How does karma apply itself to an incarnation with a predisposition to aniexty who acts and reacts differently on no anti depressants , to the same incarnation who is not on mind control drugs.

  • Hi Sue! I think something similar could be asked about the application of kamma during periods of -natural- extreme hormonal fluctuation. Maybe thinking about that could give you some hint to answer your question. Kind regards! Oct 10 '19 at 0:14
  • Some are able the use the Buddhas drugs, some are not, react on in usual ways. Freedom From Fear and AN 3.22: Gilana Sutta — Sick People may help as to get ride of the cause of fear: The Healing Power of the Precepts.
    – user11235
    Oct 10 '19 at 1:56
  • What does "how does kamma apply" mean, given that's what the question is asking?
    – ChrisW
    Oct 10 '19 at 2:37
  • 1
    Chris. I did not choose my words well enough. When I said ‘how does Karma APPLY itself’ ... I should have said ‘ what are the karmic implications for a person who, because they’re on anti anxiety medications, behaves in a more conscious state than that same person who is not on this prescribed medication. Surely it’s an unfair advantage when the mind is stilled ? Oct 10 '19 at 20:21

Here are some thoughts on the topic, and i want to be clear that i'm not looking to argue for either of the alternatives of medication/no medication. Also, any question regarding the effects of medicine and the proper ordination has to be consulted with the doctor prescribing the medicine first hand.

If by karma you mean sila/moral consequences of medication, i don't believe a buddhist perspective differs from a layperson perspective on moral. Generally speaking, drugs that affect our actions in a way that risk being harmful to ourselves or others are illegal, and are not prescribed by doctors (I realize this is debatable).

On the other hand, if you're wondering about any form of consequence from a buddhist perspective one could argue that the use of medication is a form of tanha - desire for pleasant feelings, alternatively a desire for eliminating negative feelings - and as such can be a hindrance to develop a buddhist understanding of dependent origination, anatta or anicca, for instance.

However, one may argue that medication really doesn't do any difference to the fact that vedanas/skandhas are continually transforming independent of the choice of medication or no medication. One may very well be able to develop mindfulness and concentration in the buddhist sense either way, provided that the medication (and eventual side effects) doesn't affect your concentration or perception.

The aspects mentioned above regards medication, and could also be weighted against the option to live with unmedicated anxiety or depression, and deal with these things according to the buddhist noble eightfold path. I would argue that this is a matter of severity of symptoms, or the intensity of emotions, and that a buddhist approach to life is easier done in cases of lighter forms of negative emotions or mental illness. Also, the karmic effects of actions based on more severe emotional states of anxiety, depression or illness may very well be more concerning compared to how one goes about ones life with a prescribed and carefully planned medication.

  • If my answer is too inappropriate for this forum, i don't mind having it deleted.
    – user11699
    Oct 10 '19 at 13:50
  • Eric thank you so much. You have clarified this for me. At times in my life I have been prescribed a mild anti anxiety drug, the effect of which, allows me to make better choices in my life ... I choose meditation over agitation, acceptance over confrontation and gardening rather than the internet. It has always bothered me that on this medication I had an advantage over someone with the same problem of anxiety as me, but with no access to medication . And I have wondered about the ‘fairness’ of karma when I clearly have the advantage. I am grateful for the time you’ve taken. Oct 10 '19 at 20:03

what are the karmic implications for a person who, because they’re on anti anxiety medications, behaves in a more conscious state than that same person who is not on this prescribed medication. Surely it’s an unfair advantage when the mind is stilled ?

So I'm not sure about "unfair" advantage.

I usually think of "fair" in the context of inter-personal competition -- like "unfair to use performance-enhancing drugs in a bike race" -- which this isn't.

If we have an opportunity to practice the Dhamma that's a result of good fortune, skill, other people's kindness, etc. I think we're all supposed to feel fortunate that the conditions are right to enable us -- starting with having been born human, and encountering the dhamma.

Medications have a couple of other problems, possibly, in my opinion:

  • one is that they may be temporary -- if you feel good because you're drugged then perhaps you won't when the drug wears off -- so it's not as good as developing some skill that's independent of a drug -- possibly though a drug is necessary, if without it you can't practice at all, perhaps not even survive
  • another is that it may be harmful -- have unwanted side-effect, possibly physical (harmful to health) -- again that might be worth it, though, which is something a doctor and patient should decide together
  • Hi Chris. Thank you for your time. This is what I take from your answer. Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding. It is my good fortune that at times of prolonged stress in my life, I have been fortunate to have been prescribed a medication which has relieved me of the anxieties which, without, may have seen me behaving in an unconscious manner? Oct 15 '19 at 19:39

Your question is about the difference in the application of karma to two incarnations, one that is on mind control drugs, and the second, which is not on mind control drugs.

Karma (Sans.) (kamma {Pali}) is fruit of a cause, it's the effect of cause, it's the result of a cause. But not just this. Depending on the type of cause, the effect is. (Depending on the type of seed, the fruit is). Note the 'karma' connotes the relation of cause and effect, which its translation into english as 'action' may not be capture. Karma may also be taken to mean the coming to frution of action. The effect playing out because of a cause.

What do I mean by types? Karma (action) is also an act performed on any of the following three levels: body, speech and mind (This will suffice for this question). And these three types of action can be either out of craving, out of averssion, out of ignorance or out of wisdom. The first three are what can be referred as bad (cause, the seed is bad). The fourth can be called good (cause, the seed is good). The three are bad because action performed out of craving, aversion or ignorance is what fuels the samsaric flow- it is what fuels the becoming of mind-body phenomenon; it is thus respnsible for suffering/misery.

Say that the 'stock' of bad karma increases every time bad karma is performed. Similarly, say every time one acts not out of craving, aversion or hatred, but out of wisdom, one increases the 'stock' of good karma (virtue). Every time a certain type of action (karma) is performed (by body [physical], speech [verbal] or mind [mental]), a seed has been planted. Based on the right conditions, this planted seed will bear fruits. That is, every time an action (karma) is performed, it will bear certain consequences (a conventional necessity) that will arise when conditions are met. It is for this reason that even if a person stops creating more karma, one doesn't suddenly pass away into parinirvana. For the acccumulated stock of bad karma still remains; until its consequences arise and cease, the stock remains. Here, bad is what leads to attachment to sensations (craving for pleasant, craving for removal of unpleasant). Here, good is equanimous-awareness of mind-body phenomenon, that is through wisdom, one does not cling to sensations, and therefore does not create more fuel for samsaric flow (does not plant more bad seeds).

Incarnation, is just a particular conventional 'name' given to the moment when the physical aggregate, aggregate of form (naam-rupa), chanages from one body to another. For according to Buddha, we are 'birthing'(arising) and 'dying'(ceasing) every moment. At the last moment, just before death ('our death' {which happens at the 'end' of life}), strong karmic action comes to fruition and, as a consequence, effects the next moment in a major way. The next moment happens to be another 'birthing', but in this case, a incarnation (since the aggregate of form has changed drasctically).

Thus, karma applies itself to the two cases, as it applies in every other case. However the seed is (good or bad), so the fruit will be (good or bad). Depending on conditions, some particular karma will bear fruit at the moment of death, whose next moment (that is the birth- and this 'birthing' moment in this case is incarnation) will depend on the quality of its cause. The person on mind control drugs or not on mind control drugs have already planted the seeds - and the consequences will play out in both cases. Karma applies the same way in both cases; only that the consequences will be different, depending on the respective 'stock' of karma, and the moment of death (whose quality is itself dependent on the 'stock' of karma).


  1. I am using 'fuel' as a metaphorical concept to talk about sankharas [pali]. It can be translated as 'complex-mental formations' or 'mental dispositions'. Both tranlsations work in this context.

  2. Be attentive about karma as causality and karma as action. Both transliterations are not entirely incorrect and neither are completely correct.

  • I will print this off and study what you said. You have given me clear explanation. Thank you Oct 10 '19 at 20:11

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