Karma: The Cause and Effect of our Actions
By Randi G. Fine
The word Karma is new age and trendy. We see it used on food products, bath and body products, on business names, as titles of songs, etc. But how many of us really know what it means?
Karma is often thought of as reciprocal punishment, with the same connotation as, “An eye for an eye.” Many people use the word Karma to describe negative forces that they are powerless over, using comments like, “I can’t help that I keep losing my job. It’s just my karma.” And some people misinterpret the word to mean fate.
Thinking in terms of the universal law, I knew there had to be a deeper meaning. There is so much more to our actions in life than what we witness. Life is not about punishment, it’s about learning. If we all make mistakes and we are here to learn, then why would we constantly be punished for our imperfect actions? It just doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is the theory that Karma is based on every action producing an equal and opposite reaction. It has nothing to do with punishment.
Karma, a word that comes from the Sanskrit language, basically means “action.” It doesn’t describe the effect of our action – it’s the action itself. We constantly generate it by our thoughts and their resulting actions. You may ask yourself, “What’s the point of doing good things if I’ll never reap the benefits?” The point is that our thoughts and actions become the cause that will eventually be followed by the effect. We have to live with the consequences of our actions. Karma is the way the universe teaches us the lessons we need to learn.
Believing in Karmic reaction is faith based - the effect may or may not be experienced in this lifetime, though sometimes what goes around comes right back at you like a speedy boomerang. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
Karma cannot exist without reincarnation, the act of repeatedly being born and dying. Retained in the soul’s eternal consciousness, just like in the seed of a plant, is everything that ever happens to us. Everything we do, eternally impacts us. Good and bad karmic ripples can affect us at any time or any lifetime.
Some Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, where karma is a fundamental concept, believe that reincarnation is the way we renew our spirit. Those countless lifetimes give us the chance to refine our karma and get it right. The positive things we do in each lifetime contribute to the evolution of our souls; good deeds will benefit us in our next life. Hindus believe that when our souls have evolved to perfection we will stop reincarnating and merge with the source of all existence. This is called moksha. It is similar to what Buddhists call nirvana, though unlike moksha, it is possible, though extremely difficult to achieve nirvana while still in our physical bodies.
Are you picturing an omnipresent, universal presence or God who keeps track of our behavior. A supreme being who hands out punishments like Zeus did when he got angry and hurled thunderbolts from the sky. How many times have you heard people who were in the middle of a crisis say, “Why is God punishing me like this” or “What did I do that made God so angry with me?” God does not punish us – he doesn’t sit around keeping score then doling out karma. We are the creators of our own experiences.
There is universal accountability but it isn’t always cut and dry. Karma is part of the law of nature, not a courtroom of law. The law of nature is rigid like basic math, no matter how you look at it, one plus one equals two. There is no weighing and consideration done by the universe, no absolute right or wrong, no gray area. It’s not some kind of cosmic game. Karma is strictly cause and effect. It’s a guiding law that holds us completely accountable for our actions.
The thing about karma is that you can’t trick it by going through the motions of living a good life, and doing good things. It’s not about material success or earning merit awards. It’s the intention behind your present motive that counts. Doing things that benefit you but hurts others creates bad karma. Anything you do from the heart that is beneficial to others produces good karma.
Let’s talk about intentions. Say you are driving on the highway and it begins to rain. The road gets slippery and somehow you lose control of your car. You cause a terrible accident and someone dies as a result of it. Was it your intention to kill another human being? Of course it wasn’t. Killing someone was not a deliberate act therefore it was not a karmic act. You are not spiritually responsible for what occurred when it was not your intention to do it. The person who died may have been fulfilling their karma. I’ll elaborate on how we affect each other’s karma a little later. You could create good karma out of this horrible situation by offering the family of the deceased heartfelt kindness and compassion in the aftermath of the tragedy. That is an intended act and therefore karmic.
Our souls are on a goal oriented journey. They know what they are working on and working towards. As souls, we decide the lessons and conditions in which to learn those things… before we are born. We also carry all the loose ends of our past into our next life. The karma we inherit from previous lives may play a huge role in determining our mental and physical characteristics. Sometimes our characteristics have nothing to do with heredity. That is why some traits cannot be explained. We’ve all heard about young children with unexplainable talents. There are children who are masters at playing the piano before the age of five, yet they have never taken a lesson.
