As I understand it, Buddhism is not inconsistent with Darwin's theory of evolution. Since the law of karma is central to Buddhism and applies to sentient beings, is the law of karma something that evolved, too?

  • Have the law of gravity, or the third law of Newton, or the first principle of thermodynamic evolved? Dec 5, 2015 at 7:09
  • Well, at first sight not. But to my understanding they are not the same kind of law. Physical laws apply to anything composed of atoms, sentient or not. The law of karma applies only to sentient beings - at least that is my understanding. Laws in physics are not absolute in the sense that they are just models of reality. At second sight, the laws have changed in the sense that humanity thought that Newton's laws (not just the third) were always valid and we now know that that is not true. Dec 5, 2015 at 9:35
  • Niwton's and other laws always valid for their reference frames. Kamma and Vipaka are valid on their reference frame( Vignana/consciousness). As others it is also evolved.
    – Shrawaka
    Dec 6, 2015 at 11:15

5 Answers 5


AFAIK, changing is probably the only thing common to both Buddhism and Darwin's theory of evolution. The law of Karma is an important teaching in Buddhism that explains a certain causes and effect process.

The Buddha Dhamma is called Akaliko for 2 reasons:

  1. Gives effect immediately
  2. True for all three times (past, present and future)

But we must not confuse Buddha Dhamma with the word 'Dhamma' used in "Sabbe Dhamma Anatta". Here the word 'Dhamma' means phenomena. All phenomena except Nibbana are conditioned and subjected to change. Buddha Dhamma is the teachings of those phenomena and their behavior. That is true for all times.

Science keep changing as it is based on hypothesis. Buddha Dhamma does not change as it is based on direct knowledge.

If the required causes are present, the effect will come to past. Regarding the teaching of Karma, time itself is part of the equation. Read about Kala Sampatti & Kala Vipatti

  • 2
    "Science keep changing as it is based on hypothesis. Buddha Dhamma does not change as it is based on direct knowledge". True and very powerful words. Well said.
    – user2424
    Dec 5, 2015 at 17:10

Even there is a Buddha or no Buddha there is a universal law that governs the universe out of which one is Karma. Also it is said all Buddhas preach the same universal laws. On this light Karma is not evolving but static law that is ever existing infinitely into the past and andd future including the present.


By the way Darwin's theory of evolution is not the modern understanding of Evolution. What Buddha Explained as evolution is not parallel Darwin's theory.

Here's the Evolution mentioned in Buddhism

Lord Buddha explained a evolution process that starts with a certain kind of beings who are floating in the air.These beings see a certain compound covering the surface of the earth and some try to come close, But as they are very light it is hard and very few would come close to the surface. Then they learn that someone tasted the compound and it tasted good (There is little explanation about this compound but it is explained as something that looks like Curd). Then they all try to taste it and this event becomes a turning point.

The tasting becomes an addiction, Everyone start to eat it and after a long time the compound is no more and the beings are heavy. Before the addiction they did not needed food. Now they are either living near the ground or upon it.The illuminating bodies they ones had are gone, Their bodies are solid now.

And the first experience of touch has happened among some, But this is strictly taboo. But some still touch each other, but these rebellious beings are outcasts of the new society. The touching goes on with new members and it is essentially the forbidden passion of those days. But this does not go unnoticed from nature. The first signs of gender appears. Now there are no more left to consider them despicable, Everyone is doing it. Now the Male & Female is clearly visible.

This is when the first kind of plants are born. There is nothing to stop the plants from growing as there is nothing covering the earth.This plant said to be very simple and with seed which later on becomes the source of food to these beings. This plant has seeds without a cover to protect it. So these beings just pluck it and eat it. But with time they stop moving across the terrain to find food and settle down.

They settle down as little groups and start their lives, Now the same plants will have to feed them, here nature takes a turn on them. Plants give seeds, But they are with a shell. So the beings now start to make tools to prepare the seeds and start to farm to meet the demand.

With time the small groups grow and become villages then comes the tribes,leaders,Areas,Kings,Kingdoms.

So what about Karma?

Karma is not of physical nature and it is a given law of reality. Karma is a mechanism that has no doer. It is completely independent.

  • Karma is something that changes. For example....

If you give food you will receive Health,Strength,Food,Endurance. But the Karmic effect will not last forever. It has an expiry date depending on the circumstances of your giving.

