Ānantarika Kamma – Connection to Gandhabba

June 2, 2018; revised December 14, 2021; June 8, 2023

1. Ānantarika or ānantariya comes from “na” + “an” + “antara“. That rhymes like “ānantara.” There are many words like this, the meanings of which remain unclear to many. Pāli is a phonetic language where some meanings can never be found grammatically.

  • Anatta is the negation of “atta” or having refuge/having substance: “na” + “atta” (which rhymes as “anatta”): there is no substance/does not hold any ultimate truth; see, “Anatta – the Opposite of Which Atta?“.
  • The word Anāgāmi comes from “na” + “āgāmi” or “not coming back”: “na” + “āgāmi”  rhymes as “anāgāmi.” It means “not coming back to the kāma loka.” He/she will attain Nibbāna from those Brahma realms.
  • Words like this cannot be analyzed grammatically. This is why current Pāli experts incorrectly interpret such words (and cannot interpret many keywords).
  • By the way, anantara means the opposite of ānantara; see, “Anantara and Samanantara Paccaya“.

2. Going back to the word “ānantarika“: “An” means food or, in this case, the kamma seed; “antara” means in storage, waiting to bear fruit. Thus, anantara (“an” + “antara”) means a kamma seed waiting to germinate. Now, “na” means “not”. Therefore, if a kamma can bring vipāka right away, it is “na + anantara” which rhymes like “ānantara.” Therefore, ānantarika means “not stored away to come back when conditions are right,” i.e.,  it will bring vipāka “right away.”

  • When one does a kamma that is NOT ānantarika, its kammic energy is “stored away” at “antara” and can bring suitable kamma vipāka when suitable CONDITIONS appear. Some kamma vipāka may not be realized for many lives simply because suitable conditions had not appeared.
  • However, an ānantarika kamma vipāka SHOULD  override any existing other kamma vipāka. Our life experiences (citta vithi)  ALWAYS start with a kamma vipāka (see, “How Are Paṭicca Samuppāda Cycles Initiated?“). Therefore, an ānantarika kamma vipāka SHOULD BE enforced right after the kamma is done, even before any other pavutti kamma vipāka (like a seeing, hearing event) is initiated, i.e., instantaneously. There should be no need for a delay until the death of the human.

3. However, an ānantarika kamma will bring vipāka “right away” ONLY in realms other than the human realm (ānantarika kamma are irrelevant in the animal realm). To see why that is, let us first look at what types of kamma belong to ānantarika kamma.

  • The BAD ānantarika kamma are five: killing one’s mother, killing one’s father, killing an Arahant, shedding the blood of a Buddha, and creating Saṅgha bhēda. These are listed towards the end of the following link in the Tipiṭaka: “Ñāṇakathā.”
  • Then, there are several GOOD ānantarika kammamagga phala (stages of Nibbāna) and attainment of (Ariya or anāriyajhānās.
  • Any of these, by definition, should lead to their vipāka immediately, meaning upon the death of the physical body. Most “regular kamma” bring their vipāka at an undermined time in the future. 

4. All of the five ānantarika kamma is done by humans. Therefore, we must look at the good ānantarika kamma to see how they work in other realms.

  • For example, if a dēva attains the Anāgāmi stage, that dēva will instantaneously be born in a rūpāvacara Brahma realm.
  • If a rūpāvacara Brahma attains the Arahant stage, that Brahma will instantaneously attain Parinibbāna, i.e., will cease to exist in the 31 realms.
  • In both those cases, the true meaning of the term ānantarika kamma will be enforced, i.e., the vipāka will take place without delay, instantaneously.

5. In the human realm, the enforcement of an ānantarika kamma will be DELAYED due to the following reason.

  • The primary “body” that is directly subjected to ānantarika kamma vipāka is the kammaja kāya, the “primary body” created by kamma for that bhava at the cuti-paṭisandhi moment. All living beings are born with a “mental body” (called “trija kāya” or three bodies) consisting of the kammaja kāyacittaja kāya, and utuja kāya.
  • Brahmās only have a subtle trija kāya consisting of a few suddhāṭṭhaka. Even though dēvas in the six dēva realms have a fourth and denser “physical body” or a “karaja kāya,” that is still fine/subtle. Thus, the trija kāya (specifically the kammaja kāya) of a dēva is not shielded sufficiently, and any ānantarika kamma vipāka will take place without delay.
  • This trija kāya in human and animal realms is given a unique name, “gandhabba.” It is well-shielded by the dense physical body. Thus, even an ānantarika kamma can not bring vipāka until the death of the physical body.

6. The trija kāya, or the gandhabba of a human, is shielded by the “dense human physical body.” Therefore, the instantaneous enforcement of the ānantarika kamma vipāka on the kammaja kāya cannot take place. It will have to wait until the death of the physical body.

  • When the physical body of a human dies, the trija kāya (which is given the special name gandhabba) comes out and is no longer shielded by the physical body. At that time, the ānantarika kamma vipāka will be enforced instantaneously.
  • This is why the term ānantarika kamma vipāka does not apply to a human in the true sense of ānantarika (no delay).
  • Therefore, the working of ānantarika kamma vipāka cannot be explained without the concept of gandhabba.

7. Now, we can explain many applications of the ānantarika kamma vipāka for humans.

  • On the “bad side,” for example, one can kill a parent or cause Saṅgha bhēda and can live a full life. However, at the death of the physical body, one would be instantaneously born in the apāyās (even if there is more kammic energy for the current human bhava left).
  • On the “good side,” one attaining a jhāna will be born in the appropriate Brahma realm only after death.  One attaining the Anāgāmi stage will be born in the appropriate Brahma realm only after death, and one attaining the Arahant stage would undergo Parinibbāna (i.e., cease to exist in the 31 realms and immediately get to Nibbāna) only at death.

8. Now, another question may come up regarding the following situation: an Arahant‘s or an Anāgāmi‘s gandhabba may have to come out of the physical body when performing a supernormal action (abhiññā). Wouldn’t that gandhabba undergo instantaneous transformation at that time?

  • The answer is no. The reason is that the gandhabba is still firmly connected to the living physical body (that is they can re-enter that body at any time). It is as if the gandhabba is still protected by the physical body; the shielding is still active.
  • This explanation also holds in the cases of astral projection and out-of-body experiences (OBE); see “Manomaya Kaya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE).” In the case of astral projection or astral travel, it is said that the astral body is kept “attached” to the physical body by a “silver cord.”

9. Now, we can address another related issue. There seem to be two issues that may be difficult to grasp.

  •  A LIVING Arahant is subjected to kamma vipāka DURING his/her life.
  • No kamma vipāka will come to an Arahant AFTER his/her death.

10. As we discussed above, a human Arahant will not attain Parinibbāna at the moment of attaining Arahanthood because of the presence of the human physical body. Thus, a human Arahant has to wait until the death of the physical body to attain Parinibbāna.

  • Now, attaining a magga phala does NOT mean the removal of kammic energies for the previous kamma (see below). Therefore, those kamma vipāka will still be effective for the Arahant until death.
  • This is why even the Buddha had to suffer from an injury to his toe, had back problems, and also had pains after the last meal.

11. There could be many more kamma vipāka left for an Arahant at the time of death. However, at death, the gandhabba comes out of the dead body and will instantaneously disappear from the 31 realms of this world, i.e., attain Parinibbāna.

  • Therefore, any remaining kamma vipāka will NEVER be able to materialize. They are said to have become “ahōsi kamma“or “ineffective kamma.”
  • So, now we have answers to the two questions raised in #9 above.

12. However, some kamma vipāka other than an ānantarika kamma vipāka will be overcome by attaining a magga phala (at least the Sōtapanna stage), i.e., some kamma vipāka will become ahōsi kamma. Of course, all kamma vipāka will become ahōsi kamma at Parinibbāna.

  • Let us discuss how some kamma vipāka can become ahōsi kamma upon attaining stages of magga phala.
  • To do that, we need first to discuss what happens at the Arahant stage.

13. One attains the final stage of Nibbāna (Arahanthood), not by removing or exhausting all kamma vipāka from the past.

  • One attains Arahanthood by cultivating one’s paññā (wisdom) to the level where one truly understands the real nature of this world. At that point, one’s mind will not be tempted by ANY desire (taṇhā) to be born ANYWHERE in the 31 realms. That is a CRITICAL POINT to understand.
  • Now when the gandhabba comes out of the dead body of an Arahant, it immediately undergoes the cuti (separation from the human bhava) due to the ānantarika kamma vipāka associated with the Arahant phala.
  • But now, that lifestream CANNOT grasp new bhava (paṭisandhi) anywhere in the 31 realms since there is no “upādāna” in the step of “upādāna paccayā bhava” in the Paṭicca Samuppāda process. This is because there is no taṇhā left for any existence in the 31 realms, and thus “taṇhā paccayā upādāna” step will not happen.

14. Therefore, even though there are many good and bad kamma vipāka may be associated with that Arahant, all those will have become “ahōsi kamma” (are not able to bring out vipāka), simply because one has lost ALL cravings (taṇhā).

  • This is why Angulimala became free of the apāyās, even though he killed 999 people. That was not an ānantarika kamma. Only those kamma listed in #3 above are ānantarika kamma.

15. However, in the case of the death of an Anāgāmi, the gandhabba comes out and undergoes cuti, but can grasp a bhava in the rūpāvacara Brahma realms reserved for the Anāgāmis. Therefore, a cuti-paṭisandhi transition takes place, leading to the rebirth in such a realm.

  • But an Anāgāmi‘s mind would not grasp a bhava anywhere in the kāmāvacara realms since he/she has lost all “upādāna” (tied to cravings via taṇhā) for such realms. Therefore, any previous kamma vipāka that could have led to a rebirth in the lower realms will have become ahōsi kamma.

16. Similarly, a Sōtapanna’s mind would not grasp a bhava in the apāyās. Any “apāyagami kamma” he/she had done have now become “ahōsi kamma“. If one has “apāyagami kamma vipāka” waiting to bear fruit (as almost all normal humans do), attaining the Sōtapanna stage will OVERRIDE those kamma vipāka.

  • To put it in another way: at the dying moment, a Sōtapanna WILL NOT grasp (upādāna) birth in the apāyās. His/her mindset has PERMANENTLY changed. Therefore, such kamma vipāka will NEVER materialize even in future lives for a Sōtapanna.
  • His/her diṭṭhi anusaya and ditthāsava have been permanently removed, and the three samyōjanā that binds one to the apāyās have been cut off; these terms describe the Sōtapanna attainment in different ways; see below.

17. Even though one who attained an anāriya jhāna would grasp a bhava in the appropriate Brahma realm, that is just for that particular cuti-paṭisandhi transition.

  • Since he/she had not attained a magga phala (and thus has not “seen” the futility/danger of “apāyagami actions”), a birth in the apāyās can happen in the future.
  • One with an anāriya jhāna has only SUPPRESSED cravings for kāma lōka. Still, such cravings remain as anusaya: One has not removed avijjā to the level of truly realizing the dangers of kāma rāga by comprehending Tilakkhana. Thus, kāma rāga anusaya remains together with kāmāsava, and one has not broken through the kāma rāga samyōjanā. These terms are explained in “Gati (Gati), Anusaya, and Āsava” and “Dasa Samyōjana – Bonds in Rebirth Process“.

18. Therefore, ultimately, it is the true understanding of Tilakkhana at various levels that lead to various magga phala.

  • However, understanding of Tilakkhana is possible only for one who has cultivated the mundane eightfold path via discarding ALL 10 types of micchā diṭṭhi.
  • To put it another way, attaining magga phala at various stages is associated with getting rid of dasa akusala at various levels.
  • Miccā diṭṭhi is the worst of the dasa akusala, and at the root of micchā diṭṭhi are the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi. The second level of micchā diṭṭhi is removed with the comprehension of Tilakkhana (that is when one starts on the Noble Eightfold Path).
  • All wrong views (diṭṭhi) are removed when one attains Arahanthood. When all wrong views are removed, all other nine akusala are prevented.  However, abstaining from other dasa akusala is necessary to remove wrong views, which are all interconnected.
  • I keep repeating this, but I am unsure how many pay attention to these basic facts. Many people seem to waste time comprehending Tilakkhana before getting rid of the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi.

Discussion at: “Anantariya Kamma, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicides.”

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