Karma. Not a bitch.

When I began and carried on my travels throughout Asia, I had the opportunity to learn about Buddhism and Buddhist philosophies. One of the most interesting concepts I came upon was that of karma. Growing up in Western society as an impressionable young woman, I had always imagined karma to be some revengeful spirit that righted the wrong-doings of backstabbing friends and cheating boyfriends. After all, karmaΒ is a bitch, right?

The ever so reliable Wikipedia page specific to karmaΒ claims fairly accurately how Westerners have come to interpret and understand this idea. It gives examples of comparing karma to sayings such as, “what goes around comes around,” “reap what one sows,” and “an eye for an eye.” All of these words of wisdom, in my opinion, have a distinct negative undertone. I was always reminded of these proverbs when I was in the midst of wrong-doing. If I continued to act out, I would pay for my actions. Just as what I would reap I would sow, karma is surely a bitch.

But looking at it from a completely different perspective, these sayings can also represent good. If you do good, you will be rewarded. As a Westerner, this belief was instilled in me as well. Perhaps that is what drives many of us to do good and be good; the promise that it will be of some benefit to us in the future. So just as we can reap good to sow good, karma is surely not a bitch.

As I traveled throughout Asia and learned more of these philosophies, I was surprised to learn of the Eastern interpretations of karma. The concept of karma is deep-rooted and complicated; I could never explain, nor fully understand, the intricacies without long hours of studying and analysis. To put it simply, other cultures and religions believe karma “is the law of moral causation. In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve.” Β Essentially, you reap what you sow.

The difference, however, is that karma is used for good-doing. From a Buddhist point of view, “our present mental, moral intellectual and temperamental differences are, for the most part, due to our own actions and tendencies, both past and present.”

So think about it. If you had the power to control your future by performing good deeds, or karma, for the promise of a satisfying, more fulfilling life, wouldn’t you take advantage? Wouldn’t you seize each opportunity to help someone else in need, to choose not to speak ill of someone else, to love complete strangers, to refrain from judging others due to lifestyle choices? Wouldn’t you make each decision based on living well and doing well by others?

To me, karma is not a bitch. Karma should not be used as an excuse to let the laws of nature pay revenge on those that have wronged you. Karma isn’t spiteful. Karma should be performed not out of hate, envy, or retribution, but rather out of caring, empathy, and benevolence. Remember that love and good deeds are universal, no matter the color of your skin, the religion you practice, or the language you speak.

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96 thoughts on “Karma. Not a bitch.

  1. I love this! πŸ™‚ The concept can be reassuring to people who feel like they deserve bad things because in their estimation, they’ve done wrong. They deserve good for the positive things they do too!

  2. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I’m beginning to suspect that western idea of karma (you’ll often hear “It’s karma!” after someone’s unfortunate anecdote) is so similar to the German schadenfreude.

    As you wrote: “The concept of karma is deep-rooted and complicated”. The idea of karma of course have been a curiosity in the west, and probably similar to secular/ philosophical interpretation of faith (I’m thinking Descartes, Heidegger, etc.)

    Still, an interesting concept. All the best to your quest for knowledge.

  3. Beautifully inspiring. Certainly an interesting perspective to not only ponder, but act upon. Pictures are lovely as well. Congrats on being freshly pressed; well deserved. Must be karma πŸ™‚

  4. I agree. Karma, from my understanding via reading Jon Kabot-Zinn, is the idea that life happens in a sort of chain of events. If you emit an aura of goodness and kindness, that will influence your thoughts, the people you surround yourself with, and the actions you take…thus providing good karma for the future.

    Thanks for such a great article…very well said!
    Cheers,
    Courtney Hosny

  5. Great post! So many people have a misconception of Karma and it’s sometimes because of bad translatons. In the middle of a book by Lam Surya Das. Sometimes he describes situations where people go over the top with Buddhist philosophy (some monks stay inside during the rainy season so they don’t step on any bugs!). I guess that when it comes right down to it, there are more interpretations of the Dharma than Dharma itself.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback and wonderful insight. Translations, and mistranslations, are inevitable. Perhaps we’ll start to look at Karma from all angles, not just the negative.

      1. You are welcome! I’m new to WordPress, I just finished a Self-Employment Develpment course, and one of the consultants on Social Media suggested setting up a page here. I saw a WordPress for Dummies book at the library with was about 600 pages long-and was lost after the first 4 pages. If you have a chance could you look at my post “Learning Woodwind Instruments in the Windward Isles of the Caribbean”? I tried to “Press” it but am not sure if I succeeded.. Michael Gfroerer

  6. I’m a lay Buddhist and I studied a lot of Buddhism. I live in Asia by the way.
    My interpretion of karma is closely related to scientific concept of motion. In Buddhism, a person’s soul is composed of cosmic energy. This is how I see reincarnation – energy can never be disintegrated, they only change in form. When we die, we’re back into fundamental form of energy and until the energy finds a way to convert itself.

