Renewal of Thai Buddhist belief in Kamma and Rebirth
Veerachart Nimanong

In this chapter an attempt is made to deal philosophically with the Theravada Buddhist concept of Kamma and Rebirth, as believed and cherished by the Thai people. The search for evolution of the Thai Buddhist belief in the doctrine of kamma and its collorary doctrine of rebirth can be somewhat more easily understood by the approach of Thai Buddhist scholars' work in a particular period of time than that of the historical outcome of its mission. It has been said that the history of Buddhism is that of the Thai nation; this is true, for Buddhism has helped the Thai elites establish the country since the time of its arrival in the fourth century at Suwannabhumi, now known as Nakorn Pathom province in the central part of Thailand. Hence all kinds of crises experienced in the Thai citizen and nation cannot categorically be separated from that of Buddhism, and as such they will be of real concern to Buddhist reflection.
At present the process of modernization has had significant impact on Thai society. The system of education is organized after a Western model, and the philosophy of education is related to the economic and political structures. In theory, some Buddhist principles may be quoted, yet in essence it is a pragmatism, which corresponds to a capitalist society. The younger generation is growing up in a confusing environment. Teenagers and children today form the majority of Thai population and they are, thus, the major target group for the consumer society (Seri Phongphit, 1988, pp. 3-29).
In Thailand, Buddhism existed alongside Hinduism, especially in the royal court where Hindu priests had a leading role in all royal ceremonies. Hinduism has less influence on the daily life of the ordinary people, where it is overshadowed by Buddhism and popular belief. Nevertheless Hindu elements exist in different ways in Buddhism itself. The interpretation of Buddhist doctrine, the emphasis on mythological stories, the application of these in Thai literature and the justification of the status of the kings are in one way or another related to Hindu concepts.
Amidst the rapid changes in Thai society today and the developments in Buddhism, a small number of monks and laity try to reconsider and apply the Buddha-Dhamma to this changing society. The search for a middle path applicable to modern life has been continuous and constant in all classes of Thai society. Generally it is acknowledged that the Most Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Phradhammapidok or P.A. Payutto Bhikkhu's interpretation of Buddha-Dhamma and way of life have inspired individuals and groups in various social sectors to rediscover the meaning of Buddhism and to search for appropriate means to apply it in their daily lives and activities. Their main aim was to go back to the source: to follow the Buddha's path.
Thai Buddhists today confront two important enemies, namely, materialism and superstition. The two factors are growing so strong that traditional Buddhism, as it actually is, will not be able to become a real liberating force. It has ben found that the crisis and confusion of Buddhism with popular belief resulted from the people's ignorance of the real Dhamma. Hence an education in the real Buddhism is needed.
Both Venerables are the authors of many publications, mostly in Thai, with some books and articles translated into English and other foreign languages. Some of their principal views especially the doctrine of kamma and rebirth, which serves as the principle of renewal, will be brought into our discussion here.
It should be noted that Theravada Buddhism differs from Early Buddhism. The former covers all kinds of treatises ranging from the Tipitaka to its sub-commentaries and later texts, which are the work of some prominent Buddhist scholars in Thailand and in some other Theravada Buddhist countries. Therefore our discussion of kamma and rebirth here will be necessarily supported by the commentaries, such as The Path of Purification, written by Buddhaghosacariya of Ceylon.
The Doctrine of Karma and Rebirth in Buddhism
Strictly speaking, it is correct to say that the doctrine of karma and rebirth as based on Anattavada, Paticcasamuppada and Vipassanabhavana is peculiarly taught only in Buddhism as it was completely enlightened by the Buddha in the night of his Enlightenment, (MN, I, 183). A more reliable fact is that the operation of karma had appeared in the Buddha's second knowledge, called cutupapatanana, at the time of his Enlightenment. It is said, with his pure, paranormal clairvoyant vision, he saw beings, noble or mean, happy or unhappy, dying and getting reborn in accordance with their karmas (Sn. 654).
In the Culakammavibhanga-Sutta, it is related that a young Brahmin Subha who was a Todeyya's son approached the Buddha and asked him for an explanation as to why among human beings some were short-lived while others were long-lived, some were sickly while others were healthy, some were ugly while others were beautiful some had little power, others were influential, some were poor while others were rich, and some had little wisdom while some possessed insight. He further asked the Buddha for the reason and cause for the lowness and excellence which were seen among men despite their being human. The Buddha's reply was thus: "Beings possess their own karmas, beings are heir to their karmas, karmas are their congenital cause, karmas are their kin, karmas are their refuge, it is karmas that divide beings in terms of lowness and excellence" (MN, III, 202-203).
When the young Manava asked the Buddha to explain at length the cause of such differences, the latter did so in accordance with the law of cause and effect (karma). It may be put in a simple manner as follows:
The killing of living beings leads to a short life, the non-killing of living beings leads to a long life; the persecution of living beings leads to a sickly life, the non-persecution of living beings leads to healthy life; elasticity, anger and hatred lead to an ugly figure and bad complexion, the opposite ones lead to a beautiful figure, attractiveness and loveliness respectively; envy leads to powerlessness, non-envy leads to powerfulness; selfishness leads to poverty, alms giving and generosity lead to wealth (MN, III, 203-206).
Once the Buddha was asked by Queen Mallika, a very devout and wise lady well-versed in the Dharma, why in this world some women are not beautiful and are poor; why some women are not beautiful but rich; why some women are only beautiful but are poor; and why some women are both beautiful and rich. The Buddha's reply was:
Firstly, a certain woman becomes both deformed and poor because in the past she was ill-tempered and stubborn, and she was no giver of charity to monks and others, she was jealous-minded and revengeful. Secondly, a certain woman becomes only deformed but she is wealthy because in the past, she was only ill-tempered, but she was a giver of charity to all. Thirdly, a certain woman becomes beautiful or well-formed, but she was poor or needy, because in the past, though she was not ill-tempered, she was no giver of charity to monks and others. Fourthly, a certain woman becomes both beautiful and rich because in the past she was not ill-tempered, was not stubborn, and she did give monks and others food, drink, clothing, vehicles, flowers, scent, ointment, bed, lodging and light; nor was she jealous-minded (AN, II, 202).
The above passage clearly shows that the doctrine of karma and the theory of rebirth which are interrelated can explain rationally the causes of the inequalities in human life. The Buddha stated that the fruit of karma is one of the four unthinkables (acinteyya) that transcend the limits of thinking and over which one should not ponder (AN, II, 90).
Volition is Karma. The Anguttara-Nikaya defines karma as deeds or actions associated with the mental state of volition (cetana), (AN, III, 63). All volitional actions involving mentality (mana), word (vaca) or body (kaya) are regarded as falling within the domain of karma, which is constituted by good, bad and actions that are neither good nor bad. According to Buddhism, karma without volition, namely, the instinctive actions such as sneezing, respiration and so on, is not regarded as karma because it does not consist of a volitional consciousness, which is the most important factor in determining the nature of karma. Generally, volitional karma always consists of either good or bad, and such a karma does not vanish without producing its effect, as the Buddha quoting the words of ancient Rsis proclaims: "Those who do good receive good and those who do evil receive evil, man reaps according as he has sown," (SN, XI. 1. 10).
The Classification of Karma
In the Anguttra-Nikaya, (AN, II, 230-231). Buddha classified karma into four kinds corresponding to their nature and results:
Four kinds of karma, Monks, I have realized by my own wisdom and then made known to the world. They are black karma having black result, white karma having white result, both black and white karma having black-and-white result, and neither-black-nor-white karma having neither-black-nor-white result and leading to the cessation of karma (AN, II, 231).
The first means the action done by body, word and mind with ill will, and it will make the doer take birth in a world dominated by ill will. This is the plight of beings such as those in a hellish world. The second kind refers to the kind of karma which is not conducive to ill will, and its results lead only to happiness. It indicates the life of beings who take place in the realm of Subhakinha. The third karma implies the actions, some of which are spurred on by ill will, whereas others are not. The doer of this karma is surrounded by both suffering and happiness. This signifies the life of human beings, of some classes of celestial beings, and of some classes of hellish beings. The fourth category denotes the action that leads to the cessation of the first, the second and the third karma. The last one is mostly emphasized by the Buddha. The person who has attained the cessation of all karmas is called sabba-kammakkhayam-patto. Buddhadasa Bhikku remarks that the fourth type of karma is never discussed by Westerners in their analysis of karma and rebirth.
In the Mahakammavibhanga-Sutta, the Buddha who foresaw that in the future some members of other sects may discover the Buddha's great analysis of karmas, tells Ananda that there are four categories of karma, (MN, III, 215), viz., (i) 'Inope-rative apparently inoperative' (abhabbam abhabba- bhasam), which means that an action that has little ethical significance is superseded by an action of greater ethical significance; (ii) 'Inoperative apparently operative' (abhabbam bhabbabhasam), refers to an action the effect of which is interrupted by another karma of the opposite character when one is on the point of death; (iii) 'Operative apparently operative' (abhabbam bhabbabhasam), which is an action of greater ethical significance which renders its result as has been accumulated and awaited; and (iv) 'Operative apparently inoperative'(abhabbam abhabbabhasam), which is an action cultivated on the point of death and is prevented by a past deed of greater ethical significance, (Papancasudani, p. 20).
The first three kinds of karma are in tune with the three kinds of karma mentioned in the Anguttara-Nikaya (AN, I, 121), viz., that good actions bear good fruits, bad actions bear bad fruits, and actions partly good and partly bad bear fruits partly good and partly bad. The third type does not refer to the manner of individual acts, but rather to the series of acts which define an individual life. There is no such thing as a black-and-white karma or partly good and partly bad karma, but a certain person accumulates acts of body, speech and thought that are both discordant and harmonious, (GS, I, 105).
The above classification of karma is made in accord with their nature and results. But if karma is looked at from the point of view of the channels through which it is generated, it is classified into three kinds, namely, bodily action, verbal action, and mental action (MN, I, 373). Each of these covers all four categories of the former classification, that is, karma performed through any of the three channels will be good or evil, or both, or neither. From the Buddhist viewpoint, even mental karma is wrong, and it is more important than the other two karmas (AN, III, 414). It is further stated in the Nikayas, (AN, V, 264-266; DN, III, 214-215) that bad karma performed through body, speech and mind is called duccarita (evil conduct) or akusula (unwholesome state), which are of ten kinds divided into three groups, namely, (i) Threefold action of the body, namely, killing of the living beings, stealing, and sexual misconduct; (ii) fourfold action of the word, namely, false speech, backbiting, harsh speech, and frivolous talk; and (iii) threefold action of the mind, namely, covetousness, ill will and wrong view. These ten are all called akusalakammapatha (unwholesome causes of action). But on the contrary, the good deeds performed through the three channels are called succarita (good conduct) or kusala (wholesome state), which are the opposite kinds of the above men-tioned ten karmas. It is to be noted that the classification of karma into ten kinds is made in accordance with the moral point of view.
In the Anguttara-Nikaya, (AN, I, 136), a twofold classifi-cation of karma is mentioned, namely, fruitful and barren. The former refers to actions performed under the influence of covetousness, hatred and infatuation, which are regarded as the root-cause of karmas in order to bring about their results. The latter denotes actions performed without the influence of the three root-causes as mentioned before. These three root causes are regarded as the root cause of ignorance, which is itself the root cause of karma. As has been stated, man is born of karma or ignorance. From the standpoint of fruitful and barren karma, the former is called sasavakammas which bring about good and bad consequences, the latter is called anasavakamma which is a kind of meditation on the Four Noble Truths, that lead to Arahantship and does not generate good or evil results. On the other hand, while sasavakamma will bestow the five khandhas in the future, the anasavakamma will eradicate the round of death and birth.
It is said in the Samyutta-Nikaya (SN, IV, 132), that the eye and other sense organs are understood as old karma (purana-kamma), but the action which one performs now is called new kamma (navakamma). Man's present situation is derived from old kamma, but he remains free to make what he will of his present. The Buddhists believe that man has every possibility to mould his own karma and thereby influence the direction of his life.
In connection with the old and new karma as mentioned above, it is necessary to mention the two punishments of karma (kammaka-rana). Like the old karma, the new karma too will have its result in this life (ditthadhammika) or in some future life (samparayika), (AN, I, 48). Take a robber for example: he is captured by authorities and tortured for his crime. This is called a wrong deed with imme-diate retribution. Other acts born of body, word and thought will be rewarded through appropriate rebirths. Likewise the fruit of a good deed may have both visible and future results; for example, the result in this life of liberal almsgiving is that the giver becomes dear to many and gains a great reputation, yet the results of his generosity will come to full fruition only following his death when he is reborn in a heavenly world.
The Doctrine of Rebirth in Relation to Karma
According to Buddhism, karma in its cosmic aspect is the natural law (Dhammata), the law of conditionality (idappaccayata) or of relativity (paccaya), which governs the whole universe. The law of karma in its moral aspect is concerned with the theory of rebirth (punabbhava), which is its corollary and proof. Rebirth is a result of karma (kamma-vipaka): Karma and vipaka being inevitable concomitants. It implies that according to Buddhism, one's present life cannot come out of nothing, but must be the outcome of the previous existence or the past karma.
The Buddha, when asked by Ananda Thera as to what are the causes of rebirth, replies that it is caused by the karmas of their respective nature, that is, the karmas of sensual nature produce sensual planes; the karmas of meditation-levels based on Form produce the planes of Form; and the karmas of the nature of meditation based on Formlessness produce the planes of Formlessness. Therefore, karma is comparable to a field, conscious-ness (vinnana) to a seed, desire (tanha) to the sap or life-force within the seed. For, karma or the volition of beings hindered by ignorance and bound by desire takes place in sensual planes, material planes or immaterial planes. Thus there is repeated rebirth, (AN, I, 222-224). It is evident from the above discussion that re-becoming is made possible through the combined functions of three conditions, namely, karma, desire and consciousness. It is consciousness that is reborn. As it is said, it is the seed that will grow if planted in the soil of karma and watered by desire - and if some external con-ditions are also present. The Buddha also comments that through the entry of the consciousness of a departed person into a womb of a suitable woman, the personality of a new individual is reborn (DN, II, 62-63).
Dealing with the process of rebirth, the Buddha states that where there are three conditions combined together there a germ of human life is planted, that is, the mother's ovum, the father's sperm and the being-to-be born (gandhabba). According to the Nyanatiloka Mahathera, the gandhabba (skt. gantavya) is none other than kamma-vega (karma-energy), which is sent forth by a dying individual at the moment of his death. He said:
The dying individual, with his whole being convulsively clinging to life, at the very moment of his death, sends forth karmic energies, which, like a flash of lightning hit at a new mother's womb ready for conception. Thus the so-called primary cell arises (Nyanatiloka, 1964, pp. 2-3).
It may be noted that Theravada Buddhism denies that an indetermediate-state exists between death and birth. This being the case, Piyadassi Thera maintains that gandhabba is simply a term for the rebirth-linking consciousness (patisandhi-vinnana), rather than for a discarnate spirit of any kind (Piyadassi, 1972, p. 20). It can really be said that human beings are born from karma, while parents merely provide them with a material layer. But this should not make us misunderstand that parents do not have any merit at all (AN, I, 161). Since they do much for children - they bring them up, nourish and introduce them to the world- they are teachers worthy of offerings; they are Brahma (AN, I, 131). It is, however, said that at the moment of conception karma conditions the initial consciousness or gandhabba which vitalizes the foetus (Narada, 1980, p. 400).
Remarks on the Belief in Kamma and Rebirth. Although Buddhism attributes the law of karma as the chief among a variety of causes, it does not assert that everything comes out from previous karma. The Buddhist doctrine of karma merely taught that there was a correlation between moral acts and their consequences, without implying any sort of fatalism. The Buddha once warned his disciples not to throw away their own efforts and responsibilities by assuming that all good or bad was experienced was due to some previous karma, due to the creation of God or due to no cause. It is clear that the implications of the Buddhist doctrine of karma were the very opposite to kiriyavada, fatalism and materialism.
According to Buddhism, the volition or feeling or conscious-ness is the doer of karma and the receiver of the karma-result, but not all feelings are karma-born. As the Buddha told the wanderer, Sivaka Moliya, there are certain experiences originating from bile, from phlegm, from wind, from the humours of the body, from changes of the seasons, from stress of untoward happenings (visama-pariharajani),1 from sudden attacks from without (opakkami-kani),2 and also from ripeness of one's karmas which are considered as truth by the world. If anyone were holding merely the karma-born theory, he would be regarded as going beyond what is personally known and what is considered truth in the world. Such a person would be considered by the Buddha as holding wrong views (SN, IV, 230-231).
In the Sutta-Nipata, (Sn. 666), it is declared that a man's karma is never lost, it comes back to harass him, but in the Culaka-mmavibhanga-Sutta and Maha-kammavibhanga-Sutta, as mentioned earlier, it is possible to do good in order to dilute or dissolve the effects of evil. There is thus a second opportunity to turn over a new life. In fact, what has been done cannot be undone, but it can be nullified by the counter-balancing force of good. In Buddhism, the intense force of good deeds, such as that of Arahantship, can uproot all the evil force in the mind. It can also neutralize the results of bad karma in the past such as in the case of Angulimala Thera (MN, II, 98-112).
Also, according to Buddhism, the result of karma ripens not only in accord with the karma, but also with the character of the doer of the karma. The Anguttara-Nikaya shows that the same karma has varied results in accord with the character of the doer. A trifling evil deed done by a certain individual, who is generally careless in the culture of body, speech and thought, who had no developed insight, who is insignificant, and whose life is restricted and miserable, will drag him down to a hellish world, but the same deed done by another individual, who possessed the opposite characters, will work its result out entirely in this very life and will not push him to the hellish world. It is just like a small amount of salt when put in a cup of water, will make it undrinkable, but it is not so when the same amount of salt is added to the water of the Ganges. Likewise, a poor man has to go to prison for a debt of a halfpenny, but a rich man, who owes the same amount, does not have to go to prison, (AN, I, 250). It is, therefore, not surprising that in our practical experience we find that the wicked men do not always suffer for their deeds in this very life. This should not lead to the wrong assumption that "those who do good do not receive good but evil, that those who do evil do not receive evil but good, and that we reap what we have not sown." If this were the case, then the basic law of karma that "it is impossible that the fruit of a bad deed should be pleasant and lead to the heavenly world; and the fruit of a good deed should be unpleasant and lead to the hellish world" will be meaningless and implausible, (AN, I, 27-38).
The wrong assumption stated above must be removed by considering the details of the way in which karma works its result out when the time comes as elucidated in the Mahakammavib-hanga-Sutta (the discourse on the greater analysis of deeds), (MN, III, 207-205). The Sutta suggests a reason that a murderer in some instances gets pleasant results and is reborn in a heavenly existence, in spite of his act of murder. This is because he has either sometimes in the past done good deeds, which have resulted in these experiences or at the time of his death he has changed his own ways and has adopted the right view of life. This amounts to saying that the Buddha never accepts the view that everyone who kills and lies, and so on, will be reborn in hell and that everyone who refrains from immoral acts will be reborn in heaven. According to him, indeed, some such individuals may even be reborn in heaven or in hell as well respectively because of their past deeds.
In this Sutta, the Buddha further criticizes the limited knowledge possessed by others. The heavenly life enjoyed by one person after his misconduct should not be the basis for the conclusion that everyone, in spite of his misconduct, will be born in heaven after death. According to the Buddha, this calls for a different explanation. He maintains that this particular man must have done either good deeds or bad deed in the past, or have been right or wrong views at the time of his death. The Buddha proclaims himself to have the knowledge of the "operation of karma" superior to those who form generalization on the basis of one or a few observations without examining a universal aspect of the case. It is accepted that in daily life an individual is capable of doing both good and bad deeds till his death, and on death he may be reborn in a heavenly world, if the result of his accumulated good karma is sufficient to supersede the result of his wrong action, or he may be reborn in an unpleasant existence if the effect of his bad deeds supersedes the result of good karma. However, the accumulated deed-will finally produce that fruit when the result of the deed which has superseded it has been exhausted.
Karma apart, if "one does not receive what one has done" it depends on the following four pairs of failure (vipatti) and accomplishment (sampatti), which affect the ripening of karma. The four kinds of failure (vipatti) are: (i) gati-vipatti (failure due to the place of birth), which means unfavorable environment, circumstances or career; (ii) upadhi-vipatti (failure due to defectiveness of body), which means the person is born deformed and has unfavorable personality and health; (iii) kala-vipatti (failure due to deficiency of time), which signifies unfortunate time; and (iv) payoga-vipatti (failure due to lack of effort), which denotes the shortcoming of undertaking or inadequate endeavor. As against this, there are four opposite factors favorable to the ripening of good karma called sampatti or accomplishment.
The Casual Law of Karma as the Uninterrupted Continuity of Man. In Buddhism the karma-doctrine is recognized not only as a part of the law of Paticcasamuppada, but also as one of the 24 paccayas. This amounts to saying that the karma-doctrine is closely related to, and is as important as the law of Paticcasamuppada. That is, the Paticcasamuppada describes all the karma-process and the karma-result in accordance with the Three Cycles (vatta), namely, "depending on defilements karma arises, and because of the karma the result (vipaka) is derived". In terms of the Four Noble Truths, karma is taken as the cause of suffering and its result is the suffering itself. The Paticcasamuppada has been seen in terms of cause and effect, in which there is no self to be taken as permanent.
The Buddha's proof of the non-existence of name and form (nama-rupa) or the five khandhas is essentially equivalent to his denial of the self or soul. For everything is dynamic being subject to the causal law, that is, everything is subject to change, and by changing it can persist. The persistence of a thing cannot be called permanence, but continuity; things exist through their continuity. The law of continuity is sometimes called the theory of momentariness (khanikavada), and is also known as the theory of change (aniccavada). For instance, that our mind is changing every moment is difficult to comprehend, but in the case of body it seems to be more obvious than in the case of mind. Let us turn our attention to the problems of karma and rebirth in connection with the five khandhas or man. As has been seen, man is the combination of the everchanging five khandhas and there is no permanent self in them. As long as his ignorance is not uprooted, he has to undergo the round of birth and death again and again. In this connection there arise two questions: "If a man is merely the combination of five khandhas in which there is no essential substance, who is and will be the doer of karma and the receiver of its result? At the end of this life, who dies and will be reborn?" These two questions were asked since the time of the Buddha till now. At first the Buddha points out to the questioner that the question is wrong, for, once we personalise the problem by asking, "who" meaning "what person or self is or will be the doer and recipient of the karma and its result," confusion usually follows. The Buddha, being aware of these two questions, preached the doctrine of Anatta, which to be understood through the Doctrine of Paticcasamuppada.
Considered from the point of view of the Anatta-doctrine, or "the teaching of the absence in the human being of a soul", it does not mean that the Buddha preached annihilationism. For, apart from the Anatta-doctrine, the Buddha also taught the theory of relation (paccaya), otherwise called the doctrine of "dependent origination" (Paticcasamuppada), in which is contained the doctrine of the transmitted force of the bodily, verbal and mental acts known as karma. The karmic force is the link that preserves the identity of the agent through all countless changes in its process through samsara. When one dies the khandhas of which one is constituted perish, but by the force of one's karma a new set of khandhas instantly starts into existence, and a new being appears in another world. Though possessing different khandhas and a different form, he is in reality identical with the man just passed away because his karma is the same. The new life is neither the same since it has changed, nor totally different because it has the same stream of karmic energy; they are actually different but causally related by karma like an unbroken succession of different flames of the burning lamp and a mango seed in a mango tree grown out of another mango seed (Milinda, I, 40, 50-51).
The character of man is in reality the sum total of the subconscious propensities produced partly by the prenatal, partly by the current volitional activity or karma. This amounts to saying that according to the Paticcasamuppada or Paccayas, the psycho-physical personality (nama-rupa) on the one hand and the volition or karma on the other serve as a 'dependent condition (nissaya-paccaya) to consciousness and vice versa.
The question to be considered is how the volition or karma renders its support to the continuity of man. In the Samyutta-Nikaya, volition is treated as a food that sustains man's life to take birth in the beginningless samsara, while the remaining three foods, namely, material food (bhojana), contact (phassa) and conscious-ness (vinnana), serve only as the food for the man who has already been born in a particular existence. It is said that volition or karma plays a major role in the prolongation of samsaric existence of man (SN, 2, 11). To the question how it can play such an important role, the reply is that it plays its role in accordance with the law of Paticcasamuppada. Like Buddhism, the Rg Veda (Rg., X, 129) and the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad (BU, IV, 4, 5, 6), also admit desire as the primal seed of the origination of all things. While a man with desire is subject to transmigration, another without desire unites with Brahman. According to the law of karma and karma-vipaka, the Buddhists are convinced that no organic entity, physical or psychical, can come into existence without the preceding cause.
The Buddhist doctrine of rebirth (punnabbhava) is a novel theory in so far as it speaks of re-becoming without a self-identical substance. It is significant to note that the English word "rebirth" is generally translated from the Pali word "punabbhava". But in the actual meaning, the term "bhava" should be rendered as `becoming' or `coming to be', as its root is derived from "bhu". Thus "rebecom-ing" is the real meaning of "punabbhava," which describes the progression from existence to existence. According to the Buddhist doctrine of rebecoming, there could be continuity of individuality in various places of existence. Such a rebecoming is either in the Sentient Existence (Kamabhava), the Form Existence (rupabhava) or the Formless Existence (arupabhava) (DN, II, 57).
There is, according to the Theravada Buddhism, no inter-mediate existence (antarabhava) apart from the above three planes of becoming. The doctrine of rebecoming refers to the law of change in the light of continuity of individuality, which meant a stream of consciousness (vinnanasota) or a stream of becoming (bhavangasota), consisting of karmic energy that renders the rebirth or rebecoming possible. Buddhism holds that the existence of life does not depend on its being perceived. Life exists in a state of perpetual flux or becoming and is impermanent (anicca). Matter in Buddhism is a changeable thing (ruppatiti rupam), (SN, XXII, 79). The material object arises and perishes at every moment; it is momentary (khanika). Matter appears as relatively permanent due to the continuity of consciousness, kept flowing by the inherent force of karma. A being is so-called because it is fast entangled with desire and attachment, which are concerned with the five khandhas (SN, III, 188). Both consciousness and matter, it is said, have the same type of existence, that is, instantaneous being; they are momentary. Both are neither being nor non-being; rather it is becoming (bhava), which keeps on moving according to the Paticcasamuppada.
As we have known already, the above-mentioned explanation of kamma and rebirth is especially from the Early Theravada Buddhism supported by the arguments and evidences taken from the Tipitaka and its popular commentaries rendered in the conservative manner. Let us now turn our attention to the renewed interpretation of kamma and rebirth by the two wise monks on contemporary Thai society, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Phrad-hammapidok (Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto).
Kamma and Rebirth according to Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
In earlier Thai history, all monks were to be seekers of truth according to the general principles of morality, concentration and the development of wisdom, totally called the Three Trainings (tisikkha). They were products of various family backgrounds and they were given the opportunities to become the monastic members by teachers, local traditions, etc. Although the Pali Canon exists as a constant reference for monks, often they are steeped in the commentaries and the needs and demands of the local folk. It is, therefore, easy for monks to become involved in predicting lottery ticket numbers, conjuring magical cures, and blessing new businesses, cars, and air-planes. Aside from the activities already mentioned, monks in Thailand have been observed to be engaged in activities as various as the art of writing, composing poetry, curing drug addicts through herbal cures, and making rubber stamps.
Buddhadasa's questioning of the scope of Buddhism and the status of certain commentaries and commentators, including the well-known Buddhagosacariya, the fifth century commentator, who wrote the book of 'the Path of Purification', challenged many young minds engaged in the study of Buddhist doctrine. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's primary concerns compelled people to turn their attention to freedom, or Nibbana. He moved the notions of kamma, heaven, and hell into the present. According to his teachings, in no way one should postpone the possibility of attaining enlightenment until the next life; falling into hell or going to heaven is the direct result of actions performed from moment to moment.
In his famous book, entitled Two Kinds of Language, he interpreted kamma in two senses, namely, the everyday meaning and the Dhamma meaning. According to him, the Dhamma meaning is eventually admitted as intended by the Buddha. The word Dhamma itself has two meanings, in everyday language Dhamma means the actual books containing the scriptures, but in Dhamma language it means the Enlightened One, as the Buddha said, 'He who sees the Dhamma, sees the Enlightened One, and he who sees the Enlightened One, sees the Dhamma.' The word 'work', taken as Dhamma language, refers to mind training (kammatthana), that is the practice of Dhamma. The actual practice of Dhamma is the Work. Work or duty is Dhamma. But in everyday language, it means earning a living out of necessity.
In his opinion, in everyday language religion means temples, monastery buildings, pagodas, yellow robes, and so on; in Dhamma language religion is the Truth which can really serve man as a point of support. Regarding the relationship between all religions, he said, 'Although someone may say there is Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, etc., when he has penetrated to the essential nature of his religion, he will regard all religions as being the same'. For him, Buddhism is identical to the main tenets of other religions; for all true religions seek to reduce self-importance. Theistic religions teach the faithful to submit themselves to God. This obviously coincides with decreasing the significance of self and removing the causes that give rise to egoism, (Right Approach to Dhamma, p. 13).
We come now to the word, 'kamma'; in everyday language, kamma means 'bad luck' or punishment for sins committed by the ordinary person, but in Dhamma language it refers to action, i.e. bad action is called black kamma; good action white kamma. There is another remarkable kind of kamma which is neither black nor white, a kamma that serves to neutralize the other two kinds. It consists in perceiving non-selfhood (anatta), emptiness (sunyata) or that the self is done away with. He further points out that the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is kamma neither black nor white, but the way to wipe out all kamma. According to Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, kamma itself becomes its result; kamma is the result in the same was as the Madyamika's idea of samsara is nothing but Nirvana. He said, 'doing good is good; it is not that doing good receives good'. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu equates Kamma or Dhamma with God. In everyday language, God is understood as a celestial being with various creative powers, but in Dhamma language, God is a profound hidden power, which is neither human, nor celestial being, nor any other kind of being. It is Nature, for the law of nature is responsible for creation and for the coming into existence of all things. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu considers the natural law or kamma or Dhamma to be God who can bequeath both merit and demerit to living beings:
The Natural Law is comprised of six qualifications which all people regard as the qualifications of God: The Creator, the Controller, the Destroyer, Omnipotent, Omni-present, and Omniscient. We Buddhists have this natural Law as God. This is only God accepted by modern science. It creates both the positive and the negative, because it is only the Natural Law. If he were a personal God, he would choose to create only the positive (The A, B, C, of Buddhism, p. 11).
Therefore, the law of karma as the first cause of the universe admits that everything which comes into existence must have a cause: "Because of this being, that arises; whenever this disappears, that also disappears, (MN, III, 63).
Rebirth or birth in everyday language refers simply to physical birth from a mother's body; in Dhamma language birth signifies a mental event arising out of ignorance, craving, and clinging. The kind of birth that constitutes a problem for us is mental birth. The Buddha taught, 'Birth is perpetual suffering.' This clearly meant the arising of the idea 'I'. It refers not to physical birth from a mother of flesh and blood, but to mental birth from a mental mother, namely craving, ignorance, clinging. No matter what type of existence one is born into, it is nothing but suffering, because the word 'birth' refers here to attachment unaccompanied by awareness. If there arises in a person's mind the idea 'I am such-and-such' and he is aware that this idea has arisen, that arising is not a birth. Thus the Buddha advised continual mindfulness. If there is awareness, there will be no suffering. Buddhadasa's idea of birth is confined to the present moment with the belief that if the present is good, then the future will be good. As is obvious in his saying: "If we can master this kind of birth here and now we will also be able to master the birth that comes after physical death," (HM, p. 218). He discourages us to concern ourselves with the birth that follows physical death; instead encourages us to concern ourselves seriously with the birth that happens before physical death, the kind of birth that goes on while we are alive, which happens dozens of times every day.
Regarding the concepts of a celestial world and world of woe, Buddhadasa interpreted them in a patently present manner, i.e. one can enter into it within the present moment, here and now, for which he thought it will come close to what the Buddha did teach. The woeful world normally known as the woeful states, are four: (i) Hell (naraka) in everyday language refers to a region under the earth; in Dhamma language it means anxiety which burns us just like a fire. Whenever anxiety afflicts us, burning us up like a fire, then we are really in hell; (ii) Birth as a beast (tiracchana) means in everyday language actual physical birth as a pig, a dog, or some other actual animal. In Dhamma language it has a different meaning. At any moment when one is stupid, just like a dumb animal, at that moment one is born into the realm of beasts; (iii) Hungry ghost (peta) means in everyday language a creature supposed to have a tiny mouth and an enormous belly. He can never manage to eat enough and so is chronically hungry. But the hungry ghosts of Dhamma language are purely mental states. Ambition based on craving, worry based on craving-to-be, afflicted with these is to be born a hungry ghost; and (iv) Frightened ghosts (asuras) in everyday language means a kind of visible being, going around haunting and spooking, but is too afraid to show itself. In Dhamma language, it refers to fear in the mind of the human being, to be afraid without good reason, to be excessively fearful, etc. Some people are afraid of doing good. Some are afraid that if they attain Nibbana, life would lose all its flavour, and would be unbearably dull. According to Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, if we live and practice properly we avoid falling into the woeful states here and now, and we are certain not to fall into the woeful states supposed to follow death.
For Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, 'heaven' in everyday language means some wonderful, highly attractive celestial realm up above, where angels are found by the hundreds. In Dhamma language 'heaven' refers first of all to infatuating sensual bliss of the highest order. This is the lower heaven, the heaven of sensuality. Higher up is the heaven called the Brahmaloka. This is absence of any object of sensuality. Comparing the two kinds of heaven by a limit, it is as if a certain man with a hunger for sense objects had indulged and satiated himself and become thoroughly fed up with sense objects. He would then want only to remain quite empty, still, untouched, in Buddhism, the Paranimmitavasavatti heaven are completely full of sensuality, while the heavens of the Brahmaloka are devoid of disturbance from sensuality, though the 'self' is still there.
Kamma and Rebirth according to Phradhammapidok (Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto)
It is less difficult to grasp Phradhammapidok's exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine of kamma and rebirth, for the style of his invariably accepted contribution to Buddhism though a deeply critical analysis and systematical creative exposition, gets along with the scriptural line of Buddhism. Having passed the Thai Sangha traditional education system to the highest Pali grade nine, equipped with the knowledge of the language of the material source and his own much more critical mind, he based his investigation on direct references taken from only the Tipitka, as his Royal Name deserved. With some more additional ideas never before discovered, he moves the doctrine of kamma toward the social dimension of the contemporary world. Let us now consider his view on kamma and rebirth in comparison with the others' views.
The Natural Law (Niyama) : At the outset of his explanation of kamma, Phradhammapidok relates it to the course of the law of nature or niyama in the Buddhist terminology, which literally meant 'certainty' or 'fixed way'. This referred to the fact that specific determinants inevitably led to corresponding results, in which both the material and the immaterial are entirely subject to the direction of causes and are interdependent. The five natural laws are thus: (i) The natural law pertaining to physical objects (utuniyama), such as water, winds and rainfall, etc.; (ii) the natural law pertaining to heredity (bijaniyama), such as the seed and the fruit; (iii) the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind (cittaniyama), such as the process of cognition, etc.; (iv) the natural law pertaining to human behaviour (kammaniyama), i.e., the process of action and its results, especially referring to the working of intention or volition; and (v) the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things (Dhammaniyama): that is, the way all things arise, exist and then cease.
It is said that the first four niyama are derived from the fifth one. The reason is that the Dhammaniyama is not exhausted by this four-fold categorization. We should bear in mind that Kammani-yama is given as only one among five different laws, reminding us that we should not immediately write off all events, pleasant or unpleasant, as the workings of kamma. Kamma is that force which directs society, or decides the values and lives within it. Although Kamma is simply one type of natural law, it is the most important one for human beings, because it is their particular responsibility. Human beings are the instigators of kamma, which shapes the fortunes and conditions of their lives. Kammaniyama is a strictly human responsibility. The other niyama are entirely the domain of nature (Good, Evil and Beyond [GEB], pp. 1-4).
The Law of Kamma and Social Convention : Apart from the five kinds of natural law mentioned above, there is another kind of law which is specifically manmade and is not directly concerned with nature. These are the codes of law fixed and agreed upon by society, consisting of social decrees, customs, laws, and so on. They are the products of human thought and as such are related to kammaniyama, but they are not the same. In general we might state that the law of kamma is the natural law which deals with human actions, whereas Social Convention, or social law, is an entirely human creation. In essence, with the law of kamma, human beings receive the fruits of their actions according to the natural processes, whereas in social law, human beings take responsibility for their actions via a process established by themselves (GEB, pp. 5-6).
The Meaning and Values of Kamma: In the section on the meaning of kamma, the Buddha enlarges it into another three points of view, the details of which are worth mentioning here thus:
1. Kamma as intention. Essentially kamma is intention, which includes volition, will, choice and decision, or the energy which leads to action. Intention is that which instigates and directs all human actions.
2. Kamma as conditioning factor. Kamma as a component within the whole life process, being the agent which fashions the direction taken in life. This is kamma in its sense of 'sankhara', as it appears in the Doctrine of Dependent Origination, where it is described as the agent which fashions the mind.
3. Kamma as personal responsibility. This refers to the manifestation of thought through speech and actions, that is, behaviour from an ethical perspective, either on a narrow, immediate level, or on a broader level including the past and the future. This is the meaning of kamma which most often is encountered in the scriptures where it occurs as an inducement to encourage responsible action and the making of good kamma.
4. Kamma as social activity or career. In this respect, Kamma is concerned with the perspective of social activity as work, labour or profession, such as farmer, artist, merchant, servant, etc., (GEB, pp. 6-9).
The problem of the law of kamma and social convention: Phra-dhammapidok raised the perennial question: are 'good and evil' human or social inventions? One action in one society, time or place, may be said to be good, but in another time and place may be said not to be good; one kind of action may be acceptable to one society, but not to another. Some religions teach that to kill animals for food is not bad, while others teach that to harm beings of any kind is never good. Some societies hold that a child should show respect to its elders and that to argue with them is bad manners, while other societies hold that respect is not dependent on age, and that all people should have the right to express their opinions.
In answering these questions, he held that it is true to some extent that good and evil are matters of human preference and social decree. Even so, the good and evil of social conventions do not affect the workings of the law of kamma in any way, and should not be confused with it. According to him, good and evil as social conventions should be recognized as such whereas 'good and evil' or, more correctly, kusala and akusala as qualities of the law of kamma should be recognized as attributes of that law.
Phradhammapidok holds that the point of difference between natural law and social convention is intention. To clarify this point, he divides the conventions of society into two types: (i) Those which have no direct relationship to kusala and akusala as found in the kammaniyama, and (ii) those which are related to kusala and akusala.
