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According to the Lonaphala Sutta, a minor evil deed done by a spiritual novice would take him to hell, while the same minor evil deed done by the spiritually advanced would be barely experienced.

In the sutta, the Buddha gives more analogies like the salt crystal in a cup of water vs the river, the poor thief vs. the rich thief etc. which definitely work as analogies.

But then could anyone explain why is it really like that? How to make sense of it?

"There is the case where a trifling evil deed done by a certain individual takes him to hell. There is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by another individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual takes him to hell? There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in [contemplating] the body, undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind, undeveloped in discernment: restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.

"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

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The answer lies in the mind, i.e. to what degree has the mind been cultivated and purified.

The more cultivated and purified a mind is, the lesser the chance is that one will continue to make unwholesome deeds or increase suffering for oneself. Ones mind is simply more inclined towards Nibbana.

If we look at the untrained mind or the novice mind, then that mind is not cultivated or developed, meaning that the defilements are much more present here. Wisdom is absent or present in a much lesser degree, than in the trained mind.

An untrained mind is more likely to dwell in e.g. anger, sadness, happiness and other emotions, thereby enforcing them, like in the snowball-effect. The untrained mind will also in a larger degree identify with and take ownership of phenomena, thinking that there is a self or an experiencing entity, thereby creating further suffering for oneself.

The trained and cultivated mind has attained a lot more wisdom, making it capable of seeing reality as it is, without superimposing qualities onto it. The trained mind will not run after pleasant objects and away from unpleasant objects. It has seen the true nature of conditioned existence, i.e. the 3 marks of existence.

So if an individual with a cultivated and purified mind commits an unwholesome deed, then that individual will realize it much faster and be able to "damage-control" by reciting the precepts, use the unwholesome phenomena that has arisen e.g. mental formations or feelings to cultivate insight, go and commit wholesome deeds, increase the work on the paramitas and other options. In other words, the individual with a trained mind is much more capable of dealing with mistakes and turn them into insights. Also this person has a greater storage of wholesome kamma that will neutralize or lessen the effects of the unwholesome kamma that has been created.

This is different for the individual with the untrained or novice mind, since that person does not yet have the right tools to deal with the effects of unwholesome deeds. His faculties are not yet matured and he might be more liable to dwell, identify, take ownership, react and run away from these effects, thereby increasing the suffering (going to hell) for himself.

Lastly, I want to point out that only a fully enlightened Buddha can understand the workings of kamma. So there might be many more reasons for this difference between an experienced and an inexperienced individual, that non-Buddhas cannot yet understand.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions to what i wrote, let me know.

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There's a classification of Kamma according to the "priority of effect".

  1. Garuka Kamma: which means either weighty or serious, may be either good or bad. It produces its results in this life or in the next for certain.
  2. Asanna Kamma or Death-proximate Kamma is that which one does or remembers immediately before the dying moment.
  3. Acinna Kamma is that which one habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking.
  4. Katattà Kamma—Reserve or Cumulative Kamma. Literally, it means ‘because done’. All actions that are done once and soon forgotten belong to this category. This is as it were the reserve fund of a particular being.

So when a virtuous person dies, the chances of a trifling evil deed he has committed coming forward to determine his next life is minimal. Because a virtuous person usually does good weighty Kammas during his life. ex: Attaining any of the 8 Jhanas. That will always come forward to give the next life. Also, when a virtuous person does something wrong, he knows that it is wrong. He doesn't take the false view that the fault he committed is right. Since he is aware of what happens here and now, he sees how it corrupts the mind. So he practices Samma Vayama(right effort) of the noble eight fold path. In this case, it is the effort to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen. So the effect of the Kamma is mitigated and loses it's potency to give a birth.

On the other hand, an unvirtuous person usually doesn't do any good weighty kammas during his life. There's a high chance of him taking a false view that the bad he has committed is good. And he doesn't practice Samma Vayama to improve himself. This can make the Kamma potent enough to give a new birth, even if it is trifling at face value.

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If you have a lot of good Karma to be prosperous and then steal then there is little effect while if you have little Karma to be prosperous and steal then you get poor in a later life.

The main point is your store of Karma not abundance of what you have like a poor thieve and rich thieve.

Also it is not any general Karma like you have lot of good Karma to be intelligent but not much to be rich and you steal then you get poor again in the next life unless you use your intelligence to counter this.

Also the interaction of Karma is complex hence no body can say for sure.

In addition when you are contemplating of the arising and passing away of the what had been felt through the 4 foundations of mindfulness, your past -ve Karma looses its power and dissolve away. This happens as follows: A past Karma surfaces and gives it's result as some sensation to which you do not react hence no new fabrications are created multiplying the Karma and then it looses its power as it has already given result through not to the potential it might have snowballed in and non meditating person.

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Friend, what is interpreted as evil by the mind?

Any experience which causes suffering.

And what is interpreted as good by the mind?

Any experience which does not cause suffering.

The more ignorance in the mind, the more evil is experienced by the mind. The less ignorance in the mind, the more good is experienced by the mind.

Now, there are cases when a spiritual novice, with ignorance in the mind, does a trifling evil deed.

This very same trifling evil deed, done by this very same spiritual novice, causes a lot of suffering to him.

Why is that so?

The more this very same spiritual novice is ignorant, undeveloped in understanding suffering, its cause and its ending, the more suffering arises in him.

He dwells in suffering for a long time, he beats his heart with it for a long time, he cries for a long time, he laments for a long time, he's angry for a long time, he's afraid for a long time, he's in stress for a long time ...

That's why a trifling evil deed done by a spiritual novice can take him to hell.

Now, there are cases when a spiritually advanced person, with less ignorance in the mind, does this very same trifling evil deed.

This very same trifling evil deed, done by this very same spiritually advanced person, causes less suffering to him.

Why is that so?

The more this very same spiritually advanced person is free from ignorance, developed in understanding suffering, its cause and its ending, the less suffering arises in him.

He dwells in suffering barely for a moment, he beats his heart with it barely for a moment, he cries barely for a moment, he laments barely for a moment, he's angry barely for a moment, he's afraid barely for a moment, he's in stress barely for a moment ...

That's why a trifling evil deed done by a spiritually advanced person does not take him to hell.

Now, there are cases when a liberated person, with no ignorance in the mind, does this very same trifling evil deed.

This very same trifling evil deed, done by this very same liberated person, causes no suffering to him.

Why is that so?

When a person is free from ignorance, developed in understanding suffering, its cause and its ending, he fully discerns between evil deeds, neutral deeds and good deeds.

What to a spiritual novice or spiritually advanced person seems like an evil deed, it is really a neutral deed or even a good deed.

What to a spiritual novice or spiritually advanced person is a lie, it is really the truth.

Just like a blind person who has never seen colors cannot discern black from white, in the same way a mind who has never fully understood suffering cannot discern suffering from non suffering, good from evil ...

That's why a good deed, seen by a spiritual novice and a spiritually advanced person as an evil deed, takes the liberated person to heaven.

So, friend, know the truth.

Know evil, good and neutral deeds.

As only by knowing, only good and neutral deeds are done.

Only by knowing one is liberated.

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