  • Karma is not a universal thing.

Your Karma is going to effect your life and it is bound with your existence. But when most of the people say "Karma" their have a common misinterpretation of it. Karma is not a some kind of a data storage of your lives. It is simply how your future is influenced by your past choices & how your choices are going to influence your future.

  • Karma does not need to evolve.

Like i mentioned before...

"Karma is how your future is influenced by your past choices & how your choices are going to influence your future.*"

It is bound to you, not a part of a universal thing. When you reach nirvana Karmic effects will cease to exist.

No matter what happens to the universe or to you Karma will always be there for the living ones who hasn't reached "Nirvana". Because Karma is not new or old it is simply the eons old outcomes of choices, Strictly bound to individuals who committed the acts.


user1362373, karma is evolving (thought in creation), and involving, and can be used also as real "evolvement" (thought in liberation). And it applies to all living beings, whether they are aware of not, sentient or not. de and en are pretty mixed up today.

Such a distinction is that of people who have a by birth or lineage or race thinking, as that of most evolving-inspired ideas have.

Kamma is what keeps beings in this circle of evolution.

If one likes to understand kamma, this might be useful:

Kamma: A Study Guide, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2000; 48pp./145KB) An overview of the Buddha's teachings on kamma (karma; intentional action).

How ever, be warned, thinking on kamma (which means, trying to trace it back and forward) is said to make one crazy: and that (i.e. such thoughts on kamma) does not need to be done on the path. Just having the faith that wholesome deeds will bring their associated results (and unwholesome deeds, similarly), and to know what is good kamma (action by body, speech or mind) and what is not, is quite OK. Otherwise you would end up in nothing but not very wise things.

(Note: this answer has not been given with the agreement to be means of trade or the purpose of trade and keep people trapped and bound. How you handle it lies in your sphere, but does not excuse the deed here either.)

  • I hope you don't mind me editing for grammar sometimes (I have done it in the hope that it makes the answer easier for other people to read and understand). I didn't understand (and so I don't know how to clarify) the sentence, "Such a distinction ... ideas have."
    – ChrisW
    Jan 3, 2016 at 12:59
  • They are quite welcome Upasaka Chris and do also give info of how much quick-witnessed one is and also it gives a lot of challenge to loosen certain preoccupations as mentioned in the edit text (intro give some hints). Just careful and not always to fast. Sadhu!
    – user11235
    Jan 3, 2016 at 13:04
  • There a certain ways of distinction in different kind of beings, a notion Hindus nourish on as well as evolution theoretic, both always leaded to certain discrimination of kind of Ariya-beings and low beings outside of what the Buddha explained to be a special being and normal being. Its very modern to introduce sentient today, especially in new age movements, Mahayana approaches and worldly Dhamma approaches and is a very poison for developing metta and virtue, Upasaka @ChrisW which is of use for the path. That was the reason why mentioning that.
    – user11235
    Jan 4, 2016 at 0:20
  • I can see you addressed me in the latest comment; if I don't reply to it it's because I didn't understand what you said, nor why.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 4, 2016 at 2:16
  • One question was, if it is welcome to correct, one question was what "Such a distinction ... ideas have." means. Which part was it, that was not transported well by Atma? And of which do you ask "Why did you do?", valued Upasaka @ChrisW ?
    – user11235
    Jan 4, 2016 at 3:34

I doubt the laws of kamma can be reconciled with the laws of evolution for many reasons, such as:

(1) Buddhism only proposes good results come from good kamma. The Buddhist laws of kamma are not about biological survival & evolution but about psychological happiness & suffering.

(2) Where as Darwinian evolution (I assume) would propose both good actions (e.g., loving off-spring; living in balance with environment) and bad actions (e.g., killing, stealing, raping &/or lying/deceiving when required) contribute to survival & thus evolution.

(3) The supreme practise & goal of Buddhism (the noble eightfold path) results in celibacy & non-reproduction, thus a diminishing of the gene-pool of enlightenment genes (dhamma dhatu).

(4) Buddhism states the fully-enlightened being or 'arahant' has completed human spiritual evolution where as Darwinism (I assume) would not offer any completion or fulfillment of evolution.

(5) In short, Buddhism is spiritual evolution while Darwinism is biological evolution, i.e., miles apart.

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