Volition, Action and Kammic Formation


Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 23rd Nov.1960

[Here, Sayadaw gave a talk on cetanā(volition), action(kamma) and sankhāra (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. sankhāra has 4 meanings: (1) formation; (2) mental formation, i.e the 4th aggregate; (3) kammic formation; (4) prompting. The sankhāra here in this talk was No. (3) kammic formation or in the 12-links of Dependent Arising avijjā paccaya sankhāra – ignorance condition kammic formation.

The Buddha with his pubbenivāsa abhiñña – 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 samsāra – round of existence was too long for every living being, but he could find the causes of their origin. It was avijjā(ignorance) and tanhā(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 vattas (round of existence); vatta cetanā – create existence, and vivatta 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, sankhāra is past kamma and kamma-bhāva is present kamma.

In our many past lives we had created many sankhāra 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 viññānam or vedanā or tanhā or upādāna (see the 12-links of D.A). In this way stop creating kamma. In past lives because of avijjā and tanhā (ignorance is like father and craving is mother), we had created many kammas which were sankhāra. It will follow up in samsāra 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 Punnama Sutta.)

In the Abhiha Sutta (The Daily 5-Recollections, from Anguttara), the Buddha taught to rely on kamma as a conventional truth or samatha practice(cāganusati). The path of kamma is within the round of 31-realms and the path of knowledge (nyan) transcends it. Kammic way is in samsāra and nyanic way is transcend samsāra or towards Nibbāna. For vivatta dāna (generosity to transcend dukkha), the Buddha mentioned dāna with vipassanā (in the Anguttara).

In the Abhidhamma of Dhamma-sanganī, we can see 3 types of dhamma. (1) Acayagāmino 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 Eight Fold Path. The third is neither (1) nor (2); i.e the Buddha and arahants. The 3 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 sankhāra and the present is kamma-bhāva. Functional kamma is kariya 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 Satipatthāna 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.) sankhāra kamma is always giving the result. Without the ignorance ceases then the sankhāra not ceases, the sankhāra not ceases always connect the khandha process. By meeting spiritual friend (kalyānamitta) 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-ditthi(self-view) or kammavadi atta-ditthi. Permanence(nicca) is self(atta) and both 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 is not continue the round of existence(samsāra).

(Sayadaw taught his disciples how to perform a vivatta dāna which support to transcend dukkha. Most people done it with the desire (loba-tanhā) 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 kathina ceremonies, for meditation hall, Sangha dwellings etc. 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.)

First to contemplate and see the impermanence of the khandha. And then make a resolution by wanting to free from the vatta dukkha – round of dukkha existence. This dāna is done by the knowledge of truth – sacca nyan. The most superior dāna is enriching by vipassanā(Anguttara). 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 Sammā-datthi Sutta from the Majjhima Nikāya to explain the two types of worldling.) (1) Worldlings outside the Sasāna. Believe in kamma, so kammasakata sammā-ditthi. By itself alone not realize Nibbāna. (2) Worldlings inside the Sasāna. Believe in kamma also and get the knowledge of impermanence, so can realize Nibbāna.


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