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i need guidance for a problem that i have for 5 years. I have a harm ocd, i keep having this extremely bad imaginations about killing family/holy beings and destroying holy stuff. The thing is, i REALLY REALLY do not want to do any of this, i love my family, i feel blessed knowing about dharma and stuff. But somehow, this dark bad repetitive imagination keep playing on my head. There is even this 'inner voice' who keep voicing things like "I want to kill X" even if I REALLY dont want to. Is this counted as bad karma? And what should i do? Just let it pass or maybe i should keep hurting myself so it will stop? Sorry if this sounds weird. May all of you have a great day ahead. Thank you

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  • Please seek professional help. Answers on Buddhism SE is not a substitute for professional help.
    – ruben2020
    Mar 26 at 7:19
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First, it seems like you’re suffering, and I’m sorry to read that. I sincerely hope you find release from your troubles.

Having said that, I will attempt to put your worries to rest by pointing out that the Buddha repeatedly states that Kamma arises from performing action with intention. There are a variety of canonical sources exploring the relationship between Kamma and intention, and I would encourage you to search for those. If we look at those sources, we might conclude that since you do not intend to perform those harmful actions, those thoughts do not generate bad Kamma.

On a more personal note, I would encourage you to seek psychiatric help. I myself suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, and there is hope. If you find a psychiatrist, and you supplement your practice with medical help, your progress on the path might become easier.

All the best.

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You need to do something which shows respect for the people you think you are killing. For example you can bow before them, you can touch their feet , you can ask for forgiveness. At the same time do not run away from such thoughts which generate bad feelings ... ultimately it is not your feeling... that which is not yours would like to give importance to it ? Do you give importance to strangers ? No . Similarly you should not give importance to such feelings. As they arise so shall they will pass. If you feel guilty for killing someone (in imagination) then you can use volition to neutralise it by paying deep respect or showing deep love...

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There are some great answers here so I hope you read all of them and consider. Another thing that may help is to realize that those thoughts you are experiencing are not YOU. They don't define YOU. They are not an inherent part of who you are. They are merely thoughts that arise and cease. What you have is a habit. A very uncomfortable one that is unsatisfactory. Understanding that this habit itself is subject to change and does not inherently define you and is not an inherent part of who you are can be one of the first steps in watching it slowly go away.

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I'm going second arturovm's suggestion that you seek clinical help. Persistent destructive thoughts (whether of the self or of others) should not be ignored, if only to preserve one's own mental balance. There's no harm in discussing your own suffering, particularly if it keeps that suffering from spreading to others...

That in mind, you might spend some time in contemplation, trying to discover what it is you think such destruction will accomplish. Often when we have fantasies of violence and destruction, it is more about establishing a sense of meaning and empowerment for ourselves. The urge to destroy a holy site might be in reality an urge to show that the holy site has no real power over us: that we are more than the holy site allows us to be; more than the restrictions that 'holiness' places on us. And there is an element of truth in this. True enlightenment is a state of liberation, one in which the typical 'rules of the road' do not necessarily apply. But we don't need to destroy anything to get there; that is part of our unenlightened delusions. If you examine carefully, you'll realize that holy sites are nothing meaningful; that family is nothing meaningful; that great sages and holy teachers are nothing meaningful. They are there to guide us, that's all, and we can turn your back on them with peace in our hearts whenever it feels right to do so.

If one has a fantasy of destruction — whether or not one intends to act on it — it means one is feeling oppressed and constrained. It's the urge of a seed to break through dirt and concrete to reach the light, so that the seed can grow and bloom. Everyone has a right to grow and bloom, but no one needs to break anything to get there. Switch from contemplation to meditation to sap the urge so that you can see the better, clearer, gentler path forward. A violent thought it just a mental arising: it comes, it lingers, it leaves. Watch it through the whole cycle, over and over, and sooner or later it will evaporate like the morning dew.

If you're in the US, you might try this hotline: (800) 273-8255, or text MHA to 741741.

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Is this counted as bad karma?

I think "karma" in Buddhism is defined as "intentional action" or something like that.

Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

It seems to me from your description that the "imagination" and "voice" are just perceptions which arise and that you're aware of -- and that your intention (intentional action or karma) is described as, "i REALLY REALLY do not want to do any of this", i.e. you want to be non-harmful.

I suppose that most people at some time experience moments of imagination, and some people "a voice". And the wise thing is to correctly assess whether it's harmful before you act (or don't act) on it.

And what should i do? Just let it pass or maybe i should keep hurting myself so it will stop?

Ideally you'd hurt neither yourself nor others.

A lot of people have self-harming behaviours, addictions, rituals -- but I believe that "practice to benefit self and others" is the correct answer, canonically.

There's MN 19 for example which describes the kind of thinking which led the Buddha to enlightenment...

The Blessed One said, "Monks, before my self-awakening, when I was still just an unawakened Bodhisatta, the thought occurred to me: 'Why don't I keep dividing my thinking into two sorts?' So I made thinking imbued with sensuality, thinking imbued with ill will, & thinking imbued with harmfulness one sort, and thinking imbued with renunciation, thinking imbued with non-ill will, & thinking imbued with harmlessness another sort.

