An Interpretation of Karma based on a supposedly Japanese story quoted by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth.
A samurai was murdered by another samurai. He was the head of family. The heir had to avenge his father’s death and kill the murderer to restore the family honor. The young son set off to search the murderer, who was on the lam. It was a long and difficult journey. Until he could right the wrong done to his father, his family would remain in limbo in samurai hierarchy. He did not have any source of income. So he degraded himself into a laborer, a hired help, and a peddler –these jobs were in lower caste in those days –to support himself while pursuing the enemy. Years past and finally, the not-so-young-anymore man found the murderer of his father. When he confronted the man face to face, he became aware of his own hatred toward the man.
Upon being aware of his feeling, he walked away without killing the man.
The father had some kind of karma that led to his murder. The father passed on his karma to his son, while the other samurai now bore the karma of his own as a murderer. The son paid for his father’s karma by suffering and humbling himself to pursue the murderer. At this point, he is just an executor of the law of samurai social structure. However, if he kills the murderer with his own anger and hatred in his mind, he generates his own karma, thus, the chain of hatred keeps on going. The key word is Awareness. That’s the way to avoid reincarnation with karma attached.
What would the young samurai do after that? Since he didn’t follow the rule, he would remain outcast from his original caste. There is an opening for a “shift”. He could leave the samurai caste, so that the old “rule” would not apply.
A tiger kills prey to survive. That’s what a tiger does and is. Killing itself generates no additional karma for a tiger. It just keeps him being a tiger. That’s his karma in a larger context. If he becomes aware and stops killing prey, he would die, because it means he rejects his being a tiger. In his next life, he might find himself in a different realm.
I don’t know. Just a thought. And I don’t believe in reincarnation, anyway.