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Karma (the Action) produces its effects in various ways. There are two main ways in which it bears fruit:
1. It produces the type of rebirth, meaning the basic consciousness of rebirth, and
2. It produces various effects during an existence.
At the moment of death, a particular prevailing Karma (Action) may come to the forefront of the mind and direct the stream of consciousness towards the new existence, towards a new rebirth. Once the rebirth happens, some other Karma (Actions) mature over a lifetime with favourable or adverse effects.
The good and bad effects resulting from Karma (Actions) are not rewards or punishments. They are not imposed by an external force. Like all natural laws, they do not require a legislator.
The actions produce their effects normally through the law of cause and effect that works at a moral level. According to the effects of Karma (Actions), the Buddha explains that Karma (the Action) is the cause of the difference between the good and bad luck of people.
(a) Some people have a short life and they die prematurely because in the past they have ruined the lives of other beings. The Karmic effect of taking the life of living beings brings about a short life.
On the contrary, others live long lives because they were kind and compassionate and had respect for the lives of living beings. In fact, they may have helped others continue and prolong their lives.
(b) Some are sickly, not in good health, because they had injured and harmed other beings. While others are very healthy because they had not injured and harmed other beings. They may even have helped others regain their health.
(c) Those who were often angry and cruel become ugly. While those who were patient, friendly and able to control their anger become beautiful.
(d) Some are rich because they were generous in the past, while others are poor because they were selfish and stingy.
(e) Some have no influence, are weak and powerless, without a recognised value for their position, because they had envied the good fortune and success of
others. On the contrary, others have an influence and a recognised value for their position because they were happy for the good fortune and success of others.
(g) Some are smart because in the past they were thoughtful, knowledgeable and studious, because they searched, asked questions to learn and explored the realm of knowledge. On the contrary, others are featherbrained, foolish and senseless because they were lazy and negligent and because they did not study, think or explore the realm of knowledge.
That is why the Buddha says:
“The beings are
the owners of their Karma (of their actions),
the heirs to their actions,
they come from their actions,
are related to their actions,
have their actions as their refuge”.
“Whatever action (Karma) they take – good or bad – they will inherit it. It is the action (Karma) that differentiates beings as inferior and superior.”
(ΜΝ 135, Cūḷakammavibhaṅgasuttaṃ)