Revised September 1, 2018; March 2, 2020
1. A strong kamma can bring vipāka in the future. The mind releases a bit of energy and that is a kamma bīja (or kamma bhava.) Where are those kamma bīja/bhava are “located”? That is a bit hard to explain because we have no “feel” for mental phenomena. We have a hard time connecting with anything that is not discernible to our five physical senses. We need to see, hear, taste, smell, or touch to feel confident that “something is real”.
- Yet, if one makes an effort, it is quite possible to get a good idea of what these are. Modern science helps here too.
- If someone is serious about figuring this out, I would recommend reading the posts, “Difference between a Wish and a Determination (Pāramitā)” and, mainly, “Recent Evidence for Unbroken Memory Records (HSAM)” first.
2. From the second post above, It is clear that complete records of ALL our past activities during even just this life will be impossible to be “stored” in the neurons in the brain. Some people can remember EVERYTHING that happened to them over many years, in minute detail.
- The Buddha said those memories are in manō lōka (“nāma thalaya” in Sinhala) which could be called the “mind plane”; those memories in the manō lōka come to our mind via mana indriya in the brain: “Indriyakathā” (no details given in this link).
- The “storage” is not in a physical device like a tape. Manō lōka is devoid of any material things; it is all “nāma” and no matter.
- The closest analogy we have to the mental plane is the “dream world”. When we dream, we can “hear”, “see” and “do” things but it is all “nāma”. When we “playback” memories, it is somewhat like seeing a dream.
- We can recall our memories (whatever we can remember) very quickly. If we have a strong memory of some event, even from many years ago, we can recall it in our mind instantaneously. We just think about it and we can “see” it playback with sounds and the background just like it happened. Our minds can connect to the “mind plane” and recall things without a delay; see, “Amazingly Fast Time Evolution of a Thought (Citta)“.
- In this “recall process”, the brain acts as the intermediary; the brain (actually the mana indriya in the brain) acts like a “transmitter” and a “receiver” in communications with the mental plane. As we get old, the brain gets weaker and thus the “recall power” gets diminished. Meditation (especially dhamma vicaya or contemplation on dhamma concepts) helps keep the brain healthy.
- It is just that some (few) people are born with the ability to recall ANYTHING from this life, as that post on memory records (HSAM) described. This ability can be also cultivated by developing abhiññā powers as I discussed in another post.
3. When we “wish or hope for something” that thought will have a record of that in the manō lōka too; later, we can recall that we made such a “wish”.
- While a “nāmagotta” (I have written this as nāma gotta too) is just a record, a wish has certain energy in it, but if not cultivated by further thinking and doing things relevant to that wish, that energy will soon fade away.
- When we make a “determination” that has more “javana power” than just a “wish” and such records are stronger, i.e., they do not fade away quickly.
- Our wishes, determinations, cravings for things, future plans, etc are all saṅkhāra (moral and immoral). Some of them are strong and become abhisaṅkhāra. They all lead to “kamma bīja (seeds)” or varying strengths. Some are strong enough to lead to rebirths; others bring vipāka during a lifetime. They can be good or bad.
- Thus “Dhammo have rakkhati dhammacāriṃ” or “dhamma will guide those who live according to dhamma” applies to both “good” and “bad” dhamma. Moral people will be guided upwards, and immoral people will be guided downward. Mother nature is neutral; each one chooses which way to proceed. However, the results are ALWAYS according to kamma or actions; see, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha” +” Sama+uppäda“.
4. Records of both past “nāmagotta” and the mental energies associated with “future plans” (“kamma bīja”) are in the mind plane. The difference is that past “nāmagotta” are permanent and have no energy to do anything. On the other hand, the energies for “future plans” (“kamma bīja”) are in flux and can get stronger or fade away.
- However, the record for even a determination (whether or not fulfilled yet) will be recorded in the mind plane, because just after passing away it is in the past and that thought becomes a record in “nāmagotta”. For example, if one makes a determination to kill another person, that thought will be recorded in the mental plane as a nāmagotta. In addition, there will be a tentative record of a “kamma bīja” associated with the future too. The more he thinks and plans, the stronger the “kamma bīja” gets. If, somehow he comes to his senses and discard that thought the “future” imprint (and associated energy) will fade away, and there will not be a “kamma bīja” associated with it anymore.
