Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)

Revised October 6, 2016; November 24, 2017; March 9, 2020; December 12, 2020; July 20, 2022

Dasa Akusala Connected to Saṅkhāra

1. One can do immoral acts with the body, speech, and mind (leading to kāya, vaci, and manō saṅkhāra); see “Saṅkhāra, Kamma, Kamma Bīja, Kamma Vipāka.” Manō saṅkhāra arise first automatically, according to one’s gati and the specific ārammana. Then some of them lead to vaci and kāya saṅkhāra, and that is when they become abhisaṅkhāra (strong kamma.)  Thus the way to reduce all bad saṅkhāra is to get control over bad vaci and kāya saṅkhāra. See “Correct Meaning of Vacī Sankhāra.”

As we know, “Paṭicca Samuppāda” processes leading to suffering start with “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra.” This means we do dasa akusala because we generate saṅkhāra due to avijjā (not fully comprehending the Four Noble Truths.)

These are ten immoral acts (dasa akusala). They divide into three categories, as follows:

Three manō saṅkhāra (immoral acts done with the mind):

  1. Abhijjā (covetousness; greed for other’s belongings)
  2. Vyāpāda (ill-will, hatred)
  3. Micchā Diṭṭhi (wrong views)

Four vaci saṅkhāra (immoral acts done with speech):

  1. Musāvāda (Lying)
  2. Pisunāvācā (slandering)
  3. Parusāvācā (harsh speech)
  4. Sampappalāpā (frivolous talk)

Three kāya saṅkhāra (immoral acts done with the body):

  1. Pānātipātā (killing)
  2. Adinnādānā (taking what is not given)
  3. kāmēsu micchācārā (not just sexual misconduct, but also excessive sensory pleasures)
Dasa Akusala Expand to Forty

2. In Buddha Dhamma (i.e., in nature), it is always one’s intention that matters. Based on that, each dasa akusala expands to 40. For example, it is not only stealing by oneself that matters. Also, getting someone else to steal, helping another’s act, and praising such action by another are included.

  • In another example, regarding micchā diṭṭhi, the following also count. Propagating micchā diṭṭhi to others, encouraging others to cultivate micchā diṭṭhi (say, for instance, that the rebirth process is not valid), or praising such practices.
  • That is how ten dasa akusala expand to forty.
  • There are ten suttā in the Kamma­patha­vagga of the Aṅguttara Nikāya that lists those “four divisions” for each of the dasa akusala, AN 4.264 through AN 4.273. English translations of those start with: “264. Killing Living Creatures.” You can click the “next” arrow at the bottom of the webpage to get to all ten suttā.
  • As one starts avoiding more and more of these forty actions, one will start feeling the early stages of Nibbāna or “nivana,” i..e, cooling down the mind. The constant stress and excited-ness of the mind will gradually ease. Also, see “Root of All Suffering – Ten Immoral Actions.”
A Sōtapanna Is Free of Only Micchā Diṭṭhi

3. First of all, it is essential to realize that only Arahant is free from doing any of these. Even a Sōtapanna may commit some of these at least once in a while. There are six things that a Sōtapanna is incapable of: killing a mother or father, killing an Arahant, injuring a Buddha, knowingly causing a schism in Saṅgha, and having micchā diṭṭhi or wrong views.

  • Thus, anyone below the Sōtapanna stage could break dasa akusala. Even a Sōtapanna has completely removed only micchā diṭṭhi. A Sōtapanna would not WILLINGLY commit any of the dasa akusala, but some COULD happen, except for those six mentioned above; see, “Key to Sōtapanna Stage – Diṭṭhi and Vicikiccā.”
  • It is essential to realize that one needs to AVOID them if possible. It becomes easier as one learns Dhamma to see the benefits of avoiding them.
  • However, a Sōtapanna has reduced lobha (extreme greed, especially for other’s belongings) and dōsa (hate) to reduced levels of rāga (craving for sense pleasures) and paṭigha (friction or tendency to get upset or angry); see, “Lobha, Dosa, Moha versus Rāga, Patigha, Avijja.”
Two Categories of Micchā Diṭṭhi

4. The first category is the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi (wrong views) discussed in #5 below.

  • The deeper level of micchā diṭṭhi is not comprehending the essential characteristics of “this world” of 31 realms; see “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma” and “Wrong Views (micchā Diṭṭhi) – A Simpler Analysis.”
  • Because of the ignorance of the complete worldview, one is likely to have the following three main wrong world views. (i) Everything has sprung without a cause (ahētuka diṭṭhi). (ii) Good and bad produce no effect (akiriya diṭṭhi). (iii) There is no afterlife (natthika diṭṭhi).
  • A common form of micchā diṭṭhi is to assume that if one obeys the five precepts, then one will be exempt from birth in the apāyā. That belief itself can lead to the birth of the apāyā; see “The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them.”

