“It is kamma that differentiates beings”

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2018-03-19 15:46:15

Five Orders (Niyama)

Buddha taught that there are 5 types of factors at work in the cosmos that cause things to happen. These are called the Five Niyamas. Kamma is only one of these factors. It is fatalism or pre-determinism if Buddhist thinks that present life is totally controlled by the past kamma. While Buddhists believe that kamma is instrumental in life but everything is not due to kamma. Just like in 24 casual relations, kamma is only one of them and in dependent origination, kamma is only one of the 12 links. In other words, kamma is not the main cause of everything.

The five Niyamas:


1. Utu Niyama: Natural law of physical inorganic order (non-living matter). This natural law orders the change of seasons and phenomena related to climate and the weather. For example, natural disasters like earthquakes and floods are not caused by kammas. Subjects like geology, physics and chemistry comes under this category.

2. Bija Niyama: Law of living matter as in biology: order of germs and seeds. For example, rice from rice-seed and cells and genes of twins although similar but are different.

3. Dhamma Niyama: Order of Norms. For example, birth of Buddha and gravity. Dhamma has the meaning of teachings of Buddha as well as "manifestation of reality" or the nature of existence.  

4. Citta Niyama: Order of mind or psychic law as in psychology. It concerns consciousness, thoughts and perceptions. For example: telepathy, thought-reading and other psychic phenome which cannot be explained by science.

5. Kamma Niyama: Law of cause and effect. All our volitional thoughts, speech and actions produce corresponding good and bad results. Wholesome (kusala) kamma will produce good results and unwholesome (akusala) kamma will produce bad results. 

Cula Kamma Vibhanga Sutta

In short this sutta is also called Subha sutta which was given to Subha by the Buddha. Subha asked Buddha what differentiates beings:

  • Short lived and long lived
  • Diseased and healthy
  • Ugly and beautiful
  • Powerless and powerful
  • Poor and rich
  • Low-born and high born
  • Ignorant and wise


This sutta gives specific examples of the fruits of kamma, good and evil, based on the layman notion of good begets good, evil begets evil.

Buddha told Subha: “Beings are owners of kammas, heirs to kamma, born in kamma, bound by kamma, have kamma as their refuge. It is kamma that differentiates beings into low and high state.”


1. Life expectancy  

  • If a man kills, is cruel, tortures, get violent with other living beings, he will be born short-life.
  • If a man abstains from killing, being violent, torturing and is merciful and compassionate to other living beings, he will be born long-life.

2. Health  

  • If a man habitually injures and harms other being, he will be born sickly with various diseases.
  • If a man abstains from injuring and harming other beings and is compassionate to all living beings, he will be born healthy.

  3. Ugliness  

  • If a man is always angry, often irritable even over trivial remark, stubborn, shows temper, he will be born ugly.
  • If a man is not angry, not irritable over strong word, not stubborn, does now show temper, he will be born beautiful.

  4. Power  

  • If a man has a jealous heart, envies others, is vengeful and hold grudges, he will be born powerless or lack of influence.
  • If a man has magnanimous heart, not envious of others, not vengeful and does not hold grudges, he will be born powerful or with great influence.

  5. Wealth  

  • If a man is greedy and does not give to charity and does not provide requisites to sangha, he will be born poor.
  • If a man is generous and gives to charity and provide requisites for sangha, he will be born rich.

  6. Reputation  

  • If a man is insensitive, proud and arrogant, does not pay homage, does not rise up to the worthy, does not honour and give seat up to the worthy, does not respect to the worthy, he will be born in a low family.
  • If a man is sensitive, modest and not arrogant, pays homage, rise up to the worthy, honour and give seat up to the worthy, shows respect to the worthy, he will be born in the high family.

  7. Intelligence  

  • If a man does not approach the learned and virtuous one to enquire what is good and evil, what is right and wrong, what should be practiced and what not, what should be done and what shouldn’t, what conduces to one’s welfare and what causes one’s ruin, he will be born ignorant and lack of wisdom.
  • If a man approaches the learned and virtuous one to enquire what is good and evil, what is right and wrong, what should be practiced and what not, what should be done and what shouldn’t, what conduces to one’s welfare and what causes one’s ruin, he will be born intelligent.


Conclusion

At the end of the discourse, Subha praised Buddha for his excellent teaching. Just as if one were to place upright what had been overturned, were to reveal what was hidden, show the way to one who was lost and to hold up the lamp in dark so that those eyes could see forms; Buddha had made the dhamma clearer for Subha. Subha turned to the triple gem for refuge after the teaching. 

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