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August 19, 2010


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Let go of controlling the story, and the story takes care of itself.

Lauren Crane

"destruction of life" could be very different from " killing." The former being a very active, goal driven pursuit, and the later including passive accidents. Any clues in Pali as to what the original flavor was?



"In short, the Buddha observes that refuge and precepts produce happiness."

Wonderful stuff! Thank you Barry!

Barry Briggs

Suzanne, thank you for your wise comment. Stories remain stories, if we let them be.

Lauren, you ask an important question - which the post doesn't address. The Buddha was most clear in stating that intention determines the karmic outcome of our actions. For example, in AN 6.63 he says, "Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect." In other places, the Buddha says that it's not enough simply to formulate a correct intention before acting - we must also "check" our intention repeatedly while engaged in the action. If we do this, and our intention is not to harm, then "passive accidents" do not generate afflictions. That's my understanding of this.

Thank you, Marcus!

Lauren Crane


Thank for the detailed consideration. It rather kicks down the door of an understanding I thought I was settled on, which is "intentions and thoughts and so are 'empty'" and I guess, can not be so important to karma. I thought it was the real action itself that was the most important thing to karma, or to assessing the morality or appropriateness or skillfullness of a situation. To say that intention trumps real action sets my head spinning. Guess I'll have to brush up on Buddhist scripture to work this out again. Any recommendations (book title) for a start?


Barry Briggs

Hey Lauren,
The one thing that most distinguishes Buddhism from other paths, in my view, is that intention is everything.

My friend Bob sometimes says, if you want to know what a person intends, look at their actions. Our intentions always become clear, if we look at how we behave in the world. In my case, this is usually not a pleasant bit of self-study.

Here's a place to look into this more (excerpts from the Pali Canon on intention and karma):

And here's a good article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on intention:

No book springs to mind, but I'll give it some thought. TNH probably talks about this in The Heart of Buddha's Teaching, but I don't have it at hand to confirm.

Best wishes,

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