We have all come across this term “Law of Karma”, or some might even recollect it with the modern go-to notion, “Karma’s a Bitch”. Now, before diving right into what this law is all about and how it works, it’s imperative I clear the desk and first tell you what it isn’t. The thing is that we all have formed our own versions of the law of karma based on what we have heard from our friends, families, TV & movies; so in order to learn something new, we gotta first un-learn whatever we think we know about this law.
Most of us are of the opinion that if anything bad, wrong, or unanticipated is happening to them, then it is because of their previous bad karmas, and if anything good is happening then it’s subsequently because of their respective good karmas. But the reality is that whatever is happening to us might not be even remotely related to our actions in life. Think about it, wherever you are today, is it just because of your actions?
The answer is a big fat noooo. Your actions alone didn’t decide your current scenario. The action of your parents, your teachers, your friends, your neighbors, your relatives, even strangers did have a massive impact on where you are right now. External situations, circumstances, nature, and things you have no control over, can and does affect your lives.
The Nitty Gritty of Law of Karma
Now let’s talk about karma. Karma is a) the executed “deed”, “work”, “action”, or “act”, and b) it is also the intention of the person behind the action. In this article, I will refer to point ( a) ) as ‘actions’ and point ( b) ) as karma to keep things simple. The actions are basically performed at three levels. The first type is what we do with our bodies, the physical deeds. The second type is what we do by speaking, and the third one is what we think about things in our minds.
The actions you take where you have any underlying motive, purpose, intention, or reason, decides what kind of karma it is. ( i.e. is it good karma or bad karma.) But all those things that you do where you don’t have any purpose, intention, motive, or reason, then that is your akarma (not karma).
At the moment, billions and trillions of functions are operating in our bodies without our control or say of any kind whatsoever. The breath, the digestion, the heartbeat—all these processes are running on their own, so one can’t possibly label it as “your actions”, because you’re not the one who’s controlling it.
But the moment you take control of your breath doing Pranayam—then that becomes your actions. As simple as that. All the actions that were taken by you when you are aware and conscious about it—only those can be labeled as either good or bad karma. But on the other hand, the actions, undertaken by you unintentionally or unconsciously, where you were unaware of what you were doing—then that’s neither good karma nor bad karma.
It should be very clear that who’s actually performing the action because only when we actually know the person responsible for the action can we categorize it as good or bad.
Now comes the next part of the law of karma—categorizing the actions as good karma or bad karma.
The only thing that differentiates between the two is “intentions”. If your intentions are clean, inspiring, helpful, full of compassion and empathy, looking for the greater good—then these all come under the umbrella of good karma. And, it goes without saying, if your intentions are dirty, uninspiring, causing hindrance—to cheat, to betray, to cause harm—looking out just for yourself without giving a rat’s ass to the society—then these all constitute the bad karma.
The Law of Karma is all about the intentions and motives of the person and not the outcome or result of the situation. That’s precisely where we get blindsided. All the world cares about is the result, ignoring the intentions, and ultimately misconstruing the law of karma. If a robber intends to steal a bank and create a sense of panic among the people, then irrespective of whether he is successful in his deeds or not, it will come under bad karma.
If you so much as think something evil or nasty about someone or something but you physically did nothing, it will still be considered bad karma. On the flip side, if a doctor wants to save the patient who came to him, but due to unforeseen circumstances he couldn’t even after trying everything he knew, it will be considered as good karma. The outcome is not connected to your karma in any way, because ultimately the outcome or the result is out of your scope. You can’t possibly be rewarded or punished for something that’s beyond your control.
The intentions that grow inside is what decides whether you will be handsomely rewarded or gruesomely punished. Either you are gonna rise at the level of your consciousness or you are gonna fall flat. Whatever happens on the outside doesn’t make a difference. Now those who won’t understand this phenomenon will live their lives under an illusion.
Stop Looking Behind
People erroneously and inaccurately blame their past karmas if their lives become upside down. In all probability, they might actually have not done anything bad at all. Some schmucks take it one step further. They say that the person must have done some bad deeds in his past life because of which he has to pay in his present life. Really, there’s no end to stupidity. Some people believe this nonsense because they don’t know how to make sense of the situation, which is why they accept anything that sounds logical to them, which actually may be BS in reality.
The thing they completely miss is that they actually might not have done any bad deeds yet, but such reactions to their situation are in fact the bad karma. Believing in complete nonsense, not using one’s own intelligence to grasp the reality, and living in an imaginary world is in itself the Bad Karma, which will ultimately make one pay in life sooner than later.
Having the kind of beliefs that “Oh, I definitely must have done something really bad in the past, which is why my present life is in shit”, will automatically lower his worth in his own eyes and also in the eyes of the world. This illusion that he did something wrong when he actually might be innocent, will depreciate his energy, make him hollow from the inside, and will pretty soon spiral into a pretty destructive and dark loop.
People who actually do something wrong in their past will never believe that they did something wrong. A terrorist isn’t gonna introspect and come to the conclusion that he has done some horrendous deeds in the past. That’s the irony of this world, positive and wise people are always doubting themselves, while the negative and ignorant people are full of chutzpah.
Playing the blame game to make oneself feel better is again bad karma. The deeds or actions that make you stronger from the inside, increase your self-worth, alleviate your anger, keep your mind at peace, bump up your heart, and make you fearless from the inside, are all good karma. While all the actions that make you weak and feeble from the inside, decrease your self-worth, increase your anger, destabilize your inner peace, shrink your heart and make you a fearful person are all bad karma.
Understanding the mechanism
What most of us believe about the Law of Karma is that some mystical power, from up above the sky, is gonna punish or reward those who did some bad or good deeds 10yrs from now. Well, that’s not quite how it works, it’s not actually needed for someone else to do this job. You yourself decide for yourself what you are gonna get in life. The minute you even start thinking something bad—your intentions will start to poison your own mind—you will start getting what you sow already, you don’t have to wait to get the results.
Your mind has already taken a wrong turn, and slowly and steadily it will convert itself into a habit—the kind of habit that isn’t gonna generate any positive results. The more you will walk on this path, the more wrongful deeds you perform, the smaller your heart will become. On the flip hand, if your intentions are right, your mind will be at peace, your heart will grow bigger, and you will be genuinely happy from the inside.
The first step to grasping the law of karma is to understand that this law is not about putting the responsibility on someone else. And by someone else, I mean everyone from your neighbor to your parents to your colleagues to even GOD. Doesn’t matter if something good or bad happens, stop giving the credits to some superficial and imaginary energy you have never seen or witnessed.
The essence of this law is that we are all responsible for the actions we take, as it is not just gonna affect our lives, but the entire world. Whatever action you take, good or bad, is not just limited to you, it is also gonna affect the people around you and consequently, the chain reaction spreads around, getting bigger and bigger with time.
The problem is that we don’t see things this way because of the selfishness, pettiness, and possessiveness that have engulfed us pretty badly. Once we open our eyes and see what kind of effect our actions have on society, on the people around us, on the world then that will completely change the way you think about the law of karma.
How Does the Law of Karma Actually Work?
Let’s say a guy did something wrong with another guy who was totally innocent. Now, the guy who was wronged may live under the notion that he will get justice since he has been wrongfully wronged, and the person who did him wrong will pay for his sins. But so often, it is not really the case. Hence, it is very important to understand the underlying story going on here, as we may also find ourselves in the position of the person who was wronged.
First thing first, at the level of the universe there is no such thing as justice or injustice. If a lion kills and eats a deer, then it is stupid to think that the law of karma will make the lion pay for his deeds. Nature has its own laws and it works accordingly. There is no such thing as right or wrong in nature. But when it comes to our society, it’s imperative to draw a line between the right and the wrong to maintain order. The laws need to be so strict that a person should think twice before doing something wrong.
It’s ultimately our duty as the citizens to ensure that the judicial system is bold and competent enough to punish the criminal. Merely blaming one’s karma and living in the illusion that some power from up above the sky is gonna get one justice is impractical and stupid. It’s all about taking responsibility.
The Law of Karma works in a very unbiased way. It doesn’t matter what we think about it, it is gonna work the way it is meant to be. If someone puts his hand in the fire, then it is bound to burn—there isn’t gonna be any partiality or prejudice. The problems arise when we say “Oh that poor kid is so innocent he didn’t know that fire burns, his hand shouldn’t have burned down like that” and so on.
Laws don’t give a damn about what we think is right or wrong. So, ultimately it is our duty to educate society, do whatever we can at our individual level, and stop putting the blame on God, Karma, or whatever all the time. No one’s a born criminal. It is ultimately we as a society who is responsible for the environment and knowledge we provide to those who go on the wrong track, and hence it has to be us only, as a collective power to right the wrong.
At an individual level, you can’t change the whole society with a snap of your fingers. But what you can do is change yourself. People so often overestimate what a society can do but underestimate what an individual can do. Just imagine that if you can change yourself completely, then won’t it also have an impact on people around you too? Like this, you alone are enough to start a snowball effect, and directly or indirectly you are taking part in changing the whole world.
