Showing posts with label Intention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Intention. Show all posts

30 December 2011

Morality in Relationship

MANY OF MY BUDDHIST FRIENDS struggle with the idea that the intentions behind actions determine the ethical value of them, i.e. whether they are skilful or unskilful. Some really don't see how this could be. In studying the Kālāma Sutta a penny dropped for me about intention and action.

There is a tendency in the West to discuss ethics and morality in the abstract. We have hypothetical discussions about whether karma might have caught up with Hitler in his next life, or whether one could kill another human being if the intention really was kindness (in the case of euthanasia for instance). We don't always ground our discussion of morality in the day to day and personal. The Kālāma Sutta suggests that this is a mistake. The Buddha critiques a series of ten criteria for making ethical decisions. The first four relate to religious traditions: revelations, lineage, quotations, and tradition. The next five to ways of thinking: speculation, inference, interpreting signs, ideologies, and uncritical acceptance of what seems likely. The last criteria is respect for holy men. [1] He then offers the positive criteria of personal experience as a much better guide to ethical decisions.

My exploration of the terms and my justifications for these translations are set out in my full translation and commentary. Here I want to look at these criteria and what they tell us about the Buddha's morality. In the case of tradition the criteria refer to forms of knowledge which are revealed in various ways and passed down though a teaching lineage. Someone has a vision and organises a movement around themselves (or someone else organises it around them) and everyone who joins is expected to behave a similar way. The rationale for morality is the original vision - but this is not always rooted in practical relationships, and sometimes it ignores the reality of human interactions. Often this kind of morality includes arbitrary elements, morality which is not ethical but simply etiquette. The Vinaya rules for example are largely etiquette with no overt moral significance.

Similarly the various kinds of intellectual criteria refer to ways of thinking about morality which are not rooted in experience. The first is something like Kant's 'pure reason'. When we imagine what the world is like without any reference to experience we can come to some odd conclusions. Think about how influential the idea of the "four humours" has been in Western Society for instance - for may centuries they formed, on almost no evidence, the basis of psychology and medicine. This is one of the great achievements of the Enlightenment - that it grounded medicine in anatomy and physiology rather than abstract ideas. We might think also of some of the early psycho-analytic theories and how they sought to explain human behaviour in terms of imaginary psychic entities like ego, id, and super-ego; or complexes, or archetypes; or more recently 'repressed' memories. [2]

The last criteria amounts to aping the behaviour of a spiritual teacher. This has caused enough problems in Western Buddhism to need little in the way of elucidation.

Because the terms are actually quite vague and the translations less than certain, the thinking about them has been ambiguous. I wanted to relate the terms to what I perceived to be the dynamic of the sutta. Looking at what comes next the Buddha questions the Kālāmas about the effects of craving, aversion and confusion and points out that these root poisons make people behave unskilfully. The penny dropped for me when I saw that all of the resulting wrong actions are about how we relate to other people.

Buddhist morality is primarily about the quality of our relationships to other people. We extend this to all breathing beings (pāṇa), but it's mainly about people. Morality is often thought of as all of our behaviour, all willed actions. Ethics is the narrower subject of the limits which we place on our behaviour. Here we see that Buddhist morality is actually a slightly narrower subject again. It is not simply acting with craving or aversion that is problematic. It can be broader, but the basic Buddhist precepts emphasise relationship. It is relating to other people on the basis of craving or aversion that is primarily problematic, and it is working at this level which is transformative.

There is a caveat. Imagine that you eat what looks like a juicy sweet berry, but it turns out to be bitter. The aversion you feel is because the bitter berry is likely to be poisonous, and you spit it out in order not to be poisoned. This is not morally significant aversion. The attraction to the sweet berry in the first place is not morally significant craving. It is hunger, and a preference for high calorie food that is entirely logical and built into us by evolution. These kinds of attractions and repulsions are active within us all the time. Sometimes we make the mistake of demonising natural desires and aversions, and in doing so we miss the point.

Of course there are a lot of fat people in the developed world who just eat too much. But we could see this as taking the not given, as taking food which really would be better for someone else, perhaps a starving person to eat. Being fat does have health consequences for us, but the morally significance might be better located in the fact that other people are starving to death while we eat ourselves to death; and in the civilised world which has public health provision, the cost to other tax payers in dealing with the health problems that arise from obesity. Being fat is because we eat too much is a matter of moral consequence, though there is emerging evidence that our propensity to eat may be determined to some extent by how our parents and grandparents lived.

