Can your kamma affect or be affected by others?

Hello, I was born into a Buddhist sect that followed Nichiren Mahayana Buddhism. One view of karma is that the karma of others can affect yours and vice versa.

Thus, a person with good karma may be brought into an accident, for example, which would only affect people with bad karma. Is it true? What is the EBT version of it?

I’d like to remind you that it was a sect, so I recognize that many of the things preached there don’t quite sum up the traditional views of that lineage.

I should also point out, that there is a great chance this interpretation was used to alienate practitioners of this sect from people who think differently.

If someone from the Mahayana and Nichiren traditions wants to comment on this, it would be very interesting to clarify this doubt as well.

I apologize if this topic has already been discussed, but I couldn’t find a discussion about it here.


No that is an incorrect teaching. The emphasis in Theravada is on the clinical operation of kamma to the individual concerned and that is the foundation of the path:

" “A disciple of the noble ones considers this: ‘I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator; who — whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir. To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are the owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and live dependent on their actions. Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.’ When he/she often reflects on this, the [factors of the] path take birth.”

Anguttara Nikaya 5.57

Once the factors of the path have taken birth, this leads to investigation:

"Whenever you want to perform a bodily act, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily act I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily act with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction… it would be a skillful bodily action with happy consequences, happy results, then any bodily act of that sort is fit for you to do.

…[similarly for verbal and mental acts]…"

Majjhima Nikaya 61

There are two levels of right view mundane and transcendent, and the first involves belief in the action of kamma which is necessary to proceed to the second (Majjhima Nikaya 117).


Could you explain this a bit more? Are you talking about a situation where two people were in a car that got into an accident, but it was only one of those people’s karma that caused the accident? So say person A had done some bad action in the past (like harming others) that causes them to have injury in this current life. Person B hadn’t done that same bad action in the past, but since they were in the same car as person A, they would be forced to experience person A results?

One thing we do get clearly in the suttas is that the results of karma are complicated. For example, AN4.77:

“Mendicants, these four things are unthinkable. They should not be thought about, and anyone who tries to think about them will go mad or get frustrated. What four?
The scope of the Buddhas …
The scope of one in absorption …
The results of deeds
Speculation about the world …
These are the four unthinkable things. They should not be thought about, and anyone who tries to think about them will go mad or get frustrated.”

There are several suttas that talk about the fact that we have to experience the results of bad deeds for ourselves, that no one else can experience them for us. However if my example above is what you are talking about, then that isn’t the point.

There are also many suttas where people are encouraged to associate with good people and avoid bad people. However this has nothing to do with getting sucked into the results of someone’s bad karma from a previous life.


Yes, exactly like this. The point is to only be close with people from that sect, so you are “safer” than being with a non-sect person, or a “ex-sect” person. This view includes also the believe to clear your kharma through meditation.

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Yeah, there are lots of ways that the Dhamma can be used for coercive control and this is probably one of them. The fact that they may be using legitimate Dhamma as a weapon doesn’t invalidate the Dhamma itself.

AN3.27 is just one of many suttas that encourage us to stay away from “bad” people and associate with “good” people. Although it mentions good and bad reputation rubbing off on us, there is no mention about the danger of their kamma falling onto us.

According to the EBTs, not everything we experience is due to kamma. Also, the beginningless nature of samsara can lead one to easily conclude that person B, in the example I gave above, likely would have done some bad kamma in the past that led to them also experiencing (coincidentally) the same bad result that person A did.

A lot of the stories we get about results of kamma are found in EBT adjacent texts like the commentary stories. Even then I can’t think of a similar example to the one you gave above where someone was kind of “roped into” someone else’s bad results.


(I’ve corrected the spelling in the title, so it will show up in searches. There’s no h in either kamma or karma.)


If we look at the world as an ocean and at positive or negative Kamma as waves, it seems obvious to me that this Kamma, if going on and on, will eventually stir up and drown anybody who has not reached Nibbana. This might be the reason that the Budda thought that the middle way, keeping the waves shallow, is the only walkable path for humanity. Because just getting in the path of these waves and trying to hold them up like a giant rock will stir them up even more.

Of course then Nibbana would equal getting out of the water alltogether - if this is possible, or just passively surfing on the waves without being disturbed.

Not just possible, but what the Buddha taught as the goal of the practice:
"Rebirth is ended … there is no return to any state of existence.’” In SN22.54 and many other suttas.

In other words, final nibbāna is out of the water altogether, per your example.

Riding the waves, so to speak, would broadly align with nibbāna with residue, as in Iti44.
For the arahants, the khandhas, “the waves”, are still present but there’s no clinging or identification with them, no greed, anger, or ignorance, so it’s smooth sailing – except for the intrinsic dukkha of the khandhas themselves, ("Yad aniccaṁ taṁ dukkhaṁ"; What’s impermanent is suffering. SN22.15).

The khandhas are extinguished fully with the death of an arahant – > no ocean, no waves, no water.


This is an incorrect model. The waves come from samsara which is cyclical, birth>growth>maturity; decline>ageing> death being evident in all conditioned forms as well as the the human life span.

“People unrestrained
in sensual passions,
not devoid
of passion,
in sensuality:
they return to birth & aging,
again & again —
seized by craving,
going with the flow.”

