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The Essential Scriptures of the Buddha and Patriarchs

Sūtra on the Differences in the Karmic Recompenses of Action

Section 24

“Furthermore, there are actions that can cause a sentient being to spend his entire lifetime in the hells. Suppose there is a sentient being who has performed actions that [have resulted in rebirth] in the hells. Without a sense of shame or blame, he does not feel disillusionment [nirveda, toward the things of this world and the actions he has performed]. His mind is unafraid and he instead rejoices [in what he has done]. Moreover, unrepentant, he continues to perform the most heinous types of unwholesome actions. Due to those actions, he will spend his entire lifetime in the hells.
“Furthermore, there are actions that can cause a sentient being to fall into the hells, but he will die halfway through without spending his entire lifetime there. Suppose there is a sentient being who has performed actions that [have resulted in rebirth] in the hells. Having accumulated [such karmic retribution], he subsequently feels fearful and, with a sense of shame and blame, he feels disillusionment. Repentant, he cast aside [such actions], but he has not yet generated an advanced state of mind. Due to those actions, he has fallen into the hells; but because he subsequently feels regret, he will die halfway through without having to spend his entire lifetime in the hells.
“Furthermore, there are actions that can cause a sentient being to fall into the hells, but, after having entered [the hells] for a short time, he departs. Suppose there is a sentient being who has performed actions that [have resulted in rebirth] in the hells. Having performed those actions, he feels fearful and generates an advanced state of mind. Generating a sense of shame and blame, he feels disillusionment toward evil and casts aside [such actions]. Earnestly, he repents and never again performs [such actions]. Thus, having entering the hells for a short time, he gains liberation.” At that time, the World Honored One recited a gāthā:
If a person performs the most heinous type of evil action,
But, after performing it, feels profound guilt,
And, repentant, does not do it again,
He will be able to uproot the fundamental types of action [maulakarmapatha].