Causes, conditions and results according to the Abhidharmakośa

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A detailed explanation of the causes, conditions and results of karma is presented in Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa.

Chapter four of the Abhidharmakośa is devoted to a study of karma, and chapters two and five contain formulation as to the mechanism of fruition and retribution.[1] This became the main source of understanding of the perspective of early Buddhism for later Mahāyāna philosophers.[2]

Vasubhandu elaborates on the causes[note 1] and conditions[note 2] involved in the production of results,[note 3] karma being one source of causes and results, the "ripening cause" and "ripened result."[3] Generally speaking, the conditions can be thought of as auxiliary causes. Vasubhandhu draws from the earlier Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma treatises to establish an elaborate Buddhist etiology with the following primary components:

Six types of causes

  • Acting causes[note 4] – all phenomena, other than the result itself, which do not impede the production of the result. This includes (a) potent acting causes, such as a seed for a sprout, and (b) impotent acting causes, such as the space that allows a sprout to grow and the mother or the clothes of the farmer who planted the seed.
  • Simultaneously arising causes[note 5] – causes that arise simultaneously with their results. This would include, for instance, characteristics together with whatever it is that possesses the characteristics.
  • Congruent causes[note 6] – a subcategory of simultaneously arising causes, it includes causes share the same focal object, mental aspect, cognitive sensor, time, and slant with their causes—primarily referring to the primary consciousness and its congruent mental factors.
  • Equal status cause[note 7] – causes for which the results are later moments in the same category of phenomena. For example, one moment of patience can be considered the cause of the next moment of patience.
  • Driving causes[note 8] – disturbing emotions and attitudes that generate other subsequent disturbing emotions and attitudes in the same plane of existence, though the two need not be of the same ethical status.
  • 'Ripening cause[note 9] - the karmic cause or efficacy.[4]

Four types conditions

  • Causal conditions[note 10] - corresponds to five of the six causes, excepting the kāraṇahetu, which corresponds to the three conditions below
  • Immediately preceding conditions[note 11] - a consciousness which precedes a sense or mental consciousness without any intervening consciousness and which produces the subsequent consciousness into an experience-ready entity
  • Focal condition[note 12] - or "object condition" - an object which directly generates the consciousness apprehending it into having its aspect, e.g. the object blue causes an eye consciousness to be generated into having the aspect of blue
  • Dominating condition[note 13]

Five types of results

  • Ripened results[note 14] - karmic results.[4]
  • Results that correspond to their cause[note 15] - causally concordant effects
  • Dominating results[note 16] - the result of predominance. All conditioned dharmas are the adhipatiphala of other conditioned dharmas.[5]
  • Man-made results[note 17] - a result due to the activity of another dharma
  • Results that are states of being parted[note 18] - not actually a result at all, but refers to the cessation that arises from insight.


  1. S. hetu, Tib. rgyu
  2. S. pratyaya, Tib. rkyen, Pāli: paccaya
  3. S. vipākaphalam, Tib. rnam-smin-gyi 'bras-bu
  4. S. kāraṇahetu, T. byed-rgyu
  5. S. sahabhuhetu, T. lhan-cig 'byung-ba'i rgyu
  6. Skt. saṃmprayuktahetu, T. mtshungs-ldan-gyi rgyu
  7. S. sabhagahetu, T. skal-mnyam-gyi rgyu
  8. S. sarvatragohetu, T. kun groi rgyu
  9. Skt. vipākahetu, T. rnam-smin-gyi rgyu
  10. S. hetupratyaya, T. rgyu-rkyen
  11. S. samanantarapratyaya, T. dema thag rkyen
  12. S. alambanapratyaya, T. dmigs-rkyen
  13. S. adhipatipratyaya, T. bdag-rkyen
  14. S. vipakaphalam, T. rnam smin gyi 'bras-bu
  15. S. niṣyandaphalam, T. rgyu-mthun gyi 'bras-bu
  16. S. adhipatiphalam, bdag poi bras bu
  17. S. puruṣakāraphalam, T. skyes bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu
  18. S. visamyogaphalam, T. bral 'bras


  1. Lamotte 2001, p. 18.
  2. Lamotte 2001.
  3. Berzin, Alexander. "Causes, Conditions, and Results."
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ronkin 2005, p. 25.
  5. A Study of Dependent Origination: Vasubandhu, Buddhaghosa, and the Interpretation of Pratīyasamutpāda. by Susan C. Stalker Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1987 pg. pg 25


Printed sources

  • Lamotte, Etienne (2001), Karmasiddhi Prakarana: The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu, English translation by Leo M. Pruden, Asian Humanities Press 
  • Ronkin, Noa (2005), Early Buddhist Metaphysics: the Making of a Philosophical Tradition, Routledge, ISBN 0-203-53706-8 
  • Vallée Poussin, Louis de la, trad. (1923-1931). L’Abhidharmakosa de Vasubandhu, Paris: Paul Geuthner, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 6.
  • Pruden, Leo M. (1991), Abhidharmakosabhasyam, translated from the French translation by Louis de la Vallée Puossin, Asian Humanities Press, Berkeley.

External links

This article includes content from Abhidharmakośakārikā on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo