What is Karma?

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The concept of Karma is often misunderstood in the West and considered to be unchangeable destiny or a fate. Quite the contrary, Karma is a very dynamic principle. The Sanskrit word Karma actually means “act” or a “deed”. Every moment of our life we create our Karma  by our own actions. People unfamiliar withe the real meaning of Karma usually think about it when something bad happens. By itself Karma is not bad or good as it depends on our actions. By undertaking positive and constructive actions we are creating positive effects around us and thus create our Karma. Karma can be changed or undone – a bad action can be corrected by positive action and we can thus “undo” negative effect on our lives.

Karma teaches us about responsibility for our own actions. It is not God who is punishing us for our bad deeds, but it is the law of Karma by which we invite bad effects into our lives by being a bad cause. When something good happens to us it is not by God’s grace, but it is also result of our positive deeds and actions.

Similar idea can be observed in other religions as well. Christian expressions similar to karma include “one reap what one sows” (Galatians 6:7), “violence begets violence” and “who live by the sword, die by the sword”. Karma can be viewed in terms of “the law of cause and effect”.

When somebody is bad to us he creates bad karma for himself. When we fight bad action done to us with bad action towards another, we perpetuate that bad karma and contribute to it. But we can break that cycle of bad karma by forgiving the person or “turning another cheek”. Mahatma Gandhi, symbol of non violent resistance, said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind”. Again, the same principle can be found in the famous speech Jesus Christ held on a mount where he said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

When something bad happens people are too ready to blame the bad luck or some external factor. By examining our own responsibility for bad situation and asking ourselves how did we contribute to that situation to happen we might learn something and become more responsible. And remember, don’t be too hard on yourself, there are no failures in life, only lessons.

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One comment on “What is Karma?

  1. Great article. Very informative.

    The word Karma is profound and encompasses several dimensions. Our Karma is a superset of three things Intent, action and outcome. To start with our span of control is maximum on ‘action’, and with conditioning possibly ‘intent’. And we have zero control over outcome or consequences.

    As narrated in the Udyoga Parva 93.6, Mahabharat “Even if a man does not succeed, he gets all the merit of doing his duty, if he strives the utmost to his capacity.” Its important we follow up good intent with committed action, which is highly fulfilling. I have faced the effects of Karma in my life and I would definitely recommend everyone to be noble with our actions and intent for a more prosperous life.

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