- The Heart of the Buddha s Teaching...
- Hanh, Thich Nhat (Author)
Karma originates from India and is a belief commonly held by Buddhists. It refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect. In simple terms, if you believe in Karma then you believe that your actions, and the actions of others have repercussions. This does not mean repercussions that result directly from those actions, but rather that there will be appropriate repercussions even if they are not at all physically related.
To make a very simple example of this, if you were to kill someone, you might in turn be killed yourself. This would be classed as Karma to those who believe in it. If you believe in Karma then you almost definitely believe in a higher power or a God. You might agree with this statement even if you were not a believer in Karma because you might say a friend or associate of the person that you killed might seek you out and kill you for revenge. But if you believe in Karma, then you would say even if that did not happen and that nobody wanted revenge for the killing, you would at some point be killed even if it was in a seemingly unrelated incident. Because this is how Karma works – it is not carried out by humans but rather it is a divine justice carried out by a higher power.
It does not just work to “punish” bad deeds, it also works to reward good deeds. For people who believe in Karma, doing good deeds will at some point result in good happening to you in return.
For some people this might mean being good specifically with the intention of getting something back in return, or it might mean always chastising others, or in fact wishing bad on others because they have done wrong to you.
I personally don’t believe in that side of it – I would never wish bad on someone, or assume that “Karma” would carry out justice on my behalf as I don’t think that it works like that. I believe that Karma is a personal justice that works for and with the person who believes in it. I believe that Karma should be used to reinforce the way that you live your own life and not as a way to dictate how others should live their lives or to dish out justice to others. The reason behind this is that you never know what life someone else has lived and you never know whether someone else’ actions are actually good or bad – after all just because someones actions appear to have resulted in something bad happening to you, it does not mean that person is bad. TO put it more clearly, if there is actually a divine being and if we should be living our lives to some higher moral code then it is only that divine being who can judge whether our actions are justified or not – other humans cannot judge this on our behalf.
If you witnessed, or heard about a murder, for example, you would always assume that murder was bad and unjust. So if you believed in Karma you might think to yourself, that person will get pay back by Karma. But the truth is you don’t know for certain whether that was just or not, as you don’t know all of the details and you have not lived that persons life. Murder is an extreme example and of course it is probably never just, but there could be circumstances where it is just – for example if someone was trying to kill you and you killed them in self defense, whatever anyone looking in might think, to you that would be justified and you would not expect any ramifications as far as karma was concerned.
If there is a God or a higher power, and if Karma does exist then I believe all of those things would be taken into account. And it is for those reason that I believe Karma can only be analysed through the actions that you yourself take – because you only know whether the actions you take are truly right or wrong – you can’t say the same for anyone else’ actions without actually living their life.