Note: Originally I wrote "unintentionally" and not just "accidentally" but I have realized that even the "accidental" action described in the example below involves the person's intentions of their movements and thus even if the person's intention wasn't to break the vase they still broke the vase through their intentional action and I believe they would necessarily suffer for breaking the vase.


  1. A person is walking through a friend's house and accidentally knocks a vase and causes it to fall and break. The friend asks for the person to buy them a new vase, but the person refuses.

Does the person necessarily suffer for refusing to buy their friend a new vase?

  • 1
    I am finding a trend in your questions: they mostly revolve around justice. But, to me, karma and the dharma are not about justice. And trying to impose theories of justice on them will pull you away from their true meaning. You should check out this article.
    – user29568
    Nov 18, 2018 at 13:10
  • The degree that someone feels stress depends on the person's way of dealing with it. For example, if the person blames the vase's position, then they no longer feel guilty. Or, they can rationalize that the vase was ugly and deserved to be broken. The mind deals with situations in many ways, typically to help relieve the situation(most of the time this is done without thinking about the other person, but only the self.)
    – user29568
    Nov 18, 2018 at 13:24
  • I think the basis of the four noble truths is that there is a way, but I do see how you can interpret as sometimes there is no way. Thich Hanh mentions that it is not about ending suffering, but suffering less.
    – user29568
    Nov 18, 2018 at 13:26
  • Perhaps this is a lack of mindfulness. At any rate, this seems to the lesson of the broken vase.
    – user14119
    Jul 11, 2019 at 12:26

5 Answers 5


You say "unintentionally" but your friend might see it as "negligence".

  • I didn't mean to break it!
  • Yes but you should have looked where you were going! No one else broke it...

I suspect that Buddhism might classify negligence too as volitional, karmically active, and a cause of suffering.

Anyway, I think that arguing about it with the friend probably counts as intentional.

FWIW a civil court might try to apportion blame e.g. based on where the vase was placed. Who knows, maybe it would be appropriate to share the blame.


Answered on this and some on this version of the question.

Good part of the question, householder Angus, has been answered here: What happens if you drop and break a plate of fruit from the Buddha's altar?.

In regard of so called unintentional action, an older reflection on it might help: , since un-careful has also effects, is to that extend intended.

Unwholesome done knowingly and unknowingly enter image description here (keine lösung = no solution/release)

(Note that this gift of Dhamma is not dedicated for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainment but as a means to make merits toward release from this wheel)

  • Sadhu for the care householder Angus. How ever, do not stress you to much in trying to change the past, although it is good to remove traps one possible has laid out in rage. The path is gained by being resolved on present and future actions.
    – user11235
    Jul 6, 2019 at 3:57
  • Sadhu, sadhu, for effort and care.
    – user11235
    Jul 6, 2019 at 13:24
  • Atma thinks that there is a "rollback" function when viewing the revisions. That might make efforts probably easier, althought, don't forget, others may have answered at another time. The issue, general, was once raised, suggested that questions should not be changed after answers arise (in regard of meaning, of course). Since it can couse stress for others and oneself. It was, how ever, not beloved in this spheres here, often more up in having nice thing to present.
    – user11235
    Jul 6, 2019 at 13:35
  • "But on the internet what is written is always "present" unless deleted?", if it would remain as trap, written may lead to long and anewed troubles. See first link on traps. Delete, of course does not change the previous action, but if reminded and thinking "oh, I don't care whether still wrong", that would be again ones kamma with it. Therefore: Sadhu with care and effort!
    – user11235
    Jul 6, 2019 at 13:37
  • Btw. great on topic here and to penetrate it in the here and now by oneself. Mudita!
    – user11235
    Jul 6, 2019 at 13:42

I have done many bad deeds in my headless life. Many living entities have been destroyed because I have been unaware: while doing ordinary karmic activities like sweeping or cleaning, while riding a car or bicycle. All these things, if not done while working for the benefit of the Whole, will create bad karma.

The solution to compensate for your bad deeds is to perform metta and expand your awareness. I was doing metta for all human beings and this practice changed my consciousness. I went out of my room with expanded awareness and saw how I can do things without destroying living entities. Living entities are everywhere and the only way to avoind destroying them is to become more aware. Metta is a very good process to create good karma and make spiritual advancement. Your awareness will expand.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 13, 2019 at 11:49

The friend asks for the person to buy them a new vase, but the person refuses.

Well, intentional or not, the damage's already been done to the host's property and the guest cannot say that s/he's completely free from the responsibility. So even if the host did not request for payment, it should be the right thing for the guest to offer some payment to cover for the host's lost property. In terms of kamma, since the cause was unintentional, the fruit will certainly be of a different degree of severity than that of an intentional one. But that doesn't mean it'll guarantee that the guest will 100% be free in the future. Who knows, maybe in some near future, this guest might invite some of his own guests over, and his own guest in turns, will unintentionally break some property in his house! In short, if in doubt, try to play it safe and try one's best to be reasonable and responsible for one's own actions.

  • Well, that's why I said "when in doubt". Unless we're arahants, there's no way we can say with 100% certainty that that guest will be 100% free from his unintentional action. So one should err on the safe side to avoid any regrets later on. The cultivation of the whole Path itself is difficult, arduous, take a lot of time, and confusing sometimes. But that doesn't mean one should not give it a try!
    – santa100
    Nov 17, 2018 at 21:12
  • consequences or suffering or not, there's not explicit declaration that he's 100% free from his unintentional action. That's the whole point. We just don't know with 100% certainty, hence the "play it safe" approach.
    – santa100
    Nov 17, 2018 at 21:18

Breaking of the vase unintentionally is not bad Karma, but

  1. Refusing to acknowledge that it is your mistake and not apologizing when it really is your mistake is usually caused by ego. That is bad Karma.
  2. Refusing to correct that mistake when one has the means to do it is usually caused by ego and greed. Any thoughts arose, words uttered, actions performed to justify this ego and greed are all bad Karmas.

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