Classification of kamma
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What is Kamma?
Kamma is the law of moral causation which is the fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. In its general sense Kamma means all good and bad intentional actions whether mental thoughts, verbal speech or physical actions. In its ultimate sense Kamma means all moral and immoral volitions. Involuntary, unintentional or unconscious actions though technically deeds, do not constitute karma because volition the most important factor determining kamma is absent. Every action produces an effect and it is a cause first and effect afterwards. We therefore speak of Kamma as the law of cause and effect.
Ignorance (not knowing things as they truly are) and craving are the roots of kamma. Kamma does not necessarily mean past actions. It embraces both past and present deeds. We are the heirs of our own actions.
4 Different classificstions of kamma
I) Four functioning kammas
- Reproductive (Janaka) kamma: It’s the last thought which is called reproductive kamma which determines the state of a person in his subsequent good or bad birth.
- Supportive (Upatthambana) kamma: Not strong enough to give result itself. It supports reproductive kamma in the course of one’s lifetime. For example, a good birth will be accompanied with good supportive kamma with good health and happiness. A bad birth will be accompanied with bad supportive kamma with bad health and sufferings.
- Counteractive (Upapidaka) kamma: Unlike the former, this counteractive kamma weakens, interrupts and retards the fruition of reproductive kamma. For example, a person with good birth may have ailments that prevent him to enjoy the bliss. Or an animal may have good counteractive kamma and live a comfortable life.
- Destructive (Upaghataka) kamma: this is strong enough to oppose or neutralize other kammas, waiting for an opportunity to operate. This destructive kamma can be good or bad. For example, Devadatta that tried to kill Buddha and caused schism, though has good reproductive kamma resulting in royal birth, supportive kamma with comfort and prosperity life, counteractive kamma resulted in him being excommunicated from the sangha and the destructive kamma resulted him in a miserable end.
II)Four kamma according to the priority of effect
- Heavy weighty (Garuka) Kamma: This is either weighty or serious kamma which can be good or bad. It produces results this life or in the next for certain. If it is good, it is purely mental as in the case of achievement of Jhana. It can be bad kamma if there is matricides, parricides, murder of arahant, wounding the buddha and creation of schism in the sangha. For example, devadatta lost his psychic power and born in evil state because he wounded the Buddha and caused schism in the sangha.
- Death-proximate (Asama) kamma: This is what one does or remembers immediately before the moment of dying. It plays a part in dertemining the future birth. Hence many Buddhist countries have customs and traditions to remind the dying person of the good deeds he has done and make him do good acts on his death bed. Sometimes a bad person may die happily and receive good birth if he remembers or does a good act at the last moment.
- Habitual(Acinna) kamma: This is what was constantly performed and recollected every day or every week by the dying person. At death moment unless influenced by other circumstances, one usually recalls to mind one’s habitual deeds. For example, a executioner may die yelling because he conducts executions of prisoners sentenced to death for a living.
- Cumulative (Katatta) kamma: This literally means “because done”. All actions not included above and those actions soon forgotten belong to this category. This is the reserve fund of a particular being throughout his life.
III)Four kamma according to its time of operation
- Immediately effective kamma: The effect will take place in this present life. The effect of the 1st thought moment (1st Javana) which is the weakest will reap in this life itself.
- Subsequently effective kamma: The next weakest is the 7th thought moment (7th Javana) which will reap its effect in the subsequent birth.
- Indefinitely effective kamma: The effect of intermediate thought moments (2-6th javana) may take place at any time, waiting for a time to ripen until one attains Nibbana.
- Ineffective kamma: if the immediately effective kamma does not take effect in this life and the subsequent effective kamma does not take effect in next life then they become ineffective kamma.
IV) Four kamma according to the plane in which its effect take place
- Unwholesome kamma (Evil actions= akusala kamma): This will ripen in the sense sphere of misery: hell, animal, ghost and demon realms.
- Wholesome kamma (Good actions = kusala kamma): This will ripen in the sense sphere of happiness which consist of 6 celestial planes and human plane.
- Wholesome kamma (Good actions = kusala kamma): This will ripen in the form sphere (Rupa Brahma lokas): 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th jhana.
- Wholesome kamma (good actions = kusala kamma): This will ripen in the formless sphere (4 arupa brahma lokas): Realm of infinite space, realm of infinite consciousness, realm of nothingness and realm of neither perception nor non-perception.