Kammic Results of Wrong View

I was reading an interesting paper on the moral reasons for not researching the comparative intelligence of people belonging to different ethnic and / or social groups where the author cited MN 57 as an example of implicitly alleged Buddhist intolerance and dogmaticism:

According to reputedly tolerant Buddhism, not having the right view will
cause you to be reborn in Hell or as an animal, as the Buddha explains: “Now there are two
destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal realm” (Majjhima Nikaya
57.5—note: this quote is from the Pali Canon, which is the oldest, most authentic Buddhist

Does this phrase actually mean that any wrong view will lead to a rebirth in the hell or animal realm or should we look at the context? Does the Pali wording mean ‘wrong view’ in general or ‘this wrong view’? Are there any other places in the Canon where the Buddha discusses the kammic results of wrong views?

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“Here, Puṇṇa, someone develops the dog-duty fully and uninterruptedly […] Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of dogs.

But if he has such a view as this: ‘By this virtue or observance or asceticism or holy life I shall become a great god or some lesser god,’ that is wrong view in his case. Now there are two destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal realm. So, Puṇṇa, if his dog-duty succeeds, it will lead him to the company of dogs; if it fails, it will lead him to hell.”

In context it seems like a severely wrong view, acting like a dog because you think it’s going to make you into a god when you die.

Edit: The type of wrong view that leads to hell (AN 10.211):

(10) “He holds wrong view and has an incorrect perspective thus: ‘There is nothing given, nothing sacrificed, nothing offered; there is no fruit or result of good and bad actions; there is no this world, no other world; there is no mother, no father; there are no beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world no ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others.’


Is it because of the wrong view itself or is it because of the acts that one is likely to commit when holding it?

My quick response ( and a quick read of the article cited) is that the author Kafnas confuses the idea of a mundane societal view or norm, with Right View that is the starting point of the Eightfold Path. He seems to suggest that the Buddha’s stress on the Four Noble Truths as a pathway toward skillful, ethical, ennobling behavior that leads to a positive life and rebirth is a position congruent with ancient Athens punishing its citizens for pursuing science over convention. So, I’d argue that the author simply hasn’t taken the time to understand the context of the Buddha’s teaching, nor has he understood the Buddha’s teaching on the 4NT. So there’s a mundane/societal relative right view," ( the sun is a god) and there is the sublime universal understanding that the Buddha taught concerning skillful and ethical life and behavior leading to positive outcomes. The Buddha invites this reasoned inquiry, while the other examples cited in the article were suggestive of intolerance of reasoned inquiry.


in MN 136 having wrong view is implicitly linked with birth in hell and the like

in this sutta it’s listed separately among the standard wrongdoings

some person kills living beings here, takes what is not given, misconducts himself in sexual desires, speaks falsehood, speaks maliciously, speaks harshly, gossips, is covetous, is ill-willed, has wrong view

but i myself am not sure this can pose evidence for convincing answer one way or the other

i tend to agree with the second premise, i.e. it’s rather because wrong view manifests in unskillfull intentions and actions, which in turn shape the kamma, that it leads to unfortunate rebirth

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DN 5 is similar to MN 57, and this seems to be a popular statement about wrong view. AN 10.104 offers a mechanical sort of approach:

When a person has wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration, wrong knowledge, & wrong release, whatever bodily deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever verbal deeds… whatever mental deeds he undertakes in line with that view, whatever intentions, whatever determinations, whatever vows, whatever fabrications, all lead to what is disagreeable, unpleasing, unappealing, unprofitable, & stressful. Why is that? Because the view is evil.

I also find some other approaches. For example, AN 10.212 remarks that the wrong view leading to hell involves believing that there are no ethical consequences to action, and at AN 8.3 wrong view simply has social consequences within the monastic community.

Heading into the earlier parts of the AN, I notice AN 3.50:

(2) “And how does an evil bhikkhu depend on thickets? Here, an evil bhikkhu holds wrong view, adopts an extremist view. It is in this way that an evil bhikkhu depends on thickets.

