Kamma is a Pali word meaning action. Specifically volitional action, a choice or decision made by your own will. It is also known as Karma in Sanskrit. I will be using the spelling in Pali.

Kamma is not a mystical word and doesn't concern forces outside of ourselves. Kamma isn't something directed or controlled by a god or deity. It is, quite only, our intentional actions. Kamma is about what we choose to do. It is not about the subconscious and involuntary actions. It is only about volitional actions.

Where is kamma born?

Where does it come from? Kamma is generated from our minds. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha said, "The mind is the forerunner of all things. Act or speak with a defiled state of mind, and suffering will follow. As surely, the cartwheel follows the foot of the ox."
That is a statement about our kamma and our volitional action.

What are the aspects of kamma?

We have three foundational aspects; mental, physical, and verbal.

As you can probably surmise, the physical and verbal originate from the mind. Physical acts that are not wholesome contribute to bad kamma. For example, fighting, physical abuse, sexual misconduct, and even a tap on the back might be done from a not so pure reason. These are physical manifestations stemming from the poor mental judgment. It is the unwholesome state of mind that causes the physical actions that have bad kammic results.

Speech produces kamma. We have harsh speech and malicious speech that also contribute to bad kammic results. From the Mangala sutta, the Buddha expounds on various blessings or wholesome things in life. He says that whatever utterance is well-spoken, this is the blessing supreme. Speech is the easiest way to slip up. How often have we allowed ourselves to speak harshly or carelessly and caused problems?

Most people can control their physical. I find the speech is effortless to transgress with all the texting and emailing in our modern culture. The wrong word and tone can slip out and hurt or offend easily.
What kind of kamma are we generating with our verbal and physical actions?

Finally, there is the mental aspect, which is the root of the three.
What thoughts exist, and what kamma are we making now?
When we don't agree with someone, what is our first thought? Is it malicious? Is it demeaning? Is it inappropriate or offensive?

We can't always fully see the repercussions of our kamma. If we can see clearly within our minds, maybe we would be more chaste with our actions.

Actions have results. It isn't any kind of revelation or a new lesson. We learn from early on that actions have consequences. We become so engrossed in our happiness and wellbeing that we tend to let our actions become a source of suffering for others, and in turn, ourselves.

Kamma Control

It is through the repeated reflection of our actions that we can cultivate skillful behavior and reduce bad kamma. There are chances when we can gain wisdom from and gain skillful knowledge. Before you perform some action, you should consider if it is wholesome or conducive to the suffering of yourself or others. While performing actions, we should think about whether it is wholesome or leads to the plight of yourself or others. Hafter performing some action, we should reflect on it and think about its effects as well.

There are three primary roots that are causing the bad kamma to grow; avijja- ignorance, not understanding the truth: tanha- which is greed or desire: virodha- which is anger and hatred.

Ignorance, craving, and anger are the three seeds. They are the fundamental elements we much try to root out. Like weeds in the garden, they must be eradicated. This is a long process. It doesn't happen overnight. It requires a lot of diligent work. We are the masters of our kamma. Everyone has their own kamma. We cant change someone's own kamma.

We must focus on ourselves and contemplate the three opportunities when they present themselves.
We should never wish someone to experience bad kamma etc.
Wishing for that is part of the seed of anger.
We must purify our acts of body, speech, and mind. The goal is to be the best we can. It is not about being perfect or saintly. It is, however, about trying.

Conditions that would bring you better kamma would be generosity,
loving-kindness and wisdom.
These are antidotes that will help.

Remember, kamma is not a mystical force. It has nothing to do with gods or past lives. What you think of as bad luck, a crappy childhood, string of bad dates, jerky manager at work, they can not be ascribed to kamma.

Kamma is something you can control. Look at how your mind works. Attend to your mind before, during, and after. Is it peaceful and friendly or filled with hatred or narrow mindedness? We need more loving-kindness and wisdom. We should, as martial artists, try to understand ourselves and each other better. Governing our thinking, speech, and physical actions are paramount.

sword instructor shinkan ryu



Saneteru Radzikowski is the head sword instructor of Shinkan-ryū Kenpō. He lives and teaches Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu from Nara, Japan.