Greyish kamma , brightest kamma, previous lifes and parents

Dear Monks @Brahmali , @sujato ,

Thank you very much for sharing the Teachings here to the world and Australia!Very valuable and interesting for me to study.
I would like to post new questions here.

  1. Can you please explain why we can be born as a human ( with great variety as a generally good person or serial killer) with the grayish kamma but the animals ,other godly beings also generally has this type of kamma? - within the animal realm I can also see how variable existence can be for them like living as an antelope or as a housepet etc.

  2. Is it doctrinal in the suttas that killing an arahant or a parent is enough to destine someone to a hell realm? Maybe because their general behavior is also horrible and destructive?

  3. What is the brightest,purest kamma on the Path?

  4. and in the end something a bit personal: I was thinking about the hypothesis that maybe we had a lot of parents in our previous lifes .
    I see the child - parents relationship doctrine very idyllic in the suttas because I am experiencing the other qualities like controlling,disrespect and blindness towards spirituality .They were the same when I was a child and on the contrary I have been always interested in spirituality .
    How determinated are our bonds and future lifes with the people we live ? I would like to choose the best possible conditions for my progress on the Path in this life and the future ones.Does any stage of enlightenment require perfect child-parent relationship from both ends (like described in the suttas to be able to born in a higher heavenly realm) ?

Thank you for your time answering them!

Best Wishes,


Dear Samma,

(1) Most rebirth involves grey kamma. The kamma that leads to animal rebirth, for instance, is grey, but a darker shade of grey than the kamma that leads to human rebirth. As for the devas, it all depends on the level of rebirth. As you move up the cosmological hierarchy, the kamma needed to get reborn in any particular realm is a progressively lighter shade of grey. And the kamma that leads to rebirth in the brahmāloka (the rebirth equivalent of the jhānas) is entirely white.

(2) Yes, this seems to be a teaching of the Buddha, although it is not a prominent teaching and so there is always some room for doubt. I don’t think it has anything to do with general behaviour, but simply that one feels tremendous remorse for killing such people. Essentially you are incapable of forgiving yourself, and as such you feel that you deserve very severe suffering. You send yourself to hell.

(3) The brightest kamma is the kamma that leads to the highest rebirth, that is, the kamma that leads to the realm of neither-perception-nor-nonperception.

(4) The reason we get reborn with certain people generally seems to have to do with attachment. This attachment will normally be positive, that is, we are bound to people because they provide us with a degree of happiness. But sometimes we can get attached to people who cause us a lot of suffering. Perhaps we feel we deserve suffering and that a person who causes us pain validates our sense of self. I suppose a number of psychological mechanisms may be at work. However this may be, my point is that we are not always reborn with people that are very similar to us.

The best thing is to live a good life, including treating your parents the best you can. Remember that your parents are what they are because of their conditioning; not because they choose to be this way. Once you see that, it is actually quite easy to forgive them. You just have to keep trying.

One of the benefits of living well is that you achieve a sense of independence, including a lessening of bonds to people who may not give you the best support for your spiritual aspirations. Further, by doing the right thing towards your parents, they may change and start to see things differently. My personal experience is that treating your family well has enormous impact on them.

I do not think it advisable to try to choose one’s parents. It is just too hard to know exactly who will be the best match. It is better to live one’s life to the best of one’s ability and then let nature and kamma take care to the rest. In this way, at least, you don’t mess up a process that is probably too complicated for us to try to control.

And yes, I believe that one’s relationship to one’s parents is very important for either speeding up or slowing down one’s progress. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship; the suttas are just showing us what we should be aiming for. But as you try, you will find out that there is in fact much you can do. Over time, it is likely you will see a transformation of your relationship to your parents.

With metta.


thank you for sharing your point of view.

my grandfather was an orphan in his childhood but despite of the situation he was very good-hearted .it’s interesting how the path would have worked for him if he would have been a buddhist meditator.