Are there any authentic sources from Vedas and Puranas which shines light on karma incured due to stray thoughts. Let me give an example. Let us say a person X has offended another person Y in some way. Now, the person Y seeks in his mind to take revenge on person X. Just as that thought comes, the person X is able to discriminate his negative emotions associated with his stray thought and backs off. He convinces himself to stay away from his krodha. The same can be generalized for other all the six Arishadvargas (kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya). Now, the question is whether such stray and restrained thoughts still incur karma ? Are there any sources from Smritis and Puranas which explain on this topic of stray thoughts ? It is to be noted, that the thoughts in this case are not strong but end up void and motiveless.

Related to but not same as,

Does god know our thoughts? and is it a sin to have lustful thoughts?

What does it mean by sinful thoughts? What kind of thoughts are involved?

Karma pertaining to thoughts

  • 1
    Every action incurs karma. Thought actions incur thought karma. If you hurt someone by your thought, your own 'instrusive' thoughts will hurt you later. If you hurt someone by words, someone's words will hurt you. Same if you help someone with kind words, you'll receive kind words when you're in distress. Karma is extremely precise and just.
    – ram
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 17:33
  • Thank you for your reply, ram. I understand now that even stray thoughts incur karma. By reading your last line, I believe stray thoughts should incur 'stray thoughts karma' in line with a mirrored version of karma world. Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 12:59
  • 2
    yes.. as you advance through yoga, you can 'feel' stray thoughts about to rise from your sub-conscious mind and quell them before they reach your conscious mind. you can do prayaschitta or atonement (like fasting or depriving other sense enjoyments) for even stray thoughts, so that their occurrence in future will be reduced
    – ram
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 0:51
  • 1
    Also, having stray thoughts now is result of past "stray thoughts" karma. When you say "is able to discriminate ... and backs off", if back off, he is generating another type of karma (back off karma), and consequence will be more back off ability
    – Indra
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 1:07
  • 1
    Yes, thoughts gets stored in sanchita karma and the only way to burn them is by bathing in the fire of knowledge.
    – Pinakin
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 7:00

3 Answers 3


Yes stray thoughts themselves are sinful and very well be because of past deeds. But in Kali yuga, there is a concession ,stray thoughts don't have any sinful reactions as long as action is not performed.

This is confirmed in Bhagavata purana.

SB 1.18.7: Maharaja Pariksit was a realist, like the bees who only accept the essence [of a flower]. He knew perfectly well that in this Age of Kali, auspicious things produce good effects immediately, whereas inauspicious acts must be actually performed [to render effects]. So he was never envious of the personality of Kali.

Verse 29 of Krishna Janma Khanda, Chapter 90 of Brahma Vaivarta purana also says the same, mentally performed good actions have reactions where as bad actions don't have as long as they are not performed physically:

O father, though Kali yuga is filled with faults, but still there are great virtues in the same. There will be performing of mental merit but not the sin.

But thoughts can very soon lead to action, if not nipped in bud as per Bhagavad Gita.

BG 2.62: While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.

BG 2.63: From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool.


Yes, every thoughts in mind create permanent impression on mind which is stored as Sanskara in subtle form and they can active anytime in future and can make their effect to be experienced. So, it's advised to pacify and suppress such thoughts.

Swami Vivekananda explained this in Raja Yoga: Chapter 2:

The Chitta-Vrittis, the mind-waves, which are gross, we can appreciate and feel; they can be more easily controlled, but what about the finer instincts? How can they be controlled? When I am angry, my whole mind becomes a huge wave of anger. I feel it, see it, handle it, can easily manipulate it, can fight with it; but I shall not succeed perfectly in the fight until I can get down below to its causes. A man says something very harsh to me, and I begin to feel that I am getting heated, and he goes on till I am perfectly angry and forget myself, identify myself with anger. When he first began to abuse me, I thought, "I am going to be angry". Anger was one thing, and I was another; but when I became angry, I was anger. These feelings have to be controlled in the germ, the root, in their fine forms, before even we have become conscious that they are acting on us. With the vast majority of mankind the fine states of these passions are not even known — the states in which they emerge from subconsciousness. When a bubble is rising from the bottom of the lake, we do not see it, nor even when it is nearly come to the surface; it is only when it bursts and makes a ripple that we know it is there. We shall only be successful in grappling with the waves when we can get hold of them in their fine causes, and until you can get hold of them, and subdue them before they become gross, there is no hope of conquering any passion perfectly. To control our passions we have to control them at their very roots; then alone shall we be able to burn out their very seeds. As fried seeds thrown into the ground will never come up, so these passions will never arise.

He has also given one practice to pacify or suppress such thoughts - That's *with the help of opposite or contrary thought(10th Sutra:)

ते प्रतिप्रसवहेयाः सूक्ष्माः ॥१०॥

10. The fine Samskaras are to be conquered by resolving them into their causal state.

Note: The book of Rajayoga I have been reading presented one example which I don't find underneath this (10th) sutra but the same example I found presented underneath 33th sutra:

वितर्कबाधने प्रतिपक्षभावनम् ॥३३॥

33. To obstruct thoughts which are inimical to Yoga, contrary thoughts should be brought.

That is the way to practise the virtues that have been stated. For instance, when a big wave of anger has come into the mind, how are we to control that? Just by raising an opposing wave. Think of love. Sometimes a mother is very angry with her husband, and while in that state, the baby comes in, and she kisses the baby; the old wave dies out and a new wave arises, love for the child. That suppresses the other one. Love is opposite to anger. Similarly, when the idea of stealing comes, non-stealing should be thought of; when the idea of receiving gifts comes, replace it by a contrary thought.

How thoughts stored as Sanskara and cause for effect of joy and grief is explained in 16th Sutra:

हेयं दुःखमनागतम् ॥१६॥

16. The misery which is not yet come is to be avoided.

Some Karma we have worked out already, some we are working out now in the present, and some are waiting to bear fruit in the future. The first kind is past and gone. The second we will have to work out, and it is only that which is waiting to bear fruit in the future that we can conquer and control, towards which end all our forces should be directed. This is what Patanjali means when he says that Samskaras are to be controlled by resolving them into their causal state (10th Sutra).


Hinduism is not like Jainism where Karma is an autonomous principle. Karma functions within the framework of the scriptures and Ishwara and Yamaraja is the judge as a representative of Ishwara. Yamaraja has firm basis in the Vedas. If there is repentance or the thoughts are due to a genuine problem, should not have much of an impact. Generally if these thoughts are a big problem and give you a feeling you are becoming unworthy spiritually Guru Sadhu and Shastras can guide. What Hinduism does warn against seriously though is vasanas i.e. strong impressions which result from genuine indulgence in material actions good or bad.

In Bhagavatam we find,

Although one may neutralize the reactions of sinful life through austerity, charity, vows and other such methods, these pious activities cannot uproot the material desires in one’s heart. However, if one serves the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, he is immediately freed from all such contaminations.

RaRa's quote is also instructive.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .