Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

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Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:19 am

I'm trying to pin down the Theravāda view on how kamma can produce results much later in time. As I understand it kamma is thought to accumulate (upacita) and at the moment of death to ripen in the form of one's rebirth destination (gati). What I'm interested in the accumulation. Is there a view on how this accumulation happens that parallels the Yogcāra idea of the ālayavijñāna as a storehouse for karmic seeds? What is the connection between a short-lived kamma (which after all is just cetanā) and the vipāka that ripens years or even lifetimes later.

I'd appreciate some pointers to traditional sources which might discuss this issue. Is it discussed in the Kathāvatthu? Pāli or English is fine.

Thanks
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:25 am

Hi Jayarava,

The Abhidhammatthasangaha is a key Theravada summary of Abhidhamma and later Commentary. That's probably a good place to find a summary of the Theravada POV.

A PDF of Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation and notes (based on earlier work by others) is available here:
viewtopic.php?f=18&t=826

My (not particularly technical) understanding is that the Theravada didn't develop the ālayavijñāna (storehouse) concept, and that the idea is that each moment of consciousness just conditions future moments.

Here are a few extracts that may be relevant...

Page 7.
A second distinguishing feature of the Abhidhamma is the dissec-
tion of the apparently continuous stream of consciousness into a suc-
cession of discrete evanescent cognitive events called cittas, each a com-
plex unity involving consciousness itself, as the basic awareness of an
object, and a constellation of mental factors (cetasika) exercising more
specialized tasks in the act of cognition. Such a view of consciousness,
at least in outline, can readily be derived from the Sutta Piμaka’s analy-
sis of experience into the five aggregates, among which the four mental
aggregates are always inseparably conjoined, but the conception remains
there merely suggestive. In the Abhidhamma Piμaka the suggestion is
not simply picked up, but is expanded into an extraordinarily detailed
and coherent picture of the functioning of consciousness both in its
microscopic immediacy and in its extended continuity from life to life.


Page 221
§36 The Mind at the Time of Death
Thereafter, attending to that object thus presented, the stream of
consciousness—in accordance with the kamma that is to be matured,
whether pure or corrupted, and in conformity with the state into which
one is to be reborn—continually flows, inclining mostly towards that
state. Or that rebirth-productive kamma presents itself to a sense door
in the way of renewing.

NOTE:
In the way of renewing (abhinavakaraoavasena): that is, the kamma
presenting itself does not appear as a memory image of something that
was previously done, but it appears to the mind door as if it were being
done at that very moment.


Page 228
§41 The Continuity of Consciousness
So, for those who have thus taken rebirth, from the moment imme-
diately following the cessation of the rebirth-linking (consciousness),
that same type of consciousness apprehending that same object flows
on uninterruptedly like the stream of a river, and it does so until the
arising of the death consciousness, so long as there is no occurrence
of a cognitive process. Being an essential factor of existence (or life),
this consciousness is called the life-continuum. At the end of life,
having become the death consciousness on the occasion of passing
away, it then ceases. Thereafter, the rebirth-linking consciousness and
the others continue to occur, revolving in due sequence like the wheel
of a cart.
Guide to §41
Immediately following ... the rebirth-linking: The rebirth-linking
consciousness is followed by sixteen moments of the bhavanga citta.
Thereafter a mind-door adverting consciousness arises, followed by a
process of seven javanas in which an attachment develops to the new
existence (bhavanikanti-javana). This cognitive process, the first in the
new life, takes as object the rebirth-linking consciousness; the javanas
consist in sense-sphere cittas rooted in greed, dissociated from wrong
views, unprompted. When this process ends, the bhavanga again arises
and perishes, and continues thus whenever there is no intervention of a
cognitive process. In this way the stream of consciousness flows on from
conception until death, and from death to new birth “revolving like the
wheel of a cart.”

Hope that helps a little.

:anjali:
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:02 am

Hi Mike

Thanks. I more or less understand the general Theravāda Abhidhamma model of consciousness - just not how it interacts with kamma. Thanks for the link to the various Abhidhamma resources. I'll have a trawl through, but having spent hours on this with no luck I was looking for a shortcut :-)

Cheers
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:34 pm

jayarava, does this help at all...?
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:51 pm

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:jayarava, does this help at all...?


No. Again the issue is carefully avoided. And again I'm not looking for general outlines of karma.

