What Is Karma?

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People think of karma as this crazy pseudoscientific cosmic thing. It’s not. Karma simply means “action”. In essence, Karma is a law of physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Everything you do has a consequence.

We are often naive enough to think that people “get away” with their actions. Criminals get off the hook, good people go to jail, people can cheat and steal with no consequence, etc. But no action can be committed without karma. Everything you do creates a ripple and every action is a boomerang that eventually comes back to you in some form or another. Karma reminds us that “good” and “bad” are made up concepts merely serving human interests. The universe does not have a human morality.

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Karma works in full independence from human ethics. If you align yourself with expectation, you’re not understanding karma properly. It works in mysterious ways. Better to let it function, like nature, than to try to force your own karma. You can’t control the consequences of your actions. You can only act in such a way that you know to be peaceful.

There is no avoiding karma. You will reap consequences regardless of what you do, the true forms of which may not be apparent until years or even generations later. What we do impacts not just our immediate world but the entire universe.

Every action of every person is constantly reverberating in places unseen or unexpected.

This adds a new power to meditation. Meditation temporarily neutralizes the power of karma. When you sit in meditation, neutral, you are silent and in the process of transcending thought. This is action in non-action. It’s a fascinating thing.