Kamma, Rebirth and Nibanna —

2 of 3

Qualities of the Dharma
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Eightfold Path
The True Nature of Existence
  The Five Aggregates of Clinging
  Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta
  Dependent Arising
  Kamma, Nibbana and Rebirth


The Sangha
The Buddhist Sangha



Kamma ripens under the right conditions

Although kamma has the tendency to ripen, it does not ripen inevitably. Kamma is like a seed. Seeds ripen only if they meet the right conditions. But if they do not meet the right conditions they remain as seeds; if they are destroyed they can never ripen at all. Similarly, we can say that kamma has a tendency to mature. If kamma finds the opportunity then it will bring its results; if it does not meet the right conditions it won't ripen. One kamma can even be destroyed by another kamma.

Wholesome kamma/unwholesome kamma

The Buddha identifies wholesome or unwholesome kamma.

  • wholesome kamma — action which is spiritually beneficial and morally praiseworthy
  • unwholesome  kamma — action which is spiritually harmful

To distinguish wholesome from unwholesome kamma we use two criteria:


Actions intended to bring harm to either oneself or to others are unwholesome kamma. Action conducive to the good of oneself or others is wholesome kamma.


All action arises from certain mental  factors. These roots are the causal factors underlying action or the sources of action.

All unwholesome actions (more >>>) come from three unwholesome roots:

  • greed — selfish desire aimed at personal gratification, expressed as grasping, craving and attachment
  • aversion — ill will, hatred, resentment, anger and a negative evaluation of the object
  • delusion — ignorance, mental unclarity and confusion.

Wholesome actions have roots as well:

  • non-greed becomes manifest as detachment and generosity.
  • non-aversion is expressed positively as good will, friendliness and loving kindness.
  • non-delusion is manifested as wisdom, understanding and mental clarity.

Because of these roots, we have to be very careful when we judge actions — both our own and of others. Often there can be a sharp difference between an action and the state of mind from which the action springs.

The working of kamma is so complex and so subtle that it is almost impossible to make definite predictions. All that we can know with certainty are the tendencies, but that is enough to guide our actions.

When the Buddha asked his son what a mirror was used for, Rahula answered. "For reflection."