Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VII by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(95) Kammic cause of short and long life

(IA) Mavana – O, Subha, the lad! Idha – in this world, itthi va – either females, puriso vii – or males, ekacco – some of them, panatipati – are used to killing the living beings, hoti – it so happened. Taking the life of another or killing indicates cruelty without any feeling of sympathy. So – A person who kills, tena kammena – for that act of committing murder, param marana – after death (some of the words are left out here), Apayam – in the realm of Apaya, duggatim – the abode where men of vice would reach, vinipatam nirayam – and in the abode of Apaya (hell) where beings are going to descend after destruction of their happy life existence, upajjati – would have their rebirth. Manussattam – to the world of human existence, sace agacchati – if at all he has reached back, or rather, if he is reborn, yatha yatha paccajayati (or) in any existence wherever he may be reborn (translated into Burmese to make a smooth flow of expression) appayuko – short life. hoti – will ensure (i.e., will he short-lived).

Briefly put, it means that because of a person’s akusalakamma (demerits) for killing the living beings, he is likely to descend to the four nether worlds – hell – after his demise. It would convey the sense that if he becomes a human being once again, he will have short life or in other words, will not live long.

Appayukasamvattanika esa manava patipada, yadidam panatipati hoti.

Manava – O, Subha, the lad, yadidam-yo ayam – a certain person, panatipati hoti – usually kills the living beings. Tassa – His, esa patipada – habitual tendency or propensity to kill, appayukasamvattanika – will, it is stated, Cause to become short-lived. The motto composed in this regard is: “Killing the other is likely to cause the life shorter.” Then, it had been preached relating to why there is longevity. It will have to be explained in brief.

(1B) Ekacco itthi va puriso va – Whether a female or a male some persons, panatipata pativirato hoti – abstain from killing. So – that person, tena kammena – by virtue of the merits derived or benefited, by abstaining from killing, param marana – after death, sugatim – where men of virtue are used to become – saggam lokam – in the Celestial World, upapajjati – will be reborn. Sace manussattamagaccaati – If one reaches the human existence, dighayuco hoti – (or) in any existence wherever he may be reborn, will have a long life. Manava – 0, Subha, the young man, Yadidam panatipata pativirato hoti – one who abstains from killing a living being, (the meaning given herein is to have a smooth flow of the Burmese language without conforming to the principles of grammar) esa patipada – this conduct or morality of abstaining from killing the living beings, dighayuka samvattanika – cause to bring about long life.

In short, one who avoids committing an act of killing is likely to reach the Celestial World (the World of Devas) after his death, by virtue of his meritorious deeds (kusalakamma). If he is reborn as a human being he will live long, it means to say that the moral discipline or good conduct in refraining from killing the living beings, can cause a consequential effect of long life. The motto to be recited is:

(1) Killing others cause short life; abstinence from killing brings long life.

This is the answer to the first question. “Killing others” means the destruction of the life of any living being including all kinds of animals, which would embrace even tiny creatures such as lice, ants, and ova and cysts of such creatures. Some even die while being conceived in a mother’s womb. Some are stillborn. Some die within a month or two after birth or at a young age of ten, twenty, or thirty, etc. Death which takes place before the expiry of the normal life-span of existence without any unusual circumstances under which living beings have gone through in the earlier part of their lives, can be attributed to the consequential effect of akusalakamma for having killed others in the past existence.

Hence, a problematic question which may arise as to “Why infants die immediately after birth?” can only be satisfactorily answered according to Buddha’s Dhamma. At one time, Sayadaw Ashin Narada of Sri Lanka had made mention in his teaching that the Doctrine of Creation cannot satisfactorily deal with such a problematic question. The manner of his teaching may be stated thus: in every race or among any living things and religionists, the incidence of death of an infant immediately following its birth, has occurred or can be found. Such an incident is likely to take place also among families who have by tradition adhered to the Doctrine of Creation by the Almighty Supreme Deity. It is difficult to solve a question as to why a person has been created to die so, early in infancy. This infant will not have committed any fault against his creator. As such, there can hardly be any reason why the infant who is still innocent, should be committed to hell forever. And also not having anything that can be done by an infant according to the wish of the creator, there is no good reason why he should be saved to reach the heavenly, abode. Such being the case, the Doctrine of Creation of Beings insofar as it concerns the death of young infants immediately after birth, is obviously unsatisfactory.” Moreover, preaching has been done that misery which befalls the parents for the untimely death of their child who is short-lived, is due to their participation and enjoyment in the act of killing living beings committed by others in their past existence.

In refraining from killing the living beings – panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami – an undertaking to observe the Rule of Conduct to abstain from taking the life of other living beings will bring merits of sila-kusala while this precept is still being observed without a lapse. Abstinence from killing even when an occasion arises to commit an act of killing bring virati-kusala. If One refrains from killing even though this virati has not been originally observed, it is known as sampatta-virati (meaning successful abstinence). If one abstains from killing as has been undertaken to observe the Rule, then it is known as samadanavirati. The ‘virati’ that is involved during a brief moment of the achievement of Sotapattimagga is called samuccheda-virati. Of these three kinds, samuccheda-virati totally extirpates all duccaritas-kayakamma and vacikamma i.e., evils of physical and verbal actions. It will also bring about full emancipation from the Four Apayas. On the other hand, sampatta-virati, samadana-virati and samadana-kusala conscious thoughts will cause one to reach the abode of-Sugati, and can cause longevity.

“Abstinence from killing brings about long life” is the motto which indicates the attributes and faculty of samadana-virati and samadana-kusala. The answer to the first query having been elucidated for better understanding, let us proceed to explain the answer to the second question.