Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

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Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby Stephen K » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:37 pm

It is possible to do an unintentional, unwholesome deed, like stepping on ants you didn't see were there.

But is it possible to think, e.g. an unwholesome thought, without any intention behind it?

And what about speech?


P.S. To clarify the purpose of my question: sometimes I have unwholesome thoughts, and immediately after that I ask myself "Did I really mean to think this?"... So I wonder whether such thoughts are bad kamma.
With metta,
Upāsaka Sumana
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby Reductor » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:33 pm

By thought do you mean verbal thought?

If so, then I think that there are no unintentional thoughts, but they may seem so if we were not paying enough attention to their source. If we notice some feature about a person that is similar to another person we know, who we had a romantic relationship with, then we will be vaguely aware of that similarity - but if we give rise a verbal thought based on that similarity, then that thought was intended.

The time from when we perceive the similarity to the formation of the thought is very brief, and the thought overshadows the initial perception, which leaves you with the impression that the thought came out of nowhere.

The only way that an unwholesome thought is going to bring suffering now and in the future is if you form the desire for that thought not to have occurred, or to stop immediately, or to continue. If you want it to stop or not have occurred, then you will continue a line of thought about the initial thought and what it meant, and that is annoying and can give rise to self recrimination which is unnecessary. If you like the thought, or think it to be justified, then you will also continue the chain of thoughts, and might start to think that they are proper and fitting for you, which makes them more likely in the future.

The only time you are in any danger is when you feel attracted to that thought, or unhappy about it. If you feel neither and can easily turn the mind to other things, then that is best.

In terms of speech, I think you cannot speak without intention, any more than you can jump up and down. Thoughts and perceptions are also arisen by volition, and they all fall into the category of kamma.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby ground » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:17 pm

Stefan wrote:It is possible to do an unintentional, unwholesome deed, like stepping on ants you didn't see were there.

But is it possible to think, e.g. an unwholesome thought, without any intention behind it?

Based on habituation a thought may arise in certain situation without the subject being actively involved.

Stefan wrote:And what about speech?

Speech follows thought/motivation. So there is always intention.

Stefan wrote:P.S. To clarify the purpose of my question: sometimes I have unwholesome thoughts, and immediately after that I ask myself "Did I really mean to think this?"... So I wonder whether such thoughts are bad kamma.

If at the moment of the arising of the unwholesome thought you are mindful and notice that it is false and block it then there is no negative karma. Negative karma is taking a liking to an unwholesome thought and nourish it.

Kind regards
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby cooran » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:04 pm

Hello Stefan,

This may be of interest:

The Removal of Distracting Thoughts (Vitakka-Santhana Sutta) translated by Soma Thera
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el021.html

Habitual ways of thinking
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... html#habit

with metta
Chris
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:12 pm

what do you mean by intentional? if i go to a movie then 4 days later while drinking a cup of coffee a scene from that film pops into my head is that intentional? maybe , i mean i caused it to happen by going to that movie.

when you sit and meditate, do you intentionally cause everyone one of those distracting thoughts to come up? do you say to yourself, "now lets be distracted"?

on days when you wake up happy or maybe you wake up sad with thoughts of a lost friend or past love, where you intentionally trying to be happy or sad? did you say to yourself 'haven't been depressed in a bit, lets feel crappy today"?

what about dreams, those are thoughts..

at some point we set up the causes or conditions for every thought that pops into our heads; if we didn't go to that film we'd never seen the scene we think about later, if we never made a certain friend we'd never think back on certain occasion with sadness or joy, if we don't kill our self Tuesday we have all of the experiences of the next week to have thoughts about them, but is that really intention?
Last edited by jcsuperstar on Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby cooran » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:38 pm

:goodpost:

Well said JC!

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby meindzai » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:48 pm

Stefan wrote:It is possible to do an unintentional, unwholesome deed, like stepping on ants you didn't see were there.

But is it possible to think, e.g. an unwholesome thought, without any intention behind it?

And what about speech?


P.S. To clarify the purpose of my question: sometimes I have unwholesome thoughts, and immediately after that I ask myself "Did I really mean to think this?"... So I wonder whether such thoughts are bad kamma.


I think there is an element of intention behind *everything* we say and think, but it can be at a very subtle level. Even our breathing is "bodily fabrication." I think this implies there's an intention behind it. Perhaps the craving for bodily existence.

I believe there is a Dhammapada story (non-canonical) where an arahant steps on some bugs and kills them. Some other monks blame him but the Buddha maintains that since this monk was an arahant, there was no evil intention behind this act.

In other cases though, there might be a lack of mindfuless - which is not as bad as intentional killing, but it would have been better to tread carefully. A lot of the vinaya rules seem to have to do more with this principal than of intentional misdeeds.

