Karma is among the most used, yet misused and misunderstood concepts today. Yes, it is said that as you sow so shall you reap. More simply it means what goes around comes around. Put more explicitly it can be said that your deeds, good or bad, will be repaid to you in kind.
All this boils down to the principle of cause and effect, which is what Karma basically is. This is quite a scientific, yet commonsense concept. For isn’t it commonsense that tells you that if you plant weeds in your garden, it won’t yield flowers. You don’t even need to know the law or concept of Karma to understand this.
Karma has been propagated as a tenet by various religions so that people do good and shun evil. But it was never meant to be used to preach punishment or divine retribution.
When the faithful are bluntly offered a bad or a good deal in this life or the next life because of bad or good Karma, it smacks of both religious and spiritual immaturity. Imagine standing before a child with a cane and a candy, and saying, “Be bad and you get this cane on your palms; be good and you receive this candy!”
That’s not the way to teach goodness to a child. But this is how, it seems, Karma is often being taught to the faithful. It’s no wonder then that many of us are turning Karma upside down. A lot of people today seem to be obsessed with Karma and are attributing much in life to it. Karma has become like a bogey and many want to jump on its bandwagon.
Karma is a good concept. It’s good to know that good begets good and evil will only invite more evil and sorrow. So far so good. But when you start using or rather misusing the concept of Karma to explain too many things, it can become an obsession, like a fetish.
A lot of poor people suffer in this world because of suppression and oppression of fellow human beings. This has nothing to do with karma.
Yet, many believe that the poverty and misery of poor people is caused by bad Karma. It may be not right to give alms to a beggar, but to scorn the beggar and attribute his plight to his own bad Karma shows a lack of compassion. An uncompassionate person doesn’t reflect good Karma.
The poor are not poor because of their Karma, but because of an exploitative society, where the poor keep getting poorer and the rich, richer.
Why are some women exploited so badly by men? Is it because of the bad Karma of women? Why are some lucky to be independent and free from exploitation by men? Is it because of their own good Karma? This has nothing to do with Karma but it is because of the way society treats women. Yet when women, for instance, suffer domestic violence or sexual violence, it’s not uncommon for some to attribute it to Karma.
Karma, of course, has its place. But we should be careful when talking about Karma, discussing it and analysing cause and effect.
Nishkama Karma — selfless or desire-less action — the key teaching of the Bhagvad Gita, reflects the basic concept or essence of Karma.
But the best Karma is love—in thought, word and deed—and its more sublime manifestation…unconditional love.
When we love God more than we love ourselves and we love our neighbour(s) as we would love God and our own selves, the law of Karma may be rendered redundant and obsolete.