Sunday, June 29, 2008


As with many words, people have ascribed different meanings to the word karma. Some say it is the law of cause and effect. Some say it is reward for good deeds and punishment for bad.

Karma is a concept that can be looked at on multiple levels. A simplistic physical interpretation is that "what goes around comes around." People who have this concept will expect bad things to happen to people who do evil or selfish deeds. Of course, that doesn't normally happen right away, so reincarnation is brought into the equation. A higher-level interpretation is that the deed is its own reward or punishment. The reward for a good or bad deed is being the type of person who would do that sort of thing. The problem with this interpretation is that it is only likely to be accepted by someone who doesn't need it. Another interpretation is that a good deed only carries positive karma if it is done without concern for the result. You do something because it needs to be done, or because it's the right thing to do, and you don't worry about what happens next.

Some of you may wonder how to get rid of negative karma. Of course, if you have done something harmful, you first will have done whatever is in your power to make amends. And depending on the details of your religious beliefs, God will either forgive you or couldn't be bothered either way. The people you have hurt may or may not forgive as well. But the real question is: can you forgive yourself? Are you willing to let go of what happened and recognize that it's in the past, and hopefully you're a better person now? If not, all of the prior considerations are irrelevant.

There is another option. Let's take the concept of karma as being cause and effect. For example, if you throw a tennis ball at a wall, it will bounce back toward you and probably hit you. But if you were able to jump a few feet in the air just as the ball was coming back, it would miss you entirely. I'll let you work out the analogy.

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