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It is mainly the intention that defines our actions as good and skillful or as bad and clumsy. That is why the Buddha says: “The intention is what I call Karma (Action). Because by having an intention, one performs an action with the body, the speech or the mind”.

Intention – Action

Thus, what really lies behind all of our actions, i.e. the essence of all of our actions, is our intention, the power of our will, our volition. It is this intention that is expressed as an action of the body, the speech and the mind that the Buddha calls Karma (Action). And in this context, intention and action mean “moral intention” and “moral action”.

This means that an involuntary action, an unintentional action, is not regarded as Karma, as a “moral action’. If, for example, we accidentally step on and kill a few ants as we walk down the street, this is not considered as Karma (Action) of murder, because there was no intention to kill them.

Non-Intention – Unethical Action

However, if we kill them with the intention of murdering them, intentionally and deliberately, then it is considered as Karma (Action) of murder.

Intention – Ethical Action

Similarly if, e.g. if we accidentally drop a banknote in the bowl of a beggar, it is not considered as Karma (Action) of generosity, because there was no intention of donating it.

Non-Intention – Unethical Action

But if we give it with the intention of generosity, intentionally and deliberately, then it is considered as Karma (Action) of generosity.

Intention – Ethical Action

In this way, we can distinguish here the moral content of an action according to the good or bad intention. Thus, Karma is basically equivalent to morally voluntary, intentional good or bad actions.

Therefore, we can say that whoever does evil with bad intentions reaps evil, and whoever does good with good intentions reaps good. Thus, in Buddhism, we not only evaluate the external manifestation of an action as moral or immoral, but we also evaluate its internal manifestation as an intention.

The law of Karma (of Action), the cause and effect of actions, explains the power of our intention: Our intentions create causes. Within the seed of our personal intentions are the roots of the causes. These causes create effects that we experience in our lives as living conditions.

This explanation of Karma (of Action) thus places the ultimate responsibility of human destiny in our hands. It reveals to us that our ethical choices and actions can become either a cause of pain and bonds, or a means of spiritual freedom. Thus, Karma (the Action) is the Buddhist concept of the voluntary action as a force that shapes and transforms human destiny. And the message here is:

Change your intentions and change your life…

Transform your actions and you will create a whole new fate.