To begin with, let’s look at where the very notion of “law of karma” came from. Some people think that this law’s origin is related to Vedism, others attribute it to Buddhism, and others generally attribute it to new currents formed in modern spiritual practices. Both are partly right, but to find out where the law of karma came from, we must turn deep into the centuries.
The word “karma” originates from the word “kamma”, which means ’cause-effect,’ ‘reward,’ ‘act’ in Pali.
The concept of karma cannot be considered separately from such cornerstone concepts as reincarnation and samsara. We will talk about all this now. For the first time, the word “karma” is found in Upanishads. As we know, it is one of the texts related to the Vedanta, or Veda doctrine. Therefore, if we speak correctly, all subsequent applications of the concept of karma in other teachings and religions come directly from the Vedanta. Buddhism also borrowed it from there, as Buddha himself was born in India.
What is the law of karma? It is a universal cause and effect law according to which all our actions – righteous and sinful – will have consequences. And these consequences can appear not only in the current incarnation, if we accept the concept of reincarnation of essence and relocation of souls, but also in the subsequent ones. However, this approach is too linear in the author’s opinion and can only be applied if we consider time as linear, moving strictly forward.
There are other concepts of the movement of time, when all its three components, conditionally called “past,” “present,” and “future,” develop simultaneously. But this is already the subject of another conversation; however, the reader should understand that not everything is as unambiguous as we would like it to be.
Thus, it turns out that our future will also depend on our actions and thoughts, performed now or in the past. This conclusion is interesting because, in contrast to Christianity or Islam’s ideas, in Vedanticism, much more emphasis is placed on individual responsibility for what they are doing. At the same time, he is given a greater degree of freedom of choice: he has the right to choose his fate because his future will depend on the purity of his thoughts and actions. On the other hand, the past karma accumulated by a person during his previous incarnations influences how he lives now, especially the conditions in which he was born.
Why do Christians have no concept of reincarnation?
In Christianity’s ancient directions, faith in reincarnation existed, but this idea is absent in traditional Christianity. It is believed that the soul came here once, and after the physical death of the body, it will appear before God, where it will be decided what will happen next in life after death – paradise or hell. Thus, a person has no other attempts, which, to some extent, deprives and reduces the number of opportunities to do good deeds. On the other hand, he is spared from being in samsara, to which living beings are doomed according to the concepts of the Vedanta and Buddhism.
It is essential to note the following aspect of the concept of karma: it is not a punishment or retribution, although it can be translated that way. Karma is the consequence that a person gets from the way he lived. A person can decide for himself how to behave to influence his destiny in this and subsequent incarnations as much as possible.
12 karma laws that will change your life
- The first law is a great one — the law of cause and effect. What you sow, you reap.
- The second law is the law of creation. Life has arisen long ago, but it requires our participation. We are a part of it. From this, we can conclude that the accumulated karma of members of society also affects society’s development as a whole.
- The third is the law of humility. Adoption of the situation. This is one of the most popular laws, which is now exploited for a reason and without reason by various spiritual teachers. The essence of it is that only by accepting the situation, a person can change it. Rather, it is a matter of awareness. How soon you become aware of the problem or the state in which you are, you will be able to influence it.
- The fourth is the law of growth. The person has to change something first of all about himself or herself. By changing himself from the inside, he changes his life on the outside as well, thus influencing others.
- The fifth is the law of responsibility. What happens to a person in his life depends on his actions in past and present experiences.
- The sixth is the law of connection. Everything that we do in the present or the past influences the environment and the future. Here it will be appropriate to remember the butterfly effect. Any seemingly insignificant action or thought has an impact on us and others.
- The seventh is the law of focus. You can’t think about two things at once.
- The eighth is the law of thanksgiving. Here we are not talking about gratitude to someone concrete and not even about gratitude to the deity, but the world as a whole. What you have learned, you will have to apply it in the future. This will be your thanksgiving to the universe.