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with sensuality arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with sensuality has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.'

"As I noticed that it leads to my own affliction, it subsided. As I noticed that it leads to the affliction of others... to the affliction of both... it obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding, it subsided. Whenever thinking imbued with sensuality had arisen, I simply abandoned it, dispelled it, wiped it out of existence.

... and so on.

This may be a process people go through to "renounce" any form of addiction -- which is of course perhaps not easy, but better for self and others -- that's the ideal.

That's also stated explicitly in AN 4.95.

The person who practices to benefit neither themselves nor others is like this, I say.

The person who practices to benefit others, but not themselves, is better than that. The person who practices to benefit themselves, but not others, is better than both of those. But the person who practices to benefit both themselves and others is the foremost, best, chief, highest, and finest of the four.

Incidentally, the "firebrand" simile in that sutta:

Suppose there was a firebrand for lighting a funeral pyre, burning at both ends, and smeared with dung in the middle. It couldn’t be used as timber either in the village or the wilderness.

I suspect that "burning at both ends" represents the Buddhist "middle way between extremes" -- where "middle way" means "neither extreme". So for example if "hurting others" is one extreme, and "hurting self" is the other extreme, then the Buddhist doctrine might be counselling neither of these, avoid both. Sometimes that's difficult to see, as the mind manufactures "false dilemmas" (also referred to as "false dichotomy") -- like, "Which will it be: one or the other?"

And "smeared with dung in the middle" may represent that it isn't only the two extremes which shouldn't be grasped.

Sorry if this sounds weird.

This sounds familiar to me. I know some people do "hear a voice" sometimes -- and it's good, better, to be able to judge whether what's being voiced is harmful or harmless, and to be motivated to act harmlessly and not act harmfully.

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I think that you need to find people who can help you manage this condition.

With a case like this one might have to try different things to work it out because many things can be causing this. Therefore it is difficult to give any particular advice.

Sometimes things like this can be caused by evil spirits and sometimes these things can become an obsessive inclination due to a frequent giving of attention.

If it is either of those then one could resolve it with training but if these visions are caused by some physiological imbalance then i think it's tough because nobdy seems to know how to fix it.

That being said many people hear voices and most seem to be able to learn to manage.

You circumstance is particularly troublesome because the themes are so violent.

What i can advice to try is regarding those perceptions as one would a song that got stuck in the mind or as one would recurring imagery after watching a movie. Otherwise maybe ry as if it was an itch, something unpleasant experienced due to past conditioning.

Also try working on the removal of distracting thoughts https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ati/tipitaka/mn/mn.020.soma.html

As for evil spirits it wouldn't hurt to try complaining because if it works then good and if it doesn't then you can more so rule it out and it doesn't cost you anything. For this how to you should make a different question.

In general many yakkhas hate Buddhism and will mess with people who annoy them, fortunately they aren't very difficult to deal with.

What i don't recommend you do is some intensive meditation experiments and not cooperating with doctors. If you want to meditate then get off medication for a while and remain supervised throughout the course.

This way you will learn more because even if you struggle & fail you can go back on the medication as you prepare for next try.

Beware of meditation in general because if your ability to focus sharpens your visions can and probably will become much more intense & vivid on that account.

That being said if you meditate do basic anapanasati and calm thoughts. If you can get to jhana it would be a good refuge from voices.

You shouldn't be particularly ashamed of thinking thoughts you don't want to think but you should make an effort to become a master of thought-pathways so that you think the thoughts you want to think and don't think the thoughts that you don't want to think.

You are hurt with these terrors and you hurt yourself more with harm. Think of it as a disease you have to endure and that even taking your life will not remove it, only overcome with patience.

In general it is shameful & humiliating to not be a master of thought but on this account your condition isn't more shameful than that of other people. People should have compassion for you and you should have compassion for yourself. I don't think poorly of you because you have these nightmares, it sounds like what is dear to you is getting attacked and you are being abused by these terrors.

Nobody in their right mind would think you really want to do bad things but people will think you are a liability if you can't control it. I think in general you shouldn't feel like you have to prove that you are a good person to anybody because these thoughts are not you and you are dealing with a tough condition.

Even if you just make a little effort towards Arahantship it is immeasurably meritorious and victory is not necessarily in this life. Even if you don't master it in this life this condition will pass for you eventually and you will finish it under favorable conditions.

Be patient and endure it. Also see if not yakkha:)

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It's good, good householder, to fear such terrible and being reminded that if not reaching the stream, one is still able to make all, even the most worse deeds. Most people think their intentions are for sure and might not have come in situation where confusion and wrong view can lead to such "crazy" acts.

Once listened to the good Dhamma, having left home, with proper attention,such thing is eternally solved, so one wise does good to take on what ever "hardship" possible in regard of the training, in regard of merits, to get as fast as possible ride of such total valid fear.

Much conviction and effort, seeing those imaginations as very friends and reminders, a blessing less have, having gotten certain access to the path out of dangers.

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