Academic Sutta Name Notes PSA Plae Vagga Nikaya PTS Keywords

IX:11 Nobody can escape from the effects of evil kamma

A group of bhikkhus were on their way to see the Buddha and they stopped at a village on the way. Some people were cooking almsfood for them when one of the houses caught fire and a ring of fire flew up into the air. At that moment, a crow came flying, got caught in the ring of fire and dropped dead. The bhikkhus seeing the dead crow, observed that only the Buddha would be able to explain for what evil deed this crow had to die in this manner. After taking almsfood they continued on their journey.

Another group of bhikkhus were travelling in a boat; they too were on their way to see the Buddha. When they were in the middle of the ocean the boat could not be moved. So, lots were drawn to find out who the unlucky one was; three times the lot fell on the wife of the skipper. Then the skipper said sorrowfully, 'Many people should not die on account of this unlucky woman. Tie a pot of sand to her neck and throw her into the sea so that I will not see her.' The woman was thrown into the sea as instructed by the skipper so that the ship could move on. On arrival at their destination, the bhikkhus disembarked and continued on their way to the Buddha. They also intended to ask the Buddha due to what evil kamma the unfortunate woman was thrown overboard.

A third group of bhikkhus were also on their way to see the Buddha. On the way, they enquired at a monastery whether there was any suitable place for them to take shelter for the night in the neighbourhood. They were directed to a cave, and there they spent the night, but in the middle of the night, a large boulder slipped off from above and effectively closed the entrance. In the morning the bhikkhus from the nearby monastery coming to the cave saw what had happened and they went to seek help from the village. With the help of those people they tried to move the boulder, but it was of no avail. Thus, the bhikkhus were trapped in the cave without food or water for a few days. On the seventh day, the boulder miraculously moved by itself, and the bhikkhus came out and continued their journey to the Buddha. They too intended to ask the Buddha due to what previous evil deed they were thus shut up for a few days in a cave.

The three groups of bhikkhus met on the way and together they went to the Buddha. Each group related what they had seen or experienced on their journeys.

The Buddha's answer to the first group: 'Bhikkhus, once there was a farmer who had an ox. The ox was very lazy and also very stubborn. It could not be coaxed to do any work, it would just lie down chewing the cud or else go to sleep. The farmer lost his temper many times on account of this lazy animal. So, in anger, he tied a straw rope round the neck of the ox and set fire to it, and the ox died. On account of this evil deed the farmer has suffered for a long time and in serving out the remaining part of the bad kamma, he has been burnt to death in the last few previous existences.'

The Buddha's answer to the second group: 'Bhikkhus, once there was a woman who had a dog. Whatever she did and wherever she went the dog always followed her.*As a result some young boys would poke fun at her. She was very angry and felt so ashamed that she planned to kill the dog. She filled a pot with sand, tied it round the neck of the dog and threw it into the water; and the dog was drowned. On account of this evil deed that woman had suffered for a long time and in serving the remaining part of the bad effect, she had been thrown into the water to be drowned.'

The Buddha's answer to the third group: 'Bhikkhus, once, seven cowherds saw an iguana going into a mound and for fun, they closed all the outlets of the mound. After closing the outlets they went away, completely forgetting the iguana that was trapped in the mound. Only after seven days, they remembered what they had done and hurriedly returned to the scene of their mischief and let out the iguana. On account of this evil deed, you seven had been imprisoned together for seven days without any food.'

Then, a bhikkhu remarked, 'O indeed! There is no escape from evil consequences for one who has done evil, even if he were in the sky, or in the ocean, or in a cave'. The Buddha replied, 'Yes, bhikkhu, you are right; even in the sky or anywhere else, there is no place which is beyond the reach of the consequences of evil.'

55/170 Dhammapada & Commentary Khuddhaka J.i.106ff. despair

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Last modified on: Sunday, 13 August 2000.