We always have free will…the chance to change the karmic path we’re on. In order to change Karma, you have to first understand what your Karma’s about. Then you have to analyze your patterns so you can alter them. When the patterns you bring from past lives are changed, your destiny is changed. You can free yourself from the cyclic pattern you’ve been stuck in. It takes courage to apply what you understand. But by facing your karma with inner strength and determination… you can change the path you’re on.
To analyze your patterns, pay attention to recurrent themes. What are the themes that continue to repeat themselves throughout your life? Are you always having family issues, relationship issues, or money issues? Have you had one failed marriage after another or constant problems with your children? These prevalent themes in your life will continue, until you sit up, take notice, and decide to make changes.
After becoming aware of the significant role these themes play in your life, you can begin to make changes. You can work on overcoming the hurdles that you couldn’t jump before. Maybe you thought it would take too much effort to work through those issues, and took the “why bother, what’s the use” stance. But these related problems keep popping up for a reason. The reason is to make you notice them and work through them. Have you ever heard the bible verse, “As you sow, so shall you reap?” Who benefits in the long run? You do.
Can you even begin to imagine what kind of karma people like Bernie Madoff, Ben Laden, or Sadam Hussein have created for their selves? All three of these men have experienced rapid consequences for their behaviors in this life, and will probably carry those consequences into their next life. Of course they won’t consciously remember the heinous crimes they committed, but they will experience and have to suffer the effects of their past life karma. With karma, the payment often fits the crime. For instance, in the case of Bernie Madoff, who out of greed unconscionably stole billions of dollars from people and businesses, and an estimated total of three billion dollars from twenty-seven charitable organizations, he may suffer destitute poverty, homelessness, and victimization in his next life. In the case of Sadam Hussein, a tyrant whose tortuous executions, committed out of a lust for power, gain, and pure evil, amounted to an estimated total of eight hundred thousand people, he will probably suffer inhumane oppression and misery in his next life. And Ben Laden, a cowardly terrorist who through his own hatred, called on Muslims to carry out his orders of suicide and the bombing deaths of tens of thousands of people around the world, and through 911 changed America forever, he may witness many people he loves dying tragic deaths, and may be a target of vicious, bitter hatred for his entire life.
It may sound like it, but Karma is not exactly an eye for an eye. If you murder someone in this life, they won’t necessarily come back in your next life and murder you. You will have to experience the other point of view, maybe by suffering a loss yourself or losing someone you love, suddenly and tragically, though you probably won’t know why it happened. Now you’re probably thinking, “Aren’t others sacrificed so that we may fulfill our karma? “ Yes others are sacrificed in our behalf but it’s not as heartless as you may imagine and it doesn’t necessarily create bad karma. As I said before, we decide our lessons and conditions before we are born. That plan involves incarnating with other souls whose karma we can learn from. It is a pact we willingly make with each other.
Things we say can be just as impactful as things we do. Pay close attention to the way you word things because words do create karma. If you start sentences with, “I’ll never be,” then you never will. If you make comments like, “I’m not lucky,” then you won’t have good luck. When speaking, try to use phrases that are positive and hopeful. Instead of saying, “I don’t think I can do that,” say “I’ll try my best to do that.”
I’ll give you an example of how powerful our words can be. My mother has never been a positive thinker. I used to think she was psychic, or that she was a witch. Out of negativity, fear, and worry, she would warn me and my sisters that if we did A, B would happen…and B was always something negative. Well, B often happened, just as she’d prophesized. It was scary and eerie. Unfortunately it didn’t work the same for positive things, though I have to say, there weren’t too many of those occasions.
When my daughter was a toddler she spent her week days with my parents while I worked. My mother was attached and very protective of her granddaughter and she worried all the time about bad things happening to her. I saw history repeating itself and it made me uneasy. One day when my mother was over my house, she saw my two year old daughter standing in the kitchen in front of my 2-3 year old modern electric range/oven combo. Brand new – nothing at all wrong with it. The oven and the stove were not on. In my mother’s usual fearful way she said to me, “Don’t let Cammy stand there. The oven door might fall on her.” I looked at her like she was crazy. I told her not to be so ridiculous – that could never happen. Then what do you know? The oven door magically opens and falls on my daughter. My mother had an “I told you so” angry look on her face. Cammy didn’t get hurt but I was totally freaked out and called my mother a witch. I could go on and on about other similar incidents.
Words are very powerful…need I say more?
There are many things we say and do that do not leave a karmic footprint. General things we do to care for ourselves, like eating, showering, and exercising are karma exempt. So are neutral activities such as reading or watching television. These are things that don’t self promote or self praise, and they don’t affect the lives of others. Foolish, irrational, or risky acts that end badly, but only impact the person doing them aren’t karmic. Neither are the actions of someone who is mentally challenged or mentally ill. And the same goes for our general life experiences. Not everything that happens to us in our life or in the world, whether good or bad, is karmic.
Your karma can be modified and changed by changing yourself. The first way to modify it is through humility. Take the spotlight off yourself and shine it on others. Give of yourself to others. Another way that you can cleanse your Karma is through forgiveness. By forgiving yourself and others without conditions, you will achieve peace of mind and karmic healing. You can also modify your karma by learning from your mistakes. Your goal is to learn from your errors, not repeat them. That is how you will progress forward. Part of the universal law is that what you resist will persist. So when you practice acceptance, without judgment or resistance, you will change the flow of your life.
Karma is not only bad. It may be responsible for many of the good things that occur in your life; so, practice being grateful. Remember to give thanks for every gift you receive, large and small. And remember to give back unselfishly. Gratitude and generosity are excellent ways to attract more positivity to your life. Another way to awaken and inspire changes in you is by reading spiritual articles and books that will connect you with a new perspective. Self-help books and articles are very beneficial too. Reading was the catalyst that inspired the most change in me, and it continues to inspire me and help me to grow.
There are techniques that can be used, to cleanse karma that’s not based in this lifetime. A regular practice of meditation, mantras, or prayer is likely to help to cleanse karmic residue. There are many meditation exercises, prayers, and specific mantras that can be found by doing an internet search for “clearing karma.” Another very effective tool for cleansing negativity and negative karma is the use of light energy called, the violet flame, or violet fire. This fascinating and easy technique is done through meditation and visualization. I don’t have the time today to explain it, but if you’d like to know more about what the violet flame is and how to use it, you can google the words, violet flame, and find a lot of good information.
Maintaining karma is just as important as cleansing it. Through maintenance you will continue to improve on achievements accomplished in other lives. Without maintenance you will most likely set back any progress you brought to this life. To continue further along with any karmic progress you’ve made in this life, and then take it with you into your next life, it’s advisable to strengthen positive inclinations like kindness and compassion. Failure to strengthen those inclinations in this life will cause them to weaken, and you will lose the benefits of the good karma you’ve achieved. And by turning bad karma into good karma while you’re here, you will take that with you into your next life. So with the awareness, that whatever you do here will go along with you on your soul’s journey, be mindful of your actions, intentions, and words.
It’s important to know the parameters of your life and stay within them. No two lives are the same. What works well in someone else’s life may not work well in yours. What they attract to their life may be karma based, just as yours may be. What appears good or lucky in someone else’s life could be destructive to your life if the same things happened to you. Don’t compare your life to others’. Learn to accept your parameters. They’re there for a reason, so work with them. Your life operates a particular way, you decided the lessons and conditions of your life before you were born. For instance, some of us attract money and some of us don’t. If you can see by the patterns of your life that you don’t attract money, be conservative with it. Don’t take risks with your money. Don’t gamble with it or unwisely invest it. Those things may work for others but they’re probably not meant to work for you.
There’s an interpretation of Jewish scripture called a midrash. A midrash is a scholarly philosophy that’s used to teach others. One midrash tells this story: God gets tired of hearing everyone complain about the conditions of their life. So he takes everyone’s complaints, jumbles them up, and then he randomly passes them back out. No one likes the complaint they’re given, and everyone begs for their own complaints back. This story is meant to teach us that everyone has problems. Life may seem rosier with your neighbor, but they don’t see it that way because they’re dealing with their own issues. And to them their issues feel as monumental as your issues do to you.
As long as we live, breathe, and reincarnate, we will continue to create karma. It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate karma. Elimination can only be accomplished after achieving moksha or nirvana, the states of our souls evolving to perfection. With moksha you will have fulfilled all the missions of your soul and will not reincarnate again. And very few people throughout history have achieved nirvana while still in their physical bodies.
Karma isn’t all negative; not by a long shot. We enjoy many positive karmic effects, though often the bad ones overshadow the good ones. It’s all in the way we choose to view our lives. Take an inventory of all the good things that exist for you and that have happened to you. By doing this you may change your perspective which in turn changes your karma.
Shine On : ) With Love,