Question on AN3.76, "kamma is the field, consciousness is the seed"

While reading AN3.76 (from the book “Anguttara Nikaya Anthology”, Bhikkhu Bodhi & Nyanaponika Thera) this part of the sutta invited contemplation:

“Thus, Ānanda, for beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture for their consciousness to be established in an inferior realm. In this way there is the production of renewed existence in the future.

However in AN6.63 the Buddha clearly says “It is volition, bhikkhus, that I call kamma", i.e., would one not consider kamma to be the seed responsible for future outcomes? How should one interpret the passage “kamma is the field”?


This is clarified very well in Bhikkhu Sunyo’s book:


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The realm of extinguishment and the realm of kamma are not the same. One is binding to this world, the other, unbinding. Material consciousness in the field of kamma produces a life in the Saha World that is not free of the fetters. The moisture of craving gives this existence the illusion that it is here, when in reality that is just an illusion of ego.

Volition is kamma that is this field, but not all volition is kamma. Buddhas have volition too, but they are kamma free. But those who act kammically, their volition produces the example in the Sutta, by which the wise do not fully differentiate the perceived subject (the volition) and object (the field), because each produce the other. Kamma, however, is self-defeating.

When I read the sutta, it is tracing the cause of future outcomes further back from intention. There are many suttas I have read that start with consciousness that say consciousness causes sense contact, sense contact causes feeling, feeling causes craving & so forth.

AN 3.76 reads to be about “consciousness established” in an inferior (hīnāya) sensuality (kama) element (dhātuyā; not “realm”). For example if you are walking in a shopping mall looking a different foods to buy, this is consciousness with craving established in the sensual element. Then you decide to buy the most delicious foods and start to eat food with craving. This eating of food is the kamma ripening in the sensual element. You are not only looking at sensual objects but you are also making complete (ripening) kamma in the sensuality element by eating the sensual food. This is sensual existence because you are dwelling in the sensual element.

In summary, kamma is a field of activity. Because of craving, your consciousness is planted or established in this field of sensual activity. Therefore, consciousness is the seed, craving is the moisture making the seed sprout and kamma is the field of sensual activity of searching for, buying & eating sensual food.

The element of sensuality gives rise to sensual perceptions. Sensual perceptions give rise to sensual thoughts. Sensual thoughts give rise to sensual desires. Sensual desires give rise to sensual passions. Sensual passions give rise to searches for sensual pleasures. An unlearned ordinary person on a search for sensual pleasures behaves badly in three ways: by body, speech, and mind.

SN 14.12


We find the idea of old kamma in suttas such as sn35.146 - old kamma in this particular sutta is defined as the six senses. So we can maybe see a seed of consciousness planted in, becoming established in, and growing in the six senses. With that growing, new kamma are added to the field for growth in this life, the next life and subsequent lives, all the while watered by craving.