An Indian unit of time, an aeon.


1) Ch. jye , jye bwo ; 2) Skt. kalpa; 3) Pali kappa; 4) Alternate translations: aeon, cosmic cyclical period.

See also: time.


The myriad things you do to others
will return for you yourself to undergo. (FHS )

According with the karma that is done,
That is the way the retribution is born.
The doer is non-existent.
This is what is spoken by all Buddhas.
(FAS Ch10 )

Who plants mangoes, mangoes shall he eat.
Who plants thorn-bushes, thorns shall wound his feet.
(Indian proverb, quoted Keyes, Karma, p. 49)

Because of ignorance, living beings create karma. The word 'karma' means activity, activity that is based upon desire and governed by the law of cause and effect (see causation). For every good and bad act of the body, of speech, and of thought performed in the present, there is a corresponding result which is experienced in the future. In every moment we experience the results of our past body-, speech- and thought- karma and simultaneously create new karma which will bear fruit in the future. Thus karma is the primary force which keeps us in the cycle of rebirth, continually being reborn in the various realms of existence (see Six Paths of Rebirth).

The law of karma clearly explains why people undergo seemingly unwarranted rewards and retributions. Everything that happens to us, whether good or bad, has a reason, a cause, in the past.

Ananda, these living beings who do not recognize the fundamental mind all undergo rebirth for limitless aeons. They do not attain true purity, because they keep getting involved in killing, stealing, and lust, or because they counter them and are born according to their not killing, not stealing, and lack of lust. If these three kinds of karma are present in them, they are born among the troops of ghosts. If they are free of these three kinds of karma, they are born in the destiny of the gods. The incessant fluctuation between the presence and absence of these three kinds of karma gives rise to the cycle of rebirth. (SS VII )

"Karma is a Sanskrit term that refers to that which is made by the activity of body, speech, or mind. What is the difference between 'cause' and 'karma'? Cause refers to a single incident; karma is a long accumulation of causes. There are many causes and conditions that constitute karma, and each being has his own karma. Therefore, the states encountered by living beings differ. Some encounter great joy because they planted good seeds long ago, while others must endure a great deal of hardship, always living in difficult situations, because they have only sown bad causes. In general, if you plant good seeds, you reap good fruit; if you plant bad seeds, you reap bad fruit.

"Good deeds and bad are done by you alone, and no one forces you to do either. Even the work of becoming a Buddha is something to which you alone must apply effort; no one else can make you do it, and nobody can do it for you. If you do the work, you will plant the seeds of Buddhahood... If you do the deeds, the karma, of Buddhas, you will be a Buddha in the future; if you do the deeds of demons, you will become a demon." (SPV 101-102)

If you care to know of past lives' causes,
Look at the rewards you are reaping today.
If you wish to find out about future lives,
You need but notice what you're doing right now.
(Sutra on Cause and Effect, FHS 32)

"Living beings' ignorance leads them to act in upside-down ways, and their various upside-down acts create various kinds of karma. According to their various kinds of karma, they undergo various retributions. Why do people do evil things: it is because of their ignorance, their lack of understanding, their delusions. Their delusions lead to the creation of bad karma, and since they create bad karma they undergo the retribution of suffering. It is a three part process: delusion, leading to the creation of bad karma, which leads to the retribution of suffering... You can't say which precedes the other; they follow after one another in continuous revolution, life after life, aeon after aeon. Where would you say it all began? There is no beginning. It's an endless cycle on the spinning wheel of the six paths of rebirth.

"Each of us born here in the world is like a mote of dust which suddenly rises high, suddenly falls low, suddenly goes up and suddenly descends. When your actions are good and meritorious you are born higher. When you do things which create offenses, you fall. Therefore, we people should do good things and perform meritorious deeds. Don't do things which create offenses, because this world runs on the principle of cause and effect, the law of karma. And 'the seeds of karma naturally run their course': you undergo a (reward or) retribution for whatever you do... ." (SS I 172-173)

"You Can't Take It With You"

"Once there was a fabulously wealthy old man who had a beautiful wife and three fine, intelligent sons. But from the time this man had been born, he didn't pay any attention to anything but money. He ignored his father, his mother, and his brothers and sisters. The only thing he didn't ignore was money. He knew money like the back of his hand. It was his best friend and closest relative. He even wrote a verse about it:

What heaven has conferred is called

'Money'. According to this money it is

called 'money'. Money . . . ah . . . may not

be left for a moment.

Actually, this is a rather perverted take-off on the first chapter of the Chinese classic, The Doctrine of the Mean, which reads, 'That which has been conferred by heaven is called the nature; according with the nature is called the path. . . . The path may not be left for a moment.'

"He named his oldest son 'Gold'. His second son he named 'Silver'. He decided to give his third son an unusual name and called him 'Karmic Obstacle.' When his third son had grown up and he himself was already old, he got sick. He was completely bedridden and couldn't walk. Although he was very rich, after he was sick for some time, no one looked after him. His beautiful wife kept her distance, and his intelligent sons never came to visit him. He gritted his teeth and thought, 'I hope I hurry up and die. But being dead alone in King Yama's den will be very lonely. I should take someone with me.' He called for his wife and said, 'I'm not going to recover from this lingering illness. I hope to die soon. Won't you go with me?'

