Whose karma is weightier?

The husband likes to do leisure fishing. Everytime when he is home with his catch the wife will kill the live fishes and cook them for meals.

We had a general discussion whose karma will be weightier based on the 4 categories- basis, attitude, performance and culmination. We felt that the wife’s karma is heavier as her action is complete vs the husband who did not complete the action of killing the fishes.


I had just gone through a Q&A video session by 如俊法师 in which he addressed a question on whether it is better to do the 35 Confessions alone or with a group of fellow devotees.

The Venerable answered that the merit (or karma) from getting someone else to do it (教他做) will be weightier than that of just doing yourself.
See video (starting from 10:44)

If I applied this principle, could I say that the husband in this case has committed the weightier karma?
He would have:

  1. caught the fish in the first place thus leading to its eventual death; and
  2. getting or instructing his wife to kill and cook the fish for his meal - which in itself is a weightier action already

So, combining the above points 1 and 2, the husband would be doing much more negative karma.

from another perspective, the motivation/attitude (意乐) of the husband could be much greater as it is said that he likes to do leisure fishing. He would be aware that the fish he catches will be killed.

The wife would be more passive in her motivation as she only kills and cooks the fishes when it is brought to her rather than going out of the way to get live fish for their meals.

Would this be clear than that with the motivation/attitude being a major determinant of how weighty an action is, the husband will have committed the more serious negative karma?

Thank for sharing the perspectives. Agree that motivation/attitude is the main factor to the weightiness of the karma.

Would say that in both cases the karma is complete - ie the husband completes the 4 categories: the bases is the fishes, he go fishing and complete the action through catching the fishes. For the wife, she too completes the action by killing the fishes.

As to whose karma is weightier, it would depend on their motivation at that time - greed, anger or ignorance and the conditions that causes them to do so.

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I think it is definitely important for a practitioner to understand the components of karma and be aware of the factors that contribute to the weightiness. Really appreciate this discussion :pray:

Off a slight tangent - will there be a tendency to go deep into “calculating” the weight of the karma with each action we take with the intention to allow us to have leeway in doing some bad karma?
For example, it could be akin to a person on a diet and doing calorie counting so that the person can still indulge in some unhealthy food.
Another example could be someone who stops ordering live fish for his meals at restaurants because he understands the killing action but he will still eat live prawns as he thinks that the sentient being that is affected here is smaller in size and thus has less karmic effect?

But from another angle, there could be some benefits of “calculating” karma at some stage as it gets us to practice observing ourselves, eventually leading to a habit in which we can naturally avoid bad karma and enjoy doing good karma.

Hi Adrian

Thanks for the sharing and I had enjoy this discussion too as it helps me to see things from another perspective.

Yes, agree to be aware of the weightiness would help to refrain from doing more serious non virtuous. And to subsequently understand that whether fishes or prawns etc to eat them alive is more cruel as they have to go through more sufferings. To continue to listen to the teachings & to reflect would help to improve on our understanding of karma & its effects. Rejoice!

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