Karma-vibhanga, Deeds and their Results

160 public domain photographs from Borobudur, Java, showing the reliefs the results of good and bad deeds, together with a translation of the Karma-vibhanga text and further information.

 

01-14
Health and Wealth
15-22
Rebirths
23-50
Permutations
51-61
Unwholesome Deeds
62-80
Wholesome Deeds

 

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23-50 Permutations

It seems that the first two paragraphs and the fourth one in this section, which concern deeds not done, were beyond the ingenuity of the sculptors to portray. The next three reliefs can be explained as belonging to the third section. The illustration of this section is much less systematic than we saw previously. It is also possible, of course, that the text the sculptors had to hand omitted some of these teachings.

Deeds Done that are not Accumulated

Herein, what is the deed that, when done, is not accumulated? It is said: Whatever deed, which, once done, leads to being grieved, distressed, reviled, disgusted, confessed, announced and made manifest; which he promises to restrain himself from in the future, and not do again.

Deeds that is accumulated even when not Done

Herein, what is the deed that is accumulated even when not done? It is said: Whatever deed which is yet to be completed by way of body. Herein, speaking a word with corrupt mind, and saying: ‘Like this I will do to you’, i.e. threatening another.

Deeds that is accumulated when Done

Herein, what is the deed that is accumulated when done? It is said: Whatever good deed that is intentional.

106. Giving Food leads to Rebirth in the Sense Heavens

On the right we see a group of people offering bananas to the monastics sat on the far right, evidently a good deed which will bring a good result. Notice that they stand under parasols, indicating their high status.

The halos behind the heads of the devas indicate that the result of this good deed is rebirth in heaven, where they are also respected and brought bananas. Perhaps the tree in the middle with the money bags underneath further indicates that this is a heavenly scene.

107. Giving Clothes leads to Rebirth in the Sense Heavens

On the far right a group of princes are bringing clothes that they intend to distribute to these in need. Another kind of good deed that has good consequences.

The money bags under the tree in the middle indicate this is again a heavenly scene on the left. One of the givers sits on a seat with many money bags in front of him indicating his wealth in his new life, and there are, as always, many attendants and respectful visitors.

108. Giving Gifts leads to Rebirth in the Sense Heavens

The same sort of scene presents itself again here: a large group from the nobility are distributing gifts to those in need. It is possibly food, and maybe fruits that they are offering.

The result is a rebirth in heaven where life is comfortable, and wealth is abundant, and consorts and attendants abound.

Deeds not really Done

Herein, what is the deed that is not really done, nor brings any success? It is said: Whatever deed is intentionally done or effected, but in a dream.

Hell for a Full Time

Herein, what is the deed, provided with which, a person is reborn in hell, and only falls away after that full hell life is completed? ? It is said: That deed that is done here and is successful and through which he goes to hell. That deed, which, once done, one is not grieved, distressed, reviled, disgusted about, and it is not confessed, announced and made manifest; which he does not promise to restrain himself from in the future. But through which he is exceedingly happy and joy arises.

109. Unrepented Wrong Deeds lead to Rebirth in Hell for a Long Time

As we can see the people in this scene are involved in the bad deed of catching and killing fish. It is interesting to see the nets being used. Surprisingly no one is shown shooting at the animals on the far right, who now only signify this is a wilderness. In the centre the fisherman carry their kill off.

We have to presume that they were unrepentant, and they are now being boiled in hell for their bad deeds for a long time. A guard stands next to the tub with a club in his hand making sure they don’t escape their fate.

Hell for a Half Time

Herein, what is the deed, provided with which, a person is reborn in hell, and falls away after half a hell life? It is said: That deed that is done here and is accumulated and through which one goes to hell. That deed, which, once done, one is not grieved, distressed, reviled, disgusted about, and it is not confessed, announced and made manifest; which he does not promise to restrain himself from in the future. But through which he is not exceedingly happy and joy does not arise.

Hell for a Short Time

Herein, what is the deed, provided with which, a person is reborn in hell, and falls away a short time after rebirth? It is said: That deed that is done here and is accumulated and through which he goes to hell. That deed, which, once done, leads to being grieved, distressed, reviled, disgusted, confessed, announced and made manifest; which he promises to restrain himself from in the future. Not having done it again, he is reborn in hell, and falls away a short time after rebirth.

110. Repented Wrong Deeds lead to Rebirth in Hell for a Short Time

On the far right we see two people, one holding a sword, pointing at a third, who is being protected, perhaps by his son, or a friend. The pair are evidently very angry about something. Perhaps the middle scene is meant to portray repentance of the men engaged in the attack.

