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  • Nikita Agrawal

How does Karma work?

What goes around comes around.

woman holding a book, next to a coffee mug

Karma, as a concept today, has a lot of loose-ended definitions despite being so widespread in different parts of the world. Everyone has their own individual notion of what it is and while it's seemingly quite integrated as a part of western colloquial language, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding how it works. I wanted to play mythbusters on this concept and dig deeper into its origins.

The earliest evidence for the Law of Karma (yes, it's a law) is in the Vedas, which is an ancient text that builds the core philosophy for Eastern religions, primarily Hinduism. Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world and was first known as Sanatana Dharma, which literally translates to Eternal Truth or Eternal Laws. The Hindu religion involves the study of these universal laws and applying this knowledge to our lives. The Law of Karma is one of the foundational laws that you encounter when studying the Hindu philosophy.

Fun fact: Persians living close to the Aryan (Indian) race came up with the name "Hindu", because the communities were separated by a river called "Sindhu". They couldn't pronounce the "s" sound and the name "Hindu" stuck. To think that the name for the third-largest religion in the world was born out of a mispronunciation.

What does the word "Karma" mean?

The word Karma itself is derived from the verb meaning "to act". This law revolves around our actions and governs how the world responds to all of our actions. An action covers what we think, say, do and why we do it, so our intention behind it.

What is the Law of Karma?

The Law of Karma states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Sound familiar? That's because it follows the exact same syntax as Newton's third law of motion. Essentially what this law means is that every action has a consequence and the consequence experienced will be proportionate to the action. Since the Law of Karma is a universal law, it works at all times, for all people, in all places.

Example 1:

You're having a really busy day and you're running around at home trying to get your errands done in time before you have to leave for an event. In the midst of all this chaos, you accidentally stub your toe by hitting the corner of your bed. Now there's a massive bruise on your big toe and you're wondering what you did to deserve it.

Was this Karma? Yes.

Are you a bad person? No.

Was this punishment? No. There is no such thing.

The reason you have the bruise is because you hit your toe. There was an equal and opposite reaction for what you did. An equal reaction means that the intensity of your reaction is the same as your completed action. In this case, you got hurt the same amount as the force by which you banged your toe into the bed. An opposite reaction means that it comes back to us from the world outside, after doing an action that went from us to the outer world.

Misconception 1:

I did something bad so now I have to suffer for it.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about Karma. In reality, there is no cause for suffering. There is just a law in motion that dictates what happens to us based on what we do. Most of the time the karma we experience is not immediate, so it can be hard to decipher why things are happening to us, but it's all determined by what we do in this life.

Misconception 2:

There is only bad karma.

While we experience pain in life, we also experience a lot of joy. There is a tendency that people have to only focus on our bad karma, forgetting that there is a lot of good karma we can have and in fact have already experienced. Every good thing, experience or person that we have is a result of good karma or in other words our 'good' actions.

Example 2:

You have started exercising more regularly and joined a gym to help you meet your fitness goals. You are seeing more and more positive results, but after a few months you find out you have a serious shoulder injury because you pushed yourself too hard.

Was this Karma? Yes.

Are you a bad person? No.

Was this punishment? No. There is no such thing.

What is the cause of this?

Every action that we do is a result of what we are thinking. If there's a flaw in our thinking it leads to a wrong action and subsequently a bad consequence. Any kind of wrong technique in our thinking will result in bad karma. In the examples mentioned, the ultimate cause for getting hurt is ignorance, whether it be carelessness, using incorrect form or not knowing when to stop. Obviously we face all kinds of situations in life, not just ones where we physically injure ourselves, but the law follows the exact same rules for other types of actions as well.

There are no loopholes in this law. Once karma is done it's done. Once you say something you can't take it back. The same goes for our thoughts. Once we think something it's already thought and we can't take it back.

So, what's the solution to karma?

Firstly, it's living in awareness of this law. Being aware that the universe is governed by this law and we have to consciously navigate it. It's understanding the law and understanding how to live by the law.

Each and every action is significant because each action will have a consequence, so everything we do should be done mindfully.

Secondly, it's increasing our knowledge of what the consequences for different actions are. With increased understanding of all things, we can learn the technique of deflecting bad reactions.

The fastest way to prevent these negative consequences is by improving the quality our actions.

Moral of the story: Do good Karma (Actions)

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