1. The conventions which have no direct relationship to kusala and akusala. These are established by society for a specific social function, such as to enable people to live together harmoniously; these take the form of accepted values or agreements. These kinds of conventions may take many forms, such as traditions, customs or laws, in which respect good and evil are strictly matters of social convention. If a person disobeys these conventions and is punished by society, that is also a matter of social convention, not of the law of kamma. For example, this might be social codes of dress, such as before entering a Buddhist monastery in Thailand it is appropriate to remove shoes and hat, whereas to enter a Christian church it is usually required to wear shoes, (ibid., p. 23). Sometimes these social conventions may overlap with the domain of the law of kamma, such as when one member of a society refuses to conform to one of its conventions. In so doing, that person will be acting on a certain intention, which is the first step in, and therefore a concern of, the law of kamma.
2. The conventions which are related to kusala and akusala in the kamma-niyama. These conventions established by society are either kusala or akusala in accordance with kammaniyama. The society may or may not make these regulations with a clear understanding of kusala and akusala. However, the process of kammaniyama continues along its natural course and does not change along with those social conventions. For example, in one society it might be acceptable to imbibe intoxicants and addictive drugs. Extreme emotions may be encouraged, and the citizens may be incited to be ambitious and aggressive, so that society will prosper materially. Or it might be generally believed that to kill people of other societies is not blameworthy. He concluded that the ability to establish a social convention in conformity with the law of kamma would seem to be a sound gauge for determining the true extent of social progress or civilization.
Finally, he summarized the standards for good and evil, or good and bad kamma, strictly according to the law of kamma and also in relation to social convention, both on an intrinsically moral level and on a socially prescribed one by asking:
1. In terms of direct benefit or harm: Are these actions beneficial to life and to mind; do they contribute to the quality of life; do they cause kusala and akusala conditions to increase or wane?
2. In terms of beneficial or harmful consequences: Are they harmful or beneficial to oneself?
3. In terms of benefit or harm to society: Are they harmful or helpful to others?
4. In terms of conscience, the natural human reflexive capacity: Will that kamma be open to censure by oneself or not?
5. In terms of social standards: What is the position of actions in relation to those religious conventions, traditions and customs, including such social institutions as law and so on, which are based on wise reflection as opposed to those which are simply superstitious or mistaken beliefs, (ibid., pp. 22-39).
The Fruition of Kamma: It is noted that Phradhammapidok like Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, considers and admits the result of kamma in this present living moment and in quite a realistic manner rather than in the after life. He therefore divides the kamma-result into two aspects:
1. Results of kamma on different levels. In mentioning this, his purpose is to clarify the problem of the relationship between the law of kamma and social convention. According to him, kamma can render four different levels of fruition as follows:
a. The inner, mental level: Kamma results in the mind itself, in the form of accumulated tendencies, both skillful and unskillful, and the quality of the mind.
b. The physical level: The effect kamma has on character, mannerisms, bearing and behavioral tendencies. The results on this level are derived from the first level, and their fields of relevance overlap.
c. The level of life experiences: This denotes how kamma affects the events of life, producing both desirable and undesirable experiences; specifically, such external events as prosperity and decline; failure and success; wealth, status, happiness and praise, and the many forms of loss which are their opposites.Together these are known as worldly conditions (lokaDhamma).
d. The social level: This means the results of individual and collective kamma on society, leading to social prosperity or decline, harmony or discord. This also includes the effects resulting from one's interaction with one's environment, (ibid., p. 39).
Phradhammapidok remarks that levels 1 and 2 refer to the results which affect mind and character, which are the fields in which the law of kamma is dominant.The third level is where the law of kamma and social convention meet; it is at this point that confusion arises. The fourth level means kamma on the social level, which is his point of renewal.
He observes that people tend to look at the law of kamma and social convention as one and the same thing, interpreting 'good actions bring good results' as meaning 'good actions will make us rich', or 'good actions will earn a promotion,' which in some cases seems quite reasonable. But things do not always go that way. To say this is just like saying, "Plant mangoes and you will get a lot of money," or "They planted apples, that's why they are poor." These things may be true, or may not be. But what can be said is that this kind of thinking jumps ahead of the facts a step or two and hence is not entirely true. It may be sufficient for communication on an everyday basis, but if you really want to speak the truth, you must analyse the pertinent factors more clearly.
2. The fruits of kamma on a longterm basis - Heaven and Hell. Phradhamma-pidok is like Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in criticizing belief in heaven and hell. People normally tend to devote more interest to the results of kamma on the longterm basis. They are not interested in knowing the results of kamma in accord with the law of nature, i.e. the actual nature of the mind, the seat of intention and the way intention affects life and mind. On account of this obscurity and ignorance, when confronted with seemingly random or unexplainable events, they are unable to see all the relevant determining factors and then proceed to blame other things, rejecting the law of kamma.
He suggests that to work with the law of kamma in a skillful way, it is necessary to develop kusalachanda (desire to act skillfully) or Dhammachanda (desire for what is in accord with the Dhamma). Excessive stress on rebirth into heaven and hell results in neglect of the good which should be aspired to in the present. In addition to this, our original intention to encourage moral conscience at all times, including future lives and an unshakable faith in the law of kamma, will result instead in an aspiration only for future results, which becomes a kind of greed so that good actions are performed for the sake of profit. Over-emphasis on future lives ignores the importance of kusalachanda and Dhammachanda, which in turn becomes a denial of, or even an insult to, the human ability to practice and develop truth and righteousness for their own sakes.
Kamma on the social level: Normally the Buddhist understood Kamma in the quite conservative sense that everyone has his own kamma: one's own kamma cannot be shared by others and vice versa. But according to Phradhammapidok kamma moves outwards, that is, in practical terms the human world is a world of intentional action because human thinking is guided by intention. Our way of life, whether on the individual or on the sophist level, is directed by intention and the thought process. For example, the way intention affects the society can be considered from the negative side. Intention negatively is that which is influenced by defilements. Here there are three kinds of defilements which play an important role in directing human behaviour, namely, (i) craving personal gain (tanha), (ii) desire to dominate (mana), and (iii) clinging to views (ditthi); which are the active forms of greed, hatred and delusion. When people=s minds are ruled by selfish desire for personal gain, aspiring to pleasures of the senses, their actions in society result in contention, deceit and exploitation, as for example with the problem of drugs, pollution, and corruption, etc.
The enormous amount of natural resources on this planet, amassed over a period of hundreds of millions of years, mostly have been consumed by humanity in a period of only one or two hundred years. All these problems stem from the problem of hatred or violence perpetuated under the power of what in Buddhism is called 'aversion' (dosa) and 'desire or greed' (lobha). Technology has become a tool of greed and hatred. Science, technology and the development of information and communications technology have been used to lull humanity into heedless consumption, dullness and intoxication in various forms, rather than for the development of human beings or of the quality of life. Greed and hatred, which are natural conditions within the human mind, would be much easier to control if it were not for the influence of (wrong) views, in other words, different ideologies and social values, because by adhering to such view it becomes kamma on a social scale, which has far reaching effect over long periods of time, (P.A. Payutto, A Buddhist Solution, p. 5). Greed and hatred are maintained and prolonged by the influence of ditthi, making them much harder to resolve. Human beings in the twentieth century have created much bad kamma, which is going to exert an influence on humanity in the twenty-first century. The citizens of the twenty-first century are going to have to deal with problems which are the legacy of the twentieth century. In order to help solve these problems and ensure that the twenty-first century will be safe, we must adapt our own actions and behaviour. If we can adapt our views as mentioned before, we will be able to solve these problems successfully, (ibid., p. 29 ).
