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Deeds that are bright vs deeds that are neither dark nor bright

In the suttas we find the four types of kamma:

  1. There are dark deeds with dark results;
  2. bright deeds with bright results;
  3. dark and bright deeds with dark and bright results; and
  4. neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds. - AN 4.233

The second of these leads to heavenly rebirth:

And what are bright deeds with bright results? It’s when someone makes pleasing choices by way of body, speech, and mind. Having made these choices, they’re reborn in a pleasing world, where pleasing contacts touch them. Touched by pleasing contacts, they experience pleasing feelings that are exclusively happy—like the gods replete with glory. These are called bright deeds with bright results. AN 4.233

and they are characterised as in accordance with the 5 precepts:

And what are bright deeds with bright results? It’s when someone doesn’t kill living creatures, steal, commit sexual misconduct, lie, or use alcoholic drinks that cause negligence. These are called bright deeds with bright results. AN 4.235

So, we might generally say that following the five precepts is bright kamma which leads to rebirth in heavenly realms.

Now, the last of these four types of kamma is synonymous with the noble eightfold path:

And what are neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds? It’s the intention to give up dark deeds with dark results, bright deeds with bright results, and both dark and bright deeds with both dark and bright results. These are called neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds. AN 4.233

So if I’m doing an good action (for example gentle speech), how do I determine if I’m following the eightfold noble path leading to the end of deeds or if I’m setting myself up for rebirth in a heavenly realm and continued samsara?

I have found what might be a partial answer in this thread where @Akaliko and @Viveka discuss AN 7.52

In this sutta we have someone giving a gift accompanied by various thoughts. All of the thoughts lead to rebirth in the company of the gods of the Four Great Kings and continued samsara:

“Sāriputta, someone who gives a gift as an investment, when their body breaks up, after death, is reborn in the company of the gods of the Four Great Kings. When that deed, success, fame, and sovereignty is spent they return to this state of existence.

except for the last where the gift is given

thinking, ‘This is an adornment and requisite for the mind.’

and then it states:

“Sāriputta, someone who gives gifts, not for any other reason, but thinking, ‘This is an adornment and requisite for the mind’, when their body breaks up, after death, is reborn among the gods of Brahmā’s Host. When that deed, success, fame, and sovereignty is spent they are a non-returner; they do not return to this state of existence.

So is this the complete answer? i.e. you can differentiate a ‘neither dark nor bright deed’ from a ‘bright deed’ because you exclusively think of it as an adornment of the mind in the former case, or are there other ways to differentiate between the two in the EBT’s? Does it depend on the deed, as to what the accompanying thought might be to transform the deed into a ‘neither dark nor bright deed’? Are there further examples like AN 7.52 that make this explicit in the EBTs?

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It’s a personal responsibility “When you know for yourselves”:

"So, as I said, Kalamas: ‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.” When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering” — then you should abandon them.’ Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”—AN 3.65

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I would look at the mundane versus the supermundane N8P as outlined in MN 117.

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Thank you bhante. This is a great starting place for me. I see that there is a sutta study class by @brahmali on the bswa website - MN117: Mahacattarisaka Sutta - The Great Forty | 25 June 2006 | Buddhist Society of Western Australia

Hopefully this will shed some more light.

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I think it might hinge on ‘intention’.

While this presents quite a puzzle - how to do deeds, without intention, I think it might be the action of looking for ways to do good versus just behaving in that way, as conditions pass you by - ie the process of kind, selfless generosity doesn’t generate any kamma, but if one sought out ways to be kind and generous etc, then this generates bright kamma.

I’m very interested to see what others might say.

Perhaps Ajahn @brahmali may have something to add :pray:

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“And what are neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds? It’s the intention to give up dark deeds with dark results, bright deeds with bright results, and both dark and bright deeds with both dark and bright results. These are called neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the ending of deeds.” AN 4.233

Appearing often (for example SN 48.3), this final act of relinquishment relates to the arahant and causes confusion as there is no dividing line between the conditioned path and the unconditioned path in the text of the suttas, consequently one sees cases of trying to jump ahead to assume the qualities of an arahant without having walked the conditioned path. This is a particular fault of western Buddhism with its characteristic ambition. Such premature behavior is acting as though the bonds between the hide and flesh have been severed when in fact the work has only started, and they are still attached to feelings. That is the opposite of the case given here:

“No, venerable sir. Why is that? Because if the skilled butcher or butcher’s apprentice, having killed a cow, were to … cut, sever, & detach only the skin muscles, connective tissues, & attachments in between; and … having covered the cow again with that very skin, then no matter how much he might say that the cow was joined to the skin just as it had been, the cow would still be disjoined from the skin.”

"This simile, sisters, I have given to convey a message. The message is this: The substance of the inner flesh stands for the six internal media; the substance of the outer hide, for the six external media. The skin muscles, connective tissues, & attachments in between stand for passion & delight. And the sharp knife stands for noble discernment — the noble discernment that cuts, severs, & detaches the defilements, fetters, & bonds in between.—MN 146

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Granted, but just as premature jumping ahead has consequences, so does purposefully lagging behind and not pushing further. Both aspects need to be kept in mind, and I think this is where the fidelity, diligence and ultimately wisdom, in investigation (satipattana) is crucial.

For my practice I adopt a ‘try it and see’ approach :rofl: If you think you can give it all up and let everything go - try it… :smiley: see what happens :smiley:

No matter the outcome, one learns more about oneself… :slightly_smiling_face:

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Do people really purposefully lag behind? Certainly it happens from laziness or distraction etc, but on purpose? I think a better alternative to trying to jump ahead would be simply staying in the moment. Eg

42.9 When they have the awakening factor of equanimity in them, they understand: ‘I have the awakening factor of equanimity in me.’ When they don’t have the awakening factor of equanimity in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have the awakening factor of equanimity in me.’ They understand how the awakening factor of equanimity that has not arisen comes to arise; and how the awakening factor of equanimity that has arisen becomes fulfilled by development.

