The Compass of the Heart

We hear the word karma all the time. I heard it on the radio in an advertisement for cars, “It’s Bob Bridge’s karma to sell to you for less.” I saw it on a drugstore greeting card, a chimpanzee with a sad looking face, “I’m repenting of my bad karma for forgetting to send a birthday gift.” When events overtake us, people say, “It’s your karma,” but what does karma mean? Karma describes the law of cause and effect, what we sow, we reap. More importantly, karma is the result of our intention. Suppose a man picks up a knife and plunges it into another man’s body, causing his death. What kind of karma has he created?  If the wielder of the knife is a skilled surgeon undertaking a risky procedure to relieve suffering, the karma is positive, even if the patient dies.  But the same act done out of anger will produce the painful karma of murder.

Intention and motivation, the roots of karma, are absolutely central to Buddhist psychology.  The most effective way to direct our karma is to clarify our motivation and set an intention.

When our intention is to live with nobility, respect and compassion, and we act from these intentions, skillful karma is produced.  When our motivation is rooted in anger, unworthiness, grasping, self-judgment, fear, and depression, and we act from these intentions, painful karma is produced.


This is a seventeenth principle of Buddhist psychology:


Principle #17:  Be mindful of intention. Intention is the seed that creates our future.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart

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