Salt Crystals

Since it’s so complicated, how should ordinary people understand karma? Among the first parables I have heard from Buddhism is from the Lonaphala Sutta (AN 3.99), which has a beautiful English-translated title.

Pure, fresh water is like the merit accumulated from the wholesome deeds that we do. We all need to be rejuvenated and refreshed by cool, drinkable water.

Salt is a metaphor for the demerit from the unwholesome deeds that we have done. It taints drinking water, making it less able to quench our thirst.

Suppose that a man
   were to drop
      a salt crystal
         into a small amount of water
            in a cup.

There being
   only
      a small amount of water
         in the cup,
it would become salty
because of the salt crystal,
   and unfit to drink.

Now suppose that a man
   were to drop
      a salt crystal
         into the River Ganges.

There being
   a great mass
      of water
         in the River Ganges,
it would not become salty
because of the salt crystal
   or unfit to drink.

So can one do, given that we surely have done both ‘good’ and ‘evil’ deeds?

Keep diluting with water that benefits self and others.
Keep away from that salt, it’s bad for health!

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