In the last part of Chapter 1, four different kinds of kamma were mentioned, classified according to their relationships with their respective results:
1. Black kamma, black result.
2. White kamma, white result.
3. Kamma both black and white, result both black and white.
4. Kamma neither black nor white, result neither black nor white, this being the kamma that ends kamma.
All of the varieties of kamma-results so far described have been limited to the first three categories, white kamma, black kamma, and both white and black kamma, or good kamma and bad kamma. The fourth kind of kamma remains to be explained. Because this fourth kind of kamma has an entirely different result from the first three, it has been given its own separate chapter.
For most people, including Buddhists, any interest in kamma tends to be centered around the first three kinds of kamma, completely disregarding the fourth kind, even though this last kind of kamma is one of the pivotal teachings of Buddhism, and leads to its ultimate goal.
Black, white and black-and-white kamma are generally described as the numerous kinds of action included within the ten bases of unskillful action, such as killing living beings, infringing on the property of others, sexual misconduct, and bad or malicious speech, with their respective opposites as skillful actions. These kinds of kamma are determinants for various kinds of good and bad life experiences, as has been explained above. The events of life in turn activate more good and bad kamma, thus spinning the wheel of samsara round and round endlessly.
The fourth kind of kamma results in exactly the opposite way. Rather than causing the accumulation of more kamma, it leads to the cessation of kamma. In effect this refers to the practices which lead to the highest goal of Buddhism, Enlightenment, such as the Noble Eightfold Path, also known as the Threefold Training (Moral Discipline, Mental Discipline and Wisdom), or the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Sometimes this fourth kind of kamma is spoken of as the intention, based on non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion, to abandon the other three kinds of kamma.
No discussion of kamma should fail to mention happiness and suffering. Kamma is the cause which results in happiness and suffering, and as long as there is kamma, there will be fluctuation between these two states. In aspiring to the highest good which is devoid of every flaw, however, any condition tainted with either happiness or suffering, being subject to fluctuation, is inadequate. All worldly kamma is still tainted with suffering, and is a cause of suffering.
However, this is valid only for the first three kinds of kamma. The fourth kind of kamma is exempt, because it leads to the cessation of kamma, and thus to the complete cessation of suffering. Although good kamma results in happiness, such happiness is tainted with suffering and can be a cause for suffering in the future. But this fourth kind of kamma, in addition to being in itself free of suffering, also gives rise to the untainted and total freedom from suffering. It is thus the purest kind of happiness.
The cessation or quenching of kamma was taught in a number of different religions in the Buddha's time, notably the Nigantha (Jain) Sect. The Niganthas taught the principle of old kamma, the cessation of kamma, and the mortification of the body in order to "wear out" old kamma. If these three principles are not clearly distinguished from the Buddha's teaching they can easily be confused with it. Conversely, distinguishing them clearly from the principles of Buddhism can help to further clarify the Buddha's message. The Niganthas taught:
"All happiness, suffering and neutral feeling are entirely caused by previous kamma. For this reason, when old kamma is done away with by practicing austerities, and no new kamma is created, there will no longer be the influence of kamma-results. With no influence of kamma-results, kamma is done away with. Kamma being done away with, suffering is done away with. When suffering is done away with, feeling is done away with. With no more feeling, all suffering is completely quelled."
The Niganthas believed that everything is caused by old kamma. To be free of suffering it is necessary to abandon old kamma and, by practicing austerities, not accumulate new kamma. But Buddhism states that old kamma is merely one of the factors in the whole cause and effect process. This is an important point.
Kamma can lead to the transcendence of suffering, but it must be the right kind of kamma, the kamma which prevents the arising of more kamma and thus leads to its cessation. Therefore, in order to nullify kamma, instead of merely stopping still or doing nothing, the practicing Buddhist must apply himself to a practice based on right understanding. Correct practice induces independence, clarity and freedom from the directives of desire as it, in hand with ignorance, entangles beings in the search for attainments.
In order to clarify this fourth kind of kamma, its general features may be briefly summarized thus:
(a) It is the path of practice which leads to the cessation of kamma. At the same time, it is in itself a kind of kamma.
(b) It is known as "the kamma which is neither black nor white, having results which are neither black nor white, and which leads to the cessation of kamma."
(c) Non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion are its root causes.
(d) It is based on wisdom and understanding of the advantages and the inadequacies of things as they really are. It is an impeccable kind of action, action that is truly worthwhile, based on sound reason, and conducive to a healthy life.
