Is Kamma made only in the Human Realm?

Dear Bhante and Dhamma friends,

Do carnivorous animals make kamma? Do not think so.

Do beings in the higher realms make kamma?

Is it correct to think that Human realm is the place where we make good and bad kamma and is the only place we take the reactions of good and bad kamma made over many rebirths)…

Higher realms are places where enjoy the reactions of good kamma made over many rebirths.

The lower realms are where we take the reactions of the bad kamma made over many rebirths.

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It’s my understanding that the only being that doesn’t make kamma, is the arahant or the fully awakened one. Everyone else, no matter the realm, makes new kamma all the time.

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The literal translation of Kamma is ‘intention’/ choice which is derived from the root kṛ and means to work, act, do, carry out or perform, and as Kamma is a characteristic of consciousness so It Implies we can make Kamma as long as we not enlightened(Arahant) in every realam we are born. The point is that, if carnivorous animals don’t make any Kamma then how could they hunt their prey ? Isn’t it their will to survive or desire for existence I.e craving( tanhā) which is a strong Kamma that leads to further rebirths ? . There are some examples in suttas where devas in higher realams got fully enlightened so I believe we have same potential to make good or bad in those realams too and in higher realms we can get caught up in sensuality very easily thus craving for sensual pleasure, which provides Kamma for further rebirths. Just my views and reflection


Dear Indira,

I agree with the other respondents here that animals too make kamma. Intention is an aspect of the mind of most beings, and as such most beings make kamma of some sort most of the time.

However, it is important to keep in mind that intention is only one thing that determines the behaviour of beings. In the case of animals a very powerful drive for their behaviour will be their genetic make-up. A lion will be largely pre-programmed to kill, but each lion will probably vary a little bit in the quality of their intention, and they will therefore make slightly different kamma. For example, some lions are likely to be more aggressive than others. But overall it seems reasonable to think that this kamma is weak, because of the weakness of the intention and the power of other factors in determining their behaviour.

As for the beings in the higher realms, they too will normally be creating kamma through their intentions. The lower heavenly realms are not that different from the human realms, and it seems to me that there is a lot of room for intention in these realms. As you move up the heavenly realms, the mind gets more and more peaceful and intention is also subdued. When you reach the jhāna realms the mind is completely peaceful, and it would seem that you do not make any new kamma after you have been reborn in these realms. In fact, this is explicitly stated in the MN78, the Samaṇamaṇḍikā Sutta.

I think it is fair to say that the idea that one only makes kamma in the human realm is one of the Buddhist myths about kamma, and we should really have brought this up during our first session. However, I do think it is true - for the the reasons I have outlined above - that the human realm is where one makes the strongest kamma and where one therefore has the greatest potential to shape one’s future course in samsāra, including the path to awakening.


Sadhu Sadhu… Ajahn’s explanations and the dhamma friends ideas are so helpful. Changed my understanding of Kamma. It establishes the gravity of existence even more…

Feel what we call habits are our kamma patterns. Like Ajahn has showed some lion’s will be more aggressive. Our reactions are usually through our good or bad habits … and they make more good or bad kamma.

Need to study the Five Niyamas more closely too. Is it discussed anywhere in this website?

Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu


Dear Indira,
In my opinion,
Carnivorous animals make kamma .
Unless so , being a animal is neutral … It is their own kamma to born as a such a animal . And make more and more kamma. Further I think there is some difference between their and our kamma. Because they are not developed animals like us… So there may be some excuse for them :wink: .

We get reactions of kamma until nibbana. Even for enlightened being …even for Buddha … Until parinibbana.

There is a priority for kammic - effect.It is complex …

( Definition of kamma; kamma is intention. But not just intention. It should be activated in mind ,word and deed .)

Dear Bhante,

I just started reading this course, well better late then never. I wonder, how about kamma being made in hell? From the sutta it seems that hell is kind of a purgatory state, as long as the bad vipaka not end then these beings stuck there suffering (with super hero rapid regeneration ability, not a smart choice now eh :smiling_imp:).

I know that every beings make kamma, of course except an Arahant. But how then the dreadful condition in hell? I bet beings there suffer a lot and thus create kamma themselves, though mostly through the mind + running away from fire to get out of the hell gate + craving for food and water. If they produce kamma as much there, then the vipaka will be waiting in line. Never ending suffering? That’s frightening! Is it ripening in another lifetime? Is it not big of a deal as per you say they are largely pre-programmed to suffer? Or is it totally a purgatory state, no vipaka being made (cease for a moment)?

But then The Buddha said that it is so difficult to get out of the apaya realms, even to be reborn as a human is a slight chance. He also said the same for animal kingdom, as they kill each other there. I had like to agree with your idea that there is powerful drive behind different beings (like genetics) affecting the rating of kamma they do, so lion wouldn’t be so bad killing other animals for food, but The Buddha seems at odds. Seems like even though they are programmed to eat other animals, the huge desire for food is much deterministic factor of the rating of kamma, and that what makes them reborn countless time as an animal again and again.

Then the problem is how about primitive human life who has to kill for food? Is it the same with civilized human nowadays who kill for food, though there are so many alternatives nowadays such as being a vegetarian?

On the other hand if someone go to the heavenly realm they will feel so blissful there with abundance of sense pleasure. Thus they might make bad kamma through mind too like for example craving for sense pleasure, though subtle but not that good either. Like the story of Sakka who was scold by Moggallana (is this story EBT?).

Well I shouldn’t poke on this ethical problem too far, but I’m curious to know what others think. Anumodana :anjal:


Even beings in hell have volition/will, and wherever there is volition there is the making of kamma. I would guess most of this is just reaction to the unpleasant environment, that is, a desire for comfort. This sort of kamma is likely to be weak, because there would be little effect on other beings. So the idea that beings in hell mostly have to wait for their bad kamma to ripen so that they may get reborn somewhere else seems reasonable to me.

Whether a lion is making much bad kamma or not will depend on the nature of its intention. This involves a number of factors, such as motivation and the degree to which it is acting independently. It seems to me that animals are largely acting out their nature and the degree of independence they have is small. As such, the kamma they make is not going to be very powerful.

But even if they do make some bad kamma, they will presumably eventually be reborn as herbivores, since this is the nature of the vast majority of animals. As herbivores it is unlikely they will make much kamma of any kind.

The more developed you are, the greater is your ability to understand the scope for alternative actions and make appropriate changes to your livelihood. In other words, there is more intention involved in all your actions. A human being, even a primitive one, will therefore make more bad kamma when killing than a carnivorous animal.


So, with all of these points considered, as the human population continues to grow, from what realms are humans reborn from? Are they born human from the animal realm? Are they born human from other realms? Are there realm hierarchies?