Buddhist Analysis: Types of Results and Conditions

Other languages

The Five Types of Results

Let’s look now at the presentation of the five types of results.

Ripened Results

We have ripened results and these are the unobstructed, unspecified items included in the five aggregates. These are things that are neither constructive nor destructive, but they don’t obstruct our liberation or enlightenment. They are part of the mental continuum of a limited being, and they come from the ripening cause that was also conjoined with his or her mental continuum. So the fact that we have a body, and we have a mind, and we have feelings, and so on – in each rebirth that we have, that comes from constructive and destructive behavior that we have done in previous lives.

Now, it is specified here that the ripening cause and the ripening results are on the same mental continuum. That’s important. That ties in with taking a sense of responsibility – we are responsible for what we experience. It’s not just solipsistic because we are not responsible for somebody else getting in their car and hitting us. We’re responsible for how we experience what we experience, not for what other people do.

These ripening results are the basis with which we will experience each lifetime, all the things that happen during that lifetime. They come from our compulsive behavior in previous lives – that’s karma – it’s the compulsion, whether it’s destructive or constructive. Remember, with “constructive” we’re talking about we in the West we would call “neurotic constructive,” like being a perfectionist – always doing it compulsively, it has to be perfect – to prove how good I am. So that’s this type of karmic constructive behavior. It gives us happiness, but that happiness is never going to satisfy because we never feel we’re good enough.

Results That Correspond to Their Cause

Then we have the results that correspond to their cause, and this is of two types:

  • Results that correspond to their cause in our behavior
  • Results that correspond to their cause in our experience.

Results That Correspond to Their Cause in Our Behavior

This comes from any type of previous behavior – constructive, destructive or unspecified (this is neutral). In our behavior, what corresponds to its cause is referring to what it is that we would like to do. “I would like to yell at you” In plain English, we would say, “I feel like yelling at you.” It could also be “I would like to hug you” or “I would like to eat something.” From feeling like doing something – that leads to the intention or wish to do it and then, together with that intention, more karma, which is the compelling urge that uncontrollably leads us in the next moment into doing what we intend to do.

Karma doesn’t ripen from karma – that’s a general axiom. This is why we have to differentiate quite clearly the steps that are involved. “I would like to have something to eat” – that could be because of hunger, it could be because of boredom, it could be any sort of circumstance that brings that on. It comes from the habit of eating; we’re talking about something neutral here. So that ripens into “I’d like to eat” – the tendency, the habit, of eating ripens into “I would like to eat something.”‘ “I would like to hug somebody”, “I would like to yell at somebody.” Then we could stop it there of course. This is the key – we can stop it there. Even though I would like to have some chocolate, I would like to have a second piece of cake, I’m not going to take it. You can stop it there at the point of there being something that you would like to do.

That can lead to intending or wishing to do to do it. We may or may not think it over before actually deciding to do it. And we can stop it there as well. But once that intending to do something brings on the next moment of a compelling urge, then compulsiveness takes over. We lose control. That’s karma – the compelling urge that draws you into doing it – you take that second piece of cake.

What we need to get rid of, when we talk about getting rid of karma, is not eating cake – that’s neutral. What we want to get rid of is the compulsiveness, where you have no control. To do that, we use our intelligence to discriminate what is helpful, what’s harmful, what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate – not just act compulsively.

When we speak of the result that corresponds to the cause in our behavior, we’re not talking actually about our behavior; we’re talking about what it is that we feel like doing and intend or want to do, which is to behave in a certain way. That’s what ripens.

Results That Correspond to Their Cause in Our Experience

Then we have the results that correspond to a cause in our experience. It is referring to experiencing a situation in which something similar to our previous action happens back to us. So we’re talking about our experience of it; we’re not talking about what they do. We’re talking about our experiencing of something similar happening to us. So, from yelling at others, others yell at us; from deceiving others, others deceive us. We experience others deceiving us, we experience others yelling at us – that’s what we are talking about.

And what we are talking about is the whole network of the five aggregates that are involved in experiencing something happening to us. We can’t just talk about experience happening by itself. There’s a body involved, there’s a consciousness involved, there are all the mental factors involved in experiencing – in experience anything, emotions are there, everything is there. That is part of experiencing something happening to us. All of that are results that correspond to a cause in our experience.

