Maintaining the Five Precepts and Right View but Still Going to Hell?

I recently came across a sutta that essentially seemed to say one could maintain the five precepts, have right view and still be reborn in hell because of karma from past lives. Does anyone know which sutta this is? I can’t recall where I saw it.

Also, does anyone have any comments about this topic? The theme was disturbing to me and especially my wife; thus, I’d really appreciate some feedback from some of the monastics like @sujato or any other monastic or anyone else who is versed in the EBTs. Of course, I would appreciate anyone else’s comments too because it seems like a good topic for discussion.

Also, we understand that stream entry would overcome the possibility mentioned above, but stream entry is not an easy attainment it seems.

with gratitude and metta,


“In the case of the person who abstains from taking life… & holds right view [yet] with the breakup of the body, after death, reappears in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell: Either earlier he performed evil action that is to be felt as painful, or later he performed evil action that is to be felt as painful, or at the time of death he adopted & carried out wrong view. Because of that, with the breakup of the body, after death, he reappears in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell. But as for the results of abstaining from taking life… holding right view, he will feel them either right here & now, or in the next [lifetime], or following that.” MN 136

Worry is a serious hindrance and it should not be allowed to rise. The only thing we have control of is the present, so that should be the focus.


Greetings Brooks :slight_smile:

This may assist with a part of your inquiry :slight_smile: There has been quite a lot of discussion about Kamma in the past. Having had a quick search, I find that this answer of Ajahn Brahmali’s may give you some indication of a possible reason, regarding your question. It was in response to a slightly different question… but is very relevant to your enquiry I think :slight_smile:

This speaks about one’s own mind state, inclining one in a particular direction, and then gives an indication of where effort needs to be directed in further practice. From my understanding it is the mind state not necessarily the action (in this example of killing a parent) that is the proximate cause :slight_smile:

It could be that this attitude/conclusion (self punishment) could be said to be wrong view, which if held at the time of death can influence Kamma. As such, I believe it is beneficial to deal with issues of remorse as soon as one can :slight_smile:

Added: Here is the link for MN136 provided by paul1 above


Was it MN 136 ?

We discussed about this on this thread a while ago. I had a question about the two right views and I was able to clarify it. Thanks wonderful SC fans. :blush:


It’s possible that you might teach me something if I ask this in the right way, but if the five composites don’t belong to me, and worry is presumably feeling, perception, consciousnesses and will (part of a mix or all of which, I don’t know) I can’t force a hinderence not to arise even if I’m some kind of right effort master, or presumably an arahat. Restlessness is a higher fetter abandoned with the attainment of arahatship no?

“ I can’t force a hinderence not to arise even if I’m some kind of right effort master, or presumably an arahat.”

This is opposed to the operation of right effort, whose four right endeavors begin with the effort to avoid:

"What now, o monks, is the effort to avoid? Perceiving a form, or a sound, or an odour, or a taste, or a bodily or mental impression, the monk neither adheres to the whole nor to its parts. And he strives to ward off that through which evil and unwholesome things might arise, such as greed and sorrow, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses. This is called the effort to avoid.”—‘Buddhist Dictionary’, Nyanatiloka
If a hindrance does arise, it can be eradicated so that it doesn’t arise again, through starvation.

Restlessness is a higher fetter abandoned with the attainment of arahatship

Good observation. That is why I said worry is a serious hindrance. Restlessness is the last fetter to be abandoned before ignorance, so all the other fetters contain an element of restlessness, it is a primary formation in all unwholesome states. Restlessness is progressively abandoned as the fetters are eradicated, and the lower fetters bind to the sensual world, where they are in a gross form, so when abandoned there the bulk of the work is done. Not only that, but restlessness can cause other hindrances to arise. That is why the development of meditation on the breath, particularly in terms of the first two tetrads of the Anapanasati sutta is important.

if the five composites don’t belong to me

That is only in ultimate reality. In the present the practitioner is dealing with both conventional and ultimate reality, and the transition to ultimate reality actually involves severing the fetters.


@Brahmali this is from a post of yours. I don’t believe there is a single EBT that talks about regret or inability to forgive oneself, as opposed to actual bad deeds, being a cause for rebirth in the lower realms. Where did this idea come from? It sounds like something made up.


Thanks, I need to read this again a few times.

I’d rather think that one act doesn’t determine the entirety of one’s future rebirth. Stream entry seems to nullify past bad karma that could send one into a realm lower than human.


But what is ultimate reality? Keep in mind I’m tainted and delusional. Wouldn’t it come down to wisdom power VS will power when we are saying:
we should not allow a hindrance to arise
Doesn’t that imply this mind is mine and it is mine to control? Is that right view?
I don’t care about some Buddhist dictionary, I care about suttas sir.

I will even hedge my bets and guess there isn’t a single EBT where anyone Buddhist talks about some ultimate reality. :pensive:

It’s the training in wisdom that constitutes it.

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Evidence please?

Ultimate reality is a term coined in the commentary which refers to aggregates, elements and sense bases, in the EBTs which constitutes a ‘higher’ description of the world.


Right View: It’s not clear which right view MN 136 is referring to. I seem to recall Ajahn @Brahmali speaking of two different kinds of right view: One level of right view seemed to involve having the view that kamma is true and actions cause results but one doesn’t necessarily know the four noble truths, and the other higher level view is the understanding of the four noble truths and the eight fold path. So, it seems this sutta is not entirely clear.

On a somewhat unrelated note: Here’s an interesting commentary footnote found in another translation:
This was what happened to Queen Mallika, wife of King Pasenadi, who had led a good life, generous, keeping the Five Precepts, and the Eight Precepts on Uposatha days and so on, but once she did evil, having sexual relations with a dog. This unconfessed evil weighed heavily on her mind and she remembered it when dying. As a result she spent seven days in hell. Her power of goodness from the doing of many good kammas then gave her rebirth in a heavenly world. See Dhammapada Commentary, iii, 119-123.


Thanks for your thoughtful response…sounds like good counsel. That said, one way the sutta is helpful to me is that it helps create a sense of urgency to work diligently toward stream entry, which ensures our safety. There may be a fine line though between a sense of urgency, which the Buddha seems to encourage, and worry which as you point out is a hindrance and to abandoned.


About right view, I always like the way presented in sammā diṭṭhi sutta, mn9, starting with “A noble disciple understands the unskillful and its root, and the skillful and its root”
Sukhi Hotu!


That is an example of (legitimate) painful feeling not of the flesh:

“There is the case where a monk considers, ‘O when will I enter & remain in the dimension that those who are noble now enter & remain in?’ And as he thus nurses this yearning for the unexcelled liberations, there arises within him sorrow based on that yearning.”—MN 44


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I started reading suttas with MN1, which ultimately provided the basis for my current reality:

delight is the root of suffering --mn1/en/bodhi

DN33 is my current reality. It passes every test I have thrown at it. For example the following is ultimately quite real:

Four deeds. There are deeds that are dark with dark result. There are deeds that are bright with bright result. There are deeds that are dark and bright with dark and bright result. There are neither dark nor bright deeds with neither dark nor bright results, which lead to the end of deeds.

I suppose it depends on what you define as “ultimate reality”, however. What is yours in the context of the OP?

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