The journey which started with childhood curiosity of understanding God / Religion / Caste, took me to different milestones in my life. One important milestone was understanding the true meaning of Karma.
What is Karma?
“The Pali term Karma literally means action or doing. Any kind of intentional action, whether mental, verbal, or physical, is regarded as Karma. It covers all that is included in the phrase “thought, word and deed”. Generally speaking, all good and bad action constitutes Karma. In its ultimate sense Karma means all moral and immoral volition. Involuntary, unintentional or unconscious actions, though technically deeds, do not constitute Karma, because volition, the most important factor in determining Karma, is absent.”
Karma is neither fate, nor predestination imposed upon us by some mysterious unknown power to which we must helplessly submit ourselves. It is one’s own doing reacting on oneself, and so one has the possibility to divert the course of one’s Karma to some extent. How far one diverts it depends on oneself.
Happiness and misery, which are the common lot of humanity, are the inevitable effects of causes. From a Buddhist point of view, they are not rewards and punishments, assigned by a supernatural, omniscient ruling power to a soul that has done good or evil.
If our life is predetermined by Almighty God, life would be purely mechanistic, not much different from a machine. Being created by an Almighty God who controls our destinies and predetermines our future, or being produced by a God that completely determines our fate and controls our life’s course, independent of any free action on our part. A Theist may regard present happiness and misery as blessings and curses conferred on His creation by an omniscient and omnipotent Divine Ruler who sits in heaven above controlling the destinies of the human race.
Karma is the law of moral causation. Karma is volitional or willful action. The Things we choose to do or say or think set karma into motion. The law of karma is a law of cause and effect. The theory of Karma is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. According to Karma, whatever we get/ receive is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own Heaven. We create our own Hell. We are the architects of our own fate.
Karma does not necessarily mean past actions. It embraces both past and present deeds. Karma law operates quite automatically and, when the Karma is powerful, man cannot interfere with its inexorable result, though he may desire to do so; but here also right understanding and skilful volition can accomplish much and mold the future. Good Karma, persisted in, can thwart the reaping of bad Karma. According to this natural law, acts bear their own rewards and punishments to the individual doer whether human justice finds out or not.
As we sow, so shall we reap, somewhere and sometime, in his life or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past Karma is a law in itself, which operates in its own field without the intervention of any external, independent ruling agency.
It is this doctrine of Karma that the mother teaches her child when she says “Be good and you will be happy and we will love you; but if you are bad, you will be unhappy and we will not love you.” In short, Karma is the law of cause and effect in the ethical realm.
Remember one thing, there are other forces beside karma that shape our lives. These include natural forces like the changing seasons and gravity. When a natural disaster like an earthquake strikes a community, this is not some kind of collective karmic punishment. It’s an unfortunate event that requires a compassionate response, not judgment.
Some people have a hard time understanding karma is created by our own actions. They want to believe there is some kind of mysterious cosmic force Out There somewhere, directing karma, rewarding good people and punishing bad people.