Questions on Kamma


Does the Kamma only affect the person who created it or is there an impersonal “pool” of Kamma that affects others?

Or in other words: Will many people producing bad Kamma at a certain place necessarily lead to more suffering for others?

And in case of Parinibbana: Where does one’s Kamma go?


What person? Can you find such a one? :joy: Do you think it is possible to truly distinguish between persons? If you can’t find even one, then how can you find another?

Also, in your personal experience - what do you think? - do your actions have an effect upon others? Do your actions and intentions just have no effect whatsoever on others? You can do and think whatever you like and nary another person ever suffers a result or any kind of consequence at all?

You mean like a swimming pool or a pool of water? Is kamma a liquid? What does “impersonal” mean? Have you located and found all persons so as to distinguish definitively between was is “person” and what is “not person”? What is this “kamma” you conceive of? Are you sure kamma is what your conceptions tell you it is?

What do you think in your personal experience? If a bunch of people get together and all produce bad actions based on intention does that usually not have any effect on other people without the bad actions/intentions? Do wars not happen? Are babies not killed in them?

Have you found a self that ends with parinibbana? Is this the “one” you are speaking of? Where is this “one” in the here and now? How did this “one” come to end? Are you sure parinibbana is what your conceptions tell you it is?


Let me rephrase my question then , Yeshe.

I was not going to ask this question directly because of possible bad influence. But now I am kind of forced, since I do not want to go into the discussion of the valid points you raise.

My real question is:

Can not producing bad Kamma ever be an argument for an Arahat (or a secular Buddhist who does not believe in rebirth) to not commit suicide?


The problem is one of responsibility. According to the list of 10 wholesome and 10 unwholesome deeds, “I” (my stream of conciousness in its current state) am only responsible for these. Therefore it follows that the ultimate responsibility for non-kammic acts that “I” can perform and that still lead to suffering would lie with dependent origination itself.

But let’s focus on my above question which is really my reason for posting.

Hello @Malunkyaputta,

Yeah, that question kind of presupposes answers to some of the questions I raised? It seems clear to me that any suicide can/does have an effect upon the world and it is hard to see just how extensive and all pervasive those effects might be. Generally speaking, any actions performed with selfish intentions will lead to suffering. It is also clear that our selfish actions can and do often harm not just ourselves but others as well.

On the other hand, actions performed with the perfection of wisdom conjoined with the supreme altruistic wish will lead to the dispelling of suffering. Based on this, the way forward is clear: dispense with selfish intentions/motivations and cultivate the perfection of wisdom conjoined with the supreme altruistic wish.

So do many other of my non-kammic actions. Per example, by just being alive and taking some food, I deprave others of that same food, which leads to suffering.

So why would suicide for an Arahat (or the said secular Buddhist) not be judged exactly the same, out of his/her responsibility, since that bad Kamma is not going to “go” anywhere?

Do you get my point?

I think I may? We agree that intention matters when it comes to kamma yes? So there isn’t a categorical answer; it depends upon the intent of the suicide. However, if we wish to talk about the effects of our actions (and the ripple thereof), then it is quite clear that our actions (or non actions) - regardless of intent - often can and do have effects upon others, right? This seems manifest. :pray:

I agree, of course.

But my problem is one with doctrine: If there can be said that suicide for an Arahat is no longer kammic, and that there is no collective kamma, it would follow that suicide is actually the quicker path to liberation than the eightfold path!

And the same for anyone not believing in rebirth…

The suffering resulting from it to others would have to be seen as no more unfortunate than any suffering “I” produce daily by non-kammic actions. It could be blamed on just the fact of dependent origination happening in the first place.

Ah, but there is contradiction in the setup. An Arahat is - by definition beyond selfish intention, right? That is, if they have selfish intention, then they cannot be an Arahat, right?

However, if they choose to commit suicide in order to achieve personal liberation faster and damn the consequences to the world left behind, then is that not a selfish intention? If it is selfish intention, then they cannot be an Arahat, right?

This speaks to a pretty deep tension I think in the conception of personal liberation from suffering. It conceives of the person and it is individualistic, but conceptions of the person and conceptions of individualism are conceptually selfish and dualistic. They focus the “I” as opposed to the “other” and conceive of an individual end of suffering. Isn’t this so? If it is, then what is this personal liberation of which we are attempting to speak? :joy:


So how about the secular Buddhist? No rebirth. Why doesn’t he do it.

I don’t want to go into the other topic. The whole concept of D/O and Kamma are in question if you don’t allow a stream of concsiousness to identify with itself at some split moment in time.

I don’t want to speak for secular Buddhists as I don’t so identify, but I imagine the answers are fairly mundane and may have in common why a lot of non-Buddhists don’t commit suicide :joy: It also seems manifest that one or more secular Buddhists have likely committed suicide. I don’t personally know of any of them, but it doesn’t seem to me that suicide is such a rare phenomenon that any relatively large sub-population of humans is immune from the phenomenon at least given enough time. Of course, I may be very wrong.

How you conceive of D/O and kamma might be called into question without your conception of a “stream of concsiousness to identify with itself”, but is it really true that this is the case for all such conceptions of D/O and kamma? Is there an objectively correct conception or are they all dependent arisings? Have we found words with objectively correct intrinsic meanings? :joy: :pray:

Then what is ignorant (1st Nidana) ?

Sentient beings? The completely insubstantial, void, hollow, illusion-like magic trick that is consciousness? Not sure it was ever answered in sutta? :pray:

What beings?

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This I typing these very words for sure is quite ignorant :joy: :pray:

Ah, but what would I do without you Yeshe.

I think what you’ve suggested about the Arahant solves the problem as far as doctrine is concerned.

For those of us not believing in rebirth however, some problems seem to remain.

@SuttaCentral you may want to take this whole thread off. We don’t want it to have bad effects on anyone.

Are you one that does not so believe then? Who is this person that you believe is not reborn? Do you think it is possible to truly distinguish between these persons that are not reborn? Do you think it is possible to distinguish between moment-to-moment rebirth for these persons and life-to-life rebirth? If so, what distinguishes? :pray:

I don’t believe that anybody can know what happens at/after physical death.

As for the idea of “rebirth” and “Kamma” just meaning material consequences in the sense of ordinary cause and effect for later beings, I am sympathetic to that, but that takes us way out of doctrine, and I want to see how far doctrine can take me.

The way it looks to me right now: You can’t have Buddhism without rebirth !

Can one have a not-selfish motivation in committing suicide?

Yes. An example can be found in this remarkable and incredible story as related in the Sutra of Golden Light. A much abbreviated version of this tale can also be found in the Jataka tales I believe.

“‘Then Mahasattva lay in front of the tigress, but the tigress did nothing to the compassionate Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva thought: “Alas! She is too weak and incapable!” He rose up in search of a sharp weapon and did not find one. Taking hold of a strong branch of bamboo stick, one hundred years old, he cut his throat and fell down before the tigress. When the Bodhisattva fell down, the earth shook in six ways, like a boat pounded by winds amidst the sea. The sun, as if caught by Rahu, did not shine with its rays. Flowers mingled with divine perfumes and powders fell. Then a certain goddess, her mind overwhelmed with astonishment, praised the Bodhisattva:

O noble-minded one, holding all beings in your compassion, here, as you joyfully give your body, hero among men, before long and without trouble you will find pristine peace, that tranquil supreme state devoid of birth and death’s pain.

“‘Then, licking the bloodstained body of the Bodhisattva, the tigress reduced his body to bones without flesh and blood.

What selfish motivation can be found in this act of compassion? This tale has a powerful effect upon my mind and heart and gives rise to profound astonishment of the bravery and courage that can be accomplished through cultivation of the altruistic wish. It is a tale of astonishing beauty to my mind.