Ten Bases of Meritorious Action
Ten Bases of Meritorious Action
(DAŚA PUṆṆA-KIRIYA VATTHU)
1. Unwholesome and Wholesome Roots (Akuśala Kuśala Hetu)
Three roots of evil have been taught by the Buddha to be the basic causes of all suffering. They are:
• Greed (Lobha),
• Hate (Doṣa) and
• Delusion (Moha)
These three terms comprise the entire range of evil, whether of lesser or greater intensity: from a faint tendency to the coarsest manifestation.
There are also three roots of everything good:
• Non-Greed (Alobha) = unselfishness, generosity, renunciation
• Non-Hate (Adosa) = loving kindness, patience, compassion
• Non-Delusion (Amoha) = knowledge, insight, wisdom.
2. Meritorious Action (Puṇṇa-kiriya)
All actions originate from the mind. The body and speech function merely as doors by which the mind expresses itself. The ancients defined Puṇṇa or merit as: ‘that which purifies or cleanses the mind’.
From the description of the roots of good and evil, it becomes clear that the good or wholesome roots are the causes of merit. Thus meritorious actions are volitional or mental actions accompanied by the 3 wholesome roots of non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion.
Conversely, demeritorious actions are volitional actions accompanied by the 3 unwholesome roots of greed, hate and delusion.
In simple language, they constitute wholesome and unwholesome kamma respectively.
In Abhidhamma, there are 8 types of wholesome consciousness (sobhana citta) pertaining to the Sensual Sphere (Kamavacara):
Four of them contain only two wholesome roots (non-greed, non- hate) while another four contain all three wholesome roots (non- greed, non-hate, non-delusion or understanding).
Each group is further sub-divided according to whether they are prompted or unprompted and whether they are accompanied by joy or indifference.
In the ultimate sense, these 8 types of wholesome consciousness comprise all the meritorious actions or wholesome kamma pertaining to the Sensual Sphere.
These 8 types of wholesome consciousness are shown below.
a) Accompanied by joy, prompted, with understanding
b) Accompanied by joy, prompted, without understanding
c) Accompanied by joy, unprompted, with understanding
d) Accompanied by joy, unprompted, without understanding
e) Accompanied by indifference, prompted, with understanding
f) Accompanied by indifference, prompted, without understanding
g) Accompanied by indifference, unprompted, with understanding
h) Accompanied by indifference, unprompted without understanding
3. Ten Bases of Meritorious Action (Daśa- Puṇṇa -kiriya Vatthu)
If one wants to accumulate wholesome kamma in this life, there are ten bases or ways (Daśa vatthu) of meritorious action (Puṇṇa-kiriya) that produce good effects and which should be performed by all means.
1) Dana: giving charity or generosity
2) Śīla: morality i.e. observing 5 precepts, 8 or 10 precepts, etc.
3) Bhāvana: meditation i.e. both tranquillity and insight
4) Apacayana: reverence to elders and holy persons
5) Veyyavacca: service in wholesome deeds
6) Pattidana: sharing or transference of merits
7) Pattanumodana: rejoicing in others' merits
8) Dhamma-savana: listening to the Doctrine
9) Dhamma-desana: teaching the Doctrine
10) Ditthijukamma: straightening out one's view.
The ten bases of meritorious action can be classified into 3 groups:
• Dana or Generosity group: Dana, Sharing of merits and Rejoicing in others' merits.
• Śīla or Morality group: Śīla, Reverence and Service
• Bhāvana or Meditation group: Meditation, Listening to the Doctrine, Teaching the Doctrine and Straightening one's view
(a) The Dana group represents ‘alobha’ which means generosity or renunciation. It opposes jealousy and stinginess or selfishness.
(b) The Śīla group represents ‘adosa’ which means good-will. It opposes attachment (lobha) and anger (doṣa).
(c) The Bhāvana group represents ‘amoha’ which means wisdom or understanding. It opposes delusion and wrong views.
The ten bases of meritorious action are performed with the eight types of wholesome consciousness unless one attains Jhāna (absorption) or Magga (Path consciousness) in meditation.
So they generally give rise to wholesome kamma pertaining to the Sensual Sphere.
4. Types of Wholesome Kamma
(a) Two-Root and Three-Root Wholesome Kamma
If one performs a wholesome deed with the knowledge of Kamma and its effects, then the wholesome consciousness is associated with understanding.