The Wrong Deed
One wrong deed isn’t just gonna pull you down, it is also gonna affect many more down the line and you wouldn’t even know.
A guy in his late 20s was driving under the influence. He very well knows the consequences his actions can bring, but apparently, he cares more about the thrill he is gonna get. Now, what if he loses control and hits a car? The person in the car that’s hit was driving perfectly, following all the rules and regulations. But hey, guess that’s not enough.
Does it make any sense now to blame the poor guy and saying that it must be because of some bad karma he did in the past that got him in this condition? What if he had a family that was dependent on him both emotionally and financially? Can you imagine the kind of effect it is gonna have on his 8yr old son? What if his wife goes into depression and starts drinking only to find that now it was her who is responsible for the next accident to happen down the street and the whole cycle repeats itself?
I can go on all day, rippling the effect of that one act of the guy which will continue to affect people in ways I can’t imagine. But hey, no one is patient enough to think this way. I know I just made that all up, but sometimes the reality is stranger than fiction.
WE are all connected to each other—we are all a part of this giant web. It’s time we stop looking at things in isolation. Once we connect all the things we apparently segregated—once we join all the broken links—that’s when we start understanding the whole game in play. Your action is gonna affect the entire world, and the action of the entire world is gonna affect you. That’s how deeply connected we all are.
Now, when people grasp this concept incompletely, they suddenly feel powerless. They think that they can’t possibly change the world, so they start looking out for just themselves. But the truth is that no action is small. The tiniest of actions you take, can and will have an impact on the world—it may not be instantly, but gradually.
This is actually one of the scenes from the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button(one of my fav), which beautifully showed how just one teensy tiny action of yours can affect so many people down the line, without even you realizing it. It is also called ‘The Butterfly Effect‘, also popularly known by the proverb “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” In a nutshell, even the tiniest of actions can have the biggest of impacts.
You are not Alone
As long as you keep on thinking that you are somewhat different from this universe, you will never be able to grasp the true sense of the Law of Karma and it will keep on bewildering you. Once you actually realize this phenomenon, not just because I said so, but truly from the inside, then just imagine the kind of actions you are gonna take—it will be something beyond your own imagination.
Right now, you take actions that you think are good for you and you alone, but once this thing sinks in, that we are all in this together, then you wouldn’t have to try to love others, you will automatically love them all the way. We may look like we are all separate entities at the level of the body, but deep down we are all connected to that supreme reality—we are all one entity, a single block.
If every wave in the ocean realizes that it is actually water, and water is all there is; then that’s when something magical will start happening. This makes things so simpler. If you do something good it’s gonna affect everyone including yourself, and vice versa.
I will give you another example that will simplify things even further. Imagine there is a soccer match going on between teams A and B. Now there are three categories of people watching the game. The first one wants team A to win, the second one wants team B to win, and finally, the third category isn’t concerned with win/loss—they just want to enjoy the game. So, if Team A wins then naturally the first category of people will rejoice, and if Team B wins then the second category will celebrate. If you look closely, we choose our own happiness or sadness. There are no mystical or superficial powers acting here. It is our own desires, intentions, and attachments to the outcome that decides what we will get in life.
People will say, “ Oh I lost money because Team B lost, damn my karma.” They are blaming the situation here when it was their own desire that gave them what they deserve. He who is attached to the outcome can never experience the real bliss as he is trapped. If he doesn’t get his desired outcome then it is solely his responsibility to take. The third category of people are gonna enjoy irrespective of who wins or loses, as they are focused on the game and not the results—that’s what makes them free.
Game of Life
The game of life is quite similar. Some people are here who keep on betting on the desired outcomes they want in life and consequently becoming morose when they don’t get what they want, putting the blame on destiny, karma, luck, fate, or people. While some, on the other hand, are more focused on playing the game to the best of their abilities, accepting whatever they get be it pain or pleasure, success or failure, and move on.
And do you know the fun fact? The latter category of people often plays the better game because their focus is on excelling the game to the best of their abilities. These kinds of people completely involve themselves in the work they do without letting the outcome bother them—attaining a state of ‘flow’. One can only enjoy the game to its fullest when he hasn’t bet on either side. As simple as that.
Once you bet on either side of the game, then your focus is no longer on enjoying or living the game, but it is on whether you are gonna win or lose which is not in your hand. People, out of nowhere, try to imbibe the Law of Karma when things go south hill just for the heck of justifying themselves. They are not ready to accept the reality. It’s about time we free ourselves from the attachment of winning and losing and start focusing on playing the best game no one has ever played before.
That’s the best karma one can do.
The Law of Karma isn’t about shifting the Blame. It’s about taking Responsibility.