What is Karma?



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Death and Rebirth

While karma is found at the core of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Taoism, there are variations to its interpretations and teachings. Such as the belief that for every good or bad event that occurs in one’s life it is because of one’s previous actions.

Then there is the belief that because of our karmic actions, we are tied to this cyclical path of death and rebirth, also known as Samsara. That if we want to escape this cyclical pattern we must bring consciousness to our actions, whether in speech, thought or deed.


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Karma as an Ethical Path

Does this mean that in order to clear our bad karma, we must do good deeds? Could it then be said that karma is a way to help us stay on an ethical path? But what about those of us that do not identify with reincarnation or resonate with the idea of good or bad karma?

Isn’t the idea of judging something as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ not another form of trying to simplify occurrences in our life that are actually far more nuanced?


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Western and Eastern Philosophies

I am fascinated by humanity’s need to explain the seemingly mysterious events that occur in our lives. Where one will resonate with the idea in a higher power who controls our lives, another will explain it as being the result of our own actions. What I find compelling about the latter belief is that it empowers the individual to manifest what it wants to achieve or experience.

As someone who believes that everything is first created in the mind, I have often used visualisations to create what I want. To bring a heightened focus to what I do that I can see how being accountable for your own actions can be a useful and empowering tool for society.


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The Need for Labeling

But what I have a harder time resonating with is the idea of labeling an experience as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That the fortunes or misfortunes that have happened in your life had to be result of one’s past actions. Haven’t you often found that it is sometimes only in hindsight that you can get a clearer perspective?

What might have seemed as bad luck was actually for the best in the long run? Are we perhaps taking the simplistic route, by seeing karma as a way of explaining at times the inexplainable? While I think it is essential that we take ownership of our actions, I’m less enamoured with the thought of labeling something as good or bad.


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Life is What You Make It

Is it possible then to practice intentional living without necessarily buying into the other? That the idea of karma can be a way to empower us and remind us of the responsibility we have as individuals for the results of our actions?

But at the same time, also appreciate that there will be many mysteries in life that we might never understand. That there’s nuances to why things happen and that while we might never know why, we will always have the power to decide how we want it to effect us.