According to Venerable Phradhammapidok, views or beliefs that have held control over modern human civilization are grouped into three main perceptions:
1. The perception that humankind is separate from nature which it must control or manipulate according to its desires.
2. The perception that fellow human beings are not own 'fellows'. Rather than perceiving the common situations shared among all people, human beings have tended to focus on their differences.
3. The perception that happiness is dependent on an abundance of material possessions, that human beings will find happiness only through a wealth of material possessions with which to feed their desires.
The first perception is an attitude towards nature; the second is an attitude towards fellow human beings; the third is an understanding of the objective of life. Being held under the power of these three perceptions, the resulting actions become kamma on the social level. That is, the development of human society is guided by the kamma, or actions, of human beings blinded by these three wrong views. Under their misdirection, human beings also have developed the lifestyles that lead to the broad spread of such social ills as drug abuses, violence, stress, mental illness, suicides, and AIDS. The people of the twenty-first century will receive the fruits of our actions in the 20 century (ibid., p. 9).
Ethical systems in the modern world, such as restraint toward nature, religious tolerance and human rights, are reduced to an attempt to preserve or sustain the world, but they are merely a compromise. These must be supported by more positive ethical standards and a new way of thinking. Buddhism teaches that:
1. Human beings are one element within the whole natural system of cause and effect in which all elements play a part. All actions within it should therefore be harmonious and beneficial to that system.
2. All beings, both human and animal, are co-dwellers within this system of natural laws. Buddhism encourages universal love, harmony, mutual help and unity.
3. The finest and noblest kind of life is that endowed with freedom; this is true happiness. Over and above external freedom, which is related to the natural environment and the four necessities of life, and freedom from social harassment, the highest level of freedom is the inner level, which results from inner development, mental and intellectual maturity. This idea of freedom is explained by him as development (bhavana) and appears in the Tipitaka (A. III. 106).
When we speak of views, we are coming into the domain of religion, because religion is view. For religion to be effective in addressing the problems of the world it must be based on good or right views, and must encourage the propagation of such views in the world in order to cultivate good kamma for the society.
1. F.L. Woodward gives its example as when one goes out hastily at night and it bitten by snake. The Kindred Sayings, IV, 155. n. 4.
2. For example, one is arrested as a obber or adulterer. The Milindapanha gives an example the wounding of the Buddha's foot by a splinter of rock. The word means 'chance external happenings'. The Kindred Saying, IV, 155, n.d.
Anguttara-Nikaya. 5 Vols. Ed. R. Morris & E. Hardy. London: PTS, 1985-1990.
The Book of Gradual Sayings,(GS). 5 Vols. Tr. E.M. Hare & F.L. Woodward. London: PTS, 1932-1936.
Bannaruci, Bancob. Cit Mano Vinnana. Bangkok: Sukhabhav Cai Press, n.d.
Brahma-Sutras of Badarayana with Sankara's Commentary. Ed. M.S. Bakre.Bombay: Nirnaya Sagar Press, 1934.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Handbook for Mankind, (HM). Bangkok: Mahachula Buddhist University Press, n.d.
Dhammapada. Ed. S. Sumangala.London: PTS, 1914. The Dhammapada. Ed. & Tr. Narada Mahathera. Colombo: BMS, 1978.
Dhammananda, K. What Buddhists Believe. Malsia: BMS, 1982.
Dhigha-Nikaya. 3 Vols. Ed. T.W. Rhys Davids & J.E. Carpenter. London: PTS, 1890-1911. Dialogues of the Buddha. 3 Vols. Tr. T.W. Rhys Davids & C.A.F. Rhys Davids. London: Oxford University Press, SBB. Vols. 2, 3 and 4, 1899-1921.
Datta, D.M. The Chief Currents of Contemporary Philosophy. Culcutta: The University of Calcutta, 1970.
Majjhima-Nikaya. 3 Vols. Ed. V. Trenckner & R. Chalmers. London: PTS, 1948-1951. The Middle Length Sayings, 3 Vols. Tr. I.B. Horner. London: PTS, 1975-1977.
Mererk, P. Selflessness in Sartre's Existentialism and Early Buddhism. Bangkok: Mahachula Buddhist University, 1988.
Narada Mahathera. The Buddha and His Teachings. 4th ed. Kandy: BPS, 1980.
. Ed. & Tr. A Manual of Abhidhamma. 4th ed. Kandy: BPS, 1980.
Nyanatiloka, Mahathera. Karma and Rebirth. Colombo: Buddha Sahitya Sabha, 1964.
Piyadassi Thera. The Psychological Aspect of Buddhism. Kandy: BPS, 1972.
Phongphit, Seri. Religion in a Changing Society. Hong Kong: Arena Press, 1988.
Phradhammapidok (P.A. Payutto), A Buddhist Solution For the Twenty-First Century. Bangkok: SahaDhammic, n.d.
. Good, Evil and Beyond: Kamma in the Buddha's Teaching, (GEB). Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1993.
Phra Debvedi (Prayudh Payutto). Freedom: Individual & Social. Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1990.
. Helping Yourself To Help Others. Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1990.
Radhakrishnan, S. Indian Philosophy. Vol. II, 2nd ed., 1929, rpt. Bombay: Blackie & Son Publishers, 1985.
. Ed. & Tr. The Principal Upanisads. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953.
. Ed. & Tr. Bhagavadgita. rpt. Bombay: Blackie & Son Publishers, 1982.
Rajagopala, Sastri. "Karma and Rebirth." IPA, Vol. 2, 1966.
Ratanasuwan, Porn. Buddha-Vidya. 2 Vols. Bangkok: The Home of Psychical Research, 2514/1971.
Samyutta-Nikaya. 6 Vols. Ed. M.L. Feer. London: PTS, 1884-1904.
The Book of the Kindred Sayings. 5 Vols. Tr. C.A.F. Rhys Davids & F.L. Woodward. London: PTS, 1917-30.
Visuddhimagga. 2 Vols.Ed. C.A.F. Rhys Davids. London: PTS, 1920-1921.
The Path of Purification. Tr. Pe Maung Tin. London: PTS, 1923-1931.