Kamma and Intention

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    • #26664

      There is a question that’s bugging me in the last few hours, regarding kamma and intention. I will present three cases, and I believe there must be an consistent explanation within this three cases, or future similar cases.

      Case 1: The Story of Venerable Chakkupala Thera
      One day, a blind Arahant Venerable Chakkupala Thera was doing walking meditation, and stepped on some insect, causing them to die. The other monks saw it and report it to The Buddha. The Buddha then explained that Ven Chakkupala Thera didn’t see the insects, so he have no intention of killing the insects, thus kamma was not created here (please correct my wording here is you found any errors).

      Case 2: Person A received message from his friends, a video which shows someone fainted on the street near his town, with attached message saying this is because of the recently discovered Coronavirus (which is very suspicious, because the symptom of it resembles flu; but for this case, let’s assume that the message was a hoax). Person A then forwarded the message to Person B. Upon receiving it, B started overreacting, and eventually cause harm in the process of protecting himself from the virus. In this case, A knows that B always overreacts to matter like this, A’s intention is to only warn B of the Virus, not cause harm. A knows that B will overreact, but chooses to keep sending the message instead, without the intention of hurting B. In this case, did A form a new kammic energy?

      Case 3: A grandmother was having a joy taking care of her newborn grandson. Because of her limited knowledge, she thought the more calcium a baby consumed the healthier he will grow. So she bought a calcium tablet, crushed it and feed it to the baby by mixing it into the milk itself. After a few months the baby was diagnosed with a kidney failure. In this case, is kammic energy formed? (the intention is her affection toward the baby).

      I would really like an consistent explanation in this 3 cases, especially in the second and third case, because I’m feeling there must be kammic energy created because of ignorance, at least that is my hypothesis.
      Thank you

    • #26666

      Hello alvino!

      You are correct that case 1 is the easiest.

      It is very clear that Venerable Chakkupala did not see that he was stepping on insects since he was blind. In fact, even one with good eyesight is likely to unintentionally step on insects and other small living forms every day. There is no bad kamma created in these cases.

      The other two cases are a bit more complex. In those two cases, the person was thinking about the issue and acted based on those conscious thoughts.

      On one hand, being ignorant and doing foolish things that can hurt others is not an excuse.
      – However, in the extreme case of an insane person (medically declared to be insane) cannot be held responsible for his/her actions. That is the mundane law, and the Buddha also declared that such a person would not accumulate any bad kamma (I don’t remember the specific sutta.)

      I have some things to attend to this morning. I will think about the specific cases a bit more.
      – In the meantime, I encourage others to think about it and make comments.

    • #26669

      Thank you for the initial response, I’ll be monitoring this thread should any discussion appear.
      I read the last part about insane people not creating kamma (if the action is due to their insanity, I guess?)
      I think it is consistent within Buddha Dhamma, since medically insane people has a brain with broken wiring here and there. Refering to other post about Ghandhabba, and the simile about how manomaya kaya (ghandabba) is like the driver of a tank, if the tank somehow malfunctioned and suddenly start shooting random people, the driver won’t be charged for any crime; that’s the reason medically insane people would not accumulate bad kamma in this case.

      I am still really curious about the 2 cases mentioned in the first comment though.

    • #26670

      It seems that Sybe07 was not able to post a comment and he emailed me the following comment.

      Maybe this sutta can be useful? AN 10. 104

      Case 3

      The grandmother had a bad view about what is wholesome for the baby, so the results (kidney failure) are very bad, suffering. Her intention is questionable. I think it is guided by carelessness, she is not cautious. Why is she not cautious? Does that really show concern with the welbeing of the baby? I think one can question that. She thinks and acts uncritical and that is dangerous and i think also blameful. At least when she is not sick.
      In my opinion the grandmothers intentions are guided by carelessless and therefor cannot really be designated as good. In some sense it is quit immoral to act as such a daredevil with a baby.

    • #26675

      Yes. Both Alvino’s and Sybe’s comments are quite relevant.
      In fact, Alvino’s comment is related to the role of the brain, and Sybe’s is related to the mental body or gandhabba.

      If the brain is damaged, the gandhabba is not getting the correct information and that affects the decision making by the gandhabba.
      – The following video is a really good example of how the gandhabba is affected by the brain, and in general, the physical body. The lady could not see only because there was something wrong with her PHYSICAL eyes, the optic nerve, or the visual cortex in the brain. Once the gandhabba came out, it was able to see for the first time in her life:

      On the other hand, if one has wrong views, then that is an intrinsic problem (per Sybe’s comment.)

      This is why those two cases (cases 2 and 3) are difficult to nail down.

      In Case 2, person A needs to be careful in giving that information to person B, since he knows that particular aspect of person B. Unless person B is in danger of catching the virus, it is better not to convey that message to person B.
      – This is comparable to what is discussed in the following post on right speech:
      Right Speech – How to Avoid Accumulating Kamma.”

      Case 3 is definitely due to ignorance. The grandmother would be responsible for her actions done out of ignorance.

    • #26678

      Could all above comments be concluded by this?
      In case 1, the intention is to only WALK and meditate, it has no direct connection to any other beings (including the insect etc), we can safely say the dying of the insects is purely collateral damage, we can coarsely commpare it to a bolder rollong down a hill (the boulder just moves because of gravity, it has no intention towards any being or anyTHING). This explanation makes much more sense.

      Here’s another case similar to the one above: Some people like to guilt other people for eating meat, since it causes suffering to the animal, but they might not realise even consuming vegetables kills animals (there are bugs, worms and snails killed in the process from planting to harvesting); but the dying of the bugs is again, COLLATERAL, we just consumed the stuff and indirectly cause the unwanted effect.

      In case 2, the intention it to INFORM other party, which directly affects the person B, we cannot say it is collateral damage; A knows B will probably overreact, so kamma is indeed created.
      In case 3 the same happened; Grandmother want to effect baby to not suffer (grow up healthily), but due to ignorance or lack of knowledge about nutritions she caused more suffering instead (failed kidney). Kamma is definitely created.

      It all comes to intention AND parties involved. If the intention involves other party directly, and also directly causes more suffering to them, then we can safely say there is he/she will be responsible in the future. Do please discuss this issue even further.

      To Lal:
      Thank you very much for creating this website, I always find ‘holes’ in people’s view everytime, especially during a 3 year period where I spent a good portion of my spare time studying many major religions and philosophical view, until I stumbled upon this website when researching Citta and Abhidhamma. Not only I found myself automatically sucked into contemplate deeper and deeper concepts, I also felt a burst of joy everytime I stumbled upon newly “rediscovered Dhamma concepts” and after a quick contemplation realised it is in sync with my previous existing Dhamma information, truly the world view puzzle is heading in the right assembly direction.

    • #26679
      y not

      “…automatically sucked into contemplate deeper and deeper concepts,…a burst of joy.. realised it is in sync with my previous existing Dhamma information, the world view puzzle is HEADING IN THE RIGHT (assembly) DIRECTION.” Good. Very good, Al, and so are you!!

      The rest is just the details. An idea of how things should be was already there with you; what you discovered here is that the Buddha had seen it all perfectly and in detail. That Dhamma will now lead you on.

    • #26681

      I think a person who wants to do good, who wants to work for the welfare of others beings, will discover that good intentions sometimes have bad outcome. So, he/she will not be comfortable with the idea of having good intentions, but wants to learn about reality and right views. This i see very much in buddha-dhamma.

    • #26682

      All good comments. It is good to think deeply about these issues.

      But it is also clear that we can make decisions only based on our current status of understanding. Thus it is essential to keep learning and gradually remove all our wrong views. All wrong views are removed only at the Arahant stage.
      – The grandmother made bad decisions because her level of ignorance was high.
      – In case 2, person A may inform person B without thinking clearly about the possible bad consequences. Sometimes it is better NOT to do anything.

      That last statement applies to speech often. It is better NOT to say things EVEN IF true if that is not the right place to say it. See, “Right Speech – How to Avoid Accumulating Kamma.”

      Furthermore, we must always be mindful of our actions and speech. But it is also CRITICAL to be mindful of our THOUGHTS. As we have been discussing in the recent posts on “Origin of Life,” it is in our thoughts (specifically in javana citta) that we create kammic energies.

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