Does bad thought create bad kamma?

When you are extremely frustrated or angry with someone, the thoughts of harming them popping up in your head, does bad thought alone create bad karma?


I think this quote from Good Heart, Good Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu will answer you well:

Q: In other words, does the arising of unskillful thoughts cause bad kamma or is it just our reaction to them?

A: It’s our reaction to them that can cause bad kamma. The fact that the thought arises is the result of old kamma. What you do with it is your new kamma. If you simply acknowledge it and it goes away, or if you think skillful thoughts that counteract it and make it go away, then the new kamma is good new kamma.


The mind is one of the three ways we can create karma, both good and bad. This is ubiquitous in the EBTs. By the time a thought of harming someone “pops” into your head, there has probably been quite a bit of intentional thinking going on. So all of those thoughts leading up to the specific thought of harming would be generating negative karma.


When talking about symptoms of Wrong View that can lead one down a path of Wrongful Livelihood or Craving, and/or the passions of insatiable lust, the enemy of the Dhamma, it is best to take note after the Buddha and how He conquered lust, envy, and hatred by finding the Metta that is capable of springing forth from all phenomena, and after carrying out this Path, Lord Shakyamuni attained yet another life of tranquil extinction.

I like to treat thoughts (especially bad thoughts) as external (in an internal/external sense base sort of way). That already takes a lot of steam out of them because already I am not considering them as my thoughts. So it now depends what I do with the thoughts. I have two choices.

  1. Do I pick them up and play with them (bring them in towards me or push them away)? That’s really claiming them as my own. I guess that’s technically called papanca or something.

  2. Or do I leave them to the side (let them go)?

I sometimes compare this with dog faeces at the side of the road. I can either:

  1. pick it up and play with it or try to push it away. Either way I will get dirty.

  2. Or I can leave it where it is and get on with my day thereby remaining clean.


Thanks. I think this is also called upadana. Upadana is the phase in which you willfully or intentionally feed allready arisen attachments to an sense-object (tanha-phase).

For example, it might happen that just seeing or hearing a certain person might trigger the patigha-anusaya. Irritation, anger, aversion arises. At this moment the mind has become attached or has becomes involved in the sense-object via the patigha-anusaya. There is the fettering happening.
So, this arises unintentionally, based on the force of your personal habits (gati).
As long as 7 anusaya are not totally uprooted the mind can become involved in sense-objects (tanha).

The next phase is that you notice this arisen irritation towards that person and start feeding it with all kind of ideas about how ugly, bad this person is. Intentionally now you start feeding this agression. Now you are accumulating new kamma. Not yet in in the tanha-phase.

Buddha says that this upadana-stage in Paticca Samuppada is like putting more wood on fire. The initital fire is the tanha step in which mind becomes involved into a sense-objects, it has got a certain interest in it and gets attached. And the intentionel feeding of this fire is upadana stage.

Papanca is often considerd as a kind of mental proliferation. I think that is also happening in the upadana stage.

Would it be a fire of the mind, or has one already let it out of the mind and into Smokey’s Sadness?


I like the approach that ;

  1. One does not consciously and intentionally give rise to emotions like anger and greed and also not to self-views or even such things as feeling superior or inferior (mana) or restlesness etc.
    In contact with the world such emotions or formations just arise. We do not do that. It is not because we want this or initiate this.

If that would be the case one would be able to stop all hate, all greed, all craving, all delusion immediately. This is not the case. Even if we want it to cease, it does not.

  1. We can make a conscious decision not to feed these automatic arising heart-oppressing 7 anusaya.

So, i do not belief we are in total control, but we are also not without any control too.

It makes your own existence more insufferable, and you’re setting yourself up for more of the same in the future. It’s quite a nefarious cycle most of us (I’m guessing) have been/are going through.

What do you mean by this?

“I describe three kinds of deed for performing bad deeds: physical deeds, verbal deeds, and mental deeds.”

“But are these kinds of deed all distinct from each other?”

“Yes, each is quite distinct.”

“Of the three deeds thus analyzed and differentiated, which deed do you describe as being the most blameworthy for performing bad deeds: physical deeds, verbal deeds, or mental deeds?”

“I describe mental deeds as being the most blameworthy for performing bad deeds, not so much physical deeds or verbal deeds.”

“Do you say mental deeds, Reverend Gotama?”

“I say mental deeds, Tapassī.”

With Upāli - Upālisutta - MN 56

Consider the specks of dust which come floating unnoticed into a room; there isn’t one speck which is void of consequence. It is the same for the mind. But the weight of that consequence, in addition to being dependent on the amount of mental “dust,” is also related to the quality of the mind. For instance, specks of dust which alight onto a road surface have to be of a very large quantity before the road will seem to be dirty. Specks of dust which alight onto a floor, although of a much smaller quantity, may make the floor seem dirtier than the road. A smaller amount of dust accumulating on a table top will seem dirty enough to cause irritation. An even smaller amount alighting on a mirror will seem dirty and will interfere with its functioning. A tiny speck of dust on a spectacle lens is perceptible and can impair vision. In the same way, volition or intention, no matter how small, is not void of fruit.

As the Buddha said: “All kamma, whether good or evil, bears fruit. There is no kamma, no matter how small, which is void of fruit.

by Bhikkhu P. A. Payutto


No. But!!! Thoughts ponder on for long time create your reality. And if you don’t act accordingly when it happens. Bad karma will happen. I’m a proof of that experience.

I pondered on becoming a monk so much. My ex wife and then dating just knew by intuition and said. I know what you want to become. You want to become a monk. I told her the truth immediately. Because it was something a craved in my mind since I was 17 years old. Remember I told her. Long story short. We got married. With her pregnant. With 8 months baby. I still had thr thought before that. That I will let the child walk and I go become a monk. But my life changed 3 days after my marriage I got a stroke.

I survived. But look what happened after. Cause and effect.

My wife after a few months went to remind me. To go become a monk. I said I don’t want that anymore. But she kept saying that 2 different days. To complete 3 times. So I felt bad she would keep doing that at those moment. Felt hurt. So I went to investigate how I will make it happen.

First of all. My parents don’t truly accepted 100%

I went ahead still after my mother accepted with the hopes I will come back.

On the first day I arrived the monastery. I realized how weak I was because stroke happened 1 year before. It was night and raining. Dark. I dropped my luggage.

Following a monk to my room with only a flash light in his hand.

When I reached my room. I immediately called my mom crying. That I want to go back.

Life lesson.

Acceptance that my life changed.

Becareful what you ponder on for long.
Especially if you keep pondering on it if you see that it will not happen.

Overall many wrong ways I thought about how my life was supposed to be.

Now. More acceptance. Your life supposed to be lived with what you have. :pray:t4:

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Buddha said, “Bhikkhus the thought itself is the karma”. If bad thought, then bad Karma and if good thought then good Karma.

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