Revised October 6, 2016
1. One can do immoral acts with the body, speech, and mind (leading to kaya, vaci, and mano sankhara); see, “Sankhara, Kamma, Kamma Beeja, Kamma Vipaka“. Actually, one starts committing mano sankhara first, some of which lead to vaci and kaya sankhara. These are called ten immoral acts (dasa akusala). The ten immoral acts are divided into the three categories as follows:
Three mano sankhara (immoral acts done with the mind):
- Abhijja (covetousness; greed for other’s belongings)
Vyapada (ill-will, hatred)
Micca Ditthi (wrong views)
Four vaci sankhara (immoral acts done with speech):
- Musavada (Lying)
parusavaca (harsh speech)
Sampappalapa (frivolous talk)
Three kaya sankhara (immoral acts done with the body):
- Panatipata (killing)
Adinnadana (taking what is not given)
kamesu miccacara (not just sexual misconduct, but also excessive of sense pleasures)
2. As one starts avoiding more and more of these ten actions, one will start feeling early stages of Nibbana or “nivana“, i..e, cooling down of the mind. The constant stress, excited-ness of the mind will gradually ease. Also see, “What is Kama? – It is not Just Sex“.
3. First of all, it is important to realize that only an Arahant is totally free from doing any of these; even a Sotapanna may commit some of these at least once -in-a-while. There are six things that a Sotapanna is incapable of: killing mother or father, killing an Arahant, injuring a Buddha, knowingly causing schism in Sangha, and having micca ditthi or wrong views.
- Thus it is inevitable that dasa akusala could be broken by anyone below the Sotapanna stage. Even a Sotapanna has completely removed only micca ditthi. A Sotapanna would not WILLINGLY commit any of the dasa akusala, but some COULD happen, except for those six mentioned above; see, “Key to Sotapanna Stage – Ditthi and Vicikicca“.
- What is important is to realize that these are to be AVOIDED if at all possible. It becomes easier as one learns Dhamma and see the benefits of avoiding them.
- However, it must be noted that a Sotapanna has reduced lobha (extreme greed, especially for other’s belongings) and dosa (hate) to reduced levels of raga (craving for sense pleasures) and patigha (friction or tendency to get upset or angry); see, “Lobha,Dosa, Moha versus Raga, Patigha, Avijja“.
4. Most terms above are clear, but many people may not be aware of what micca ditthi (wrong views) is. Micca ditthi is basically not comprehending the basic characteristics of “this world” of 31 realms; see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma” and “Wrong Views (Micca Ditthi) – A Simpler Analysis“.
- Because of the ignorance of the complete world view, one is likely to have three main wrong world views: (i) everything has sprung without a cause (ahetuka ditthi), (ii) good and bad produce no effect (akiriya ditthi), and (iii) there is no after-life (natthika ditthi).
- A common form of micca ditthi is to assume that if one obeys the five precepts, then one will be exempt from birth in the apayas. That belief itself can lead to the birth in the apayas; see, “The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them“.
5. If someone has these world views, one is likely to carry out immoral acts and acquire kamma vipaka that will lead to rebirth in the apayas (the lowest four realms) at some point in the future, i.e., in future rebirths. There are ten such specific wrong views or micca ditthi (sometimes just called ditthi):
- View that no such thing as: (1) kammic benefits in giving, (2) paying back debts (for what others have done for you), (3) benefits of respecting Noble Ones and also yogis with abhinna powers, (4) kamma vipaka or kammic benefits of taking care of (5) mother and (6) father, (7) this world does not exist (“natti ayan loko“), (8) Paralowa does not exist (“natti parö loko“) , (9) opapatika birth (instant full-formed birth) in realms other than the human and animal realms, (10) Noble ones and yogis exist who can see past lives.
- For explanations on (7)-(10), see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma“.
- In particular, paralowa is where a human lives in between consecutive human births as a gandhabba; see, “Hidden World of the gandhabba: Netherworld (Paralowa)“.
6. What is akusala is to hold “niyata micca ditthi” or “established wrong views”, i.e., one is not even prepared to consider, say, that there is a rebirth process. Thus if one has unwavering doubts about any one of the ten categories in the above paragraph, then one is said to have established wrong views (niyata micca ditthi), which is said to lead to birth in the apayas.
- The key point is that when one has established wrong views, one looks at the world differently without realizing that there are consequences for one’s actions. Without a Buddha explaining the true nature of the world (rebirth process, life in other realms, uncountable number of planetary systems like the Earth, etc), one would not be aware of that fact.
- As scientists are finding out, there are many things in nature that we do not experience/understand. For example, scientists can only account for 4% of the mass of the universe; they cannot account for the rest (Google “dark matter” or “dark energy”). Thus one needs to keep an open mind and learn more Dhamma to see whether all these make sense.
