According to the theory of karma,an individual receives the punishment for one's past deeds.

Now my question is the whole world is going through a massive unprecedented time,not only corona but severe issues already took place this year,which clearly bore the same effect on every person,does that mean the whole mankind is being punished for their past deeds?

If so why don't these pandemics persist eventually?
Why only after a certain period of time?

  • The answers this topic (about "the theory of karma") might answer this question too: Explaining The Holocaust & karma to a non-Buddhist
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 8:46
  • Based on the answers given below, I can decipher that the underlying message is these are responses to the way we treat the earth. Now my question is why did the dinosaurs get extinct? They didn't treat the earth in a bad way like human beings,then what was the cause of meteoroids falling on earth?
    – a_i_r
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 1:35
  • Possibly what I believe Rhys Davids called utu niyama karma (Inorgan order)
    – m2015
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 2:03

12 Answers 12


Pandemics are enabled by random genetic mutation and opportunities for infection. People like to be close and travel. Viruses like new hosts nearby. People are yummy. COVID is hungry.

Punishment implies "suffering from past deeds". There really isn't a "Punisher" passing judgement over us in Buddhism. In Buddhism the consequences of a deed relate to intention. The intention itself generates suffering. If one intends to walk while looking at a phone, one may soon encounter suffering. Suffering arises from unskillful deeds. In Buddhism, ethics are a guide for skillful qualities. Ethics lead us away from unskillful qualities bound to greed, hate and delusion.

So another way to rephrase your question might be, "What unskillful qualities would create pandemic suffering?" The Buddha doesn't mention anything about travel or closeness in the forty-four ethical considerations of MN8. However, we do see that:

Denying the existence of the virus falls under:

MN8:12.41: ‘Others will be uneducated, but here we will be well educated.’

MN8:12.9: ‘Others will talk nonsense, but here we will not talk nonsense.’

MN8:12.45: ‘Others will be attached to their own views, holding them tight, and refusing to let go, but here we will not be attached to our own views, not holding them tight, but will let them go easily.’

And that going to crowded places such as bars falls under:

MN8:12.37: ‘Others will be negligent, but here we will be diligent.’

MN8:12.40: ‘Others will be imprudent, but here we will be prudent.’

And that coughing on others without a mask for COVID falls under:

MN8:12.39: ‘Others will be conscienceless, but here we will have a sense of conscience.’

MN8:12.43: ‘Others will be unmindful, but here we will be mindful.’

MN8:12.44: ‘Others will be witless, but here we will be accomplished in wisdom.’

Disease affects all beings. Indeed, bananas are also being threatened by their own virus. Are bananas being punished for their deeds? I find it hard to think that way. It makes little sense to me. So it would be odd to think of the pandemic as the punishment for "past evil deeds".

But the difference between people and bananas is that people can choose to be ethical. And in that skillful choice, suffering will decrease.


We shouldn't really think of karma as 'punishment' or 'retribution'; karma isn't a moral force. If a man throws a boomerang and the boomerang swings back around and hits him, he isn't being punished for throwing the boomerang. Getting hit and feeling pain was just a natural consequence of the way he threw the boomerang. If he is practicing dharma, he will either not throw the boomerang or throw it more judiciously; if he is not, then karma will occassionaly wing it back at him.

When we think about large-scale disasters (pandemics, plagues, earthquakes, wildfires, monsoons, climate change...) the karmic view on this isn't that we are being collectively punished for some wrongdoing, but that we are feeling the consequences of our lack of attention and perspective. If we build a city in an earthquake zone, we should build buildings that withstand earthquakes. If we build a global economy with quick and easy movement around the globe, we should concern ourselves with the health and welfare of everyone. If we don't act with (dharmic) conscious awareness, then the natural (karmic) order of the world will assert itself.

Illness and death are an aspect of being alive, but we want to find that middle path between obstinately rejecting their existence and cynically shrugging our shoulders.


There isn't any punishment or reward there is just cause and effect. There is no society and there is no pandemic in a karmic sense. Reality doesn't admit of those things at a moment by moment experiential level where karma works. Remember, this moment by moment experiential reality stuff is really important.


According to Buddhism Kamma is only one of the reasons for what is happening around us. There are five Niyamas. Kamma, Dhamma, Utu, Biju, etc A comprehensive analysis is given in Abhidhamma.

The Abhidhamma teaches us that:

there are natural laws which govern the universe (niyaama dhammaa); our mental and physical states arise dependent on causes — dependent origination (pa.ticca samuppaada); and conditioning and influencing relationships exist between these effects and their causes (paccaya).


  • Is pandemic a natural law?By sweeping people from the face of earth?Also I hopped into your link,the natural evolution described there was an inorganic process,could you please take the trouble of relating pandemics and the description encrypted in the link?THANKS
    – a_i_r
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 10:52
  • Only Buddhas' can understand the Kamma process. It is a waste of time for Putujana trying to understand it. Having said that you still see how Kamma in action. Just investigate why the pandemic effect differently to different people.
    – SarathW
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 22:25

Now my question is the whole world is going through a massive unprecedented time,not only corona

Sure, Covid is one terrible thing. But it's not the most terrible... just yet. Ever heard of the Black Death outbreak during 1346-1353?

does that mean the whole mankind is being punished for their past deeds?

No, not everyone. The rich and powerful elites are doing just fine. Even if they catch it, they'll always have access to the best hospitals and brightest doctors by their side, hence greatly enhancing the odds of survival.

If so why don't these pandemics persist eventually? Why only after a certain period of time?