- When one is thinking about a good or a bad act, it has not acquired the “full kammic potential”, i.e., it is said that the “kamma patha” is not complete. If that person ended up killing the other person, then the “kamma patha” is complete and there will be a “kamma bīja” established that will be there up to 91 mahā kappā (a mahā kappa is the lifetime of a universe, roughly 30 billion years).
- If that strong “kamma bīja” brings about a bad rebirth thus depleting its energy, at that point that result (new birth) now becomes a “nāmagotta” or just a record.
- This is a simple overview of what happens; if one contemplates it, one should be able to get an idea of the concept.
5. Depending on the nature of the deed, a “kamma bīja” may be in different types of “bins”, called “kamma bhava”.
- For example, if someone cultivates rupa jhānā, then the associated kamma bīja will be in the “rupa loka bhava” or simply, “rupa bhava”. If another cultivates arupa jhānā (one of the highest four jhānā), then the associated kamma bīja will be in “arupa bhava” and when that kamma bīja releases its energy, he/she will be born in the arupa lōka.
- All other (abhi)saṅkhāra will bring about vipāka in the kāma lōka (deva, human realms and the four lowest realms). We will discuss this in more detail in the next post.
- To summarize: When we do a kamma (abhisaṅkhāra), we generate certain energy called a kamma bīja. Those energies will be in the appropriate “bhava” in the mind plane. When the vipāka associated with a kamma bīja is experienced, that energy is spent. Only a record of that (nāmagotta) survives in the mind plane.
6. Here is a chart that summarizes the above:
Click to open and print the above chart: Mind Plane Drawing
- As the chart shows, we make “kamma bīja” of varying strengths in various “bhava” during a lifetime that will lead to more rebirths as well as uncountable kamma vipāka during those rebirths.
6. Another important point is that there are two ways to “bypass” a strong “kamma bīja” associated with such a “kamma patha” of, say, killing of a human.
- He could realize the enormity of the deed, ask for forgiveness in his mind (genuinely), and start engaging in moral deeds, then he may be able to “wear out” some of the energy of that “kamma bīja”. More importantly, if he can cultivate Ariya Metta Bhavana, he may be able to wear it out completely (unless it is one of the ānantariya kamma, like killing a parent); see, “5. Ariya Metta Bhavana“.
- The other way is of course to attain the Arahanthood. Unless that particular “kamma seed” brings about the vipāka before that Arahant passes away, it will become null at the death of the Arahant.
- Furthermore, if that “kamma seed” is not that strong and does not bring vipāka within 91 mahā kappā, then it will become null and void too. Only the “nāmagotta” are permanent, “kamma bīja” are waiting for appropriate conditions to bring vipāka and are changing with time. However, “nāmagotta” just records, but “kamma bīja” have the energy to bring about results (vipäka).
7. There are special cases where a “kamma bīja” (and associated “kamma bhava”) WILL NOT change. An ānantariya kamma establishes a “kamma bīja” (and “kamma bhava”) that WILL bring about vipāka at the end of the current life without exception.
On the immoral side, there are five ānantariya kamma that WILL bring rebirth in the apāyā at the end of this life (i.e., when one dies). Those are, killing of mother, father, or an Arahant, injuring a Buddha, and causing a schism in Saṅgha. See, “Parikuppa Sutta (AN 5.129).”
- On the “moral side”, all stages of Nibbāna can be thought of as “anatariya kamma”. For example, when one attains the Sotāpanna stage, he/she WILL be born only according to that “Ariya bhava” or that special kammic energy; thus a rebirth in the lowest four realms WILL NOT happen.
- Another interesting point is that when a Bodhisattva cultivates “pāramitā” to become a Buddha, what he is doing is to establish a very strong “kamma bīja” over innumerable lives. But at some point that “kamma bīja” gets fully established and at that point, the Bodhisattva gets “niyata vivarana” (confirmation of attaining the Buddhahood or “Buddha bhava”) from a Buddha at that time.
The above concepts are looked at from a bit different perspective in, “Memory, Brain, Mind, Nama Loka, Kamma Bhava, Kamma Vipaka“. Of course, they are consistent!
In the next post, we will discuss how different types of “bhava” are fueled by our actions: “Gati and Bhava – Many Varieties“, ………..