5. If one has a wrong worldview, one will likely commit immoral acts. They will have kamma vipāka leading to rebirth in the apāyā (the lowest four realms), i.e., in future rebirths. There are ten such specific wrong views or micchā diṭṭhi (sometimes just called diṭṭhi):

  • (1) No kammic benefits in giving, (2) no need to pay back debts (for what others have done for you), (3) no benefits of respecting Noble Ones and also yogis with abhiññā powers, (4) Kamma do not have vipāka, no kammic benefits of taking care of (5) mother and (6) father, (7) this world does not exist (“natthi ayaṃ lōkō“), (8) Paralowa does not exist (“natthi parō lōkō“), (9) there are no ōpapātika births (instant full-formed birth), (10) there are no Noble Ones and yogis exist who can see past lives.
  • For explanations on (7)-(10), see “Micchā Diṭṭhi, Gandhabba, and Sōtapanna Stage.”
  • In particular, para loka is where a gandhabba lives in-between consecutive births with physical human bodies; see Hidden World of the Gandhabba: Netherworld (Para Lōka).”
Niyata Micchā Diṭṭhi

6. What is akusala is to hold “niyata micchā diṭṭhi” 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 of the ten categories in the above paragraph, one has established wrong views (niyata micchā diṭṭhi). Such wrong views can lead to actions with kamma vipāka responsible for births in the apāyā.

  • The critical 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 world’s true nature, one would not be aware of that. That includes the validity of the rebirth process, life in other realms, an uncountable number of planetary systems like the Earth, etc.
  • 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 entirely removed by a Sōtapanna is the micchā diṭṭhi; see, “What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sōtapanna?“.

  • As explained there, an unimaginably massive amount of defilements is removed at the Sōtapanna stage, just via getting rid of micchā diṭṭhi, mainly through the comprehension of aniccā, dukkha, and anatta.
Only a Buddha Knows All About This World

8. A lot of you may be thinking, “How do I know all this is true? Is there any evidence for the existence of rūpa/arūpa lokā, apāyā (hell), or spontaneous birth?”.

  • There are many things we do not know about “this world.” We cannot rely on just science to verify/confirm these. Only within the last 100 years or so has science 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 cakkavāla (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 an 11-dimensional world, not the 4-dimensional world 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 with manō saṅkhāra (bad thoughts) in mind. Any of the vaci saṅkhāra (speech) or kāya saṅkhāra (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 from the correct worldview. Let us examine this below:

  • The fact that there is no discernible beginning to conscious life (see “Saṃsāric Time Scale, Buddhist Cosmology, and the Big Bang Theory“) 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 those reserved for the Anāgāmis).
  • The above fact means each sentient being had been related to any other sentient being at some point in this long sansāra (or samsāra, rebirth process). The Buddha said, “it is difficult to find ANY sentient being that was not your father, mother, or a sibling at some point in this long sansāra.” Infinity is a complex concept to grasp; see “Infinity – How Big Is It?“.
  • A fascinating book about such hard-to-grasp ideas (in science) involving infinity is “The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World” by David Deutsch.
  • Therefore, humans and ALL sentient beings are connected/related. This is why it is wrong to kill any living being, steal from anyone, verbally abuse anyone, etc. Those are the foundations of morality. This is WHY it is not good to do any of the ten immoral acts.
The intention is An Important Factor

10. The Buddha said, “Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi,” i.e., “Bhikkhus, I say that kamma is the intention involved.”  We always need to look at the intention to pinpoint whether or what kind of kamma was committed.

  • For example, if someone shoots a dog attacking a child, one’s intention here is to save the child. On the other hand, if someone is shooting a dog for “target practice,” there is no excuse. The life of a human is a million-fold more precious than an animal’s; see “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma.”
  • Sometimes it is impossible 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 typically, it is not wise to judge other people’s actions.
  • If it is a manō saṅkhāra (evil thoughts), the only person who even knows about that is the one who is committing it.

11. In many cases, it is possible for others to “see” when one is committing vaci or kāya saṅkhāra. But not always. Disciplinary actions against a child by a parent may appear to be kāya saṅkhāra (spanking) or vaci saṅkhāra (verbal threats), but the parent is likely to have good intentions for the child in most cases.

  •  Also, in many cases, no person can advise another on what to do when conflicting issues are involved. Is it OK to steal some food to feed one’s 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 “Details of Kamma – Intention, Who Is Affected, Kamma Patha.” This post provides a simple two-step process to evaluate a given situation.
Relative Weights of Kamma

12. One critical problem many people have is trying hard to avoid actions with relatively small kammic consequences while unknowingly doing things with stronger kammic consequences. Let us take an example: Suppose we have a large tank of water that is losing water due to many holes at the bottom. Some holes are pinholes, some are a little larger, and a few are big and lose water quickly. One would want to plug those large holes first. Then one would fix the medium-sized holes. The smallest or the pinholes are the last to be fixed.

  • The relative weights of the ten immoral acts are not easy to quantify. However, we can see that kāya saṅkhāra have higher “kammic potential” compared to vaci saṅkhāra if they are directed to the same living being; hurting someone physically is worse than verbal abuse.
  • Another example: Say someone has hateful thoughts about a particular person all day. 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 mettā (loving-kindness) towards that person and eliminate those hateful thoughts. We must always realize that we all are trapped in this constant struggle to find happiness in a world that is not set up to provide lasting happiness; see, “Aniccā, Dukkha, Anatta.”

2. Kammic consequences also depend strongly on the “consciousness level” of the living being against whom the immoral act was committed.

3. Dasa akusala and relative weights of different kamma are discussed in the following desana:

Related post: Origin of Morality (and Immorality) in Buddhism

Next, “Punna Kamma – Dāna, Sīla, Bhāvanā“, ……………..

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