One principle of the karmic law is that it is not
automatic. This means that a deed done by a person does not
bring a direct effect. In other words, the effect is a mixture
of the deed, the conditions in which the deed was done, and
the object of the deed.
Let's imagine three kinds of mirrors: a concave mirror, a
convex mirror, and a plane mirror. The concave mirror makes
you look smaller. The convex mirror makes you look bigger. And
the plane mirror can reflect an object twice its size. But in
this case, let's suppose that it can only reflect an object of
the same size.
The three types of mirrors, concave,
convex, and plane, all represent the relationship between the
subject and the object of an action. With additional
conditions like distance and intensity of light, the rebound
of karma is reflected on the mirrors. If a person stands in
front of these mirrors, there will be three types of
reflections: bigger, smaller and the same size. Simply
standing at the same distance from different mirrors brings
about different results from the same action.
Let me give you another example. Say that you hit a person
who was full of hatred. Then you hit a person who was cloaked
with the obscuring energy (Tamas). Thirdly, you hit a
practitioner who was wishing to have his karma washed off. You
will find three different rebounds of karma from each of these
In the first case, the person who had strong hatred, you
will receive not only the physical karma (the effect of
hitting), but also the intense emotional karma, the hatred
from the person. In the second case, you will receive not only
the karma of hitting someone, but the karma of his ignorance.
In the last case, if the practitioner had thought, "Thank you
for washing off my karma." when he was hit, you would
accumulate the karma of advancing your practice by being hit.
As you can see, there are three different effects in three
This principle also applies to offering, which is a
virtuous deed. If you make an offering to an extremely
generous person who practices the Four Immeasurables, you are
sure to receive its effect in an extremely generous way. If
the person is a good businessman, you will also become a good
businessman. If the person is highly intellectual, you will
pick the fruit of its high intellect. If the person is trying
to attain enlightenment, you will also come to direct yourself
toward enlightenment. In each case, however, the deed done is
the same deed of offering.
From Mahayana Sutra Vol.2