“As you sow, so shall you reap.”
Those famous words uttered two thousand years ago by the Master Jesus have not been well understood. Around five hundred years earlier the Lord Buddha said:
“Action and reaction are opposite and equal”.
Both refer to the concept of karma, also known also as The Law of God, The Law of Inevitability, or as the everyday person might say
“What goes around comes around”.
What is karma?
Karma is a natural law that determines the consequences of our actions. All actions, small or large, have a karmic consequence which is equal and opposite to them.
If you fire a gun, the action of propelling the bullet forward produces an equal reaction of pushing the gun back towards the person holding it, the ‘kick back’. This is an example of action and reaction being opposite and equal. This is what Sir Issac Newton referred to as his Third Law of Motion which he describes using the same words as the Lord Buddha. The difference between what the Lord Buddha said and what Newton said is that Newton was speaking about the physical world, whereas the Lord Buddha was making a statement that applied to all things – actions and even thoughts.
Positive and negative karma
There are two kinds of karma which, for want of better terminology, we can describe as positive and negative. These aren’t as simple as they appear.
Recently I saw a man on TV who had won a vast amount of money in the lottery. He was talking about how he wished it had never happened to him as it had caused greed to tear his family apart. Sudden great wealth, which most people would describe as ‘good karma’, caused massive problems in his family life.
On the other hand Stacey Kramer talks about an incredible gift she received which brought her closer to her family, a greater sense of spirituality and much, much more. What was this gift? Surprisingly it was brain tumor. And whilst she wouldn’t wish it upon anyone else, she says she wouldn’t change her own experiences. So here we have someone experiencing something that most people would describe as ‘bad karma’ and yet she gained a great deal from it.
Karma is a teaching tool
Whether it’s positive or negative, karma is simply trying to teach us. It is up to us whether we learn from our experiences quickly or more slowly. Nothing happens by chance and how we perceive what happens to us is up to us. Sometimes these lessons are pleasant and sometimes they are unpleasant, but either way there is a lesson in all of our experiences for us.
Western Master of yoga, Dr George King, said:
“Karma is pressure.”
Like the ancient Hindus, he stated that we are all evolving back to God. Each one of us is on this incredibly long journey and karma is the force that drives us towards this goal.
It does this by teaching us what is the best way to evolve. It gives us positive feedback when we do positive actions that help us to evolve, and it gives us negative feedback when we do things that lead us away from our path of evolution. Thus it is not a matter of punishment or reward. Our karma is simply the inevitable consequence of our actions, whether we perceive that conseqence to be positive or negative is up to us.
Examples of karma
In some ways karma is quite simple and we can quite easily speculate on how it will work. Since we know that ‘as we sow, so shall we reap’ we can infer that:
- If we bully, we will be bullied,
- If we steal, we will have our possessions taken from us,
- If we find ourselves in a position of power and abuse that power, then we will find ourselves on the receiving end of a similar situation.
The above focus on the ‘negative’ side of karma but you can equally infer that:
- If we help another, we will be helped,
- If we share our possessions we will find others share theirs with us,
- If we spread love, we will recieve love back in return.
Improving our karma
Simply understanding what karma is can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life. By understanding it we can see that it is simply a natural law that we can work with. We create our own karma moment by moment.
Our future is determined by two things – how we behaved in the past, and how we behave in the present. If we control these then we control our future.
Since we can’t change our past our best method of determining our future is to change our present. What is the best way to do this? It’s simple and logical. If we help others, we’ll find that the law of karma will ensure that we are helped in return. Even for an entirely selfish person, it would be logical to help others. By helping others you are actually helping yourself because action and reaction are opposite and equal.
It is impossible to talk about karma without mentioning reincarnation, which will be the subject of our next post.