The Fruition of Kamma
P. A. Payutto

Results of kamma on different levels
Probably the most misunderstood aspect of the whole subject of kamma is the way it yields results, as summarized in the principle, "Good actions bring good results, bad actions bring bad results." Is this really true? To some, it seems that in "the real world" there are many who obtain good results from bad actions and bad results from good actions. This kind of understanding arises from confusion between "Social Preference" and the law of kamma. The confusion can be readily seen from the way people misunderstand even the meaning of the words, "good actions bring good results." Instead of understanding the meaning as "in performing good actions, there is goodness," or "good actions bring about good results in accordance with the law of kamma," they take the meaning to be "good actions result in good things." Bearing this in mind, let us now consider the matter in more depth.
The subject which causes doubt is the distinction, and the relationship between, the law of kamma and Social Preference. To clarify this point, let us first consider the fruition of kamma on four different levels:
1. The inner, mental level: the results kamma has within the mind itself, in the form of accumulated tendencies, both skillful and unskillful, and the quality of the mind, its experiences of happiness, suffering, and so on.
2. The physical level: the effect kamma has on character, mannerisms, bearing, behavioral tendencies. The results on this level are derived from the first level, and their fields of relevance overlap, but here they are considered separately in order to further clarify the way these two levels affect life experiences.
3. The level of life experiences: how kamma affects the events of life, producing both desirable and undesirable experiences; specifically, external events like prosperity and decline, failure and success, wealth, status, happiness, suffering, praise and criticism. Together these are known as the lokadhamma (worldly conditions). The results of kamma on this level can be divided into two kinds:
" those arising from nonhuman environmental causes
" those arising from causes related to other people and society.
4. The social level: the results of individual and collective kamma on society, leading to social prosperity or decline, harmony or discord. This would include the effects of human interaction with the environment.
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 Preference meet, and it is at this point that confusion arises. This is the problem which we will now consider. The fourth level, kamma on the social level, will be considered in the next chapter.
When considering the meaning of the words "good actions bring good results, bad actions bring bad results," most people tend to take note only of the results given on the third level, those from external sources, completely ignoring results on levels one and two. However, these first two levels are of prime importance, not only in that they determine mental well-being, inner strength or shortcomings, and the maturity or weakness of the faculties, but also in their potential to determine external events. That is to say, that portion of results on the third level which comes into the domain of the law of kamma is derived from the kamma-results on the first and second levels.
For instance, states of mind which are results of kamma on the first level -- interests, preferences, tendencies, methods for finding happiness or coping with suffering -- will influence not only the way we look at things, but also the situations we are drawn toward, reactions or decisions made, our way of life and the experiences or results encountered. They affect the attitude we adopt towards life's experiences, which will in turn affect the second level (behavioral tendencies). This in turn promotes the way in which mental activities (the first level) affect external events (the third level). The direction, style, or method taken for action, the persistence with it, the particular obstacles in face of which we will yield and in face of which we will persist, including the probability of success, are all influenced by character and attitude. This is not to deny that other factors, particularly environmental and social ones, affect each other and have an influence over us, but here we are concerned more with observing the workings of kamma.
Although events of life are largely derived from the effects of the law of kamma from the personal (physical and mental) level, this is not always the case. An honest and capable public servant, for example, who applied himself to his work would be expected to advance in his career, at least more so than one who was inefficient and inept. But sometimes this doesn't happen. This is because the events in life are not entirely subject to the law of kamma. There are factors involved from other niyama and value-systems, especially Social Preference. If there were only the law of kamma operating there would be no problem, results would arise in direct correspondence with the relevant kamma. But looking only at the influence of kamma to the exclusion of other factors, and failing to distinguish between the natural laws and Social Preferences involved, causes confusion, and this is precisely what causes the belief, "good actions bring bad results, bad actions bring good results."
For example, a conscientious student who applies himself to his lessons could be expected to acquire learning. But there may be times when he is physically exhausted or has a headache, or the weather or some accident may interrupt his reading. Whatever the case, we can still assert that in general, the law of kamma is the prime determining factor for the good and bad experiences of life.
