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.
Health and Wealth
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62-80 Wholesome Deeds
he final section is illustrated in the last 35 reliefs on the hidden base at Borobudur. There are some additional deeds illustrated that are not found in the text we receive in Sanskrit. The order of the deeds is also somewhat different, and it is clear the text the sculptors knew differed more in this section than anywhere else.
Although many different results are listed, there is a decided preference for illustrating the same good result over and over again, particularly rebirth in a wealthy family, and rebirth in heaven, which the sculptors and their directors never seemed to tire of.
Saluting Caityas in the Middle Country
What are the ten advantages of saluting with reverence the memorial buildings of the Realised One in the Middle Country, the four great memorial buildings in Lumbinī, Mahābodhi and so on? It is said:  One obtains a birth in the Middle Country.  One obtains excellent clothes.  One obtains an excellent family.  One obtains an excellent age.  One obtains an excellent voice.  One obtains excellent intelligence.  One obtains excellent faith.  One obtains excellent virtue.  One obtains excellent fame.  One obtains excellent generosity.  One obtains an excellent memory.  One obtains excellent wisdom.
Saluting Caityas (Elsewhere)
What are the ten advantages of worshipping the memorial buildings of the Realised One somewhere else? It is said:  One becomes handsome.  Has a good voice.  Has acceptable speech.  Walking into an assembly one propitiates the assembly.  One is dear to gods and men.  One is distinguished.  One has the society of distinguished people.  One has the society of Buddhas and the Buddha’s disciples.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
Whereas at the beginning of the reliefs we had ten deeds giving a similar result. Here we have one good deed giving a variety of results. The deed is normally shown only once in this section, while the various results may continue over a number of panels.
124. By Worshipping the Memorial Buildings one becomes Handsome
The inscription on the right reads: caitya-vandana, worship of the Caitya, or religious edifice, and that is exactly what is shown. We cannot tell if the worship takes place in the Middle Country or elsewhere, but the result suggests the latter.
Above the result is the word: suvarṇa-varṇa, golden complexion. The closest we have to this in the Sanskrit text is being handsome (abhirūpa), as clearly the main figure on the left is meant to be.
125. One gains a Good Voice and Good Company
The inscription reads susvara, good voice. This is not easy to indicate, and the sculptors show a man in a pavilion surrounded by consorts and listening to music. We would not be able to infer the meaning without the inscription.
The inscription on the left reads: mahaujaska-samavadhāna, meeting with one of great might, which is probably sufficiently close to the maheśākhyaiḥ samāgamo, having the society of distinguished people, of our text.
126. One has Wealth and is Reborn in Heaven
On the right the inscription reads a word that is broken: bho- from which we can infer bhogī, a wealthy man is intended, and as we see that is what is portrayed, a man sits with all the usual signs of riches and comfort.
The inscription on the left is svargga, heaven, being reborn in which is one of the results of worshipping the memorial buildings. The place is indicated, as always, by the kalpa-vṛkṣa, a wish-fulfilling tree, and the kinnaras.
Giving a Parasol
What are the ten advantages of giving a parasol? It is said:  One has the nature of being a parasol for the world.  One is not overheated in body.  One is not overheated in mind.  All blameless deeds done that lead to sovereignty accumulate.  Again and again one becomes a universal monarch.  One is distinguished.  One has the society of distinguished people.  One has the society of Buddhas and Buddha’s disciples.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
127. By Giving a Parasol one is not overheated in Body and Mind
The inscription on the right is chatra-dāna, giving of parasols, and that is exactly what we see below it. Other gifts are also being presented, which shows how hard it is to isolate the intent without an inscription. We may have taken it as gifts in general.
The left hand side of the panel was only partly carved, and we do not know how they would have illustrated such a thing, but the inscription reads: nirupatapta-kāya-citta, not having an overheated body or mind.
128. One has the Society of Distinguished People
In this panel we rather unusually see just one result of the good deed of giving a parasol, as the inscription informs us, we will have: maheśākhya-samavadhāna, meetings with distinguished people.
A large pavilion is shown on which two wealthy men and their consorts sit together and enjoy the benefits of each other’s company. Signs of wealth abound. On the far right and left we see others who sit outside under the trees.
129. One becomes a Universal Monarch
Even if we didn’t have the inscription here, which reads Cakravarttī, universal monarch, we could infer it, or read it from the panel itself, which shows the elephant, jewel, horse and wheel on the right.