    Karma is just like Newton’s Law of Motion. For an action acted upon, there’s the exact opposition. The more good karma we gain, the more positive our energy become. Just like the Sun giving out sunlight, it brings advantages. If we radiate negativity while we are alive, we are converting our energy to negative ones, thus radiates negativity when we become the fundamental form of energy and return as negative beings.

    Thus, radiating negative energy, we get reacted with negative feedback. That’s is when you get the Western “what comes around goes around”.

    Nice article by the way. Glad to see Buddhism is interpreted more accurately by more people now.

  7. Lovely and insightful post.Also thank you for sharing some wonderful pictures from your travels. Most western translations focus on the outcome of karma, rather than it is the result of our own thoughts and actions.
    with metta

  8. I really enjoyed reading this. Great Post.

    While studying Reiki I was given a book called Reiki Fire by Frank Arjava Petter. The section on Karma described it like this: “All actions leave an impression, an imprint and ultimately have an effect on reality. The amount of effects resulting from this life and previous lives accumulated by each individual us called Karma”

    1. Very interesting. Rebirth and reincarnation is a concept I haven’t delved into. Though we can still use karma, or the process of, for doing good. If not to better this life alone. You make an excellent argument, however. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Well said! I spent last year mostly in Thailand, and I never heard the accusation of bad karma used against anybody, only the positive side of things. It is closely related to reincarnation, and Buddhists believe that doing good things in this life will insure they will come back as something worthy in their next life, as opposed to a slug or something similar. It’s such a beautiful concept – I wish the world would all accept it!

    1. Exactly! That’s the point I was trying to make. So often people want to use the idea of karma, or retribution as it is sometimes associated with, to take care of their “dirty work,” and I just don’t think that’s how it works. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure you had a wonderful time in Thailand!

  10. I think sometimes people in Europe use Karma as a negative reinforcement as you say…like if you do something bad or if someone does something bad to you you often hear ‘Karma will catch up on you’ or something like that….its very interesting to hear your experiences and how other country’s especially primarily a Buddhist one views Karma. It would be interesting to visit just to see how people treat each other on a day to day basis compared to where I live (England) where people act without consequence most of the time…

  11. I lived in Thailand a brief time while in my childhood and the entire culture had a profound, positive, effect on me. Since then I have always felt that Karma should be how to govern my own actions and life. Thank you for sharing this. And the pictures brought back some very happy memories. Thank you.

  12. Beautiful photos and an inspiring post! I am planning to travel in Laos and Vietnam next year, and I look forward to experiencing this wonderful culture.

  13. Everything we do leads us to where we are. We all affect our own universe with our actions, and some actions ultimately boomerang to affect us, postiive or negative. I think of it like someone going into the wild (not sure if that’s fair). If you prepare accordingly, you can have a great time. If you don’t, you might get frostbite, drown, etc. There is no malice or bitch factor involved. It just is.

  14. First of all I want to say that your pictures are absolutely gorgeous.

    I really liked your explanation of what karma is in the West vs. the East. I think I need the reminder of the distinctions of the concept. So Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing! Views and ideas certainly differ depending on the culture you were raised within. It’s important to keep a balanced view on this concept, both good and bad.

  15. Cool fact (at least from my own understanding), karma and causation has nothing to do with this life. In this life, according to karma, we’re living out the karmic energies that we’ve collected (chakras) from ‘past lives,’ not ‘the past.’ So the whole do good things, get good things, do bad things, get bad things, applies to what we’ll reap in a future, different life. (Not to poo-poo on what you’ve said about being kind to people, now; just in case I’m misconstrued)

    I’m not Buddhist, but I love Buddhism. If you’d be interested, I can send you a list of great reads/Youtube links – it’s usually tough to start at the right place with Buddhism on your own, I think. Like you said, lots of rubbish out there. (Who’s to say the stuff I’ve read/heard/experienced is any better? Don’t know. But anyway, offer’s there)

    Otherwise, great post and enchanting pics. Thanks, mate!

    1. Yes, I’ve come to understand that karma is a consequence of our past lives, whether our actions were good or bad. I haven’t delved into the idea of reincarnation and the spiritual journey certainly continues, trying to weed out what works and what doesn’t.

      I firmly believe the idea of karma, however, can be used in this lifetime. Knowing that our thoughts and actions could influence our own life and consequently the lives of those we interact with. I think living by that philosophy is a wonderful thing.

      Thank you so much for sharing! I would love any and all insight you provide.