Let us now look at and rectify some of the misunderstandings in regard to the fruition of kamma by referring to the root texts. The phrase that Thai people like to repeat, "good actions bring good results, bad actions bring bad results," comes from the Buddha's statement,
Yadisam vapate bijam Tadisam labhate phalam
Kalyanakari kalyanam Papakari ca papakam
Which translates as:
As the seed, so the fruit.
Whoever does good, receives good,
Whoever does bad, receives bad.[27]
This passage most clearly and succinctly expresses the Buddhist doctrine of kamma. (Note that here the Buddha uses bijaniyama, the law of heredity, for illustration.) Simply by clearly considering this illustration, we can allay all confusion regarding the law of kamma and Social Preference.
That is to say, the phrase, "As the seed, so the fruit," explains the natural law pertaining to plants: if tamarind is planted, you get tamarind; if grapes are planted, you get grapes; if lettuce is planted, you get lettuce. It does not speak at all in terms of Social Preference, such as in "if tamarind is planted, you get money," or "planting lettuce will make you rich," which are different stages of the process.
Bijaniyama and Social Preference become related when, having planted grapes, for example, and obtained grapes, and the time being coincident with a good price for grapes, then your grapes are sold for a good price, and you get rich that year. But at another time, you may plant water melons, and reap a good harvest, but that year everybody plants water melons, supply exceeds demand, and the price of water melons goes down. You make a loss and have to throw away a lot of water melons.
Apart from the factor of market demand, there may also be other factors involved, economic ones determined by Social Preference. But the essential point is the certainty of the natural law of heredity, and the distinction between that natural law and Social Preference. They are different and yet clearly related.
People tend to look at the law of kamma and Social Preference 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'll get a lot of money," or "They planted apples, that's why they're hard up." These things may be true, or may not be. But this kind of thinking jumps ahead of the facts a step or two. It is not entirely true. It may be sufficient to communicate on an everyday basis, but if you wanted to speak accurately, you would have to analyze the pertinent factors more clearly.
Factors which affect the fruition of kamma
In the Pali there are four pairs of factors which influence the fruition of kamma on the level of life experiences. They are given as the four advantages (sampatti) and the four disadvantages (vipatti).[28]
Sampatti translates roughly as attribute or attainment, and refers to the confluence of factors to support the fruition of good kamma and obstruct the fruition of bad kamma. The four are:
1. Gatisampatti: Favorable birthplace, favorable environment, circumstances or career; that is, to be born into a favorable area, locality or country; on a short term scale, to be in a favorable place.
2. Upadhisampatti: The asset, suitability and support of the body; that is, to have a beautiful or pleasant appearance or personality which arouses respect or favor; a strong and healthy body, etc.
3. Kalasampatti: The asset of opportunity, aptness of time, or the support of time; that is, to be born at a time when the country lives in peace and harmony, the government is good, people live virtuously, praise goodness and do not support corruption; on an immediate level, to encounter opportunities at the right time, at the right moment.
4. Payogasampatti: The attribute of action, aptness of action, or advantage of action; that is, action which is appropriate to the circumstance; action which is in accordance with personal skill or capability; action which fully accords with the principles or criteria concerned; thoroughgoing, not halfhearted, action; proper procedure or method.
Vipatti translates roughly as defect or loss, and refers to a tendency within conditioning factors to encourage the fruition of bad kamma rather than the good. They are:
1. Gativipatti: Unfavorable birthplace, unfavorable environment, circumstances or career; that is, to be born into or be situated in a sphere, locality, country or environment which is unsupportive.
2. Upadhivipatti: Weakness or defectiveness of the body; that is, to have a deformed or sickly body, of unpleasant appearance. This includes times of bad health and illness.
3. Kalavipatti: Disadvantage or defectiveness of time; that is, to be born into an age when there is social unrest, bad government, a degenerate society, oppression of good people, praise of the bad, and so on. This also includes inopportune action.
4. Payogavipatti: Weakness or defectiveness of action; putting effort into a task or matter which is worthless, or for which one is not capable; action which is not thoroughly carried through.
First pair: Gatisampatti: Birth into an affluent community and a good education can procure a higher position in society than for another who, although brighter and more diligent, is born into a poorer community with less opportunity. Gativipatti: At a time when a Buddha is born into the world and expounding the Dhamma, birth in a primitive jungle or as a hell-being will obstruct any chance of hearing the teachings; learning and capability in a community where such talents are not appreciated may yield no benefits, and even lead to rejection and scorn.
