“What goes around comes around.”
“Karma’s a bitch.”
“You get what you give.”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Chances are good that you’ve heard one, two, or all three of these statements in your life, and all of them refer to the mystical idea of karma.
What Is Karma?
Karma is the belief that everything we do will eventually get back to us. Let’s say that you have an idea for a play you would like to write. You share this idea with a friend of yours, and she likes the idea so much that she steals it. She ends up writing the play herself. When you confront her on it, she either denies it or justifies it.
“I would never steal an idea from you, or anyone else. How can you say such a thing?!”
“It was obvious you weren’t going to act on it, so I went ahead and did it. After all, it’s been at least two weeks since you even mentioned your story, and you haven’t even written anything down.”
Both of these responses would be as infuriating as the action itself. After all, stealing is stealing, whether it’s a physical item or an idea. In fact, some would argue that stealing an idea is even worse, because it’s something that you came up with, and it’s something you were hoping to bring into the world.
The trust between you and your friend is broken, and now you’re left with feelings of emotional pain. What should you do in this situation?
You could sue her, but there’s no proof that she stole the idea from you. You could call her out publicly for it, and tell your mutual friends, but they might think you’re jealous of her great idea. Any retaliation on your end could backfire.
So you decide not to take any action, and allow karma to do it’s thing.
The rules of karma state that what you do to others will come back to you. If you give out love, you will receive love. If you give out hate, you will receive hate. If you stir up trouble for others, others will stir up trouble for you. Karma is constantly giving back to you whatever you put out into the world.
In this situation, you are hoping that karma will give your friend the same experience she gave to you. This means that through the laws of karma, your friend will experience the following events:
– Something she holds dearly will be taken from her. It might be an idea for a story, or it could be something else entirely. Whatever is taken from her will hold the same value to her as your story held for you.
– She will be betrayed by someone she trusts. After all, you trusted her and she betrayed you. Karma says that the same thing will happen to her.
Will Karma Punish Those Who Have Wronged Us?
In a word, no. Karma does not punish. Karma offers lessons in personal and spiritual development.
In the example above, it becomes quite clear that your friend has set herself up for a world of hurt. One day, she will be betrayed by someone she trusts, and one day, something she values will be taken from her. To outsiders, this may look like punishment. In fact, once your friend gets her just deserts, you may feel giddy about it. After all, justice has been served.
Or has it?
Donald had a two year old who was a nightmare. She loved to pull her sisters hair, and when her sister would cry, she would laugh. It was actually quite terrible. Donald and his wife had done everything they could think of to teach her to stop doing this, but she wouldn’t stop. Whenever she had the opportunity to pull her sister’s hair and make her cry. She would.
One day, not knowing what else to do, Donald pulled her hair right after she had pulled her sisters.
She cried, and seemed to be in shock that her dad had done such a terrible thing to her. She ran to her mom for sympathy and was given none. After that, she stopped pulling her sister’s hair.
Sometimes we don’t understand what we have done or what we are doing to someone else until that same thing is done to us. This isn’t meant to be a punishment. It’s meant to teach us a valuable lesson.
“Don’t pull your sister’s hair because it hurts her,” wasn’t getting the message across.
Actually having her own hair pulled helped her to understand what she was really doing. She experienced that pain for herself, and she finally stopped. One might say that she gained a little empathy from the experience, and of course, the fear that her hair would be pulled if she pulled her sister’s hair again probably played a role in that too. At any rate, she got a taste of what it felt like. She didn’t like it. And so she stopped.
That is the role of karma.
It reflects our actions back to us in the form of lessons so we can either say, “That sucked. I shouldn’t do that to other people.” OR “That was awesome! I should do more of that.” Which brings us to the next topic of karma.
The Rewards of Karma
Since we have seen that karma doesn’t really punish us, it only gives us lessons, it stands to reason that karma doesn’t reward us either.
Let’s go back to that story with your friend. What if, instead of stealing your idea, she helped you to write the play? What if she went a step further and helped you to get it into the hands of someone who wanted to produce it? I think we can agree that this would be a very enjoyable experience. Now, the rules of karma have changed for this person.
Instead of being met with a terrible fate of betrayal and having something stolen from her, karma will repay her by delivering encouragement and help to her when she decides to work on a project that is important to her.
Karma does not reward or punish. It simply allows you to be on the receiving end of absolutely every intention that you put out there.
Do All Of Our Experiences Have Karmic Ties?
In a word, yes.
Karmic lessons that have not had a chance to play out in one life time will play out in another.
There was once an Emperor who was very selfish. He didn’t care about the people in his kingdom, he only cared about the well being of himself and his family. If he received word that the people in his kingdom were starving, he would do nothing to ease their suffering, even if the royal storehouse had more than enough food to feed everyone.
As an Emperor, he was nearly untouchable, and his death was painless. He simply fell asleep one night, and never woke up.
Since this Emperor was untouchable in that lifetime, it was hard for the laws of karma to deliver that experience back to him. When he was reincarnated, he was birthed into a family that was destitute. He was often hungry as a child, and as an adult, he found it hard to find work, and to provide for his basic needs.
“Why are the gods so cruel to me? What crime have I committed? What have I done to deserve this?”
He had no recollection of his former life. He didn’t know he had been a ruler in the past, therefore this lifetime wasn’t about punishment. It was about learning the lesson.
This is what it feels like to starve. This is what it feels like to not have enough. This is what it feels like to be treated unfairly.
The Choice We Face When Karma Pays A Visit
Once Karma has reflected our experiences back to us in the form of lessons, we have two options.
- We can acknowledge the lessons, and make changes to our behavior.
- We can ignore the lessons, and continue to act in the same way.
Our Emperor turned pauper now knows what it feels like to starve. With this new awareness and experience, he has a choice to make. He can either share his food with others when he knows they are hungry, or he can continue to hoard it, and keep it to himself.
The life of poverty will harden him or soften him. He will either develop empathy, and share his food with others who need it, or he will keep it all to himself, like he did in his previous lifetime. However, his motive may be different the second time around. I don’t know when my next meal will be, or will it will come from. I have to hold onto every bit of food I have.
What If We Ignore Karma’s Lessons For Us?
They will continue to repeat until the lesson is learned. We will have the same experience over and over again until we straighten up and change our attitudes and behaviors.
Remember, Karma only reflects what we put out into the world. Karma doesn’t reward or punish us. Karma is neutral. Karma only gives us what we give to others. It does not distinguish between good and bad, because that is not it’s job.
In our lives, we are always given moments in which we have the power to change things. We are given moments in which we can do the right thing. We are giving moments in which we can make someone’s life better, or make someone’s life worse.
If we choose to be nice to others, to help them, serve them, and help them to release our pain, then Karma will bring people and situations into our life that will help us with those same issues. We can burn off negative karma by holding onto those moments in which we do unto others as we want them to do to us.
Instead of pulling our sister’s hair, we comb it.
Instead of stealing our friend’s idea, we help her with it.
Instead of holding onto things we don’t need, we give it to those who need it.
Every choice we make is our message to the Universe. It is our way of saying “This is what I want.”
Making the right choice at the right time is how we burn off negative karma. It’s how we begin to change our stories and in doing so, change our lives.
If we begin to see karma as a friend, rather than an enemy who is always waiting to pay us back, then our relationship with karma changes. If we can view karma as an energy that takes notes, and gives those notes back to us in the form of lessons, then we can truly understand how to live a happy, healthy life. And instead of lessons, we can begin to enjoy experiences, because the lessons have already been learned.