[Buddha-l] liturgical languages

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Tue May 10 10:18:32 MDT 2005

On Tue, 2005-05-10 at 11:01 +0700, Randall Jones wrote:

> And I can hear a cough or a sneeze (and even a word involuntarily spoken
> should there be such)--though I'd be reluctant to call these "actions," just
> because I find it difficult to superimpose on these the "mental constructs"
> which define for me what it means for an observable behavior to actually be
> an action. 

Sanskrit and Pali distinguish between kriyaa and karman. The former is
any action, such as an involuntary one or even the action of an
inanimate object, such as a rock falling down a hill. The latter is for
deliberate actions. In Buddhism it is for deliberate actions performed
by an agent whose motive is some kind of personal benefit. So arhants do
not do karma; they do, however, do kriyaa.

I take it that no one but the agent of an action can know whether or not
the action is a karman. So if I see somone cough, I can observe the
action. But if I use that observation as an inference of the agent's
mental state, as when I say "You coughed on purpose," then I am
superimposing a construct onto the observation.

> Am I confused enough yet?

How confused would you like to be? If you need a bit more, please come
back. I'm always ready and willing to confuse people.

Richard Hayes
Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico

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