Dhamma Letter No. 38

Q&A No. 13


Q. I understand Karma, individual karma. But I do not understand when hundreds of people all die together.  How does that collective karma occur?

A. We can see it from two perspectives.

In Mahayana Buddhism and Indian philosophy, it is believed that groups with a common / shared karmic cause experience a common / shared result. This notion of common / shared karma supports the explanation of why hundreds of people experience collective suffering.

In Theravada Buddhism, however, it is believed that common or shared karma is merely a conventional truth (俗諦, sammuti-sacca), a concept that refers to the tendency of individuals to perform similar karmic patterns, not the ultimate truth (眞諦, paramatta-sacca).

Just as individuals gather to form a so-called crowd, collective or shared karma is seen as merely the merging or the coming together of each individual’s karma. In this view, individuals are in the same boat, so to say, experiencing mere conditions.

Each being’s karma functions not only as a part of the whole, but also functions on its own.

In the Milindañha sutta, it is written:

“O great king, all who have intentions as sentient beings are born of karma. All that arises from seed is caused by cause.

The more answer will be continued in the next Dhamma Letter.

May you be free from any bondages!

May all beings be free from any suffering!

May all beings be well and happy!

With Metta,

Ayyā Kosallā & Mahāpajāpatī Bhikkhunī Sangha


If you have any questions related to dhamma & meditation, please feel free to ask. You can reach Ayya Kosalla directly at Bhikkhuni.Kosalla@gmail.com . 

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