Second pair: Upadhisampatti: Attractive features and a pleasant appearance can often be utilized to shift upwards on the social scale. Upadhivipatti: Deformity or deficiency are likely to hinder the honor and prestige that would normally befall a member of a socially high and wealthy family; where two people have otherwise equal attributes, but one is attractive while the other is unpleasant looking or sickly, the attributes of the body may be the deciding factor for success.
Third pair: Kalasampatti: At a time when government and society are honest and praise virtue, honesty and rectitude can procure advancement; at a time when poetry is socially preferred, a poet is likely to become famous and revered. Kalavipatti: At a time when society has fallen from righteousness and the government is corrupt, honest people may actually be persecuted; at a time when a large portion of society prefers harsh music, a musician skilled at cool and relaxing music may receive little recognition.
Fourth pair: Payogasampatti: Even without goodness or talent, a knack with public relations and an understanding of social mores can help to override failings in other areas; a skill in forging documents may be beneficially turned to the inspection of references. Payogavipatti: Talent and abilities will inevitably be impaired by an addiction to gambling; a sprinter with the ability to become a champion athlete might misuse his talent for running away with other people's goods; a practically minded person with a mechanical bent might go to work in a clerical position for which he is wholly unsuited.
The fruits of kamma on the external level are mostly worldly conditions, which are in a state of constant flux. These worldly conditions are relatively superficial, they are not the real essence of life. How much they influence us depends on the extent of our attachment to them. If there is little attachment, it is possible to maintain equilibrium in the face of hardships, or at least not be overwhelmed by them. For this reason Buddhism encourages intelligent reflection and understanding of the truth of this world, to have mindfulness and not be heedless: not to become intoxicated in times of good fortune, and not to fall into depression or anxiety in times of misfortune, but to carefully consider problems with wisdom.
Aspiration to worldly goals should be coupled with a knowledge of personal attributes and weaknesses, and the ability to choose and organize the relevant attributes to attain those goals through skillful means (kusala kamma). Such actions will have a lasting and beneficial effect on life at all levels. Success sought through unskillful means, or favorable occasions used to create unskillful kamma, will create undesirable results according to the law of kamma. These four advantages (sampatti) and disadvantages (vipatti) are constantly changing. When favorable times or opportunities have passed, evil kamma will ripen. Favorable conditions should rather be utilized to create good kamma.
In this context, we might summarize by saying that, for any given action, where many different natural laws come into play, our prime emphasis should be with the factors of kamma. As for the factors which come under other kinds of natural law, after careful consideration, they can also be incorporated, as long as they are not harmful on the level of kamma. Practicing in this way can be called "utilizing skillful kamma and the four advantages," or "knowing how to benefit from both the law of kamma and Social Preferences."
In any case, bearing in mind the real aim of the Buddha's teaching, an aspiration to true goodness should not be traded for merely worldly results. Truly good kamma arises from one or another of the three roots of skillfulness: non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion. These are actions based on altruism, relinquishing the unskillful within the mind and developing benevolent thoughts towards others, creating actions based on goodwill and compassion. Such actions are based on wisdom, a mind which aspires to truth and enlightenment. This is the highest kind of kamma, the kamma which leads to the cessation of kamma.
Understanding the process of fruition
Whenever the intention to perform skillful or unskillful deeds arises, that is the beginning of movement in the mind. To use a more scientific phrase, we could say that "volition-energy" has arisen. How this energy proceeds, which determinants affect it and so on, are usually a mystery to people, one in which they take little interest. They tend to devote more interest to the results which appear clearly at the end of the cycle, especially those which materialize in the human social sphere. These are things which are easily seen and spoken about.
Mankind has a very good knowledge of the creations of the mind on a material plane, and how these things come about, but about the actual nature of the mind itself, the seat of intention, and the way intention affects life and the psyche, we have very little knowledge indeed. It is a dark and mysterious realm for most people, in spite of the fact that we must have an intimate relationship with these things and are directly influenced by them.
