Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)

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Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)

Revised October 6, 2016; November 24, 2017; March 9, 2020; December 12, 2020; July 20, 2022

Dasa Akusala Connected to Saṅkhāra

1. One can do immoral acts with the body, speech, and mind (leading to kāya, vacī, and mano saṅkhāra); see, “Saṅkhāra, Kamma, Kamma Bīja, Kamma Vipāka.” Mano saṅkhāra arise first automatically, according to one’s gati and the specific ārammaṇa. Then some of them lead to vacī and kāya saṅkhāra, and that is when they become abhisaṅkhāra (strong kamma.) Thus the way to reduce all bad saṅkhāra is to get control over bad vacī and kāya saṅkhāra. See “Correct Meaning of Vacī Saṅkhāra.”

As we know “Paṭicca Samuppāda” processes leading to suffering start with “avijjā paccayā saṅkhāra.” This means we do dasa akusala because we generate saṅkhāra due to avijjā (not fully comprehending the Four Noble Truths.)

These are ten immoral acts (dasa akusala). They divide into three categories, as follows:

Three mano saṅkhāra (immoral acts done with the mind):

1. Abhijjā [Abhijjhā] (covetousness; greed for other’s belongings)

2. Vyāpāda (ill-will, hatred)

3. Micchā Diṭṭhi (wrong views)

Four vacī saṅkhāra (immoral acts done with speech):

4. Musāvāda (Lying)

5. Pisuāvācā (slandering)

6. Parusāvācā [Pharusāvācā] (harsh speech)

7. Sampappalāpa (frivolous talk)

Three kāya saṅkhāra (immoral acts done with the body):

8. Pāṇātipātā (killing)

9. Adinnādāna (taking what is not given)

10. Kāmesu micchācāra (not just sexual misconduct, but also excessive of sensory pleasures)

Dasa Akusala Expand to Forty

2. In Buddha Dhamma (i.e., in nature,) it is always one’s intention that matters. Based on that, each dasa akusala expands to 40. For example, it is not only stealing by oneself that matters. Also, getting someone else to steal, helping another’s act, and praising such action by another are included.

In another example, regarding micchā diṭṭhi, the following also count. Propagating micchā diṭṭhi to others, encouraging another to cultivate micchā diṭṭhi (say, for instance, that the rebirth process is not valid,) or praising such practices.

That is how ten dasa akusala expand to forty.

There are ten suttā in the Kamma­patha­vagga of the Aṅguttara Nikāya that lists those “four divisions” for each of the dasa akusala, AN 4.264 through AN 4.273. English translations of those start with: “WebLink: suttacentral: 264. Killing Living Creatures.” You can click the “next” arrow at the bottom of the webpage to get to all ten suttā.

As one starts avoiding more and more of these forty actions, one will start feeling the early stages of Nibbāna or “nivana,” i..e, cooling down of the mind. The constant stress and excited-ness of the mind will gradually ease. Also, see “Root of All Suffering – Ten Immoral Actions.”

A Sotāpanna Is Free of Only Micchā Diṭṭhi

3. First of all, it is essential to realize that only Arahant is free from doing any of these. Even a Sotāpanna may commit some of these at least once in a while. There are six things that a Sotāpanna is incapable of: killing a mother or father, killing an Arahant, injuring a Buddha, knowingly causing a schism in Saṅgha, and having micchā diṭṭhi or wrong views.

Thus, anyone below the Sotāpanna stage could break dasa akusala. Even a Sotāpanna has completely removed only micchā diṭṭhi. A Sotāpanna would not WILLINGLY commit any of the dasa akusala, but some COULD happen, except for those six mentioned above; see, “Key to Sotāpanna Stage – Diṭṭhi and Vicikicchā.”

It is essential to realize that one needs to AVOID them if possible. It becomes easier as one learns Dhamma to see the benefits of avoiding them.

However, a Sotāpanna has reduced lobha (extreme greed, especially for other’s belongings) and dosa (hate) to reduced levels of rāga (craving for sense pleasures) and paṭigha (friction or tendency to get upset or angry); see “Lobha, Dosa, Moha versus Rāga, Paṭigha, Avijjā.”

Two Categories of Micchā Diṭṭhi

4. The first category is the ten types of micchā diṭṭhi (wrong views) discussed in #5 below.

The deeper level of micchā diṭṭhi is not comprehending the essential characteristics of “this world” of 31 realms; see “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma” and “Wrong Views (Micchā Diṭṭhi) – A Simpler Analysis.”

Because of the ignorance of the complete world view, one is likely to have the following three main wrong world views. (i) Everything has sprung without a cause (ahetuka diṭṭhi). (ii) Good and bad produce no effect (akiriya diṭṭhi). (iii) There is no afterlife (natthika diṭṭhi).

A common form of micchā diṭṭhi is to assume that if one obeys the five precepts, then one will be exempt from birth in the apāyā. That belief itself can lead to the birth in the apāyā; see “The Five Precepts – What the Buddha Meant by Them.”

5. If one has such wrong worldviews, one is likely to commit immoral acts. They will have kamma vipāka leading to rebirth in the apāyā (the lowest four realms,) i.e., in future rebirths. There are ten such specific wrong views or micchā diṭṭhi (sometimes just called diṭṭhi):

(1) No kammic benefits in giving, (2) no need to pay back debts (for what others have done for you), (3) no benefits of respecting Noble Ones and also yogis with abhiññā powers, (4) kamma do not have vipāka, no kammic benefits of taking care of (5) mother and (6) father, (7) this world does not exist (“natthi ayaṁ loko”), (8) Paralowa does not exist (“natthi paro loko”) , (9) there are no opapātika birth (instant full-formed birth), (10) there are no Noble Ones and yogis exist who can see past lives. [WebLink: suttacentral: AN 3.117. Vipattisampadāsutta - Distress and Attainment Sutta ‘(1) natthi dinnaṁ, (2) natthi yiṭṭhaṁ, (3) natthi hutaṁ, (4) natthi sukatadukkaṭānaṁ, kammānaṁ phalaṁ vipāko, (7) natthi ayaṁ loko, (8) natthi paro loko, (5) natthi mātā, (6) natthi pitā, (9) natthi sattā opapātikā, (10) natthi loke samaṇabrāhmaṇā sammaggatā sammāpaṭipannā ye imañca lokaṁ parañca lokaṁ sayaṁ abhiññā sacchikatvā pavedentī’]

For explanations on (7)-(10), see “Micchā Diṭṭhi, Gandhabba, and Sotāpanna Stage.”

In particular, para loka is where a gandhabba lives in-between consecutive births with a physical human bodies; see “Hidden World of the Gandhabba: Netherworld (Para loka).”

Niyata Micchā Diṭṭhi

6. What is akusala is to hold “niyata micchā diṭṭhi” or “established wrong views,” i.e., one is not even prepared to consider, say, that there is a rebirth process. Thus, if one has unwavering doubts about any of the ten categories in the above paragraph, one has established wrong views (niyata micchā diṭṭhi). Such wrong views can lead to actions with kamma vipāka responsible for births in the apāyā.

The critical point is that when one has established wrong views, one looks at the world differently without realizing that there are consequences for one’s actions. One would not be aware of that without a Buddha explaining the world’s true nature. That includes the validity of the rebirth process, life in other realms, an uncountable number of planetary systems like the Earth, etc.

As scientists are finding out, there are many things in nature that we do not experience/understand. For example, scientists can only account for 4% of the mass of the universe; they cannot account for the rest (Google “dark matter” or “dark energy”). Thus one needs to keep an open mind and learn more Dhamma to see whether all these make sense.

7. The only akusala completely removed by a Sotāpanna is the micchā diṭṭhi; see, “What is the only Akusala Removed by a Sotāpanna?.”

As explained there, an unimaginably huge amount of defilements is removed at the Sotāpanna stage, just via getting rid of micchā diṭṭhi, mainly through the comprehension of anicca, dukkha, and anatta.

Only a Buddha Knows All About This World

8. A lot of you may be thinking “How do I know all this is true? Is there any evidence for the existence of rūpa/arūpa lokā, apāyā (hell), or spontaneous birth?. ”

There are many things we do not know about “this world.” We cannot rely on just science to verify/confirm these. Only within the last 100 years or so has science has accepted that our world is bigger than a few galaxies (now science has confirmed that there are billions of galaxies). Whereas the Buddha stated that cakkavāla (star systems or planetary systems) come into existence all the time, science has confirmed that only within the past 100 years; see, “Dhamma and Science – Introduction.”

Furthermore, the newest findings (yet unconfirmed) in string theory indicate that we live in an 11-dimension world, not the 4-dimension world that we experience. For a look at different dimensions, see, “Consciousness Dependence on Number of Dimensions.” Thus, more of Buddha’s teachings will be confirmed with time.

