In one of the Buddhist texts it is recorded that someone asked the Buddha:
Why are some women ugly but rich?
Why are some women beautiful but poor?
Why are some people poor but with good health and a long life?
Why are some rich yet ill and short-lived?
The Buddha’s answers were: One who is ugly but rich was short-tempered in past lives, easily irritated and angered, but was also very generous and gave offerings to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and made contributions to many sentient beings. One who is beautiful but poor was, in past lives, very kind, always smiling and soft spoken, but was stingy and reluctant to make offerings or help other people.
The person who is poor but in good health and enjoying a long life was, in his or her past lives, very stingy or reluctant to make donations, but was kind to all sentient beings, did not harm or kill others, and also saved many sentient beings lives.
The person who is rich but often ill, or who is short-lived, was, in his or her past lives, very generous in helping others but loved hunting and killing and caused sentient beings to feel worried, insecure, and frightened.
This shows that one virtuous act does not negate another negative act. The karma of each–good and bad will mature when their respective karmic conditions arise. We do good to push the negative karma back so that we may have the opportunity to cultivate ourselves and become liberated, but good deeds do not offset some how the evil that we do. We must stop doing evil. We can never build enough temples, or perform enough good deeds to be saved. Only by escaping samsara can we escape our negative karma!
The above examples give us some idea of why people on earth, although all human beings, vary so much in appearance, character, life span, health, mental ability and fate. It is what Dorje Pa Mu meant when she said, “There are many birds in the forest.” It is even more interesting to note how much the circumstances in which a person is born can influence his or her destiny. Which race, which nation, which skin color, which era– all these factors make a great difference. Would it not be more logical to think that something was going on before one’s birth that caused all those effects than to say that it is purely accidental or even to say that it is God’s will? If a baby has no past life, then on what grounds does God judge whether to reward or to punish that baby by causing him or her to be born under different circumstances? Intent, thought and action should always be taken into consideration. Remember, the Buddha said: “It cannot come to pass that the fruit of a deed well done by body, speech, and mind would have for a result that which is unpleasant, hateful, or distasteful. ”
The Buddha also said that “Karmic effect is the incomprehensible!” This statement of Buddha suggests not only the complexity of karmic effects but also the difficulty of predicting when a karmic effect will mature. Only a buddha can fully understand the Law of Karma. In the Acintita Sutta the Buddha says that one will only go mad or suffer vexation if he trys to comprehend the workings of karma.