If once we die, and the amount of good karma surpasses that of bad karma, will we still have to serve time in hell?
Firstly, read this
Secondly, I am curious: why the mention of 'hell'? In the Buddha Dharma, it is not the one and only 'option', there are two other lower states of existence: the animal & hungry ghost as well and the higher ones of the human and devas (and one more category of the asuras). Did you know that one can experience all states of existence, even in the here and now, even from moment to moment? No need to wait for the post mortem situation to find out...
Thirdly, viewing the law of karma, the law of moral causation, a part of the greater classified scope of the law/processes of causality (others being: utu, bija, dharma and citta), as some kind of an auditing or accounting system of plus and minus points is very limiting and discouraged in terms of cultivating the Path. Why?
a. Because one is not aiming to be a 'karma accountant' but dealing with suffering and the ending of suffering.
b. And also this..one of the four imponderables...
Is this saying that one can't know on the workings of karma? No but it is like expecting a toddler to figure out a PhD level stuff if one wants to figure out the TOTAL workings of karma. So, at our level, the law of karma is taught within the framework of what is connected with our situation and focus: suffering and the cessation of suffering.
The late Ven Master Dr Shèng Yán opines in his
(Part 1: Buddha Dharma: Precepts and Karma, pgs 76-7)
The Buddha taught there were certain questions that were inexplicable and unfathomable; and if people contemplated these concepts in hopes of coming up with answers they could become deluded or confused. One of these is to try to understand what the Buddha's mind is capable of. Another is to try to understand the workings of karma.
Karma is difficult and in fact impossible to fully and clearly explain. Yet people insist on knowing more about it. They want crystal clear, concrete descriptions to help them understand their existence and experience. The point is, while karma is inconceivable, we have to come up with analogies to try explain its facets. None of them does justice to the actual thing. This time around, I used a banking analogy. If you do not like that analogy, I will try to come up with another one. But all of them will be analogies and will fall short of the real thing. As Buddhists, the main thing for us to understand is that our thoughts, speech and actions have consequences that we will receive, in this life and future lives.
Fourthly, don't conflate both karma and vipaka as the one and the same. Both have connections but must be dealt with in their respective spheres and context. See this
Or will the bad karma cancel out the good karma?
It doesn't quite work that way. See below...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"Monks, I don't speak of the wiping out of intentional acts that have been done & accumulated without [their results] having been experienced, either in the here & now or in a further state hereafter. Nor do I speak of the act of putting an end to suffering and stress without having experienced [the results of] intentional acts that have been done & accumulated.
And read this
and from that, we will be decided where we will be sent off to?
What is this 'we'? Consider reading this
From the same Master and his book as above...Karma (page 58)
In the teaching of the Yogacara School, the eighth consciousness (alaya) is known as the storehouse consciousness. It stores the consequences of our actions. Karmic force resides there. Mahayana Buddhism describes the eighth consciousness as containing the seeds of all our karma but we should not think of these seeds as separate units of karmic force. The eighth consciousness is not comparable to a computer memory disk, where data is increases or decreases. The eighth consciousness does not become larger or smaller as individuals create karma and experience consequences. Although it consists of many different karmic seeds, the eighth consciousness is one, ever changing karmic force.
In one simple summary:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"'Kamma should be known. The cause by which kamma comes into play should be known. The diversity in kamma should be known. The result of kamma should be known. The cessation of kamma should be known. The path of practice for the cessation of kamma should be known.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said?
"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.
"And what is the cause by which kamma comes into play? Contact is the cause by which kamma comes into play.
"And what is the diversity in kamma? There is kamma to be experienced in hell, kamma to be experienced in the realm of common animals, kamma to be experienced in the realm of the hungry shades, kamma to be experienced in the human world, kamma to be experienced in the world of the devas. This is called the diversity in kamma.
"And what is the result of kamma? The result of kamma is of three sorts, I tell you: that which arises right here & now, that which arises later [in this lifetime], and that which arises following that. This is called the result of kamma.
"And what is the cessation of kamma? From the cessation of contact is the cessation of kamma; and just this noble eightfold path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration — is the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma.
"Now when a disciple of the noble ones discerns kamma in this way, the cause by which kamma comes into play in this way, the diversity of kamma in this way, the result of kamma in this way, the cessation of kamma in this way, & the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma in this way, then he discerns this penetrative holy life as the cessation of kamma.
"'Kamma should be known. The cause by which kamma comes into play... The diversity in kamma... The result of kamma... The cessation of kamma... The path of practice for the cessation of kamma should be known.' Thus it has been said, and in reference to this was it said.
For more, read: The The Unique Characteristics of Buddhism: I. The First Characteristic: Karma
& Conditionality: The Law of Cause and Effect
On a another level and reflection...
http://cttbusa.org/avatamsaka/avatamsaka40.aspThe Fourth Vow: To Repent of Karmic Obstacles and Reform
“Moreover, Good Man, to repent of karmic obstacles and reform is explained like this: The Bodhisattva reflects,
‘From beginningless kalpas in the past, I have created all measureless and boundless evil karma with my body, mouth, and mind, because of greed, hatred, and stupidity.
If this evil karma had a substance and form, all of empty space could not contain it. I now completely purify these three karmas, and before the assemblies of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, throughout the Dharma Realm in lands as many as fine motes of dust, I sincerely repent of and reform my offenses and vow never to create them again. I will always dwell in all merit and virtue of the pure precepts.’
“So it is that when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, then my repentance will be exhausted. But just as the realm of empty space up to the afflictions of living beings are endless, so too my repentance and reform are endless. They continue in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.