The volition will be accompanied with all three wholesome roots: non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion. So three-root (tihetuka) wholesome kamma is acquired.
Better still, if during the performance of moral deeds, one can develop insight knowledge by reasoning that everything is impermanent, suffering and non-self. The wholesome kamma acquired is again accompanied by the three good roots.
On the other hand, if one performs a wholesome deed without any knowledge of Kamma and its effects, he is doing it without any understanding:
Then the volition will not be accompanied by non- delusion, but only the two roots of non-greed and non-hate. So two- root (dvihetuka) kamma is acquired.
(b) Superior and Inferior Wholesome Kamma
In the performance of the ten bases of meritorious action, one's volition or intention before and after the moral action is very important.
If one can develop wholesome consciousness before and after the moral action, then the moral volition behind the moral action is surrounded by other good volitions and consequently its potentiality is strengthened. The wholesome kamma acquired will be superior.
To acquire this type of superior kamma, one should think of the moral action in advance and feel glad for having the chance to do it. Again after performing the action, one should reflect on it and be full of joy thinking about the good aspects of the deed.
On the other hand, if one feels lazy or reluctant or jealous or stingy before a moral action such as giving charity, and regrets doing the moral action afterwards,
then the moral volition of giving charity will be surrounded by other unwholesome volitions and consequently its potentiality will be weakened. The wholesome kamma acquired in this case is inferior.
Thus, four types of wholesome kamma are acquired in performing the ten bases of meritorious action, namely:
1) Superior Three-Root Kamma
2) Inferior Three-Root Kamma
3) Superior Two-Root Kamma
4) Inferior Two-Root Kamma
Each of the four types can be performed with joy or indifference making a total of eight types of wholesome consciousness.
Of the four, (1) is best. If it conditions the rebirth consciousness, the person will be reborn with three wholesome roots (tihetuka) in the happy realms of humans and devas and will possess the ability to attain Jhāna (Mental Absorption) and Magga (Path Consciousness).
(2) and (3) are somewhat equal. If it conditions the rebirth consciousness, the person will be reborn with two wholesome roots (dvihetuka) in the happy realms of humans and devas. But he will not possess the ability to attain Jhāna and Magga.
(4) is the poorest. If it conditions the rebirth consciousness, the person will be reborn in the happy course of existence (sugati) but without any good root (ahetuka) as a human being with deformities or as an earth-bound degraded deva in the lower realm of Cātumahārājika or the Four Great Kings.
5. Classification of Individuals (Puggala-bheda)
Puggala means individual or person. In Abhidhamma, individuals are classified into twelve types, consisting of four types of puthujjana (world-lings) and eight types of Ariya- Puggala (noble individuals), namely:
1) Duggati ahetuka Puggala − refers to individuals born in the woeful states of existence i.e. the four lower worlds, namely, animal, ghost, demon realm and hell.
Such individuals do not possess any of the three good roots in their consciousness, namely: non-greed (alobha), non-hate (adosa) and non-delusion (amoha). Hence they are termed ‘ahetuka or rootless’.
2) Sugati ahetuka Puggala − refers to individuals who are born with deformities in the happy realm of human world or the lower realm of Cātumahārājika but do not possess any good root.
3) Dvihetuka Puggala − refers to human beings and devas who are born with only two good roots, namely: non-greed and non-hate.
Such individuals cannot attain jhānas (mental absorptions) and maggas (path consciousness) in the present life however much they try.
However, they may become ‘tihetuka Puggala’ in the next life as a result of their meditation efforts in the present life, and then attain jhānas and maggas easily if they meditate again.
4) Tihetuka puggala − refers to human beings and devas who are born with all three good roots: non-greed, non-hate and non- delusion.
Such individuals may attain all the jhānas and all the maggas if they strenuously practise tranquillity and insight meditations. Thus, three-rooted worldlings can attain the various stages sainthood by the practice of Vipassana meditation.
5) Sotapatti maggatha − path consciousness of 1st Sainthood
6) Sotapatti phalattha − fruition consciousness of 1st Sainthood
7) Sakadagami maggattha − path consciousness of 2nd Sainthood
8) Sakadagami phalattha − fruition consciousness of 2nd Sainthood
9) Anagami maggattha − path consciousness of 3rd Sainthood
10) Anagami phalattha − fruition consciousness of 3rd Sainthood
11) Arahatta maggattha − path consciousness of Final Sainthood
12) Arahatta phalattha − fruition consciousness of Final Sainthood