A certain Mr Porng went to visit the abbot of a nearby monastery, and he asked, ‘Luang Por [Reverend Father], the Buddha taught that everything is not-self and is without an owner—there is no one who commits karma and no one who receives its results. If that is the case, then I can go out and hit somebody over the head or even kill them, or do anything I like, because there is no one committing karma and no one receiving its results.’
No sooner had Mr Porng finished speaking than the abbot swung his walking stick down like a flash. Mr Porng could hardly get his arm up fast enough to ward off the blow. Even so, the stick struck solidly in the middle of his arm, giving it a good bruise. Clutching his sore arm, Mr Porng said, ‘Luang Por! Why did you do that?’ His voice trembled with the anger that was welling up inside him.
‘Oh! What’s the matter?’ the abbot asked offhandedly.
‘Why, you hit me! And it hurt!’
The abbot, assuming a tone of voice usually reserved for sermons, slowly murmured: ‘There is karma but no one creating it. There are results of karma, but no one receiving them. There is feeling, but no one experiencing it. There is pain, but no one in pain . . . Those who try to use the law of not-self for their own selfish purposes are not freed of self; those who cling to not-self are those who cling to self. They do not really know not-self. Those who cling to the idea that there is no one who creates karma must also cling to the idea that there is no one who is in pain. They do not really know that there is no one who creates karma and no one who experiences pain.’
The moral of this story is: if you want to say ‘there is no one who creates karma,’ you must first learn how to stop saying ‘Ouch!’
Buddhism Now November 2001
The above is from Good, Evil and Beyond: Kamma in the Buddha’s Teaching, by Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto, translated from the Thai by Bhikkhu Puriso. Buddhadhamma Foundation, Thailand