So what I'm saying is that the most morally significant craving is the craving that is expressed in relationship to other people, that makes us take their life or well being, their property (their food), their sexual partner, or lie to them. The Kālāma Sutta leaves off the fifth precept but adds that we might also incite other people to these kinds of acts. Similarly with aversion and confusion.

In the Kālāma Sutta the ideal Buddhist—the ariyasāvaka—is portrayed as radiating loving kindness to all beings everywhere. The morally bad person relates to people from craving and hatred and causes harm and misery. The morally good person relates to people from love, compassion, joy, and equanimity and not only does not cause harm or misery, but causes benefit and happiness. For someone who relates in this way there are said to be four consolations.

Now much too much has been made of these consolations, people see the Buddha equivocating on karma and rebirth, but I think they have been over interpreted. I do not think this text provides any justification for not believing in karma and rebirth (my reasons require more space than I have here, so please read my Kālāma Sutta commentary if you are interested). The Buddha clearly understands that acting unskilfully causes harm. I would like to comment briefly on the consolations regarding karma though. The Pāli is
sace kho pana karoto karīyati pāpaṃ, na kho panāhaṃ kassaci pāpaṃ cetemi. Akarontaṃ kho pana maṃ pāpakammaṃ kuto dukkhaṃ phusissatīti?

If evil is done to the [evil] doer, but I do not think (na... cetemi) evil of anyone - not doing evil acts, how will misery touch me?
Here, again, we see an evil action (pāpakammaṃ) explicitly linked to an evil thought or intention (pāpaṃ ceteti). The logic here is: because I do not intend evil, I do not act evilly, and therefore no evil will befall me. However we know, from hard experience, that life is not so simple. Evil happens to good people and vice versa. This cannot be a generalised statement about the nature of reality. But they are words to guide how we relate to other people.

If we approach people with aversion, for instance, we repel people. I have observed that no matter how apposite and insightful the information one is trying to convey, shouting it angrily almost guarantees that the intended recipient is not listening. If we are communicating angrily then the message is just "I am angry" and all subtlety is lost, the non-verbal communication overwhelms the verbal. I notice that street evangelists often sound angry because they are shouting, and here in England people avoid them like the plague.

Similarly we all know what it is like to be approached by someone who only wants to take from us. Take the case of the professional street fund-raisers who way-lay shoppers in the streets (called charity muggers or 'chuggers' in the UK). They use all the forms of polite human interaction: they greet with a smile, make a cheerful and often witty approach; they may even be a bit flirtatious. The forms are OK, but the context is all wrong. In the UK strangers do not approach you in the street, and if they do—if for instance they are lost or need the time—the approach is very hesitant and apologetic even. Under normal circumstances people here would not even make eye contact, let alone speak to strangers at random. The Chuggers exploit the conventions of intimacy without offering any actual relationship, they just want to get your money. So my sense is that there is something terribly wrong about chuggers. They give me the creeps.

When we see Buddhist ethics in this framework of the quality of our relationships and interactions it seems to me that the link between intention and outcome is much clearer. The consequences of our intentions manifest in our interactions with other people. It also becomes clear why skilful/unskilful are preferable to the more absolute terms good/bad. If ethics is concerned with how we relate to others, then this is a practical matter. So the notion of skill is relevant and skill is a spectrum: we can be more or less skilled. Also we can learn skills, which gets us beyond the idea of inherent good and evil which seems quite prevalent.


  1. Some people interpret the 9th criteria differently and group it with the 10th. For instance Nyanaponika & Bodhi in their Aṅguttara Nikāya anthology, Numerical Discourses, translate it as 'the seeming competence of the speaker' which is how Buddhaghosa's commentary understands the term. There is a certain symmetry to this and I may just be wilfully idiosyncratic.
  2. See also: 'Theory, and Why it's Time Psychology Got One.' Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists. 10.11.2011

See Also

On Action and Intention

On the Kālāma Sutta

04 February 2011

Action and Intention III

Newton's cradle REGULAR READERS WILL KNOW that I harp on about the Buddha's equation of intention and action - cetanā and kamma. More than one person has noted that this equation only occurs once in the Canon. This uniqueness makes us uneasy about putting so much weight on the phrase - surely if an idea was centrally important then it would be mentioned more frequently? I agree with this, and I have been on the look out for more references which discuss kamma and cetanā. I found an interesting passage in the Cetanā Sutta (SN 12.38, S ii.65-66). The first paragraph of the sutta translates as:
At Sāvatthī. What you think about (ceteti), monks, what you plan for (pakappeti), and what obsesses (anuseti) is the condition (ārammaṇa) of the persistence (ṭhiti) of cognition (viññāṇa). When there is a basis, there will be cognition. With persistence and growth of conscious there will future rebirth in a new existence. With future rebirth there will be future birth, old-age and death, grief, lamenting, misery, dejection, and trouble. Thus is the origin of the whole mass of disappointment.
The other paragraphs deal with a partial and complete cessation of disappointment, as simple negatives, so I'll just focus on this paragraph. Here the verb ceteti is the origin of the action noun cetanā. I said in my first post on ethics and intention:
Cetanā derives from the root √cit which also gives us the words citta 'mind' and cetas 'thought'... The root √cit is defined in the dictionary as "knowing; thought , intellect , spirit , soul", but also "to perceive , fix the mind upon , attend to , be attentive , observe , take notice of"; and "to aim at , intend , design; to be anxious about , care for; to resolve". So √cit concerns what catches our attention on the one hand, and what we move towards on the other; or, what is on our minds, and what motivates us (emotions are what 'set us in motion').
In Sanskrit the two roots √cit 'to perceive' and √cint 'to think' are different enough to be thought of as distinct, though Whitney does acknowledge that √cint appears to derive from √cit. PED draws out the difference by seeing √cint as an active voice (parasmaipāda) form with a nasal infix (like for example √muc 'to free' > muñcati 'he releases'); and √cit as a medial or reflexive form (ātmanepāda). Originally the reflexive form was for verbs affecting oneself, while the active form was for verbs affecting others - like, for instance the difference between 'I go' and 'he goes' (the word is the same but the form is different) - though this semantic distinction is largely lost in both Classical Sanskrit and Pāli even when the form persists.

Pāli citta is further confused with Sanskrit citra 'to shine'. So when the Buddha says Pabhassaramidaṃ, bhikkhave, cittaṃ (AN 1.51) what most people miss is the pun. Citta means both 'thought' and 'shine' and the phrase could equally be read - 'this thought is radiant', or 'this shiny-thing is radiant'. The context does incline towards reading 'mind', but the ambiguity and pun are obvious to a Pāli speaker.

cetanā is an abstract noun from active form (cinteti 'to think') and PED defines: 'the state of ceto [mind] in action, thinking as active thought'.

Now in the passage quoted above Bhikkhu Bodhi, very much the Buddhaghosa of our time, draws attention to the relationship of ceteti with cetanā by translating it as 'what one intends'. (Connected Discourses p.576). Bhikkhu Thanissaro (on Access to Insight) follows suit, and and Maurice Walsh opts for 'what one wills'. Why? First there is the title of the sutta - cetanāsuttaṃ - though, as I understand it, most of the titles in SN were added later. Secondly ceteti is paired with two other verbs pakappeti 'to plan' and anuseti 'to obsess over' and in Pāli these kinds of appositions are usually synonyms reinforcing each other. PED specifically mentions this group of three 'to intend, to start to perform, to carry out' (s.v. cinteti meaning b.)

Buddhaghosa's commentary glosses
Ettha ca 'cetetī'ti tebhūmakakusalākusalacetanā gahitā

And here ceteti refers to having grasped the good and evil intentions of the three levels of being (i.e. kāmaloka, rūpaloka, arūpaloka). [1]
I'm slightly wary here. My argument would be supported by simply agreeing with Buddhaghosa and the modern translators who have clearly followed him. But my understanding of the philology and the context makes me want to translate ceteti as 'thinks about', with the understanding that we are drawn to or away from objects as we find them pleasant or unpleasant only as an implication. I don't like 'intends' as a translation here, even though it would suit my rhetorical purposes better. There is a third possibility in PED which is that under some circumstances ceteti can mean 'to desire' though this requires the object of desire to be in the dative case. Our situation the object is abstract 'what' (yaṃ) but not in the dative.

In any case ceteti is one of three activities, three mental activities, which provide a basis (ārammaṇa) of the persistence (ṭhiti) of cognition (viññāṇa) and therefore for rebirth in the future (āyatiṃ punabbhavābhinibbatti). This is interesting because we're not talking about a condition for the arising of cognition here, but for its persistence. Once cognition is arisen it is sustained by what we think about, plan for, and obsess over - which is to say that once a cognition arises in our minds (through contact between our sense faculties and sense objects) it is we who sustain them through actively keeping them in mind. Seeing things this way I struggle to see how cognition generally can be said to arise from ignorance (avijjā) in a single step, and it makes those versions of the nidāna chain which leave out this connection (especially the Mahānidāna Sutta) even more attractive.

The connection with kamma is that the persistence of viññāṇa, through ceteti is what makes rebirth possible. For early Buddhism viññāṇa provides the continuity from life to life. Through our ceteti we ensure rebirth; so here ceteti is kamma, is the kind of action that results in rebirth. The confirmation is rather indirect, and not unambiguous, but it is there.


  1. For those interested in such things the analysis of this compound - tebhūmakakusalākusalacetanā - is interesting. Firstly I take kusalākusala as a dvandva compound - kusala-akusala 'good and bad'. Then I take kusalākusala to form a karmadhāraya compound with cetanā (i.e good and bad intentions). Bhūmaka is a tadhitha compound or secondary derivation from bhūma (=bhūmi) + -ka (an adjectival suffix); and tebhūmaka is a dvigu form of karmadhāraya compound - 'having three grounds or levels'. Then finally kusalākusalacetanā forms a tatpuruṣa compound with tebbhūmaka 'the good and evil intentions of the three levels'. One can see that compounds like this are a very succinct way of writing as they convey a lot of grammar implicitly, but you wouldn't expect them in an oral literature because it's more difficult to parse such long compounds orally. It also assumes that we know what 'the three levels' refers to.
image: Clipart ETC

17 December 2010

Action and Intention II

diamondIn translating and commenting on the Nibbedhika Sutta a few weeks back I neglected to tie my comments in with another idea I have been working on for some time. It's not an obvious proposition that intention is the ethically significant aspect of morality, and some people struggle with this. I think it is because we are mistaken about the range or domain (visaya) in which the teachings apply, and the equation of cetanā and kamma is actually a clue in the puzzle.

I've been researching the way the Buddha talks about paṭicca-samuppāda to try to discern where he thought it applied. We Buddhists are all familiar with the idea that "everything is impermanent"; we often say "all things arise in dependence on causes" but I keep asking the question "what is meant by 'everything' or 'all things'?" I'm working through this territory in a long essay, that has been evolving over a couple of years, and questions some of the basic assumptions in these slogans.

I've already written about the question what arises in dependence on causes? The short answer is 'dhammā'. Dhamma can be translated as 'thing', and it is sometimes that general in Pāli. But in terms of 'arising' it is not talking about things generally, but about mental processes. On the whole it is mental processes that arise in dependence on causes. This raises the question of why we talk of paṭicca-samuppāda as a general theory of conditionality?

I've also talked about 'the world', and how the world for the Buddha was the world of experience. The very word 'loka' implies the visible world, the sensual world, but a series of other texts make it clear that 'the world' in this context means "one's world". Our own world is neither objective nor subjective, but it arises out of the interaction of the two poles. See for instance M i.259: ‘The consciousness that arises with forms and the eye as condition is called eye-consciousness’ (cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati viññāṇaṃ cakkhuviññāṇant’eva sankhaṃ gacchati); or M i.111: ‘dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises: these three together constitute contact’ (cakkhuñcāvuso, paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso).

This world, this experiential world, is the stage upon which we play out our lives.
And, friend, it is right here in this arm-span measure of body endowed with perception and cognition that I declare the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way leading to the cessation of the world. (S i.62)
Not only this, but the texts make it clear that loka is synonymous with dukkha. Both are described in precisely the same terms as the product of paṭicca-samuppāda. I have not found any reference to a text saying that an external object arises in dependence on causes, and I would be very interested if any reader could turn one up.

I'm summarising 9,000 words of argument and textual citation here, but what starts to emerge is that the Buddha doesn't seem to think of paṭicca-samuppāda as applying to the world in general, only to the experiential world arising out of contact. To make the point I offer a thought experiment.
Imagine a diamond in ancient India at the dawn of the second urbanisation, say around 1500 BCE. It is polished and sparkling. We can see it, and touch it, but don't have microscopes or lens; and our theory of elements doesn't give us the kinds of insights that modern chemistry and physics do. It is handed down from generation to generation and apart from gathering a little dust, it does not change for a thousand years. This is part of the value of a gemstone: time does not diminish or tarnish it. After a thousand years no one can remember any details of its provenance. It is as it is, and always has been - unchanging. The Buddha is born 1000 years later, and meets the present owner of the diamond. He sees it, and holds it. He questions the owner about it. For all intents and purposes he establishes that the diamond has never changed (in living memory) and there is no real prospect of it ever changing.
It is not quite true to say that everything changes, or at least we can say it is not possible to know that this is true. If the Buddha was intellectually honest (and I'm assuming that he was) then there were many objects in his world that did not appear to change in the span of living memory, and to say that they did change would not be relying on experience.

What I conclude is that paṭicca-samuppāda was applied only to the experiential world; and was not intended to apply, and in fact does not apply, to the world of sense objects in the Buddha's teaching (there is no world of ideal objects inaccessible to the senses in Buddhist epistemology since we could have no knowledge of them). However it is very easy to show, and to understand, that even with reference to a hypothetical unchanging object, that the world of experience arising from contact between that object and our subject is one which is which constantly changing. Experience fully conforms to paṭicca-samuppāda under all circumstances, and this way I, incidentally, side-step the potential charge of eternalism.

No doubt there is cause and effect in the objective world, but physics is a much better description of this than Iron Age Buddhist theories. On the other hand though physics has produced many marvellous discoveries, it has liberated very few minds. In fact the European intellectual tradition has been aware of the changing nature of things as long as the Indian tradition - going back to Heraclitus at least. We all understand that things change, that everything changes.

The Buddha often says "I teach dukkha and the way to make dukkha cease". I think he was speaking quite literally; I think he was not offering an insight into The World, but only into our own world, into our relationship with experience, and how a dysfunction in that relationship causes us suffering. I believe that this is no less profound, but brings the Buddha's insight out of the realm of mystical experiences, inaccessible to the great majority of us, and into the realms of possibility. I believe that any one of us can, with some effort, have this life-changing, world changing insight. I don't discount that it might have a mystical dimension, but I don't see bodhi primarily in terms of mysticism these days.

Of course it was Buddhists themselves who developed the Buddha's initial observations and exposition in the direction of a generalised theory of conditionality. Why Buddhism developed in this metaphysical direction is an interesting question, but one that I haven't the space to pursue. If we understand conditionality in the way I've outlined, then the equation of kamma and cetanā becomes clearer. Cetanā is so vital to Buddhist ethics because Buddhist ethics applies in the realm of the dependently arisen mental processes, and it is in this realm that we have most influence. We might not be able to change the world, but we can certainly change our own minds.


image: Phillip Stoner The Jeweller. For, who could resist a diamond seller called 'Stoner'?

02 October 2009

Ethics and Intention

Over the years I have cited one Pāli phrase perhaps more than any other and it dawned on me that I should give it a fuller treatment. As far as I know it occurs only once in the Pāli suttas [1], but the idea that it expresses is really vital to understanding the Buddha's use of the word kamma (karma).

It goes like this:
cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi
I say, monks, that intention is action [2]
I first heard this in 2006 at Professor Richard Gombrich's Numata lectures (now published as What the Buddha Thought) and no doubt my thinking about it owes a great deal, if not everything, to him. He translates the phrase as "by kamma I mean intention".

There are two key terms to consider: kamma and cetanā.

Karma (Pāli: kamma [3]) is a word which has strong religious associations pre-dating Buddhism by a thousand years at least. The word derives from a very common verbal root √kṛ 'to do, to make' and literally means 'action'. Specifically karma was, in the earliest Indian religious texts, the ritual action of the Vedic priest. This idea existed in a world view which saw knowledge as related to similarity; which is in contrast to our world view which sees knowledge as emerging out of difference. (Indeed the word 'science' comes from a root which means to separate things from one another.) Central to the Vedic religion were correspondences between things, but particularly between the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of the individual person. The ritual manipulation of a thing, or later a symbol, on this level affected its counterpart in the world of the gods. By changing something on earth a change was effected in the god realm, and this meant better fortunes on earth - primarily they were concerned to control and regulate the forces of nature especially the sun and monsoon rains. Rituals served to keep the balance of the natural order of the cosmos (called ṛta, brahman, or later dharma). These ritual actions or karma were a very important feature of life in the Vedic culture.

The Jains also had a use for the word karma. To them karma was not only ritual actions, but all actions what-so-ever. In Jainism the soul (jīva) is weighed down by the 'dust' created by actions. The response is to minimise not only harmful actions (they seem to have been the first to adopt the policy of ahiṃsa or non-harm) but all actions. The epitome of Jain practice is inactivity for long periods of time, while the acme is allowing oneself to starve to death.

It seems as though the Buddha's use of the word karma was a modification of this Jain idea with a hint of the Vedic use - though a reaction away from both. The modification is that only a certain class of actions, willed actions, had moral consequences. The Buddha may well have been drawing on the Vedic idea that certain actions had greater significance than others. By removing the blanket association he allowed some freedom to act. Still we don't have complete moral freedom - our actions do have consequences but before we can address this question we need to know about cetanā.

Cetanā derives from the root √cit which also gives us the words citta 'mind' and cetas 'thought'. [4] Citta is sometimes translated as 'mind' sometimes as 'heart' - from the point of view of English then the reference is somewhat confused. Some Buddhists invoke a combination of feelings and thoughts to convey the meaning. The root √cit is defined in the dictionary as "knowing; thought , intellect , spirit , soul", but also "to perceive , fix the mind upon , attend to , be attentive , observe , take notice of"; and "to aim at , intend , design; to be anxious about , care for; to resolve". So √cit concerns what catches our attention on the one hand, and what we move towards on the other; or, what is on our minds, and what motivates us (emotions are what 'set us in motion'). Cetas is the faculty which carries out these functions. In English we tend to separate out thinking and feeling, intellect and affect, partly because of a duality between mind and body which been influential in our intellectual history. Thought is the stuff of the mind, whereas feelings are the province of the body. Ancient Indians did not make such a distinction. The mind-body duality is now discredited in intellectual circles largely due to advances in philosophy, and discoveries in neuroscience. There is no activity of mind which is not embodied in some fashion, and no activity of the body which does not involve the mind. Cetanā is a more abstract way of referring to the function of cetas - i.e. thinking and emoting.

So coming back to the little phrase above we can see that the Buddha is equating karma (morally significant action) with cetanā (thoughts and emotions). Although cetanā is usually translated as 'intention' I think it is important to keep in mind that this is intended to include our deepest strongest urges and motivations which may well be subconscious, as well as our immediate conscious goals; our fears and hatreds, our desires and wishes. It doesn't pay to be reductionist about this. Our motivations for any action are complex and often largely unconscious. The point is not to set up one to one relationships between motives and consequences, but to look for patterns in how the exercising of our will (whether consciously or unconsciously) affects our experience of life. If we do undertake this kind of reflection then patterns will begin to emerge and there is no need to spell out in advance what they will be - we need to see it for ourselves in any case.

The Buddha is saying, in effect, that what makes an action morally significant is thoughts and emotions which drive it. This was a new and radical idea at the time. It is still a radical idea. It may be the most significant idea in all human history. It cuts through theistic arguments which rely on 'divinely revealed' (or transcendental) notions of ideal behaviour; and through moral relativism which denies any fixed standard of behaviour. The standard is universal and human. It applies in all cultures and all cases, and it is open to everyone regardless of status, or any other human divide. 2500 years on it still sounds fresh and exciting to me!


  1. It is relatively easy to search the Pāli canon these days thanks to the Pali Canon Online Database.
  2. AN vi.63
  3. In verbs of this class (V) the verb root forms a stem using the strong form of the vowel so kṛ > kar- and the 3rd person singular is karoti in both Pāli and Sanskrit. Karma is grammatically a neuter action noun: karman 'action'. There is a possible connection with our word 'create' via Latin creare "to make, produce". It is typical, though not universal, for Pāli to collapse a conjunct consonant such as rma down to a doubled consonant such as mma even though the r comes from the verbal root - and thus some important information is lost. (Interestingly √kṛ can function as verb classes I, II, V VIII > e.g. karanti, karṣi, kṛṇoti and karoti which gives rise to an enormous number of forms.)
  4. The etymology of citta/cetas is complex in that they are clearly linked concepts but traditional grammars say there are two roots: √cit 'to perceive, know'; and √cint 'to think'. However they are obviously originally one and the same. PED notes that cit is likely to be the older of the two forms since it is sometimes explained in terms of cint, but never the other way around. (sv Cinteti p.269a). Whitney (The Roots, Verb-forms and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language p.47) concurs suggesting that cint derives from cit.

image: Descartes brain diagram: from