Here's a contrast. In the Sarvātivāda school they asked themselves how a short lived dharma like a cetanā could continue to act as a condition long after it had ceased. If you recall the paṭiccasamuppāda formula says imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati 'when this has ceased that ceases.' So how does the short lived cetanā continue to act as a condition. The Sarvāstivādins reasoned that if a dharma can function as a condition then it must be present in some form (it must exist). Past dharma can affect us now; and present dharmas will have an effect in the future. Thus dharmas must exist, at least enough to be a condition that will produce an effect, in the past and the future. Hence the school which was actually called Vaibhāṣya (those who follow the vibhāṣa) but came to be known by the name of their solution to this problem: sarva-asti-vāda 'the view that all [dharmas] exist.'

A number of other solutions were proposed to this problem. The Sautrāntikas used the idea of a seed (bīja) which germinated at the right time. This is related to the Theravāda idea of the bījaniyāma. The Yogacāra took this idea and added the idea of ālayavijñāna as a place to store the seeds.

So now I want to understand how the Theravāda approached this problem. If they did.
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 7:44 pm

Members,

Please note that this thread is the Classical Theravada section, which is here to allow technical discussion. Discussion about whether such technical discussion is important is off topic in this section. Please stick to the topic at hand.

:anjali:
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:45 am

mikenz66 wrote:Members,

Please note that this thread is the Classical Theravada section, which is here to allow technical discussion. Discussion about whether such technical discussion is important is off topic in this section. Please stick to the topic at hand.

:anjali:
Mike



Hi Mike

With respect, I'm seeking technical information of a specific nature about classical Theravāda thought. But since my request for specific information has met with generalised responses that don't address the question, I've been trying to define the question more precisely to see if anyone can come up with something better. If that's off topic I apologise, but I cannot see how it could be construed as a "discussion about whether such technical discussion is important".

Have I got the wrong thread to ask Theravādins about Theravāda citta theory and how it understands the link between kamma and vipāka? If so please direct me to the correct thread.

Regards
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:02 am

Latent tendencies (anusaya kilesā), are also not currently existing, yet they do allow results to manifest.

For example, an ordinary person, Stream-winner, or a Once-returner, all have a latent tendency to lust and anger. At the moment they may be entirely free from lust and anger, yet when a beautiful object is encountered, then lust arises, or when an ugly object is encountered, then anger or aversion arises.

In the case of the Arahants and Non-retuners, who have destroyed the latent tendency to lust and anger, even if they encounter the most beautiful object, no lust arises, and even when the most dreadful or painful object is encountered, no fear or anger arises.

The concept of a store-consciousness is only the idea of a soul by another name. Something permanent, unchanging, and personal that continues from one life to the next. I believe that the Theravāda rejects such a theory.

Volitional action (cetanā) is kamma. When repeated and made much of, it becomes a habit. Habits build character. Good habits are perfections (pāramī), which in future lives is a latent tendency to being charitable, virtuous, kind, determined, honest, wise, and so forth. Bad habits also build bad character, which in future lives manifests as a latent tendency to be greedy, immoral, cruel, lazy, dishonest, foolish, etc.

An Introduction to Kamma

According to the priority of giving results there are also four kinds of kamma:
  1. Heavy kamma, which produces its resultant in this very life or in the next. The jhānas are heavy wholesome kammas. Crimes such as matricide, patricide, the murder of an Arahant, wounding a Buddha, and causing a schism in the Saṅgha are heavy unwholesome kammas.
  2. Death-proximate kamma, which one does just before death. If there is no heavy kamma then this determines the next rebirth.
  3. Habitual kamma is any action that one does very often. In the absence of death-proximate kamma this determines the next rebirth.
  4. Residual kamma is the last in the priority of giving results. This determines the next birth in the absence of habitual kamma.
All the countless other kammas that do not take part in giving rise to the next existence, may give their results later in the next existence, the subsequent existence, or any future existence. Failing that, they may become defunct, and not give any result.

According to the time of giving results there are four kinds of kamma:
  1. Kamma that ripens in the same life-time.
  2. Kamma that ripens in the next life.
  3. Kamma that ripens indefinitely in successive births.
  4. Kamma that is ineffective.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:10 am

Hi Jayarava,
jayarava wrote:Have I got the wrong thread to ask Theravādins about Theravāda citta theory and how it understands the link between kamma and vipāka? If so please direct me to the correct thread.

No, not at all!

I was referring to a post that has now been deleted that was not addressing the topic. Your question is very interesting.

:anjali:
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:43 am

hello jayarava

Please understand, right from the word 'go' that I am extremely ignorant when it comes to answering questions 'technically' and referring to references, teachings and suttas.

That said (and I hope i am not contravening guidelines), you may like to read this work; I am in the process of reading it myself, but the text does touch on accumulated Karma....

