Are We Indebted to Those Who Give Favors?


Does accepting a favour count as an obligation to be worked off, according to Karmic law? I have grown to do people good turns with an attitude of detachment — but off late I do find that people expect (as a right) that I will have to return them when I accept any, to the extent that they even resort to emotional blackmail. The way karma is understood to work — will I be "indebted" to them? Personally, I believe in unconditional acts of kindness and I find this inconsistent with karmic law.

—Abhi, Singapore


Dear Abhi,

I don’t know that we can research karmic law, so we will have to use our common sense in this situation.

I agree with you (and from what I know of Yogananda’s teachings, he would also agree) that when we give service or gifts to others those favors or gifts should be given freely.

Truly, it is always God who is the Giver. And we are blessed by having God’s gift (in whatever form) flow through us. To be able to give freely to others is a blessing to the life of the person who is giving – much more so than to the person receiving the gift.

When a person gives a gift or a favor and expects to receive something in return, that is not a gift or favor; it is a business transaction.

So you might want to look at the people with whom you are interacting. If I met someone who saw every gift to me as conferring an obligation for me to return it to them, I would no longer accept anything from them. No matter what karmic law says about this, it would make me feel unclean to receive such a gift, which is not at all a gift.

This should not be expressed with any ill will, but with a simple, “No, thank you.”

In divine friendship,