How often are you aware of your karma?

Today is June 19 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you aware of your karma?” This reflection will help you better understand one of the most misused, misunderstood, and misplaced words the West has borrowed from the East – karma. In short, karma is not what you probably think it is. Those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well often remind themselves of the original definition of karma in order to translate their dreams into reality.

As Buddha said, “you harm yourself as dust thrown against the wind comes back to the thrower.” This one sentence provides an excellent clue as to the actual meaning of karma. Dating back thousands of years in the East, karma has been bastardized in the West to involve cause and effect.

For example, if someone robs a bank and the police fail to catch them that day, the incorrect interpretation of karma as practiced by those in the West, would then apply the “well eventually karma is going to catch up to them and they will get caught.” The slang version is often applied as well and is often said as “karma is a bitch,” or “karma and payback are a bitch, they will get their day.” This is not how karma works. Actually, if you are waiting for karma to ‘get back at someone’ for what they did to you, that could well last a lifetime, but it also may distract you from navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well. In short, sometimes, you have no one to blame but yourself. Such a realization only stems from a high degree of self-awareness.

To better understand the proper Eastern definition of karma, let us go back to the etymology of the word. The meaning derived from the Sanskrit for karma means action, work, or deed. The term also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect, often descriptively called the principle of karma, wherein intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect): good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and happier rebirths, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and bad rebirths. The West has interpreted this cause-and-effect component of karma’s definition to mean: “you get what you deserve?”

Unfortunately, the West has chosen to rely on two inappropriate, incorrect, and misleading aspects of karma’s definition: “bad makes bad” and because of that, “we have no control of our destinies.” Herein lies the critical component of today’s reflection, karma has nothing to do with fate where the universe sits in judgement of good or bad behavior and randomly hands out punishments or rewards. Karma is an internal power that we create, for good or bad. Karma is our action. We have the control over our karma.

As Lachlan Brown noted “When we say, ‘that’s karma,’ when a bad thing happens to us, we are giving up our internal power. We are giving up our ability to change things. It’s because of this false view that we desire to transform karma into a sort of cash machine based on our ethical and spiritual behavior. However, if we can let go of this understanding of happiness, we can see that all we need is to live deeply in the present moment with mindfulness and discover our true nature. Karma is simply energy. It’s our intentional thoughts and actions. The energy we generate now and in the future will affect us. It has nothing to do with reward or punishment. Karma is unbiased and it’s ours to control.”

To delve into the nuance of karma even further, here are the 12 Laws of Karma to consider:

  1. The Great Law: whatever we put into the universe will come back to us.

  2. The Law of Creation: life does not happen by itself; we need to make it happen.

  3. The Law of Humility: one must accept something in order to change it.

  4. The Law of Growth: when we change ourselves, our lives change to.

  5. The Law of Responsibility: we must take responsibility for what is in our lives.

  6. The Law of Connection: the past, present, and future are all connected.

  7. The Law of Focus: we cannot think of two different things at the same time.

  8. The Law of Giving and Hospitality: our behaviors should match our thoughts and actions.

  9. The Law of Here and Now: we cannot be present if we are looking backward.

  10. The Law of Change: history repeats itself until we learn from it and change our path.

  11. The Law of Patience and Reward: the most valuable rewards require persistence.

  12. The Law of Significance and Inspiration: rewards are a result of the energy and effort we put into it.

  • How often do you subscribe to the Western definition of karma?

  • Have you ever hoped karma would “get someone” for what they did to you?

  • How often do you take responsibility for all of your actions and realize karma is within your control?

  • How often you practice each of the 12 laws of karma?

  • Which law or laws would you like to practice more often in the upcoming days or weeks?