(e) Because this kind of action is not directed by desire, whether in the form of selfish exploitation, or inaction based on fear of personal loss, it is the surest kind of altruistic effort, guided and supported by mindfulness and wisdom.
(f) It is kusala kamma, skillful action, on the level known as Transcendent Skillful Action.
(g) In terms of practice, it can be called the Eightfold Path to the cessation of suffering, the Fourth of the Four Noble Truths, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, or the Threefold Training, depending on the context; it is also referred to in a general sense as the intention to abandon the first three kinds of kamma.
In regard to point (e) above, it is noteworthy that tanha, or desire, is seen by most people as the force which motivates action. As far as most people are concerned, the more desire there is, the more intense and competitive is the resultant action; they see that without desire there is no incentive to act, and the result could only be inertia and laziness. This kind of understanding comes from looking at human nature only partially. If used as a guideline for practice, it can cause problems on both the individual and social levels.
In fact, desire is an impetus for both action and inaction. When it is searching for objects with which to feed itself, desire is an impetus for action. This kind of action tends to generate exploitation and contention. However, at a time when good and altruistic actions are called for, desire will become an incentive to inaction, binding the self to personal comfort, even if only attachment to sleep. Thus, it becomes an encumbrance or stumbling block to performing good deeds. If ignorance is still strong, that is, there is no understanding of the value of good actions, desire will encourage inertia and negligence. For this reason, desire may be an incentive for either an exploitative kind of activity, or a lethargic kind of inactivity, depending on the context.
The practice which supports a healthy life and is truly beneficial is completely different from this pandering to selfish desires, and in many cases calls for a relinquishment of personal comforts and pleasures. This kind of practice cannot be achieved through desire (except if we first qualify our terms), but must be achieved through an understanding and appreciation of the advantage of such practice as it really is.
This appreciation, or aspiration, is called in Pali chanda (known in full as kusalachanda or dhammachanda). Chanda, or zeal, is the real incentive for any truly constructive actions. However, zeal may be impeded by desire and its attachments to laziness, lethargy, or personal comfort. In this case, desire will stain any attempts to perform good actions with suffering, by resisting the practice through these negative states. If there is clear understanding of the advantage of those actions and sufficient appreciation (chanda) of them, enabling the burdening effect of desire to be overcome, chanda becomes, in addition to an impetus for action, a cause for happiness.
This kind of happiness differs from the happiness resulting from desire -- it is light and untroubled rather than constrictive and heavy, and conducive to creative actions free of suffering. In this case, samadhi, the firmly established mind, comprising effort, mindfulness and understanding, will develop within and directly support such undertakings. This kind of practice is known as "the kamma that ends kamma."
By practicing according to the Noble Eightfold Path, desire has no channel through which to function, and is eliminated. Greed, hatred and delusion do not arise. With no desire, greed, hatred or delusion, there is no kamma. With no kamma there are no kamma-results to bind the mind. With no kamma to bind the mind, there emerges a state of clarity which transcends suffering. The mind which was once a slave of desire becomes one that is guided by wisdom, directing actions independently of desire's influence.
Here follow some of the Buddha's words dealing with the kamma that ends kamma.
"Bhikkhus, know kamma, know the cause of kamma, know the variations of kamma, know the results of kamma, know the cessation of kamma and know the way leading to the cessation of kamma ... Bhikkhus, intention, I say, is kamma. A person intends before acting through body, speech or mind. What is the cause of kamma? Sense contact is the cause of kamma. What are the variations of kamma? They are, the kamma which results in birth in hell, the kamma which results in birth in the animal world, the kamma which results in birth in the realm of hungry ghosts, the kamma which results in birth in the human realm, and the kamma which results in birth in the heaven realms. These are known as the variations of kamma. What are the results of kamma? I teach three kinds of kamma-result. They are, results in the present time, results in the next life, or results in a future life. These I call the results of kamma. What is the cessation of kamma? With the cessation of contact, kamma ceases. This very Noble Eightfold Path is the way leading to the cessation of kamma. That is, Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right concentration."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple thus clearly understands kamma, the cause of kamma, the variations of kamma, the results of kamma, the cessation of kamma and the way leading to the cessation of kamma, he then clearly knows the Higher Life comprising keen wisdom, which is the cessation of this kamma."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, I will expound new kamma, old kamma, the cessation of kamma and the way leading to the cessation of kamma ... What is old kamma? Eye ... ear ... nose ... tongue ... body ... mind should be understood as old kamma, these being formed from conditions, born of volition, and the base of feeling. This is called 'old kamma.'
