This lesson is based on AN 10.176, a discourse found in the Pāli Canon in which the Buddha explains the essential courses of Kamma.
For everything we do, there will be a cause and effect. Our actions and intentions create results that can be either wholesome, unwholesome or neutral. Kamma, or karma, explains how our actions shape our lives and the lives of others. By engaging in wholesome kamma, we can create positive energy that leads to favorable outcomes in both this life and beyond. The Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma are guidelines that can help us cultivate positive outcomes and live a more meaningful life.
The Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma are divided into three categories: purity by body, purity by speech, and purity by mind. Purity by body is threefold and includes abstaining from killing living beings, stealing, and sexual misconduct. Purity by speech is fourfold and includes abstaining from lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and idle chatter. Purity by mind is threefold and includes developing goodwill, compassion, and equanimity. These ten courses of action help us to cultivate wholesome qualities such as kindness, compassion, generosity, and wisdom.
So how can we practice these Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma in our daily lives? It starts with reflecting on our actions and intentions and making a sincere effort to abstain from harmful actions and cultivate wholesome ones. Here are some examples of how we can practice each of the ten courses:
- Abstaining from killing living beings: This includes avoiding killing any living beings, including insects and animals. We can practice this by being mindful of our actions, avoiding harm to any living creature and taking care not to cause them any harm.
- Abstaining from stealing: This means refraining from taking anything that rightfully belongs to someone else without their consent. Practicing this course of wholesome kamma entails showing respect for the property of others and being honest in our interactions with them. We can develop this virtue by being content with what we have, accepting what is offered to us, and expressing gratitude for what we receive.
- Abstaining from sexual misconduct: This involves refraining from engaging in any sexual behavior that harms others or is immoral. We can practice this by respecting others’ boundaries and treating them with kindness and compassion. Examples of harmful sexual practices include cheating on a partner, engaging in extramarital affairs, having sexual relations with minors, and having sexual relations with someone who is already committed to a relationship. It also includes having sexual relations with someone who is protected by a family member, religion, or has chosen to remain abstinent. The key principle underlying this practice is to avoid causing harm to others, and it’s important to keep this in mind when contemplating sexual behavior.
- Abstaining from lying: This involves refraining from intentionally deceiving others. To cultivate this virtue, we can prioritize truthful speech and avoid engaging in gossip or spreading rumors. By doing so, we can become truth speakers who do not deceive the world.
- Abstaining from divisive speech: This entails refraining from using words that may cause conflict or division among people. To practice this, we should be mindful of our words and avoid speaking negatively about others. We can choose to communicate with kindness and empathy, without arguing or creating animosity among people. When we choose not to divide others with our words, we can contribute to creating a more harmonious and peaceful world.
- Abstaining from harsh speech: This means not speaking in a way that is hurtful or disrespectful to others. We can practice this by using kind and gentle language and avoiding any language that can cause harm. It is about practicing the pause in our dialect with wholesome effort and thought behind our words.
- Abstaining from idle chatter: This involves avoiding useless and meaningless conversation that can waste our time and energy. We can practice this by being mindful of our speech and avoiding gossip or small talk that does not serve a purpose.
- Developing goodwill: Developing goodwill includes nurturing positive emotions towards others, even those we may perceive as enemies. We can do this by practicing kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and showing respect to everyone we encounter.
- Developing compassion: Developing compassion requires understanding and feeling the suffering of others, and taking action to alleviate it. To cultivate compassion, we can practice empathy, mindfulness, and actively seek ways to help those in need. This means having concern for the misfortunes of others and a sincere motivation to alleviate their suffering.
- Developing equanimity: Developing equanimity encompasses cultivating a balanced and calm mind, treating all beings with impartiality and fairness, even in challenging situations. We can nurture this by practicing mindfulness, meditation, and self-reflection, which can help us stay grounded and centered amidst life’s ups and downs.
