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Archive for July 12th, 2019

Is there such a thing as collective karma?

Posted by te2ataria on July 12, 2019

sent by a reader:

Is there such a thing as collective karma?

[Mirrored from:] Tenth in a series of lectures presented at Leiden University
by Richard Hayes in the autumn of 2009

1.  The idea of collective karma

In previous lectures I have referred to an interview with Lati Rinpoche in which the topic was karma and rebirth. One of the topics that came up in that interview was the notion of collective karma.That portion of the dialogue went as follows:

Hayes: What is the most frequently encountered question when you are speaking to Western audiences?

Lati Rinpoche: People always want to know why the ways of the world are as they are and who created these things. People want to know why there is so much pain and suffering in the world, and why there are so many thieves and other bad people causing so much suffering for others.

Hayes: That reminds me of a question that was once put to me when I was giving a public lecture about Buddhism. A Jewish person in the audience asked me how the Buddhists would explain why during the Second World War in Europe so many innocent Jewish children, who had never done anything wrong to deserve punishment, were put to death in Nazi concentration camps or were left as homeless orphans. That situation was completely lacking in any justice in that so many of the victims were apparently totally innocent. How would Lati Rinpoche answer that question if it were put to him?

Lati Rinpoche:
The proper Buddhist answer to such a question is that the victims were experiencing the consequences of their actions performed in previous lives. The individual victims must have done something very bad in earlier lives that led to their being treated in this way. Also there is such a thing as collective karma.

Hayes: Do you mean that the Jewish people as a whole have a special karma?

Lati Rinpoche: Yes. All groups have karma that is more than just the collection of the karma
of the individuals in the group. For example, a group of people may decide collectively to start a war. If they act on that decision, then the group as a whole will experience the hardships of being at war. Karma is the result of making a decision to act in a certain way. Decisions to act may be made by individuals or by groups. If the decision is made by a group, then the whole group will experience the collective consequences of their decision.

Hayes: What can an individual do to change the karma of the group that he or she belongs to?

Lati Rinpoche: You can change all karma through practice. You can persuade the group to adopt pure attitudes and to develop pure practices.  []


[Kyabje Lati Rinpoche (1922 – 12 April 2010). Born in the Kham region of Eastern Tibet, Lati Rinpoche was identified as the reincarnation of a great practitioner by Gongkar Rinpoche and entered monastic life at the age of 10. ]

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