Do the good and bad deeds of a person pay off? I had seen many of such examples and even heard of many, but I'm quite unsure of whether this is just a belief or are there any ideal principles behind it. If a person does something bad to someone, does he really get back on to himself or it might be just a coincidence? I would like to clear that I'm not a philosophy student, though I'm quite interested in and wanna study also. So please do not use such words which may pose more difficulty.

  • Some religious systems postulate a metaphysical law of retribution for "bad" deeds, such as going to hell in Christianity or karma in Oriental philosophies. These involve the "next life", however, to compensate for the obviously limited effectiveness of legal systems and moral conscience in this one. Beyond that there is nothing beyond "vice is its own punishment and virtue is its own reward", I am afraid.
    – Conifold
    Aug 13, 2017 at 19:25
  • By your last statement, do you mean that the person who does bad, always feel guilty or demoralised even though he might not admit it in front of others. Aug 14, 2017 at 3:09
  • Not necessarily, although people do interpret it that way. But philosophers can mean it more objectively: vice diminishes person's value and virtue inhances is, whether they feel anything or not, admit it or not, care or not. Just as color blind people, who never learn that they are color blind, would still miss something.
    – Conifold
    Aug 14, 2017 at 3:24
  • Nice example of colourblinds. Can this might be a reason that many of such persons don't lead a happy life although they pretend to be happy in front of the world? Aug 14, 2017 at 3:50
  • They do not have to pretend, to them what they have is happiness. It is to a happier (more ethical?) person that the deficiency becomes apparent. One needs to experience the colors to appreciate what they are missing. Of course, this is controversial. One could say instead that moral and non-moral perspectives are both subjective, and neither is any more "true" than the ther, and that the correlation with "happiness" is questionable.
    – Conifold
    Aug 14, 2017 at 3:59

2 Answers 2


In the perennial philosophy the laws of causation (in an ethical context) apply to intentions and motivations, not to deeds. If we help an old lady across the road and she gets run over half way across we are not marked down for this since it has nothing to do with our intentions. A teaching story has it that Buddha committed a murder in a previous life in order to save others from being murdered. The deed seems reprehensible, but the motive is what counts.

The punishment and rewards would be self-administered and this would be why we cannot escape our fate, that we will be our own judge and jury. We were there and know exactly our state of mind and intentions at the time. Socrates indicates this view when he says,'The price of a lack of virtue is a disordered soul'. A disordered soul would be its own punishment, just as virtue would be its own reward.

Ignorance of the effects of actions would be a valid excuse, but a failure to make any attempt to dispel our ignorance would have no excuse. Feigning ignorance would be impossible and pointless because no outside agency would be judging us. When a rock falls off a cliff it follows the laws of the universe all the way to the bottom, and the laws of karma would be just the same for falling humans.

What this would mean is that are no blanket rules. As the OP says, murder, criminal acts etc. are not always wrong since context is everything. Purity of heart would overcome all ethical errors and this would be connected to the teaching that those who are enlightened, thus free from any egoic tendency to think or act to the detriment of others, transcend the legacy of their karmic history.

This seems to be in line with the idea mentioned in another reply that it is the state of our consciousness that matters, and that determines the strength of the connection between our deeds and their consequences.

  • Ignorance of the effects of actions would be a valid excuse, but a failure to make any attempt to dispel our ignorance would have no excuse. I didn't understand this statement well. Can you please explain this. Aug 17, 2017 at 11:43
  • @Vidhi Gupta Sure. Ignorance of the effects of our actions may be a fair excuse when they are not as we expected and in any case we never know the full effect of our actions. We may mean well but have made a mistake as to how to act. But meaning well is a poor excuse when we have made no effort to understand our situation. As well as the details the 'situation' would include who we are and what sort of world we live in. Thus in mysticism great emphasis placed on dispelling ignorance prior getting busy trying to help people, for our efforts are likely to be ineffective or backfire. .
    – user20253
    Aug 17, 2017 at 14:07

According to Indian Vedic scriptures The answer to above question depends on what kind of person he/she is. There are three main kinds of people, namely, 1) Sattvik 2) Rajas 3)Tamas

Then there are thousands of types derived of permutations of these basic types. IF the person is more on Sattvik side, He becomes more aware of his consciousness and so the results of his deeds come faster and clearer, while if he lies near the Tamasik side , He becomes more and more unaware of his consciousness and consequently his deeds, Therefore the results of his deeds come slower and unclear . An animal or a plant are towards Tamasik side , as the level of there consciousness is very low compared to most of the humans , while the gods and goddesses depicted in scriptures have a higher level of consciousness than humans as they are near the Sattvik side of this scale of consciousness. So, it depends on the consciousness of person.

  • And what about rajas as you didn't describe it? Aug 17, 2017 at 5:29
  • As well, if a person lies near tamasik side, he becomes more unaware of his consciousness and the results of his deeds are thus slower as you said. What does that mean? It implies to me like anyone who does wrong should become unaware of what he did or forget his bad deed, he will have unclear results meaning he will never be able to regret on his doings and consequently will continue his doings?? Please explain. Aug 17, 2017 at 5:35
  • Rajas is where most of the humans lie, It is a state where The person is Attached to all worldly things, रजो रागात्मको as described in Bhagvad gita, Rajas is filled with Attachments, So it is somewhere in between those two states. Results are slower and unclearer than the sattvik state but faster and clearer than the Tamasik state.
    – techvish81
    Aug 17, 2017 at 5:36
  • If everybody can derive easily that whatever sorrow, grief they are experiencing is the result of their previous deeds, nobody would ever do such deeds and the world would come to an end, because everybody will get moksha. So it is Maya which creates a veil before the eyes of a person so that he cannot derive the truth easily. The mechanism of doing so is as described in my post
    – techvish81
    Aug 17, 2017 at 5:41
  • The mechanism is Automatically such that , Good is attracted to more good and Bad to bad.
    – techvish81
    Aug 17, 2017 at 5:42

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