The Unseen Power Of Karmic Affinities

Just as a positive karmic affinity
can be rendered negative unmindfully,
a negative karmic affinity
can be rendered positive mindfully.


One day, when the Buddha entered a village with his assistant Ananda, he approached a poor woman to share his teachings with her. However, the woman disliked the Buddha so much, that despite his magnificent and pleasing appearance, she could not even stand the sight of him. Wherever the Buddha went, she would turn away. When he went to her right, she would look left. When he went to her left, she would look right… Even when the Buddha used his supernormal power to levitate above to catch her attention, she looked down and refused to look up. However, when she saw Ananda, her attitude became the reversed. She was naturally drawn to him, and happily listened to the Buddha’s teachings related by him, which she found to be beneficial. This is very interesting as though Ananda almost resembled the Buddha in form, he was still not his equal, and especially not the same in compassion, wisdom and skilful means. How is this outcome possible then?

In a distant previous life, the woman once lost her child and was consumed by much grief. A spiritual practitioner passed by and enquired after her. After hearing about her misfortune, he replied somewhat ‘indifferently’, that there was no need to grieve as death is natural. As he seemed detached, his words felt cold and hurting, which gave rise to her aversion. When another practitioner came by and enquired similarly, he kindly offered his condolences, before sharing about the truth of death. The first practitioner was the Buddha-to-be and the latter Ananda-to-be. Due to these karmic affinities formed, the woman developed a ‘natural’ disdain for ‘the Buddha’ and a ‘natural’ attraction to ‘Ananda’. As such, positive and negative karmic affinities can be carried not only from one moment to the next in this life, but also from one life to the next. This is a crucial reason why we ought to be mindful of the impact of our fewest words and slightest gestures, or even the lack of them, as they can affect present and future relationships for better or worse.

Although the Buddha, with his great wisdom, already knew the outcome of his approaches to the woman, what he demonstrated was the importance of doing our best in connecting to others, with as many skilful means as possible, before deciding the next skilful means is to step back, to let the ‘next better player’ try. The inexplicable ‘first’ impressions we have towards total or near strangers are often due to affinities formed in past lives. As these perceptions are not always rational, and often result from emotional bias, as in the case above, we should learn to manage all relationships anew, to form updated and thus truer perceptions of people as they are now. Feel-good vibes might not always turn out good, just like feel-bad vibes might turn out unjustified. Unless proven ‘hopeless’ for the time being, all deserve second chances – including ourselves. Remember, if you believe any affinity to be beyond hope, you are fatalistic with disbelief in the dynamic nature of karma, whose power you always hold!

For true skilful means to arise,
true compassion and wisdom must arise
to create skilful karmic affinities too.


Related Article:
No Giving Up


  • People with similar attitudes always come together. I think that is a form of Karmic affinity. Human differences and conflicts are unavoidable due to differences in people’s background and personalities. It is very difficult to be tolerant and patient with your enemies as everybody wants to win, no one wish to be the loser. I guess that’s why there are so much war and unrest in the world.

  • People with different attitudes can come together too, due to negative karmic affinity, and clash. If not, there would be no conflicts at all. The good news:

    Just as a positive karmic affinity
    can be rendered negative unmindfully,
    a negative karmic affinity
    can be rendered positive mindfully.

    – Stonepeace

  • At a basic level, yes, a negative karmic affinity can indeed rendered positive mindfully.

    However, I can’t help but wonder, why couldn’t the Buddha render positive his negative karmic affinity?

    The advice on ‘doing our best in connecting to others, with as many skilful means as possible, before deciding the next skilful means is to step back..’ is sound. However, some may arbitrarily decide that, after say 10 attempts, it’s time to step back when the 11th might have worked. That said, I guess we can say we are unenlightened beings, so our judgment or assessement of every situation can’t be right all the time.

    Believing in any affinity to be beyond hope is indeed fatalistic. No doubt about that. At the same time, that fatalistic belief can be rendered positive as well with the right efforts.

    I heard that there are not many days when there is no conflict at all in both ancient and modern human history.

    To me, I interpret this as being, the advice by Stonepeace or maybe other enlightened beings doesn’t reach enough people or isn’t sufficiently practised by enough people to effect what most can agree to be a significant change.

    Statiscally speaking, if 50% of the world population can follow such advice religiously for their entire lifetimes, the world can be considered some kind of Pureland already.

    Anyway, thank you, Shi’an for the article.

    I have heard of the story before, but didn’t know much about the details.

    I intend to print this out for future reference.

  • The Buddha probably couldn’t render the affinity positive simply due to lack of time at the moment, while it was sensible to let someone he knew, who had better affinity, to immediately do what was needed.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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