What is Karma?


Karma is a way of trying to explain our connection with everything around us and the way everything around us is connected to us. We hear the word Karma used in terms of a consequence of our actions. This is its most common usage. Both the Hindu in the Gita and Buddhism in the Buddha’s Darma tell us to practice detachment (from the fruits of labor: Hindu) (from action: Buddhism). Detachment is from action that has goals or rewards in mind. The Gita tells us that detachment for the sake of gain even gaining enlightenment isn’t detachment at all but just another form of attachment by trying to gain something.

Karma is more than brightening your future or darkening it.

These are the consequences of action in terms of good and bad Karma but the chains of good and bad Karma can only be removed by detachment. Even good things can cause us to do unmindful things. Even generous action can be activated if it seeks a reward. Only non-action meaning to act without thought of gain or attachment is the path through karma.

So long as we are attached and not practicing detachment will our good and bad Karma grow and trap us. Remember what we call good and bad Karma can both trap us and bring about suffering. Even if the suffering is the longing for the good thing after it is gone. A life lived within good and bad Karma tries to do good and tries not to do harm. But this world is temporal, it begins and ends with loss along the way. In the end, nothing is truly ours. Not even our own bodies for these will eventually fail and decay.

Think of it this way, if we see an aid worker walking amid the suffering and he or she spits on for helping the suffering of these undesirable people. Even the ones they help don’t want to live and so even they try to drive the aid giver away. We see this and say to ourselves, “what tolerance!” But this is wrong, mind, for we are looking at non-action from the point of view of the action; which is why we see the aid givers’ behavior as tolerant when what their non-action behavior is, is compassion. The aid giver isn’t seeking reward they are just doing what they can because they can.

To see karma clearly you have to imagine it from outside of it.

If you see yourself connected to all things and all things connected to you and then forget that you are there, as the old zen masters say, then you see that anything that you do to anyone or thing is ultimately done to yourself. The right-hand does not ask favor from the left hand when it carries part of the load of the right; it does so because it can. Your legs do not ask favor or payment from your arms though they support and move you. They do so because they can. Once you behave by non-action (seeking no reward) then do the consequences of an action for reward no longer apply to you. It is at that point that Karma is understood beyond good and bad and all things are seen as one. Good karma just tries to get people to be kinder toward one another but karma itself is the gentle knowledge that all things are in you and you are in all things.

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