Without any reference to scripture, Bhikkhu Bodhi said in his Questions on Kamma:
First of all, not all Kamma has to ripen as a matter of necessity.
Although it has the tendency to ripen, it does not ripen inevitably.
Kamma is like a seed. Seeds ripen only if they meet the right
conditions. But if they do not meet the right conditions they remain
Similarly, it can be said of kamma that kamma pushes for an
opportunity to mature. It has a tendency to mature. If kamma finds the
opportunity then it will bring its results. If it does not meet the
right conditions it won't ripen.
However, in his footnote to MN 136, Bhikkhu Bodhi appeared to say the opposite, when he said:
This statement shows even if his evil kamma does not generate the mode
of rebirth, it will still mature for him in some other way either in
this life, in the next life or in some more distant future life.
In my view, the Karajakāyasutta may not be the ideal sutta to answer this question because the Karajakāyasutta is about the development of the Four Divine Abidings to at least the fruition of Non-Return. In other words, the Karajakāyasutta is about the "elimination" of past deeds & their results. It says:
Nāhaṁ, bhikkhave, sañcetanikānaṁ kammānaṁ katānaṁ upacitānaṁ
appaṭisaṁveditvā byantībhāvaṁ vadāmi
Mendicants, I don’t say that intentional deeds that have been
performed and accumulated are eliminated without being experienced.
tañca kho diṭṭheva dhamme upapajje vā apare vā pariyāye.
And that may be in the present reality, or in a following reality, or
in some other subsequent reality.
In other words, when the Four Divine Abidings are developed, it is inevitable any recollectable unwholesome past deeds will come to mind in the clarity of those Four Divine Abidings. Thus the Karajakāyasutta says:
That noble disciple is rid of desire, rid of ill will, unconfused,
aware, and mindful. They meditate spreading a heart full of love....
They understand: ‘Formerly my mind was limited and undeveloped.
Now it’s limitless and well developed. Whatever limited deeds I’ve
done don’t remain or persist there.’
However, other suttas that address this question include AN 6.63 and MN 136, which say:
Katamo ca, bhikkhave, kammānaṁ vipāko?
And what is the result/fruition of deeds?
Tividhāhaṁ, bhikkhave, kammānaṁ vipākaṁ vadāmi
The result/fruition of deeds is threefold, I say:
diṭṭheva dhamme, upapajje vā, apare vā pariyāye.
in this present reality, in a following reality, or at some other
Ayaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, kammānaṁ vipāko.
This is called the result of deeds.
Yañca kho so idha pāṇātipātī hoti adinnādāyī hoti …pe… micchādiṭṭhi
hoti tassa diṭṭheva dhamme vipākaṁ paṭisaṁvedeti upapajja vā apare vā
And if anyone here who kills living creatures … and has wrong view
experiences the result of that in the present reality, or in a following reality next, or in some other subsequent reality.
It follows the translation of MN 136 may need to be examined. Personally, I am not able to perform this task myself however Bhikkhu Thanissaro's translation is:
And as for the results of taking life... holding wrong view, he will
feel them either right here & now, or in the next [lifetime], or
If the above translation is adhered to, it may show the teaching is:
- The results of kamma [when/if they ripen/mature] will be felt/experienced in the future.
In other words, this teaching may not say:
- All kamma must produce results to be experience in the future.