The lady with the halo is the queen, though the minister and treasurer do not seem to be shown. On the left we see the parasol. There are also the normal signs of wealth from fruiting trees to bags of money, and plentiful attendants.
130. Rebirth in Heaven
The inscription again reads svargga, heaven, as it did on 126. This time though the scene takes up the whole panel. On the left is one of the most elaborate wish-fulfilling trees we find at Borobudur, where they do in fact abound. Underneath are kinnaras and many money bags.
The main character is unfortunately incomplete and partially erased. He sits on a throne with his consort, and on right and left are the usual array of attendants, including one brahmin at bottom right.
Giving a Temple Bell
What are the ten advantages of giving a temple bell? It is said:  One becomes handsome.  One has a good voice.  One has pleasing speech.  One has speech like a cuckoo.  One has acceptable speech.  One always has causes for joy.  Again and again one hears sounds that are joyous.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One has great wealth.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
We have an interesting series of mismatches coming up between what the inscriptions clearly tell us was intended, and what we may have guessed working solely from the text(s). This shows how precarious we often are in our guesswork at what a particular scene represents at Borobudur, and cautions us to be careful in our assertions.
131. By Giving a Bell one has the Society of the Distinguished
The inscription on the right reads: ghaṇṭā, a bell, and that is what we see below. Five people have assembled and they are offering a bell and other gifts at a religious edifice.
The inscription on the left reads: maheśākhya-samavadhāna, meeting with the distinguished. This isn’t actually mentioned as a result in the Sanskrit text, or in any of the parallels we know of, but we have heard of this as a result of good deeds earlier.
132. A Universal Monarch
The inscription in the middle reads: Cakravarttī, universal monarch. and even without the inscription we can recognise the result portrayed easily enough as we see the horse, the elephant, the wheel, the jewel and the woman. Unfortunately once again this is not mentioned as a result of this deed in any of the texts.
The monarch sits with three consorts in a pavilion, the woman-jewel stands left of centre. We also see other signs of kingship, such as the parasol and the peacock-feather fan. Attendants and visitors sit nearby ready to oblige.
133. Pleasing Speech and Knowledge of Former Lives
There is no inscription to guide us to the scene on the right. It may have been some form of pleasing speech that was intended. But the scene is so similar to 131 that it may also have been another meeting with distinguished people.
On the left we do have an inscription, and I dare say we would never have known what it was meant to be without it. It reads pūrvābhijñā, deep knowledge of former (lives).
134. Great Wealth and Rebirth in Heaven
The last two results of giving a bell are in fact mentioned in our text. Above the relief on the right is written: bhogī,  one having wealth, and that is exactly what we see in the scene below, which has the usual array of signifiers.
Above the scene on the left is the word svargga,  heaven. Although we do see a great spreading tree, it is rather different from other scenes of heaven in which kinnaras sit near the tree. Here the central characters themselves sit under the tree, and we may not have known this was heaven without the inscription to guide us.
What are the ten virtues of giving clothes. It is said:  One has soft skin.  One has smooth skin.  Dust does not stick to the cloth or his body.  One is endowed with conscience and shame.  One is pleasant looking.  One has abundant clothing.  One receives clothes and spreadings that are delicate.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
135. By Giving Clothes one becomes Handsome
We can hardly make out what is being offered in the scene on the right, and might have guessed something else, but the inscription reads: vastra-dāna, giving clothes. A brahmin sits under a tree and a devotee kneels at his feet.
The inscription reads: prāsādika, handsome. It is synonymous with  priya-darśana, pleasant looking. We may not have guessed it though from the panel itself, as it looks more like a scene of great wealth.
136. Great Wealth
This is another result of giving clothes:  he has great wealth. There is no inscription, but that this is the normal portrait of a wealthy man means that we don’t really need one this time.
Parts of the panel are unfinished, it seems they were waiting for the tree carver to finish elsewhere. As with all of the Karma-vibhaṅga reliefs there is great balance in the composition.
137. Reborn in Heaven
The inscription reads svargga, heaven, which confirms what is clear to the eyes:  he is reborn in heaven. The wish-fulfilling trees (kalpa-taru) on far left and right, with their kinnaras, tell us that much anyway.
In the centre the main character sits inside a heavenly palace (vimāna) with three consorts, while around the usual batch of attendants wait to serve him.
