Annantara and Samanantara Paccaya

1. These are two important “paccaya” or relations in Buddha Dhamma. Anything in this world happens due to a reason (hetu, pronounced “héthu”). But just because there is a hetu (cause), the appropriate result (or the effect) may not occur until suitable conditions are realized.

2. This is the reason why kamma is not deterministic. In the post, “What is Kamma? – Is Everything Determined by Kamma?”, I stated this fact and here we will see the reason for it.

  • When we commit a good or a bad deed, the kammic potential or energy associated with that deed is deposited in a kamma beeja or a kamma seed. We will eventually get to the question of “where it is stored”, but we just need to keep in mind that a kamma seed is not a physical seed, but is an energy or a potential. This concept is described in the post, “Sankhara, Kamma, Kamma Beeja, Kamma Vipaka”.
  • The germination of a kamma seed, though, has some similarities to the germination of a physical seed, for example, an apple seed. The apple seed has the potential to bring about an apple tree, but the seed will not germinate until suitable conditions for germination are realized: the seed needs to be in soil, and water and sunlight are also needed to be provided for germination to take place.
  • In the same way, kamma vipaka (result of a past kamma) can come to fruition only when right conditions for the corresponding kamma seed to germinate are realized.

3. Let us look at the annantara and samanantara relations as discussed in the Patthäna Dhamma (book on “Conditional Relations” in Abhidhamma):

  • An” means food or in this case the kamma seed; “antara” means in storage, waiting to bear fruit.
  • Thus, annantara means basically a kamma seed waiting to be germinated.
  • Sama” means equal or similar. Thus samanantara (“sama” + “annantara“)means “matching conditions” with the annantara.
  • Therefore, annantara and samanantara go together. There must be an annantara (basically a cause or an stored energy in a seed) for a samanantara to be effective. On the other hand, if samanantara (right conditions for that cause to take effect or for the seed to germinate) is not there, a kamma seed at annantara cannot bear fruit.
  • By the way, ānantara (as in ānantariya kamma)means something entirely different; see, “Ānantariya Kamma – Connection to Gandhabba“.

4. Here is one example the Buddha gave: If one prepares a plot by preparing the soil, providing water, and if sunlight is also available, the samanantara for a seed to germinate is there. However, unless one starts off with an apple seed (annantara condition not met), an apple tree will not grow.

  • On the other hand, if one keeps the apple seed in a cool, dry place, it will not germinate, i.e., the samanantara condition is not met
  • When both annantara and samanantara conditions are met, i.e., when one plants an apple seed in a suitable plot, it will germinate and become an apple tree.
  • However, when an apple seed is planted a mango tree will not result from that but only an apple tree: thus samanantara will give rise to an effect that matches the “seed” that was in annantara.

5. More examples can be given these days that are related to modern technology. If a radio station is broadcasting a radio program, that can be taken as the annantara: the seed energy is available anywhere within a certain range. But one cannot listen to the program without a radio; even if someone has a radio, one cannot listen to the program unless the radio is “tuned’ to the correct frequency. When those conditions are met, one could hear the program even many miles away. The delay between the broadcast and reception is a very short time.

  • Kamma vipaka can be thought of bringing fruit via “instant communication” when the conditions become right. All kammic potentials are in “instant contact” with us via a concept similar to that described in quantum entanglement: see, “Quantum Entanglement – We Are All Connected”. Thus all potential kamma seeds are waiting in annantara and can bring about instant results when right conditions (samanantara) appear.

6. By being mindful, we can avoid many past bad kamma seeds from coming to fruition. We just make sure that samanantara conditions are not present. If one goes out at night in a bad neighborhood that is providing fertile ground for a past bad kamma seed to germinate and the kamma vipaka to take place.

  • In the same way, we can force good kamma seeds to germinate by providing the right conditions. For example, even if we have enough merits (a good kamma seeds) that could make us pass a test or get a job, unless we make right conditions (i.e., prepare in advance), we may not get the results.
  • But sometimes one gets an unexpected promotion or get better results than anticipated in a test if the kamma seeds are strong.

7. From our past innumerable lives we have accumulated innumerable kamma seeds both good and bad. Some of the stronger ones bear fruit no matter what we do, especially the anantariya kamma vipaka.

  • But in general, by being mindful (i.e., by NOT providing appropriate conditions), we can avoid many bad kamma vipaka; by making right preparations (i.e., by optimizing samanantara conditions), we can exploit those good kamma seeds.
  • A particularly important case is the bringing up a child. The parents and teachers have a huge responsibility for providing right conditions for that young mind to develop. In particular, association with bad friends can direct a young life in the wrong direction; in the same way, association with good friends, a nurturing environment, can bring about a productive, responsible adult.

8. One important cross-connection is matching “gathi” with similar “gathi” that we have discussed before; see, “Habits and Goals”, and “Sansaric Habits and Asavas”.

  • For example, when a gandhabba is waiting for a suitable womb, the annantara-samanantara paccaya come into play. A gandhabba, who in the previous lives had developed a certain habit, say heavy drinking, is attracted to a womb of a woman with similar habits, possibly an alcoholic or a drug user. The concept of a gandhabba is described in, “Manomaya Kaya (Gandhabba) and the Physical Body“, and “Manomaya Kaya and Out-of-Body Experience (OBE)“.
  • Similarly, a gandhabba, who in previous lives led moral lives, is bound to be attracted to a womb of the mother in a moral family. Just like in the above case, here also the samanantara for the gandhabba (where it can establish itself) is an environment that matches its own “gathi“.
  • However, no matter how one is born, one can still change one’s own destiny by making conditions for other good kamma vipaka to come to fruition and also by making sure not to make conditions for bad kamma vipaka to come to fruition.

In other posts we will discuss further applications of annantara-samanantara relations. One important application is in, “Transfer of Merits (Pattidana)- How does it Happen?“.

Next in the series, “Asevana and Annamanna Paccaya“, ..

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