Home » Excerpts » How Past Lives’ Karma Can Ripen In Future Lives

Although there are changes,
there are casualities in change,
and thus continuums of change.

Stonepeace | Books

Suppose after a very rich man and all his children die, all his property is taken by the government. Then a man comes and states, ‘All the property belongs to me.’ An official then says, ‘How can this property go to anyone other than a relative?’ The man says, ‘I am the seventh-generation offspring of the deceased man. There is a continuity between us. Why does the property not belong to me?’ The official says, ‘So be it. So be it. It is as you have said.’ [Note: It is not that wealth can be inherited by a random descendant, unless the inheritor was its creator, or created similar karma, while the original creator can still inherit wealth via other channels.]

A wise person would also say that the same is true of the five aggregates [form, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness] in which the doer is the receiver and the doer is not the receiver. You may argue. ‘After the five aggregates have created karma, the action is completed. Although the body remains as it is, the karma depends on nothing. If it depends on nothing, it does not exist. If so, how can there be retribution after death?’ Such an argument is not right. And why is it not right? All past karma has to wait for the right object and time [to ripen].

For example, an orange tree grows oranges, and the oranges are sour before they are ripe. People plant the orange seed in order to have oranges. The orange that grows out from the seed, root, stalk, leaves, and the flower is not sour, yet at the time when it is ripening, its flavour is sour. The sour flavour originally does not exist but now exists. Fruit does not grow without reason; rather, it is the result of the original fruit[‘s seed]. The same is true of corporeal [physical], verbal, and mental karma. If you ask where the karma dwells, [the answer is that] it dwells in past lives, where it waits for the appropriate time and physical existence to reap its retribution.

The Sutra On Upasaka Precepts: Chapter 14: On Miscellaneous Subjects (p.121)
Translated By Bhiksuni Shih Heng-ching

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