The Buddhist tradition provides many explanations that clarify how actions affect karma. They believe that karma is actions that are willed or meant; they have intention behind them. However, they also believe that behind every action is an unconscious will or intent. Mental karma is created by one‘s mind and thoughts, and is the most significant karma. It exists on its own and is the origin of verbal and bodily karma; verbal karma is created through speech, and bodily karma created through physical actions. Mental karma provides the intention behind the things we say and do.
Positive karma is skillful, beneficial and good. Such results when actions are carefully thought through and all consequences have been considered. Negative karma is unskillful, harmful and bad. It is fueled by what Buddhists call the Three Poisons: 1) ignorance and delusion, 2) desire, avarice and attachment, and 3) aversion, hatred and anger.
For an action to be considered fully complete, several stages need be exhibited: motivation to perform the action, the successful fulfillment of the action, and satisfaction of completing the action. If only one or two of these are fulfilled the karma created is less. For example, a person may mistakenly squash an insect then feel genuinely sorry having killed it. Here there was neither motivation nor satisfaction; however a life was taken. The karma created is less negative than if the person had deliberately jumped on the bug and felt happy and satisfied having killed it.
In the Western world people don‘t think much about killing insects but the Buddhists were perhaps influenced by the Jains whose ideas were developing about the same time as Hinduism. Jain developed the principle of ahimsa, or harmlessness based on their understanding of karma. Ahimsa forbids the harming or killing of any living being; from human to insect.
Karma is also classified according to its results. Black karma with a black result is caused by all harmful actions of body, speech and mind. White karma with a white result is caused by all non-harmful and virtuous actions. Black and white karma with a black and white result is caused by actions which are partly harmful and partly not. For example, telling a lie (black) in order to spare someone‘s feelings (white). In this case the karmic consequences will be mixed. Finally, the ultimate goal in Buddhism is neither black nor white karma with neither black nor white result. This occurs when the
underlying intention is to transcend other kinds of karma by trying to awaken or become enlightened; in other words, when you consciously act with wisdom, kindness and compassion for others.