Because of a Buddhist concept called Anicca.

  • Sorry but man great influential persons died of covid 19
    – a_i_r
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 16:03
  • Of course there's no such thing as absolute certainty. But relatively speaking, the stats clearly said that the minority and the poors have much greater odds of deaths when struck by Covid compared to their wealthy counterparts. This is just the fact!
    – santa100
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 16:22

I will answer why pandemics arise. To understand pandemic we must first understand why disease arise. This body of ours is sanitised and kept away from insects , bacteria and viruses through various means. We are given an internal mechanism to fight any bacteria and viruses and we employ external mechanisms to ward off bacteria and viruses... Our internal mechanisms are mostly responsible for keeping us healthy...There comes a time when for various reasons period of judgement arrives. Based on our karma insects , bacteria , viruses attack us with intent to make us decay and die. Our health mechanisms both internal and external fights against those bacteria and viruses. Whoever wins is declared a winner but not without suffering. That is how diseases arise.Now pandemics are due to shared karma... we did a common mistake and we are facing the consequences of it because the period of judgment arrived. There is no judge but the mind is at play. Mind decides who gets infected and who does not.( This answer was a personal explanation based on experience and learnings )


Samsara is a cyclic tendency. Dependent origination is a cyclic tendency. Living beings are cyclic tendencies. Civilisation is a cyclic tendency. Viral disease is a cyclic tendency. Planet Earth's ecosystem is a giant cyclic tendency.

Cyclic tendency's "job" is to survive and perpetuate itself. One cyclic tendency can either be an "ally" to another cyclic tendency, in which case they help each other and become part of one mega-tendency, or their natures could be in opposition to each other, in which case they will be in a kind of competition for survival.

In this case, human civilisation is a cyclic tendency in opposition to Planet Earth's ecosystem. This is especially important because the human civilisation is a parasite on top of Planet Earth's ecosystem, it depends on it for its survival.

So naturally the more human civilisation harms Planet Earth, the more the latter will exhibit a tendency to keep generating phenomenas that would undermine the other tendency (civilisation). It is Planet Earth's survival mechanism.

Viral disease like COVID-19 is a tiny part of Earth's immune response. At this point anything that can slow down and stop human civilisation automatically becomes an ally of Planet Earth.

Things will get much more serious if we keep harming our host. The more we put ourselves in opposition to our planet, the worse the conflict becomes, the stronger reaction this conflict will generate.

At some point these reactions will help each other, by nature of coming from the same source, the interaction of two opposing tendencies. For example, global warming and viral diseases will help each other etc.


an individual receives the punishment for one's past deeds

I think this answer says that different people experience an event differently -- depending on their karma, including how they've been trained by their previous actions.

So when something (anything, like a pandemic) happens, same people may experience that as if it's some kind of "punishment" -- and some won't.

  • Right Chris... some people will consider disease as punishment.. some people might willingly accept it out of love.. Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 14:30

I think you're mistaking Buddhism to science or some world-encompassing philosophical speculation. Buddhism is only about one thing and one thing only ending suffering.

The Buddha wasn't interested in these kinds of questions, probably he would say to you .. What is it to you?

What is it to you if the Pandemic starts due to the alignment of stars or by a Demigod?

Just work on things on your power, you can follow the Nobel eightfold path here and now. Why do pry and ask about your former life? Maybe you were a murderer who slaughtered ten thousand Arhant what of it? you can do nothing to change the past.


Reason of pan(dem)ics? Google, facebook, exchange and co, and common use of it. Sickness isn't new, as well as not investigated, seen, does not mean that it wasn't before.

As for why people are in tendency to be sick: here

As for why many: "common/communistic acting" and like-a-like near.

As for ultimate (no opinion-based, or conventional) answer: happiness and suffering arises by touch (of not-knowing).

[Notee that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, trade... but to escape from those gatis]


Sometimes there can be collective karma.

For e.g. you see many people in a certain country publicly protesting against lockdowns, social distancing measures and wearing masks. They also do not heed such advice. Even their head of state did not take this seriously. The consequence of this is that this country now has the most number of pandemic cases. This is collective karma.

On the other hand, in countries where the leaders and people work hand-in-hand to prevent the spread of the pandemic using lockdowns, social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and diligent contact tracing, the occurrence of the cases have dropped significantly. This is also collective karma.

The incidences of viruses and bacteria that jumped from animals to humans of course can be partially blamed on karma. Hunting and killing animals in the wild or in captivity and dealing with their meat and blood can definitely cause a jump in diseases from animals to humans. But we should not lay the blame on humanity as a collective.

But is everything that happens to you or humanity caused by karma? Certainly not. Please see this answer for details. According to suttas quoted by this answer, not everything needs to be blamed on past karma.

  • I dont think collective Karma is correct. I am the owner of my karma; I am born of my karma; I live supported by my karma; I am related to my karma; Whatever I do, whether good or evil, that I will inherit.
    – m2015
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 1:46
  • @m2015 Collective karma is not important to the individual but there are cases where it does manifest, as per my example
    – ruben2020
    Commented Aug 18, 2020 at 8:10

Pandemics are collective results(effects) caused by 3 poisons of human beings-- Greed, Selfish Ego, Stupidity (collective causes).

Please repent, reflect what cruel deeds mankind had, have done to environment and other living beings and let's wake up and change and do what's right for environment and other living sentient beings.

You may see some people prosper, some suffer, some immune from pandemic are due to their good or bad fortune/karma reserves.

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