A feature of kammic consequences

I’d like to share something that I’ve noticed about kamma. This isn’t something that I’ve seen explicitly stated, but I feel that many people depict kamma as something that is determined by our mental state only. According to this view, two actions that involve the same amount of greed, hatred, and delusion would lead to consequences of the same level. In other words, what determines vipaka is your mind at the moment that you have the intention, and it’s not dependent on the world outside.

Although intuitive, this interpretation seems to contradict passages that show that certain actions lead to better results than others, even though both seem to involve the same level of greed, hatred, or delusion. One example of this is the AN 8.59, which says the following:

There are these eight individuals who are worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world. Which eight?.. The one who has entered the stream…

However, a lay follower, for instance, has no way to know whether or not the person they’re donating to has entered the stream, so they could give to good and bad monks with a similar mental state, but some gifts would lead to better benefits than others.

Another example of this is Ud 5.3, which tells the results that Suppabuddha suffered for spitting on a Buddha.

Once, monks, in this very Rājagaha, Suppabuddha the leper was the son of a rich money-lender. While being escorted to a pleasure park, he saw Tagarasikhin the Private Buddha going for alms in the city. On seeing him, the thought occurred to him, ‘Who is this leper prowling about?’ Spitting and disrespectfully turning his left side to Tagarasikhin the Private Buddha, he left. As a result of that deed he boiled in hell for many years, many hundreds of years, many thousands of years, many hundreds of thousands of years…

It’s intuitive that Suppabuddha, having the same mental state, could have spat on any random contemplative, but without bearing such horrible fruits. The focus of the sutta seems to be that he spat on a Buddha specifically, which is something that Suppabuddha had no way of knowing.


I think the idea here is that even a lay person would recognize certain qualities in highly attained people.
I think even animals would feel and recognize if someone has good intentions and does not mean any harm.

In my reading, he knowingly disrespected someone who choose to give up the wordly life instead of just feeling disgusted by the looks of some random sick, homeless person who happend to be attained.

He has the intention to spit on him, he spat, and it hit the person, this is enough for a bad bodily kamma to be made. And then the strength of the kamma is determined by the quality of the victim, in this case, unfortunate for Suppabuddha, is a private Buddha. Which will yield one of the highest possible fruit.

There are these special classes of beings: a Buddha, an Arahant, your mother, your father.
And the noble disciples of the Buddha sit right behind.
If a bad deed were to be done toward these beings, even hell wouldn’t be enough to harbor you.

This is why the Buddha repeatedly stress the important of abandon bad mental qualities and cultivate the good ones, and in the end of the sutta he said that to be very careful and shun every single bad deed, as if a man has even a little strength left, he would still avoid rough paths.

“As a well-sighted man would avoid rough paths,
so long as strength is found;
an astute person in the living world,
would shun bad deeds.”


There’s a sutta (that I can’t remember now) where a person needs help to distinguish the Buddha among a group of monks. There’s also a sutta that king pasenadi uses people wear robes to work as spies, so I don’t think it is that easy for any lay person to distinguish remarkable people.

Yes, that’s true, but don’t you think disrespecting someone who has given up the worldly life is very different kammically from disrespecting someone who has given up the worldly life AND is a buddha? Whether or not you know it doesn’t seem to matter much.

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Yes, totally agree. You summarized it pretty well.

I think the main idea is that he didn’t see any value in the holy life and based on this view ended up in life situations that caused him to suffer. Spitting shows how much he despised the idea and the fact he couldn’t see anything worthy even in a Buddha means he was really far off (which means his views would inevitably cause him a lot of suffering).

But I could be totally wrong.

That’s a bit weird tho isn’t it? Presumably the private buddha was completely unaffected by being spat on and suffered not at all from the act, so wouldn’t a buddha be the best of all people to spit on, since it is the person in whom the least possible suffering is caused by the act?

Also the idea that somehow spitting at someone could be worse than organising the industrial genocide of 6 million jews (since none of them where the buddha, buddhists, or Hitler’s parents) for example seems pretty patently absurd.


In the Buddha’s Dhamma, the end does not justify the mean, and there is no appeal to ignorance.

There’s no indicator anywhere about a comparison between the leper spitting and jews genocide. So this is just in the pure speculation territory.

If one approaches the Dhamma with the right mind state - it’s for his benefit and lasting happiness, then he will simply not spit on anyone out of contempt because he has faith in the Buddha and he sees the dangers in the slightest faults. If one approaches the Dhamma with a self-justification mindset then he will surely just become restless and frustrate.

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I’m not speculating, i’m making a rhetorical point, obviously genocide is worse than spitting.