As a New Age buzzword, karma is frequently misunderstood. Some people use it to talk about 'atmosphere'. Other times it's assumed to be the same thing as the human aura. You've probably seen the bumper stickers that say My karma ran over your dogma. I'm sure it's just meaningless humor, but it does add to the general confusion...
So, what does karma really mean?
"What goes around, comes around."
"You reap what you sow."
"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
These are everyday phrases, cliches even, that actually describe it.
It's a Sanskrit word meaning 'act', 'action', or 'word'. The law of karma teaches us that all of our thoughts, words and actions begin a chain of cause and effect, and that we will personally experience the effects of everything we cause. We may not experience the effect (the returning karma) right away, and it may not even be in this lifetime, but you can count on it just the same. It is a cosmic law, which means that it applies to everyone, everywhere, all the time.
This law exists entirely for our own good. It allows us to make progress in our soul's evolution. As you know, the things we think, say and do can be positive or negative. In the same way, karma can be positive or negative.
It is a great benefactor, returning to us the energy from all of the kind and loving thoughts and deeds we sent out into the world. It is also our greatest teacher, making us accountable for what we do and giving us opportunities to learn from our mistakes and make amends.
Some people talk about having 'good karma' and 'bad karma'. I'm not a fan of that kind of labelling, because it encourages us to make judgments about situations (our own or other people's) when we don't have all the background info. We don't know what's happening from the soul's perspective.
It's important to remember that not everything that happens to us is caused by this cosmic law. Souls are creating new negative energy all the time, by their freewill, and innocent people can get hurt by this. In addition, some souls volunteer (in the heaven-world, before they are born on earth) to make sacrifices on behalf of loved ones. You may never know when someone's misfortune in life is actually a loving sacrifice, perhaps even for you.
We are generally familiar with the idea that these teachings have long held a place in Eastern religions, but what is commonly overlooked is that Jesus taught about this and reincarnation too. His Sermon on the Mount is a great lesson in personal accountability - the very essence of karma. In the Bible, the apostle Paul explains it when he tells us
"Every man shall bear his own burden....Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap....Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor."
Knowing about all this can be a bit daunting. We tend to think of all the not-so-nice things we've done in our lives and wonder when they're going to come and bite us in the rear.
The truth is that there is grace and heaven is merciful. We have to be accountable, no question about that, but God never gives us more than we can handle. There's also the return of our positive energy coming back to us to look forward to. You've probably always known intrinsically that doing good deeds was somehow 'worth it'. Well, now you know why - you will receive a return on your energy investment, and the more you put in, the more you'll get out!
It's worth knowing (or remembering) that we have been given the invaluable gift of the violet flame, a spiritual fire that 'balances' or re-polarizes our negative karma when we invoke it. Through violet flame meditation, we can make amends for negative thoughts and deeds so that the effects do not have to manifest physically in our lives. It's not a one-time deal and does takes effort and dedication, but it is an awesome way to accelerate progress on your spiritual path, as well as making life seem generally more positive!
On a personal note, I eventually realized that I'm grateful for the law of karma. It's affirming to know that God respects me as an individual enough to not let me get away with anything that doesn't make me a better person, and that I'm important enough to receive the value of my loving actions.
In their pocket guide, Karma and Reincarnation: Transcending Your Past, Transforming Your Future, Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Patricia Spadaro have this take on it: "Karma picks up where the golden rule leaves off. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you - because someday it will be done unto you."
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