"'How can you ask a thing like that?' she said. 'Nobody can die for anyone else. How could you expect me to want to go along with you? Are you sure you haven't lost your marbles?'

"And so the old man called his eldest son. 'Gold,' he said, 'I have always loved you the most. Did you know that?'

"'Yes, father,' said his son. "I know you love me the most.'

"'Well, son, I'm going to die. Would you go along with me?'

"'You old blockhead!' came the reply. 'You're an old man. I'm young. How can you ask me to do something like that? And you claim to be fond of me. If you were, you wouldn't ask me to die with you!' And he ran off.

"Then the old man spoke to his second son, 'Silver, wont' you die with me?'

"'You're really messed up,' said his son. 'How can you expect me to die just because you are dying?'

"There was nothing the man could do but call for his youngest son, Karmic Obstacle. 'You are the youngest,' he said. 'I love you the most. I could die, but I can't bear to part with you. What am I going to do? He didn't dare ask outright for his son to go with him, but the boy caught on right away.

"'If you love me so much, I'll go with you,' said his son. The old man was delighted.

"'You haven't let me down,' he said. 'I always liked you best, and now I know you are my most filial son.'

"His pretty wife wouldn't go with him, and his sons Gold and Silver wouldn't go. The only one who went with his father to the hells was his young son Karmic Obstacle. And so it is said:

You can't take your gold and silver

With you on your dying day;

But your karmic obstacles

Stick with you all the way! . . ."

(DFS I 48-50)

No One Can Escape His/Her Karma

And there were the mighty King Crystal . . . . Crystal exterminated the Gautama clan. [He] sank into the unintermittent hell while still alive. (SS VII 86)

"King Crystal and the Buddha were supposedly relatives, though in fact they were not. King Crystal's father, also a king, wanted to marry into the Gautama clan. Since the Gautama clan was a more honorable one than the king's, the members of the Gautama clan did not like the idea. No one wanted to give a daughter to the king in marriage, but they didn't dare refuse outright, because the king was powerful. A refusal might have resulted in a lot of trouble. Finally they decided among themselves to send one of their servant girls, a particularly beautiful one, and pretend she was of the Gautama clan. King Crystal was an offspring of that marriage.

"Once, while the king was still a child, someone built a temple for the Buddha, complete with an elaborate Dharma Seat.. When the seat was finished, but before the Buddha himself had ascended the platform to sit on it and speak Dharma, the child who was to become King Crystal climbed up and sat on it. The Buddha's disciples and the donors who saw him all scolded him, saying, 'You're the son of a slave; how dare you sit in the Buddha's seat?' Hearing them call him that, he was outraged, and he said to his attendant, 'Wait until I am king and then remind me of what was said here today, lest I forget it. People from the Gautama clan say I'm the son of a slave. Remind me of that. I intend to get even.'

"Later, when he was king, his attendant did remind him, and the king issued an edict that the entire Gautama clan was to be exterminated, including the Buddha himself. When Mahamaudgalyayana got wind of this, he went to the Buddha to report. 'We have to think of away to save them,' he said. But the Buddha didn't say anything. And so Maudgalyayana loosed his spiritual powers, put five hundred members of the Gautama clan into his precious bowl, and sent them to the heavens. He thought they would be safe there. When the king had completed the extermination, Maudgalyayana told Shakyamuni Buddha, 'I've got five hundred Gautamans in a bowl stashed away in the heavens, and so the clan isn't totally gone after all. I'll bring them down now and let them go.' But when he had recalled them and took a look at his bowl, he found nothing there but blood. "Why was I unable to save them?' asked the puzzled Maudgalyayana. He wanted the Buddha to explain the causes and conditions.

"'Ah, you don't know,' said the Buddha, "On the causal ground, a long time ago, at a place where the weather was hot, there was a pool with schools of fish in it. The two leaders of the schools were named Bran and Many Tongues. The water in the pool evaporated in the intense heat, and since the people in the area didn't have anything else to eat, they ate the fish. In the end there was just a mud-hole, but even then they noticed a movement in the mud. Digging in, they found the two big fish-kings--Bran and Many Tongues. At that time, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, was a child among these people, who were later to become the Gautama clan. Seeing that the two fish were about to be devoured alive, I beat them over the head three times with a club to knock them out first.' That is why in his life as a Buddha he had to endure a three-day headache as retribution. 'Further, the fish Bran was the present King Crystal, and the fish Many Tongues was his attendant who reminded him of the words spoken by the Gautama clan to the king as a child. And so it was fated that he would exterminate the Gautama clan.' Even though Shakyamuni had become a Buddha, he could not rescue his people from the fixed karma they were destined to repay."


