The Concept of Karma
Words by Montanna Macdonald
What goes around comes around, but does it really?
Where does this ideology come from and have we misused it in our Western perception?
From a young age, many of us are brought up with the concept that we must treat people the way you would like to be treated. This has Christian foundations, based on “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, a biblical concept spoken by Jesus in Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12. There is a Chinese proverb that suggests how you treat the elderly is the way you will be treated when you are old. Even when someone does something untoward and mean to you, often the most common answer is “they will have it coming for them, Karma will bite them back”.
What goes up, must come down- this idiom originated in the 1800s and came from the physical properties of gravity. If you throw a ball in the air, it will come back down.
But where does Karma originate from?
According to Brittanica, Karma, originating from the Sanskrit word Karmas “act”, comes from Indian religion and philosophy. Karma is referred to as the “universal causal laws by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individuals existence.”
Samsara, translation to “flowing around”, is an Indian Philosophy adopted in Buddhism referring to metempsychosis, which in short means the migration of one’s soul after death to another, and being freed from one’s past deeds. Karma, in this sense, is the ethical process of this re-birth, whereby your current actions will determine future activities and situations of re-birth.
In Indian philosophy, Karma motivates one to live a moral, ethical life and explains the existence of good and bad conceptually.
The idea of Karma first appears in the oldest Hindu text the Rigveda (before c. 1500 BCE). With a limited meaning of ritual action, Karma continues to hold in the early ritual dominant scriptures, until its philosophical scope is extended in the later Upanishads (c. 800 BCE – 300 BCE).
According to Harvard University, when properly understood, however, Karma is both one’s acts and their consequences—in the world and for oneself. Acts do have effects, and the “law of karma” means that people truly never “get away with” anything. Every action leaves an imprint. The only way to free oneself of the entangling consequences of our actions is to act in the spirit of renunciation. Learning to act energetically, yet without personal or egotistical attachment to the fruits of action, is the challenge of the path to action.
Then when we cross into the science world, we discover an exciting convergence- take Newton’s third law, for example: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
To get more technical; with interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the forces on the second object.
So, choose what you will, but either way, what you do impacts one way or another. Being mindful of our actions with perceptions in a healthy balance will keep us in good stead (we hope). There can be no doubt of the science of cause and effect. Hmmm.