What are the ten advantages of giving vessels? It is said:  One becomes a vessel for the Dharma.  One’s virtues are smooth and uninterrupted.  One does not have great thirst.  When suffering from thirst, water appears.  One is not reborn amongst the pretas.  One has a sufficiency of containers.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
139. By Giving Vessels one becomes a Vessel for Dharma
The inscription on the right, above the cause reads simply dāna, gift, and as we can see it is a gift of vessels in this case, although we may have taken it for a gift of whatever was in the vessels.
On the left the long inscription reads: kuśala-dharma-bhajana, he is  a vessel for the wholesome Dharma. I presume therefore that he is now a monk in his new life, and is bringing Dharma to the people who sit and reverentially listen to his teachings.
139. Great Wealth
There is an inscription here, but I can’t read it properly, it may say bhogī, wealthy man. In any case it seems the result being depicted here must be something like  having great wealth.
There are an unusual array of attendants in the relief, and as always the Borobudur sculptors really excelled as ensembles like this. The main character has four consorts and multiple bags of money under his couch.
140. Reborn in Heaven
The inscription reads svargga, heaven. On the right the man, his four consorts and bags of money looks very much like the previous panel.
It is not quite clear whether there is one or two scenes intended. In any case the left hand scene shows a very wealthy person standing in front of a temple and receiving gifts. His wife holds a giant lotus in the centre of the relief.
141. Giving Banners
The gift of banners is missing from the present Sanskrit texts, though it is found in the Chinese translations. As an inscription identifies the gift, we can be sure what was intended.
The inscription reads patākā, banners. Three men sit before a well-drawn temple and give gifts of banners, while others who are supporting them stand behind them.
On the left four more people sit under a tree who are also giving gifts, though it is not clear what they are offering.
142. Great Wealth
The result of giving banners in shown on this relief, which has the inscription adhyabhogī, great wealth. It is the usual scene with a man and his four consorts and bags of money.
To right and left his attendants line up to serve his every need, and as a further sign of his wealth and luxury.
143. Reborn in Heaven
Although there is no inscription we don’t really need one, as we can see the kalpa-taru (wish-fulfilling tree) and the kinnaras, and we know this is set in heaven (svargga).
A rather satisfied and rotund looking man sits with his consorts having an arm round one, and the other arm across the front of another. Signs of wealth abound.
What are the ten advantages of giving food? It is said:  One becomes strong.  One becomes beautiful.  One becomes happy.  One becomes intelligent.  One has long life.  One is visited by the populace.  One is pleasant looking.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
144. By Giving Food one becomes Handsome
Apparently the inscription above the right side of the panel reads: bhojana, and we can then identify the gifts as one of food and drinks.
On the left is the result. Being wealthy is probably presented later, so this might be  one becomes handsome. It could conceivably also be  one becomes happy.
145. One is visited by the Populace
There is no inscription, and the central characters are badly damaged, so it is hard to know for sure what is being shown in this relief. However, as there are many characters all sat at the same height it may be that one is  visited by the populace.
Four very different trees are shown, and on the far left and right we see the usual female attendants.
146. Great Wealth
Again we lack an inscription, but judging from other reliefs it is pretty clear that we again have someone reborn in a wealthy position and enjoying his new found riches.
He sits inside a pavilion with three consorts while around him sit and stand attendants and visitors. Underneath his pavilion are the signs of his wealth, though they are very plain, and perhaps unfinished.
147. Reborn in Heaven
The sculptors seemed to never tire even when asked to reproduce basically the same scene over and over again. There is an inscription reading svargga, heaven. So much is clear anyway by the kalpa-taru and the kinnaras.
On the left we see a splendid lotus pond and three trees behind it, and in the middle stands a temple. The man approaches it while seemingly leading his consorts by the hand.
What are the ten virtues of giving vehicles? It is said:  One has tender feet.  One stands firm on his feet.  One doesn’t get exhausted on the road.  One doesn’t have many enemies.  Again and again one attains the bases of success.  One has a sufficiency of vehicles, elephants and horses and so on.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
What are the ten virtues of giving drinks? It is said:  One is endowed with all the faculties.  Has a clear face.  A pure forehead.  Smooth skin.  One has agreeable speech.  One is never greatly thirsty.  When one is thirsty water appears.  One is not reborn amongst the pretas.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
148. By Giving Drinks one has Great Wealth
On the right we see two very sage looking characters sat on a pedestal while devotees come forward to give them drinks. The inscription reads pānaka, drinks.
On the left is the usual result. A wealthy man sits surrounded by beautiful consorts and attended on by many servants. Parts of this scene are unfinished.
