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The Force of Karma

Vipassana Meditation Master Acharavadee Wongsakon

Life is the accumulation of both old and new Karma. It can be said that life is the outcome of Karmic force. When we talk about Karma, we are actually talking about actions. It’s the same as sowing seeds in the ground; you reap what you sow.

What determines the level of severity of karmic consequence is the intent or will to do it, and whether that intent is completed with action. If the action is well-intended, but not carried out, the effect of Karma is little. But if the intent is in good faith, as well as carried out with success, the results of that Karma will be very powerful.

There are many examples of how Karmic force takes effect in Buddhist literature. One was about a woman who killed her pet dog by drowning because she felt embarrassed that it kept following her everywhere. The reason why the dog followed her around was because it was her husband in a previous life. Although the other party was only an animal, her intention was so cruel that she was later punished in hell. When she was reborn, she was killed by drowning another 100 times.

Killing is a sin and bad Karma, but what about soldiers who kill others in war?

Many of my Vipassana meditation students were soldiers in their past lives. When soldiers are recruited to fight in a war, killing is inevitable, but the sin is not as grave. Their actions are not for personal interest or gain, but to protect their motherland, and out of gratitude; there is no hatred or ill will. You could say that the Karmic force is much less than that of killing a dog.

Now let’s take a look at the following case. A student of mine was a very influential military officer in his past life. However, he abused his power by looting and killing everyone in every village his troops passed through. In this lifetime, whenever he receives good fortune or gets lucky with money, they are taken away one way or another. This has caused him so much grief and stress until he started practicing Vipassana meditation and began to understand the law of Karma.

The Buddha classified the functions of Karma into four types, each of which deliver the following outcomes:

1. Reproductive Karma (Janaka Karma) – Karma that takes prominent effect and thus determines everything about us, from looks, family, and background at our next birth.

2. Supportive Karma (Upathambhaka Karma) – Karma that supports or aggravates the Reproductive Karma.

3. Obstructive Karma (Upabidaka Karma) – Karma that supports or aggravates the first two Karmas.

4. Destructive Karma (Upaghataka Karma) – Karma that is so strong and harsh it bypasses the first two Karmas and delivers the effect first.

In addition, Buddha also classified Karma in accordance with their effects. They include:

1. Immediately Effective Karma (dittha-dhamma-vedanīya khamma) that takes effect in the present during the current lifetime.

2. Subsequently Effective Karma (upapajja-vedanīya khamma) that takes effect at the next birth.

3. Indefinitely Effective Karma (aparāpariya-vedanīya khamma) that results in later births.

4. Defunct Karma (ahosi khamma) that ceases to have effect.

Despite all those rules, the Karmic effect is immediately halted when that person enters the monkhood. The 227 rules of conduct and the saffron robes act as a barrier against Karmic force, and give that person a second chance to acknowledge his sin and make sincere apology and correction. That is the power of ordination.

The working of Karmic consequences is very complicated; every action always yields a result. Although some results are not immediate, the seed of Karma is already sowed. The rule applies to both good and bad Karma; it’s only a matter of time. It’s Karmic force that drives your destiny, so don’t be reckless with life.