When we perform wholesome actions with a pure intention, we create a ripple effect of positive energy that extends beyond ourselves. Such actions generate wholesome kamma, which not only benefits us but also influences the people around us. For example, when we show goodwill towards others, it fosters a more positive and loving attitude within us. This inner transformation then radiates outwards, inspiring others to act with kindness and compassion towards us and those around us. In this way, the practice of wholesome kamma creates a virtuous cycle of positivity that brings benefit to ourselves and others.
By practicing the Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma, we can improve our mental and emotional well-being, generate positive energy, and lead a smoother and more harmonious life. Through our intentional thoughts, kind speech, and benevolent actions, we create a ripple effect of goodness that not only benefits ourselves but also radiates out to those around us. Each moment provides an opportunity to cultivate wholesome kamma and shape a brighter future for ourselves and others. Ultimately, the cultivation of wholesome kamma leads to the experience of good destinations, such as the human and heavenly realms, after the dissolution of the physical body.
Moreover, the cycle of rebirth is perpetuated by craving, while the quality of our actions, or kamma, determines our realm of existence (see: https://nicholasgerace.blog/2022/08/15/existence-this-is-said-to-be-existence/) and also, the starting conditions for our next life, i.e. healthy and wealthy or with lacking the basic necessities. By engaging in wholesome actions and cultivating positive intentions, we can generate good kamma that creates a virtuous cycle, leading to favorable rebirths. For example, acts of kindness and generosity towards others can result in positive kamma that may lead to a realm where these qualities are cherished and further honed.
However, it is essential to remember that the practice of wholesome kamma is not a way to manipulate the universe to get what we want, as that would be “craving.” Rather, it is a natural law of cause and effect that operates based on the quality of our actions and intentions. By cultivating wholesome kamma, we can create positive outcomes for ourselves and others, but we should not do so with the expectation of a specific result.
The Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma are a set of actions that lead to positive outcomes in this life and beyond. By purifying our body, speech, and mind and cultivating wholesome intentions and actions, we can generate wholesome kamma that creates a ripple effect of positivity. With consistent practice, we can experience greater happiness, well-being, and harmonious relationships and eventually attain the ultimate goal of liberation from suffering and discontent.
Similarly, the Ten Courses of Unwholesome Kamma are a set of actions that lead to negative outcomes in this life and beyond. By engaging in actions that pollute our body, speech, and mind with negative intentions, we create unwholesome kamma that results in suffering and pain. The consequences of these unwholesome actions can lead to unpleasant rebirths and the experience of lower realms such as hell, the animal realm, and the realm of afflicted spirits.
Therefore, it is important to recognize the impact of our actions and intentions on our future and to make a conscious effort to cultivate wholesome thoughts and actions while avoiding unwholesome ones. By purifying our mind, speech, and body through the practice of the Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma and abstaining from the Ten Courses of Unwholesome Kamma, we can create a ripple effect of positivity that not only benefits ourselves but also those around us. In doing so, we can experience greater happiness, well-being, and harmonious relationships, and ultimately attain the goal of liberation from suffering.
By understanding the Ten Courses of Unwholesome Kamma and their consequences, we can make a conscious effort to avoid engaging in these actions and instead cultivate wholesome thoughts and actions. This will lead to positive outcomes in this life and beyond, as we generate wholesome kamma that creates a ripple effect of positivity. Ultimately, by purifying our body, speech, and mind through the practice of the Ten Courses of Wholesome Kamma, we can attain the ultimate goal of liberation from suffering and experience greater happiness, well-being, and harmonious relationships.
- Impurity by body is threefold:
- Someone who destroys life: This refers to a person who intentionally kills living beings, causing harm to others.
- Someone who takes what is not given: This refers to a person who steals the property or belongings of others without permission or right.