  16. I think it is useful to dig deeper into the concept of karma, away from the “My Name is Earl” view you mention. I’m not sure, though, that I can buy that if we just do enough good, good things will happen. Great Buddhists still get cancer. The saintliest people you ever meet can still get hit by a train. Children – who have had little to no opportunity to do any great harm or good – suffer needlessly. We would all like to live in a more simplistic moral universe like the one karma describes (and assumes), but I just don’t think it holds up to scrutiny.

    1. I’m not trivializing karma or the concept of. I was simply suggesting that we examine it from a different perspective. So often it’s associated with wrong doing in the western world. Karma can certainly bring on negative consequences. We don’t have all the answers to why bad things happen to the undeserving. I don’t fully understand the karmic universe, but I do believe it’s a good philosophy to live by.

  17. Cause and effect. What you do (positive or negative) will at some point be returned. Maybe in two lifetimes or maybe in ten minutes. I often wonder when bad things are happening, what did I do in the past that is causing this?

  18. Insightful post. In Taoism, you learn to think of all people as part of you, and you as part of them, so your actions, good or bad, effect those around you and through them, yourself, all at the same time. By the way, I noticed 89 likes and counting for you endeavor. Now there’s some positive Karma. πŸ™‚

  19. Hi there!!

    Awesome post!! Simply loved it πŸ™‚ And to escape the cycle of karma – to be born till you reap all that you have sown , to sow along as you reap and to reap again n again n again…..- this cycle can be escaped by simply detaching ourself from the result..

    To think about, its our thoughts that create an illusion of pain or pleasure. And our previous actions lead us to these pain or pleasure situations.
    What if we stopped perceiving them as pain or pleasure & just saw them as they existed – I guess that’s what I’m trying to achieve.. Easily said but not so easily done..

    Thanks for your awesome post, I cleared some space in my head there πŸ™‚

    Cheers
    Shraddha

    1. Wonderfully said, Shraddha! Detaching meaning and perception from words and thoughts is much easier said than done, indeed. Best of luck on your journey. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Truthfully, I didn’t before my travels. Philosophies of karma vary so greatly and under different names throughout the world. It’s important to examine the concept from all perspectives. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Humans (especially Western humans?) are very much focused on punishment, less on the possibility of redemption–seems that the energy of the universe is less angry than we are! Congrats!

  21. This is a fantastic article, very well-written. What you’re seizing at, in my view, is this: you are what you do. And I completely believe in that; we come into this world as a tabula rasa, and it is our own actions and the actions of others that affect us and make us who we are.

    1. Yes! I firmly believe you are what you do, whether it be good or bad. We just seem to focus on negative consequences instead of striving to simply do good or live harmoniously. Whether or not it translates to reincarnation, I’m unsure. No one is. But there’s no reason we can’t live by this philosophy to have a more satisfying experience during this lifetime.

      Thank you for sharing!

  22. Love this. I’ve just started doing my own research into Buddhism, and karma was something I thought I would easily understand. I was surprised to find that this wasn’t the case.

    Thanks for a the overview and beautiful pictures!

  23. I don’t know if you believe this as well, but this reminds of the Secret and the Law of Attraction. What you put out into the universe manifests itself and returns to you. If you keep saying that you’re unlucky, then you will be. But if you believe in positive thoughts and actions, then that is what will come back to you as well. Great post!

  24. What a refreshing read! I agree with the Buddhist interpretation – if I do good deeds and take the ‘higher road’ then I will feel better as a person and feel more confident and happy. People are then drawn more to happy, vibrant people and you can meet and create more friendships and more opportunity for positive, rewarding experiences. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  25. I certainly enjoy reading your enlightenment on Karma,with your knowledge it gives me more understanding of the meaning as there’s so much version to this word,God bless and keep up the good work.

  26. Hi,
    I ‘stumbled’ upon your blog and so glad I did! I recently wrote a childrens interactive series aimed at teaching karma to children, as well as some other universal laws that aren’t routinely taught here. I agree about the positive aspects and how we literally design our own future. I had one parent comment (about my series) that she couldn’t bring herself to teach her children to do good for the sake of bringing good back to them . . . really? She thought it selfish and more important to teach them to do good because its the right thing to do. Okay, I understand, but does it really matter WHY we teach our children to be shining examples of kindness in the world? And doesn’t having a personal stake in it intensify the experience? That was only ONE mother; most don’t agree but I continue to be perplexed by her thought process. Maybe she needs a little self-love? Great post, thanks!

  27. Well, the idea of karma in the West in mostly known from Hinduism, I guess. While it is different from the, let’s say, Buddhist’s karma. I was surprised just as you when I got to know about it more studying in a Buddhist temple in the Philippines. Great post, thank you!

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