How to combine karma and free will?

How to combine karma and free will? Let’s say someone dies, having been killed because of past karma. The question arises: the one who kills, does he have free will or is he simply an instrument of karma (of killed ones)?

There’s this thing called Love and Compassion and it helps us Transcend karma, it’s quite Wonderful.

I’d like to offer the following food for thought…

  1. Karma is Intentional Action. It is much more beneficial to view Karma prospectively rather than retrospectively. It is impossible for anyone but a fully enlightened Buddha to be able to trace the path of Karma retrospectively… besides the point that not everything happens because of Karma. Viewed prospectively however, one can understand that unskillful actions will undoubtedly produce unsatisfactory results… though one is not able to forecast when and where. Viewing it thus, one is dissuaded from the unskillful.

  2. There may not be Free Will… everything that has occurred so far has set one up for whatever happens next. But there is a Free Won’t. And one can choose to exercise that at any time!



People act unwholesomely due to the variety of defilements and mental faculties.

Just like there is an element of unwholesomeness that can be developed into unwholesome action, there is also an element of wholesome that can be developed into wholesome action.

Free will is irrelevant here. It’s because there’s a variety of elements, defilements and mental faculties that people respond in different ways to different circumstances.

It could be that people in hell or asuras have more of the unwholesome elements and faculties for a temporary time, so they are more violent, whereas those in heaven have the opposite.

There is a sutta that basically illustrates the notion of “like seeks like”, so bad people tend to get stuck in bad environments which maintains their badness. That’s probably why it’s impossible to become an Ariya in hell, not enough terminal velocity to escape that level of unwholesomeness.


There is no concept of free will in the suttas. Perhaps for the arahant, but even then there are going to be disagreeable circumstances that cannot be avoided. Yet, disagreeability for the arahant doesn’t necessarily require mitigation, doesn’t necessarily even imply a “problem”, so even if the capacity to act is relatively unlimited, there may not be any need to do anything even with the worst of circumstances. Well, worst as far as the ordinary person is concerned.

A person is free to choose to develop themselves in the Dhamma, but are not free to gain development at will (it is only immediately available in specific cases of those who are already poised for wisdom to arise). The act of intentionally killing is rooted in wrong view (among other more specific conditions), which is not an optional perspective - a person does not hold right view because it hasn’t been developed, and is not available without putting forth considerable effort. Again, this is not a position of unlimited options for action - there are limits to volition/will on account of view.

In other words, a person is somewhat free to work within the scope of limits that are there on account of development or a lack there of.


Will or volition are not something apart from the five aggregates , as such , volition depends on other factors like rupa , vedana and sanna , otherwise , would you say volition arises on its own ?

Karma is driven by intent. Karma is not fate. At any time you can make a choice ( free will ) to change the direction of your karma by choosing to behave differently.