1) Ch. ye , 2) Skt. karma, 3) Pali kamma, 4) Alternate Translations: action, deeds, occupation.

See also: rebirth, causation, God.

BTTS References: karma--FHS 22-32 (Sutra of Cause and Effect in the Three Periods of Time)=CL II; SPV 101-2; SS I 172-173; SS II 139-159.

Kshitigarbha (Bodhisattva)

See Earth Store (Bodhisattva).

Kumarajiva (Tripitaka Master) (344-413)

"Kumarajiva's father, Kumarayana, was the son of a prime minister. He should have succeeded his father but instead he left his home and went everywhere looking for a teacher. Although he hadn't left the home-life in the formal sense by taking the complete precepts, he still cultivated the Way, and in his travels went to the country of Kucha in central Asia. The king of Kucha had a little sister, and when she saw Kumarayana, she said to the king, 'I really love this man.' The king gave his sister in marriage to Kumarayana and she soon became pregnant.

"When Kumarajiva was still in his mother's womb, it was much like the situation with Sariputra and his mother. Kumarajiva's mother could defeat everyone in debate. At that time an Arhat said, 'The child in this woman's womb is certainly one of great wisdom.'

"When Kumarajiva was seven years old, his mother took him to a temple to worship the Buddha. Kumarajiva picked up a large bronze incense urn and effortlessly lifted it over his head. Then he thought, 'Hey, I'm just a child. How can I lift this heavy urn? With that one thought, the urn crashed to the ground. From that he realized the meaning of the doctrine, 'Everything is made from the mind alone.' and he and his mother left the home-life.

"Kumarajiva's mother had difficulty leaving the home-life. Although Kumarajiva's father had previously cultivated the Way, he was now too much in love with his wife to permit her to leave home. Thereupon, she went on a strict fast. 'Unless you allow me to leave home,' she said, 'I won't eat or drink. I'll starve myself.'

"'Then don't eat or drink, if that's what you want,' said her husband, 'but I'll never let you leave home.'

"For six days she didn't eat or drink, not even fruit juice, and she became extremely weak. Finally, Kumarayana said, 'This is too dangerous. You're going to starve to death. You may leave home, but please eat something.'

"'First call in a Dharma Master to cut off my hair,' she said, 'and then I'll eat.' A Dharma Master came and shaved her head, and then she ate. Shortly after leaving home, she was certified as having become a first stage Arhat.

"Soon after that, Kumarajiva, her son, also left the home-life. Everyday he read and recited many Sutras, and once he read them, he never forgot them. . . . Because of his faultless memory, -----------------------------------------------------------------

Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva

he defeated all non-Buddhist philosophers in India and became very well-known.

"His reputation spread to China, and when Fu Chien, emperor of the "Former Ch'in" Dynasty, heard of him, he sent the great General Lu Kuang and seventy thousand troops to Kucha to capture Kumarajiva and bring him back to China. Kumarajiva said to the king of Kucha, 'China is sending troops, but do not oppose them. They don't wish to take the country. They have another purpose and you should grant their request.'

"Kumarajiva's uncle the king wouldn't listen to him, but went to war with the general from China, Lu Kuang. As a result, the king of Kucha was put to death, the country defeated, and Kumarajiva captured.

"On the way back to China, General Lu Kuang one day prepared to camp in a low valley. Kumarajiva, who had spiritual powers, knew a rain was coming which would flood the valley. He told the general, 'Don't camp here tonight. This place is dangerous.'

But Lu Kuang had no faith in Kumarajiva. 'You're a monk,' he said. 'What do you know about military affairs?' That night there was a deluge and many men and horses were drowned. General Lu Kuang then knew that Kumarajiva was truly inconceivable.

"They proceeded until they heard that there had been a change in the Chinese government. Emperor Fu Chien had been deposed, and Yao Ch'ang had seized the throne. General Lu Kuang maintained his neutrality and did not return to China. Yao Ch'ang was emperor for several years, and when he died, his nephew Yao Hsing took the throne. It was Yao Hsing who dispatched a party to invite Kumarajiva to China to translate Sutras. A gathering of over eight-hundred Bhikshus assembled to assist him in this work.

"We have proof that Kumarajiva's translations are extremely accurate. When he was about to complete the stillness, that is, die, he said, 'I have translated numerous sutras during my lifetime, and I personally don't know if my translations are correct. If they are, when I am cremated, my tongue will not burn; but if there are mistakes, it will burn.' When he died, his body was burned, but his tongue remained intact.

"The T'ang Dynasty Vinaya Master Tao-Hsuan once asked the god Lu Hsuan-Ch'ang, 'Why does everyone prefer to read and study Kumarajiva's translations.' The god replied, 'Kumarajiva has been the Translation Master for the past seven Buddhas and so his translations are accurate.'" (AS 45-47)


1) Ch. jyou mwo lwo shr .

BTTS References: DFS I 57-66; VS 12-13; BNS I 36-37; AS 44-48; VBS #23, p. 1; RHS 26-42.