Niyamas (conditioning factors of existence)

Hello Dhamma community,

Can someone please direct me to suttas that specifically talk about the Niyamas (conditioning factors of existence)?

Niyamas (conditioning factors of existence), of which there are 5, one of which is kamma.

Thank you!

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Hi @Bindu,

As far as I am concerned the only of the niyama / niyāma mentioned in the suttas is the dhamma-niyāma - or the orderliness of the Dhamma - in the AN 3.136 :

The doctrine of fivefold niyama is based on commentarial literature and cannot be pinpointed anywhere in the suttas of the Pali Nikayas.

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An interesting question. I’m familiar with yama and niyama from other Indian traditions — Patañjali Yoga Sūtras, Jainism, and haṭha yoga. The 5 yamas of the Yoga Sūtras are identical to the 5 vows in Jainism, and there are many lists of yamas and niyamas in the haṭha texts over the years. From my research, yama seems to mean restraint as in “pulling on the reins of a horse” as it is used in the Ṛg Veda. In the Yoga Sūtras it is used in the sense of ethical restraints (as far as I can tell). This list of 5 ethical restraints is followed by a list of 5 niyamas… and this is where I’m a little unsure as to the meaning of the word (in the Patañjali context). Ni- as a sanskrit prefix usually means something like “inward, within; down, back”, so I guess this could mean “inward restraints” and if you look at the list of niyamas they are more internal than the 5 external yamas. In my own interpretation, if I had to translate each with one word I would say yama=restraint and niyama=constraint. Haṭha texts have lists of 1, 5, 10 or more in each category of yama and niyama, some overlapping some not; there was quite a bit of variation in the ethical systems of the various yogi groups and some were even amoral.

How does this relate to niyama in the Buddhist scriptures? Well, it seems that yamas and niyamas were a common concept discussed among wanderers. Maybe this kind of discussion had some influence on the later commentarial literature? Then again, maybe not, the usage of niyama as a conditioning factor of existence seems totally different.

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I would say that the commentarial doctrine of niyama in Buddhism is quite different to what you describe. A good source of understanding of this topic would be the following text:

http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/B%20-%20Theravada/Teachers/Ven%20Payutto/Good,%20Evil,%20and%20Beyond/1_%20Understanding%20the%20Law%20of%20Kamma.htm

From which I quote:

This natural course of things is called in common terms “the law of nature,” and in the Pali language niyama, literally meaning “certainty” or “fixed way,” referring to the fact that specific determinants inevitably lead to corresponding results.
The laws of nature, although uniformly based on the principle of causal dependence, can nevertheless be sorted into different modes of relationship. The Buddhist commentaries describe five categories of natural law, or niyama. They are:
Utuniyama: the natural law pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment, such as the weather; the way flowers bloom in the day and fold up at night; the way soil, water and nutrients help a tree to grow; and the way things disintegrate and decompose. This perspective emphasizes the changes brought about by heat or temperature.
Bijaniyama: the natural law pertaining to heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."
Cittaniyama: the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.
Kammaniyama: the natural law pertaining to human behavior, the process of the generation of action and its results. In essence, this is summarized in the words, good deeds bring good results, bad deeds bring bad results.
Dhammaniyama : the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things: the way all things arise, exist and then cease. All conditions are subject to change, are in a state of affliction and are not self: this is the Norm.
The first four niyama are contained within, or based on, the fifth one, Dhammaniyama, the Law of Dhamma, or the Law of Nature. It may be questioned why Dhammaniyama, being as it were the totality, is also included within the subdivisions. This is because this fourfold categorization does not cover the entire extent of Dhammaniyama.

Albeit this fivefold niyama framework sounds really nice it is not something found in EBTs and should not be attributed to the Buddha but considered a later development - possibly a derivation from the concept of dhamma-niyama found in the Suttas.

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Yea, sorry about going off on a tangent. I do remember a little bit from Ajahn’s Sujato & Brahmali kamma study course where they talked about different kinds of kamma’s including weather as a distinct kamma. I can’t imagine this was based on anything other than EBT. Of course, the source probably didn’t use the word niyama.

Personally, I see nothing here that is inconsistent with what the Buddha (reportedly) taught. The term Dhamma-Niyama-Ta is found in AN 3.136 & SN 12.20 and the other four Niyamas from the later-day Commentaries simply label the lawfulness of other interrelated processes found in the suttas.

For example, if the workings of cognition or kamma did not follow ‘niyama’ (fixed law) they would be completely random.

whether there is an arising of Tathagatas or no arising of Tathagatas, that element still persists, the stableness of the Dhamma (dhammaṭṭhitatā), the fixed course/lawfulness of the Dhamma (dhammaniyāmatā)

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I was referring specifically to the doctrine of fivefold niyama. Sure, doubtlessly there is mention to dhamma niyama.

Hi Matt,
Would you be able to approach Ajahn Sujato & Brahmali to follow-up on their comments about different types of Kamma they made on the course you did with them?
I would love to understand in a bit more detail/depth what they were referring to, understand the context & if there comments were textually based on the Pali cannon.
Thank you & Metta,
Bindu

I attended the same course in Perth and my memory is different.

They actually “myth busted” the idea that people could in catastrophic events due to kamma.

Maybe venerables @Brahmali or @sujato could point us to the video/audio recording of the specific session they explored the subject (I remember once seeing links to it in this forum).

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Yes, seeing/hearing this specific recording would be really helpful. Thank you.

@Bindu @Gabriel_L , my memory is vague but I think I came across it somewhere in the courses section of discourse. Sorry I can’t be of more help. I get the impression Sujato is busy now, maybe I can amplify the evocation of the venerable @Brahmali though.

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Indeed we did. It’s probably in the first workshop. Sorry I can’t be any more help.

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something similar to these niyamas can be found in the theravada abhidhamma developments ( possibly in the later commentaries, i guess that it is not found in the early works of abhidhamma such as the “vibhanga”) in the section of "rupa paramatta " where it is said that matter originates due to four factors, namely ; matter that originates due to kamma, citta, temperature (utuja )and nutriment (aharaja). The first three corresponds to kamma, citta and utu Niyamas while the last is not parallel to the niyamas. Since much of abhidhamma were later developments it was intensively affected with the late commentaries and this development of the niyama framework might have affecred to abhidhamma as well.knowledge on abhidhamma is weak and please correct me if I am mistaken.

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Yes, I believe the five niyamas appear in the commentaries. However I have not studied the history of the idea.

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This could be the link you are looking for.

With Metta

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Not sure I follow - what was ‘myth busted’ exactly? Could you please clarify?
Thank you.

Hi Nimal,
Thank you so much for digging out this link - lots of material to delve into here as part of my research.
Metta,

Hello Nimal,
Workshop 2 answered my question in that events/things have multiple causes not just the conditioning force of Karma.
Thank you for your help.
Metta,

As a matter of fact, it is very easy to search anything in this site. Just type “karma” “niyama” or whatever you want to search in the mirror icon and press enter. That is all. It will prop up all matches. There you go.
With Metta

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Fabulous!
I have literally just started using sutta central & all its resources so still finding my way.
Thank you for your help.
Metta.

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