The practical value of the
teaching of kamma can be summarized thus:
" It establishes an understanding of actions and their results as subject to cause and effect, rather than lucky charms and auspicious objects.
" It demonstrates that the success of any aspiration is dependent on action, encouraging self-reliance and diligence.
" It develops a sense of responsibility -- to one self by giving up bad actions, and towards others by acting kindly towards them.
" It nurtures the understanding that all people have a natural and equal right, either to let themselves degenerate, or to improve and develop themselves.
" It shows that mental qualities, abilities and behavior are the measuring sticks of human baseness or refinement, and that discrimination according to caste or race are unnecessary and harmful.
" It shows how to learn from old kamma (past actions), by considering actions according to reason; not simply finding fault with others or external situations, but looking into one's own actions, ascertaining how to correct them and improve oneself, and determining the most useful actions for any given situation.
" It puts the future, in the form of personal responsibility, back into the hands of each individual.
These values can be considered in the light of the Buddha's words presented here:
The general meaning
"Bhikkhus, intention, I say, is kamma. With intention as the forerunner, kamma is created through body, speech and mind."
* * *
"All beings are the owners of their kamma, heirs to their kamma, born of their kamma, related to their kamma, supported by their kamma. Kamma it is which divides beings into coarse and refined states."
* * *
"Whatever seed one plants, one reaps the fruit thereof. Who does good receives good, who does evil receives evil."
* * *
"The fool treats himself like an enemy, creating bad kamma, a cause for misery. Actions which lead to distress, a face wet with tears and distraction, are not good kamma."
* * *
"Actions which lead not to distress, but to a heart bright and cheerful, are good kamma. Knowing what kamma is useful, one should quickly act thereon."
Intelligence over superstition
"If it were possible to cleanse evil kamma simply by bathing in a river, then the frogs, fish, otters, crocodiles and other river-dwelling animals would certainly be destined for rebirth in a heaven realm ... If these rivers were capable of carrying away your evil kamma, then they could probably also carry away your good kamma."
* * *
"Benefit slips by while the fool counts the stars. Benefit is the harbinger of benefit, of what use are the stars?"
* * *
"For whosoever there is right action, that is a favorable time, an auspicious time, an auspicious morning, an auspicious dawning, an auspicious moment, an auspicious occasion; and in that action there is veneration of the holy. The bodily kamma ... verbal kamma ... mental kamma of such a one are auspicious, and his wishes are auspicious. Having created auspicious kamma, that person experiences only auspicious results."
Action rather than prayer
"Yearn neither for the past, nor anticipate the future. The past is gone, the future yet to come. One who sees clearly the present moment, certain and unwavering, should strive to maintain that awareness. Practice diligently today, who knows whether tomorrow will bring death? No-one can bargain with the Lord of Death and his hordes. One who practices in such a way, even for one night, ardent, lazy neither day nor night, is praised by the Peaceful One."
* * *
"Listen, householder, these five conditions are desirable, worthy of favor, worthy of pleasure, and are hard to come by in this world. They are longevity ... pleasant appearance ... happiness ... status ... heaven. These five conditions, I say, are not to be had by mere supplication or aspiration. If these five conditions were obtainable through mere supplication or aspiration, then who in this world would not have them? Listen, householder, the Noble Disciple, desiring long life, should not waste his time supplicating or merely indulging in the wish for longevity. The Noble Disciple desiring longevity should maintain the practice which produces longevity. Only the practice which produces longevity is capable of procuring longevity. That Noble Disciple will thus be one who has longevity, both divine and human ... he who desires pleasant appearance ... happiness ... status ... heaven, should develop the practice which produces pleasant appearance ... happiness ... status ... heaven ..."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, even though a bhikkhu were to conceive the wish, 'May my mind be freed from the outflows,' if he does not diligently devote himself to the training of the mind, he will be unable to free the mind from the outflows. Just like a mother hen who refuses to sit on her eggs, to warm, to incubate them. Even though that hen might conceive the wish, 'May my chicks, using their feet and beaks, break out safely from these eggs,' it would be impossible for those chicks to do so."
Nonadherance to race or class
"I do not say that one becomes a Brahmin on emerging from the womb. That is simply what the Brahmins say. Such a person still has defilements. I say that it is rather the one who has no defilements and clinging who is a Brahmin.
"Name and family are established in this world as merely worldly conventions. They arise from the views adhered to over the ages by ignorant beings. Those ignorant beings say they are Brahmins because of their birth, but one does not become either Brahmin or non-Brahmin through birth. One is a Brahmin through action (kamma), is a non-Brahmin through action. One is a farmer through action, one is an artist through action, a merchant through action, a servant through action, a thief through action, a King through action. The wise, skilled in the Principle of Dependent Origination, understanding kamma and its results, know kamma clearly as it is ... that the world proceeds according to kamma, all beings fare according to kamma. Beings are bound together by kamma, just as a running cart is bound by its couplings."
* * *
"One is not evil because of birth, and is not a Brahmin because of birth, but is evil because of kamma, and is a Brahmin because of kamma."
* * *
"From among these four castes -- the Noble, the Brahmin, the merchants and the plebeians, all who have left home and gone forth in the Teaching and Discipline of the Tathagata, will dispense with name and family, and all become equally recluses, Sons of the Sakyans."
* * *
"From among these four castes, any who have become bhikkhus, freed of the outflows, who have completed the training, done what was to be done and laid down the burden; who have attained the true benefit, the freedom from the fetters, and liberation through true wisdom ... they are more excellent than any of those castes."
"You must do the practice yourselves. The Tathagata only points the way."
* * *
"Self is the mainstay of self, who else could be your mainstay? Having trained the self well, one attains a mainstay hard to come by."
* * *
"Purity and impurity are personal responsibilities. No one else can make you pure."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, be a refuge unto yourselves, do not cling to anything else. Take the Dhamma as your refuge, take nothing else as your refuge."
A caution for the future
"Women, men, householders and those gone to homelessness should regularly reflect, 'We are the owners of our kamma, the heirs of our kamma, born of our kamma, descended from our kamma, supported by our kamma. Whatever kamma is done by us, whether good or bad, we will receive the results thereof.'"
* * *
"If you fear suffering, do not make bad kamma, either in public or in private. If you make bad kamma, even if you fly into the air, you will be unable to escape suffering."
* * *
"Grain, possessions, money, all the things you love, servants, employees and associates ... none of these can you take with you, you must cast them all aside.
"But whatever kamma is made by you, whether by body, speech or mind, that is your real possession, and you must fare according to that kamma. That kamma will follow you, just as the shadow follows its owner.
"Therefore, do good actions, gather benefit for the future. Goodness is the mainstay of beings in the hereafter."