or the Law of Moral Causation
are faced with a totally ill-balanced world. We perceive the inequalities
and manifold destinies of men and the numerous grades of beings
that exist in the universe. We see one born into a condition of
affluence, endowed with fine mental, moral and physical qualities
and another into a condition of abject poverty and wretchedness.
Here is a man virtuous and holy, but, contrary to his expectation,
ill-luck is ever ready to greet him. The wicked world runs counter
to his ambitions and desires. He is poor and miserable in spite
of his honest dealings and piety. There is another vicious and
foolish, but accounted to be fortune's darling. He is rewarded
with all forms of favors, despite his shortcomings and evil modes
it may be questioned, should one be an inferior and another a
superior? Why should one be wrested from the hands of a fond mother
when he has scarcely seen a few summers, and another should perish
in the flower of manhood, or at the ripe age of eighty or hundred?
Why should one be sick and infirm, and another strong and healthy?
Why should one be handsome, and another ugly and hideous, repulsive
to all? Why should one be brought up in the lap of luxury, and
another in absolute poverty, steeped in misery? Why should one
be born a millionaire and another a pauper? Why should one be
born with saintly characteristics, and another with criminal tendencies?
Why should some be linguists, artists, mathematicians or musicians
from the very cradle? Why should some be congenitally blind, deaf
and deformed? Why should some be blessed and others cursed from
are some problems that perplex the minds of all thinking men.
How are we to account for all this unevenness of the world, this
inequality of mankind? Is
it due to the work of blind chance or accident?
is nothing in this world that happens by blind chance or accident.
To say that anything happens by chance, is no more true than that
this book has come here of itself. Strictly speaking, nothing
happens to man that he does not deserve for some reason or another.
this be the fiat of an irresponsible Creator?
writes: "If we are to assume that anybody has designedly
set this wonderful universe going, it is perfectly clear to me
that he is no more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible
sense of the words, than that he is malevolent and unjust."
to Einstein: "If this being (God) is omnipotent, then every
occurrence, including every human action, every human thought,
and every human feeling and aspiration is also his work; how is
it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds
and thoughts before such an Almighty Being.
giving out punishments and rewards, he would to a certain extent
be passing judgement on himself. How can this be combined with
the goodness and righteousness ascribed to him."
to the theological principles man is created arbitrarily and without
his desire and at the moment of his creation is either blessed
or damned eternally. Hence man is either good or evil, fortunate
or unfortunate, noble or depraved, from the first step in the
process of his physical creation to the moment of his last breath,
regardless of his individual desires, hopes, ambitions, struggles
or devoted prayers. Such is theological fatalism."
Charles Bradlaugh says: "The existence of evil is a terrible
stumbling block to the theist. Pain, misery, crime, poverty confront
the advocate of eternal goodness and challenge with unanswerable
potency his declaration of Deity as all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful."
the words of Schopenhauer: "Whoever regards himself as having
become out of nothing must also think that he will again become
nothing; for an eternity has passed before he was, and then a
second eternity had begun, through which he will never cease to
be, is a monstrous thought.
birth is the absolute beginning, then death must be his absolute
end; and the assumption that man is made out of nothing leads
necessarily to the assumption that death is his absolute end."
on human sufferings and God, Prof. J.B.S. Haldane writes: "Either
suffering is needed to perfect human character, or God is not
Almighty. The former theory is disproved by the fact that some
people who have suffered very little but have been fortunate in
their ancestry and education have very fine characters. The objection
to the second is that it is only in connection with the universe
as a whole that there is any intellectual gap to be filled by
the postulation of a deity. And a creator could presumably create
whatever he or it wanted."
Russell states: "The world, we are told, was created by a
God who is both good and omnipotent. Before he created the world
he foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain. He is
therefore responsible for all of it. it is useless to argue that
the pain in the world is due to sin. If God knew in advance the
sins of which man would be guilty, he was clearly responsible
for all the consequences of those sins when he decided to create
"Despair," a poem of his old age, Lord Tennyson thus
boldly attacks God, who, as recorded in Isaiah, says, "I
make peace and create evil." (Isaiah, xiv. 7.)
I should call on that infinite love that has served us so well?
Infinite cruelty, rather, that made everlasting hell.
Made us, foreknew us, foredoomed us, and does what he will with
Better our dead brute mother who never has heard us groan."
"the doctrine that all men are sinners and have the essential
sin of Adam is a challenge to justice, mercy, love and omnipotent
writers of old authoritatively declared that God created man in
his own image. Some modern thinkers state, on the contrary, that
man created God in his own image. With the growth of civilization
man's concept of God also became more and more refined.
is, however, impossible to conceive of such a being either in
or outside the universe.
this variation in human beings then be due to heredity and environment?
One must admit that all such chemico-physical phenomena revealed
by scientists, are partly instrumental, but they cannot be solely
responsible for the subtle distinctions and vast differences that
exist amongst individuals. Yet why should identical twins who
are physically alike, inheriting like genes, enjoying the same
privilege of upbringing, be very often temperamentally, morally
and intellectually totally different?
alone cannot account for these vast differences. Strictly speaking,
it accounts more plausibly for their similarities than for most
of the differences. The infinitesimally minute chemico-physical
germ, which is about 30 millionth part of an inch across, inherited
from parents, explains only a portion of man, his physical foundation.