—Anguttara Nikaya 4.5

Practitioners must use the waves skillfully to advance on the path, there is no other option.
An example of positive/negative operation within the path is the division of the factors of awakening into two groups, active and passive (Samyutta Nikaya 46.53). These two elements calm and insight, should be brought to a state of balance in the practice (both are necessary to remove the defilements).

" “And what are skillful habits? Skillful bodily actions, skillful verbal actions, purity of livelihood. These are called skillful habits. What is the cause of skillful habits? Their cause, too, has been stated, and they are said to be mind-caused. Which mind? — for the mind has many modes & permutations. Any mind without passion, without aversion, without delusion: That is the cause of skillful habits. Now where do skillful habits cease without trace? Their cessation, too, has been stated: There is the case where a monk is virtuous, but not fashioned of virtue.[2] He discerns, as it actually is, the awareness-release & discernment-release where those skillful habits cease without trace. And what sort of practice is the practice leading to the cessation of skillful habits? There is the case where a monk generates desire…for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen…for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen…for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen…(and) for the…development & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. This sort of practice is the practice leading to the cessation of skillful habits.”

—Majjhima Nikaya 78

Or you could just become water and flow along as pure kamma. But now, Thomas, how would you move?

Nichiren wrote a lot about the scriptures he had access to, and the exegesis he came up with (in the form of goshos), most of the time, is the basis of what his immediate and late disciples codified as dogma.

Have you got any reference to which of his writings makes that claim ?

By working from that we may have some insight into how that is or not a EBT aligned interpretation.

Some references for the writings:

Not even wise persons or sages can avoid the hell of incessant suffering if they accept offerings from slanderers. Nor should you associate with slanderers, for if you do, you will share the same guilt as they. This you should fear above all.

That was the what I could find untill now.


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I’m not suggesting it is true (I don’t think it is supported by the EBT’s), but if it were true that Person B will get Person A’s (bad) results in a scenario such as this, then likewise we can also suggest that Person A will get person B’s (good) results in equal measure. In which case wouldn’t it be the compassionate (and indeed Mahayana) thing to do, for a good person to associate with bad people precisely so that they can alleviate some of the bad persons suffering by diluting the bad persons kamma? Who knows perhaps they both walk out of the car accident without injuries?

Are the khandas the same thing as kamma? In my simile, I equal the waves to kamma - the effects of every act or non-act that one cannot escape to produce, which is why Nibbana, the state of a full stop of kamma production, would have to equate to being dead without having died.

Similarly, this is not possible in the scenario of my simile. Mind/Body are thought of a swimmer in the ocean, whose paddling or trying to hold still necessarily adds to the waves (the kamma).

My theory is that the Buddha during his awakening realized exactly this: That trying to hold still (or drown yourself) produces as much, if not more, waves than if you go on, trying to add as little as possible to the waves.

@Gabriel_L , thinking more about the topic I think I got it what it mean. Nichiren often talk about a karmic result being experienced collectively, like a whole town or a whole country. Not in my example, where you experience karma without having karma.

Since there’s a possibility that you can have a collective karma with someone, is best not to risk being around that person, so the karma cannot be “activated”.

Of course, despite being a logical conclusion, doesn’t seem very practical. Ignorant beings as we are, we can never know what is the karma of someone. Any thoughts?

I understood what you were saying Thomas. I just thought why not become what has been proposed to influence you, but yet has also been proposed to not be apart from you.

I suggest not pushing the example about the water-waves, or any example, too far. :slightly_smiling_face:

Mine was offered to simply try to point out that the khandhas, which arise due to grasping and volitional intentions (kamma), are still present while an arahant is alive.
After the death of an arahant, parinibbāna or final nibbāna, the khandhas cease and do not arise again. There is no rebirth and all dukkha finally and fully ceases.

So this was just offered as a general overview regarding your question and the waves example you raised.

If you haven’t read these suttas yet, you may wish to read and contemplate:
AN6.63, AN4.237, MN57, SN12.46 and others regarding kamma.
SN22.13, SN22.56, and MN43 regarding the khandhas.

Just a few examples…
If you’re already familiar with these, sorry – you’ll know where else to look in the suttas.

Nichiren Buddhism is eschatology @moxu. Mappo had already developed as an idea by the late Heian, but it came to the fore with Nichiren. You have to keep in mind that he was alive during a devastating and extremely violent period in Japanese history where things really did fall apart and people were dying everywhere.

Also to put him up “next to the EBTs” is anachronistic at best.

It is true and properly popular Japanese Buddhism, and yes, it’s Japan’s native Japanese Buddhist school. I don’t know if you were in Soka Gakkai, but certainly it has been criticized for being a cult, plus, this problem with Japan as the divine nation has some connection to Nichiren.

As far as I know the concept of “collective karma” is absent from the EBTs. There is a somewhat famous incident in the Dhammapada commentary, if you scroll down to the bottom to “Story of the Past: Sāmāvatī’s attempt to burn a Private Buddha” you can see something that could be called collective karma.

The way I look at things, there are some core concepts that the Buddha explains definitively. Like good actions causing good results and bad actions causing bad results. Or that we should associate with good people and avoid bad people. Then there are some concepts that sit comfortably next to them. For example that people who have done bad actions together in the past might in the future experience those bad actions together. So far so good.

However once we have a concept that sits next to that, we are just making things up. For example that we might cause someone else’s bad karma to activate. I mean, it could be true. However there is no basis for it at all in the texts, and it could be completely wrong.

So then when you take yet another step and use that concept to coercively control other people’s behaviour, you are clearly in dangerous territory.

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