Zen Wisdom 185



Shih-fu, you once said that speech and action create karma, but thoughts do not; that thoughts can lead to speech and action which create karma, but thoughts by themselves cannot. Previously I had understood thoughts to be dharmas just like speech and action. As such they have a certain force, and therefore they can affect things. You have also said that mental power can help, hurt, even kill. This is neither action nor speech. It is purely mental. For instance, at the end of retreat we silently transfer merit with the intention of helping sentient beings. Lastly, the Mahayana tradition says that thoughts alone can break precepts. Can you clear up the confusion?


Of the three activities ─ actions, speech and thought ─ thought is most important. If an apparently conscious person acts or speaks without mental awareness, then either the person is being directed by an outside force or the person is insane. Therefore, if the mind is not involved when the body acts or speech occurs, then no karma is created.