In any case the result is they are reborn in hell, and are being boiled as a result of their bad deeds, but they are quickly emerging from the torture owing to their repentance.

It appears the following three paragraphs find no representation at Borobudur, probably because of the very abstract nature of the concepts written about, or perhaps they were missing from the text the sculptors knew.

Specific Rebirth

Herein, what is the deed that leads to a specific rebirth? It is said: Whatever deed, when done, after declaring ‘May this ripen in rebirth in such and such a place’, and in that place he is reborn.

Non-Specific Rebirth

Herein, what is the deed that leads to a non-specific rebirth? It is said: Whatever deed, when done, without declaring ‘May this ripen in rebirth in such and such a place’, and he is reborn according to his deeds.

Rebirth in Another Country

Herein, what is the deed that has results in another country? It is said: Whatever deed, in this life, that matures in another country, whether good or bad, and the deed that has results in another country.

Happy then Unhappy

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is at first happy, and later unhappy? It is said: Being asked for a gift here, someone first happily approves, and rejoicing gives it. But after giving he has regret. When he is reborn amongst humans, he is reborn into a family which has great riches, great wealth, but later that wealth is lost and exhausted, so that he later is poor.

111. A Good Deed Regretted leads to Wealth then Poverty

As with the previous panel regret plays its part in the outcome of the deed on this panel also. On the far right we see a member of the nobility giving a gift to the two brahmins who approach him. Behind them he is portrayed again, obviously regretting his good deed.

The result is that he is first reborn in a wealthy family, and all the normal signifiers are shown. But on the far left we see him left in poverty and walking away with few possessions carrying his child on his shoulders.

Unhappy then Happy

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is at first unhappy, and later becomes happy? It is said: Being asked, someone takes a gift, and approving of the same, then gives it to another with difficulty. But after giving the gift, joy arises later. When he is reborn amongst humans, he is reborn into a family which is poor, but later his wealth increases.

112. A Good Deed done with difficulty but rejoiced in leads to Poverty then Wealth

Here again a couple are seen to give gifts to brahmins, but this time rather than regret it they rejoice in their good deed. Their difficulty in giving the gift is marked by how small the gift is.

But in the rebirth scene on the left we first see that the man has been reborn in poverty, and sits under the trees holding his head. Later though he is richly rewarded for his good deed and is seen with the usual signs of wealth.

Happy and Happy

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is at first happy, and later is also happy? It is said: Being asked for a gift here, someone first happily approves, and happily gives it. After giving he is also joyous. When he is reborn amongst humans, he is reborn into a family which is well-off, having great wealth, great riches.

113. A Gift given Happily and Rejoiced in leads to Great Wealth

We see two men giving gifts to a pair of brahmins sat under a tree. We presume they are giving happily, but nowhere does it really show them rejoicing in the deed done.

The result also is just one scene of a good and luxurious rebirth with all the normal signs of wealth: consorts, bags of money and attendants.

Unhappy and Unhappy

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is at first unhappy, and later is also unhappy? It is said: Someone here is bereft of spiritual friends, and does not give a gift. But he also does not commit any wicked deed. When he is reborn again amongst humans, he is reborn into a family which is poor, that has little food and drink to enjoy.

114. Unfinished Relief

This relief was never finished, and indeed hardly started. The very little we can see though would suggest it is following the text, as we see what looks like a poor person sitting on the far left. Left of centre someone is on their knees and worshipping a couple who approach.

Well-off and Selfish

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is well-off but selfish? It is said: Someone gives a small gift in the bowl here to someone who is virtuous, but he does not repeat the generous practice again. When he is reborn amongst humans, he is reborn into a family which is well-off, having great wealth, great riches, through that particular gift. But because he does not repeat that generous practice again, his deeds become selfish.

115. The Person who gives a Gift but does not Repeat It

On the right we see a man leading a group who are giving gifts to the four monks sat under the pavilion. He appears to give robes, and others have varying gifts.

In his rebirth, as we can see, he is wealthy, and has all the indicators of that status, but because he only gave once he is miserly now and when the brahmins come and ask him for something he turns them down.

Poor and Generous

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is poor but generous? It is said: Someone gives many a gift here, but to animals and to those without virtue who do not live the spiritual life. Again and again he repeats his generosity. When he is reborn amongst humans, he is poor, but because of repeating that gift he is generous. Whoever gives a gift into the bowls of those without virtue, because of that becomes poor.

