If I do a bad karma without knowing or realizing properly will I receive fruits for that or not?

What about children? Do they accumulate karma too? Don't they make lot of mistakes unknowingly?

At what age are you responsible for your own karma?


4 Answers 4


Children become responsible for their karma after four years of age.

Boys of less than four years in age can never be guilty or sinful. Even the king cannot punish them.

[Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, chapter XLIII]

  • 2
    Srimad Bhagavatham,Volume 3,chapter 5, stanza 20 - reference to Mandavya rishi who set the limit at 14 years
    – ram
    Dec 22, 2016 at 18:51
  • Only boys or girls too included?
    – Vivikta
    Jun 11, 2021 at 14:37
  • I would think that girls are also included. Jun 12, 2021 at 3:30

If I do a bad karma without knowing or realizing properly will I receive fruits for that or not?

Yes you will.Crimes committed intentionally yields more bad karma without doubt but even those done unknowingly yields bad karma.

For example:

Manu Smriti 11.145. The guilt incurred intentionally or unintentionally by injuring (created beings) can be removed by means of these penances; hear (now, how) all (sins) committed by partaking of forbidden food (or drink, can be expiated).

11.146. He who drinks unintentionally (the spirituous liquor, called) Varuni, becomes pure by being initiated (again); (even for drinking it) intentionally (a penance) destructive to life must not be imposed; that is a settled rule.

These verses prove that one has to suffer even for one's those sins which were committed unknowingly.

Some further examples:

A washerman, a cobbler, an actor, a Varuda, a Kaivarta, a Mada, and a Bhilla these seven are known, in the Smriti, as degraded castes. (195) By knowing their women, taking their food and accepting gifts from them, if willingly, one should perform Prajapatya for a year ; and, if unknowingly, two Chandrayanas. (196)(Atri Smriti)

....by [unconsciously] killing a dog, one should zealously drink milk for three nights. (7) Or by [unknowingly] killing a cat or a mongose, one should wend a way a Yojan [in length](Usana Smriti)

Now,coming to your second question-

At what age are you responsible for your own karma?

As long as a boy does not attain to the age of eight, [he is known] as a new-born babe. He is to be known as an embryo, the difference [only] being that of his individuality. (4) 'In the period [that is during the period] that he is not invested with the sacred thread, there is no sin in a food and an interdicted edible, in drink, in what should be spoken or not, and in falsehood. (5)

This is as per Daksha Smriti(Chapter 1).

As per Yama Smriti, however,the age limit is 5 years.Its only after that one becomes responsible for Karma.

A father, brother, or any other relation should perform the penance for a child whose age is below the eleventh year and above the fifth. (15) There is no offence or sin for a child younger than this. There is no punishment from the king for him, nor any penance. (16)-(Yama Smriti Chapter 1)

  • 1
    arbitrary numbers .. it's surprising none of them say 'once the kid understands what is wrong and what is right...' Jan 24, 2017 at 18:26
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    @ram these contradictions happen a lot in Hinduism yet the reason is never given for setting a specific age limit. "it's surprising the courts don't say 'once the kid understands what is right and what is wrong'." They do after the age of 18.
    – Wikash_
    Jun 4, 2020 at 6:55
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    @rickross what do you think is the reason scriptures contradict each other on the age?
    – Wikash_
    Jun 4, 2020 at 6:57
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    @ram most justice systems put the limit at 18. I did not assume that. I am suprised that the scriptures are contradicting and do not give a clear explanation for the choice of age.
    – Wikash_
    Jun 6, 2020 at 6:06
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    @ram that explanation is not given in the scriptures. Please explain why the iswar would give contradicting numbers. That does not make any sense.
    – Wikash_
    Jun 6, 2020 at 20:10

If you travel faster than speed limit of road in a new area, will police punish you or not ? 99% of time, ignorance of law is not an excuse, so you will have to bear consequences.. but in rare cases, it might be pardoned

children do not get karma until age 14 - http://www.speakingtree.in/blog/the-story-of-mandavya-rishi

Mandavya rishi tortured an ant when he was a kid. In later life, while he was meditating, a king impaled him on a stick. Mandavya rishi then enquired Yama dharma raja what was the reason for his punishment. Yama said it was due to that crime you committed when you were a child. Mandavya then cursed Yama to be born on earth since children do not know right vs wrong, and also 'rewrote' age of sin to begin from 14 years.

Until then, whatever good/bad they commit, the karma belong to parents. That's why it is very important for us to teach children morals.. not just math & science.

  • 3
    "Until then...the karma belongs to parents" -- please cite sources for this statement. Also, better to cite Srimad Bhagavatham directly instead of a blog post. Jan 18, 2017 at 20:23
  • @SayNoToCensorship If the parents are watching the child do sinful activities and encourage it or allow it, then yes, they do own the karma, the child is like a tool here. If the young child does nonsense without their knowledge, under someone else's supervision or all alone, then yes, I would also like to see a source. Mar 6, 2022 at 23:12

As per the Mahābhārata , after the age of 14, one is responsible for their actions and accumulate their fruits accordingly.

A person doesn't accumulate any fruits of their karma up-until 14 years of their chronological age.

This limit has been set by Mahaṛṣi Māṇḍavya after the famous incident involving the Ṛṣi and the god of death - Yamarāja, which has been discussed in this QnA.

Section 108, Sambhava Parva, Book 1 - Ādi Parva, Mahābhārata

अणीमाण्डव्य उवाच ।

Aṇīmāṇḍavya said:-

मर्यादां स्थापयाम्यद्य लोके धर्मफलोदयाम् ।
आ चतुर्दशमाद्वर्षान्न भविष्यति पातकम् ॥
परेण कुर्वतामेवं दोष एव भविष्यति ॥

  1. "I establish this rule to-day on earth in respect of the consequences of one’s act that no sin will be committed in any act done by a man below the age of fourteen years. When committed above the age of fourteen, only then it will be considered as a sin."

English Translation by M.N. Dutt

  • It's only talking about sins and not about all type of karmas isn't it?
    – LSSJ Broly
    Jun 2, 2022 at 16:35
  • Well, sinful karma won't attach, but, maybe unknowingly done pious karmas will be effective perhaps. That's my conjecture. @LSSJBroly
    – Vivikta
    Jun 3, 2022 at 4:18

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