One principle of the karmic law is that it is not automatic. This
means that a deed done by a person does not bring a direct effect.
In other words, the effect is a mixture of the deed, the conditions
in which the deed was done, and the object of the deed.
Let's imagine three kinds of mirrors: a concave mirror, a convex
mirror, and a plane mirror. The concave mirror makes you look
smaller. The convex mirror makes you look bigger. And the plane
mirror can reflect an object twice its size. But in this case,
let's suppose that it can only reflect an object of the same size.
The three types of mirrors, concave, convex, and plane, all represent
the relationship between the subject and the object of an action.
With additional conditions like distance and intensity of light,
the rebound of karma is reflected on the mirrors. If a person
stands in front of these mirrors, there will be three types of
reflections: bigger, smaller and the same size. Simply standing
at the same distance from different mirrors brings about different
results from the same action.
Let me give you another example. Say that you hit a person who
was full of hatred. Then you hit a person who was cloaked with
the obscuring energy (Tamas). Thirdly, you hit a practitioner
who was wishing to have his karma washed off. You will find three
different rebounds of karma from each of these three persons.
In the first case, the person who had strong hatred, you will
receive not only the physical karma (the effect of hitting), but
also the intense emotional karma, the hatred from the person.
In the second case, you will receive not only the karma of hitting
someone, but the karma of his ignorance. In the last case, if
the practitioner had thought, "Thank you for washing off
my karma." when he was hit, you would accumulate the karma
of advancing your practice by being hit. As you can see, there
are three different effects in three different situations.
This principle also applies to offering, which is a virtuous
deed. If you make an offering to an extremely generous person
who practices the Four Immeasurables, you are sure to receive
its effect in an extremely generous way. If the person is a good
businessman, you will also become a good businessman. If the person
is highly intellectual, you will pick the fruit of its high intellect.
If the person is trying to attain enlightenment, you will also
come to direct yourself toward enlightenment. In each case, however,
the deed done is the same deed of offering.
From Mahayana Sutra Vol.2