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Jul 19th
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Home Practice The Triple Refugee An Introduction to Kamma - The Power of Kamma

An Introduction to Kamma - The Power of Kamma

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Article Index
An Introduction to Kamma
The Nature of Kamma
The Power of Kamma
Classification of Kamma
What Kamma is Not
Bibliography and Notes
All Pages

The Power of Kamma

What makes one kamma powerful and another one weak? We need intention even to lift an arm, and only one intention is not enough. Intention has to arise continuously in a stream of separate moments of consciousness to lift the arm up, and again to keep it there. To kill a mosquito doesn't take a very strong intention, but to kill a human being the intention must be powerful. If one is thrown into a threatening situation, anger may boil up suddenly, and the wish to kill one's assailant may arise, but a good person is unlikely to murder someone because the intention to kill arises only sporadically. However, in a bad person who easily gives vent to anger, the murderous intention might be strong enough to actually kill someone. Premeditated murder needs anger to be sustained over a longer period. That is why the courts inflict a heavier sentence for premeditated murders, than they do for crimes of passion.

Another very important factor is view. Farmers are taught from a young age that certain animals are vermin, and that it is therefore a good thing, or at least a necessary evil, to kill them. Slaughtermen and fishermen learn that livestock or fish have to be killed to earn a living so they kill them without compunction. Doctors who practice abortion hold the view that they are relieving the suffering of the mother, but they ignore the suffering that they are inflicting on the foetus. Once a wrong-view has become established it is difficult to change. To do a wrong action believing it to be right, is more harmful than if one knows that it is wrong.

The virtue of an individual also has a very significant effect on the potency of kamma. Giving food to an animal gives a result a hundred times greater than the food given. Giving food to a non-virtuous human being gives a thousand times result, giving food to a virtuous human-being gives a hundred thousand times result … to a non-Buddhist ascetic with jhāna gives a billion times result … to one striving for stream-winning gives an immeasurable result. So what can be said of the result of giving to a stream-winner … to one striving for once-returning … … to an arahant … to a Paccekabuddha … to an Omniscient Buddha. And a gift to the Sangha gives a result that is immeasurable and greater than any gift to individuals. Similarly, killing an animal results in violent death a hundred times, while killing an arahant, or one's mother or father, definitely results in rebirth in hell where one will suffer millions of violent deaths. Just insulting a Noble One creates obstructive kamma that is powerful enough to prevent the attainment of nibbāna unless one confesses one's fault.


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" Take delight in mindfulness, guard your mind well. As an elephant stuck in mire pulls itself out, so also, pull yourself out of the mire of moral defilements. "

The Dhammapada

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