It is also your positive karma bearing fruit,
when another ‘seems’ to be able
to relieve your negative karma.
In a distant previous life, even before the historical Shakyamuni Buddha-to-be became a Bodhisattva, he was reborn into a hell for his misdeeds, where its denizens were forced to tug heavy wagons with their brute strength. He was harnessed to one such wagon with another person called Kamarupa. Despite their united exertions, the duo was too weak to move it. Seeing this, the hell guards, who are manifestations of their negative karma and guilt, prodded and struck them with searing red-hot weapons. While experiencing unimaginable pain, the thought occurred to the future Buddha that if the two of them together could not budge the wagon, while each of them ‘has’ to suffer as much as the other, he might as well volunteer to pull it entirely and suffer alone, thus relieving Kamarupa of his pain.
Having decided so, he told the guards to add Kamarupa’s harness over his shoulders. However, they became infuriated and beat him further, exclaiming that no one can prevent another from experiencing the karmic effects of their own deeds. However, due to giving rise to the pure thought and action of compassion for another while in great need of compassion himself, the merits generated, which is positive karma created without attachment to self, propelled him to instantly leave that hell, and to be reborn as a deva (god) in a celestial plane. This is how he first embarked on the noble quest to relieve all beings of their suffering, which eventually led to Buddhahood.
All Buddhas-to-be were once like any other being, who might have even descended into the hells of their own making due to serious personal mistakes. The difference is that they learnt to be selfless through the power of compassion, which paradoxically helps themselves too. As Stonepeace put it, ‘To be truly compassionate to others is to be truly compassionate to oneself.’ While it is true that we have our own negative karmic ‘wagon’ or load to bear, we can lighten it with good intentions and actions done in the most selfless way possible, which is the best form of repentance in action. Mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha (Amituofo) is another powerful way to escape suffering in the hells, as one connects to the bountiful merits of Amituofo, which he shares with those in suffering.
Even when unable to help,
the thought of helping is helpful
[at least for oneself].