Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Idea of Karma, the Cycle of Life

By Mark D Jordan

Karma is believed by millions of people throughout the world. Many Christian cultures have incorporated a notion of karma. For many, karma is a more reasonable idea than eternal damnation for the bad. For others it is simply reasonable to assume that the wicked will be punished in some way and the good rewarded. So what is Karma and the cycle of life?

Karma is the idea of deeds or actions that cause the cycle of cause and effect. So the cycle already exists but the causes of the cycle are actions or deeds. Performing positive deeds or actions cause good results in one's life, whereas negative actions result in negative effects. The effects may be seen quickly or delayed until later in life, or in the afterlife. Therefore, good actions mean rebirth into a higher position in life, such as a better human, while evil actions result in rebirth as a human living in worse conditions, or as a lower animal. Some scholars have compared karma to Western notions of sin and judgment by God, but others see karma as an inherent principle of the universe without the intervention of any God. In Hinduism, God is seen as a dispenser of karma. In Buddhism and Jainism, a god does not intervene.

Several traditions, especially Indian, believe God plays some role in karma, for example, as a dispenser of the fruits of karma. In general, followers of Buddhism and many Hindus consider the natural laws of causation enough to explain the effects of karma. Other views proclaim that an entity acting on God's behalf, can work out some of the karma of the person. There are many instances of karmic retribution and correlation mentioned in the Bible.

The philosophical explanations of karma may be different between traditions, but the idea is the same. In the law of karma, the effects of all actions and deeds create past, present, and future effects, thereby making a person responsible for his or her own life, and the pain or joy it brings to him or her, and others. The results or 'fruits' of actions are called "karma-phala". In religions that believe in reincarnation, karma acts in a person's present life and all past and future lives also. All living creatures are responsible for their karma.

The western Christian tradition teaches karma as the Law of Cause and Effect. The difference is that this western tradition incorporates the idea that the teachings of Christ professed that the cycle of sin and death may be overcome through the love of God, which will impart immortality.

If we accept that the logical idea behind karma is to behave responsibly, and the idea of the law of karma is essentially "if you do good things, good things will happen to you and if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you," then it is easy to find parallels with other ideas in other religions that do not rely on karma as a doctrine. Just as the Christian apostle Paul stated "man reaps what he sows", karma does not concern itself with the idea of salvation. It implies more of a social to ethical dynamic. The law of karma is like a judge of one's deeds, similar to the idea of the Christian God as judge of good and bad actions. Most teachings say that being subject to karma is unavoidable and a part of daily living. However, each person is advised to avoid, control or become aware of the results of desires and aversions as a way to temper or change karmic destiny.

Hindus believe that all in the Universe is in a state of creation, maintenance, or destruction. Even the mind creates a thought, maintains it for some time, and then the thought dies, maybe replaced by other thoughts. But in addition to these three states of consciousness, Hinduism adds a fourth state called Turiya. This is pure consciousness where the mind is not engaged in thinking but just observing thoughts. Actions or deeds while in the Turiya state do not create karma. The idea behind meditation is to give individuals the experience of being in this objective state. If your actions happen as a response to events and not from a thought process, you will not accumulate karma. If you can constantly maintain this state you are considered in moksha.

We can also mention karma as a metaphysical idea. Because karma is a force of nature and not an entity capable of making judgments (like a person), karma isn't about good and evil actions. Applying those labels would be judgmental. It is about positive and negative energy. Negative energy can include things not normally thought of as "being bad" like fear or depression. Positive energy can be released by creativity, love or virtuous acts. This concept is referred to as omniverse karma or omni-karma because it requires the existence of a space that contains all possible universes (omni-universe). The omniverse philosophy includes concepts such as psychic energy and ability, souls, synchronicity (things that occur at the same time are related), as well as concepts from quantum physics.

Mark Jordan is a researcher, article writer, poet and genealogist living near Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Some of the sites he writes for are at, and

No comments: