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Manual of Abhidharma - Reading Four: The Correlation of Deeds and Their Results

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The first selection is taken from the Treasure House of Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha), written by Master Vasubandhu (350 AD), and from its commentary by His Holiness the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup (1391-1474), entitled Illumination of the Path to Freedom.

48

Definitions of the Basic Types of Deeds

Deeds for the pleasant, unpleasant, and other–

Virtuous, non-virtuous, and other.

[IV.177-8]


“Just how,” one may ask, “do you describe virtuous, non-virtuous, and ethically neutral deeds?” Deeds that lead to a pleasant experience are virtuous deeds. Those that lead to an unpleasant experience, an experience of suffering, are non-virtuous. Deeds that lead to some “other” type of experience—that is, which bring on a neutral experience—are themselves the “other” type of deeds: those which are ethically neutral.

Our second group includes divisions of deeds according to their results; we begin with a brief introduction and continue to a more detailed treatment.


49

Deeds According to Result

Merit, non-merit, those which are unshifting;

The three including those which lead to pleasure.

[IV.179-80]


Now deeds may be divided into three different types: deeds which represent merit, non-merit, or those which are unshifting. They can also be divided into a different set of three: the three including those which lead to an experience of pleasure and so on.

Our more detailed treatment of these points will proceed in two steps: first a presentation of merit and the rest; secondly, a description of the mentioned pleasure and so on.


50

Merit, Non-Merit, and Unshifting Deeds

Merit, virtuous deeds of the realm of desire.

The ones that come from the above, unshifting.

They’re unshifting for the reason that

The deeds involved ripen at their levels.

[IV.181-4]


One might start with the following question: “Just how do you describe merit and the other types of deeds you mentioned?” Deeds that we call “merit” are the virtuous deeds of the realm of desire. What we call “unshifting” deeds are the ones that come from those realms above; that is, from the form and formless realms.

“Isn’t it contradictory,” one may object, “for you to describe deeds of the upper realms as unshifting, when those of the third and lower levels of concentration are explained as shifting types?” There is no contradiction. The levels of concentration from the third on down are explained as “shifting” or “affected” only with reference to their being affected by the various problems that prevent one from perfecting single-pointed concentration. The point in calling deeds of the upper realms “unshifting” is in reference, rather, to the fact that they do not shift direction when they ripen.

These deeds are called “unshifting” for the reason that a ripening of deeds which is meant to occur at “their” level—at the levels of the form and formless realms—will never occur at any other level. The point is thus that the ripening is an unshifting one.

Deeds of the desire realm, on the other hand, are shifting—someone meant to be born as a pleasure being can, through the effect of certain factors, take birth as one of the other types of beings. There was for example the case of the Brahmin who because of his generosity was to be born as a pleasure being. But he caught sight of an especially majestic elephant and thought to himself how wonderful it would be if he could obtain one. As a result, he took birth as the elephant known as Son of the Protector.

Next we consider deeds involving a sensation of pleasure and so on. We proceed in three steps concerning (1) definitive examples of each of the deeds leading to specific types of experiences, (2) the various divisions of experience, and (3) the correlation between specific sensations and the deeds they result from. Definitive examples are discussed in terms of both positions accepted by the present school and those accepted by others.

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51

Accepted Views on Deeds

Leading to Specific Experiences

Virtue up to the third concentration, the ones that

Bring a pleasant experience. From here on up,

The ones which bring on neither pain nor pleasure.

Non-virtue here which bring a painful experience.

[IV.185-8]


“In the lines above,” one might begin, “you mentioned `the three including those which lead to pleasure.’ Can you describe these types of deeds?” Virtuous deeds from the desire realm up to the third concentration level are the ones that bring one a pleasant experience in the future. From here—that is, from this third concentration level—on up to the “peak” level, virtuous deeds are the ones which bring on an experience of a neutral nature: neither pain nor pleasure. The deeds which bring on a painful experience are all the non-virtuous deeds here in the desire realm.


52

Other Views on Deeds that Lead

to Specific Experiences

Some make the claim that the ones below as well

Have the one between, for the reason that

Deeds ripen in the advanced concentration,

Three accepted to ripen without progression.

[IV.189-92]


Now some people make the claim that the ones below the fourth concentration level—that is, the third on down—have as well those deeds that lead to the “one between”: to a neutral experience. They say this is for the reason that these are deeds that ripen in the advanced stages of the concentration levels, and because we must accept it as possible for all three types of results to ripen at the same time, without a temporal progression.

Next we present the various divisions of experience. After discussing a division into five different kinds, we will continue on to a more detailed treatment of the ripening of past deeds into future experience.

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53

Five Types of Experience

Five are the different types of experience:

That by very nature, a mental link,

An object of focus, that by ripening,

That which makes its appearance in a manner direct.

[IV.193-6]


Now there are five different types of experiences that deeds bring about. An example of the first would be feelings, which are an experience or sensation by their very nature. Something like the mental function of contact represents the second type, or experience due to a mental link. And form for example is experienced by acting as the object of one’s focus.

Virtuous and non-virtuous deeds are cases where something is experienced by its ripening. And an example of the final type, of something that one experiences as it makes its appearance in a direct manner, would be feelings.

Our more detailed treatment of experiences that ripen from a past deed will begin with some general notes and continue to the particulars of deeds that definitely lead to a future experience. The general notes themselves touch first on the various divisions of deeds, then on the number of different deeds projected with different realms and types of beings.

54

Experiences that Ripen from Past Deeds

These are either definite or not;

The definite’s three types because of those

Experienced as something seen and such.

Some claim that the kinds of deeds are five,

Others that the combinations are four.

Three of them act to project a discrete being.

[IV.197-202]


Now there are three types of deeds which lead to a future experience through a process of ripening. These types of deeds themselves are grouped into two: they are either definite, or not. The “definite” group is of three different types, because it includes (1) those deeds with results that are experienced as “something seen”—that is, deeds which ripen into an experience in this very life; (2) deeds with results that are experienced after one’s rebirth—that is, in the very next life; and (3) deeds with results that are experienced in “some other” life—which is to say, in any life after the next.

Some people claim that the kinds of deeds are five: they arrive at this figure by dividing indefinite types of deeds into (1) those which will definitely ripen but at an indefinite time, and (2) those where neither ripening itself nor its timing is definite.

Others—namely, the Exemplist group in the Sutrist school—claim that the possible combinations which hold true in this regard are four. They say there are (1) deeds which are definite to ripen but at no definite time, (2) deeds which should ripen at a definite time but which are not definite to ripen at all, (3) deeds which are definite in both respects, and (4) deeds which are definite in neither respect.

One may ask which of these deeds projects a discrete being in the future. Three of them act to project a discrete being, but deeds with results that you see in this very life do not. This is because they ripen upon the very same stream of heaps which performed the original deed. Next we examine the number of different deeds that can be projected with different realms and types of beings.


55

Deeds Projected for Different

Realms and Beings

Every one has four projections each;

In the hells, three of virtuous.

A stable child does none to experience born

At that for which he’s overcome desire.

Neither realized, in others even;

Neither the unstable, desire and peak.

[IV.203-8]


One may ask which different deeds can be projected with different realms and beings. Every one of the five different types of beings each has all four kinds of projections produced by deeds. In the hells through there are only three projections of virtuous types of deeds that are possible. Here there can be no projection of a virtuous deed that will bring one a result that he sees in the very same life, because it is impossible for any deed to ripen into a pleasant result in the hells.

Next let’s consider a child [non-Arya] who is stable and has overcome his desire for any one or number of the eight different levels. He does no deeds of the type that will lead to an experience there after being reborn at a level for which he has overcome desire. For the fact is that for his next life he will not take any rebirth at a level for which he’s lost desire.

Next let’s consider a realized being who is stable and has overcome desire for any one or number of the seven levels between. Neither does he perform any deed which will lead to an experience at such a level after being reborn there; what’s more, he does not even perform any deed which will lead to an experience at such a level in any other life beyond the next. This is because he will never again take a birth at a level for which he has overcome desire.

Let’s finally consider a realized being who has overcome his desire for the desire realm and the “peak” level, but who is unstable. Neither does he ever perform any deed which will lead to an experience subsequent to a rebirth, for either his next life or for any life beyond, in the desire realm or “peak” level. A realized being who has degenerated from the state of having overcome desire for the desire realm and “peak” level is someone that we say has “lost his result.” But it is impossible for such a person to die during the period between losing his result and gaining it back again.

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56

Projections with Different Realms and Beings, Continued

Twenty-two different projections had with

Inbetween beings in the realm of desire.

One is the type with results that you see;

It is but a single discrete type.

[IV.209-12]


One may ask whether deeds project their energy with beings of the state between death and rebirth as well. There are twenty-two different projections had with inbetween beings in the realm of desire. These are the inbetween being himself, the five periods in the womb, and the five periods out of the womb: these eleven are then divided into two types each, those which will definitely be experienced and those that will not.

The one group of eleven which are definite is considered to come from the type of deeds that come with results that you see in the same life. This is because “it”—this group—is counted but a single discrete being: the heaps that were present when the energy of the deeds was collected, and the heaps that are present when this energy ripens into an experience, have both been sent forth by the same projecting energy born from deeds of the past. Next we consider the particulars of deeds that definitely lead to a future experience.


57

Deeds that Definitely Ripen

Those are definite which involve fierce

Mental affliction or faith, an object of special

Qualities, anything done on a

Continual basis, killing father or mother.

Deeds with results which are something seen,

Due to features of the object or thought;

Anything which was something certain to ripen,

Where completely free of the level’s desire.

“Just what,” one may ask, “do you mean when you mention types of deeds that are certain to ripen?” Those deeds are definite (will definitely ripen into a future experience) which involve any of the following:

1) fierce emotions, of either mental affliction or faith;

2) an object of special qualities—that is, deeds performed with respect to the Gems;

3) anything done on a continual basis; and

4) killing one’s father or mother, even when this is done with meritorious intent.

“In the lines above,” one may continue, “you mentioned that `one is the type with results that you see.’ Can you describe this further?” Deeds with results which are something seen in the same life are this way due to special features of the object or thought involved.

A case of a deed which, because of the special features of the object involved, turned into the type that gives a result in the very same life would be as follows. In one of his former lives, our Teacher was once a certain monk who had mastered all three sections of the canon. There had been a steady increase in quarreling among the community of monks. One monk—who had himself committed the sections of the canon to memory—managed to bring the different sides to an agreement. This angered the other monk (the one who was a master of the canon), who made the sarcastic statement that “A woman has settled a women’s quarrel.” Because of this deed the monk turned into a woman in that very life, and took five hundred births thereafter as a woman as well.

An instance of a deed which, because of special features of the thought involved, turns into the type that gives a result that you see in this very life would be as follows. King Kanaka had a certain eunuch by the name of “Longwa.” He met someone driving a herd of five hundred cattle and asked the man what he planned to do. “We’re going to castrate them,” was the reply. Overcome with compassion, Longwa managed to save all the cattle from their fate: as a result, his own organ was restored in the very same life.

Aside from the above, anything which was something certain to ripen at any particular level can also constitute a deed which gives a result that you see in the very same life, in cases where the person has become completely free of any desire for this level.

58

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Objects with Very Special Features

Help or harm to any of the following

Leads to quick experience of a result:

Anyone coming out of cessation or love,

No affliction, seeing, result of destroying.

[IV.221-4]


One may ask about the features that make an object special. Help or harm which you perform towards anyone who has just come out of cessation leads to a quick experience of a result, for it is almost as if such a person has just come back from nirvana. Help and harm too towards anyone who has just come out of a meditation on immeasurable love or a state of one-pointed concentration where he has no affliction at all also leads to the speedy experience of a result. This is because such persons are helping every living being; they are involved with a willingness to accept the ultimate personal responsibility, free of any affliction; and they are totally imbued with an immeasurable kind of merit, very sharp and clear.

Help or harm done towards a person who has just come out of the path of seeing is another example of a deed that leads to a quick result. This is true because this person has just attained, for the first time, an unstained state where he has gotten rid of every undesirable object eliminated by the path of seeing.

Finally, beneficial or harmful acts towards a person who has just come out of the state where he achieved the result of destroying the enemy also lead to the quick experience of a result. The reason here is that the person has just achieved, for the first time, the unstained state where he has gotten rid of every undesirable object eliminated by the path of habituation.

Help or harm performed towards those who have just come out of a state where they have achieved one of the two results—where they need either return or not return to the realm of desire—does not though lead to a speedy result. First of all, their “new” condition of having reached an unstained state free of the objects eliminated by the path of seeing has by this time become somewhat old. Secondly, they have yet to reach the unstained state where they have just managed, for the first time, to rid themselves of the objects stopped by the path of habituation.

We turn now to the third and final step in our discussion of deeds involving a sensation of pleasure and so on. This is a presentation of the correlation between specific sensations and the deeds from which they result. Following the actual presentation we will go into some detail on the subject of mental illness.

The following selection is from the Great Book on the Steps of the Path, composed by Lord Tsongkapa (1357-1419):

Here is the third section, a presentation on the consequences of the various kinds of bad deeds. We proceed in three parts, beginning with what are called the “ripened” consequences.

Now each one of the ten paths of karma can itself be divided into three kinds—lesser, medium, and greater—depending on the intensity of the three poisons. The Main Stage of Levels states that, from the ten greater instances of killing and the rest, one is born into the hells. It says that from medium instances of each of the ten you take birth as an insatiable spirit; and from the ten lesser instances, you are born as an animal.

The Sutra on the Ten Levels however states the consequences of two of the kinds of instances, the lesser and the medium, in reverse of this.

The “consistent” consequences are as follows. Even if you do manage to escape the realms of misery and take birth as a human, the following respective results occur to you:

1) Your life is short.

2) You don’t have enough to live on.

3) You have problems keeping your partner from others.

4) People don’t believe what you say, even when you’re telling the truth.

5) You lose friends easily.

6) You hear things as bad sounds.

7) No one listens to you.

8) Your personality is dominated by desire.

9) Your personality is dominated by anger.

10) Your personality is dominated by stupidity.

The Chapter on the True and the Sutra on the Ten Levels state that there are two such consequences for each of the ones given here; even if you do manage to take birth as a human,

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1) Your life is short, and you get sick easily.

2) You don’t have enough to live on, and what you do have is all just common property with others.

3) The people who work around you are “inconsistent,” which here means unreliable, and you find yourself having a lot of competition for your partner.

4) No one believes what you say, even when you are speaking the truth, and others are always deceiving you.

5) The people around you are always fighting against one another, and have an undesirable character.

6) You hear many unpleasant things, and when others talk to you it always seems to you as if they want to start a fight.

7) No one respects what you say—no one thinks that what you say has any particular value, and you are afflicted with a lack of confidence.

8) Your personality is dominated by desire, and you are never satisfied with what you have.

9) You are always finding yourself without help, or never find the help you need; and you are always hurting others, or always being hurt by others.

10) You become a person who keeps harmful views, or a deceitful person.

Great lamas of the past have expressed the position that it is a consequence of consistent action where as a karmic result of killing you become someone who takes pleasure in killing and the rest. It is a consequence of consistent experience then when you have to undergo the results just listed.

Next is what we call the “environmental” or “dominant” consequence. Here for example the consequence of killing expresses itself in the outer world around you. Food, drink, medicine, the crops in the fields, and other such things have very little power; they are always inferior; they have little nutrition or potency; they are hard to digest, and they cause disease in you. Because of this the majority of the living beings around you die before reaching the end of a full life.

Because you have stolen, then the crops are few and far between; the crops have no power to remove hunger; they spoil; they never come up; dry spells stay on too long; it rains too much; the crops dry up, or die off.

Because you have done wrong sex, you live in a place where there is piss and shit all around, and mud and dirt and filth, and everything stinks, and everywhere seems unpleasant and distasteful.

Because you have lied, you live in a world where, when you undertake farming or some work in cooperation with other people, in the end the work fails to prosper, and the people can’t work well together, and for the most part everyone is cheating one another, and is afraid, and where there are many things to be afraid of.

Because you have split people up with your talk, the very ground in the place you live is all uneven, covered with crags and gullies, full of highs and lows, so that you can travel only with difficulty, and where you are always afraid, and there are many things to be afraid of.

Because you have spoken harsh words, the ground where you live is covered with obstacles like the trunks of fallen trees, and thorns, and stones, and clods of dirt, and lots of sharp broken pieces of glass; it’s rough, and dreary; no streams, or lakes, or springs of water; the whole earth is parched, poisoned with salt and borax, burning hot, useless, threatening; a place where there are many things to fear.

Because you have talked meaninglessly, fruits refuse to grow on the trees, or they start to grow at the wrong times, never at the right times, and seem ripe when they’re still not ripe, or their roots are frail, or they can’t stay long; there are no places to take your leisure, no parks, no glades, no pools of cool water, and many things around to make you afraid.

Because you have coveted what others have, then each and every good thing you ever manage to find starts to get worse, and less and less, never more, each one of them, with the passing of each of the four seasons, and in every month, and even day by day.

Because you have wished bad things on others, you live in a world of chaos, where diseases spread, and evil is everywhere, and plague, and conflict, and fear from the armies of other nations; where there are many lions or leopards or other dangerous animals; where there are everywhere venomous snakes or scorpions or poison biting worms; you live surrounded by harmful spirits, and thieves or muggers, and the like.

Because you have held wrong views, then you live in a world where the single highest source of happiness is steadily disappearing from the earth; a world where people think that things that are unclean and things that are suffering are actually nice, and happiness; a world where there is no place to go, no one to help, nothing to protect you.

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