I was having a debate with a follower of another faith, and during it, this quandary came to me:

Did the Buddha describe one law for sentient beings - that is, the law of intentional action? (I understand he taught 'only suffering, and the end of suffering'...)

And can it be said the Buddha described two paths for this law?

There is the path for the layperson, who embraces intentional action (as the teachings on kamma to laypeople within the Pali canon point to), and aims for a perfection of intentional action - suffering, but 'limited'.

And there is the path of the monastic, who aims to abandons intentional action, for nibbana - 'the end of suffering'. But do they not still embrace the law, by only treading on that part of action that is beneficial to them/others, towards their goal, until that can be put aside?

In other words, is the bodhisattva goal rooted in the same principle as the arahant goal?

(perhaps clearer - is the path towards nibbana in any way outside of the described law of intentional action?)

1 Answer 1


Its two laws with two paths (MN 117). Standard Theravada. Dhammaniyama vs kammaniyama.

Kamma niyama is a general rather than absolute law. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. But there can also be do good, get bad and do bad, get good (MN 136).

For example, you are a perfect husband & father but your wife & children die in a car accident, from which you suffer greatly, even become suicidal. Here, you do good but reap bad.

Or you ignorantly perform a bad deed, such as get a girlfriend, without commitment. Eventually, she falls in love with you but you are not interested in getting married and you break her heart. You learn such heedless Cultural Marxist relationships are wrong & Satanic. You give up this Cultural Marxist sexual misconduct, enter the stream and become an Arahant. You do bad but get good.

MN 117 says the general kamma law includes attachment/acquisition (upadhi). In other words, ordinary kamma law is about "I do good, I get good. I do bad, I get bad". Since 'self-view' is always part of ordinary kamma law, suffering will always be inevitable in ordinary kamma law, even when only good is done. Eventually, suffering will come to the most good person who has not realised the Four Noble Truths (SN 56.102).

For example, you spend your whole life believe in good reincarnation or Eternal Life with Jesus for doing good. But when you are actually dying, you start to have doubts these beliefs are true. You die in fear & confusion. Your widow wife stops believing in god and loses her mind. Note: I have witnessed this with the most devout Christian couple I have ever seen, where their son is a mystic.

Dhamma Niyama is the absolute Dhamma Law of Dependent Origination (SN 12.20), as follows:

Whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles, specific conditionality.

Uppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṃ, ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā.

SN 12.20

Whenever there is attachment & becoming, there will always be suffering.

In addition, the Three Characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness & not-self are also Dhamma Nikaya (AN 3.136).

The Buddhist commentaries describe five categories of natural law or niyama. They are:

  1. Utuniyama: the natural law pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment, such as the weather; the way flowers bloom in the day and fold up at night; the way soil, water and nutrients help a tree to grow; and the way things disintegrate and decompose. This perspective emphasizes the changes brought about by heat or temperature.

  2. Bijaniyama: the natural law pertaining to heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."

  3. Cittaniyama: the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.

  4. Kammaniyama: the natural law pertaining to human behavior, the process of the generation of action and its results. In essence, this is summarized in the words, "good deeds bring good results, bad deeds bring bad results."

  5. Dhammaniyama: the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things: the way all things arise, exist and then cease. All conditions are subject to change, are in a state of affliction and are not self: this is the Norm.

Laws of nature.

  • "The first four niyama are contained within, or based on, the fifth one, Dhammaniyama, the Law of Dhamma, or the Law of Nature." If Kammaniyama is subservient to Dhammaniyama, how can they both be called Laws - at the same level? Apr 10, 2020 at 21:48
  • (although I am happy with your answer, since it points to anicca, dukkha, and anatta as the main law - broader than intentional action for sure, thanks) Apr 10, 2020 at 21:50
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    Four Noble Truths & Dependent Origination are also the Dhamma Nikaya, as said in SN 12.20. suttacentral.net/sn12.20/en/sujato Apr 10, 2020 at 21:53

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