I have not yet finished it, but it is certainly providing me with much information....
I am about to give the link to another member asking about re-birth on a separate thread, so forgive the duplicated reference, mikenz66.
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



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‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:23 am

Namaste Pesala,

Now we are getting closer to the heart of the matter. I think you are right to say that Theravāda orthodoxy would reject the ālayavijñāna as eternalistic. However the problem, to which it is the solution, remains. You hint that habits are karmically significant and I'd like to probe this a little more. For example you say:

For example, an ordinary person, Stream-winner, or a Once-returner, all have a latent tendency to lust and anger. At the moment they may be entirely free from lust and anger, yet when a beautiful object is encountered, then lust arises, or when an ugly object is encountered, then anger or aversion arises.


So my question is this. "Where is this anusaya?" For example is it included in the khandhas? Which khandha is it a function of?

In Abhidhamma, cittavīthi , terms what is anusaya? How does anusaya connect up to the rest of cittavīthi - I don't see it in the standard presentations. Presumably anusaya must either be an object that itself interrupts the bhavaṅga; or it has some kind of influence on the flow of cittas for any given sense-perception. But this influence seems not to be described in standard Abhidhamma manuals.

If a kamma is upapajja-vedanīya 'to be experienced at rebirth' then how does it have a delayed effect. We know that kamma is cetanā and that cetanā lasts only as long as a citta. A few mind-moments at most. Then it ceases. Having ceased, how does it act as a condition for anything? The problem is more acute for aparāpariya-vedanīya-kamma which is to be experienced in a subsequent life. What mechanism allows for delayed causality, because as I read the suttas this possibility is denied by paṭiccasamuppāda: imasmiṃ sati idam hoti (this being, that is), but also imassa nirodhā idaṃ nirujjhati (when this has ceased, that ceases).

How can kamma accumulate (upacita) and where does it accumulate? (While one can criticise the Yogacārins for inventing a place for kamma to accumulate, one begins to see why they might have wanted to do so!). How can the kamma continue to exist (or retain the ability to function as a condition) for a long time - a lifetime or more than one lifetime - and yet not have any effect until the right moment (e.g. at rebirth or at a subsequent rebirth)?

I must say I have become deeply fascinated by the subject and I'm also exploring how other Buddhist schools worked with this problem. But I feel it's vital to understand how the Theravāda deals with it (if indeed it does).
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:11 pm

Having arisen and ceased the volition will condition numerous other subsequent volitions. These may gather strength, e.g. anger may lead to harsh words, and harsh words may lead to blows, even to murder.

Although the kamma ceases at each moment, its effects do not cease.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

However, it's also possible that the anger will be followed by the wholesome volition of patience and compassion, or it may serve as a basis for insight into arising and passing away. In such cases, its effects will be short-lived. Perhaps it won't even arise as far as the verbal level if we bite our tongue, and recollect that we have undertaken the precepts to refrain from harsh speech.

Thus the unwholesome Dhamma of anger may be a condition for the arising of the wholesome Dhammas of self-restraint, compassion, or insight.
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby santa100 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 3:47 pm

jayarava wrote:I'm trying to pin down the Theravāda view on how kamma can produce results much later in time. As I understand it kamma is thought to accumulate (upacita) and at the moment of death to ripen in the form of one's rebirth destination (gati). What I'm interested in the accumulation. Is there a view on how this accumulation happens that parallels the Yogcāra idea of the ālayavijñāna as a storehouse for karmic seeds? What is the connection between a short-lived kamma (which after all is just cetanā) and the vipāka that ripens years or even lifetimes later.

Vism XVII.164 explains:
The former of these [two states of consciousness] is called “death” (cuti)
because of falling (cavana), and the latter is called “rebirth-linking” (patisandhi)
because of linking (patisandhána) across the gap separating the beginning of
the next becoming. But it should be understood that it has neither come here
from the previous becoming nor has it become manifest without the kamma, the
formations, the pushing, the objective field, etc., as cause.

Notice the highlighted part, the former case is rejected because it'd imply a static and unchanging kind of consciousness stream, which is a wrong view by ven. Sati and the Buddha reprimanded him at MN 38. The latter case is also rejected for it'd imply a brand new and totally independent consciousness stream that has absolutely nothing to do with the previous one, which leads to the "connection"/"accumulation" problem you've raised between the generated kamma here and now and the corresponding vipaka many lives later. So per the Vism, kamma and vipaka don't get stored into some kind of immutable and centralized "repository", instead they're continuously and dynamically re-inforced or weakened from life to life with the patisandhiVinnana acting as the "link". If it's static/unchanging, there'd be no hope for Ven. Angulimala to transcend his evil past as a notorious killer. The dynamic nature of kamma, just like other conditioned phenomena was what helped him attained the highest Fruit while only paid a relatively light "sentence" for his previous deeds:
MN 86 wrote:"Bear with it, brahman! Bear with it! The fruit of the kamma that would have burned you in hell for many years, many hundreds of years, many thousands of years, you are now experiencing in the here-&-now!"
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:17 pm

Perhaps this post I made over on DharmaWheel, and surrounding discussion, gives some clues:

Re: source for the "store house consciousness" idea?
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p103918
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Leo,
Leo Rivers wrote:The source for the "store house consciousness" idea?

