Karma and Intention

We know that karma (kamma in Pali) is the law of cause and effect: that is, all effects have causes, all causes lead inevitably to effects. Sometimes the progression of cause to effect is easy to see, but it is often difficult to realize that all causes are also effects and all effects in their turn become causes in an endless spiraling loop. And this is only one strand of a complex and infinite web of cause-effect relationships!

We begin to see that everything we feel, experience, think, take in through any of the six sense doors is conditioned (that is, arises because it was created by or formed or made by conditions or elements that were themselves created or formed or made by other conditions, and so on). If you sit with this for awhile, letting the mind relax, taking in the endless chain of cause and effect, not thinking about it but experiencing it--it can explode your consciousness or open you up like a lotus flower in bloom.

When we intimately know kamma, we have a better understanding of impermanence as a characteristic of existence, since it follows that if all feelings, thoughts, structures, forms, etc. are the product of conditions, they are characterized by impermanence (will fall away) when their originating conditions change, which they inevitably will.

Kamma is usually taught in conjunction with the concept of intention; in Buddhist thought, these are inextricably linked. It is believed that the effect of an action is not primarily determined by the act itself but rather by the intention, that in fact the intention is what causes the karmic effect to arise (since the action itself is neutral). This provides the mechanism through which liberation (freedom from dukkha) occurs.

Grasping, hatred and ignorance are the seedbed from which intention is formed. Intention prompts karmic results. Only an action that is free from desire, hatred, fear and delusion is without karmic effect. It is action without karmic residue or remainder. By cultivating mindfulness, we train the mind to see impermanence, kamma and intention through our direct experience.

Words just point the way–-there is no substitute for direct experience.

Posted by Deb.