Sometime back, a Facebook friend was going through a rough patch. One day, she says “Don’t ever mention Karma to me. That sh*t is fake.” She goes on to explain how she has been a good person and it just has resulted in all these negative things happening to her. Now I have never met the woman but I can tell you she does a lot of complaining. She constantly talks about how life victimizes her – nothing ever works out. And she’s not alone.
It was her disrespect of Karma that caught my attention. I am a firm believer in Karma but I realized that, while many people have heard of Karma, they don’t really understand what it means. In a very barebones definition – Karma is considered the result of an action. I do something good, good things happen to me. I do something bad, bad things happen to me.
Karma means action, an intentional action motivated by emotion. Karma is the seed we plant, not what we harvest. What we harvest is the result of Karma. It does get a little muddy in the definition because it’s a concept of morality. In Buddhism, if we fill our life with good Karma, we will have a good life and a good afterlife.
For those who are not Buddhist, it has become this popular idea of checks and balances. I’ve often heard “Karma is a b*tch”, “Karma will get them”, and other concepts of Karma as, almost, a god or divine entity. My own family will talk about making sure we are good so that we get good Karma – like it’s a reward.
The core concept in Buddhism is that we suffer because we choose to suffer. (It’s slightly more complicated than that but that’s basic enough for the purpose of this blog.) We can’t prevent things outside of us from happening. We will get sick. We will die. We will be hurt. We will hunger. We will have joy. We will have love. We will have loss. It’s not the actions of the world around us that define us but how we react to those things.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts.” The Dhammapada
I did shorten that quote a bit so I hope it doesn’t completely change the meaning. I wanted that line to demonstrate that it is our thoughts where Karma lies. Doing an action with our body is nearly meaningless if our thoughts are contrary. I can do charity work and still have bad things happen because being charitable is action is nothing if I am not charitable in thought. I can serve food at a soup kitchen but I am not being charitable if I do it with hate in my heart – whether I resent being there or I resent serving the people I serve.
“The liar’s punishment is not that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.” George Bernard Shaw
People who have a positive attitude are more likely to survive a disaster, even if they are unprepared. They survive because they believe they are going to survive. They find joy and comfort and love which eases their suffering. That is what Buddhism teaches. You are in control of your suffering. If you want “good Karma” then you plant good Karma. You find beauty and joy and compassion no matter what the world throws at you.
Oddly enough, if you believe in being truly happy and loving, you do good things for others in the world because you want to. When you are truly, deeply happy, you spread joy. You ease the suffering of others. Does that mean you win the lottery? No, it means you worry less because worrying gets you nowhere. You don’t complain because you can see the positive in every situation.
I find that I am having difficulty explaining this further. Perhaps that is why the concept of Karma is so hard – it’s something you know when you are in it. I find that as I explore myself and my place in the universe, Karma becomes easier to understand. It’s there in my head – I know when I am planting good Karma. The more I do it, the easier it becomes.
Can I tell you how to do it? Sorry, I can’t. I don’t know how. I do know that it’s a slow progression and starts with a conscious thought to do it as best as I can. It’s a path full of love and forgiveness. It’s a path that is rocky and often dark and scary because negative thoughts sit on the edge (until we leave them far behind). We are surrounded by negativity, especially on social media, well any media.
This morning, in my journal, I noted that I should be stressed today but I just can’t come up with those feelings. Which is quite appropriate that today is the day I had planned this post because that is where the Karma in my life has led me. I’m not stressed because I know that there is no situation I can’t get through. My husband and I leave in the morning for a long weekend. If we forget anything, there are stores we can go to. If something happens and my paycheck is not in the bank – we have money in savings we can borrow until my check clears. If my son doesn’t feed the cat – he’s not going to die. He’ll think he’s dying but he can actually stand to lose a pound or two (don’t we all). If there is a storm, we have access to shelter, even if we end up spending that time in the nearby Starbucks.
I have eased my own suffering with good Karma. The best part is that Karma is a bit weedy and, once it gets established, it spreads. So by working hard to replace the bad with the good, it becomes easier. The best part is that it costs nothing but time and determination. Start with one thought, one good thing, and let it bloom.