The issue is actually one that is represented in one of the later Abhidharma Scriptures, the pali Kathavatthu.

In that Scripture there is a discussion in the form of questions and answers or argument points in which the problem of continuity comes up. Within classical Buddhism you have a series of moments which are experienced as subject and object.

It is like one of those ancient Greek paradoxes. If you create karma in one moment how was it carried forward from moment to moment? Or more pertinently, from incarnation to incarnation when there is a discontinuity.

The issue also came up in the meditation situation of cessation in the 8th level of jnana or dhyana. If you are truly in that state mental activity has come to a stop. So, if you have no mental activity, what is it that starts you up to consciousness again?...

Thanks for your exposition. If it's not too far off-topic, can I just add that elsewhere (probably on E-Sangha, since I can't find it on DhammaWheel) Ven Huifeng explained that the Theravada Abhidhamma model used the "bhavanga citta" http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... anga-citta" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; to solve this problem of how to "restart" consciousness.

The following Dictionary also addresses the issue:
http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=985a1M7L1NcC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=bhavanga+citta+storehouse+consciousness&source=bl&ots=iTvs0khvp7&sig=ryLpOhzrXVf4PVNSfCtFH6_uNJo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xJfAT_OKC4qfiAf2rvWSCg&ved=0CEQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=bhavanga%20citta%20storehouse%20consciousness&f=false"

:anjali:
Mike

The link is to an article on Bhavangha.

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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:28 pm

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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:45 am

Hi Santa100

So per the Vism, kamma and vipaka don't get stored into some kind of immutable and centralized "repository", instead they're continuously and dynamically re-inforced or weakened from life to life with the patisandhiVinnana acting as the "link".


Well OK, but this is not how Buddhaghosa describes it in Vism XVII, at least not in the section you're pointing to - 162-164 is a commentary of the last part of the little verse at 161 which does not amount to kamma being "continuously and dynamically re-inforced or weakened". So where does this image come from?
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:03 am

mikenz66 wrote:Here are a few more links I've dug up regarding bhavang citta


Thanks. One or two leads in this lot. Particularly pakati-upanissaya-kamma which at least one of the posters relates to just the function I am trying to understand. It will require a bit more research, but it seems that a citta which is strong may function as a pakati-upanissaya-kamma which forms a condition for the next citta (alongside the primary object). I feel a trip to the library coming on.
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby robertk » Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:38 am

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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby jayarava » Tue Jun 24, 2014 2:59 pm

I had a fruitful trip to the library today.
Questions about the persistence of latent dispositions and accumulation of karmic potential thus remain: once the cognitive processes are activated, are they transmitted through the six modes of cognitive awareness? If so, why do they not influence these forms of mind? If not, how do they persist from one moment of bhavaṅga-citta to the next without some contiguous conditioning medium? The bhavaṅga-citta does not directly address these persisting questions, adumbrated in the Kathavātthu so many centuries before. Nor, to my knowledge, do subsequent Theravādin Abhidhamma traditions discuss these questions in dhammic terms.
- Waldron, William S. Buddhist unconscious: the ālaya-vijñāna in the context of Indian Buddhist thought. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. p.83.

I think this helps to explain why I can't find a specific answer to my question. There probably isn't one. However Waldron notes that some modern commentators have attributed the functions I'm interested in to the bhavaṅga, despite this conflicting with the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga. The lack of satisfactory answer led to the development of the ālayavijñāna doctrine which proved very durable and is more popular that Nāgārjuna's alternate which was to deny the reality of karma and vipāka.

Best Wishes
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Re: Kamma, Vipaka and Rebirth

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 24, 2014 7:34 pm

Members,

Please note that this thread is the Classical Theravada section, which is here to allow technical discussion. Discussion about whether such technical discussion is important is off topic in this section. Please stick to the topic at hand.

I have deleted a number of posts that are off topic. For example, suggestions that Jayavara should stop worrying about the topic are completely off topic and are unacceptable in the Classical Theravada Forum. This forum is specifically for detailed doctrinal questions, such as Jayavara's.

Members wishing to post in the Classical Theravada Forums are requested to abide by the guidelines:
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