Causes, conditions and results according to the Abhidharmakośa

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A detailed explanation of the causes, conditions and results of karma is presented in Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa.

Chapter four of the Abhidharmakośa is devoted to a study of karma, and chapters two and five contain formulation as to the mechanism of fruition and retribution.Template:Sfn This became the main source of understanding of the perspective of early Buddhism for later Mahāyāna philosophers.Template:Sfn

Vasubhandu elaborates on the causesTemplate:Refn and conditionsTemplate:Refn involved in the production of results,Template:Refn karma being one source of causes and results, the "ripening cause" and "ripened result."[1] Generally speaking, the conditions can be thought of as auxiliary causes. Vasubhandhu draws from the earlier Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma treatises to establish an elaborate Buddhist etiology with the following primary components:

Six types of causes

  • Acting causesTemplate:Refn – all phenomena, other than the result itself, which do not impede the production of the result. This includes (a) potent acting causes, such as a seed for a sprout, and (b) impotent acting causes, such as the space that allows a sprout to grow and the mother or the clothes of the farmer who planted the seed.
  • Simultaneously arising causesTemplate:Refn – causes that arise simultaneously with their results. This would include, for instance, characteristics together with whatever it is that possesses the characteristics.
  • Congruent causesTemplate:Refn – a subcategory of simultaneously arising causes, it includes causes share the same focal object, mental aspect, cognitive sensor, time, and slant with their causes—primarily referring to the primary consciousness and its congruent mental factors.
  • Equal status causeTemplate:Refn – causes for which the results are later moments in the same category of phenomena. For example, one moment of patience can be considered the cause of the next moment of patience.
  • Driving causesTemplate:Refn – disturbing emotions and attitudes that generate other subsequent disturbing emotions and attitudes in the same plane of existence, though the two need not be of the same ethical status.
  • 'Ripening causeTemplate:Refn - the karmic cause or efficacy.Template:Sfn

Four types conditions

  • Causal conditionsTemplate:Refn - corresponds to five of the six causes, excepting the kāraṇahetu, which corresponds to the three conditions below
  • Immediately preceding conditionsTemplate:Refn - a consciousness which precedes a sense or mental consciousness without any intervening consciousness and which produces the subsequent consciousness into an experience-ready entity
  • Focal conditionTemplate:Refn - or "object condition" - an object which directly generates the consciousness apprehending it into having its aspect, e.g. the object blue causes an eye consciousness to be generated into having the aspect of blue
  • Dominating conditionTemplate:Refn

Five types of results

  • Ripened resultsTemplate:Refn - karmic results.Template:Sfn
  • Results that correspond to their causeTemplate:Refn - causally concordant effects
  • Dominating resultsTemplate:Refn - the result of predominance. All conditioned dharmas are the adhipatiphala of other conditioned dharmas.[2]
  • Man-made resultsTemplate:Refn - a result due to the activity of another dharma
  • Results that are states of being partedTemplate:Refn - not actually a result at all, but refers to the cessation that arises from insight.



  1. Berzin, Alexander. "Causes, Conditions, and Results."
  2. A Study of Dependent Origination: Vasubandhu, Buddhaghosa, and the Interpretation of Pratīyasamutpāda. by Susan C. Stalker Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1987 pg. pg 25


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