On account of this obscurity and ignorance, when confronted with seemingly random or unexplainable events, people tend to be unable to join the scattered threads of cause and effect, and either fail to see the relevant determining factors, or see them incompletely. They then proceed to reject the law of kamma and put the blame on other things. This is tantamount to rejecting the law of cause and effect, or the natural process of interdependence. Rejecting the law of kamma and blaming other factors for the misfortunes of life is in itself productive of more unskillful kamma. Specifically, by so doing, any chance of improving unfavorable situations through clear understanding is defeated.
In any case, it is recognized that the process of kamma fruition is extremely complex, it is a process that is beyond most people's comprehension. In the Pali it is said to be acinteyya, beyond the comprehension of the normal thought processes. The Buddha said that insisting on thinking about such things could make one go crazy. In saying this, the Buddha was not so much forbidding any consideration of the law of kamma, but rather pointing out that the intricacy of causes and events in nature cannot be understood through thought alone, but only through direct, intuitive knowledge.
Thus, being acinteyya does not forbid us from touching the subject at all. Our relationship with kamma is one of knowledge and a firm conviction in that knowledge, based on examination of those things which we are able to know. These are the things which are actually manifesting in the present moment, beginning with the most immediate and extending outwards.
On the immediate level we are dealing with the thought process, or intention, as has been described above, initially noticing how skillful thoughts benefit the psyche and unskillful thoughts harm it. From there, the fruits of these thoughts spread outwards to affect others and the world at large, rebounding to affect the perpetrator in correspondingly beneficial and harmful ways.
This process of fruition can be seen on increasingly intricate levels, influenced by innumerable external causes, until it is possible to see a complexity far exceeding anything we had previously conceived of. Such an awareness provides a firm conviction in the truth of the natural law of cause and effect. Once the process is understood on an immediate level, the long term basis is also understood, because the long term is derived from the immediate present. Without an understanding of the process on the short term, it is impossible to understand the process on a long term basis. Only through seeing in the present can we see the way things are.
Having a firm conviction in the natural process of cause and effect in relation to intention or volition is to have a firm conviction in the law of kamma, or to believe in kamma. With a firm conviction in the law of kamma, we are able to realize aspirations through appropriate action, with a clear understanding of the cause and effect process involved. When any goal is desired, be it in the area of personal development or in worldly conditions, the relevant factors included in both the law of kamma and in other niyama must be carefully considered, and the right conditions created accordingly.
For example, a skilled artist or craftsman must not consider only his own designs and intentions to the exclusion of everything else, but also the relevant factors from other niyama and value-systems. When planning an intricate house design, an architect must consider the materials to be used for particular areas. If he designates a soft wood for use where a hardwood is needed, no matter how beautiful the design may be, that house may collapse without fulfilling the function it was intended for. To work with the law of kamma in a skillful way, it is necessary to develop an interest in moral rectitude and an appreciation of goodness, (kusalachanda or dhammachanda), and a motivation to improve life and one's surroundings. A desire for quality or care in personal actions and relationships is necessary. People who desire only worldly results, neglecting this aspiration for goodness, tend to try to play with or cheat the law of kamma, causing trouble not only for themselves, but for society as a whole.
Fruits of kamma on a long term basis -- Heaven and Hell
Some scholars feel that in order to convince the layman of the law of kamma and to encourage morality, he must first be convinced of the fruition of kamma on the long term basis, from past lives and into future lives. As a result of this, they see the need to verify the existence of an afterlife, or at least to present some convincing evidence to support it. Some scholars have attempted to explain the principle of kamma and afterlife by referring to modern scientific laws, such as The Law of Conservation of Energy, applying it to the workings of the mind and intention. Others refer to the theories of modern psychology and data concerning recollection of past lives. Some even go so far as to use mediums and seances to support their claims. These attempts at scientific verification will not be detailed here, because they are beyond the scope of this book. Those interested are advised to look into the matter for themselves from any of the numerous books available on the subject. As far as the present book goes, only a few reflections on the matter will be given.
The desirability of demonstrating the truth of future lives and the fruits of kamma on a long term basis would seem to have some validity. If people really did believe these things, it is possible that they would be more inclined to shun bad actions and cultivate good ones. It would thus seem unnecessary to oppose the continued study of and experimentation with such matters, as long as it lies within the bounds of reason. (Otherwise, such investigations, instead of casting light on the mysterious, may turn observable truths into inexplicable mysteries!) If there is honest and reasoned experimentation, at the very least some scientific gain is to be expected.