149. Reborn in Heaven
The two most common illustrations of rewards for giving are great wealth and rebirth in heaven, and here again we see a heavenly scene. On the far left is the wish-fulfilling tree, the kinnaras and the money bags.
In front of that there is a music and dancing scene. They are entertaining the man who has done good deeds, as he sits in relaxed posture with two of his consorts, next to his vimāna, or heavenly palace.
This is another donation that is not recorded in the Sanskrit text, but the inscription makes it clear that this was one of the gifts included in the text before the builders at Borobudur.
150. By Giving Sandals one has Enough Vehicles
On the right we see a group of people approach and make donations of sandals to the two distinguished looking sages sitting inside the pavilion. The inscription reads: upānaṭ, sandals.
The result is that he has enough vehicles, as we can see from the relief on the left. He is being carried on a litter, and further there is a horse and an elephant. The inscription Lévi reads as vāhanāvaikalya, a sufficiency of vehicles.
151. Great Wealth
The two sections that are unfinished are a tree on the left and a vimāna on centre-right. The tree does not look like kalpa-taru to me, and therefore I think we must identify this as a scene of great wealth.
A man sits with his consorts as usual, one of whom is dressing her hair, unusually. One attendant sits near the heavenly mansion and plays a lute. Guards sit under the dais and guard his wealth. While many others stand and sit under the tree.
Giving Loose Flowers
What are the ten virtues of giving loose flowers? It is said:  One becomes like a flower to the world.  The faculty of smell is purified.  Bad odour of the body disappears.  Good odour appears.  The sweet fame of one’s virtue blows in all ten directions.  One is sought out by others.  One receives all desirable things.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
152. By Giving Loose Flowers One is reborn in the heavens./p>
Giving loose flowers comes after the next paragraph, giving garlands, in the Sanskrit text, so clearly there were many variations towards the end of the text the sculptors knew.
The scene is simple: on the right a couple of men approach with loose flowers collected on a dish and present it at a temple. The inscription reads: puṣpa-dāna, gift of flowers. On the left the inscription reads svargga, heaven. If it wasn’t for the inscription it would have appeared to be rebirth in a family of great wealth. The main character has two consorts, bags of riches and attendants.
What are the ten virtues of giving garlands? It is said:  One becomes like a garland to the world.  Bad odour of the body disappears.  Good odour appears.  There is always a pleasant smell and ornaments.  One’s following is undivided.  One is dear to all people.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
153. By Giving Garlands one has Great Wealth
According to Lévi there is an inscription somewhere on this panel reading gandha, incense. I cannot see it myself. If so, it means it is displaced, as the gift is of garlands, that are being given to brahmins.
The result is shown on two scenes in the centre and on the left. The first is the usual great wealth scene: three consorts this time, bags of money and attendants. Again I cannot see it, but there is an inscription reading svargga, heaven above the scene on the far left.
What are the ten virtues of giving incense? It is said:  One becomes like incense to the world.  One’s faculty of smell is purified.  Bad odour of the body disappears.  Good odour appears.  The sweet fame of one’s virtue blows in all ten directions.  One is sought out by others.  One receives all desirable things.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
154. By Giving Incense one has Great Wealth
The giving of incense, which is shown here, and of lights, which is shown next, occur in reverse order in the Sanskrit text. Again we have a displaced inscription, which reads: mālā-dāna, a gift of garlands. Fontein suggest the sculptors, or their supervisors, changed the order for some reason, and this does seem to be the case.
On the right we see the presentation of what is probably incense. In the middle there is an inscription, bhogī, a wealthy person, and we also see the normal things that accompany this result. On the far left the inscription reads svargga, heaven, and that is what we see.
What are the ten virtues of giving lights? It is said:  One becomes like a light to the world.  The worldly eye disappears.  The divine eye appears.  The blindness of ignorance is destroyed.  Knowledge of the world arises.  One quickly understands with wisdom what is wholesome and unwholesome.  There is no blind ignorance regarding the running on of saṁsāra.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
155. By Giving Lights One is reborn in the heavens./p>
We have a most beautifully decorated temple in the middle of this relief with very fine detail. On the right we see people have approached and are offering lights.
On the right we see the wish-fulfilling tree, the kinnaras and the bags of money, which indicate that the donor has been reborn in heaven. There are no inscriptions.
