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Lord Buddha
Lord Buddha

Ānantarika-karma (Sanskrit) or ānantarika-kamma (Pāli) is a heinous crime that through karmic process brings immediate disaster.[1][2] They are called 'anantarika' because they are 'a-' (without, privative prefix) 'antara' (interval), in other words the results immediately come to fruition in the next life, i.e. the participant goes straight to hell.[citation needed] These are considered so heinous that even non-Buddhists must avoid them. According to Buddhism, committing such a crime would prevent the perpetrator from attaining the stages of sotāpanna, sakadagami, anāgāmi or arhat in that lifetime.[3] The five crimes are:[4][5][6]

  • Intentionally murdering one's father.
  • Intentionally murdering one's mother.
  • Killing an Arhat (fully enlightened being).
  • Shedding the blood of a Buddha. According to some Mahayana interpretations, this includes damaging works related to the Buddha and is not limited to harming the Buddha's person.[7]
  • Creating a schism (heresy) within the Sangha, the community of Buddhist monks, nuns and pariṣā who try to attain enlightenment.

In Mahayana Buddhism these five crimes are referred to as pañcānantarya and are mentioned in "The Sutra Preached by the Buddha on the Total Extinction of the Dharma".[8][9] They are also sometimes called the five rebellious acts.[7]


Devadatta is noted for attempting to kill the Sakyamuni Buddha on several occasions including:

  • Throwing a large rock at him. Devadatta missed, but a splinter from the rock drew blood from the Buddha's foot.
  • Inciting an elephant to charge at the Buddha. The Buddha was able to pacify the elephant by directing Mettā to it.

According to Sutta Pitaka, after trying to kill Sakyamuni Buddha a number of times, Devadatta set up his own Buddhist monastic order by splitting the (sangha). During his efforts to become the leader of his own Sangha, he proposed five extra-strict rules for monks, which he knew Buddha would not allow. Devadatta's reasoning was that after he had proposed those rules and Buddha had not allowed them, Devadatta could claim that he did follow and practice these five rules, making him a better and purer monk. One of these five extra rules required monks to be vegetarian. In the Contemplation Sutra, Devadatta is said to have convinced Prince Ajātasattu to murder his father King Bimbisara and ascend the throne. Ajātasattu follows the advice, and this action prevents him from attaining enlightenment at a later time, when listening to a teaching of the Buddha. Devadatta is the only individual from the early Buddhist tradition to have committed two anantarika-karmas.

King Suppabuddha[edit]

King Suppabuddha was the father of Devadatta and Yasodharā and the father-in-law of Prince Siddhattha. One day Suppabuddha blocked the Buddha's path, refused to make way, and sent a message saying, "I cannot give way to the Buddha, who is so much younger than I". Finding the road blocked, the Buddha and the bhikkhus turned back. As the Buddha turned back, he said to Ananda, "Because the king has refused to give way to a Buddha, he has committed a bad kamma and before long he will have to face the consequences". It is said that the king died on the seventh day after that event had taken place. He fell down the stairs, collapsed and died and was born in a suffering state, being unable to escape the effects of his evil kamma (according to Buddhist belief).[10] According to the Buddha's prediction the earth swallowed him. It is said, "So the king went down the stairs and as soon as he stepped on the earth, it opened and swallowed him up and dragged him right down to Avici Niraya."[11]


Anyone who commits an anantarika-karma will go to hell. The five different actions which each constitute an anantarika-karma are the only actions which can produce a definite result.[12]

Accounts claim that toward the end of Devadatta's life, he was struck by a severe remorse caused by his past misdeeds and did indeed manage to approach the Buddha and retook refuge in the Triple Gem, dying shortly afterwards.[13] Because of the gravity of his actions, he was condemned to suffer for several hundred millennia in Avici. However, it was also said that he would eventually be admitted into the heavens as a Pratyekabuddha due to his past merits prior to his corruption.

In the Samaññaphala Sutta, Gautama Buddha said that if Ajātasattu hadn't killed his father, he would have attained sotapannahood, a degree of enlightenment. But because he had killed his father he could not attain it.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gananath Obeyesekere (1990), The Work of Culture: Symbolic Transformation in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology, University of Chicago, ISBN 978-0-226-61599-8
  2. ^ Walters, Jonathan S. (1990). "The Buddha's Bad Karma: A Problem in the History of Theravâda Buddhism". Numen. 37 (1): 70–95. JSTOR 3269825.
  3. ^ Nakamura, Hajime (1991). Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet, Japan. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 285. ISBN 978-8120807648.
  4. ^ "The Sutra Preached by the Buddha on the Total Extinction of the Dharma". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  5. ^ Nyanatiloka (1980), Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, ISBN 978-955-24-0019-3
  6. ^ Triplegem glossary Archived 2006-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b "City of 10,000 Buddhas - the Flower Adornment Sutra with Commentary 40".
  8. ^ "The Sutra Preached by the Buddha on the Total Extinction of the Dharma". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  9. ^ Hodous, Lewis; Soothill, William Edward (1995). A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms: With Sanskrit and English Equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali Index. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 978-0700703555.
  10. ^ IX:12 King Suppabuddha blocks the Buddha's path
  11. ^ Dhammapada Verse 128 Suppabuddhasakya Vatthu
  12. ^ See Ven. Pesala's exposition on Hell Archived 2010-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Sarvastivada text the event creating a schism in the Sangha Archived 2008-11-22 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Buddha say King Ajātasattu asking five grave offenses sutra Archived 2008-07-23 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

  • Silk, Jonathan A. (2007). Good and Evil in Indian Buddhism: The Five Sins of Immediate Retribution, Journal of Indian Philosophy 35 (3), 253-286