That also ties in very much with karma – our compulsive behavior – so that we can try to understand what is happening to us in our experience. It’s very interesting to analyze, what do I like to do, and what don’t I like to do? And why, where is that coming from? Both in terms of constructive things, destructive things, and neutral things. Like the food that we like. Very, very interesting, isn’t it? And then what sort of habits, what sort of likes am I building up, and what are the mental factors that are involved with that? That is very interesting, really. You work all the time, for example. Well are you happy without working all the time? And if you’re not happy about working all the time does that build up an experience that you are going to like to work, or an experience that you don’t like to work? Try to understand all the pieces that are involved.

Dominating Results

The third type of results is called the dominating results. This is a difficult one to understand. This also can ripen from destructive, constructive or neutral, unspecified phenomena – so any type of action. And again, it’s referring to our experience of something. It is an experience of something that will dominate our rebirth, dominate our lives. It’s like the environment, in a sense, the envelope, and it’s not just physical environment. Classic examples are taking things and using things that don’t belong to you. The result of that in terms of your experience is that you are poor. Of course, you like to take other things from other people; you experience people taking things from you, exploiting you. But we will also, as a dominating result, experience being in a society in which people steal and exploit each other; things are always taken away. The whole society is poor, the environment is poor – that dominates our life, our experience.

It’s very interesting, actually. We’re talking about something that many people could experience in common, but not only that. And again, we’re talking about the whole package of the aggregates that’s experiencing this. There are some people that no matter what situation they get into, they make it into a problem. Everything is complicated no matter what we do; it’s complicated and messy and so on. That sort of dominates their whole life, doesn’t it? Always getting into bad relationships, or no matter what they buy or get, it breaks – these sorts of things dominate their life. So, it’s our experiencing of that.

There is another type which is specified here in the Vaibhashika presentation, which is that it could also be the mental factors that surround, in a sense, or are the envelope or environment of the primary consciousness that also dominates the whole cognition.

Man-made Results

Then we have man-made results. These are man-made results that are produced or developed and the man-made results that are attainments – two types.

Man-made results that are produced are like physical things – you bang your foot against the table and then what is produced from that is a bruise. So, we’re talking about quite physical things that happen to us. For example, you eat the wrong kind of things and we get sick. So, from our own effort, what immediately follows – that type of thing. That type of causal relationship is not a karmic causal relationship. We can explain many factors of why that produces a bruise and so on; in terms of karma, why you banged your leg and so on. But the relationship between banging your foot and the bruise developing – that’s just physical.

And of course, it is influenced by many things. As an older person, I bang my arm and I get a black and blue mark very easily, and it takes a long time for it to go away. A young person does that and they don’t even get a black and blue mark. So things are affected by many factors – in this case age. Those of you who are older people, sometimes you wake up and notice that you have a black and blue mark, and you have no idea how you could possibly have gotten that, because it obviously came from just a very light banging against something. So that’s a man-made result.

Then the man-made result that is a type of attainment – the second type of man-made result. That is through your human effort attaining the next level of spiritual development, the next level of insight. So, that’s the fourth type of result.

Results That Are a State of Being Parted

There’s a fifth one, which is called a result but it is not actually a result. We have those things in Buddhism. That’s a result that is a state of being parted, separated. So, it’s the state of being parted from unawareness or ignorance. It is static, it never changes – no more ignorance, no more unawareness, no more confusion. It’s gone forever, it’s never going to come back. That state of being parted isn’t created by anything; the attainment of it is created but not the state itself. So, that state of being parted – that stays forever.

The Four Types of Result

Now, when we speak of the four types of results, there’s

  • The direct immediate result – the result that arises immediately from a cause, like the bruise comes from the bang of your foot
  • The indirect long-term result that follows from a stream of continuity of the cause, so that we have a long stream of getting angry and the continuity of getting angry and then as a result you get angry again. The example is the one we used earlier from when we were speaking in terms of immediate cause and long-term cause – the cancer that we get from a long succession of smoking, not just from smoking once. Or it can be a result that arises from a cause that happened a long time ago – that is very much involved with the whole discussion of karma. You can also think in terms of a physical level: you had an accident when you were a child and broke your leg or something like that, and then in old age you develop arthritis there.
  • Then the ripened results
  • And the dominating results are included in this list of four.

This presentation is very much involved with the presentation of karma. What I experience now is the result of immediate things that I do, but also from long ago causes, karmic causes. It has to do with my body experiencing it and the whole envelope of how I experience it. So, it’s a presentation within the context of karma.

