthi, before tackling Tilakkhana and Paticca Samuppāda.
  • One needs to live a moral life and “the level of morality” will automatically increase as one’s understanding gets deeper and deeper.
  • Therefore, those two aspects go hand-in-hand. One cannot just focus on one aspect. Both are necessary.

15. It is also a good idea to understand some key details of how laws of kamma work.

  • Just because one kills some insects when doing yard work does not contribute significantly at all. The intention plays a key role as discussed in: “What is Intention in Kamma?“.
  • Furthermore, killing a human is much more significant than killing many, many animals because a human life much more difficult to get; see, “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma“.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email