It seems that holding wrong view leading to hell means holding a specific sort of view: any view that undercuts ethical effort. Any wrong view that allows for ethical effort is instead a tainted sort of view leading elsewhere (human, heaven, etc.).

The “wrong view - right view” dichotomy isn’t so hell-bent at SN 45.9:

At Savatthī. “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.


I agree that the author seems to have a wrong understanding of what ‘Right View’ and 'wrong view’in the context of tolerance are. Pretty much any reasonable religion can be tolerant of wrong views in the society. A reasonable Muslim would tolerate that his neighbour is Christian but can nevertheless think that his neighbour will go to Hell. The same is true for the Christians: they can say it is okay for people to adhere to other religious view in their society but they will still go to Hell. In other words, social tolerance is great but the metaphysics don’t care about it.

My question was, however, about the ‘metaphysics’ (that’s a bad term, but I can’t find a more appropriate word) of the wrong view in Buddhism. Will it inevitably lead to a hell or animal rebirth or not? On what grounds can we answer this question?

So, there seem to be basically the Right View, wrong views and meh views, if I understand you correctly.

SN 42.6 highlights the interaction of wrong view with degenerate ethics; I think there is wrong view without worldly ethical injunctions, wrong view with worldly ethical injunctions, & right view with liberative ethical injunctions.

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Yeah, that’s pretty much what I meant with ‘meh views’ , thanks :anjal:

Vstakan, yes, I didn’t answer the entire call of your question, only due to time, and a lack of confidence on my part that I could satisfactorily address the “metaphysics.” My sense of the Buddha’s core teachings is that holding and practicing Right View and the other Path factors is part of a process ( DO) that tends to lead to outcomes that tend to be positive when the practice is skillful and ethical. So, I can’t use the word “inevitable” only as I see 4NT and DO as being part of a complex process that expresses tendencies and outcomes that are not strictly time and fact dependent. I can’t say whether the failure to practice Right View and the 8fold path directly leads to a rebirth in a hell realm, for example. I don’t know whether the hell realm is employed in this teaching as a metaphor, or whether this realm exists as a physical or metaphysical plane of existence; this is beyond my understanding. A great question, V, and thanks for kickstarting my brain this am. :slight_smile:

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Anyway, it’s still good you established what the author was wrong about :anjal: This is a nice paper that I think think raises an important point: what should statistical genetic differences in intelligence if they are found to exist have to do with the idea of equality and our evaluation of an individual? Still, it’s so funny how he wrote a whole paper about how it is unadmissible to counter scientific ideas with ethics-based ideological arguments only to do this exact thing with the religion one page later. Oh, but I guess ‘scientifically based atheist world view’ is not a religion, right? Right? :flushed:

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Can you quote this?

The passage is part of a constellation of passages which support the argument that facts and values are naturally conflated by humans, and that they oughtn’t to be.

As you have rightly pointed out to me in private communication, discussing the issue here at length would me too off-topic, so let’s agree this will be the last public comment on the problem.

Precisely. Ironically, Mr. Cofnas conflates facts and moral values himself. Obviously, he treats criticism of facts because of moral consideration as at least scientifically unethical. If the ethics of scientific research and the higher relative value of knowledge in comparison to social well being were not involved he would have no reason to right the paper in the first place.

At the same time, he tacitly assumes that statements like ‘all non-Muslims go to Hell’ or ‘unbaptised adults go to Hell’ or ‘people with wrong view go to Hell’ (I am not discussing here the spicier quotes about idols in rectums, they are indeed ethically relevant) are of ethical nature, but they are not. For religious people, these statements are facts, basic facts of faith, just as - scientifically unchecked - statements ‘Europeans are on the average less intelligent than East Asians’ or ‘black people are on the average less intelligent than white Europeans’ are not ethical statements but mere assumptions about facts. They are inconvenient, challenging and hard to accept assumptions, but they are not ethical. An ethical statement derived from the Buddha’s quote or these unchecked scientific assumptions about race and intelligence would be ‘So you should dissociate from people who have wrong views’ or ‘So people of less intelligent races should be treated unequally with more intelligent people’. Both the Buddha and the science do not make such ethically relevant statements - at least I have heard nothing about it.

