Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by jorden » Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:39 am

Where should I begin with answering this question? Any reading suggestions? I tried searching, but mostly people wonder if thinking about something bad will create bad karma. But the other way around: what causes thoughts?

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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by Grigoris » Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:16 pm

jorden wrote:Where should I begin with answering this question? Any reading suggestions? I tried searching, but mostly people wonder if thinking about something bad will create bad karma. But the other way around: what causes thoughts?
Karmic. If you think about something long enough, chances are you are going to do it. Even if you don't, it generates a mindset...
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by kverty » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:10 am

From a time perspective, one who is accomplished in meditation has a different thought pattern than before he started practice. So there's a causal link between your thoughts and actions.

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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by Vasana » Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:13 pm

5 aggregates, 12 links, 51 mental states.
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by Rick » Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:38 pm

Hi jorden. :-)

Interesting (and important!) inquiry.

My take is that thought contents are mostly driven by karma, but are sometimes just the recall/processing of miscellaneous life events or "random" neuron firings. I'd guess for the average person something like 75-90% karma and 10-25% events/random. I can't say how these %'s might be different for a very accomplished Buddhist meditator ... because that I am not.

As for whether "thinking something bad will cause bad karma" remember what Buddha had to say about this:

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
Last edited by Rick on Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by pael » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:12 pm

Thinking wrong views (doubting karma and next lives) or regarding as meaning of life to reproduction creates suicidal thoughts. Are thoughts produced by brain? Buddhism rejects that thoughts produced by brain.
How psychiatric medication can help, if thoughts are not created by brain? Does Buddhism reject psychiatric medication?
Psychological theories lead me to doubt immateriality of mind.
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by Mönlam Tharchin » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:18 pm

Chronic pain conditions thoughts. A good meal and friends condition thoughts. All this tells me is thoughts are compounded things subject to stress and not self. The mind is not thoughts or feelings, or even thoughts and feelings about mind. Why certain thoughts and feelings are wholesome is that they conduce to relative happiness and can turn one away from identifying with them and other forms that bind to samsara, like using soap to wash away dirt. Right View is such a type of thinking, but even Right View is not mind.
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to guide me, I simply say Namu-amida-butsu.
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"If sentient beings are touched by His radiance, their three afflictions will be eliminated and their bodies and minds will become gentle. They will be filled with joy and exuberance as benevolence arises in their minds. If those who are in extreme suffering, taking any of the three evil life-journeys, see this radiance, they can rest, no more pain or distress." -- Sutra of Amitāyus Buddha

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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by CapNCrunch » Tue Oct 24, 2017 8:34 pm

Karmic but random. If thoughts aren't random, then please tell me what your third though from now will be?

The thing I've found with thoughts, whether they are good thoughts, bad thoughts, weird thoughts, righteous thoughts, or even downright evil ones (we all have them pop up from time to time) is simply not to pay too much attention to them. If you simply notice them arising but don't follow them, they will naturally dissovle & won't have any power to disturb you.

Of course, if you have already established a pattern or mindset as Greg pointed out, then a thought or theme can pop up over and over and over - but simply noticing and relaxing, not giving it too much importance will definitely help.

Thoughts only become problematic when we fixate on them, or have a strong emotional reaction. This will surely lead to more of the same, and given the way interdependence appears to unfold, can lead further down the chain.

I think we've all dealt with obsessive type thoughts before. During college, many years ago, I had a bout with anxiety and obsessive ideation that went on for a couple of years. It was horrible. I remember being in the Temple (I was raised a fundy type Christian) and having a horrible thought pop up. I simply couldn't believe that this type of thing could assail me there. Which of course, led to more and more horrible thoughts as I tried to suppress them. This happened a lot.

One of the wonderful things about encountering the Dharma and my teacher was the ability to finally deal with thoughts effectively. I realized, finally, that they arise through Karmic traces in a some-what random fashion, and that they didn't necessarily mean that I was a bad person b/c I had a "bad" thought - or a perverted person b/c a perverted thought popped up - or a murderous person if a momentary thought arose of wanting to strangle someone that pissed me off :smile:

Prior to this understanding and way of dealing with unwanted thoughts, I suffered a LOT, especially during this heightened time of anxiety I mentioned.