- Someone who engages in sexual misconduct: This refers to a person engaging in sexual misconduct refers to a person who has sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse or partner, someone who is not willing to engage in sexual activity with them, or someone who is already committed to a relationship. It also includes having sexual relations with minors or someone who is protected by a family member, religion, or has chosen to remain abstinent. The primary principle behind this is to avoid causing harm to others, and it’s crucial to keep this in mind when considering sexual behavior.
- Impurity by speech is fourfold:
- Speaking falsehood: This refers to a person who knowingly speaks lies or misrepresents the truth in order to benefit themselves or others. This is a deceiver of the world.
- Speaking argumentatively: This refers to a person who spreads rumors, gossip or divisive speech with the intention of creating conflict and separation among people.
- Speaking harshly: This refers to a person who uses rude or offensive language to hurt or insult others.
- Indulging in idle chatter: This refers refers to engaging in meaningless or unbeneficial conversation or speaking excessively and without purpose. This can lead to unwholesome outcomes because it wastes time and energy that could be used more productively. It can also contribute to negative emotions to those listening, such as boredom, frustration, and irritation, which can lead to more unskillful behavior. Furthermore, idle chatter can be harmful to relationships, as it can create misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment. When we engage in idle chatter, we are not using our speech in a skillful way to benefit ourselves or others. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of our speech and strive to use it in a way that is kind, truthful, and beneficial.
- Impurity by mind is threefold:
- Being full of longing or craving: This refers to a person who desires things that belong to others, without regard for the consequences of their actions. This is covetousness.
- Having a mind of ill will and intentions of hate: This refers to a person who wishes harm or ill will towards others, or who harbors feelings of hatred towards them.
- Holding wrong view or ignorance: This refers to a person who lacks understanding or knowledge of reality and holds onto false beliefs, denying the existence of wholesome and unwholesome actions and the consequences that follow them.
It is because of engaging in these ten courses of unwholesome Kamma that individuals may suffer negative consequences in this life or in future lives, such as being reborn in unfavorable realms like hell, the animal realm, or the realm of afflicted spirits.
Ten wholesome kamma courses bright, For joy and peace, they are just right. Avoiding harm, practicing good, By these actions, we truly should.
We don’t kill or take what’s not ours, Respect for life and possessions empowers. No harm in speech or gossip so cruel, Or divisive, harsh language that can fuel.
Useless chatter that goes on and on, Like a broken record with no end drawn. With goodwill, compassion, our hearts’ bond, Empathy for all, suffering to respond.
And a balanced mind, equanimity to achieve, In the face of life’s up and down weave. For ten unwholesome courses lead, To realms of pain, remorse, and greed.
Killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, Lying, harsh and divisive speech are not good. Idle chatter, envy, and wrong views, These unwholesome actions bring the blues.
Let us avoid these unskillful ways, And strive for wholesome kamma all our days. For after the body breaks apart, Our kamma follows, like a work of art.
We face the temptations from Mara’s might, Craving is the spark that ignites new existence’s light. It fuels our desires and leads us astray, But it’s kamma that determines where we stay.
In this endless cycle of birth and death, We face temptations that challenge our breath, For every deed we do, a kamma is made, And its fruits in this life or next are paid.
So let us be mindful of our every thought, Speech, and action, and let the Dharma be taught, For in cultivating wholesome kamma we find, A path to the good destinations, a peace of mind.
Coach Nick’s personal experience on The Path to Enlightenment is a testament to the transformative power of these teachings. As someone who has devoted himself to the practice and study of the Buddha’s teachings, he has gained deep insight into the nature of negative emotions and the ways in which they can be overcome. His understanding of the dhamma is rooted in direct experience and has led him to profound realizations about the nature of reality. Through his teachings on karma, Coach Nick emphasizes the importance of cultivating positive mental states and taking responsibility for our own actions, based on his own experience of the transformative power of the Buddha’s teachings.
In his teachings on karma, Coach Nick emphasizes the importance of cultivating positive mental states and taking responsibility for our own actions. By doing so, we can create a more peaceful and harmonious world, both for ourselves and for those around us.