Monthly Archives: October 2012

volition that i call karma



The Pali word kamma or the Sanskrit word karma literally means ‘action’, ‘doing’.  But in the Buddhist theory of karma it has a specific meaning; it means only ‘volitional action’, not all action.  Nor does it mean the result of karma as many people wrongly and loosely refer to it as the ‘fruit’ or the ‘result’ of karma.

 O Bhikkhus, it is volition that I call karma.  Having willed, one acts through body, speech, and mind. ~The Buddha

Volition is mental construction, mental activity.  Its function is to direct the mind in the sphere of good, bad, or neutral activities…Sensations and perceptions are not volitional actions.  They do not produce karmic effects.  It is only volitional actions—such as attention, will, determination, confidence, concentration, wisdom, energy, desire, repugnance or hate, ignorance, conceit, idea of self, etc.—that can produce karmic effects.

Volition may relatively be good or bad, just as desire may relatively be good or bad.  So karma may be good or bad relatively.  Good karma produces good effects, and bad karma produces bad effects.  ‘Thirst’, volition, karma whether good or bad, has one force as its effect:  force to continue—to continue in a good or bad direction.  Whether good or bad it is relative, and is within the cycle of continuity.

The theory of karma should not be confused with so called ‘moral justice’ or ‘reward and punishment’.  The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and reaction; it is natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment.  Every volitional action produces its effects or result.  If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice or reward, or punishment meted out . . . but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law.   According to karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.

Happiness lies not in the ability

to satisfy our every desire,

but rather in the ability

to refrain from reacting compulsively

to every craving and prodding of the mind.~ Peter Ontl



Walpola Rahula,  What the Buddha Taught

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self stories

I have come to realize that I need to remember that my personal musings

often take me down paths of existence that often are,

for others, unknown dimensions of imaginative conclusions.

The personal story is a narrative of our unique sense of identity.  We create our identities through the stories we weave onto a tapestry that is formed against the background of our family mythologies. We pull threads from of an assemblage of recalled details from our pasts and weaved them into images that cast us in whatever role corresponds with our current situations, feelings, thoughts, or actions. The colored threads of this tapestry are often re-embroidered to reflect the creative and dynamic process of our perspectives as we shift in, out, and between various roles, feeling states, recollections, and cognitions.  As we reflect on our self-created images we are in turn affected by them; therefore, there is an unconscious re-weaving of our tapestries.

Our self-stories as well as our family mythologies create and maintain our identities and thus influence how we anticipate experiences, act, and subsequently interpret our situation.  Becoming aware of the tapestry and images we are creating frees us to review patterned behaviors, reframe our story through different colored concepts, and to release rigid interpretations.

The internalization of others also undergoes a similar process of recreation as a means to support our self-stories and thus we unconsciously interact with others through obscure walls of illusions and delusions.

These dynamics come to the foreground when one contemplates family photographs – do we only know of our ancestors through the lives and stories of others?  Who or what validates self-identification within family pictures that predate one’s childhood memories?

…we must trust our ancestors – trust them deeply.  Spinoza points our the fact that our knowledge of parentage and the date of our birth is, in fact, what he calls ‘knowledge hearsay.’ ~The Bodhisattva’s Brain, Owen Flanagan

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