If we had time – which we don’t – and if you have interest, then in the source material of this discussion of causality, which is the Abhidharmakosha text of Vasubandhu – abhidharma is “special topics of knowledge” – there are further details. And there we have a discussion of which results arise from which causes – rather complicated – and the different time when causes can give rise to their results, so for each of these causes, different times can give results immediately and they can just give long-term results – which can give only one, which can give both, which can give the other and which results each type of cause can have. But this material is very complicated and can be very confusing unless you really make charts to see how complex the interaction of all these causes and all these effects can be.

Every Experience Is the Result of Many Types of Causes

I think what is important about it is to understand that any particular cause can give rise to many different types of results, and anything we experience is going to be the result of many, many different types of causes. When we get that idea, that is how we begin to deconstruct our solid view of reality, because nothing arises from just one cause alone or no cause at all. This all comes into the topic of the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths. Each of the four noble truths has four aspects to it, and for these, you have four correct understandings to gain and four incorrect understandings that you have to get rid of.

[See: The Sixteen Aspects of the Four Noble Truths]

With regard to the second noble truth – the true cause or true origin of our suffering – this is where this material is relevant. So, it’s not that our suffering is caused by some all-powerful god that is sending it to us, a creator – that’s refuted in Buddhism. It’s not that it arises from no cause. It also doesn’t come from just one cause – even though that is how we often think: “It’s all my fault,” and then you feel guilty. “I’m the bad boy,” “Everything that happens is my fault” or “Everything that happens is your fault,” so we project it onto someone or something else. But everything comes from a huge complex of causes that are built at very many different times.

We’re talking about how I experience what’s happening; we’re talking about how you experience what’s happening; how everybody experiences what’s happening. For those of you who are therapists, I think a very good example of all of this is family therapy. We get the whole family together and we ask each person in the family what happened, what’s the situation, what is your experience of an event? If somebody’s dying in the family or whatever. And each person says the thing very differently. So if we have this very detailed analysis of causality, we can understand how everybody’s experience arose from so many different factors in their past, their history, their psychology, and so on.

Then we get the different Buddhist tenet systems – now it becomes really quite interesting – was there something objectively existent that actually happened that everybody experienced? Like a group of blind people touching different parts of an elephant and describing what an elephant is?

  • In Sautrantika – there’s some objective thing that really happened.
  • Or is it Chittamatra – there is only everybody’s individual experience and shared karma, but you can’t say that something objectively happened external to that.
  • Or do you have a Prasangika view – there’s all these different experiences and on the network of all of that we can label the situation of the family. What is the situation? We can’t actually find it anywhere; it’s just what this concept of a family problem is referring to on the basis of everybody’s experience.
  • And Svatantrika we would say, ‘Yes, but on the side of each person’s experience there’s the barcode of the problem.”
  • And the Vaibhashikas would be just quite satisfied that it’s made of parts; it’s not so solid.

So, that also is a very good educational tool for dealing with these issues. You take the situation and you analyze it from the perspective of each of the schools; how you understand from each of these different tenet systems. How the Vaibhashikas understand that, how the Sautrantikas understand it, etc. That’s how you start to work with these systems and see that they all give very helpful information, very helpful ways of dealing with the problems. So, obviously, you have to hear correct information about the systems; you have to understand this before you can actually apply it. But don’t just leave it at information – that’s the point.

The Four Types of Conditions

The last topic that is part of this discussion of causality is the four types of conditions.

  • We have the causal conditions. These are all the causes that have the power to produce a specific result.
  • Then we have immediately preceding conditions. That’s the immediately preceding moment of cognition that can, through its inertia, in a sense its force, produce the next moment.
  • Then there’s the focal condition – what it is that in a sense cognition presents itself so that we can have cognition of – like the mental hologram – what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing.
  • And the dominating condition, which is referring to the cognitive sensors that are used.

So, what is this talking about? We have a moment of the five aggregates, and we saw that we can deconstruct all the pieces of it as coming from a whole network of causes. There are the presentations of these six types of causes or four types of causes. Each of the little pieces of that moment are many different types of results of many different types of causes, so an unbelievable complex network of causes and results. All of that is within the realm of the causal conditions – all the conditions that brought about all the five aggregates of this moment of experience.

What were the conditions that allowed for that moment of cognition?

