by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
There are ten demeritorious deeds from which Buddhists are advised to keep away. These deeds are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion, and will bring suffering to others but especially to oneself in this life and later lives. When a person understands the Law of Kamma and realizes that bad deeds bring bad results, he will then practise Right Understanding and avoid performing these actions.
There are three bodily actions which are kammically unwholesome. They are: (1) Killing of living beings, (2) Stealing, and (3) Unlawful sexual intercourse. These bodily deeds correspond to the first three of the Five Precepts for people to follow.
The effects of killing to the performer of the deed are brevity of life, ill-health, constant grief due to the separation from the loved, and living in constant fear. The bad consequences of stealing are poverty, misery, disappointment, and a dependent livelihood. The bad consequences of sexual misconduct are having many enemies, always being hated, and union with undesirable wives and husbands.
Four verbal actions are kammically unwholesome, and they are as follows: (1) Lying, (2) Slander and tale-bearing, (3) Harsh speech, and (4) Frivolous and meaningless talk. Except for lying, the other unwholesome deeds performed by speech may be viewed as extensions of the Fourth Precept.
The bad consequences of lying to the one who performs the deed are being subject to abusive speech and vilification, untrustworthiness, and physical unpleasantness. The bad effect of slandering is losing one’s friends without any sufficient cause. The results of harsh speech are being detested by others and having a harsh voice. The inevitable effects of frivolous talk are defective bodily organs and speech which no one believes.
The three other demeritorious deeds are performed by the mind, and they are as follows: (1) Covetousness, or eagerly desirous especially of things belonging to others, (2) Ill-will, and (3) Wrong view. These three deeds correspond to the three evil roots of greed, hatred and delusion. The non-observance of the Fifth Precept of abstention from intoxicants can not only lead to the performance of these three demeritorious mental actions after the mind is intoxicated, but also the other demeritorious deeds performed by body and speech.
The undesirable result of covetousness is the non-fulfillment of one’s wishes. The consequences of ill-ill are ugliness, manifold diseases, and having a detestable nature. Finally, the consequences of false view are having gross desires, lack of wisdom, being of dull wit, having chronic diseases and blameworthy ideas.
A person should always perform good actions and restrain himself from doing evil actions. If, however, a person has performed an evil action, it is necessary for him to realize where he has done wrong and make an effort not to repeat the mistake. This is the true meaning of repentance, and in this way only will a person progress along the noble path to salvation.
Praying for forgiveness is meaningless if, after the prayer is made, a person repeats the veil action again and again. Who is there to ‘wash away a person’s sins’ except he himself? This has to begin with realization, the wonderful cleansing agent. First, he realizes the nature of his deed and the extent of the harm incurred. Next, he realizes that this deed is unwholesome, learns from it, and makes the resolution not to repeat it. Then, he performs many good deeds to the affected party as well as to others, as much as possible. In this way, he overcomes the effect of bad deed with a shower of good deeds.
No wrong does, according to Buddhism, is beyond redemption or rehabilitation, especially with realization and Right Effort. To be seduced into believing that a person can ‘wash away’ his bad deeds through some other ‘miraculous’ way is not only a mere superstition, but worse, it is also not useful particularly to the spiritual development of the person himself. It will only cause him to continue to remain ignorant and morally complacent. This misplaced belief can, in fact, do a person much more harm than the effects of the wrong deed he feared so much.