You are here:

Buddhists/The Law of Karma


Hello! I have a few questions to ask today.  I have heard about and meditated on the law of karma before.  It is said that actions, make it wholesome or unwholesome, leave an imprint on the mind and will bear fruition in the future.  But I still have things that I am really unsure about.
First, karma is supposed to be fair; people get what they deserve.  I have known many people who have done grave misdeeds but still enjoy more pleasure than compassionate people who try their best to practice virtues.  
What I said above can relate to me personally.  I have been suffering many life threatening problems.  I, ever since a baby, suffered from extreme life threatening cases of sickness and I continue to suffer from bad sickness today.  Ever since I was a child, I suffered from being bullied by others to the point that I had suicidal thoughts and didn't feel like living anymore.  I have suffered from bullying, bad rumors, bad relationships with other people, having no friends at all, and being looked down by everyone I met.  Everyone I met belittled me. I am being treated by others unfairly.  I am always the poor weed that is stepped on by people and belittled by flowers. Furthermore, ever since childhood, I have suffered from psychological problems like O.C.D, anxiety, and clinical depression.  I suffer from these problems even today.  Also, I used to suffer from living in an undesirable place full of dirt.  I am a very moral person and practices Buddhism with diligence and I put other beings in front of me.  I always treat others and even ants, with as much compassion as possible.  Indeed, I have done some ill deeds but I do not remember having done anything so bad that I deserve to suffer anything so big like the pains I mentioned above. Yes, I have done some small bad things like getting angry on rare occasions just like everyone else does in this world.  I do not think that having gotten angry at times and having done small misdeeds on rare occasions will give me this much suffering.  Even if what I have suffered through my life is somehow caused by the small misdeeds I have done, it wouldn't make sense for me to suffer so much ever since when I was a baby because I have done nothing bad during my years as a baby and child.  Also, if what I have been experiencing is somehow created by the small misdeeds I have done, it would not make sense for me to suffer this big for ill deeds that are so little.  In this life, I have not done anything so bad, and I am wondering why I am suffering this? Based on the things I have done, I am a moral person who tries hard to practice Buddhism and I don't think I deserve this.
In the contrary, I have seen many bad people who enjoy pleasure.  Based on the law of karma, they should be the ones experiencing the pains that I am experiencing, and I shouldn't.  The people who have been bullying me and spreading rumors about me are enjoying their life right now!  Those bullies have bullied other innocent people too!  The things they have done are definitely evil.  They have given me great amount of suffering and almost killed me!  And still, they enjoy themselves and live a life full of pleasure!  
I am a good person who always thinks about others and even ants.  I practice with effort.  And yet, I have suffered so many pains for no apparent reason.  Even if my pains are caused by the small ill deeds I did, I still shouldn't be experiencing this much pain for doing so little!  And some people who have done really bad things to other people are enjoying happiness; they should be the ones experiencing this suffering.  All this does not go around smoothly with the law of karma.  My question is: what is happening here based on the teachings of karma?

Dear Jack,

I'm sorry to hear how hard things have been for you. I think, however, that you have got an idea of karma that is a bit too simple.

Yes, it is taught that all our actions plant seeds in the stream of our being that are liable to bring corresponding results *in the long run*, but it can be a very long run. Traditionally, hundreds and thousands of lifetimes are spoken of. As your experience shows, acting well does not necessarily (or even probably) bring you pleasant results in a matter of years, or even this life at all.

Secondly, you may be familiar with the image of the "Wheel of Life"; according to Buddhism, life is mostly bad, and even if you act well in order to rise for a while to the top of the wheel where things are nice - it does not last. So we only torture ourselves if we hope for things to be too good.

Thirdly, although it is taught that all our acts have corresponding consequences, this is not said to be inevitable: some karmic seeds just lie latent, and can be made to germinate, or alternatively can be purified, by appropriate actions.

It follows from this, that although we are often taught to accept that when things are bad, we have probably earnt them in an earlier life, this is mainly to help us deflate our egos a bit. It does NOT mean (and logically cannot possibly mean) that literally everything that happens to us is the result of our own karma. Bad stuff (and good stuff) just happens to all of us, and much of it is out of our control. Karma has an effect on the general, long-term drift, but the details of what happens now depends, at least in part, on other people. And even on luck. That is not contrary to the teachings of karma, in spite of what a few simplifiers may say.

I hope that helps a bit.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Alex Wilding


I have practiced and studied Tibetan Buddhism in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions since the early 1970s, and have a good knowledge of theory, history and of the struggles of trying to practice the teachings, including meditation, while leading a normal, modern life. I am also available to provide background information for journalists.


I have been a practitioner since the early 1970s; have run a small Buddhist centre in the English Midlands and was vice-president of Kagyu Benchen Ling e.V. in Germany, for whom I managed three large Buddhist summer-camps. More importantly, I maintain a habit of personal practice. I am the "owner" of the Kagyu list at Yahoo.

My first degree was an M.A. from Oxford. I later obtained a Master of Philosophy degree for a research thesis in "Initiation in Tibetan Buddhism" from Leicester University. I also have engineering and educational qualifications.

©2017 All rights reserved.