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Adopting an arahant perspective goes further than imbalance in the practice, to abandon a raft in the process of crossing amounts to delusion :

“Many people have misunderstood this point, believing that the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment require that one relinquish one’s attachment to the path of practice as quickly as possible. Actually, to make a show of abandoning the path before it is fully developed is to abort the entire practice. As one teacher has put it, a person climbing up to a roof by means of a ladder can let go of the ladder only when safely on the roof. In terms of the famous raft simile [§§113-114], one abandons the raft only after crossing the flood. If one were to abandon it in mid-flood, to make a show of going spontaneously with the flow of the flood’s many currents, one could drown.”—Thanissaro

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Who said anything about abandoning the path?

I have no argument with what you have quoted from the Suttas :slight_smile:

But while some people may find overestimation and ambition a problem, so others may find doubt and hesitation to be a hindrance to the path… I simply wished to show both sides, given your comment…

But this is a side issue and deflecting from the OP. and I am sure there are as many views about attitudes towards practice, as there are members…

metta

Added:

I worded this badly :slight_smile:

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As incomprehensible as it may seem, there are some people who do intentionally hold back from nibbāna in order to cultivate the perfections and build a larger “store of merit” under the misguided belief that this will somehow benefit others.

This is actually really common, especially in this (Thai Forest) tradition where the Ajahns often teach that you shouldn’t do vipassana until you “have” samādhi, and simultaneously tell stories about supernatural powers, etc, etc which can give a rather unrealistic picture of what “having samādhi” looks like.

A person can very easily lose confidence in themselves even in the midst of progress on the path if their progress doesn’t happen to fit their preconceived idea of what “progress” “should” look like.

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From the famous Upanisa Sutta,

Mendicants, I say that the ending of defilements is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know or see.

Jānato ahaṃ, bhikkhave, passato āsavānaṃ khayaṃ vadāmi, no ajānato no apassato.
SN12.23

It is interesting to note that the Noble Eightfold Path starts of with a Pañña factor; Sammaditti

Bhikkhus, suppose a spike of rice or a spike of barley were wrongly directed and were pressed upon by the hand or the foot. That it could pierce the hand or the foot and draw blood: this is impossible. For what reason? Because the spike is wrongly directed. So too, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu with a wrongly directed view, with a wrongly directed development of the path, could pierce ignorance, arouse true knowledge, and realize Nibbāna: this is impossible. For what reason? Because his view is wrongly directed.

“Bhikkhus, suppose a spike of rice or a spike of barley were rightly directed and were pressed upon by the hand or the foot. That it could pierce the hand or the foot and draw blood: this is possible. For what reason? Because the spike is rightly directed. So too, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu with a rightly directed view, with a rightly directed development of the path, could pierce ignorance, arouse true knowledge, and realize Nibbāna: this is possible. For what reason? Because his view is rightly directed
SN45.9

So it seems, there has to be an understanding with Pañña, about what one is doing.

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This might also interest you,

And so, Udāyī, when craving ends, deeds end; when deeds end suffering ends.”

Iti kho, udāyi, taṇhakkhayā kammakkhayo, kammakkhayā dukkhakkhayo”ti.
SN46.26

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No, it starts with sila, that’s why the order is sila, samadhi, panna.

“Well-purified virtue & views made straight. Then, when your virtue is well purified and your views made straight, in dependence on virtue, established in virtue, you should develop the four establishings of mindfulness.”—SN 47.16

There is a dynamic in sila which causes the other factors to arise in germinal form, in dependence on virtue, however they need to be developed.

Advanced:
Right view is a developing factor, that’s why MN 117 has the cryptic statement, “Right view runs and circles around right view.”

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Let me ask this way. A Hindu Yogi and a Buddhist Yogi are both practicing Sila and Samadhi, what is their difference?

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Yes, this is an interesting area. In fact, I also find the dark and bright actions with dark and bright results quite interesting. But let’s stick to the issue at hand.

Yes, you are certainly on the right track, but perhaps it can be elucidated a bit further.

As long as you are an ordinary person, a puthujjana, you don’t have access to those actions that are neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright results. These actions are based on the intention to achieve cessation, which is only available to the noble ones, the ariyas. If you are not an ariya, then the sense of self will make make you act either to continue existence or to destroy it, both of which are accompanied by craving that leads to rebirth.

The good news is that bright actions with bright results lead you in the right direction. They are the path that will eventually enable you to perform the higher actions that are neither dark not bright. In other words, you are not properly practising the eightfold path until you become a streamenterer. You try your best, and at times you will be close, but the full practice is only for the noble ones.

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There is no connection between sila and samadhi in Hinduism in the sense of the direct connection in Theravada.

Practitioners should strive to investigate and observe the connection between sila and improvement of mental seclusion from conventional reality, that is what concentration (samadhi) means- being mentally secluded.

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From where does the practitioner get their sense of direction?

PS : please read Ven Brahmali’s response above.

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In these times substitute “reading” for “monk,” and “comes to an agreement” means when one reads the suttas, they cross-reference them with other suttas they know and establish a verified meaning of the concepts. Their core suttas are the Anapanasati and Satipatthana suttas.

“A pompous brahman teenager questions the Buddha about safeguarding, awakening to, and attaining the truth. In the course of his answer, the Buddha describes the criteria for choosing a reliable teacher and how best to learn from such a person.”

[…]

“When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.”—-MN 95

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To which khandha does the above belong, Sila khandha, Samadhi khandha or Panna khandha?

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