Question: A friend mentioned that a mutual friend has negative karma, that prevents learning and practising the Dharma well. However, I think it is due to negative habits instead, leading to inattentiveness and lack of diligence in learning and practice. How can I explain the differences?
Answer: Indeed, negative karma and negative habits are not the same. Negative habits are tendencies that arise from the Three Poisons of greed, hatred and delusion, that will give rise to negative karma, if given in to. Even habitual reluctance and laziness to learn and practise the Dharma are forms of the Three Poisons. Negative habits can be the cause, of the effect of negative karma.
If your mutual friend is not learning and practising the Dharma well due to inattentiveness and lack of diligence, this can be due to negative habits, which can be changed by being resolute to be more mindful and hardworking. There need not be a ‘mysterious’ karmic force ‘from a past life’ preventing this. Perhaps the urgency and importance of the Dharma can be emphasized, along with how practical it is for a happier life.
Only if your mutual friend does keep having ‘inexplicable’ obstacles that do not arise from habits, that make it difficult to learn and practise the Dharma well, then is it so that the cause is karmic, and not habitual. However, a habit given in to in the past, present and future can create corresponding karma in the moment too.