On the other hand, scholars who are delving into such matters should not become so engrossed in their research that they are blinded by it, seeing its importance above all else and overlooking the importance of the present moment. This becomes an extreme or unbalanced view.
Overemphasis on rebirth into heaven realms and hell realms ignores the good which should be aspired to in the present. 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. Good actions are performed for the sake of profit. Overemphasis on past and future lives ignores the importance of the qualities of moral rectitude and desire for goodness, which in turn becomes a denial of, or even an insult to, the human potential to practice and develop truth and righteousness for their own sakes.
Even though there are some grounds to the idea that verification of an afterlife might influence people to lead more virtuous lives, still there is no reason why people should have to wait to be satisfied on this point before they will agree to lead more moral lives. It is impossible to tell when the big "if" of this scientific research will be answered: when will this research be completed?
If we consider the matter strictly according to the meaning of the word "verification," as being a clear demonstration, then the word is invalid in this instance. It is impossible for one person to resolve another's doubts about rebirth. Rebirth is something which only those who see for themselves can really be sure about. This "verification" that is spoken of is merely an assemblage of related facts and case histories for analysis or speculation. The real essence of the matter remains acinteyya, unfathomable. No matter how many facts are amassed to support the issue, for most it will remain a matter of faith or belief. As long as it is still a matter of belief, there will always be those who disbelieve, and there will always be the possibility of doubt within those who believe. Only when certain of the fetters have been abandoned on the attainment of Stream Entry is it possible to be beyond doubt.
To sum up, searching for data and personal histories to support the issue of life after death has some benefit, and such doings should not be discouraged, but to say that ethical practice must depend on their verification is neither true nor desirable.
Summary: verifying future lives
Are there really past and future lives, heaven and hell? This is not only a fascinating question, but also, to some, a disquieting one, because it is an unknown quantity. Therefore I would like to include a small summary of the matter.
1. According to the teachings of Buddhism as preserved in the scriptures, these things do exist.
2. There is no end to verifying them, because they cannot be proven one way or another. You either believe in them or you don't. Neither those who believe, nor those who disbelieve, nor those who are trying to prove or disprove, really know where life comes from or where it goes to, either their own or others'. All are in darkness, not only about the distant past, but even toward their present birth, their present lives, and the future, even one day away.
3. On the subject of verification: it can be said that "sights must be seen with the eye, sounds must be heard with the ear, flavors must be tasted with the tongue" and so on. It would be impossible to see a visual object using organs other than the eye, even if you used ten ears and ten tongues to do so. Similarly, perceiving visual or audible objects (such as ultraviolet light waves or supersonic sound waves) with instruments of disparate or incompatible wave length is impossible. Some things are visible to a cat, but even ten human eyes cannot see them. Some things, although audible to a bat, are inaudible to even ten human ears. In this context, death and birth are experiences of life, or to be more precise, events of the mind, and must be researched by life or the mind. Any research should therefore be carried out in one of the following ways:
(a) In order to verify the truth of these things in the mind, it is said that the mind must first be in the state of concentrated calm, or samadhi. However, if this method seems impractical or inconvenient, or is considered too prone to self-deception, then the next method is

(b) to verify with this present life itself. None of us have ever died. The only thorough test is that achieved with one's own death ... but few seem inclined to try this method.

(c) If there is no real testing as mentioned above, all that remains is to show a number of case histories and collected data, such as accounts of recollections of previous lives, or to use analogies from other fields, such as sounds perceptible only to certain instruments, to show that these things do have some credibility. However, the issue remains on the level of belief.
Regardless of belief or disbelief, or however people try to prove these things to one another, the unavoidable fact, from which all future life must stem, is life in the present moment. Given this, it follows that this is where we should be directing our attention. In Buddhism, which is considered to be a practical religion, the real point of interest is our practical relationship towards this present life. How are we going to conduct our lives as they unfold right now? How are we going to make our present life a good one, and at the same time, in the event that there is a future life, ensure that it will be good? In the light of these points, we might consider the following:
" In the original Pali, that is, in the Discourses (Suttas), there is very little mention of previous and future lives, heaven and hell. In most cases they are merely given a mention. This indicates that not much importance or relevance is attributed to them in comparison to the conduct of life in the present world, or the practices of morality, meditation and wisdom.
" When, in the Pali, rebirth in heaven or hell is included in the fruits of good and evil kamma, it is usually after mentioning all the fruits of kamma occurring in the present life. These may be given as four, five or up to ten in number, with the final phrase: "At death, on the breaking up of the body, he goes to the nether worlds, a woeful state, hell," or "At death, on the breaking up of the body, he goes to a pleasant bourn, heaven."
There are two observations to be made in this respect:
Firstly, the fruits of kamma in the present life are given priority and are described in detail. Results in an afterlife seem to be thrown in at the end to "round off the discussion," so to speak.
Secondly, the Buddha's explanation of the good and bad results of kamma was always as a demonstration of the truth that these things proceed according to causes. That is, the results (of kamma) follow automatically from their causes. Simply to know this fact is to install confidence in the fruits of actions.
As long as those who do not believe in an afterlife still do not know for a fact that there is no afterlife, or heaven and hell, they will be unable to completely refute the doubts lurking deeply within their minds. When such people have spent the energy of their youth and old age is advancing, they tend to experience fear of the future, which, if they have not led a virtuous life, can be very distressing. Therefore, to be completely certain, even those who do not believe in these things should develop goodness. Then, whether there is or is not an afterlife, they can be at peace.
As for those who believe, they should ensure that their belief is based on an understanding of the truth of cause and effect. That is, they should see results in a future life as ensuing from the quality of the mind developed in the present one, giving emphasis to the creation of good kamma in the present. This kind of emphasis will ensure that any relationship with a future life will be one of confidence, based on the present moment. Aspirations for a future life will thus encourage care with the conduct of the present moment, bearing in mind the principle: "Regardless of how you relate to the next life, don't give it more importance than the present one." This way, the mistake of performing good deeds as a kind of investment made for profit is avoided.
Any belief in a future life should help to alleviate or completely do away with any dependence on higher powers or things occult. Belief in a future life means belief in the efficacy of one?s own actions (kamma). Dependence on any external power will only hinder progress in life and personal development. Those who have allowed themselves to slide into such dependencies should strive to extract themselves from them and become more self-reliant.
Ideally, we should try to advance to the stage of avoiding bad actions and developing the good, irrespective of belief or disbelief. This means to perform good deeds without the need for a result in some future life, and to avoid evil actions even if you don't believe in such things. This can be achieved by:
(1) developing an appreciation for moral rectitude, an aspiration for goodness, and a desire for the best in all situations.
(2) developing an appreciation for the subtle happiness of inner peace through meditation practice, and making that in itself an instrument for preventing the arising of evil states of mind and for encouraging the good. This is because it is necessary to avoid bad actions and cultivate the good in order to experience this inner peace. In addition, inner peace is an important aid in resisting the attraction of sensual desire, thus preventing the creation of the more extreme forms of bad kamma. However, concerning the state of inner peace, as long as it is on the worldly level, it is advisable to be wary of getting so caught up in it as to cease to progress in one's practice by allowing it to become an object of attachment.
(3) training the mind to conduct life with wisdom, knowing the truth of the world and life, or knowing the truth of conditions. This enables us to have some degree of freedom from material things or sense pleasures, thus reducing the likelihood of committing bad kamma on their account. We develop a sensitivity to the lives and feelings of others, understanding their pleasures, pains and desires, so that there is a desire to help rather than to take advantage of them. This is the life style of one who has reached, or is practicing towards, the transcendent truth and transcendent Right View. Failing this, we can live by the faith which is the forerunner of that wisdom, the unshakable conviction in a life guided by liberating wisdom as the finest and most excellent kind of life. This kind of an appreciation will serve as a foundation for the development of such a life.
These three principles of practice are connected and support each other. In particular, point number (1), chanda (zeal) is necessary in performing any kind of good action, so is also essential in points (2) concentration and (3) wisdom.
When accompanied by practice in accordance with these three principles, any belief in fruition of kamma in a future life will serve to encourage and strengthen the avoidance of bad actions and development of the good. Such belief will not in itself be so critical that without expectation of good results in a future life, there will no longer be any incentive to do good deeds.
