Karma, Intention & Wise Speech

People often struggle to understand karma. Karma is simply the law of cause and effect, and in our lives this law of cause and effect depends on our intention. To understand, notice how the motivation or intention preceding an action determines the future karmic result of that action. If an act is motivated by true kindness, it will necessarily bring a positive result, and if an act is motivated by aggression or greed, over time it will eventually bring an unpleasant result. But because karmic results do not always bear fruit immediately, it is sometimes difficult to observe this process.

Speech is one area in which karma can be seen in an easy and direct way. For this exercise, resolve to take two or three days to carefully notice the intentions that motivate your speech. Direct your attention to the state of mind that precedes talking, the motivation for your comments, responses, and observations. Try to be particularly aware of whether your speech is even subtly motivated by boredom, concern, irritation, loneliness, compassion, fear, love, competitiveness, greed, or whatever state you observe. Be aware, too, of the general mood or state of your heart and mind, and how that may be influencing your speech. Try to observe without any judgment or program of what you should see. Simply notice the various motivations in the mind and the speech that flows from them.

Then, after discovering which motivation is present as you speak, notice the effect of the speech. If there is competitiveness or grasping or pride or irritation behind the speech, what response does it elicit from the world around you? If there is compassion or love, what is the response? If your speech is mindless, as if you were on automatic pilot, what is the response? If there is clarity and concern, how is this received and responded to?

With the law of karma we have a choice in each new moment of what response our heart and mind will bring to the situation around us. In discovering the power of our inner states to determine outer conditions, we are able to follow a path that can lead to genuine happiness and freedom.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “Seeking the Heart of Wisdom” by Jack Kornfield & Joseph Goldstein.


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