Mr. Cafnas calls Buddhism ‘reputedly tolerant’, providing a quote that in his view that suggests the opposite. The implicit meaning of Mr. Cafnas’ phrase about Buddhism is thus that it is not actually that tolerant. So, he first misapprehends a quasi-factual statement as an ethical one, and then brings it up in an ethical discussion as an example of what statements shouldn’t be done (because phrases like that one are what he argues against in his paper). In other words, in what regards at least the Buddhist quote, he falls victim to the same fallacy he criticizes so much.

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Personally, I take the quotes literally. I have found it is a universal teaching in the suttas that wrong views lead to hell. SN 56.102 onwards contains a series of teachings about how not realising the Four Noble Truths leads to hell. What I personally do not take literally (in the Catholic sense) is the word ‘hell’ (and ‘animal’). Not realising the Four Noble Truths obviously leads to suffering; regardless of how morally upright a person is. Possibly the word ‘hell’ refers to ‘suffering’. SN 56.102 onwards seems to also state an ‘animal’ can be reborn ‘human’ by realising the Four Noble Truths.

There might be two contexts about kamma & hell. The moral (lokiya) context, where unwholesome actions (killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, intoxicants, gambling, etc) lead to hell and, a Nibbanic (lokuttara) context, where not realising the Four Noble Truths leads to hell.

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Only a Sotapanna will have the assurance that s/he will not be reborn in hell or in an animal realm.

So, nevermind all this ad hominem against the author - do you agree with the overall conclusion in the article?

The impression I get is that Buddhist people are, for the most part, also “religious people” (as you put it), and so the criticisms are indeed quite broadly applicable, as suggested in the paper.

We can find many examples in the news (I’m thinking of Burma, but without too much effort we can find …just, so much…). With respect to the OP’s question, here, I think the idea of hell being a place for those with wrong view is still a vibrant idea for many Buddhists.


Consider this:

“Therein, bhikkhus, right view comes first. And how does right view come first?
In one of right view, right intention comes into being;
in one of right intention, right speech comes into being;
in one of right speech, right action comes into being;
in one of right action, right livelihood comes into being;
in one of right livelihood, right effort comes into being;
in one of right effort, right mindfulness comes into being;
in one of right mindfulness, right concentration comes into being; "

The above implies that one’s views will influence one’s intentions/assumptions/thoughts.

In turn, one’s intentions/assumptions/thoughts will influence one’s speech, actions and ultimately shape one’s livelihood.

All this will in turn shape one’s efforts and initiatives, which in turn will facilitate the arisal or not of the elements of mindfulness / presence and resulting stillness / concentration.

Hence, if one is at the extreme of harmful or wrong view (miccha ditthi) the whole sequence will accumulate / drive him/herself to the negative planes or states of existence, formally framed as the unhappy realms (hell included).

So, definitely, one’s views shape one’s lifestyle and this is what drives him/her further away from or closer to the elements of right mindfulness and stillness needed for insight and release to take place.

The AN10.121 summarises this beautifully:

Bhikkhus, the first appearance, the first signs of the rising sun is dawn.
In the same manner the first appearances and the first signs of all meritorious things is right view.
To one with right view, there are right thoughts.
To one with right thoughts, there is right speech.
To one with right speech, there is right action.
To one with right actions, there is right livelihood.
To one with right livelihood, there is right endeavour.
To one with right endeavour, there is right mindfulness.
To one with right mindfulness, there is right concentration.
To one with right concentration, there is right knowledge.
To one with right knowledge, there is right release.


I’ll answer you in the PMs :slight_smile: