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Do negative thoughts, even if unacted upon, cause negative karma?

Because Buddhism believes in right intentions of mind, body and speech, i was curious as to wether bad/negative thoughts cause bad karma in the same way that an action would? Are thoughts not subject to karma, are they less powerful than actions, or is thinking something bad the same as preforming the action?

Comments

  • Bad thoughts can lead to the hell realms. It is where my sister is. Purely within her thoughts she has thought herself into pain, suffering, hell. We try to bring her out. Slowly she is emerging.

    By beneficial thoughts alone, you can enter the blissful Purelands. The a Purelands may be a trap or a nice place for an excursion . . .

    Never underestimate the karmic potential of the mind . . . but 'don't have a cow man'.

    Move towards the Purelands and beyond . . . :wave:
    KundoJeffreyriverflow
  • Bad thoughts can lead to the hell realms. It is where my sister is. Purely within her thoughts she has thought herself into pain, suffering, hell. We try to bring her out. Slowly she is emerging.

    By beneficial thoughts alone, you can enter the blissful Purelands. The a Purelands may be a trap or a nice place for an excursion . . .

    Never underestimate the karmic potential of the mind . . . but 'don't have a cow man'.

    Move towards the Purelands and beyond . . . :wave:
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    Rein said:

    Because Buddhism believes in right intentions of mind, body and speech, i was curious as to wether bad/negative thoughts cause bad karma in the same way that an action would? Are thoughts not subject to karma, are they less powerful than actions, or is thinking something bad the same as preforming the action?

    I'd personally say that unskillful thoughts are a form of unskillful action since the Buddha defines kamma (literally 'action') as intentional acts of body, speech, and mind (AN 6.63). That said, my understanding is that the results aren't as weighty or won't ripen fully if not acted upon, or if they're mitigated by skillful and virtuous acts (e.g., those motivated by non-greed, non-hatred, and-non delusion, the cultivation of the brahma-viharas, etc.).
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I think Jason is on the right track from this perspective: You can't control what thoughts pop into your head...therefore I would say there is no karma involved. You can control -- to an extent -- what your mind does with the thought.

    For example, someone who is very sexy to you may walk by. A certain thought pops into your head. Do you continue the thought or move on?
  • We are entangled in karma. That is another way of saying bad thoughts. We know there is the potential to suffer. Our lives are impermanent.

    However! We can practice and learn to be less heavy handed on ourselves. When we relax and examine our deepest wishes without delusion we can cut through the bad thoughts and see that deep inside them is buddhanature.
  • There are three main actions in Buddhism: Body, Speech, and Mind.

    As long as there is an I, subjective entity relating to Other than I aka the objective entities then there will be time and space. If there is I and the space, during between I and other then there is going to be cause and effect. Causes will seem distinct from effects and vice versa.

    Long story short, yes negative thoughts do leave negative imprints in the storehouse consciousness. When the right conditions are there then the seed will ripen, etc.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 2013
    vinlyn said:

    I think Jason is on the right track from this perspective: You can't control what thoughts pop into your head...therefore I would say there is no karma involved. You can control -- to an extent -- what your mind does with the thought.

    For example, someone who is very sexy to you may walk by. A certain thought pops into your head. Do you continue the thought or move on?

    When it comes to thoughts that just kind of pop up, I agree. I've even heard monks who suggest these kinds of thoughts can be seen as the results of past kamma and it's how we react to them that would constitute as present kamma. When talking about unskillful thoughts that we intentionally think and elaborate upon, however, I'd definitely count those as unskillful actions of mind (e.g., see SN 35.145).
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Jason said:

    vinlyn said:

    I think Jason is on the right track from this perspective: You can't control what thoughts pop into your head...therefore I would say there is no karma involved. You can control -- to an extent -- what your mind does with the thought.

    For example, someone who is very sexy to you may walk by. A certain thought pops into your head. Do you continue the thought or move on?

    When it comes to thoughts that just kind of pop up, I agree. I've even heard monks who suggest these kinds of thoughts can be seen as the results of past kamma and it's how we react to them that would constitute as present kamma. When talking about unskillful thoughts they we intentionally think and elaborate upon, however, I'd definitely count those as unskillful actions of mind (e.g., see SN 35.145).
    Exactly.

  • edited October 2013
    I don't think that random thoughts that occur beyond our control count for anything because that is just our nature. Just as our body has wastes that it must excrete. However, if we somehow cause an affliction to ourselves or others by our thoughts, then that would be karma. Causing an affliction to oneself by thoughts would be like thinking about something so much that it causes physical or mental change. An affliction to others by our thoughts would be like thinking about something and not being aware of the other person or thinking negatively about a person for no reason then believing in it. This is just my own definition. I could be wrong.
  • Rein said:

    Because Buddhism believes in right intentions of mind, body and speech, i was curious as to wether bad/negative thoughts cause bad karma in the same way that an action would? Are thoughts not subject to karma, are they less powerful than actions, or is thinking something bad the same as preforming the action?

    Your mind will become so clouded that you have a burden in your chest, I think.
    Jeffrey
  • SabreSabre Veteran
    edited October 2013
    As said, karma is intentional action of body, speech and mind. Actions that happen unintentionally, by accident, are things like stepping on a bug, that's not bad karma. But thoughts are always formed by some intention, they are not accidental. The line between 'controllable' and 'uncontrollable' thoughts fades away in meditation where we can see that all thoughts are really arising out of deeper tendencies. For example, on the coarser level, thoughts of favorite meals out of tendencies of craving, thoughts of hurting out of tendencies of anger, etc.

    So a thought like that is in essence an unskillful (some say 'wrong') action. But without these thoughts we would have a hard time noticing what goes on in our mind. It would be harder to change our intentions, our tendencies and ways of thinking. Now we can do something about it. If as soon as a bad thought comes up, we try to counter it with thoughts of kindness and renunciation, we sort of blast the 'bad' karma away with good karma. So next time the thoughts of anger and greed are less likely to arise. See also suttas such as MN19 and MN20 for more about this twofold ways of thinking.

    Of course acting upon a bad thought is more unskillful, because we already forgot these steps to counter the action when it was still small. The action will have more momentum and be harder to be countered by goodness. There are suttas also pointing to this, but I don't know by head where.
    EvenThird
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Trungpa Rinpoche said that no thought deserves a gold star or a reprimand. I think the thoughts we are referring to are the fourth skhanda of mental formations. But that is not ourselves so we cannot rely on controlling the skhandas. Muddy water let stand will clear.
    cvalue
  • There is a lot of misunderstanding about karma. This teacher's explanation helped my understanding.

    Perhaps this will help in your understanding of Karma.

    "Our thoughts are our karma. Our likes and dislikes. There are hundreds of likes and dislikes, a thousand opinions, ten thousand concepts about how things are that have been conditioned by previous experience.

    All these likes and dislikes drive us from action to action, creating more karma, more causes for future results.

    There is little you can do about what arises in the mind. What arises is karmically conditioned by what has gone before.
    The sooner we notice the arising of thoughts and moods and realize they are just karmic fruits of the past the easier it is to let go.

    In the course of life certain things are karmically given, one of which is that with every object of mind there arises karmically conditioned feelings of attraction or repulsion or, at times, indifference. Out of this liking and disliking comes craving, which forges the grasping that conditions the next link in the karmic chain. It is the clear recognition of the feeling of liking and disliking, without reaction, that cuts the karmic chain. Gradually we get so that we can watch liking and disliking with clarity. This clear seeing may be experienced as pleasant although the object noticed is unpleasant.
    When awareness is strong, grasping is weak. When grasping is weakened, volition toward unwholesome actions has less intensity.

    Developing awareness means not only knowing that we're involved in a certain action, but also recognizing the motivation. But such motivations are not something to ponder. We either see it in the present moment or we don't. It is not 20/20 hindsight or the analytical mind that uncovers the karmic root of the moment. We just watch our mind."

    from A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine.
    SabreEvenThirdcvalue
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