Volition, Action and Kammic Formation


revised on 2019-06-14


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 23rd Nov.1960

[Here, Sayadaw gave a talk on cetanā (volition), action (kamma) and saṅkhāra (kammic formation). It was an interesting talk and explained their meanings and their connection in the Pali Suttas and Abhidhamma. These words are important for Buddhists to know them. Saṅkhāra has four meanings: (1) formation; (2) mental formation, i.e., the fourth aggregate; (3) kammic formation; (4) prompting. The saṅkhāra here in this talk was No. (3) kammic formation or in the 12-links of Dependent Arising avijjā paccaya saṅkhāra – ignorance condition kammic formation.

The Buddha with his pubbenivāsa abhiññā – direct knowledge of past lives was looking backwards to find the beginning of a living being (even may be his own). But he would never reach the end of his past lives because saṁsāra – round of existence was too long for every living being, but he could find the causes of their origin. It was avijjā (ignorance) and taṇhā (craving). Sayadaw said all the khandhas are conditioning craving and not only feeling (vedanā), but feeling is the nearest cause for craving.]

[Cetanā – volition or stimulation is kamma – action. Two kinds of cetanā; create kamma and not create kamma. Pure cetanā is not create kamma just only cetanā. By vaṭṭas (round of existence); vaṭṭa cetanā – create existence, and vivaṭṭa cetanā – not create existence. All arahants their actions are pure cetanā and not kamma. If giving the result, it's kamma. In the Dependent Arising of 12-links, saṅkhāra is past kamma and kamma-bhāva is present kamma.

In our many past lives we had created many saṅkhāra kamma; i.e., good, bad or mixed kamma which are always waiting for the chance to give the result. Kamma-bhāva is 2 ways. If we have a teacher who can teach Dependent Co-arising and vipassanā practice, then we will not create kamma-bhāva. If not, we create kamma all the times. We can observe our minds at viññāṇa or vedanā or taṇhā or upādāna (see the 12-links of D. A). In this way stop creating kamma. In past lives because of avijjā and taṇhā (ignorance is like father and craving is mother), we had created many kammas which were saṅkhāra. It will follow up in saṁsāra until our last lives as arahants. We can see these results in the Suttas and in daily life of all human beings. As an example of Ven. Mahā-Moggallāna's life; he was severely beaten by bandits because of one of his heavy kammas on his past life by killing his own mother. (Sayadaw continued to explain that people can take kamma with wrong view by telling the Mahā Puṇṇama Sutta.)

In the Abhiṇha Sutta (The Daily 5-Recollections, from Aṅguttara Nikāya, AN.5.57 Abhiṇhapaccavekkhitabbaṭhānasuttaṃ), the Buddha taught to rely on kamma as a conventional truth or samatha practice (cāgānussati). The path of kamma is within the round of 31-realms and the path of knowledge (ñāṇa) transcends it. Kammic way is in saṁsāra and ñāṇa way is transcend saṁsāra or towards Nibbāna. For vivaṭṭa dāna (generosity to transcend dukkha), the Buddha mentioned dāna with vipassanā (in the Aṅguttara, AN.7.52 Dānamahapphalasuttaṃ).

In the Abhidhamma of Dhammasaṅgaṇi, we can see three types of dhamma. (1) Ācaya-gāmino dhamma (2) Apacaya-gāmino dhamma (3) Nevācaya-gāmino nā pacaya-gāmino dhamma. The first is dhamma leading to birth and death, i.e., all wholesome and unwholesome dhammas. The second is not leading to birth and death; i.e., The Noble Eightfold Path. The third is neither (1) nor (2); i.e., the Buddha and arahants. These three dhamma can be found in the khandhas. ]

The seed of volition (cetanā) is called action (kamma). Without the seed is just volition. The past action is saṅkhāra and the present is kamma-bhāva. Functional kamma is kiriya kamma, just only function which were done by the Buddha and arahants. The kamma not give the result is regarding as pure cetanā. Some kamma-bhāva give the results and some are not. Can contemplate up to clinging (upādāna) not create kamma and no result (In the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta of contemplation of the mind, the Buddha asked to contemplate when greed arose. But from craving to become clinging may be a little difficult.) Saṅkhāra kamma always gives the result. Without the ignorance ceases then the saṅkhāra not ceases, the saṅkhāra not ceases always connect the khandha process. By meeting spiritual friend (kalyāna-mitta) can stop the kamma-bhāva. Buddha and arahants are only khandhas. Others are clinging khandha (upādānakkhandha). A person without any clinging is just only khandha and with clinging is upādānakkhandha. There are many types of khandha; past and present khandhas etc. Take the kamma as mine is atta-diṭṭhi (self-view) or kammavādī atta-diṭṭhi. Permanence (nicca) is self (atta) and both of them are the same. The Buddha taught that: Sabbe dhamma anatta – All dhammas (including Nibbāna) are not self. Therefore, how can kamma becomes atta-self. Including Nibbāna is not self (Some Buddhists described or took Nibbāna as like atta in some books and teachings, i.e., go against the Buddha’s teachings.) Taught about kamma in the suttanta method is for people who want Nibbāna slowly. But, now who want Nibbāna have to cut off kamma by doing vipassanā. Any realm of existences is the power of kammic energy. Cutting off kamma is the power of knowledge. Every dāna done by seeing dukkha sacca does not continue the round of existence (saṁsāra).

(Sayadaw taught his disciples how to perform a vivaṭṭa dāna which support to transcend dukkha. Most people done it with the desire (lobha-taṇhā) for the support of round of becoming. There were a few talks by him for this purpose before, and after a great offering, such as kaṭhina ceremonies, for meditation hall, Saṅgha dwellings etc. He first talked about dukkha sacca from the mother's womb to old age, sickness and death, about burning with the eleven fires of human life etc.) At first, contemplate and see the impermanence of the khandha, and then make a resolution by wanting to free from the vaṭṭa dukkha – round of dukkha existence. This dāna is done by the knowledge of truth – sacca ñāṇa. The most superior dāna is enriching by vipassanā (Aṅguttara). The dāna for changing prison is not good and also not encourage. Whatever prison you are in changing prison is only prison. In the same way whatever existence you are in changing dukkha is only dukkha. (at last Sayadaw used the Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta, MN 9 or MN i 46, from the Majjhima Nikāya to explain the two types of worldling.) (1) Worldlings outside the Sāsana. Believe in kamma, so kammassakatā sammā-diṭṭhi. By itself alone not realize Nibbāna. (2) Worldlings inside the Sāsana. Believe in kamma also and get the knowledge of impermanence, so can realize Nibbāna.


revised on 2019-06-14; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4031&start=20#p35611 (posted on 2018-12-15)


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