Should You Harm Others To Clear Their Bad Karma?

Just as no one is destined
to harm you,
you are not destined
to harm anyone.


A mobster, who was supposedly also a ‘devout Buddhist’, when asked how he could do nasty things to people, replied that he simply expressed their bad karma or ‘just deserts’, that he merely helped them get it over with, so that they could ‘move on’. Now, this is rather classic unwholesome rationalisation of the unrepentantly abusive – which claims they are but the instruments of karmic payback for others. Even if so, if one wilfully, intentionally, with greed, hatred and delusion creates or supports suffering for others, one creates negative karma for oneself too. If we agree with the ill logic of the mobster, any killing would be instantly justifiable. Why the need to observe the first precept of non-killing out of respect for life then? And why did the Buddha feel compelled to awaken the conscience of Angulimala, the serial killer who murdered 999 people, to halt his killing spree?

Since the law of karma naturally plays itself out in its own good time if the conditions are present, it is not a must to deliberately be instruments of evil to hasten it. If the mobster was right in his choice of attitude and action, the Buddha was then, in turn, surely not very compassionate, for failing to be the most violent ‘karma-clearing’ mobster. There would be no difference between being good or evil, and the Buddha would not need to teach about the priority of morality as the foundation stone of spiritual practice. If anything goes for everyone, it would be the highway to total chaos. The idea of justified mass-murder (including of animals) is as preposterous as telling millions of victims who were then about to be gassed to death in World War II to thank Hitler for clearing their negative karma, to suggest he was as if a great ‘Bodhisattva’, who gave them express ‘salvation’.

Someone once remarked, ‘When very bad things happen to someone, some “Buddhists” say, “Oh! It’s your bad karma. You must have done something terrible in the past.” In other words, you are saying, “You deserve it!” Isn’t that a horribly cruel thing to say?’ Indeed, this is so. It rubs salt into the wound of someone’s suffering, while not doing anything of practical assistance. The truth is, others might have the good karma to be helped too. One’s gleefulness or turning away can create negative karma due to heartless apathy instead. Incidentally, in the sutras, there is mention of possibility of rebirth in the extremely cold hells for the extremely cold-hearted and cruel! Let us mindfully listen to our hearts, and not foolishly justify any of our destructive deeds and non-constructive inaction. Let us be proactive instruments of goodness instead. Think Oskar Schindler’s list that saved many!

When you help others unconditionally
as you see them to deserve help,
others will help you unconditionally
as they see you to deserve help too.


Related Articles:

How Some Might (Mis)understand Karma
Sam & Sara’s Adventure #65: Magnification Or Mitigation Of Bad Karma?


  • yes, whatever they owe us in this life should pay back in this life. If they dont, they should use their lives to pay. if not, i will make sure they pay me back in next life with added interest accrued.

  • You have misread the article. Good to read it again mindfully…

    If one suffers due to another, it is really due to one’s own negative karma ripening too. There is no need to suffer needlessly by nursing hatred. Just do what is right to right the situation with wisdom and without hatred. To express hatred is to feed fuel to the fire, which creates more negative karma. We should have compassion for those creating negative karma for themselves by causing suffering instead.

    ‘Hatred cannot be ceased by hatred.
    Hatred can only be ceased by loving-kindness.
    This is an eternal law.’

    – The Buddha

  • This answered a question I had in mind about whether when we are harmed by others (who are mean) due to our bad karma, will they create bad karma for themselves too. Thanks for posting such an important point. “Let us be proactive instruments of goodness instead.”, I wholly agree. (L)

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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