Let's look at Alice and Bob. I'm going to emphasize gender roles on purpose, because the gender you were born as is not random.

Bob is a naturally powerful, intelligent, strong man who started his adult life as a solder. Every war he fought in was just and he was always on the good guy's side, and every man he shot was evil and deserved it. Eventually after he is honorably discharged he ends up in a position of high authority, say a criminal judge. He sorts out good people from the bad and doles out what they deserve, and due to his great wisdom he never made a mistake in judgement or caused a miscarriage of justice.

Alice is a weak woman of inconstant and average natural intelligence. She never had what it takes to punish anybody (because of her lack of talents and unremarkableness could she could never end up in a position of authority where she could punish others--not even as a forum moderator who bans trolls) and she was too weak to kill anybody.

Now let's look at the summaries of these two lives.

While everything Bob did was just and morally correct... that doesn't change the immutable reality that he ended up in a position where he did take life and inflicted suffering on others. That does not exactly look like the reflection of someone who lived his previous life as an arhat.

And Alice was fortunate enough where she could never kill or inflict suffering on others... at least in one regard (as a punisher). Even if it was because she never had the opportunity, the fact that she was born in a life without such opportunities is a reflection of something.

According to karma, who got the better life, that is, the life more likely to be reborn as either a better human or a being in the higher realms?

4 Answers 4


She never had what it takes to punish anybody

At least in the Western societies that I am in, women may an immense "power", for better or worse -- but often within a family or a circle of friends, instead of "public life".

she was too weak to kill anybody

I think that, according to Buddhism, your intention is important. Her actions aren't unimportant, but you don't mention her motive: is she kind or malicious, selfish or generous, does she intend to benefit people or to hurt them?

who got the better life

I think that Buddhism teaches generalities about karma -- i.e. there's good karma, bad karma, no karma, and that karma is intention or intentional action.

But karma is complicated -- there's a lot of it, good and bad -- and it takes supernatural powers to see how karma plays out, and whether someone goes to a higher or a lower realm after death, i.e. the Buddha could do that but other people can't.

In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual 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.

[Lonaphala Sutta: The Salt Crystal (An 3.99)](Lonaphala Sutta: The Salt Crystal)

So this kind of question -- about the precise workings-out of karma -- may be unanswerable. Especially when the people in question are fictitious.


According to karma, who got the better life, that is, the life more likely to be reborn as either a better human or a being in the higher realms?

Well, Bob will get reborn into some of the most beautiful Heavenly realms, enjoy the most wonderful life there for a while and then get reborn into some of the most horrific hell realms and suffer tremendously; while Alice will get reborn as a normal and kind human being again and again... ;-) ok, jokes aside, i think you get the idea, good and bad kammas don't get mixed up or cancel each other out. If it worked like that, the great Venerable Moggallana wouldn't have to suffer his ghastly death under the hands of a bunch of bandits even after he had attained Arahantship. For one who does some very wholesome kamma while also commits some grave one at the same time, the future rewards and punishments will be just as proportional. In the case of Alice, since she doesn't kill, that'd eliminate any potentially horrific kamma in the future. All she needs to do is to try to cultivate only wholesome kamma and she'll reap the corresponded wholesome future rebirths. And if going even beyond wholesome worldly kamma, she also cultivates supramundane kamma (ie. practice 4 Noble Truths, 8-fold Noble Path, perfecting Sila/Samadhi/Panna, etc.), she could eventually get that ultimate supreme reward: Nibbana. And that's the real beauty of the Buddha's Teaching, it's available to anyone willing to cultivate it regardless of caste, social status, gender, age, intelligence, etc...


Having lived, living, like a real powerful and wealthy being, put goodwill, compassion, appreciation and equanimity toward all being into action, not only does such live the Brahma-life (holly/sublime life) here but will reappear in the Realm of the Brahmas. Also such is gained right here, nowhere else, so don't one miss out a seldom chance, now as you got such a powerful position.


"We’re not in this to compete. We’re here because each of us has a disease inside, the disease of craving and ignorance that causes us to cause suffering. We’re here to treat that disease, but at the same time we want to make sure that our treatment doesn’t have a bad effect on other people."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu "The Implications of Goodwill" https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Published/Shorttalks/171011(short)_The_Implications_of_Goodwill.pdf

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .