Home Discussion Forum Good and evil in Buddhism?

Good and evil in Buddhism?

I’m a bit confused as to how good and evil is treated in Buddhism. Hopefully someone can clear it up for me…
As I understand it, there is good karma and bad karma.
What exactly causes good and bad karma? Is it essentially the same as Hinduism’s take on the issue? Or would it be based off of the Five Precepts, with everything else allowed?
And once the person has good or bad karma, is it believed to affect them during this life, their next, or both?
Also, how does karma relate to the concept of finding Nirvana?


  1. Karma is whatever cause has an effect. Since all effects, being dependent on causes, are impermanent and therefore have the nature of suffering, all karma is bad. But some is less bad, and is called “skillful karma”. The goal is to give up attachments that keep you on the cycle of birth, sickness, old age and death- in other words, to let present karma run out and not build up any more.
    Buddhism does not really recognize the concept of “evil”. There is ignorant, self-centered acts that are unskillful so that they cause more suffering, but that is not “evil”.
    Karma affects you in this life and any others. But the main effect is covering over or polluting the unconditioned awareness that is Nirvana. You can’t attain Nirvana by your karma any more than you can wash off water to dry yourself.

  2. Nirvana is a term/belief used by some sects of Buddhism not All. Karma is believed by some, if not most sects of Buddhism to be carried from your past life and affect the present and the future, even into the the future of lives yet to be lived. Maybe this Exerpt from a Buddhist Dictionary will help you understand, you can also look up the detailed deffinition of Karma using the same link.
    [é˜¿é ¼è€¶è­˜] (Skt alaya-vijnana; Jpn araya-shiki )
    Also, storehouse consciousness, never-perishing consciousness, or main-taining-consciousness (adana -consciousness). According to the Con-sciousness-Only school, the eighth and deepest of the eight consciousnesses; alaya means abode, dwelling, or receptacle, and vijnana means discernment. Located below the realms of conscious awareness, it is called the storehouse consciousness, because all karma created in the present and previous lifetimes is stored there. It is also called the never-perishing consciousness, because the karmic seeds preserved there continue even after death, and the maintaining-consciousness, because it maintains the life and body of a sentient being. The alaya -consciousness is regarded as that which undergoes the cycle of birth and death, and determines the nature of individual existence. All the actions and experiences of life that occur through the first seven consciousnesses, such as sight, hearing, touch, and mind, are accumulated as karma in this alaya consciousness, which in turn exerts an influence on the workings of these seven. The Consciousness-Only school, which postulates the existence of the eight consciousnesses, holds that all phenomena arise from the alaya- consciousness and that the alaya -consciousness is the only reality.

  3. “good” and “evil”‘ are subjective judgement value that are dualistic in nature…
    Buddhism goes beyond dualism to help you reach true lasting freedom (nirvana)

  4. Karma means action (of body, speech and mind). In Buddhism however, it mainly refers to one’s intention or motivation while doing an action. The shortest explanation of Karma is: ‘you get what you give’. In other words; whatever you do intentionally to others, a similar thing will happen to yourself in the future. Karma creates “seeds” in the mind that will sprout into the appropriate result (Vipaka). The effects of Karma are inevitable and irreversible; we must eventually undergo their effects.
    Q- How good and evil is treated in Buddhism?
    A- At the beginning, we distinguish between good and bad Karma. We will train our mind to strictly observe the Five Precepts (1-Training in Morality) which are good karmas. So our mind abides in its natural state and prepares for further trainings (2-Training in Mentality and 3- Training in Wisdom of the Threefold Training).
    In the Training in Wisdom, we train our mind to see the truth of the Body and Mind (The Four Noble Truths). At this stage, the mind is trained to see no difference between the good and bad karma.
    Q- What exactly causes good and bad karma?
    A- One’s action in previous life and this life.
    Q- When will the results show up?
    A- Nobody knows for certain. It can be in this life time or next life or after.
    Q- How does karma relate to the concept of finding Nirvana?
    A- Good karma is the first step in the path to attain the Nirvana but bad karma is the hindrance.

  5. The characteristic of Kamma in Buddhism is as follows:
    1 Kamma is mental volition. Having volition, one acts by body, speech and thought. Doer of good evil gather good, Doer of evil, evil reaps.
    2. Kamma is neither fatalism nor a doctrine of predetermination, neither fate nor irrevocable destiny.
    The past influences the present but does not dominate it, for Kamma is past as well as present. The past and present influence the future. The past is a background against which life goes on from moment to moment. The future is yet to be. Only present moment exists and the responsibility of using the present moment for good or for ill lies with each individual.
    3. Everything that comes to us is right. When anything pleasant comes to us and makes us happy, we may be sure that our Kamma has come to show us what we have done is right. When anything unpleasant comes to us, hurts us, or makes us unhappy, our Kamma has come to show us our mistake. We must never forget that Kamma is always just. It neither loves nor hates, neither rewards nor punishes. It is never angry, never pleased. It is simply the law of cause and effect.
    4. Kamma is classified into four kinds according to the time at which results are produced. There is Kamma that ripens in the same lifetime, Kamma that ripens in the next life, and Kamma that ripens in successive births. But, for a Kamma to produce an effect, several auxiliary causes such as circumstances, surroundings, etc., are required. It sometimes happens that for want of such auxiliary causes Kamma does not produce any result. Such Kamma is called Ahosi-Kamma or “Kamma that is ineffective”.
    5. There is a third kind of Kamma taught exclusively by the Buddha, which is distinguish it from other religion’s concept. It is through this third type of kamma that one attain nibbana.
    It is “Kamma that neither black or white”, which puts an end to both black (evil) and white (good) Kamma.
    Buddhism not only deals with kamma and its effects, but also with Cessation of Kamma. The Buddha taught that kamma ceases when lust, hatred and delution/mental defilements cease. When lust, hatred and delusion do cease, old kamma ceases, no present kamma is produced, no new future kamma is produced.
    Merely producing good kamma does not extinguish mental suffering completely because it still causes one to go round in the cycle of birth and death.
    So, there is the case one’s action (Kamma) of a later day may modify the effects of one’s action (Kamma) of a former day. If this were not so, what possibility would there ever be of a man’s getting free from all Kamma for ever. It would be perpetually self-continuing energy that could never come to an end.

  6. I want to clarify that dont mix Buddhism with Hinduism as it was created in protest to Barhamanism,the three cast system, so it is totally differnt from Hindhuism and there is no God in Buddhism

  7. perhaps you’ve heard that good and evil are relative: one creates the other. in perspective of no dualistic view either is inexistent.
    karma is a thought. when you read these words and think them over, you create karma. when you think ‘it’s good’ or ‘it’s bad’, you create karma.
    every thought teaches your mind towards particular reactions in particular conditions. some reactions might be harmful. towards what reactions are you teaching your mind this moment?
    nirvana is a fancy word translated as ‘denial’ if i remember right. it’s denial of this world and all of it’s aspects, including thoughts, and thus karma. therefore, any talk of nirvana, including this one, is in defiance with it and thus incorrect. 🙂 on this question only you can answer i fear.
    good luck.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here