'Anantharika Karma’ — an encyclopaedic perspective

By Dr. P. A. Nandasena
Additional Director General
Southern Development Authority
Buddha, the Lord of three worlds in his discourses referred to "ANANTARIKAKARMA OR "ANANTARIKA PAPA KARMA" a matter covering vast subject area which prompts constant discussion. This holds premise for Buddhists and non Buddhists alike though this classification itself should be shelved in the mundane world to harness the best of life until the one advents the journey of Sansara [continuing life] at its zenith of Sublime Enlightenment; the Nirvana. Hence this attempts to view the topic from the encyclopaedic perspective of Buddhism.

The crimes of most heinous and despicable type fall under this title and they are unpardonable in terms of Buddhist way of thinking although there may exist a mechanism of solace in Christianity in purging of guilt under what is known as confession. The notable five crimes viz., 1] causing of death of one’s Mother, 2] death caused to Father, 3] death caused to an Arahant 4] causing Buddha to bleed and 5] creating division of Sangha. [These are taken to be deliberate acts]. In the penal code of Sri Lanka these attract different sections of the Penal Code and carry different punishments. [In Pali language they are referred to as 1]Matugha ta, 2]Pitughata, 3] Arahan-tagha’ta, 4] Lohituppa da and 5] San gha -bheda. Buddhist Encyclopaedia holds that they all are ‘Upapajja- Vedaniya’ Karma. These crimes carry the retribution in the very birth or in the immediate next. one example cited was that of Lohituppa’da caused on Buddha by Devadatta thera and he found his retribution on his way to pay homage to Buddha in the same birth. The point to be pressed here is that those who are guilty of the above five heinous type find that there is no getaway; the resultant consequence would block one’ passage to early Enlightenment.

Of the above the fourth crime cannot be committed now as there is no living Buddha but for other four crimes the opportunities exist for committing. Also these seemed to be happening unabated here and elsewhere. As we see it why there is continuation of life because karmic force of the above among the other karmic acts prevents the good effect of the ‘Punya Karma’ (deed of good done). It is also seen that a schism that is Sangha-bheda or division among Buddhist monks goes on unabated. Perhaps this is happening even with the direct or tacit support of Sangha themselves. These are all classified as Yaggaruka, which carries the vernacular meaning of weighty karma. Thus they become Kammavarana which by itself are impediments to spiritual journey.

Buddhist discourses however state that to ripen aforesaid crimes a victim should have a human form. The victim should not have undergone a change of sex and also an Arahantha subjected to death should be one of human. If otherwise the guilty or the performer shall escapes the conditions expected aforesaid karma or sin. In none of the Sri Lankan judgements it refers to killing of mother or father as Anantharika-Karma. Reference to such Buddhist explanation may have an impact and also understanding of the principle of this particular Karma. By this manner Buddhist society can be admonished to desist heinous crimes as mentioned above.

In the case of taking life of an Arahantha if the injuries caused to him prior to his attaining Arahant- ship was the cause of the death it still carries the components of anantakika-Karma. With regard to San’gha -bedha this can be done by a regular member of same San’ gha community and staying within the same boundary. This would mean any layman or a monk living among the different sects do not attract the charge of Anantarika -Karma. This explanation provided in Dharma needs new interpretation. Because the San gha -bedha can be made by a member of civil society or a recluse of any religion intentionally. If such is the case he or she should become liable for punishment under anantakika-karma. This aspect however is not clear in encyclopedic attempt of exposition of meaning the Pali terms. San gha-bedha is made by five means by a member of same Sangha community. However the resultant consequence of San’ghabedha is noteworthy.

One can fill the whole universe with Golden stupas of great size. Whole of San’gha may be fed. Even if the doer of the evil hanged himself on to the hem of the robe of Buddha nothing of these will prevent him straight finding in hell in the same or next birth. Hell is his accompanying aboard after his or her afore-said heinous act. For Buddhists in our civil society this may be a signal not to follow such act of crime aimed at destroying Maha Sangha. The acts of the nature under discussion here except the one, which draw blood on Buddha, are happening all the time in this country. As a matter of fact the present time provides an era where such dastardly acts are at its highest than any in the recorded history. A great religion; a great way of life; a cultural catalyst is subject to its greatest test now than what it was before. For a follower of Buddha Dhamma there is an access to Kasinas as well as Kammatthana as means of mental training. For a sinner who has come to his sin through San’gha-bheda has no use of these, as they would not yield any benefit. This is an interesting explanation. It points to why Buddhist laity could not benefit under multifarious mechanism designed to assist him to cross the stream of Sansara; the long journey of life. Not only Vinaya Pitaka [Code of discipline] debars anyone who has committed all or any one of the above anantakika-karma from entering the Higher ordination. [na upasampa’detabba]. The act of Sangha deed is not performed in the company of such perpetrator. [Sangha- karma]

It is opportuned to evaluate the gravity of this A’nantarika- karma in order of its priority. It is recorded that Sangha-bedha is the greavest. It is stated that division - Sangha amounts to destroying of Dhamma-ka’ya of Buddha. A doer of this crime is destined to suffer for one aeon [Kappa]. This however is not the same for in other four crimes. In fact acts under such situation carry less suffering under one kappa in hell in so far as the encyclopedic commentary goes.

To place the order properly in line of gravity of crime the list can be rescheduled as follows viz.,

1] Sangha-bedha

2] Lohituppada

3] Arahantaghata

4] Generally the matricide

5] Patricide [if the father is more virtuous than mother and if so patricide is more heinous than Matricide if both are equal in virtue or not virtuous in like manner then again matricide takes precedence]

An interesting commentary is found in Kathavattu in which questions have been raised of unintentional act of commission of above crime. Main issue raised there is whether commission of five crimes unintentionally goes to make one complete crime. It appears that the question looks superficial but attracts higher academic interest. The answer provided in Uttara’ pathakas and the answer is found in the negative.

There are different views associating the subject matter and Maha yana and Hinayana agree and disagree on many aspects of this subject. What is important is to have a simple understanding of the subject.

This paper is intended to see its end with bringing forth the views presented in Lanka vatha’ra Sutra in that it is stated that the five immediacy-deeds are refereed to as external immediacies [ Ba yani a nantariya ni]. In its view Matricide has been referred as bringing to destruction all procreative agencies and lust and joy associated with procreation.; Patricide is to annihilate ignorance; taking life of an Arahantha is to put an end to passion and anger San’gha -bedha is to break all combinations of aggregates and to draw blood from Buddha is to destroy eightfold body of consciousness.

These would point to spiritual interpretation of act of immediacy. Realizing these would be in turn to realize Dhamma.

Attempting to understand is to make first step toward shortening of the journey of Sansara; a journey.