Question 1: Do the Kammas of parents determine or
affect the kammas of their children? (Note:-Physiologically, children inherit
the physical characteristics of their parents).
ANSWER: Physically, the kammas
of children are generally determined by the kammas of their parents. Thus, healthy
parents usually beget healthy offspring, and unhealthy parents cannot but beget
unhealthy children On the other hand, morally, the kamma of a father or mother
does not in any way affect or determine the kamma of their child. The child's
kamma is a thing apart of itself-it forms the child's individuality, the sum-total
of its merits and demerits accumulated in its innumerable past existences. For
example, the kamma of the Buddha to be, Prince Siddattha, was certainly not influenced
by the joint kammas of his parents, King Suddhodana and his Spouse, Queen Maya.
The glorious and powerful kamma of our Buddha-to-be transcended the kammas of
his parents which jointly were less potent than his own.
Question 2: If the
kammas of parents do not influence those of their children, how would the fact
be explained that parents who suffer from certain virulent diseases are apt to
transmit these evils to their offspring?
ANSWER: Where a child inherits such
a disease it is due to the force of the parent's characteristics because of the
force of the latter's utu (conditions favourable to germination). Take, for example,
two seeds from a sapling plant one in inferior, dry soil ; and the other in rich,
moist soil. The result, we will find, is that the first seed will sprout into
a sickly sapling and soon show symptoms of disease and decay while the other seed
will thrive and flourish, and grow up to be a tall, healthy tree.
be observed that the pair of seeds taken from the same stock grow up differently
according to the soil into which they are put. A child's past kamma (to take the
case of human beings) may be compared to the seed; the physical disposition of
the mother to the soil ; and that of the father to the moisture which fertilizes
the soil. Roughly speaking, to illustrate our subject, we will say that, representing
the sapling's germination growth and existence as a unit, the seed is responsible
for say one-tenth of them, the soil for six-tenths, and the moisture for the remainder,
three-tenths. Thus, although the power of germination exists potentially in the
seed (the child), its growth is powerfully determined and quickened by the soil
(the mother), and the moisture (the father.)
Therefore, even as the conditions
of the soil and moisture must be taken as largely responsible factors in the growth
and condition of the tree, so must the influences of the parents (or progenitors,
in the case of the brute world) be taken into account in respect to the conception
and growth of their issue.
The parents' (or progenitors') share in the Kamma
determining the physical factors of their issue is as follows :-If they are human
beings, then their offspring will be a human being. If they are cattle, then their
issue must be of their species. If the human beings are Chinese, then their offspring
must be of their race. Thus, the offerings are invariably of the same genera and
species, etc., as those of their progenitors. It will be seen from the above that,
although a child's kamma be very powerful in itself, it cannot remain wholly uninfluenced
by those of its parents. It is apt to inherit the physical characteristics of
its parents Yet, it may occur that the child's kamma, being superlatively powerful,
the influence of the parents joint kammas cannot overshadow it. Of course, it
needs hardly be pointed out that the evil (physical) influences of parents can
also be counteracted by the application of medical science.
All beings born
of sexual cohabitation are the resultant effects of three forces-- one, the old
kamma of past existences. the next the seminal fluid of the mother, and the third,
the seminal fluid of the father. The physical dispositions of the parents may
or may not be equal in force. One may counteract the other to a lesser or greater
extent. The child's kamma and physical characteristics such as race, colour, etc.,
will be the product of the three forces.
Question 3: On the death of a sentient
being, is there a 'soul' that wanders about at will?
ANSWER: When a sentient
being leaves one existence, it is reborn either as a human being, a Deva, a Brahma,
an inferior animal, or as a denizen of one of the regions of hell. The sceptics
and the ignorant people hold that there are intermediate stages--- Antarabhava---
between these; and that there are beings who are neither of the human, the Deva
or the Brahma worlds, nor of any one of the states of existences recognized in
the Scriptures,--- but are in an intermediate stage. Some assert that these transitional
beings are possessed of the five khandhas: *
Some assert that these beings
are detached 'souls' or spirits with no material envelopes and some again, that
they are possessed of the faculty of seeing like Devas and further, that they
have the power of changing at will, at short intervals, from one to any of the
existences mentioned above. Others again hold the fantastic and erroneous theory
that these beings can and do, fancy themselves to be in other than the existence
they are actually in; thus, to take for example one such of these suppositious
beings. He is a poor person -and yet he fancies himself to be rich. He may be
in hell-and yet he fancies himself to be in the land of Devas, and so on. This
belief in intermediate stages between existences is false, and is condemned in
the Buddhist teachings. A human being in this life who by his Kamma is destined
to be a human being in the next will be re-born as such; one who by his Kamma
is destined to be a deva in the next will appear in the land of devas , and one
whose future life is to be in hell, will be found in one of the regions of hell
in the next existence.
