Karmic debt

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Karmic debt (Tib. ལན་ཆགས་, lenchak, Wyl. lan chags) — a 'debt' that we incur towards other sentient beings from receiving anything positive from them, or from abusing them, and that later manifests in our lives through the law of cause and effect, karma. There are a number of Buddhist practices which can help us repay such debts, most notably the practices of Riwo Sangchö and Chö.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche writes:

Len literally means 'time' or 'occurrence', while chak refers to 'attachment', 'attraction', or the notion of a karmic pull toward someone, usually in an unhealthy way. So lenchak could be understood as the residue that revisits us from the dynamic of a relationship from a past life, a dynamic now strengthened by reoccurring habitual responses.[1]

Dodrupchen Jikmé Tenpé Nyima explains that:

[Karmic debts] include debts that shorten our lives because we have killed; debts that plague us with illness because we have attacked and beaten others; debts that make us poor because we have stolen; debts to overlords and underlings[2]; and debts from accidentally killing men and horses.[3]


  1. Dzigar Kongtrül, Light Comes Through, page 55.
  2. Tulku Thondup says: “Literally, debts of pulling down the castles of the high [upper classes] and taking land from the poor.”
  3. A Guide to Sang Practice, by Dodrupchen Jikmé Tenpé Nyima available at Lotsawa House

Further Reading