What is karma?
It’s the invisible power in our lives, teaching us, changing the course of our destiny, and directing all things as we move through life.
Dhinav Thomas Jones, writing for TheBuddhistcenter, calls it, “the idea that intentional actions have consequences for the agent, in this life and in future lives.”
Not only does that mean our future is dependent on our actions today, but it also means our present reality is caused by karma created by our past actions.
Have you ever noticed how your present reality is a reflection of your past? That’s the nature of karma. What goes around comes around. It’s the cyclical nature of existence.
What is Karma? A definition.
There are a lot of different definitions of karma.
That’s because karma is discussed in so many different fields.
- There’s karma yoga, which advocated devotion to selfless actions.
- There’s Buddhist karma, which teaches that every intentional thought, feeling and action will bear fruit (ripe or sour) in the future.
- Hindu karma teaches that beneficial present day occurrences are the result of good deeds done in the past.
- The psychological, science karma
- And then there’s the pop-culture karma, which is basically the idea that what goes around comes around.
Let’s combine all those different understandings into one definition of karma.
Karma is the idea that every action has a reaction. Which, when you think about it, is very similar to the physics rule that every action has its equal and opposite reaction. If we did a good deed in the past, something good will happen to us in the present.
Imagine you’re standing on top of a clock. You place a nice present on one of the hands. The hand goes round. And soon enough, the nice present you put on top of the clock has come right back to you. #karma.
The Karma Law
Karma is actually a Sanskrit word that simply means deed or action. It’s also a word used in Buddhism. In Buddhism it means to take responsibility for our actions.
Ananda has a great article about what karma means spiritually.
Simply put, it’s the idea that there is a consequence to every action. The karma law is simply cause and effect. It’s as simple as that. It’s the idea that you get what you deserve based on your past actions.
Obviously that law is very questionable. What the hell has a starving African done to deserve to starve? Nothing. So how can you explain that using the law of karma? We’ll get into that a little later. Or, if you have your own answer, leave a comment.
And then there’s the opposite, people like Donald Trump…
Karma isn’t about punishment or reward, though. It’s not the pop-culture idea that you reap what you sew. It’s actually about learning. Based on past actions, life creates the experiences that you need in order to develop.
But this is a two-way street. Because if you change your actions now you will change your future.
The key to learning from Karma?
It’s about considering the present moment. Ask yourself, what did you do in the past that created your reality today? And how can you learn from that in order to create tomorrow?
A very common example:
Lots of people party too hard in their teens and early twenties. Life (karma) then teaches them that those actions can have negative consequences (lack of career, perhaps illness). So they learn from that in their late twenties / early thirties and change their ways, becoming more responsible. That’s a very common example of karma.
Karma After Death
What do you think happens when you die? (Leave a comment).
Different spiritualities and religions believe that different things happen when we die. And most of those beliefs come back to karma.
Christianity is the very obvious example. You’re either good or bad while you live. And after you die, karma leads you to either heaven or hell.
Other religions and spiritualities share similar beliefs? Buddhists and Hindus believe we are doomed to repeat the perpetual cycle of life and death until we achieve enlightenment. Enlightenment is ultimately about having a pure spirit when you live. So again, we can see how karma, and either living good or bad, effects our destiny after we die.
Karma is really about intention
We have all made mistakes in the past. Let’s just put our hands up in the air and admit that we’ve all messed up, yeah? It’s the truth.
So, if we have all messed up, what is the difference between a good person and a bad person.
The difference is whether we intended to harm or not.
Imagine you’re driving late at night. You’re not speeding. You haven’t been drinking. You’re doing everything right. Then a kid runs in front of your car. There’s no way you can stop in time. You hit them.
Are you going to get bad karma from that?
You didn’t intend to do wrong. It isn’t really your fault. You’re actually a victim of unfortunate circumstances.
How about cheating?
You intentionally cheat on your wife. She finds out. She’s devastated.
Will you get bad karma?
Probably. Because you did it on purpose.
Though it is not really as black and white as this. Because maybe when you cheated you were suffering from depression. You felt alone. And you needed to feel loved. That makes it less your fault. So it reduces bad karma, at least a little.
So, the amount of bad karma you’ll receive is proportionate to the harm you do multiplied by your level of intent.
Karma = Harm * Intent
You very intentionally cheat on your boyfriend and there is no justifiable reason for it.
Harm = (for example) 7 (out of 10).
Intent = 10 out of 10
Harm * Intent = 70
In this instance, your bad karma is quite high (7 out of 100) because what you did is quite harmful (though there are obviously far worse things a person could do). And at the same time, you had 100% intent and zero excuses. So sorry, you’re going to get bad karma for that.
Lets compare this to our example of accidentally hitting a kid.
Harm = 10 out of 10 (you’ve killed a kid).
Intent = 1 (maybe you could have been more alert, but ultimately it is really not your fault).
HARM * INTENT = KARMA
10 * 1 = 10
So interestingly, you’re really not going to get a lot of bad karma for this because even though what happened was terrible it really is not your fault at all.
This also works for good karma in the same way.
Good karma is based on the good you do multiplied by your intent to do it.
Let’s give two examples that are related to the above.
Let’s say you save a kid’s life. But you do it accidentally (for example, you happen to be walking down the road when you see a kid who’s been knocked out. So you call the ambulance).
GOOD = 10 (you’ve saved a kid’s life).
INTENT = 3 (you basically just happened to be in the right place at the right time).
GOOD * INTENT = 30 (out of 100)
So even though you’ve done something really good, you’re probably not going to get all that much karma because all that happened was you were in the right place at the right time.
How about another example.
You save a friend’s marriage. You do it because you really care about them and their relationship. And you put a ton of effort into doing it.
Good = 7 (you’ve done a good deed but its nothing amazin)
Intent = 10
GOOD * INTENT = 70
KARMA = 70
Here you’re actually getting more good karma than the person who saved a kid’s life because you did it on purpose and it took real effort.
Long story short:
Karma is about the good or bad you do, measured against your intent to do it.
If you have harmed people by accident, chill. It was not your fault. Nothing that bad will happen.
Do you have good or bad karma?
Inevitably, we are all going to do some good things and some bad things.
No one is perfect.
And no is 100% pure evil.
So how do you know if you have good or bad karma overall?
To put karma in far too compact a nutshell, it’s about the good deed done and the intent of doing those, measured against the bad deeds done and the intent of doing those.
In other words.
So if you’ve done as many bad deeds as good, with the same intent of both, you’ll round out in the middle. Or you can fall either side of that.
To clarify, I’m not saying karma is actually a mathematical formula, but that equation does get to the gist of things.
Is Karma Real? Scientific Evidence
Karma is real. Absolutely.
The law of karma is immutable and ever present. It is a law that cannot be broken. And it is essential.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the scientific evidence for karma.
In 2011 York University in Toronto conducted research into the effect of kindness. You can read about their research here.
700 people took part in the study a study to see whether being nice to other people had a significant effect on our health.
The group practiced acts of compassion towards someone for 5 – 15 minutes a day.
Lead author Myriam Mongrain, associate professor of psychology at York’s Faculty of Health tells us that it only takes a few moments of kindness to have a lasting effect. “The time investment required for these changes to occur is so small. We’re talking about mere minutes a day,” she says.
You’ll probably want to read all about the effects of kindness in our Loving Kindness Meditation guide.
But to cut it short; kindness improves self esteem and happiness and reduces levels of depression. Click the link above for more on this
Kindness makes us feel better about ourselves, which us value ourselves more. This in turn makes us see more purpose in our lives. And that motivates us to act in positive ways.
So good deeds do ultimately result in a better future. In other words, the basic concept of karma is scientifically proven.
So let’s cut to the chase:
Karma exists. So how do you have good karma?
How to have good karma
Obviously, we want good karma.
When we have good karma we feel good about ourselves and we reap a positive, fruitful tomorrow.
Here are ten ways to have good karma.
It costs nothing to give a compliment. But the right words can mean the world to the other person.
I remember when a friend told me I was a great person because I spent so much time helping stray animals. Just hearing that gave me validation and it made me feel special. That kind of feeling can’t be bought.
The right compliment will generate an abundance of karma.
Random acts of kindness
Nothing generates happiness quite like random acts of kindness.
We’ve already looked at how kindness creates happiness and increases self worth, as well as how it lowers depression.
Personally I love spending just a few minutes every day being outrageously kind to someone. It makes me feel absolutely amazing. And it puts a smile on the other person’s face too. Total win / win.
Look for opportunities to help
There are always opportunities t help other people. And those are also opportunities to generate good karma.
We need to take a look around at other people and ask how we can help them. When can we do to make a difference in their lives. Then we need to act.
Good karma can come from positive actions, and it can also come from noble thoughts and feelings.
One of the most noble traits in the world is forgiveness.
