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?


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
    – mar
    Dec 22 '16 at 18:51
  • Only boys or girls too included?
    – peace
    Jun 11 at 14:37
  • I would think that girls are also included. Jun 12 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)

  • arbitrary numbers .. it's surprising none of them say 'once the kid understands what is wrong and what is right...' Jan 24 '17 at 18:26
  • @sv Even that will be vague..i guess u'r assuming that there is no sin if done unknowingly or if done without knowing that it's a sin..In any case upto certain age (16 i think) they will commit only half sins(at least half penances are prescribed for them) and similarly after certain age(over 80 years ) less penance prescribed..
    – Rickross
    Jan 25 '17 at 5:46
  • @sv "arbitrary numbers" - just as arbitrary as the 18-years minor/major classification for juveline/adult crimes ? it's surprising the courts don't say 'once the kid understands what is right and what is wrong'.
    – mar
    Jun 3 '20 at 18:19
  • @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 '20 at 6:55
  • @rickross what do you think is the reason scriptures contradict each other on the age?
    – Wikash_
    Jun 4 '20 at 6:57

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.

  • 2
    "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 '17 at 20:23

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