I read the following verbal kamma on the internet:

Karma can be expressed like the magnetic push or pull that defines the universal law of 'cause and effect'. Karma follows a similar rule as le Chatelier's principle in chemistry and in physics Newton's third law of motion

What is the universal law of cause & effect in Buddhism?

Does kamma define the universal law of cause & effect?

Does kamma also involve an equal and opposite reaction?

2 Answers 2


In its simplest and clearest sense, karma is merely the recognition that the universe is a cohesive and coherent whole, not a collection of individual things moving independently of each other. When one takes an action, the results of that action spread out through the world, like ripples spreading over a pond. And like ripples spreading in a pond, the results of our actions reflect back in odd and sundry ways so that we are always affected by our own behavior.

People often misinterpret karma as a simplistic 'tit for tat', or as 'direct reward or punishment': e.g., as though if you slap someone across the face, you'll turn around and get slapped across your own face. That's understandable, but naïve; the truth is more subtle. If you slap someone across the face, you may or may not get slapped in turn, but you've certainly changed the world you live in. You've created a world in which slapping someone is 'normalized'; in which hostility and resentment are heightened; in which people look at you as someone who is willing to slap another across the face. You now have to live in that world you've created, come what may, and so does everyone around you.

Karma tells us there are no un-resonant acts; dharma teaches us to care for the resonances we create in the world.

Chatelier's principle and Newton's laws are aspects of karma related to the material (non-conscious, non-human) world. Normally when we talk about karma we mean to talk about the relationship of sentient beings to each other and to the world, because sentient beings (unlike non-sentient objects) ostensibly have the capacity to adjust their behavior and conform to dharmic principles. A river has no choice about how it flows; a human (ideally) does. But if you're going to generalize, generalize to the conscious, not to the non-conscious. Karma encompasses natural law, not the other way around.

  • i marked this post down. It appears to be mere personal ideology and has no relationship to the subject matter of this forum, namely, Buddhism. Jan 28, 2021 at 0:00
  • @Dhammadhatu: I'm sorry you see it that way. Jan 28, 2021 at 2:14
  • if you provided some links to authentic buddhist references, your sorrow may be alleviated. regards Jan 28, 2021 at 7:13
  • @Dhammadhatu: Maybe, though my sorrow runs fairly deep... Look, if you're looking for scriptural authority I may not be your guy, and others can certainly fill that role better. May they answer you at their leisure. 🙏 But if you want to understand, I can help you understand. It's what I do, and what I am, and I don't pretend to anything else. Take it for what it's worth, and if you think it's worth nothing at all, then take it as a gift. I have nothing else to offer you. Jan 28, 2021 at 8:10
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    @Dhammadhatu: I see. That's fine. Jan 28, 2021 at 8:14

In Buddhism, the laws of nature based in cause & effect are said to be fivefold, namely:

The laws of nature, although uniformly based on the principle of causal dependence, can nevertheless be sorted into different modes of relationship. The Buddhist commentaries describe five categories of natural law, or niyama. They are:

  1. Utuniyama: the natural law pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment, such as the weather; the way flowers bloom in the day and fold up at night; the way soil, water and nutrients help a tree to grow; and the way things disintegrate and decompose. This perspective emphasizes the changes brought about by heat or temperature.

  2. Bijaniyama: the natural law pertaining to heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."

  3. Cittaniyama: the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.

  4. Kammaniyama: the natural law pertaining to human behavior, the process of the generation of action and its results. In essence, this is summarized in the words, "good deeds bring good results, bad deeds bring bad results."

  5. Dhammaniyama: the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things: the way all things arise, exist and then cease. All conditions are subject to change, are in a state of affliction and are not self: this is the Norm.

Therefore, kamma is only one example or subset of the "principle of cause & effect", called "idappaccayata".

Per MN 136, the results of the same kamma can vary. Per MN 117, the law of kamma is not any kind of absolute truth or law and is only a general law.

For example, two heedless people may engage in sexual misconduct, by having thoughtless aimless sex outside a clear mutual plan of marriage; where one individual falls in love with the other person and the other person loses interest in the first person due to non-mutual attributes.

The heartbroken individual may suffer for many years while the other person may realise the heedless interaction was sexual misconduct and then attain enlightenment via the abandonment of heedless behaviour.

This shows kamma does not involve any equal and opposite reaction. In the Lonaphala Sutta, it is said the results of kamma for a wise person may be trifling; while for an unwise person the results of the same kamma cause 'rebirth' in hell.

In conclusion, Le Chatelier's principle in chemistry and Newton's third law of motion in physics have zero application to the Buddhist law of kamma because the results of the same kamma for each person will have differing degrees.

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