I have often heard teachings that it is better that one should not expect or desire anything in return for good deeds or dana performed. I presume it is because this leads to attachment. If one is not attached, does this mean that there are no good karmic consequences? I recalled that it was also mentioned the good karmic fruits are magnified as a result (of lack of attachments). How is this achieved? How should this be understood in line with the teachings on karma?

Thank you.

Appendix A:

To clarify, the lack of attachment does not mean there is no intention. Undeniably, there will be some good intentions behind a charitable act like a wish for the well-being of or some relief for the recipient(s). What is meant by lack of attachment refers to the lack of desire or want for something in return e.g. praise, recognition or even good future karmic effects.

3 Answers 3


Kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result leads to the ending of kamma. Giving without attachment beautifies non-attachment. In other words, since the mind is non-attached, it can readily give.

AN 8.31 says the highest purpose of giving is it beautifies/is an adornment for the mind. Notice only the last gift here is not related to 'self' but only occurs for the sake of the mind's development.

Mendicants, there are these eight gifts. What eight? A person might give a gift after insulting the recipient. Or they give out of fear. Or they give thinking, ‘They gave to me.’ Or they give thinking, ‘They’ll give to me.’ Or they give thinking, ‘It’s good to give.’ Or they give thinking, ‘I cook, they don’t. It wouldn’t be right for me to not give to them.’ Or they give thinking, ‘By giving this gift I’ll get a good reputation.’ Or they give thinking, ‘This is an adornment and requisite for the mind.’ These are the eight gifts.”

AN 8.31

  • True, giving with attachments feels like cutting of a piece of flesh. It will be wonderful if there is a reference to the mentioned sutta, thank you.
    – Desmon
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 12:59
  • 1
    @Desmon AN 7.49 according to this topic; or AN 7.52, different collections have slightly different numbering.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 10:27
  • @ChrisW the related post you linked to is very illuminating, thank you so much!
    – Desmon
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 15:03

Karma is a concept that predates the Buddha and directly translated is something like 'action' or 'deed' done with some intent. It is related to the law of cause and effect in that our actions and deeds have consequences. So called good/bright karma are those actions which result in consequences down the road that we find good and similarly with so called bad/dark or even neutral or mixed consequences.

With that background I think the crux for your question is that karma is defined as intentional or volitional actions. Karma is those actions we take with specific intents. Actions taken without any intent whatsoever simply don't apply. Intent or volition is a product of the mind so it is imperative to look at what the mind intends with every action we take.

If one takes actions with zero expectation or desire this sounds a lot like zero intention or zero volition, but somehow I don't think this is what you mean? Usually, when we give something away we usually intend some result or consequence of this giving action, yes? A good intention might merely be to bring relief from suffering in the case of giving food to someone who is hungry. A bad intention might be to cause others to praise us for how generous we are.

To clarify, are you asking about the case where we give with zero intent whatsoever - not even to bring relief from suffering in the case of giving food to someone who is hungry - or are are you asking about the case of only good intentions like the above? If the former, I think it is not a karmic action as it has zero volitional action. If the latter, then I think it is a karmic action that will bring so-called good karmic results, but the question is to whom?

One way to understand the sutta you referenced is that its talking about karmic actions taken with zero intentional volition on the part of "I-making" or "mine-making." That is, intentional actions we take that simply do not have any relation or intention bundled up with our ignorant sense of self. If we give food to a hungry person merely to relieve them of starvation with absolutely no reference to "I" or "mine", then this intentional action will have neither good nor bad karmic results for "I" or "mine". In this sense, I think it would be a karmic action taken that results in neither dark nor bright consequences for the "I" and would lead to the ending of "I-making" and "mine-making." At least that is how I understand the teaching.

  • 1
    Thanks for asking, I have added an appendix A to clarify.
    – Desmon
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 14:32

Good deeds bring good results. The statement before if true means it is a Dhamma, a teaching, a reality then according to three marks of existence, Sabbe Dhamma Anatta, meaning, the statement above is lacking Self. It is lacking Self because that Truth of mind is impermanent, meaning, the statement arises as true, changes in its meaning and vanishes from existence.

Therefore it is always not true that good deeds bring good results.

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