In Buddhist countries, karma is a common word used in day-to-day language. In recent years, more and more people in the West are beginning to use this word, often with different interpretations.
If you have ever heard of karma, does it mean anything to you? If you happen to believe in karma, you are probably familiar with the terms such as fate, will of God, and destiny.
When you reflect on your life, are you aware of how and why certain things happen as they do? Do you think that everything in life is accidental, or do you think that things happen according to the plan of a higher power?
Do you believe in rebirth? If so, do you think that the consequences of your past karma (actions) can be experienced in this life, and the consequences of actions in this life will be experienced in future lives? In other words, do you think the forces of karma could travel from life to life?
Meanings of Karma
The following are some of the different interpretations of karma:
“Karma is what goes around comes around.”
“Karma does mean cause and effect.”
“When we suffer, part of our karmic debts melt away like the snow in the sun.”
“Karma is just like “gravity.” It’s simply the way that things naturally function. We don’t say it’s unfair that an object falls down and not up.
“If you understand cause and effect, you will find spring in autumn and winter.”
“Karma seems like some kind of economy, always changing, with debit and credit, perhaps even interest rates apply.”
“Karma is action, which is a process that affects the substances, but itself is not physically something.”
“Karma is an event that can shape the physical world, much like your own volitions cause you to react in a certain manner. Thus, karma is a non-substance force, the energy behind human actions.”
“Karma could be passed from one life to the next via disposition.”
“Karma is is what ought to be.”
“With karma you get what you deserve. Karma governs the way things are, and the way that things are at the moment and the way they ought to be.”
“Karmic debt is amassed and then worked off or suffered away, when the circumstances present themselves in a certain way. This karmic debt is disposed to be repaid when the circumstances are just right, repayment will go ahead and happen.”
“Free will is subjective and that is, in fact, an effect of karma. So, when we think we are making up our own minds, say to rebel against our parents, it has actually been predetermined, by our past karmic activities, that we do so not by our own accord.”
“Karma simply means actions and their results – any physical, mental, or verbal acts.”
“Karma manifests in a series of lifetimes.”
“Karmic debts can be purified by cultivating virtues.”
“Karma means actions, reactions, and consequences.”
“Karma is as the wagon follows the hoof of the horse that draws it.”
“Karma means if you sow good seeds, you will reap a good harvest, and if you sow bad seeds, you will reap a bad harvest.”
Buddhists believe that kindness, compassion and giving generates good conditions.
“Karma, the moral law of cause and effect, is used to explain the inequalities and injustice in life, but it also suggests that a person can shape his or her future. Buddhists believe in rebirth and think that each child is endowed with specific talents. These talents are the result of behavior in past lives. ”
At the time of death, the only thing we bring with us into our next life is the karma we created while living this life, and that our next life depends on the accumulated balance of good and bad karma.
We are bound by karma. Without the law of karma, life would have no challenge. And, life is to fulfill your dreams and potential within the karmic boundaries. The only way to transcend the law of karma would be to complete all karmic obligation. It is irresponsible not to acknowledge, understand, and work with karmic conditions. As soon as you raise consciousness to see your original soul choice, and begin functioning from a co-creative perspective, far greater options open up to you.
There are billions of people on this planet. Yet only a handful becomes the most intimate in your life. It always seems to be a mystery how and why we attract these few to share our lives. Why have you attracted to your life those human beings who now happen to be your parents, children, other relatives, and friends? Are they just accidents? What kind of deeper meanings must there be to those relationships?
There is a causal relationship between events in life. There is a larger picture that we do not see. The larger picture contains subtle forces, and one of those forces, the most important one, is karma.
According to the eastern philosophy, there are inner forces of the human being constantly interact with the outer forces to make things happen. For life to exist, many forces must interact. The forces that are generated in the depths of the psyche are considered to be the most powerful ones that create our unique personal experience of life. The forces are called karmic force.
Buddhist sutras teach, “Without serious karmic force, one’s rebirth in the Saha world will be impossible.” This karmic force accounts for all the differences in the human world – people may be tall, short, fat or skinny; rich, poor, honored or disgraced; wise, ignorant, beautiful or not beautiful.
Karma is the result of our volitional activities in thought, speech, and action which is influenced by ourselves. Hence, we are the bearer of our own karma, the receiver of our own karmic results.
Everything we do intentionally, either good or bad, will bring reward or retribution, and nobody else can experience on our behalf the joy or suffering resulting from our behavior.
The Law of Cause and Effect
We realize that an unfathomable cause and effect structure exists linking the present event to the endless past. Everything that happens to us every moment of our lives is determined by complex cause and effect chains from the past, and prior to the present moment.
In spite of the complex web of past karma, the future direction of our existence is in our control if we choose to exercise it. This is the supreme factor that makes humans different from all other forms of life.
When it comes to people, especially friends and family members, there are very strong reasons why they are with you and have become part of your life. Some of them will bring you comfort and happiness, and some of them will bring you pain and discomfort.
Whatever differences, disagreements, weaknesses, or strengths there are between you, you should not purposely hurt anyone for any reason. In a karmic sense, you are attracted to each other for known or unknown reasons. Ultimately, the purpose should be creating and sharing peace, harmony, and love.
According to the Buddha’s Teachings, we all had a sack of karmic debt in our back when we were born. During our life journey, we would meet those people in various forms either to pay back the debt to them, or to receive payment from them when becoming due.
That is why the Buddha said, “Not in the sky, nor in mind-ocean, nor in a mountain cave, is found that place on earth where abiding one may escape from the consequences of one’s own karma.”
The law of karma dictates that you can never run away from the consequences of your actions. You can not change the effects of your past karma. Yet you can change the way they affect you and the direction your life takes by controlling your present karma.
Understand that it is your own karma, you should accept the suffering and unhappiness without complaints. You should practice the essence of your Buddha Nature – wisdom and compassion – to obtain peace in your life.
For example, if you have been abused by somebody, or abandoned by your spouse, forgiveness can free you from the karmic bond. If you choose to let go of feelings of revenge and anger, you will free yourself from the negative cycle of karmic energy.
Forgiveness makes it possible to release the negative feelings that could result from the painful experience of past memory. When the victimizer walks away, the action that hurts you becomes part of the dead past, and it is up to you to make a choice to use all of your strengths to forgive and let go of the hurt. Such wholesome karmic choices bless you with peace and happiness