The idea of an entity or "soul" or spirit
"going", "coming" , " changing", "transmigrating"
from one existence to another is that entertained by the ignorant and the materialistic,
and is certainly not justified by the Dhamma: there is no such things "going",
"coming", "changing", etc.,, as between existences. The conception
which is in accordance with the Dhamma may perhaps be illustrated by the picture
thrown out by the cinematograph, or the sound emitted by the gramophone, and their
relation to the film or the sound-box and disc respectively.
a human being dies and is reborn in the land of devas. Though these two existences
are different, yet the link or continuity between the two at death is unbroken
in point of time. And so in the case of a man whose future existence is to be
the nethermost hell. The distance between hell and the abode of man appears to
be great. Yet, in point of time, the continuity of " passage " from
the one existence to the other is unbroken, and no intervening matter or space
can interrupt the trend of this man's kamma from the world of human beings to
the regions of hell. The "passage" from one existence to another is
instantaneous, and the transition is infinitely quicker than the blink of an eyelid
or a lightning-flash.
Kamma determines the realm of rebirth and the state of
existence in such realm of all transient beings (in the cycle of existences which
have to be traversed till the attainment at last of Nibbana)
Kammas in their
results are manifold, and may be effected in many ways. Religious offerings (Dana)
may obtain for a man the privilege of rebirth as a human being, or as a deva,
in one of the six deva-worlds according to the degree of the merit of the deeds
performed. And so with the observance of religious duties (sila). The five jhanas
or states of enlightenment, are found in the Brahma worlds or Brahma-lokas up
to the summit, the twentieth Brahma world. And so with bad deeds, the perpetrators
of which are to be found, grade by grade, down to the lowest depths of the nethermost
hell. Thus, our kammas, past, present and future, were, are, and will ever be
the sum-total of our deeds, good, indifferent or bad, according as our actions
are good, indifferent or bad As will be seen from the foregoing, our kammas determine
the changes in our existences.
"Evil spirits" are therefore not
beings in an intermediate or transitional stage of existence, but are really very
inferior beings, and they belong to one of the following five realms of existence,
which are namely World of men; World of devas, the regions of Hell; --Animals
below men ; and Petas.
They are very near the world of human beings. As their
condition is unhappy, they are popularly considered as evil spirits. It is not
true that all who die in this world are reborn as evil spirits, though human beings
who die sudden or violent deaths are apt to be reborn in these lowest worlds of
* Khandha: The 5 'groups' are called the 5 aspects in which the Buddha
has summed up all the physical and mental phenomena of existence, and which appear
to be the ignorant man as his Ego, or personality, to wit: (1) the Corporeality-group
rupakkhandha), (2) the Feeling-group (Vedana-kkhandha). (3) the Perception-group
(sanna-kkhandha), (4) the Mental-Formation group (Sankhara-kkhandha), (5) the
Consciousness-group (vinnana- kkhandha). "Whatever there exists of corporeal
things, whether one's own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near,
all that belongs to the Corporeality-group. Whatever there exists of feeling ...
of perception . . of mental formations ... of consciousness . . all that belongs
to the Consciousness-group '' (S VIII. 8f) ("Buddhist Dictionary", Nyanatiloka.)
Question 4: Is there such a thing as a human being who is reborn and who is
able to speak accurately of his or her past existence?
this is not an uncommon occurrence, and is in accordance with the tenets of Buddhism
in respect to kamma. Such a person is called a jatisara puggalo from jati, existence,
sara, remembering and puggalo, rational being.
The followings (who form an
overwhelming majority of human beings) are unable to remember their past existences
if, and when reborn as human beings.
1. Children who die young.
who die old and senile.
3. Those who are strongly addicted to the drug or
4. Those whose mothers, during their conception, have been sickly
or have had to toil laboriously, or have been reckless or imprudent during pregnancy.
The children in the womb being stunned and startled lose all knowledge of their
The following are possessed of a knowledge of their past
1. Those who are not re-born (in the human world) but proceed
to the world of devas, of Brahmas, or to the regions of hell, remember their past
2. Those who die sudden deaths from accidents, while in sound
health may also be possessed of this faculty in the next existence, provided that
the mothers, in whose wombs they are conceived, are healthy, clean-lived and quiet
3. Again, those who live steady, meritorious lives and who (in their
past existences) have striven to attain, and have prayed for this faculty often
4. Lastly, the Buddha, the Arahants and Ariyas attain this gift
which is known as pubbenivasa-abhinnana.
Question 5: Which are the five Abbhinnana?
Are they attainable only by the Buddha ?
ANSWER: The five Abhinnana (Psychic
powers) (Pali Abhi=excelling; nana=wisdom) are:
1. Iddhividha, Creative power,
2. Dibbasota, Divine Ear;
3. Cittapariya-nana, Knowledge of others' thoughts,
4. Pubbenivasanussati; Knowledge of one's past existences; and
The Divine eye.
The five Abhinnana are attainable also by Arahants and Ariyas
and not only the above, but by ordinary mortals who practise according to the
Scriptures; as was the case with the hermits, etc., who flourished before the
time of the Buddha and who were able to fly through the air and traverse different
In the Buddhist Scriptures we find, clearly shown, the means of attaining
the five abhinnana ; and even now-a-days, if these means are carefully and perseveringly
pursued, it would be possible to attain these. That we do not see any person endowed
with the five abhinna today, is due to the lack of strenuous physical and mental
exertion towards their attainment.