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Which Sutta? Karma of unknowingly doing evil is worse than knowingly doing evil. Which Sutta(s) talk about this, hopefully in more detail than I can remember?

The subject is karmic consequence, and the law is surprisingly not intuitive.

In comparing two types of actions:

1) Not knowing that an action is evil, one commits an evil action. 2) Knowing that an action is evil, one commits an evil action.

What is not intuitive about that law, is you would think if one had wholesome and skillful intentions, before committing an action which is actually evil, that one is less culpable for the negative karmic consequence, in comparison to someone who knowingly commits and evil action even knowing fully well that the action is evil.

Which sutta(s) talk about this?

I don't remember if I'm stating the general form of the law quite correctly, what concrete examples were given in the sutta(s).

I see there is this thread with mostly the same question: Doing evil knowingly and unknowingly It seems KN Miln might be the only scripture, and no one was able to identify a sutta. The key words from that passage "knowingly" (jānāti) and "evil action" (pāpaka kamma).

So can anyone confirm there is no sutta about that?

  • But KN Mil does not really talk on Vipaka from action per se or, does it? That not knowing is the reason for suffering is a core teaching and found straight in most teachings. And a trained (to know) mind can do a lot more bad and bear it then an untrained could not. – Samana Johann Apr 24 at 23:13
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The following sutta is not about kamma (but is about internal defilements).

Mendicants, these four people are found in the world. What four? One person with a blemish (aṅgaṇa) doesn’t truly understand: ‘There is a blemish in me.’ But another person with a blemish does truly understand: ‘There is a blemish in me.’ One person without a blemish doesn’t truly understand: ‘There is no blemish in me.’ But another person without a blemish does truly understand: ‘There is no blemish in me.’ In this case, of the two persons with a blemish, the one who doesn’t understand is said to be worse, while the one who does understand is better. And of the two persons without a blemish, the one who doesn’t understand is said to be worse, while the one who does understand is better.

MN 5

I cannot imagine knowingly doing evil wicked kamma is better than not knowingly doing evil wicked kamma (such as the wicked Mara kamma of reviling Noble Ones & making false declarations of jhana attainment). Knowingly doing evil wicked kamma sounds psychopathic.

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Perhaps you're thinking about the Lonaphala Sutta:

"Suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"Yes, lord. Why is that? There being only a small amount of water in the cup, it would become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink."

"Now suppose that a man were to drop a salt crystal into the River Ganges. What do you think? Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?"

"No, lord. Why is that? There being a great mass of water in the River Ganges, it would not become salty because of the salt crystal or unfit to drink."

"In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

'Now, a trifling evil act done by what sort of individual takes him to hell? There is the case where a certain individual is undeveloped in the body, undeveloped in virtue, undeveloped in mind [i.e., painful feelings can invade the mind and stay there], undeveloped in discernment: restricted, small-hearted, dwelling with suffering. A trifling evil act done by this sort of individual takes him to hell.

'Now, a trifling evil act 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 the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind [i.e., painful feelings cannot invade the mind and stay there], developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil act 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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  • that's a great sutta on kamma, and I see where it has some relevance, but not the best fit to answer to my specific OP. I'm not the one who downvoted your answer. I'm really sick of people who quick trigger downvote and then don't explain why they do it. – frankk Apr 17 at 9:54
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    @frankk I downvoted because I thought it wasn't the right answer to the question i.e. the answer didn't match the question (I suspect that something like the sutta you're looking for might exist). – ChrisW Apr 17 at 10:26

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