- The ninth law is here and now. Again, one of the most popular laws borrowed by many spiritual schools. The concentration of thought at the present moment. Being in the present, but thinking about the past or the future, we miss the present moment, depriving it of its primordiality.
- The tenth is the law of change. The situation will not change and will repeat itself in different ways until you learn the right lesson from it.
- The eleventh is the law of patience and reward. To get what you want, you must work hard, and then the desired reward will be available. But the biggest bonus is the joy that one brings from doing the right thing.
- The twelfth is the law of meaning and inspiration. What you have invested a lot of energy in, plays a big role in your life, and vice versa.
There are also the so-called 9 laws of karma, but they mostly duplicate the already existing 12 and refer to further deepening of the theory of the law of karma. Briefly, karma law can be reduced to the following: everything that happens to a person in life is the result of his actions in the past or present. It is aimed at restoring the balance between what is being done in the present and the future.
The law of karma says that a person is responsible for what happens to him.
As we mentioned above, the law of karma is not the law of retribution. Rather, it should not be understood as retribution from the outside, by the invisible hand of God or something else. This law can be understood from the position of retribution only so that a person shapes his reality by his actions. The retribution will occur depending on how many good or bad deeds and thoughts have been generated during the past lives. From here come concepts such as “heavy” or “light” karma. If a person has “heavy” karma, then it may have to survive for several incarnations, and it will continue to affect a person in the form of life circumstances, his environment, etc.
It is interesting to look at interpretations of the concept of the law of karma in philosophical schools of Sankhya and Mimamsa. These are ancient philosophies that emerged from the teachings of the Vedas. Here the law of karma is understood exclusively as an autonomous one. It is not connected with the influence from above, i.e., the responsibility for what is happening fully lies with person.
In other schools that recognize God’s presence or a supreme being that governs our lives, the law of karma is explained differently. A human being is not responsible for everything that happens to him because there are invisible forces on which the universe’s course of life also depends. But the law of karma also applies.
Buddha’s Way and the Laws of Karma
One of the most significant interpretations of the law of karma came to us from the Buddhist teachings. As we know, the Buddha recognized the effect of the law of karma, but his reading of this law was not rigid. In Buddhism, the presence of karma does not mean that a person will live his life only as he is destined to do due to the karma he has accumulated from previous incarnations. Thus, the Buddha says that a person has power over destiny; he has free will.
According to Buddha, karma is divided into 2 parts: the karma accumulated in the past – Purana-Kamma – and the one that is being formed at the present time – Nava-Kamma. Past karma determines our life circumstances now, and what we do now – Nava-kama – will shape our future. It is also called “diva,” or fate, determinacy, and the second part is Purusha kara, or human action, i.e., human initiative, will. Thanks to this second part of karma – Nava Kamme or Purusha kara – a person can change his future and even the present.
The most important moment of Purusha-kara (human action) can be considered its highest manifestation – action without the desire to get the result. This is one of the bases of Buddha’s teachings – to exclude desire because desire is the basis of suffering. The doctrine of suffering is a kind of axiom of the Buddhist teaching, known as “4 Noble Truths.
Only after liberation from desire, any committed actions will cease to be bound to the result, because it is the desire for the result, whether it is good or bad, that continues to work to create karma. It is not surprising that the Buddha also says that only actions performed with intent lead to karma creation. So we see the inclination again into the sphere of awareness.
Those who strive to move to nirvana should gradually get rid of their desires. Then you will find moksha, and the law of karma will cease to work. From the above, it is clear that the law of karma will work where there is an attachment to the result, and the power of desire generates it. It is necessary to reduce the desire to get something, and then you will get it. This is one of the conclusions drawn by studying the law of karma and its interpretation by the Buddha. It is easy to understand in theory, but it can be quite difficult to apply in practice. To become a Buddha, you do not need to aspire to become one. This is the essence of Buddhist teachings in one sentence.