With regard to the more complex and subtle mental, intellectual
and moral differences we need more enlightenment. The theory of
heredity cannot give a satisfactory explanation for the birth
of a criminal in a long line of honourable ancestors, the birth
of a saint or a noble man in a family of evil repute, for the
arising of infant prodigies, men of genius and great religious
to Buddhism this variation is due not only to heredity, environment,
"nature and nurture," but also to our own kamma, or
in other words, to the result of our own inherited past actions
and our present deeds. We ourselves are responsible for our own
deeds, happiness and misery. We build our own hells. We create
our own heavens. We are the architects of our own fate. In short
we ourselves are our own kamma.
one occasion 
a certain young man named Subha approached the Buddha, and questioned
why and wherefore it was that among human beings there are the
low and high states.
said he, "we find amongst mankind those of brief life and
those of long life, the hale and the ailing, the good looking
and the ill-looking, the powerful and the powerless, the poor
and the rich, the low-born and the high-born, the ignorant and
Buddha briefly replied: "Every living being has kamma as
its own, its inheritance, its cause, its kinsman, its refuge.
Kamma is that which differentiates all living beings into low
and high states."
then explained the cause of such differences in accordance with
the law of moral causation.
from a Buddhist standpoint, our present mental, intellectual,
moral and temperamental differences are mainly due to our own
actions and tendencies, both past the present.
literally, means action; but, in its ultimate sense, it means
the meritorious and demeritorious volition (kusala akusala
cetana). Kamma constitutes both good and evil. Good gets good.
Evil gets evil. Like attracts like. This is the law of Kamma.
some Westerners prefer to say Kamma is "action-influence."
reap what we have sown. What we sow we reap somewhere or some
when. In one sense we are the result of what we were; we will
be the result of what we are. In another sense, we are not totally
the result of what we were and we will not absolutely be the result
of what we are. For instance, a criminal today may be a saint
attributes this variation to kamma, but it does not assert that
everything is due to kamma.
everything were due to kamma, a man must ever be bad, for it is
his kamma to be bad. One need not consult a physician to be cured
of a disease, for if one's kamma is such one will be cured.
to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (niyamas)
which operate in the physical and mental realms:
Kamma niyama, order of act and result, e.g., desirable
and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results.
ii. Utu niyama, physical (inorganic) order, e.g., seasonal
phenomena of winds and rains.
iii. Bija niyama, order of germs or seeds (physical organic
order); e.g., rice produced from rice-seed, sugary taste from
sugar cane or honey, etc. The scientific theory of cells and
genes and the physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to
iv. Citta niyama, order of mind or psychic law, e.g.,
processes of consciousness (citta vithi), power of mind,
v. Dhamma niyama, order of the norm, e.g., the natural
phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisatta in his last
birth, gravitation, etc.
mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these all-embracing
five orders or processes which are laws in themselves. Kamma is,
therefore, only one of the five orders that prevail in the universe.
It is a law in itself, but it does not thereby follow that there
should be a law-giver. Ordinary laws of nature, like gravitation,
need no law-giver. It operates in its own field without the intervention
of an external independent ruling agency.
for instance, has decreed that fire should burn. Nobody has commanded
that water should seek its own level. No scientist has ordered
that water should consist of H2O, and that
coldness should be one of its properties. These are their intrinsic
characteristics. Kamma is neither fate nor predestination imposed
upon us by some mysterious unknown power to which we must helplessly
submit ourselves. It is one's own doing reacting on oneself, and
so one has the possibility to divert the course of kamma to some
extent. How far one diverts it depends on oneself.
must also be said that such phraseology as rewards and punishments
should not be allowed to enter into discussions concerning the
problem of kamma. For Buddhism does not recognize an Almighty
Being who rules his subjects and rewards and punishes them accordingly.
Buddhists, on the contrary, believe that sorrow and happiness
one experiences are the natural outcome of one's own good and
bad actions. It should be stated that kamma has both the continuative
and the retributive principle.
in kamma is the potentiality of producing its due effect. The
cause produces the effect; the effect explains the cause. Seed
produces the fruit; the fruit explains the seed as both are inter-related.
Even so kamma and its effect are inter-related; "the effect
already blooms in the cause."
Buddhist who is fully convinced of the doctrine of kamma does
not pray to another to be saved but confidently relies on himself
for his purification because it teaches individual responsibility.
is this doctrine of kamma that gives him consolation, hope, self
reliance and moral courage. It is this belief in kamma "that
validates his effort, kindles his enthusiasm," makes him
ever kind, tolerant and considerate. It is also this firm belief
in kamma that prompts him to refrain from evil, do good and be
good without being frightened of any punishment or tempted by
is this doctrine of kamma that can explain the problem of suffering,
the mystery of so-called fate or predestination of other religions,
and above all the inequality of mankind.
and rebirth are accepted as axiomatic.