IX. Samaṇa Vagga
The Book of the
The Book of the Threes
Flower of the Sea
An outline compiled from the Pali and various translations by Michael Olds
The key to understanding this sutta is in understanding the following introductory passage:
"For one speaking thus, beggars:
'Yathā yathāyaṃ puriso kammaṃ karoti,||
tathā tathā taṃ paṭisaŋvediyatī' ti.|| ||
'Whatsoever is such as this person intends to create by his deed
such as such as that is the experience that returns to him.'
Such being the case, beggars,
there is not had the living of the godly life
occasioning no thorough understanding of the consummate making of an end to pain.
But for one speaking thus, beggars:
'Yathā yathā vedanīyaṃ ayaṃ puriso kammaṃ karoti,||
tathā tathāssa vipākaṃ paṭisaŋvediyatī' ti.|| ||
'Whatsoever is such as is the sensation this person intends to create by his deed,
such as such as that results in the experience that returns to him.'
Such being the case, beggars,
there is had the living the godly life
occasioning thorough understanding of the consummate making of an end to pain."
Kamma is not a matter of 'an eye for an eye'.
The meaning is that if it were the case that one doing an intentional deed of body, speech or mind necessarily were to experience the consequences in the form of experiences of body, speech and mind (it is not even necessary in this case to specify that these results be identical to those deeds, but only that they are of the same form), the nature of that manner of consequence is such as to preclude escape from kamma.
This must be understood in connection with the statement that there is no doing of an intentional deed without the experience of the consequences thereof. [AN 10.208]
Those two ideas together would require, for example, a deed done with body to be experienced by a consequence to the body, and so forth.
This would require identification with, or being downbound to body. And further, since there is no knowing the extent into the past of our intentional deeds of body, and kamma is not a one-for-one thing, but greatly amplifies whatever deed is done, there could be no knowing or saying that 'after such and such a time of doing no more intentional deeds of body, speech or mind, there will be an end of kamma'. And since the time involved in experiences of this sort is extensive, even if one were to practice very earnestly, death would intervene, and there would follow forgetfulness and in the next rebirth there would be the doing of new deeds.
However, if the experience of the repercussion of an intentional deed is in accordance with the sensation that it was intended to cause, (may so-and-so suffer pain, may I enjoy pleasure by way of this deed) then understanding that there are but the three sensations (painful, pleasant and not-painful-but-not pleasant), and that these sensations accompany all sense experience at whatever level, this allows the results of deeds intended to cause sensations of a certain sort to manifest in connection with any experience of sense at any level. Then, understanding that sensation is limited to the sense-spheres, by so developing one's bodily behavior, heart, and wisdom such as to abandon and rise above sense-experience, there is escape from kamma.
The repercussion of past deeds in the form of sensation will follow one up into ever more refined states, but by that very process such perspective is created as encompasses the ultimate past in terms of repercussions in the form of sensation (the perspective above sense-experience is the perspective of the totality of existence) and thus is had the experience of the totality of one's past kamma and by this the opportunity is created for the understanding of the consummate making of an end to pain in the understanding that that which is a sense experience is a thing that has come to be and that which has come to be comes to an end, and that by creating no new kamma and by abandoning and rising up above sense experience, kamma is brought to an end.
The theory one has about the nature of the mechanism of action of kamma will determine the nature of the measures one takes to bring kamma to an end. Holding the first of the two points of view above, one will not be able to bring kamma to an end because one will be attempting to bring the wrong things (forms of behavior) to an end. Looking to the second of these points of view one will be able to bring kamma to and end because one will be looking to bring the cause of sensation to an end, that is, identification with the intent to create personal sense-experience.
Bhk. Bodhi quotes the Abhidhamma in stating that there are types of kamma which go extinct if they do not gain an opportunity to create consequences within their time limit. This is in direct contradiction to Gotama's statement that there is no doing of an intentional deed without experiencing the consequences thereof. The error here is exactly in the misunderstanding of the doctrine in this sutta, that is that the ultimate nature of the consequences of kamma is not found in forms but in sensation. Do yourselves a big favor and stear clear of the Abhidhamma and commentaries at least until you have a firm grasp of the suttas.
 Kammaṃ karoti. 'by deed does' or 'by action does', in an effort to clarify while sticking to the orthodox understanding of 'kamma' I have inserted here the idea of 'intent.' "'Kamma' beggars, is a term for 'intent.'[AN 6.63]