7. The only akusala completely removed by a Sotapanna is the micca ditthi; see, “What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sotapanna?“. As explained there, an unimaginably huge amount of defilements is removed at the Sotapanna stage, just via getting rid of micca ditthi, mainly through the comprehension of anicca, dukkha, anatta.
8. A lot of you may be thinking “How do I know all this is true? Is there any evidence for the existence of rupa/arupa lokas, apayas (hell), or spontaneous birth?”.
- There are a lot of things we do not know about “this world”. We cannot rely on just science to verify/confirm these. Only within the last 50 years or so that science has accepted that our world is bigger than a few galaxies (now science has confirmed that there are billions of galaxies). Whereas the Buddha stated that chakrawata (star systems or planetary systems) come into existence all the time, science has confirmed that only within the past 100 years; see, “Dhamma and Science – Introduction“.
- Furthermore, the newest findings (yet unconfirmed) in string theory indicate that we live in a 11-dimension world, not the 4-dimension world that we experience. For a look at different dimensions, see, “What Happens in Other Dimensions“. Thus, more of Buddha’s teachings will be confirmed with time.
9. It is easy to see that all immoral deeds start as mano sankhara (bad thoughts) in the mind. Any of the vaci sankhara (speech) or kaya sankhara (bodily actions) are done with greed, hate, or not knowing the true nature of the world (ignorance). In particular, the basis for moral behavior comes out of the correct world view. Let us examine this below:
- The fact that there is no discernible beginning to life (see, “Sansaric Time Scale“) means all of us have been going through this rebirth process for an unimaginably long time. Thus we have been born in most of the 31 realms of existence. Not only that, we have been born innumerable times in EACH of those realms (except the realm that is reserved for the Anagamis).
- The above fact means each sentient being had been related to any other sentient being at some point in this long sansara (rebirth process). The Buddha said, “it is difficult to find ANY sentient being that was not you father, mother, or a sibling at some point in this long sansara“. Infinity is a concept that is hard to grasp; see, “Infinity – How Big Is It?“.
- An interesting book that talks about such hard to grasp ideas (in science) involving infinity is, “The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World” by David Deutsch.
- Therefore, we, meaning not only us humans but ALL sentient beings, are connected/related to each other. This is why it is wrong to kill any living being, steal from anyone, verbally abuse anyone, etc. This is the basis for morality. This is WHY it is not good to do any of the ten immoral acts.
Intention is An Important Factor
1. The Buddha said, “Cetana ham Bhikkhave kamman vadami“, i.e., “Bhikkhus, I say that kamma is intention”. We always need to look at the intention to pinpoint whether or what kind of kamma was committed.
- Let us take an example: if someone shoots a dog that is attacking a child, one’s intention there is to save the child. On the other hand, if someone is shooting a dog for “target practice”, then there is no excuse. The life of a human is million-fold more precious than that of an animal; see, “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma“.
- Sometimes it is not possible to judge the kammic consequences just by looking at the particular act. Only the person committing the act will know whether it is a good or bad intention. Thus normally it is not wise to judge other people’s actions.
- If it is a mano sankhara (bad thoughts), the only person who even knows about that is the one who is committing it.
2. In many cases, it is possible for others to “see” when one is committing vaci or kaya sankhara. But not always. Disciplinary actions against a child by a parent may appear to be kaya sankhara (spanking) or vaci sankhara (verbal threats) , but the parent is likely to have good intentions for the child in most cases.
- Also, in many cases, it is not possible for any person to advice another on what to do when conflicting issues are involved. Is it OK to steal some food to feed one’s own kids when they are crying in hunger? Is it OK to spank a child when the child is misbehaving? Only the parent can make that decision based on the circumstances.
Also see, “What is Intention in Kamma?“.
Relative Weights of Kamma
1. One critical problem many people have is that they try hard to avoid actions with relatively small kammic consequences, while unknowingly doing things that have stronger kammic consequences. Let us take an example: Suppose we have a large tank of water which is losing water due to many holes at the bottom. Some holes are pin holes, some are a little larger, and there are a few holes that are big and losing water fast. Obviously, one would want to plug those large holes first. Then one would fix the medium-size holes and those pin holes are the last to be fixed.
- Relative weights of ten immoral acts are not easy to quantify. However, we can clearly see that kaya sankhara have higher “kammic potantial” compared to vaci sankhara if they are directed to the same living being; hurting someone physically is worse than verbal abuse.
- Another example: Say someone has hateful thoughts of a particular person all day long. That could be worse than just saying something to that person and “getting the load off the mind”. However, even that is not necessary. The best solution is to develop metta (loving kindness) towards that person, and get rid of those hateful thoughts. We always need to realize that we all are trapped in this constant struggle to find happiness in a world that is not setup to provide lasting happiness; see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta“.
2. Kammic consequences also depend strongly on the “consciousness level” of the living being against whom the immoral act was committed. Killing a human will have far more stronger consequences compared to killing an animal. This is discussed in the essay, “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma“.
Related post: Origin of Morality (and Immorality) in Buddhism
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