What are ten advantages of giving seats? It is said:  One stands firmly in the world.  One is pleasant looking.  One is amiable.  One is visited by wise people.  One’s fame and renown increase in the world.  One has much happiness and satisfaction.  One delights in his own country.  One has a sufficiency of seats.  One has a sufficiency of servants.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
156. By Giving Seats one has Great Wealth
According to Krom – and following him, Fontein – this is a giving of a seat. If that is so, then the paragraph in the Sanskrit text is very much out of place, as it occurred before the giving of vessels above.
The results are, in the centre, rebirth in a wealthy family, with all the usual signs thereof; and on the left rebirth in heaven, though in fact it looks like another great wealth scene.
157. By Giving Reverence one has Great Wealth
The inscription reads: añjali, reverence. Paying reverence at caityas was mentioned at the beginning of this section but that is not what is illustrated here, so this is perhaps a general scene of paying respects to someone worthy, perhaps a Bodhisattva, who is holding the flower.
The result is illustrated in the centre, where we see the usual signs of wealth; and on the left, which would be a heavenly scene, as is indicated by the ladies holding the stick zithers.
What are the ten virtues of giving refuge? It is said:  One becomes king of the district.  One becomes king of the province.  One becomes king and lord of Jambudvīpa.  One becomes king and lord of two continents.  One becomes king and lord of three continents.  One becomes king, lord and universal monarch of four continents.  One has great wealth.  One is reborn in the heavens.  One quickly attains final Nirvāṇa.
158. By Giving Refuge one becomes a King
Again this paragraph is out of place from the Sanskrit text, where it occurs before the giving of drinks. It appears the refuge in this case is being given in a temple, and we see several people huddled up under the main building.
The result on the left in this unfinished relief is that of kingship. It looks very similar to the great wealth scenes we have seen so many of, and they may even have been thought of as synonymous in many ways.
159. A Universal Monarch
Another result of giving refuge is illustrated in this penultimate panel: one becomes a universal monarch. On the far right we see the elephant and the horse jewels. On the left we see the wheel, and standing alongside the monarch is the woman-jewel.
The throne is very unusual as it shows a recess for the pendant leg, which I don’t remember seeing anywhere else at Borobudur. The foot then rests on a cushion.
What are the ten virtues of going forth? It is said:  One doesn’t crave for wealth, daughters, wife or sons.  One is not possessed by sensual pleasures.  One gains joy by living in the wilderness.  One associates with the way of the Buddha.  One avoids the way of fools.  One avoids things which lead to a bad rebirth.  One associates with things that lead to a good rebirth.  The devas envy him.  One always gains the going forth in the word of the Fortunate One.
Living in Wilderness
What are the ten virtues of living in the wilderness? It is said:  One avoids society.  One associates with seclusion.  One’s mind achieves concentration.  One doesn’t have a lot of work to be done.  One enters into mindfulness of the Buddhas.  One doesn’t abandon bodily joy, happiness and satisfaction.  One has no obstacles.  One achieves concentration with agility in the spiritual life.  Every word and syllable one recites is remembered.  Just as one has heard, one knows every detail and the meaning of things.
Living on Alms food
What are the ten virtues of living on alms food? It is said:  One acquires a walking path.  One pounds his resort.  One’s pride is lowered.  One urges oneself on with gains.  One establishes the merit of others.  One expounds the Teacher’s dispensation.  One makes the way shine forth for the next generation.  One does no harm to his fellows in the spiritual life.  One establishes humility in the mind.  The monk who has a mind set on alms is able to go in all directions without adversity.
160. Going-Forth leads to Rebirth in Heaven
The last of the panels in the hidden base at Borobudur shows four monks meditating in the wilderness. The cause here appears to have been shown, for the only time, on the left.
The result is not mentioned in the Sanskrit text in any of the results related to renunciation, but it is clearly rebirth in heaven, as we see from the wish-fulfilling tree and the kinnaras. On the far right we see someone sat with his two consorts, and the attendants line up once again to serve him.
The last of the paragraphs in the text does not, for once list causes and results, but ten confidences. Although we know of the four confidences of the Buddha, these concern monastics, and as far as I know this list only occurs in this text.
There are ten confidences. What are the ten? It is said:  One is confident when entering the village.  One is confident when leaving the village.  One is confident when making use of his alms food.  One is confident when teaching Dharma in the assembly  One is confident when entering into the midst of the Sangha.  One is confident when approaching his teacher and preceptor.  One is confident when teaching his students with loving-kindness.  One is confident when making use of the requisites of robes, alms food, dwellings and medicine for support when sick.  One’s speech is readily accepted.
Health and Wealth
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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