The word karma has by now earned itself a respected place in our language, having been excepted into the modern-day lexicon. In popular use, karma means fate, yet this usage is simplistic and compromises the dignity of the original meaning.
The literal meaning of karma in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language from which it came, is action or act; that is to say that any action-physical or mental-is karma. Deeds are physical karma, and thoughts, emotions, desire, imagination, and will are mental karma. Mental action precedes physical action, or actually creates it; that is, every deed or act is preceded by an initial thought.
Yet karma is not only action; it is also the result of every action, because the result is actually an integral part of the action. Every phenomenon has a cause. The spinning and the spinner-or the cause and the result-are intertwined, and here in originates the law of karma, which is actually the law of causality.
The world is driven by the law of karma, which is a natural law to which all other natural laws are subordinate. The law of inertia, the law of cause and effect, and the law of reward and retribution are all contained within the larger law of causality.
At the foundation of the law of karma lies the belief that life is an ongoing experience that is not limited to one incarnation. In order to find the cause of a certain event that happened to us, it is not enough to look in the present life; we must also examine previous lives. Life does not end with the death of the body; the the soul is eternal and continues to live. What happens to us in the present may be the consequence of something that happened in the near or ancient past. Our mental, physical, familial, and economic conditions are all the consequences of all of our past lives, of our accumulated karma.
The universal law of karma operates everywhere, all the time, without a break, and with scientific precision. It operates on both the physical and the mental level, and is actually a means of achieving universal justice and cosmic balance. It is a law that places every one of us in situations that enable lessons to be learned-lessons necessary for our spiritual development.
If we understand that our present life is only the blink of an eye in relation to the entire life of our soul, then we can understand that there is a karmic scale upon which everything is measured and weighed.
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