[INDOLOGY] sources for the idea that reincarnation is a semi-random process?

Rolf Heinrich Koch rolfheiner.koch at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 14:31:56 UTC 2020

Dear Dean,
another aspect may be helpful:

because I am doing some research on the concept of karman and hell, I 
see that already in the Gilgit-manuscripts (Āyuḥparyantasūtra)  a 
systematically composed description (Sanskrit-Śloka) connects specific 
actions (karman) with the rebirth in certain hells.
When someone kills his mother his rebirth takes place in hell 1. If he 
is a robber in hell 8 etc.
This description is adapted in several later works and found also his 
way, probably via Burmese monks, in the later Pali-literature and is 
still observed in Thailand, Sri Lanka etc.

I did not translate the complete Āyuḥparyantasūtra. If you can read 
Sanskrit (there is also a Tibetan translation) you may find the answer 
of your question beyond the rebirth in a hell.


Am 16.11.2020 um 13:50 schrieb Rupert Gethin via INDOLOGY:
> Dear Dean,
> Not sure if the following is relevant to you query.
> The idea that good karman doesn’t invariably immediately lead to 
> pleasant rebirth and bad karman doesn’t invariably immediately lead to 
> unpleasant rebirth is discussed in the Mahakammavibhaṅga-sutta (MN 
> III 207–15, with parallels surviving in Chinese and Tibetan translation).
> Later Buddhist systematic thought in the Abhidharma traditions of both 
> the Theravāda and Sarvāstivāda refers to the following categories of 
> karman in the context of determining which of a being's infinite past 
> actions might determine rebirth:
> weighty (garuka/guru)
> near to death (āsanna)
> habitual (āciṇṇa/abhyasta)
> something previously done (kaṭattākamma/pūrvakṛta)
> See e.g. Vism 601–602 (XIX.14–16), Abhidh-k-bh (Pradhan) 
> 477, Abhidh-k-vy (Wogihara) 719.
> In other words, if you have done something really ‘weighty' in this 
> life (killed your mother or father, etc.) you're going to experience 
> the unpleasant results in your next rebirth come what may. If you 
> haven’t done anything weighty (most of us?), then either something 
> done close to the time of death or something done habitually will tend 
> to come into play (there is some hesitation in the sources on whether 
> to give precedence to near-death actions or habitual actions). Failing 
> these two, then any past action from any past life may, depending on a 
> variety of conditions, come into play. The sources add that only 
> buddhas can really see and understand the complex of conditions that 
> govern which karman ripens when. Thus from the perspective of ordinary 
> folk it may appear random, but from the perspective of a buddha it is not.
> Best wishes,
> Rupert
> --
> *Rupert Gethin*
> Professor of Buddhist Studies
> University of Bristol
> Email: Rupert.Gethin at bristol.ac.uk <mailto:Rupert.Gethin at bristol.ac.uk>
>> On 15 Nov 2020, at 23:53, Dean Michael Anderson via INDOLOGY 
>> <indology at list.indology.info <mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:
>> Dear fellow members of the Indology list,
>> Most people think of reincarnation being a somewhat deterministic 
>> process based on past karma.
>> I read someplace, however, that Tibetans, and maybe other Buddhists, 
>> consider the process of assigning one's karma for the next life as 
>> something akin to reaching into a box of chips and grabbing a random 
>> collection of karmas that set in motion the next life. Thus, it is 
>> not so strictly deterministic.
>> I'm sorry if I'm not describing this accurately.
>> Can anyone point me to some original sources or commentaries for this 
>> idea ?
>> Also, is this something that is mentioned in Hinduism or other 
>> reincarnation-based religions?
>> Best,
>> Dean Anderson
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Dr. Rolf Heinrich Koch

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