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I hope someone could help me clarify something about dependent origination, is Kamma the driving force behind dependent origination ?

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I think there may be two relationships:

  • DO is a detailed description or analysis of kamma
  • Kamma is one small component or link in the DO chain

Firstly people see "kamma" is a big cycle, birth and death and rebirth and so on -- I think that DO is detailed analysis or description of how that works.

For example you look at kamma and say, "that's kamma", like you might look at a car and say, "that's a car". A more-detailed analysis says that a "car" is "wheels, an engine, doors, fuel, a driver, a road" and so on.

Similarly an analysis of "kamma" might say that it's "ignorance, formations" and so on.

One thing to note about DO is that it doesn't presuppose a self, it's not a self-doctrine, it allows you say e.g. "craving exists" without saying also "there's a 'self' which is doing the craving, the 'who' who is craving".

DO (and kamma) don't need to depend on a view that there's a permanent self.


Secondly I think that "kamma" might be one small component or link within DO.

The Nibbedhika Sutta (AN 6.63) includes something like:

"'Kamma should be known. The cause by which kamma comes into play should be known. The diversity in kamma should be known. The result of kamma should be known. The cessation of kamma should be known. The path of practice for the cessation of kamma should be known.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said?

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

"And what is the cause by which kamma comes into play? Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play.

"And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades, kamma to be experienced in the human world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas. This is called the diversity in kamma.

"And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here & now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that. This is called the result of kamma.

"And what is the cessation of kamma? From the cessation of contact is the cessation of kamma; and just this noble eightfold path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma.

"Now when a disciple of the noble ones discerns kamma in this way, the cause by which kamma comes into play in this way, the diversity of kamma in this way, the result of kamma in this way, the cessation of kamma in this way, & the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma in this way, then he discerns this penetrative holy life as the cessation of kamma.

"'Kamma should be known. The cause by which kamma comes into play... The diversity in kamma... The result of kamma... The cessation of kamma... The path of practice for the cessation of kamma should be known.' Thus it has been said, and in reference to this was it said.

I think that its saying, "Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play", means that one or more of the links shortly after "contact" is "kamma, coming into play".

And saying that "kamma is intending" places it -- it's mindfulness-(or-not), it's guarding-the-senses-(or-not).

I'd say that kamma is a link within the cycle, like the steering wheel and accelerator pedal are links within a car.

If you want to identify a "driving force" perhaps that would "attachment". I think the Pali word for attachment -- Upādāna -- is also the word for "fuel" (i.e. like what causes or nourishes a fire to continue):

Upādāna is a Vedic Sanskrit and Pali word that means "fuel, material cause, substrate that is the source and means for keeping an active process energized". It is also an important Buddhist concept referring to "attachment, clinging, grasping".

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Karma in this case sankhara is what creates the future cycle of Dependent Origination (DO).

Sankhara / Karma is created due to craving. Caving is due to our habitual reaction to sensation/stimuli due to ignorance. If one develops wisdom one does not react to sensation which leads to unwholesome mental states.

(1) the latent tendency to lust reinforced by being attached to pleasant feelings;

(2) the latent tendency to aversion reinforced by rejecting painful feelings;

(3) the latent tendency to ignorance reinforced by ignoring neutral feelings

Pahāna Sutta

When one creates Sankhara this intern creates the future round of rebirths. If one equanimous while seeing impermanence without generating craving one does not create sankhara / karma.

To train your mind one can try the following a course of meditation:

  • Thank you for your answer , I have problems with the number 2 , i am reacting with aversion towards painful feelings , is the solution for sankhara/karma that creates future cycle of dependent origination wisdom and is this through meditation if yes what kind of meditation would you suggest, I have habitualy reacted with aversion towards pain , could you please also describe to me how this kamma or in this sankhara creates the future cycle of DO, so I can understand it – personal practice Aug 5 at 2:28
  • Thank you for your answer – personal practice Aug 5 at 4:11
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Ignorance is the driving force. Ignorance is an element of nature & something impersonal.

Ignorance creates kamma (actions), Kamma does not create/drive ignorance.

Since dependent origination explicitly describes ignorance as its 1st condition, why would anyone think "kamma drives dependent origination"?

  • Ok , what about Kamma the law of kamma says if I (understood it) we are getting the same results as the actions we perform with body,speech and mind, isnt the craving in dependent origination the result from our past actions (Kaya,vaci,citta Sankhara) , and how is kaya sankhara (breathing) a kamma action that is producing vipaka or result and what is the vipaka we get from breathing – personal practice Aug 5 at 1:32
  • Maybe I have missunderstood what Kamma is , if I have please correct me. – personal practice Aug 5 at 1:35
  • Dependent origination explains the impersonal arising of personality view and suffering. As written in your comment, "kamma" already includes the explicit assumption of personality. In Buddhism, "kamma & result" is a "mundane" doctrine where as dependent origination is a "supramundane doctrine". – Dhammadhatu Aug 5 at 1:58
  • You seem to be engrossed in superstition. I suggest to focus on what is real. Craving arises in the present moment with the mind sees an attractive object and does not understand the drawbacks or dangers of the attractive object. – Dhammadhatu Aug 5 at 2:00
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    But when the view of "self" ends, kamma also ends Is that plausible? Are you saying that kamma is conditioned by self-view? And saying that kamma -- the fruit of old kamma and the creation of new kamma -- is non-existent for a stream-enterer (who by definition has no self-view)?? I thought it was, canonically, an attribute of an arahant -- even then old kamma continues to fruit, but no new kamma is created -- it's conditioned not by self-view but by ... by conceit, and by desire-for-existence, that kind of thing ... isn't that the doctrine of the suttas? – ChrisW Aug 5 at 5:39

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