Thoughts and Intention and Karma

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Thoughts and Intention and Karma

Postby SonamZangpo » Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:15 am

(Just to get this out of the way- I'm Vajrayana, so that's the perspective I'm speaking from, though... I'm American, so not SO much the Vajrayana perspective, hahaha)

I've heard a lot of teachings about intention, and right intent and things like that, and I've also read a bit about negative intentions and thoughts. I'm not sure if this is correct, but I believe I've read that you can generate negative karma even from negative intents or thoughts? As an act is composed of the intent, the action, and the aftermath, I think it's entirely possible.

What I'm really wondering has to do with the opposite- can you generate good karma merely with good thoughts and intentions? I think it would be a small amount opposed to a full act, but... can you? I thought about this because I had gotten a recording of someone chanting white tara stuck in my head, so in my head, I kept replaying it, much like a song stuck in your head usually does. I've heard attained masters can merely think a mantra and the full effect will be taken, but is there any merit or, at least, benefit to others merely by thinking about it? To be on the safe side, I've begun singing along with the mantra playing over and over in my head. :rolling:

Much thanks on your input,


PS: If you could in replying, tell me any sources you may have for your thoughts. Merely thoughts and opinions alone are in fact helpful, but having the words of an actual teacher speaking on the subject would be great for clarification. <- This is my more active facebook, if you want some real discussion


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(I acknowledge I do not follow the quote above this, that is why it is there! so I will be reminded every time I post! :) )

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Re: Thoughts and Intention and Karma

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 03, 2010 11:50 am

Karma, of which there are three types which are of body, speech and mind, is defined specifically as volitional or intentional action. The result of that volitional action is called vipaka, which usually arises as sensation (dukha and sukha respectively).

Bodily and verbal volitional action originate from the mind, so the mind is actually the source of all karma. It is thus that the mind must be guarded and maintained against evil thoughts, fantasies and intentions.

So, to answer your question, it would follow that by intentionally thinking wholesome thoughts such as remembering the Buddha, wishing others well and rejoicing in the good deeds of others, one initiates a karma-vipaka process which will result in sukha or pleasure. This would be the case even if one does not exercise verbal or bodily action, as mental intentional action is still willed action.
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Re: Thoughts and Intention and Karma

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:11 pm

SonamZangpo wrote:What I'm really wondering has to do with the opposite- can you generate good karma merely with good thoughts and intentions?

In the Jewel Ornament of Liberation, it quotes some sutra (I forget which one) which says that the best practice for wicked people who have no patience for other practices is to visualize a Buddha and visualize giving offerings to him/her. Merit is generated from just thinking about this. I believe this is why mandala offering is part of Ngondro.

SonamZangpo wrote:I've heard attained masters can merely think a mantra and the full effect will be taken, but is there any merit or, at least, benefit to others merely by thinking about it?

I think there is merit in just thinking about it, but it probably doesn't have the same purifying effect on your body's energies as saying it out loud does. My lama often says that we shouldn't be shy about reciting mantras loudly because the sounds in the mantras purify our body's energies.

I haven't found quotes directly related to this, but I have found some generally related quotes:

Subhuti, any person who awakens faith upon hearing the words or phrases of this Sutra will accumulate countless blessings and merit. --Diamond Sutra ... page6.html

Here's a passage from the Medicine Buddha Sutra:
Then the Buddha spoke further on to the disciple Manjushri and said: "Manjushri, there are those who do not distinguish good from evil. They indulge incessantly in greed and avarice. They do not know what alms-giving is, and what the effect of such a deed will be. They are idiots. They have no faith. They accumulate riches, and guard them carefully. When they see a beggar, they are not glad in heart. When they have to bestow a charity, it is like cutting a piece of flesh from the body. A deep and painful regret ensues. There are other innumerable greedy and stingy beings who gather money but do not use it even for themselves, so how could you expect them to give it to their parents, wives, children, servants, or beggar? These beings, after their death, shall be reborn as hungry ghost or as animals. Now, it may happen that, as men in a former incarnation, they had by chance heard the name of the Buddha of Medicine. Now, it may happen that, as men in a former incarnation, they had by chance heard the name of the Buddha of Medicine. Now in the evil incarnation the name of that Tathagata accidentally recurs to their mind. Then when they remember him, they suddenly disappear and again be transformed into men. There they remember their former life, they are afraid of the sufferings of the bad incarnation. They do not rejoice at worldly pleasures. They gladly practice charity, and they praise the giver. They are no longer greedy and do not regret the alms given by themselves. Yes, in time they are able to bestow upon the one who asks them even for their head, eye, hand, foot, blood, flesh, and other parts of their body, to say nothing of their money and property!"

So, in the Medicine Buddha Sutra, it says that just hearing the name "Medicine Buddha" gives countless benefits. Hearing a name precedes remembering it, so I would think that remembering it would be equally good.

I suppose this isn't exactly what you were looking for, but I think it's close.

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Re: Thoughts and Intention and Karma

Postby BFS » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:28 pm

(Just to get this out of the way- I'm Vajrayana, so that's the perspective I'm speaking from, though... I'm American, so not SO much the Vajrayana perspective, hahaha)

You might then also find this link interesting and helpful:

Click Here

little snippets from the link:

When we look at the definition of karma, we find that it is defined differently in different Buddhist systems, like almost everything in Buddhism.

karma as a mental urge- It is not the action at all; karma is the urge to act. This urge that will cause us to act is a mental factor and is always accompanied by three other mental factors.

Intention/ Motivation
Another word here that is sometimes confusing for us in the West is “motivation” (kun-slong). In our Western usage of this word, it usually refers to the emotion behind something. We say that we are motivated by anger or love. However, when we hear the word motivation in a Buddhist context, it is translating a word that doesn’t mean motivation in the Western sense.

Physical Verbal Mental - When we talk about physical and verbal acts, these usually start with mental urges, a mental karma. The urge to do something comes before.

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Re: Thoughts and Intention and Karma

Postby muni » Sat Dec 04, 2010 12:37 pm

"In order to conquer the high grounds of the uncreated nature of mind, we must go to the source and recognize the origin of our thoughts." ... oche-2.pdf

Nice read to see how solidnesses are created by chasing behind coarse thoughts and to find simplicity.
May the suffering of all beings be pacified. ... mplete.pdf
I am the illusion of the independent self, this is all what I can assert.

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Re: Thoughts and Intention and Karma

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Dec 04, 2010 9:37 pm

To mention a bit.....(my appologies to IP if this deviates a bit from point)..

the statement initially made is absolutely true to my laypersons uneducated view....even thought, not followed by actual action can create effect of negatively or positively perceived result.

Such as mentioned by other posters with their excellent comments serves as the basis for the presence and utilization of many spiritual means such as mantra prayer, mala and all the rest.

That aside intention may not always be conscious intention.
If I hit and kill another person with my car even though driving within the speed limit and within the law....say this person falls from a bridge directly in front of my car....a act has still occured.
If we state there is not a result to us and to the individual even though this act was not consciously intended... that statement flies in the face of reason. Both will be effected even if neither I nor the faller intended such a thing to happen.

Intenention in a larger scope of consideration allows for all events even those seemingly unrelated to our conscious mind to exist. If conscious intention is only allowed for our consideration, accidents or accidental events devolve karma or action and result of action, as being primary mover.

We become left in a world in which some is karma and some is not.

So that is not so....unconscious intention carry over or playing out of past lives actions per example are intended as much as any conscious event may be intended. Conscious intention of course is more substantial but both do seemingly exist as movers of future events or consequence.

Just intention considered this way in a more total fashion... to add to the discussion, and not to state any have presented that view. I have heard other present that view on intention at times and find it personally partial. Perhaps a semantical or translative basis is the cause of its origination is my personal conjecture.

To explain a bit the context I am refering, a quote...


"In these dualistic thouights lie disease and "obstructive forces"
When illness afflicts one,
The illness lies in the very thought of it;
When harm befalls one,
The harm lies in the very thought of it;
When one dies,
The death lies inthe very thought of it;
When one is reborn,
The rebirth lies inthe very thought of it;
Pleasure, pain or others lie in dualistic thoughts,
Yet the mind is empty of any reality."

So it seems..
Thought and intenetions may be beyond the scope of normally considered conventional conscious things in this type of consideration.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.

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