Are Effects independent of Intention?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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rolling_boulder
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Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by rolling_boulder » Wed May 06, 2015 2:31 am

Hello,

In Buddhism it is commonly said that the intention behind an action is the important factor.

For instance, when we are raking the lawn, and our intent is to make the lawn more healthy in the long run, then the intention is good even if some innocent insects and grass plants are killed in the process.

On the other hand, when we intend to cause harm, for instance, if I were to stab someone with a broken bottle with the intent of killing them, then that is a bad intention.

But my question is "why does the intention matter?" Are the effects of an action somehow dependent on my intent?
For example, if I stabbed the person accidentally, all other factors the same, would the effects be different? :shrug:
Would someone else be able to tell one way or another that the killing was or was not intentional by some subtle difference in the effects?

If so, then please explain further how this is so.

If not, then why would intention be relevant? Just how is kamma related to intention if they are independent?

It is said by some that "intention IS kamma."
Could someone please explain?

Thank you
RB
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
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Goofaholix
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Re: Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by Goofaholix » Wed May 06, 2015 2:48 am

If you look at conditionality (cause and affect) on it's own then it's an impersonal process and intention isn't necessarily a part of it.

What the teaching on Kamma adds to that is a moral dimension, so the morality of one's actions is based on the intention behind them.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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ryanM
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Re: Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by ryanM » Wed May 06, 2015 3:14 am

Maybe checking out the Lonaphala Sutta: The Salt Crystal to see what the Buddha has to say about the ripening of karma will help. I don't know how to hyperlink text, but it's a simple search on google.

Best regards,

Ryan
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"nothing whatsoever should be clung to"

santa100
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Re: Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by santa100 » Wed May 06, 2015 3:55 am

rolling_boulder wrote:But my question is "why does the intention matter?" Are the effects of an action somehow dependent on my intent?
For example, if I stabbed the person accidentally, all other factors the same, would the effects be different? :shrug:
Would someone else be able to tell one way or another that the killing was or was not intentional by some subtle difference in the effects?
The physical effect might be the same but the mental effect will be vastly different. Using your knife example, when you stab someone with the full intention to harm, his physical pain would be compounded many folds due to the awareness that you actually wanted to kill him. As a result, he suffers both mentally and physically. On the other hand, if he got stabbed by accident due to your clumsy handling of the knife somehow, the initial physical pain would be the same but he'd harbor no real anger or hatred toward you. And so the physical pain will soon subside for it's not compounded by the mental affliction. Therefore, the mental state in both your mind and his mind at that moment greatly influence future kammic outcomes.

chownah
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Re: Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by chownah » Wed May 06, 2015 9:49 am

A mundane example of how intention makes a difference is in the legal system in many countries. Usually the intent when performing a crime is considered into how harsh the punishment is.....murder with intent to kill vs. manslaughter for instance.

This is a very mundane example but one might be able to get a hint of what difference there is with different intents.
chownah

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed May 06, 2015 9:56 am

The Lonaphala Sutta

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[url=http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.099.than.html]The Lonaphala Sutta[/url]
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kirk5a
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Re: Are Effects independent of Intention?

Post by kirk5a » Wed May 06, 2015 12:50 pm

I wonder if you are not distinguishing between kamma, and the result of kamma.
Kamma literally means "action." The Buddha pointed out that intending, is itself, action.
"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#part-5
So there is the action of intention, by which one does mental, verbal and physical actions.

But it is important to distinguish between kamma, action, and the result of kamma.
"And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here & now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that. This is called the result of kamma.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... tml#part-5
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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