  • There was an immediately preceding moment of experience that gave the momentum so that you can actually have the next moment of experience; there is a stream of continuity.
  • There was a focal object in that experience. That means that there’s something I saw or something I heard or something I was thinking about, and all that came from a whole complex of causes.
  • The dominating condition was referring to what the cognitive sensors were – the sensitive cells – that were relied upon in order to determine in a sense what would the essential nature be of this experience. Was it a seeing? Was it a hearing? Was it a thinking? So it dominates what’s called the “essential nature” of that experience – if it was a visual experience, or it was a mental experience, or it was an audio experience (if we’re listening to music) – this type of thing. Obviously if we were blind we could not have the visual experience. So, these are necessary conditions for determining what type of experience it’s going to be – these cells, these sensors as I call them.

This just analyzes further all the causes and conditions that are responsible for what we experience in each moment. The more that we understand causality here – that’s the second noble truth, the cause of our sufferings – and identify what the sufferings are, then the more we will understand the true path – what will the correct understanding be, the deconstruction that will bring about the attainment of the true stoppings. The true stoppings are a result that is a state of being parted, it’s static; it’s forever.


So, what questions do you have? I think the overall theme of what we have been discussing is deconstruction – all the various ways we can deconstruct what we experience so that we can get rid of suffering.

Analyzing a Problem According to One Tenet System or Several Systems

If we use the analogy of a sick person, rather than trying to analyze how this medicine would work or that medicine would work, it’s better just get to the most effective medicine and use that. And the analogy is for some sort of a problem that we have in life, should we analyze it from the point of view of each of the schools or shouldn’t we just go with the one that’s the most effective?

Buddha did not just teach one system. Buddha taught many systems and the reason for that was that people have different levels of understanding and capacity – presently, I mean; theoretically everybody has the potential to become a Buddha, but, at the moment, everybody’s in a different level, so he taught a method that would be suitable and understandable to their level of understanding. You have this in medicine as well: there could be the most effective cure of something – a heart transplant or something really radical – but the patient is too weak or too old to be able to survive such a treatment, so you have to use a much weaker treatment. It’s the same thing. If you can make the patient stronger, then of course you can give a more effective treatment.

Suffering Has No Beginning

It’s not logical that Buddhism speaks of an end of suffering but says there is no beginning to suffering. How can Buddhism be so sure that suffering has no beginning?

If there were a beginning, how did the beginning start? That’s the question. How did the beginning start? Either it came from a creator – god-like or whatever – or there was no cause at all. Then there are various logical contradictions that would follow from both of those possibilities. If there was no cause, anything could happen at any time, and there would be no reason for something to start for no cause. Then if there were an all-powerful creator who was static, not affected by anything – this is how it’s described in the Indian non-Buddhist schools that assert a creator – then why would such a creator create? Why would such an omnipotent being that can’t be influenced by anything create? There has to be something that affected it; that caused that creator to decide at some point, “I’m going to create.” That contradicts that assertion of the creator that is static and never changes, not affected by anything. So it’s illogical; there’s a contradiction there.

If the creator is affected by something – and whether we regard the creator as a being or whether we regard the creator as the Big Bang – nevertheless if it is affected by something, then we can only conclude that there is no such thing as an absolute beginning. Because what affected that before that? And what affected that before that? So, it’s very interesting – this whole concept of “no beginning.” We all think that way. You think God created; God had a beginning? No. God is forever, eternal; no beginning. Did everything come out of nothing? Well, where did the nothing come from? There was always nothing, no beginning. So regardless of what assertion we have, there’s no beginning, so you might as well choose the most logical one.

Don’t get me wrong. What I was saying was that if the creator has such a nature that the creator could be affected by a decision to create for some reason or another, why would the creator only do that once? Interesting question. If the creator could be influenced to create once, it could be influenced to create a million times, especially if the creator has no beginning. So we get the same thing: no beginning.

Concluding Remarks

But, however, our meeting together will have an end, and I think we have come to that point. I want to thank you very much for your attention. If you want to pursue these topics more, there are plenty more materials that are available, for instance on my website.

Just one piece of advice. You’re going to find that every translator uses different terminology. It doesn’t help to complain about it because it’s futile to try to get all the translators to agree. The words and terminology do not exist independently of meaning. The word is imputed on the meaning, and so look at the definitions, look at the explanations of each of the terms. Then just work with the definitions and you will realize that different translators are talking about the same thing, they’re using different names for them. Get down to the meaning; don’t just get hung up on the words, the terminology, because it will be confusing. It is one of the principles you have in Buddhism: don’t rely just on the teacher, rely on the words; don’t just rely on the words, rely on the meaning; don’t just rely on the literal meaning, rely on the deeper meaning. Thank you.