Now, thoughts of all kinds can still pop up. The only difference is I can laugh and relax, and realize that this is just my clarity and immediately let it go without making a judgement or fixating for a long time, or worse, trying to block or avoid the thought.

Sorry for the long post, but it's something I suffered with SO much, that if this can help even one person relax just a bit and not give so much importance to their thoughts, then I'll be very happy.
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by Tolya M » Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:39 pm

There are two modalities of vinnana: vipaka (result of actions\kamma) and javana (impulse). So when you see unpleasant form, an old woman for ex., it is vipaka-citta of your past lobha (thirst) for ex. But when you think in reply to that it is active consiousness and creates kamma that will be experienced with the right conditions until nibbana. Be careful with your thoughts. Every thought is an action and casts your mano-dvara\bhavanga\door of the mind which experiences objects. The worse the thoughts the unbearable is the world.

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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by avisitor » Wed Oct 25, 2017 5:34 am

If a person is born and has Karma from a previous life to drama out
Then isn't it possible that Karma has influence upon the thoughts of a person?
But, this isn't to say that there is no free will .. free will to choose the action upon which to take

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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by White Lotus » Tue Oct 31, 2017 3:35 pm

It seems to me that many of my thoughts seek to reinforce an imaginary self! How funny!: "He likes my post. Oh that's nice and logical. I have done well." Nothing wrong with such thoughts; but they seek to support an illusion. If we are mindful we will be aware of such thoughts and just smile at them and let them vanish without judging ourselves. :rolleye:
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:25 pm

No karmic activity occurs outside of the mind.
There is a mistaken idea that activity of the body, speech and mind attracts karma, as though karma is a force in the universe, like gravity,
or that the cosmos metes out rewards and punishments to individuals who do good or bad things.
But this view is based on the (mis)understanding that karma is external.

But if you look at a specific example of how karma functions, perhaps it will make things clearer:
Suppose you kill a living being
maybe intentionally, for example, hunting for a rabbit.
Maybe by accident. For example, a rabbit runs out in front of your car before you can stop.

If you set out to intentionally do it to begin with,
if you take pleasure or delight in having taken that life,
and you look forward to doing the same thing again,
these are three things that contribute to the weight of the karma you are creating (or perhaps, "accumulating")

And the reason why this carries "karmic weight" is because thoughts are not just things that arise with brain activity
but a thought is actually something you practice.
As a friend of mine said to me recently, "we aren't just "on" facebook. we practice facebook as a state of mind."

So, we practice thoughts for a second, or for a while, or over and over, and the more we practice them, the more they become imprints, or patterns in the mind, that create a context or framework for all of our other thoughts, that all of our other actions of body, speech and mind occur in relation to,
and from that we establish a sense of identity or "self" such as, "I'm a hunter" or "I'm a vegan"
and we maintain these thoughts of identity even when we are not actually hunting or eating vegetables.

So, to the degree that thoughts contribute to the sensation or personal experience of a "self" or ego,
to that degree, a thought has karma as a consequence.

So, it's more accurate to say thoughts have karma as a consequence
rather than saying a thought is karmic.

If you are asking whether thoughts we have are the result of karma, then yes, they arise in relation to previous thoughts.
But, if you imagine something like "could I kill somebody and get away with it" that doesnt mean you have that thought because you killed somebody in a past life. If you think, "wish I could fly" it doesn't mean you used to be a bird.
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Re: Are thoughts random or karmic? Or neither or both?

Post by PuerAzaelis » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:18 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:25 pm
... a thought is actually something you practice.

The more you think it, the stickier it gets. It catches its food that way. Maybe if you say a kind work to it, it will eat the carbon dioxide from your breath.

Before you know it you'll be changing its diapers and listening to it complain.

Don't try to get rid of it though. Give it enough time and sunshine and the ice will melt all by itself to start its own life somewhere else.

Generally, enjoyment of speech is the gateway to poor [results]. So it becomes the foundation for generating all negative emotional states. Jampel Pawo, The Certainty of the Diamond Mind

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