"Bhikkhus, what is 'new kamma'? Actions created through body, speech and mind in the present moment, these are called 'new kamma.'
"Bhikkhus, what is the cessation of kamma? The experience of liberation arising from the cessation of bodily kamma, verbal kamma and mental kamma, is called the cessation of kamma.
"Bhikkhus, what is the way leading to the cessation of kamma? This is the Noble Eightfold Path, namely, Right View ... Right Concentration. This is called the way leading to the cessation of kamma."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, this body does not belong to you, nor does it belong to another. You should see it as old kamma, formed by conditions, born of volition, a base of feeling."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, these three kamma-origins, greed, hatred and delusion, are causes of kamma. Whatever kamma is performed on account of greed, is born from greed, has greed as origin, and is formed from greed, results in rebirth. Wherever his kamma ripens, there the doer must experience the fruits of his kamma, be it in the present life, in the next life or in a future life. Kamma performed on account of hatred ... kamma performed on account of delusion ... (the same as for greed)
"Bhikkhus, these three kamma-origins, non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion, are causes of kamma. Whatever kamma is performed on account of non-greed, is born from non-greed, has non-greed as origin, and is formed from non-greed, is devoid of greed, that kamma is given up, cut off at the root, made like a palm tree stump, completely cut off with no possibility of arising again. Whatever kamma is performed on account of non-hatred ... on account of non-delusion ..."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, these three kamma-origins, greed, hatred and delusion, are causes of kamma. Whatever kamma is performed on account of greed, is born from greed, has greed as origin, is formed from greed, that kamma is unskillful ... is harmful ... has suffering as a result. That kamma exists for the arising of more kamma, not for the cessation of kamma. Whatever kamma is done on account of hatred ... on account of delusion ...
"Bhikkhus, these three kamma-origins, non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion, are causes of kamma. Whatever kamma is done on account of non-greed, is born of non-greed, has non-greed as origin, is formed from non-greed, that kamma is skillful ... not harmful ... has happiness as a result. That kamma leads to the cessation of kamma, not to the arising of kamma. Whatever kamma is done on account of non-hatred ... on account of non-delusion ..."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, killing of living beings, I say, is of three kinds. That is, with greed as motive, with hatred as motive and with delusion as motive. Stealing ... sexual misconduct ... lying ... malicious tale-bearing ... abusive speech ... frivolous speech ... covetousness ... resentment ... wrong view, I say, are of three kinds. They are, with greed as motive, with hatred as motive and with delusion as motive. Thus, greed is a cause for kamma, hatred is a cause for kamma, delusion is a cause for kamma. With the cessation of greed, there is the cessation of a cause of kamma. With the cessation of hatred, there is the cessation of a cause of kamma. With the cessation of delusion, there is the cessation of a cause of kamma."
* * *
"Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of kamma ... What is black kamma, black result? Some people in this world are given to killing, given to stealing, given to sexual infidelity, given to lying, given to drinking intoxicants which lead to heedlessness. This is called black kamma, black result.
"Bhikkhus, what is white kamma, white result? Some people in this world dwell aloof from killing, aloof from stealing, aloof from sexual infidelity, aloof from lying, aloof from the drinking of intoxicants which lead to heedlessness. This is called white kamma, white result.
"Bhikkhus, what is kamma both back and white with result both black and white? Some people in this world create actions through body ... speech ... mind which are both harmful and not harmful. This is called 'kamma both black and white with result both black and white.'
"Bhikkhus, what is kamma neither black nor white, with result neither black nor white, which leads to the cessation of kamma? Within those three kinds of kamma, the intention to abandon (those kinds of kamma), this is called the kamma which is neither black nor white, with result neither black nor white, which leads to the ending of kamma."
* * *
"Listen, Udayi. A bhikkhu in this Teaching and Discipline cultivates the Mindfulness Enlightenment Factor ... the Equanimity Enlightenment Factor, which tend to seclusion, tend to dispassion, tend to cessation, which are well developed, which are boundless, void of irritation. Having cultivated the Mindfulness Enlightenment Factor ... the Equanimity Enlightenment Factor ... craving is discarded. With the discarding of craving, kamma is discarded. With the discarding of kamma, suffering is discarded. Thus, with the ending of craving there is the ending of kamma; with the ending of kamma there is the ending of suffering."
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