Karma is a bitch. Or is it? Although the Buddhist concept of Karma is widely popular, most of us use the word ‘Karma’ very casually. Let’s take a look at the true meaning of karma and how it can help our spiritual development.
What is karma?
Karma is an ancient concept that was prevalent in various cultures, religions and philosophies. According to Hinduism and Buddhism, the real meaning of karma is action. It refers to the actions of our mind, body and spirit in every aspect and every moment of our life. Karma includes everything we do like our work, passions, charity etc.
However, each of our actions lead to certain results, which may be positive or negative depending on our actions. According to ancient beliefs, we can experience the results of our actions either in the present life of after rebirth. Joseph Goldstein, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, explains “The seeds of karma shape our lives and our worlds… through mindfulness, we become aware of the nature of these actions and can in fact change our karma, the concept of cause and effect.”
According to an article in the BBC, the meaning of karma “is determined by our own actions, in particular by the motives behind intentional actions. Skilful actions that lead to good karmic outcomes are based upon motives of generosity; compassion, kindness and sympathy, and clear mindfulness or wisdom.” It is a natural law and not an outside force, which many people falsely believe.
Read also: 7 Things You Don’t Know About Karma
The true meaning of karma
To understand the real meaning of karma, we need to realize that it is not destiny or fate. Karma depends on your intentional actions and is not something related to ‘kismet’ or predestination. Author and founder of Hack Spirit, Lachlan Brown explains “Let’s get one thing straight:Karma has nothing to do with “fate”. If you do something negative, it doesn’t mean that something negative must happen to you to even things out. Karma is actually based on your actions and thoughts in every single moment.”
Zen Buddhism expert Barbara O’Brien explains “The word karma” means action, not fate. In Buddhism, karma is an energy created by willful action, through thoughts, words and deeds. We are all creating karma every minute, and the karma we create affects us every minute.” She adds “Karma is an action, not a result. You can change the course of your life right now by changing your volitional (intentional) acts and self-destructive patterns.”
It is a spiritual force that generates from your actions, deeds, words and thoughts. Although karma is a “law of the spiritual world”, it holds us responsible for our intentions and action, writes author and mentor Judith Johnson.
She adds “It is the intent of one’s actions that generates karma. Karma is not about retribution, vengeance, punishment or reward, but a reaping of the harvest we ourselves have planted. Through our thoughts and behaviors, we sow seeds that are later harvested.”
Read also: 6 Ways You Can Create Good Karma Everyday
Karma and karmaphala
What most people believe to be the meaning of karma is actually the Buddhist concept of Karmaphala or the law of karma. In Buddhism, the metaphor of agriculture is widely used to explain the concept Karma. It states that when you sow good or bad seeds (or actions), it will lead to good or bad fruit or phala.
To put it simply, karmaphala means the results of our actions. “The term comes from Sanskrit, karma, meaning ‘action’ or ‘work,’ and phala, meaning ‘consequence,’ ‘fruit’ or ‘reward.’ Karmaphala is often translated as ‘fruits of actions’,” explains Yogapedia. Good or bad karma results in good or bad karmaphala.
Both karma and karmaphala are closely associated with the concept of reincarnation. These Buddhist philosophies show us how we are bound to the “wheel of life” by our actions. Your actions determine the quality of your resurrection in the “cycle of rebirth”, known as Samsara. Your karmaphala can be accumulated throughout your lifetime and even your past lives and may influence your current or future life.