Well-off and Generous

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is well-off and generous? It is said: Someone gives many a gift here into the bowls of those are virtuous, and he repeats the generous practice again and again. Through that, when he is reborn amongst humans, he is reborn into a family which is well-off, having great wealth, great riches. And because he repeated that gift again and again he became generous.

116. The Person who gives a Gift and does Repeat It

On the right a group of people gather with many gifts for a monk who sits in a pavilion, they seem to have robes, food and incense. In the centre one of them is repeating his gift, but this time to a brahmin.

On the left is the rebirth scene where an evidently rich person is again giving gifts in his present life. He is so well practiced he is rich and generous in this life too.

It seems there may have been another paragraph here in the text before the designers of the reliefs at Borobudur, which had a rich man who does not give a gift, and is reborn in poor circumstances. That anyway is what is illustrated on the following relief.

117. The Person who does not Give a Gift

Rather emphatically the rich man on the far right is holding out an obstructing hand, and also turning away from his visitors who are asking for help. He has also, by the look of it, asked his servant to prevent them from getting too near.

The unfortunate result of this refusal is that is he reborn in poverty in his next life. He sits with his back to a tree, and his wife also has her back to the tree, and to him. Their child is suffering from poverty also. Two poor musicians stand in front of them.

The following twelve paragraphs found in the Sanskrit text have not been illustrated at Borobudur, and may not have been included in the text the organisers knew. It is also possibile that they were running out of space and had to drop some material.

Life Exhausted not Deeds

For which person is life exhausted, but not his deeds? It is said: Whatever person who, falling from hell is reborn in hell; falling from the animal realm is reborn in the animal realm; falling from the Yama world is reborn in the Yama world; falling from the gods is reborn amongst the gods.

Deeds Exhausted not Life

For which person are deeds exhausted, but not his life? It is said: Whatever person is happy at first and later is unhappy; or unhappy at first and later happy.

Deeds and Life Exhausted

For which person are deeds exhausted and his life? It is said: Whatever person falling away from hell is reborn amongst animals; falling away from animals is reborn in the Yama world; falling away from the Yama world is reborn amongst humans; falling away from humans is reborn amongst the gods.

Merits Exhausted and Life

For which person are merits exhausted and his life? It is said: [Text is missing here].

Life not Exhausted nor Deeds

For which person is life not exhausted, nor his deeds, but some defilements are exhausted? It is said: The stream-enterer, the once-returner, the non-returner, the Independent Buddha.

Happy in Body not in Mind

Which is the person who is happy in body, but not in mind? It is said: An ordinary person who has done merit is happy in body, but not in mind.

Happy in Mind not in Body

Which is the person who is happy in mind, but not in body? It is said: Whoever is a worthy one (arhat) but is without merit is happy in mind, but not in body.

Happy in Body and in Mind

Which is the person who is happy in body and in mind? It is said: The worthy one, who has destroyed the pollutants, and made merit.

Happy neither in Body nor in Mind

Which is the person who is neither happy in mind nor in body? It is said: An ordinary person who has not done anything meritorious, with a family lineage fallen into oblivion, being bereft of food, drink and clothing, and who wanders amongst the houses, i.e. is homeless. Because of that he is afflicted with diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, consumption, fever, jaundice, infirmity, skin disease, scab and so on, is missing hands and feet, or has loss of eyesight.

Lower Realms and Handsome

What is the deed, provided with which, a person is reborn in the lower realms and is handsome and pleasant, with an agreeable body, agreeable skin, delightful eyes and is good looking? It is said: Whatever person who is endowed with lust, provided with a lack of virtue and is reborn in the lower realms, including (being reborn as) a peacock, a parrot, a mynah, a duck, a ruddy shelduck.

Lower Realms and Ugly

Herein, what is the deed, provided with which, a person is reborn in the lower realms and is ugly, with a harsh body and is unpleasant looking? It is said: Whatever person who is endowed with hate, provided with a lack of virtue and is reborn in the lower realms, like (being reborn as) a lion, a tiger, a crow, a hyena, a cobra, a preta, a piśāca and so on.

Lower Realms and Undeveloped

Herein, what is the deed, provided with which, a person is reborn in the lower realms and is foul-smelling, with faculties that are crooked and undeveloped? It is said: Whatever person who is endowed with delusion, and provided with a lack of virtue, and is reborn in the lower realms, like (being reborn) as a muskrat, a worm, a louse, a fly and so on; like being in a body where the twenty kinds of worms are born.

 

01-14
Health and Wealth
15-22
Rebirths
23-50
Permutations
51-61
Unwholesome Deeds
62-80
Wholesome Deeds

 

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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