-M
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby cooran » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:49 pm

Hello Stefan, all,

A little more ...

The Buddha clearly states in MN 79 Culasakuludayi Sutta (The Shorter Discourse to Sakuludayin)
End of verse 7:

"But let be the past, Udayin, let be the future... I shall teach you the Dhamma:

When this exists, that comes to be;
with the arising of this, that arises.
When this does not exist, that does not come to be;
with the cessation of this, that ceases."

This is the Paticca-samuppada. That is, nothing pops up from nothing. There are causes and conditions for every single thing (except Nibbana).

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby cooran » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:59 pm

I believe there is a Dhammapada story (non-canonical) where an arahant steps on some bugs and kills them. Some other monks blame him but the Buddha maintains that since this monk was an arahant, there was no evil intention behind this act.


Hello meindzai,

The story is explaining the most famous verse of the Dhammapada ~ Verse 1. But the main point is that he was blind - there was no intention.

Chapter 1 - Yamaka 1 Vagga The Twin Verses (Text and Translation by Ven. Narada)

1. Manopubbangama dhamma 2
manosettha manomaya
Manasa ce padutthena
bhasati va karoti va
Tato nam dukkhamanveti
cakkam'va vahato padam. 1
.

EVIL BEGETS EVIL
1. Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. 3 Mind is chief; mind-made are they.
If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that, suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox. 1.
Story
A middle-aged devout person, named Cakkhupala, became a monk and was energetically leading a contemplative life. As a result of his strenuous endeavour he realized Arahantship, 4 the final stage of Sainthood, but unfortunately went blind.
One day as he was pacing up and down the ambulatory he unintentionally killed many insects. Some visiting monks, noticing the blood-stained ambulatory, complained to the Buddha that he had committed the offence of killing. The Buddha explained that the monk had killed them unintentionally and that he was an Arahant.
The monks then wished to know the cause of his blindness.
The Buddha related that in a past birth, as a physician, that particular monk had given an ointment to a poor woman to restore her eyesight. She promised that, with her children, she would become his servants if her eyesight was restored. The physician's remedy proved effective, but the woman, not willing to keep her promise, pretended that her eyes were getting worse. The cruel physician, yielding to a wicked thought, retaliated by giving her another ointment which blinded her eyes. In consequence of his past evil action the Arahant became blind.
* * *
This is the retributive aspect of the law of Kamma, the other being the continuative aspect, that is - the transmission of individual characteristics, impressions, tendencies, etc. throughout one's wanderings in Samsara.
An Arahant, though free from all impurities, has to reap the fruit of the seed he himself had sown in the remote past.
The Buddhas and Arahants do not accumulate fresh Kamma as they have eradicated the roots - ignorance and craving- but, as every other being, they are not exempt from the inevitable consequences of both good and bad past actions.
http://home.nethere.net/dsparks/narada/ ... 0Vagga.htm

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby BlackBird » Sun Apr 11, 2010 10:02 pm

There was a time when I was thinking a lot of unwholesome thoughts, I mean I would be sitting there meditating and a whole host of really nasty things would come up. I was getting quite upset. Anyway I went and asked Venerable Dhammajiva how to put an end to this papanca and he said something along the lines of:

"These thoughts are always there, but you're the one who's paying attention to them. They're like a bunch of hooligans standing at your door, every time they knock you go and answer the door and then they harass you. So it's up to you whether you open the door or not. Aren't you getting tired of opening the door so they can play the same old tricks on you? So don't worry about papanca - Just stop opening the door."

metta
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby Clueless Git » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:41 am

Stefan wrote:But is it possible to think, e.g. an unwholesome thought, without any intention behind it?

And what about speech?

I think it is as entirely possible to the exact same degree that it is impossible to be 100% mindfull 100% of the time.
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Re: Is there such a thing as unintentional thoughts?

Postby Stuart » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:37 pm

BlackBird wrote:There was a time when I was thinking a lot of unwholesome thoughts, I mean I would be sitting there meditating and a whole host of really nasty things would come up. I was getting quite upset. Anyway I went and asked Venerable Dhammajiva how to put an end to this papanca and he said something along the lines of:

"These thoughts are always there, but you're the one who's paying attention to them. They're like a bunch of hooligans standing at your door, every time they knock you go and answer the door and then they harass you. So it's up to you whether you open the door or not. Aren't you getting tired of opening the door so they can play the same old tricks on you? So don't worry about papanca - Just stop opening the door."

metta
Jack

:anjali:

This is also my view - treat them just the same way as sight, sound, smell, taste and touch - out there - external to the mind - some pleasant, others not so pleasant. They are there, but we don't have to engage with them when they come knocking on the sense doors. Maybe just to know them (and develop metta towards the less pleasant ones) is enough.

Whatever you do, don't think of an elephant :)

Stuart
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