Karma: What Goes Around Comes Around

The Hari Mandir, now called the Golden Temple, is a living symbol of the spiritual and historical traditions of the Sikhs. In the photo - Night view of the sparkling Golden temple at Amritsar and the surrounding Amrit Sarovar

Lots of people these days say “Karma is a bitch” or “What goes around comes around,” but do we really know what this means? Not many people who use these terms or talk about karma knows where it came from or how important it is to certain worldly religions.

The concept of Karma is India’s unique contribution to the world. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism (the major religions that originated in India) all acknowledge the universiality of the law of Karma in their own ways. According to Hinduism and Buddhism, Karma is an eternal law that is responsible for births, deaths, and suffering of beings in the world. While no one can really be free of the law of Karma, people can minimize its negative impact by leading a righteous life, following the Eightfold Path. According to Jainism, Karma is not just a metaphysical law, but also a real substance which flows into people and attaches itself to them like an impurity as they engage in actions. People are born again and again until they rid themselves of the karmic substance. Most people in America are talking about the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of Karma when they speak about it.

Generally speaking, karma means any action. “Kar” means organs of action and “ma” means producing or creating. Karma does not mean only physical actions; mental actions also constitute Karma. Hindus believe that thought has the power to create things and impact others. Harmful thoughts directed at others have the ability to not only hurt others but also the person who unleashed them. Since ancient Hindus used mantras for everything and the mantras had great power and potency to make or break things, the practice of yoga became necessary to stabilize the minds and the thoughts of those who had the knowledge of the mantras and the ability to use them effectively. Ancient rishis has the power to materialize things through their thought power. Their blessings were as potent as their curses. When they cursed others, they lost a good part of their spiritual powers and had to spend a lot of time to regain them.

The karma incurred by a person through his actions determines the course of his or her life upon earth and his or her progression into the higher worlds. Since Karma is a correcting and regulating mechanism, our actions have the potential to help our suffering or intensify it. Karma is mean to teach us lessons and if we learn quickly, we will make progress toward perfection. If not, we will be presented with much harder options until we realize our mistakes and correct them. Good deeds result in inner peace and happiness while bad deeds result in negative consequences for ourselves and our souls.

Since both action and inaction have consequences, the law of Karma is equally important for both. We all are aware of the importance of inaction or not doing things we are supposed to do in our lives. What we do in this life intentionally is just as important as what we do not do intentionally. Both can produce positive and/or negative consequences. If we shun evil actions, we earn good karma. But if we shun good actions also or if we do not respond righteously or adequately to evil in our lives and environment for some personal or selfish reasons, we may suffer from the consequences of our passive complicity or cowardice.

So the next time you talk about karma or say “what goes around comes around,” just think of how important this concept is to many people and don’t throw it around lightly. I hope this gives you some insight and helps you better understand where the saying comes from.

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