I suffer from a psychic disease (borderline disease of personality) which has turned my life into hell for at least half of the time, I spend several hours a day crying desperately and nothing helps, not the psychotherapy nor the medicines. I am obsessed with the idea that I'm suffering so much because in some way I "deserve" it according to the karma law, for having done something very bad in a past life. Is it true? It may seem weird, but this answer means a lot to me. Thank you for your answers in advance.

9 Answers 9


In Buddhism, the teachings about kamma are for the purpose of promoting good behaviour rather than for diagnosing the cause of psychiatric illness.

Psychiatric illness is generally caused by a genetic neurological disorder of the brain or, otherwise, kamma (actions) in the present life, such as an accidental brain injury or intentional drug use. It is definitely not caused by actions in a past life.

In his 2nd sermon about the ultimate truth or ultimately reality, the Buddha taught every component of the human life ('the five aggregates') can be subject to disease/damage (ābādhāya).

Even the five aggregates of a fully enlightened person can have disease/damage (ābādhāya), such as the famous Thai monk named Ajahn Chah, who had a brain disease in his old age.

Therefore, about the cause of your illness, you should follow the advice of your doctor rather than listen to Buddhists who speculate superstitiously about unknowable past life karma.


I hope you get well soon.

May I suggest you start focusing on the times you feel well and better; use it to practice dhamma. Meanwhile, also gather material on Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (such as their nobility).

When you are facing undesirable symptoms, repeat the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha material you gathered. Do it quietly or aloud. Be sure that you know why this is useful to you. If not, it will sound like some useless or crazy activity.

Get well soon!


"There are, revered Gotama, some ascetics and brahmans who have this doctrine and view: 'Whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by previous action.' Now, what does the revered Gotama say about this?"

"Produced by (disorders of the) bile, there arise, Sivaka, certain kinds of feelings. That this happens, can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true. Produced by (disorders of the) phlegm... of wind... of (the three) combined... by change of climate... by adverse behavior... by injuries... by the results of Kamma — (through all that), Sivaka, there arise certain kinds of feelings. That this happens can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true.


  • This is a good quote however it says nothing about past lives. The term "what has been done on the past" does not necessarily mean past lives. The quote includes "what has been done in the past" as 1 of 8 causes of feeling experiences. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 4:42

I think (as part of my personal opinion or speculation, this may be not Buddhist doctrine) that "Karma" was a religious concept which pre-dated Buddhism -- it was part of the Vedic religion. I'm not sure but it might have been used in a "rites and rituals" sense (e.g. "if we perform this rite and ritual, that is good karma, which will have a good outcome in future"); or, possibly, which was an explanation of (and justification for) rebirth (e.g. "we are high-born and high-caste because we did good in a previous life, and you are low-born because you must have done something bad to deserve that").

When the Buddha taught, some of his teaching should be understood in that context (i.e. his doctrine was addressed to and meant to correct some contemporary views of people he met and their culture).

One example of that is his addressing Brahmins, who perhaps believed that they were good (or holy) because of how they were born and/or what ritual actions they performed. So the Buddha corrects that, saying that whether he calls someone "holy" depends e.g. on how they behave.

Similarly I take his teaching on Karma to be intended to correct or to replace the contemporary Vedic view: and I think it's not what "you" may or may not have done in the past that matters so much, what really matters (or what's more important) is your present "intention".

  • Yes, karma pre dated Buddhism. Actually, Buddha is the person to rectify and clearly break down karma for people. Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 14:24

I do hope that you will see that initial immoral thoughts (as the ones that you are entertaining right now) can be overcome by purposefully generating moral thoughts. This is the basis of the Satipattana and Anapanasati bhavana.

What you are creating here is vaci sankhara, as whether one talks to oneself or actually get the words out loud, both are vaci sankhara. Kamma is ‘Action’. So it is not the past Kamma, but the kamma that you are creating in the present that are affecting you. You under-estimate the severity of mental suffering. It is unlike any physical suffering and is very distructive .

So without any delay get into an experience-based process of practicing Buddha Dhamma. That is the best medicine for this. So start learning about the three characteristics anicca, dukkha, anatta, of “this world”. Almost all of us have mis-understood and mis-interpreted the meaning of these three words - anicca, dukkha, anatta. That is why the True Path is hidden to all of us.

Then getting into practising Loving Kindness meditation. I have shown how this in done in an EARLIER POST. on what-is-metta-bhanava-and-how-do-one-practice-it.

Though I explained as to what “immoral” is in response to @Chris’ comment, it is better if an example is given. Our interpretation of “immoral” is limited IMHO. Harming self or others for whatever reason is immoral. It is a “Ditthi” or “wrong vision”. It must be noted that the word “ditthi” is used in Buddha Dhamma to specifically denote micca ditthi or “wrong vision”. The opposite is samma ditthi or panna (wisdom).

