That Schopenhauerian title!
Kamma is often translated by volitional action. But when we analyze it, it becomes clear that it is less the act (action, speech, thought) that counts than the voluntary intention, the will behind it. Would it therefore be possible to translate kamma by will? I find that it fits better with reincarnation too: the will to continue making us live again.
By possible, I mean, wouldn’t that betray the meaning of the word? I’m also asking to know if I understood kamma correctly.
Volition and will are synonymous, and will is bound up with attention (manasikara), which means we can use each opportunity to cause either growth or regression on the path as will guides attention, based on the second path factor right resolve:
“Now, what is the food for the arising of unarisen mindfulness as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of mindfulness as a factor for Awakening once it has arisen? There are mental qualities that act as a foothold for mindfulness as a factor for Awakening [well-purified virtue & views made straight]. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen mindfulness as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of mindfulness as a factor for Awakening once it has arisen.”—SN 46.51
Unwise attention starves the factors for awakening.
There is a further aspect, strength of will:
“Monks, I have known two qualities through experience: discontent with regard to skillful qualities and unrelenting exertion. Relentlessly I exerted myself, [thinking,] ‘Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.’ From this heedfulness of mine was attained Awakening. From this heedfulness of mine was attained the unexcelled freedom from bondage.”—AN 2.5
If you search this site you can find a lot of information from the discussions already done on the topic.
In AN 6.63, the Buddha said “Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi” - “intenten, Bhikkus is action”
In addition, I found this link which you might be interested in;
This thread on the related topic of sankharas might also be of interest:
Will is one of the words I considered for words in this spectrum. It’s nice and short. But it suffers from being unpluralable, which means you’d be forced into such constructions as “acts of will”. Anyway, I think it’s worth exploring.
The way i understand it is that Kamma (in the context of action leading to suffering) is ignorant will/volition. Ignorance here refers to the way things are.
In my opinion, the main difficulty is not with finding the more accurate translation of Kamma, but with the nature of the construct itself. When the will is taken as a link of a larger construct, then the accuracy of its true meaning is bound by the extent of which the meaning of other links is understood. From that perspective, the true meaning can be found in action itself and whether the action leads to suffering or cessation of suffering. It has little to do with the presence or absence of will per se.
There can be a wise will and there can be an ignorant will.
In other words, if:
1- the old philosophical debate of free will vs determinism is taken as the two extremes, and if
2- The law of dependent origination is the middle way, which is still describing ignorant action, then
3- The meaning of the will is not context free, hence an act of betrayal would necessitate unskillful use of the will.
Considering the above, does the following describe the presence of will? the absence of will? neither? or both?
“Bhikkhus, for a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous, no volition need be exerted: ‘Let non-regret arise in me.’ It is natural that non-regret arises in a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous.
“Thus, bhikkhus, (9)–(10) the knowledge and vision of liberation is the purpose and benefit of disenchantment and dispassion; (8) disenchantment and dispassion are the purpose and benefit of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are; (7) the knowledge and vision of things as they really are is the purpose and benefit of concentration; (6) concentration is the purpose and benefit of pleasure; (5) pleasure is the purpose and benefit of tranquility; (4) tranquility is the purpose and benefit of rapture; (3) rapture is the purpose and benefit of joy; (2) joy is the purpose and benefit of non-regret; and (1) non-regret is the purpose and benefit of virtuous behavior.
“Thus, bhikkhus, one stage flows into the next stage, one stage fills up the next stage, for going from the near shore to the far shore.”