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Pāḷi; √ kamma
alt. sp.: kamma
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kamma: Description welcome. Info can be removed after imput.

ATI Glossary

kamma [Skt. karma]: Intentional acts that result in states of being and birth. [ more ]


Buddhist Dictionary

by late Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera:

kamma: (Sanskrit: karma):1) 'action', correctly speaking denotes the wholesome and unwholesome volitions (kusala- and akusala-cetanā) and their concomitant mental factors, causing rebirth and shaping the destiny of beings. These kammical volitions (kamma cetanā) become manifest as wholesome or unwholesome actions by body (kāya-kamma), speech (vacī-kamma) and mind (mano-kamma). Thus the Buddhist term 'kamma' by no means signifies the result of actions, and quite certainly not the fate of man, or perhaps even of whole nations (the so-called wholesale or mass-kamma), misconceptions which, through the influence of theosophy, have become widely spread in the West.

“Volition (cetanā), o monks, is what I call action (cetanāhaṁ bhikkhave kammaṁ vadāmi), for through volition one performs the action by body, speech or mind. There is kamma (action), o monks, that ripens in hell… Kamma that ripens in the animal world… Kamma that ripens in the world of men… Kamma that ripens in the heavenly world… Threefold, however, is the fruit of kamma: ripening during the life-time (diṭṭha-dhamma-vedanīya-kamma), ripening in the next birth (upapajja-vedanīya kamma), ripening in later births (aparāpariya-vedanīya kamma) ….” AN 6.63

The 3 conditions or roots (see mūla) of unwholesome kamma (actions) are greed, hatred, delusion (lobha, dosa, moha); those of wholesome kamma are: unselfishness (alobha), hatelessness (adosa = mettā, good-will), undeludedness (amoha = paññā, knowledge).

“Greed, o monks, is a condition for the arising of kamma; hatred is a condition for the arising of kamma; delusion is a condition for the arising of kamma ….” AN 3.109

“The unwholesome actions are of 3 kinds, conditioned by greed, or hate, or delusion.

“Killing … stealing … unlawful sexual intercourse … lying … slandering … rude speech … foolish babble, if practised, carried on, and frequently cultivated, leads to rebirth in hell, or amongst the animals, or amongst the ghosts” AN 3.40

“He who kills and is cruel goes either to hell or, if reborn as man, will be short-lived. He who torments others will be afflicted with disease. The angry one will look ugly, the envious one will be without influence, the stingy one will be poor, the stubborn one will be of low descent, the indolent one will be without knowledge. In the contrary case, man will be reborn in heaven or reborn as man, he will be long-lived, possessed of beauty, influence, noble descent and knowledge” cf. MN 135

For the above 10-fold wholesome and unwholesome course of action, see kamma-patha.

For the 5 heinous crimes with immediate result, see ānantarika-kamma.

“Owners of their kamma are the beings, heirs of their kamma, their kamma is their womb from which they are born, their kamma is their friend, their refuge. Whatever kamma they perform, good or bad, thereof they will be the heirs” MN 135

With regard to the time of the taking place of the kamma-result (vipāka), one distinguishes, as mentioned above, 3 kinds of kamma:

The first two kinds of kamma may be without kamma-result (vipāka), if the circumstances required for the taking place of the kamma-result are missing, or if, through the preponderance of counteractive kamma and their being too weak, they are unable to produce any result. In this case they are called ahosi-kamma, lit. 'kamma that has been', in other words, ineffectual kamma.

The third type of kamma, however, which bears fruit in later lives, will, whenever and wherever there is an opportunity, be productive of kamma-result. Before its result has ripened, it will never become ineffective as long as the life-process is kept going by craving and ignorance.

According to the Commentary, e.g. Visuddhi Magga XIX, the 1st of the 7 kammical impulsive-moments (kamma-javana; see javana) is considered as 'kamma ripening during the life-time', the 7th moment as 'kamma ripening in the next birth', the remaining 5 moments as 'kamma ripening in later births'.

With regard to their functions one distinguishes:

(1) produces the 5 groups of existence (corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness) at rebirth as well as during life-continuity.

(2) does not produce kamma-results but is only able to maintain the already produced kamma-results.

(3) counteracts or suppresses the kamma-results.

(4) destroys the influence of a weaker kamma and effects only its own result.

With regard to the priority of their result one distinguishes:

(1, 2) The weighty (garuka) and the habitual (bahula) wholesome or unwholesome kamma are ripening earlier than the light and rarely performed kamma.

(3) The death-proximate (maraṇāsanna) kamma - i.e. the wholesome or unwholesome volition present immediately before death, which often may be the reflex of some previously performed good or evil action (kamma), or of a sign of it (kamma-nimitta), or of a sign of the future existence (gati-nimitta) - produces rebirth.

(4) In the absence of any of these three actions at the moment before death, the stored-up (katattā) kamma will produce rebirth.

A real, and in the ultimate sense true, understanding of Buddhist kamma doctrine is possible only through a deep insight into the impersonality (see anattā) and conditionality (see paṭiccasamuppāda, paccaya) of all phenomena of existence.

“Everywhere, in all the forms of existence … such a one is beholding merely mental and physical phenomena kept going by their being bound up through causes and effects.

“No doer does he see behind the deeds, no recipient apart from the kamma-fruit. And with full insight he clearly understands that the wise ones are using merely conventional terms when, with regard to the taking place of any action, they speak of a doer, or when they speak of a receiver of the kamma-results at their arising. Therefore the ancient masters have said:

'No doer of the deeds is found,
No one who ever reaps their fruits;
Empty phenomena roll on:
This view alone is right and true.

'And whilst the deeds and their results
Roll on, based on conditions all,
There no beginning can be seen,
Just as it is with seed and tree.' ” Visuddhi Magga XIX

Kamma (kamma-paccaya) is one of the 24 conditions (see paccaya)

Literature: Kamma and Rebirth, by Nyanatiloka (Wheel 9/394); Survival and Kamma in Buddhist Perspective, by K.N. Jayatilleke (Wheel 141/143); Kamma and its Fruit (Wheel 221/224).


PTS Dictionary

by the Pali Text Society:

The implementation is in progress. See work in progress in the user area.


Glossary Thanissaro

Kamma: Intentional act. Sanskrit form: Karma.


Glossary various Teacher

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See also

Suttas and Dhammadesanā

Kamma: (karma; intentional action) See also Devas; Hell; Planes of Existence, Thirty-one; Rebirth; Sagga (heaven).


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Appendix: ahosi-kamma, janaka-kamma, garuka-kamma, bahula-kamma, upatthambhaka-kamma, upaghātaka-kamma, upapīlaka-kamma, maraṇāsanna-kamma, upacchedaka-kamma. None of these terms is found in the Sutta or Abhidhamma Canon. They have been introduced by the commentators (e.g. in Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha and Visuddhi Magga) for the purpose of a systematical grouping of the various aspects and functions of kamma. The term katattā, however, occurs repeatedly in the Abhidhamma Canon in such expressions as: 'Yasmiṁ samaye … kusalassa kammassa katattā … cakkhuviññāṇaṁ hoti….' (Dhammasaṅgaṇi § 431); or: 'Yaṁ atthi rūpam kammassa katattā ….' (Dhammasaṅgaṇi § 653); or 'katattā ca rūpānaṁ' (Patthanā), etc.
en/dictionary/kamma.txt · Last modified: 2018/09/13 14:07 by Johann