OMG – What is this thing called Karma!

Let’s go on a journey down memory lane for a moment. When was the first time you heard the word karma? In what context was it and what did you think about it? Did you know the meaning of the word or were you a bit confused by it?

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is much misconception around karma. Prior to beginning my studies in Buddhism, my interpretation of karma was also distorted – thus the intent of this month’s article is to hopefully clear up some of the confusion for others.
In a nutshell – karma is the fruit of our actions coupled with our intention surrounding our actions. Why is an action being taken is the question. Is the intention honorable for altruistic reasons or is it for self alone? Is the intent to cause harm or to help? Here is what happens: Whenever we engage in actions that are intentional of body, speech and mind– no matter if they are good or not there is an impression placed on our mind stream. These impressions are seeds or potencies called Karma.

The Buddha said, "Kamma, O monks, I declare, is intention.’ It is not just any action but the intention behind it. Intention is not just what we do but what we think and speak.”
What we think is very important in the creation of karma. This is because our actions are a result of what we think, first. Therefore, we must always be mindful of our thoughts. Becoming familiar with how and what we think is imperative to the creation of good karma because our intentions as stated are based on what we think.

Karma is impartial – it doesn’t have preferences. Most of what happens to us is the result of actions we have taken in this life. That doesn’t mean that all of what happens to us is caused by actions in this life. There is also karma that has ripened from prior lives too. We see the result of karma in our health, abilities, character and a host of other ways. No one is exempt.
There is individual, group, nation, city and state, ethnic, and world karma. There is also karma in other systems, but we don’t need to be concerned about that – for now. The point is, karma is real and we are all under the law of it – therefore we need to know what it is and how it works.

In my own life I have seen the effects of karma in good and not so good ways. For example – when I was a teenager a friend of mine and I would sometimes get bore
d, take the bus downtown and people watch for a few hours. We were very critical in our observations of how people looked and what they wore. We were particularly harsh with people we perceived as overweight. I particularly remember the emotions behind my comments. My intention was not to do the person any harm; however anything that is said or thought about another person affects them. My words and thought affected every person I disparaged or praised including myself. I had set up negative karma for myself.

Flash forward ten years – my karma had ripened. This means all the elements necessary for me to receive the effects of actions ten years earlier where in place. I was in a job I didn’t like. There was lots of stress – no time for exercise – sitting at a desk most of the day – eating heavy meals. Guess what happened? I gained a lot of weight. After about seven years of having a lot of excess weight on my body, I got the flash from the past of all the times I made a negative remark about another person’s size. Lesson learned – I never did that again. As a matter of fact, my whole view shifted on the subject.

There is positive karma too. When we think good thoughts or help someone without any intention to receive anything in return – positive karma is created.

When the karma has ripened, you are the recipient of its reward – good or not so good. So for goodness sake – intend to create positive karma.