As far as I understand (of course I may be wrong), every act done voluntarily is born from some specific kind of intentions, and according to the nature of that intention, the act can contribute to perpetuate dukkha or to its eradication.

What happens when one acts without any amount of aversion nor passion, doing an action which in most cases is considered almost inseperable from evil intentions and almost objectively inmoral, let's say, consciously killing a child or raping somebody, while knowing the consequences?

Can those acts actually be executed without any amount of evil intentions? Is that even possible?

Thanks in advance for your time!

  • An evil act when constantly being reinforced over a long period of time might appeared to be carried out dispassionately (ie. mass killers become "numb" to the killing after a while). But that doesnt' mean there's no aversion or passion there. It's just that aversion/passion has turned into addiction. And that's why they aren't able to stop their killing. It's become a drug to get them high.
    – santa100
    Jun 1, 2019 at 2:09
  • Hi Santa100! Do you think there is a possibility of someone killing people for reasons other than aversion/passion (kama, bhava and vibhava tanha)? What if someone kills someone else with the underlying purpose of overcoming the duality of judgement between good and evil deeds? I heard once that that was one of the means used in tantric practice to go beyond dualism, but I may be wrong. Kind regards! Jun 2, 2019 at 0:52
  • Well there're quite some weird stuff attributed to Tantra like, doing some sexual thing to get to Nibbana and stuff. I thought that's wacky enough. Now comes the killing thing which I've never heard of before. My advice is when in doubt, stick with the suttas and vinaya as per the Four Great Referrals taught by the Buddha in DN 16 (ref: suttacentral.net/dn16/en/anandajoti )
    – santa100
    Jun 3, 2019 at 0:38

5 Answers 5


I think the doctrine says there are three unwholesome roots: i.e. passion, aversion -- and ignorance (or delusion).

It's also possible to do things accidentally -- but that's not what you're asking about.

See also e.g. this answer about lying -- but maybe that's not without passion, nor considered "objectively immoral", nor without consequences.

It's hard for me to imagine another case, other than these.

  • I think you're trying to talk about a "dispassionate killer" -- I guess killers can appear to be dispassionate, but I'm not sure a killer (a real person) can be actually dispassionate except in fiction, though perhaps practised at controlling their emotions.
  • Another case might be a "sociopath" -- maybe they act for a reason of their own though, e.g. passion rather than aversion. Or a psychosis -- misunderstanding reality. I'm not really equipped to judge that.
  • I'm not sure about animals. I think they're understood as being passionate, but perhaps unreasoning. I'm not sure that the "lower" animals have a theory of mind which allows them to see others as "sentient beings" (and immoral to harm them), instead of simply moving objects (which might be killed for food).

This isn't a very good answer -- not based on much personal experience nor references.

I think that's because I tried to map the question -- "is it even possible?" -- to the doctrine, and didn't really succeed very well. So I think the answer might be: "in general, no".

  • Thanks Chris for your answer! I ask this because I've heard that that's the reasoning behind some tantric practices. If you see the world as non-dual, killing might not be seen as "good" or "bad", nor as "kusala" nor "akusala". I wanted to know if such logic is based on the suttas or if it's reasonable or possible according to our current scientific evidence. Kind regards! Apr 29, 2019 at 5:10
  • I ask this because I've heard that that's the reasoning behind some tantric practices Perhaps you might have said so in the question. I can't really comment on that, from experiences or references (though maybe everyone has heard of some cases which are publicly understood as harmful).
    – ChrisW
    Apr 29, 2019 at 5:16
  • I didn't want to write that without being sure about the logic behind tantra. I'm absolutely ignorant about tantric practices in general, so I didn't want to express my question based in mere hearsay, lack of information or misunderstanding. Kind regards! Apr 29, 2019 at 5:22
  • 1
    @BrianDíazFlores I've read of e.g. drinking a small amount of alcohol (which Buddhists may consider "objectively immoral") -- not in order to get drunk, but in order to abandon an attachment to rites and rituals (i.e. the 5th precept in this case). That might be seen as relatively harmless too though -- killing people, and so on, even drinking regularly, seems to me a different category. I'm not very familiar with even the whole Mahayana doctrine, see e.g. Can you criticise or improve Ven. Bodhi's description of Mahayana.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 29, 2019 at 5:27

It's not possible to act unskillful while holding right view. That's a nonsensical idea.

If someone thinks he is free of passion and aversion and nevertheless, even fully consciously, takes existence, takes what is not given, speaks/thinks what is not fact, true, harms others and even rapes, such a person can bee sure to be on the highway to hell and such a person, holding grave wrong views, might be even incapable of growing in Dhamma in this existence.

As such delusion can always arise for a worldling, that is why faithful disciples hold very firm to Silas and have a lot of fear of wrongdoing.

So be even fearful to possible associate by thoughts with thoughts and actions of fools, since even if not acting outwardly, the kamma of thoughts have much more impact in long terms. That includes actually consciously thieves teaching Dhamma, especially if in Orange (put not exclusively) robes.

Note that a worldling is incapable either to recognize a immoral nor a moral person, since knowing only one but not the distinction and so stay firm by giving at right occasion, and Sila, do all your duties in frame of this and don't seek for the lazy short cuts and follow fools by it.

(Note: Not given for trade, exchange, stacks, bounds and binding to world, but as a tiny exit from the wheel)


I think it is not possible to kill or rape without any amount of aversion or passion. There are many kinds of "passion", including what the Pali suttas called "passion for Dhamma" ("dhammarāgena"). Therefore, in my opinion, to kill or rape for a higher ideal (such as in done in war or religious conquests) cannot occur without some type of passion.

The Mahayana people have ideas about Tantra & Wrathful Protector Deities and the Mahayana lamas or clerics often assassinate each other but this falls outside of the Budddha's Dhamma-Vinaya.


Only harming others or oneself unknowingly can be done without evil intentions. It is not possible to intentionally harm others without having greed anger and delusion in the mind. Harmfulness is just the natural/scientific result of having evil intentions in the mind. And being gentle, good, harmless, happy, peaceful is the result of having a pure mind. Mindfulness and goodness support eachother, just like negligence/suffering and evil support eachother.

Killing, raping, stealing, cheating.. Abusing/harming partners, coworkers, family members, other living beings.. Taking advantage of a worldly position to use it for the unwholesome actions.. Constantly lying, manipulating people for selfish reasons or being an active internet troll etc.. The list can be very long. These actions all makes people's minds more mixed up and makes it impossible to realize Nibbana in one life time or maybe in countless of life times. In ultimate reality there is no judgement, no good or bad, no up and down. But these unwholesome actions naturally and inevitably make people more worlding, more greedy, angry and delusional. Make them suffer more internally and externally.

That's why some people's(meditator or ordinary people doesn't matter) disregarding the consequences of unwholesome actions(because the objectivity of the ultimate reality) is wrong because these actions have long lasting and heavy consequences for humans:

The Tangle by Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer! As I wrote to Chris under his response, I wanted to know if what I've heard is the reasoning behind some tantric practices was true or logically possible. It seems that to some practitioners, intention can be totally separated from the deed itself, and I wanted to know if that's possible. Kind regards! Apr 29, 2019 at 5:14
  • Yes, some practitioners are not aware that intention and actions are not seperate from eachother and both intention and actions have natural results.
    – Murathan1
    Apr 29, 2019 at 5:20

Will killing a child to save 10 people fit the scenario you are looking for? I mean the trolley paradox.

What is seen as "Objectively immoral" is a blurry line, at least for unenlightened, because our actions are tented by ignorance. The enlightened, on the other hand, has let go of the raft, transcend the Dhamma.

I don't know what Arhat would do if faced with the "trolley problem" but I think it's right to have faith that his/her action will be perfectly moral.

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