9. It is easy to see that all immoral deeds start with mano saṅkhāra (bad thoughts) in mind. Any of the vacī saṅkhāra (speech) or kāya saṅkhāra (bodily actions) are done with greed, hate, or not knowing the true nature of the world (ignorance). In particular, the basis for moral behavior comes from the correct worldview. Let us examine this below:

The fact that there is no discernible beginning to conscious life (see “Saṁsāric Time Scale, Buddhist Cosmology, and the Big Bang Theory”) means all of us have been going through this rebirth process for an unimaginably long time. Thus we have been born in most of the 31 realms of existence. Not only that, we have been born innumerable times in EACH of those realms (except those reserved for the Anāgāmīs).

The above fact means each sentient being had been related to any other sentient being at some point in this long saṁsāra (or saŋsāra, rebirth process). The Buddha said, “it is difficult to find ANY sentient being that was not your father, mother, or a sibling at some point in this long saṁsāra.” Infinity is a hard concept to grasp; see “Infinity – How Big Is It?.”

An interesting book that talks about such hard to grasp ideas (in science) involving infinity is, “The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World” by David Deutsch.

Therefore, humans and ALL sentient beings are connected/related. This is why it is wrong to kill any living being, steal from anyone, verbally abuse anyone, etc. Those are the foundations of morality. This is WHY it is not good to do any of the ten immoral acts.

The Intention is An Important Factor

10. The Buddha said, “Cetanāhaṁ, bhikkhave, kammaṁ vadami,” i.e., “Bhikkhus, I say that kamma is the intention involved.” We always need to look at the intention to pinpoint whether or what kind of kamma was committed.

For example, if someone shoots a dog attacking a child, one’s intention here is to save the child. On the other hand, if someone is shooting a dog for “target practice,” there is no excuse. The life of a human is million-fold more precious than an animal’s; see “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma.”

Sometimes it is impossible to judge the kammic consequences just by looking at the particular act. Only the person committing the act will know whether it is a good or bad intention. Thus normally it is not wise to judge other people’s actions.

If it is a mano saṅkhāra (bad thoughts), the only person who even knows about that is the one who is committing it.

11. In many cases, it is possible for others to “see” when one is committing vacī or kāya saṅkhāra. But not always. Disciplinary actions against a child by a parent may appear to be kāya saṅkhāra (spanking) or vacī saṅkhāra (verbal threats) , but the parent is likely to have good intentions for the child in most cases.

Also, in many cases, no person can advise another on what to do when conflicting issues are involved. Is it OK to steal some food to feed one’s kids when they are crying in hunger? Is it OK to spank a child when the child is misbehaving? Only the parent can make that decision based on the circumstances.

Also see, “Details of Kamma – Intention, Who Is Affected, Kamma Patha.” This post was updated on February 21, 2018, and provides a simple two-step process to evaluate a given situation.

Relative Weights of Kamma

12. One critical problem many people have is trying hard to avoid actions with relatively small kammic consequences while unknowingly doing things with stronger kammic consequences. Let us take an example: Suppose we have a large tank of water that is losing water due to many holes at the bottom. Some holes are pinholes, some are a little larger, and a few holes are big and lose water fast. One would want to plug those large holes first. Then one would fix the medium-size holes. The smallest or the pin holes are the last to be fixed.

The relative weights of ten immoral acts are not easy to quantify. However, we can see that kāya saṅkhāra have higher “kammic potential” compared to vacī saṅkhāra if they are directed to the same living being; hurting someone physically is worse than verbal abuse.

Another example: Say someone has hateful thoughts about a particular person all day. That could be worse than just saying something to that person and “getting the load off the mind.” However, even that is not necessary. The best solution is to develop mettā (loving-kindness) towards that person and eliminate those hateful thoughts. We always must realize that we all are trapped in this constant struggle to find happiness in a world that is not set up to provide lasting happiness; see, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta - Wrong Interpretations.”

13. Kammic consequences also depend strongly on the “consciousness level” of the living being against whom the immoral act was committed.

Killing a human will have far stronger consequences compared to killing an animal. This is discussed in the essay, “How to Evaluate Weights of Different Kamma.”

14. Dasa akusala and relative weights of different kamma are discussed in the following desanā:

WebLink: Download “Ten Immoral Actions (Dasa Akusala)”

This desana is in the post, “Root of All Suffering – Ten Immoral Actions,” where you can find the relevant posts mentioned.

Related post: Origin of Morality (and Immorality) in Buddhism

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