Take a look at how forgiveness benefits us. The positive effects of forgiveness are truly astounding.
The harder it is to forgive, the more karma you will generate when you do forgive.
Who needs forgiveness? Find the compassion to give it to them.
Donate to charities
One of the reasons why people love to donate to charity is because it makes them feel amazing. And of course, the right charity also helps those in need (though many do not; that’s a subject for another article).
Donating to a great charity will create good karma in abundance.
And remember, you don’t have to donate money. You can donate food, clothes… whatever you have to spare.
Which is your favorite charity to donate to? (Leave a comment)
Another positive mental trait that creates karma is gratitude.
Simply telling people that you are thankful can be a big deal.
I remember when a friend of mine was going through depression. His family were not supporting him. He had no one to turn to. So I did everything in my power to help him.
Afterward? He told me that he was so thankful that there are people like me in the world.
That felt amazing. And it generated a lot of good karma for both of us.
Sometimes just saying thanks can make a world of difference.
Give away a valuable possession
The more something means to you, the more karma you will receive when you give it away.
The item you give away doesn’t have to be of monetary value. It could be a personal item that has immense value to you, like a family heirloom.
Passing that item on to someone else who needs it, or who will value it, will generate huge karma.
It stings a little to give such a prized possession away, but it sews the seeds of karma, and we all know how fruitful those seeds can be.
Take a look at this article about the importance of compassion.
Makes your jaw drop, doesn’t it?
Compassion is very, very important for our health. The more compassionate we are, the more mentally healthy we will be.
Compassion costs nothing but is immensely valuable.
Look for every opportunity to be compassionate.
Share your knowledge
If you don’t want to or simply cannot give away a possession or make a donation, you still have a lot to offer.
The knowledge you’ve accrued in your lifetime is of immense value to someone. Find that person and pass on all the knowledge you have sitting up there in that brain of yours.
Help someone to achieve an ambition or dream
Dreams. They make the world go round. Or is that love.
I know. How about we combine dreams with love.
Find someone who has a dream, or an ambition, and lovingly help them achieve it.
Seriously, if you do this you will feel bloody amazing and it will generate so much good karma you’ll be sitting on cloud nine the rest of your life.
And that is how to have good karma.
Now another question.
How do you stop bad karma?
How to stop bad karma
So we’ve looked at how to have good karma.
Time to flip the tables.
Here’s the deal:
We all have bad karma, at least a little. The more of that bad karma we get rid of, the better.
Here are five ways to stop bad karma from messing up your life.
Don’t act in anger: Bad karma is caused by bad deeds. And a lot of the time, bad deeds are caused by anger.
The less anger you have the the less bad karma you will have.
Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation will lead to less anger. That in turn leads to less bad deeds, and finally less bad karma.
It’s basically the opposite of the Yoda quote.
You remember the Yoda quote, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”?
It becomes this:
Start with inner peace. Then the bad karma will take care of itself.
Is it too late now to say sorry? No, it isn’t: It’s never too ate to say sorry. And when you say sorrow you will stop bad karma from the deed you’re apologising for.
Saying sorry has a transformative effect. It stops the damage of past mistakes. It lets the other person know that they matter, and whatever mistake you made that you are sorry for it, and it helps you to move on.
“Sorry” is a truly powerful word.
When it’s over, let go:
Bad relationships happen. Grapes turn sour. It’s inevitable.
Clinging on to a broken relationship is never the right answer. Bad relationships lead to bad deeds that generate bad karma.
Know when it’s time to move on.
Stop the flow of bad karma, and turn the page.
An eye for an eye…: A cliché. But a very true cliché.
The idea of an eye for an eye is just… ignorant.
If someone does you wrong, their own bad karma will punish them. There’s no need for you to punish them yourself. Doing that will create bad karma for you.
Accept that the other person made a mistake. Let their own bad karma punish them. Don’t mess up your own good vibes through one stupid act of vengeance.
Practice Loving Kindness Meditation:
Loving kindness meditation will completely stop bad karma. Why? Because it’s basically a steroid for positive feelings.
Take a look at this guide to Loving Kindness Meditation. It’s a real game changer.
Karma is real. Science proves it.
If we want to enjoy good karma and stop bad karma, we need to practice good deeds and stop bad ones.
Love, compassion, and kindness are the keys.
Now over to you.
What do you think about karma? Do you believe in it? If not why not? And what do you think about the importance of kindness and compassion?
Leave a comment.