About Cula-kammavibhanga and other related Suttas

In the Suttas Buddha says short life is one of the result of killing living beings. Not trusted by others is the result of lying and poverty is the result of stealing. But Buddha also says the (precise working out of the) results of kamma is imponderable.

Since the result of kamma cannot be precisely determined, does it mean one who kills living beings will experience poverty or not trusted by others as the result of killing living beings? Experience poverty as the result of killing living beings sounds unfamiliar, besides, Buddha also never mentioned this kind of consequence in any Sutta. Poverty is always paired with stealing or stingy; short-lived, get killed is always paired with killing. At the same time the result of kamma is imponderable, can anyone share your thought? Thanks.

there’s incongruity between these two statements

according to MN 135 in particular poverty is a result of lack of donations to recluses

Here, student, some man or woman does not give food, drink, clothing, carriages, garlands, scents, unguents, beds, dwelling, and lamps to recluses or brahmins. Because of performing and undertaking such action…he reappears in a state of deprivation…But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is poor. This is the way, student, that leads to poverty, namely, one does not give food…and lamps to recluses or brahmins.

the sutta AN 4.77 says

“There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured, about that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them

The [precise working out of the] results of kamma

this sutta seems to be aimed specifically at anyone unawakened lacking insight into the things and supernatural knowledges meaning to dissuade them from vain speculations inconducive to the holy life

whereas a being in possession of divine eye is able to comprehend kamma of specific beings

When his mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings. With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, he sees beings passing away and reappearing—inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate—and he understands how beings fare according to their kamma, thus: ‘These beings—who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views, and undertook actions governed by wrong views—with the breakup of the body, after death, have reappeared in the plane of misery, the bad destinations, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings—who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, held right views, and undertook actions governed by right views—with the breakup of the body, after death, have reappeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.’


it also maybe understood as that it’s the arrangement and order of occurrence and ripening of kammavipaka which are incomprehensible, but not its general guiding principles

Yes, I would agree with this. Kamma is governed by laws that are relatively easy to understand, but understanding the results of kamma by way of its causes may often be virtually impossible. The kamma we have made during an immeasurable past is vast, varied, and complicated, and the results of this kamma are bound to be even more complicated, as all the different actions we have done interact in producing results. It’s not difficult to see that this can be truly mind-boggling. And boggling the mind is not recommended!

Hi Bhante and LXNDR,

Thanks for your reply.
Hope I understand you correctly, since the result of kamma is unconjecturable, in other words did you say it’s possible for a murderer to experience poverty or other results (except short life, get killed, deadly illness or similar effects) as the result of killing living beings?

No, I think the direct result of murder is short life, or rebirth in a bad destination. More important, perhaps, is that it makes you feel bad about yourself in this very life. However, when it is combined with other kamma, the results get very complicated.

Excuse my ignorance but what do you mean by “No” yet “The results get very complicated”? Can you give an example or elaborate it?

Well, we all do actions that are both supportive of life and detrimental to life. We may kill insects and yet help someone who is ill. And we do these sorts of things all the time. The combination of all these actions make for very unpredictable results.

Then there are acts that are not easily classified, such as giving a gift to an ill person. Is this generosity or supporting life or both? Such ambiguous acts are much more numerous than acts that are clearly classified. The exact results of such acts are again very difficult to know.

Then there are acts with mixed motivations. We give a gift, but we expect the recipient to treat us well in return or at least to show gratitude. We kill someone, but they were dangerous and we did it in part to stop others getting hurt. The vast majority of our actions are mixed, at least to some degree. This is what I meant by kamma generally being grey, rather than black and white. And trying to figure out the results may do your head in! :grin:

So, yes, it is complicated, very complicated …

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it’s not the principles which are inconjecturable, such that killing leads to short life, lack of donations to recluses - to poverty and so on, but the result of combination of all these principles at work

think of a chess for example, the rules of piece movements are quite simple and straightforward, but application of these rules creates endless possibilities in combinations of pieces on the chessboard, each particular disposition of pieces can be likened to kamma imprint of a samsaric being

@Brahmali @LXNDR

I think that’s why it’s said the result of kamma is not conjecturable, and as you say the results are all mixed. Then it brings me to a question, what prevents a murderer to experience poverty as the result of his killing?

Bhante, are you saying short life can be caused by other kamma or causes and is not limited only to vipaka of killing? Only then I think the result of kamma is imponderable.

Regarding mixed intentions, I think it depends on the intention of the person. Someone who killed another person to stop others getting hurt have both intention to save and to kill. Intention to save is one, intention to kill is another one. The overall action is probably grey but not all intentions arise in one thought moment.

the principles of kamma, the rules of cause and effect, for example you cannot produce butter (poverty) by churning water (killing), you must use milk (lack of donations to recluses) for that purpose

it’s the arrangement of the results in a particular sequence of ocurrence, order of their ripening and their degrees which are unconjecturable (in my view), not the rules which determine what type of behavior produces what type of result


I think what you are talking is when the kamma will take effect. But
what is said in the Acintita Sutta is not when it will give the result but the precise result of kamma is
imponderable i.e. we do not know killing will result in short life, we do not know stealing will result in poverty. This I think is what Acintita Sutta says. But the fact is we know, short life is the result of killing. So why it’s said imponderable?

if we go semantic, acinteyyo which is translated as unconjecturable or inconceivable could be translated as not-to-be conjectured about , the same as na cintetabbo is

and whereas the phrase acinteyyāni, na cintetabbāni is translated as unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about OR inconceivable matters that one should not try to conceive , which contain two distinct meanings, it really could be translated as two synonyms

so the implication would be not that it’s intrinsically unconjecturable, but that pondering these things is undesirable due to their extreme complexity and insolubility for a mind of a worldling

and judging by the phrase that would bring madness & vexation the import of the sutta seems to me being about exhortation not to dwell on these topics and not so much about the fact that they’re inconceivable in principle by anybody ever

i think such understanding sits well with Buddha’s refusal to declare his view on 10 questions, where he didn’t declare it not because of lacking the knowledge, but because his declaration of it wouldn’t bring any benefit to the disciples in their living the holy life and would possibly confuse them further effectively distracting from the main purpose of the practice

MN 63

Why have I left that undeclared? Because it is unbeneficial, it does not belong to the fundamentals of the holy life, it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. That is why I have left it undeclared.

and also since the Buddha did declare that killing leads to short life, at the absence of contradictory statement or a story i don’t think questioning it is warranted

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Short life can be caused by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When the tsunami comes and you happen to be on the beach, I don’t think this necessarily is due to bad kamma. But it could be.

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Like LXNDR sayd, the Buddha didn’t mention a link between killing and experiencing poverty. Being born as a poor human is a result of being stingy in a previous life (it’s also probably influenced by an unknown number of other causes like some brighter kamma that allowes you to take birth in a good destination like the human realm at all).

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Give poverty, receive poverty; give wealth, receive wealth. Give short life, receive short life; give long life, receive long life. Etc etc… In my experience, going deeper into the workings of kamma isn’t helpful and leads you in the wrong direction. Develop the Eightfold Path, get into a jhana and then you can probably answer any questions you still have left :smiley:

With metta,

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Other factor is just supporting factor not the result. If everything can result in everything that means we have to reap what we did not sow. The result of killing for example is short life, die prematurely, ill-health but imho how much is the reduction of life span, how that person die prematurely, this is imponderable. So the imponderability does not mean killing will result in random result.

Thanks Bhante. I thought death is always caused by kamma.