Karma is a concept that originated in the Eastern traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, and is often tied to beliefs about reincarnation. The word itself translates to “action,” and the concept of karma encompasses the actions that you take, the thoughts behind them, and the consequences of those actions, in this lifetime and possibly past and future incarnations of you.
The idea of karma is often used to describe a sudden streak of luck, or to discuss someone’s fate or destiny, whether for good or for ill. While karma can impact any of these events, it doesn’t work on so short of a time scale. Instead, karma is like inertia for human actions. What you do now (or even what you think) you'll take with you into the future. Karma will always come back to you, but that’s not a bad thing.
Can you use karma to have better luck? Yes, you bet! In fact you’re constantly using karma in all of your actions, every day. Since having thoughts and taking actions are unavoidable parts of life, choosing your thoughts and actions deliberately can turn the karmic wheel in your favor. This overview will help you to understand what karma is and how you can use it consciously. When you’re ready to understand the deeper Tibetan Buddhist teachings, including how karma carries through all the realms of existence, even for the gods, head over to the Magick & Mysticism of Buddhism course to answer all your questions.
Karma Can Be Changed
In the Christian world view, all humans are born sinners, equally. It is only through good acts in this world that one can earn redemption. A sin is an action that you know is wrong, where you can see the pain and suffering that you’ve caused. These sins are punished by an external force, and punishment comes in the afterlife.
In the Buddhist traditions, humans have an uncountably large karmic debt to pay from actions taken in previous lives, which can be paid by doing good deeds and showing compassion to others in this life. Instead of being punished by an external force, karma is carried inside you. You are not punished FOR your sins, you are punished BY them, and you carry their mark.
In both of these systems the idea is the same: your actions on this Earth have an echo that carries through your lifetime and beyond. The good news is that at any point in your life, you can begin to change your karma for the better.
You can do this by managing impulse control and considering the impact your words and actions will have on others. Before you react in any situation, ask yourself if the action you’re taking benefits everyone involved. Acting out in anger or lashing out thoughtlessly will bring more rage back to you. Acting with compassion and thoughtfulness is a more enlightened choice.
Your thoughts are not immune from the karmic cycle: ruminating on hurtful thoughts such as resentment, jealousy, or a desire to harm others will come back to you in painful ways. Even if you don’t take action on these thoughts, dwelling on them can bring bad luck. Practice interrupting these thoughts before they are fully formed. It helps to remember that everyone is on their own karmic journey, so set a good example and earn some good karma in return.
Can Karma Be Good?
Absolutely! Karma isn’t like spiritual revenge for cutting someone off in traffic (but if you make a habit of it, you’re going to need better insurance). Since karma is always echoing into the future, you earn more of whatever you put out into the universe, whether it’s positive or negative. You cannot escape your own thoughts and actions. These things are real; they exist in the universe. As such, their ripples will travel back to you in unexpected ways.
Since you know your thoughts and actions are going to come back to you one way or another, you can do the internal and external work that will shift the balance of karma in your favor. Think of it this way: what we’re doing to others we’re also doing to some part of ourselves. At some level all things are connected, so by healing the world through your actions you are also healing yourself. If you want forgiveness, the first step is forgiving others.
If bad karma is earned by taking hurtful actions and holding harmful thoughts, then good karma can be earned by showing kindness and compassion, doing good in the world, and holding more constructive thoughts.
Karma and Luck
You never know how your actions are going to come back to you. For someone who is constantly grumbling and dissatisfied, everything will seem like a stroke of bad luck. On the other hand, if someone can see the silver lining in virtually any situation, good luck will follow them wherever they go.
Karma is like the law of inertia for human actions. It doesn’t end with the completion of the action. All things are connected in a sort of domino effect, and without a cosmic bird’s eye view, humans don’t get to see the whole picture. The results, however, always show up, and in ways you wouldn’t expect.
Because you know your actions will come back to you, try being a force for good luck for other people in your life. The ways you can show compassion and help others is literally endless, and even small actions like holding space for a friend having a rough time or paying for coffee for the car behind you in line can bring you good fortune later. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. How can you make someone’s burdens a little lighter today? You’ll be surprised at how good things begin to effortlessly flow into your life.