Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Copyright © 2020 Oliver Bardwell
For whatsoever a man soweth; that shall he also reap.
Before you act, you have freedom, but after you act, the effect of that act will follow you whether you want it to or not. That is the law of karma.
The doer of evil reaps suffering
Here and Hereafter
In both states remembering, “I have committed evil.”
Not only here, but hereafter, he experiences
More suffering because he has gone to a state of suffering.
The doer of good deeds reaps happiness,
Here and Hereafter,
In both states remembering, “I have done good deeds.”
And there is more joy
Because he has gone to a blissful state.
—The Dhammapada 1:16–17
Karma is like Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s ingrained in our very essence. Reference to this force can be found in almost every great scripture.
There are three types of karma in action: physical, verbal, and mental. Everything we do, say, and even think are like seeds planted in the ground that will someday take root. It’s important to realize this and to live our daily lives with the understanding that someday, everything we sow—both good and bad—we will surely reap.
A wise spiritual teacher, J.P Vaswani, the author of What Would You Like to Know About Karma, said, When we begin to understand the concept of Karma, we will never, ever blame God for anything that happens to us. We will realize that we are responsible for all that happens to us.
When you read that, you may think, “Well, what about the innocent young man in the wheelchair? Or the child who was just diagnosed with cancer? What did they do to deserve their circumstances?” I’ve often pondered the same questions.
In Eastern thought, it’s believed there is karma we are born into this life with, generated in other lifetimes, and karma generated in this life. There is little that we can do about the karma we were born into this life with, other than to accept it and try our best not to blame others or some outside force for our circumstances. Whatever the karma may be, whether we consider it positive or negative, it just is. We can easily recognize the karma that we are generating in this life. All we have to do is look around, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can see how every action and belief from our past, empowering or disempowering, has brought us to where we are and what we are experiencing today.
Practice: How can we accept the hand we’ve been dealt in life and turn our life circumstance into a steppingstone on the path of our spiritual journey? The most important questions about the things in life over which we have no control aren’t, “Why did it happen? Why me? Why them? Why now?” The most important questions are: “How can I find an empowering meaning in this experience?” “How can I accept what is and move forward in a way that is in alignment with my true nature, and a benefit to myself and others?” Remember, you will always get the answers to the questions you ask yourself, so it’s vital to ask quality questions.
Look at your life and your current circumstance. Think of an area of your life you aren’t happy with. How can you take responsibility for the actions or inactions that have brought you to this place? List all the things you have done or failed to do that created this circumstance—whether it’s a troubled relationship or a lack of one, or a challenge in your health or current financial situation. The first step in creating a positive change in any area of your life is in being able to accept and take ownership of how you arrived at where you are now.
Karma follows us throughout our lives
In this life and into the worlds beyond
An energy, positive and negative
That is generated by our actions
Everything we are experiencing now
Is a direct result of those past thoughts and actions
Even in death, we are unable to escape Karma
Our thoughts and actions have vibrations
Higher and lower
Good and evil
Positive and negative
When we shed this body
Like an old, worn-out suit of clothes
And only the astral and causal bodies remain
It is the vibration of our thoughts and our accumulated actions
That ferry us to the next realm
Those of higher thoughts, actions, and vibrations
Experience higher, lighter planes of existence
These have been called heavens
And are the states of existence in which we reap the
Rewards of good Karma
Those of lower thoughts, actions, and vibrations
Experience lower, darker planes of existence
These have been called hells
And are the states of existence in which heavy debts of
Negative Karma are balanced
Then, if we still have earthly desires and earthly Karma,
When the circumstances are right
We are born again to the right parents, family, and situation
Determined by our remaining Karmic balance.