You are being obsessed with the idea that you are suffering so much because in some way you "deserve" it according to the ‘kamma law’ is a ‘Ditthi’. Many would not see it as a 'ditthi' as such activities as that of yours are incorrectly labelled by our medical community or those religious (referring to it as KAMMA) by their conditioning over time. This is also called “brain washing”. This is why ditthis are very difficult to break. Yet, with a determined mindset, one can break ditthis.

The key problem is that human mind likes to “take the long-held-belief-way”. It is easier to try to justify one’s vision or position rather than trying to spend time looking deeper into the issue to make an informed decision. But one needs to think about the consequences that can last for unimaginably long times. This is why getting rid of “ditthi” and embracing samma ditthi is the first step in the mundane Eightfold Path first and then in lokottara Eightfold Path.

Having wrong kinds of vision (ditthi) can be very dangerous, since one may not even realize that one is doing immoral things because of that ditthi. Such ditthis can only be removed via learning Dhamma. One becomes a Sotapanna just by eliminating such wrong visions and perceptions. The three sanyojana (or samyojana) that are removed at the Sotapanna stage (sathkaya ditthi, vicikicca, silabbata paramasa) all arise due to micca ditthi.

  • Can you explain what "immoral" means here, please?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 9:05
  • I see this psychic disease as a “Ditthi”. Ditthi or “wrong vision” play a key role in suffering, whether it is inflicted on others, or self inflicted. Ditthi is an immoral mental factor. Its opposite - samma ditthi - is a “moral“ mental factor. A key point about mental factors is that moral &immoral mental factors do not arise together in a mind. A thought is either moral or immoral. A moral thought has one or more of “moral mental factors” such as alobha, adosa, compassion (to self or others), etc. & an immoral thought has immoral mental factors such as lobha, dosa etc. to self or others. Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 12:02
  • The word "immoral" means something slightly different in standard non-Buddhist English, and so I'm not sure whether the OP can understand why you describe their view immoral. In English, activities like lying and stealing (hurting other people and breaking the law) might be described as immoral, but it's not clear why you'd describe the OP's view as "immoral". And/or if you say that theirs is "wrong view" it might be helpful (and an important part of answering the question) to explain why you say it's wrong (what is "wrong" about it), and maybe contrast that with what a right view would be.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 12:17
  • I will add to the OP - a further explanation. If it is still not sufficient, do let me know. I will then try to give an example or two. I am just about to post that explanation. Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 12:27
  • Well it may be a wrong view, meaning, "a view which doesn't liberate the OP from suffering". And an identity-view e.g. described in Sabbasava Sutta ("Was I in the past?") which results in a "fetter of views".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 12:57

The working of Karma is complex. This can be Karmic, genetic (Bija Niyama), random (Dhamma Niyama - other cosmic laws). Karma can very well play a part, but we could only just speculate. Roughly only 1/5th of all experiences are due to Karma, the rest constituting other Niyama Dhamma. Only a fully enlightened Buddha may know the answer for sure.

But if this helps in dealing with the situation perhaps it can be used to console your mind.

See: Niyama, Karma in Buddhism

  • Just because kamma-niyama is 1 of 5 niyama are does not mean 1/5th of all experiences are due to Karma Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 0:19
  • More or less or roughly 1/5 of it would be as what I have learned. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 2:58
  • Memorizing ideas is not "learning" in Buddhism. Kind regards Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 4:33

Unlike what some other posters suggest, karma is an essential and fundamental part of Buddhism. Buddhism does not make any sense without karma. Karma acknowledge that things happen due to action, due to cause and conditions, this is fundamental understanding of dependent origination.

At the psychological level, acceptance of karma, can help prevent the mind from ending up in the state of nihilism, that things happen for no reason at all. Or that nothing meaningful occur through one's actions. Or that there is no consequences to one's actions because of bodily death. This state of Nihilism is considered very dangerous in Buddhism because it gives rise to deluded mental states and will negatively your ethical behavior as well as your personal happiness will suffer as a result.

In fact karma also offer hopes that your present actions will change your future outcome. Regardless of what is happening to you at present. Some level of faith is required and in fact faith itself is positive karma due to the positive effect on the mind.

According to Buddhist doctrines, each person have accrued countless bad karma from previous lives, indeed most people are accrueing negative karma at very present moment even as they "do nothing" because of the mental afflictions in their mind, eventually manifesting in evil speech and actions. To reverse that process will require you to overcome your negative habits and karma every step of the way.

It will hurt. From what I observed successful practitioners (monks among others) will have stories of experiencing horrible karmic fruition before they make break through. Such as suddenly breaking out in skin diseases, being seriously ill, even collapsing and breaking teeth before they could ordain. For me personally during taking the Five Precepts ceremony I nearly fainted while bleeding heavily through my nose. But I would have to say that since then the effect has been a profound change in my life, I was able to control much more of cravings and urges before. Ethics is a fundamental part of the Noble Eightfold Path, you can't expect to cultivate concentration or wisdom without it. I wish you the best and hope you can turn your life around.


Gaia, someone gave you the "label" of having a psychic disease called borderline personality disorder. You are in conflict with yourself about who you are and how you fit into relationships, society, etc. You may be very sensitive and over-react to what life is bringing you. You are not sure what it is that you really want.

The first thing you should do is stop using all illicit drugs. You will never be able to find your way out of this with drugs or intoxicants like alcohol. You will have to "go through" this rather than outrun it or escape it. It's not that bad when you know the methods. Go to AA if you have to.

The "good karma" I see from your question is that you are trying to solve this problem by using the principles of Buddhism. The psychiatric crowd will see your condition of borderline personality disorder as incurable. However, I will debate that, and disagree. You are trying to get some stability and peace in your life, and it is attainable.

Maybe some others will have a simple book you can read, that will cover Buddha's first teaching, which was about The Four Noble Truths.

Buddha said in his First Noble Truth that, FOR EVERYONE, life is unsatisfactory. Everybody is suffering in one way or another. This is the Dharma, or the way it is. We must grasp this truth to go on to the second truth.

The Second Noble Truth is The Cause of Suffering. Basically, it's wanting things to be different than they are. It is fighting the Dharma, or the way things are.

The Third Nobel Truth is that there is a way to end suffering, and find the peace that we all are seeking.

And the Forth Truth includes the 8 fold path to do this. It is all very simple, really. If you get into it, you may say to yourself that this is all so self evident, why didn't you think of it yourself?

You will have to apply yourself to the teachings. The trick is to remember them as things come up, we all forget so easily. You will have to learn to meditate. First it may bring much pain and then being followed by some clarity to your mind. Eventually, you will round the corner, and find peace waiting for you.

I have worked in a maximum security prison and State psychiatric facilities where a sort of Buddhism and mindfullness training was offered to the "inmates" and had amazing results. Your Karma has led you here and is about to change from confusion to understanding. Don't give up. There is a fork in the road approaching.

  • 1
    I suggest three edits, for your consideration -- 1) Remove the sentence which puts words into the mouth of "psychiatric crowd", and the following sentence which disagrees with those words. Avoid interfering with a doctor-patient relationship over the internet (a.k.a. don't assume a teacher's mantle). 2) Use the word "I" more than "You" -- e.g. talk more about your own experience, and talk less about the OP's experience. 3) Also try to answer the OP's question about whether illness is deserved because of karma, or about being obsessed by that.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 0:39

Is psychic disease related to bad karma?

Everything one experiences now is the result of previous Kamma.

One can think of it as playing a card game, and being dealt a handful of cards. One has no control over which cards one has been given. It's now up to oneself to play that hand as best (wholesome, meritorious) as possible, in order to assure that future kamma will be wholesome.

As Suminda mentions, Kamma is a deeply complex phenomenon that only a fully enlightened Buddha can understand.

That is also why the Buddha categorized Kamma as one of the Four Imponderables (Acinteyya).

The four imponderables are identified in the Acintita Sutta (AN 4.77), as follows:

There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

“The Buddha-range of the Buddhas is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

“The jhana-range of a person in jhana…

“The [precise working out of the] results of kamma…

“Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

“These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them.”

The Buddha advised not to ponder these 4 phenomena as it will lead to restlessness and agitation of mind.

When thoughts about the working of Kamma arise, one should instead turn them into objects of observation: thereby using them as a means to cultivate insights into the true nature of reality. Insight meditation (Vipassana) is the tool/method the Buddha taught. Vipassana is designed to dispel ignorance by letting the mind see clearly.

One comes to see the Three Characteristics of Existence, ie. Impermanence, unsatisfactory and uncontrollability.

When one sees e.g. impermanence of phenomena one understands that the Kamma that was made in previous lives was made by a "being", that is not the same being as the one now experiencing the results of that Kamma.

  • 1
    AN 3.61 states everything one experiences now is not the result of previous Kamma. It also states experience is not causeless or mere chance, as you appear to have posted. Regards. Also, if kamma is a deeply complex phenomenon that only a fully enlightened Buddha can understand, why did the Buddha teach kamma mostly to ordinary people? AN 4.77 obviously does not state what you have interpreted to state. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 0:15

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