If it is not possible to practice these three principles, then belief in a future life can be used to encourage a more moral life, which is better than letting people live their lives obsessed with the search for sensual gratification, which only serves to increase exploitation on both the individual and social levels. In addition, belief in a future life is considered to be mundane Right View and thus is one step on the way to developing a good life.
Kamma fruition in the Cula Kammavibhanga Sutta
Having established an initial understanding, let us now look at one of the Buddha's classic teachings dealing with the fruition of kamma, extending from the present into a future life.
"See here, young man. Beings are the owners of their kamma, heirs to their kamma, born of their kamma, have kamma as their lineage, have kamma as their support. Kamma it is which distinguishes beings into fine and coarse states."
1.a. A woman or a man is given to killing living beings, is ruthless, kills living beings constantly and is lacking in goodwill or compassion. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not reborn in hell, but in the human world, he or she will be short-lived.
b. A woman or man shuns killing and is possessed of goodwill and compassion. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a good bourn, to a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be blessed with longevity.
2.a. A woman or man is given to harming other beings by the hand and the weapon. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not reborn in hell, but as a human being, he or she will be sickly.
b. A woman or man shuns harming other beings. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person arrives at a good bourn, a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be one with few illnesses.
3.a. A woman or man is of ill temper, is quick to hatred, offended at the slightest criticism, harbors hatred and displays anger. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not born in hell, but as a human being, he or she will be ugly.
b. A woman or a man is not easily angered. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a pleasant bourn, a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be of pleasant appearance.
4.a. A woman or man has a jealous mind. When others receive awards, honor and respect, he or she is ill at ease and resentful. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not reborn in hell, but as a human being, he or she will be one of little influence.
b. A woman or a man is one who harbors no jealousy. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a good bourn, to a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be powerful and influential.
5.a. A woman or man is not one who gives, does not share out food, water and clothing. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not reborn in hell, but as a human being, he or she will be poor.
b. A woman or a man is one who practices giving, who shares out food, water and clothing. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a good bourn, to a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be wealthy.
6.a. A woman or man is stubborn and unyielding, proud, arrogant and disrespectful to those who should be respected. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not reborn in hell, but as a human being, he or she will be born into a low family.
b. A woman or man is not stubborn or unyielding, not proud, but pays respect and takes an interest in those who should be respected. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a good bourn, to a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be born into a high family.
7.a. A woman or man neither visits nor questions ascetics and Brahmins about what is good, what is evil, what is harmful, what is not harmful, what should be done and what should not be done; which actions lead to suffering, which actions will lead to lasting happiness. At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a woeful bourn, the nether worlds, to hell. Or, if not reborn in hell, but as a human being, he or she will be of little intelligence.
b. A woman or man seeks out and questions ascetics and Brahmins about what is good ... At death, on account of that kamma, developed and nurtured within, that person goes to a good bourn, to a heaven realm. Or, if not reborn in heaven, but as a human being, he or she will be intelligent.[29]
In this Sutta, although fruition in a future life is spoken of, yet it is the actions of the present moment, particularly those which have become regular, which are emphasized. Regular actions nurture the qualities of the mind which help to form personality and character. These are the forces which bring about results in direct relation to the causes. Rewards of such actions are not fantastic, such as in doing one single good deed, an act of giving, for example, and receiving some boundless reward fulfilling all wishes and desires. If this sort of attitude prevails it only causes people to do good deeds as an investment, like saving money in a bank and sitting around waiting for the interest to grow; or like playing the lottery, putting down a tiny investment and hoping for a huge reward. As a result people pay no attention to their daily behavior and take no interest in conducting a good life as explained in this Sutta.
Summarizing, the essence of the Cula Kammavibhanga Sutta still rests on the fact that any deliberation about results in a future life should be based on a firm conviction in the kamma, that is, the quality of the mind and of conduct, which is being made in the present moment. The results of actions on a long term basis are derived from and related to these causes.
A basic principle in this regard might be summarized as follows: The correct attitude to results of kamma in future lives must be one which promotes and strengthens a predilection for moral conduct and wisdom development. Any belief in kamma-results which does not strengthen this predilection for goodness, but instead serves to strengthen greed and desire, should be recognized as a mistaken kind of belief which should be corrected.