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Friday, November 2, 2007

The incessant hunt of the effects of good deeds and misdeeds

The principle of the reaction of good deeds and misdeeds is one of the basic teachings of the Buddha. Upon close examination, it becomes evident that this is the cause of bringing about fortune or misfortune of an individual. According to the Buddha’s teachings, each individual is the liberator of himself. One’s liberation cannot be brought about by any God or by any supernatural force but by himself. An invisible God cannot provide a heaven or a hell to an individual. Good or bad, it is one’s own seeking. The Buddha is a path finder and not a liberator The final objective of Buddhism is the attainment of nibbana or cessation of suffering,. To achieve that objective one has to adhere to certain rules of conduct analysed as good and bad, as moral and immoral, as conducive and detrimental, as correct and incorrect etc. Two factors are important when analysing good deeds and bad deeds.:
1. Pangnatti vajja (deeds Buddha advised to abstain from)
2. Loka vajja (deeds considered by the entire society as abstinent)
In addition to good deeds and bad deeds as pronounced by the Buddha, Buddhism enunciates a large volume of moral conducts which may be considered synonymous with good deeds and misdeeds. They are : Punnya-paapa, Saavajja-anavajja, Dhamma-adhamma, Ariya-anariya, Samachariya-vishamachariya, Karaneeya-akaraneeya, Samma-michcha, Setta-heena, Saasava-anaasava, Parisuddh-aparisuddha, Sucharitha-duchcharitha, Sukatha-dukkatha, Sappurisa-asappurisa, Kalyana-paapaka,Suktha-kanha, etc. In this context, good deeds and misdeeds are explained in paali literature as ethical concepts. “Atthi Bhikkawe Kusaslaakusala dhamma, saavajja naavajja dhamma” (O’Bhikkus, Good deeds and misdeeds are categorised as correct and incorrect) . An individual seeking liberation should do only the deeds that are advised as “savithabban” and dispel deeds that are advised as “asavithabban. In Buddhism good deeds are described as meritorious, correct, clever, efficient, sublime, truthful and conducive. When describing the eight-fold noble path, the word “Samma” is used to mean good or correct. In this context, acts done on thoughts based on greed, malice and illusion are categorised as misdeeds, while acts done on thoughts free of greed, malice and illusion are categorised as good deeds. The following are the ten misdeeds done by the use of the three agents of action:

By use of the body : 1.Killing, 2.Stealing, 3.Adultery.

By use of word : 4.Lying, 5.Sneaking, 6.Obscene

language, 7.Gossip

By use of mind : 8. Attachment,
9. Rancour,
Abstinence from these 10 wrongs are conducive to the trouble free conduct of day-to-day life. Therefore refraining from the ten wrongs are called “Dasa Kusal”. Non-adherence to these ten rules are called “Dasa Akusal) Ven.Buddhagosha Thera, has given the following interpretation to the concept of “Kusala” : Healthy, Correct, Skilful and Prosperous.
The Buddha has delivered a number of sermons to differentiate between good and bad.Mangala Sutta, Parabhava Sutta, Vasala Sutta, Sigalovada Sutta, Vyagggapajja Sutta, Karaneeyametta Sutta are among the major sermons containing codes of conduct for the well being in this birth as well as in births in thereafter.
In the Rahulovada Sutta, mainly directed to Bhikku Rahula, Buddha has pronounced that an act, while in the process of coming to mind, while being done and after doing must be thoroughly examined to identify its good or bad effects must be done if it is beneficial to one self as well as to others. If it is not, such acts must be avoided, the Buddha advised.
According to Kaalaama Sutta in ancient India there were ten methods of deciding whether an act is good or bad . They were :

1. In terms of oral evidence,
2. In terms of traditional beliefs,
3. In terms of pronouncements,
4. In terms of scriptures,
5. In terms of logic,
6. In terms of theory,
7. In terms of convictions,
8. In terms of vision,
9. In terms of apparent worthiness,
10. In terms of the teachings of the religious leader.
In the Vimansaka Sutta, Buddha pronounced that things must not be accepted simply because of the word of the Buddha, but must be accepted only in terms of one’s conscience. Kaalaama Sutta emphasizes that the difference between good and bad must be decided upon one’s own independent conclusion.
Unlike in other religious beliefs, Buddhism does not speak of commands or prayers. This is the most glaring difference between Buddhism and other religions. In Christianity the obsessed belief is that merit and sin is the decision of God. According to Hinduism dissolution of non adherents is a meritorious act. According to Islam, good and bad is decided at the mercy of God. Brahmins believe that what is taught from scriptures written by rishis must be accepted as the truth but nothing else. In this manner, other religions have entrusted the task of differentiating between merits and sins to an invisible God. In contrast, Buddhism has not surrendered the inherent sovereignty of an individual to decide upon the consequences of his own action. Buddhism professes a principle of self liberation.
In addition Buddhism points out three fold psychological methods of identifying merits and sins. They are :
1. Attadhipatheiya
2. Lokadhipatheiya, and
3. Dhammadhipatheiya.
Good deeds and misdeeds committed by us follow us as our shadow or as the wheel following the cart. Their results follow us life after life throughout the journey of sansara bringing upon us fortune and misfortune at different times. Therefore we must promote only acts of good thoughts through charity, self discipline and meditation and abstain from misdeeds and strive to attain the bliss of nibbana which is our final goal .

By Ven.Galagedera Rathanawansa Thera,
the Lecturer of Sri Sarananda Pirivena, Kobeigane, Pubbaliya.

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