Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Everything Happens for a Reason? - Macro-Karma

I wanted to take a few moments to talk about karma, less in a sense for what it means to humans exclusively, but in a larger sense of‘ a ‘macro’ karma and its role in the relative world for which we are all a part of. I thought it might be interesting to look at this ancient teaching of karma in a different light, outside the realm of its many interpretations to its interaction with the human mind. The cause and effect of karmic entanglements shape the circumstances of our everyday lives and certainly affects how we act, react and define the world we live in. Please feel free to disagree or chime in with your thoughts or comment as these are just some meandering thoughts, exploring karma from a bit of a theoretical perspective.

I hear it all the time; “Everything happens for a reason." It seems to be such a popular mantra for many people in the West these days. But I'm not sure they understand exactly what they mean when they say it; though for many, I believe they think it is some belief that a God creator shapes the way events unfold in life, based on the concept of good and bad, for a particular reason or purpose. Another popular phrase of today is karma. It is without question the most over exposed, over used yet least understood words that Buddhism has ever produced. It is used everywhere, in pop culture or strewn around in every day conversation or used as a catch phrase in a desperate attempt to understand the ups and downs of life. These two ideas of reason and karma are more closely related than one would think. I see there maybe a more understandable interpretation of karma, one that penetrates the real consequences of human and non human activity, and how the cause and effect of these infinite actions spider out like an endless web of motion and condition.

About the only thing that almost all people can agree upon about karma is that it is a Sanskrit word that literally translated means ‘action’ or ‘to act’. Historically karma, as it is best understood though the ancient Buddhist teachings, is the basic law of cause and effect, action and reaction. It is sometimes set in motion by personal motivations or sometimes by the natural world, which create both known and unknown repercussions for themselves and the world around them. It is also known as the actions of a willed life and the resulting consequences can and do usually reach far beyond the actors that it began with. This karma, in essence, is truly just a naturalistic law that constitutes this present moment. However, I realize these are both vague and incomplete interpretations of what karma exactly is.

Science has shown that our reality is shaped by the nature of how the actions of all the relative objects of the universe are affected, in varying degrees, by all the other energy and objects that exist. Both Sir Isaac Newton’s Universal law of Gravity and Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity are perfect examples of how science shows us this intimate interdependency and interaction between objects and energy, even to the point of warping both space and time. It’s a lot like a tangled ball of string, each movement on one string will, in someway, affect all the other strings; some may loosen, some may tighten and some may break. Our actions and the actions of others sometimes have consequences that stretch far beyond our ability to see or know how these karmic actions will eventually play out. In fact, everyday, all the daily activities of our life are affected by all the different actions from the world around us, preceding up to this moment. For many of us, this fact is lost since we tend view ourselves and other objects as separate unchangeable entities that persist through time and space.

If someone is dealt a Royal Flush in poker, they may consider this great luck or perhaps some divine reward or good karma. However, instead of dismissing this incident as some mystical or cosmic magic, we must look deeper into all the events that occurred before the Royal Flush was dealt to understand how actual actions caused the event. For example, say the poker dealer before she came to work that evening was worried about her sick child and was nervously biting her fingernails. When she gets to work she notices her hands and face were sweating from worry, which caused a few of the cards to stick a bit, and her fingernail unintentionally clipped an edge of a card while shuffling, which in turn affected how the card fell into place before dealing. While her actions had direct consequences on herself, unintentionally that particular deck of cards she shuffled ended up dealing a Royal Flush to an unsuspecting person. Then in turn, the person who won a lot of money from the hand decides to go have a blast with his new found wealth, which in turn that creates more karma and other consequences that then in turn affect other things, etc. This maybe written off as luck, but none the less, a series of events took place, perhaps unseen to those around it, which caused the cards to come out a certain way. It is very important not to confuse these events that occurred as something that was willed by a greater being to render a particular outcome, or the result of some mystical force.

Karmic effects, or better yet ‘macro’ karmic effects, can and do reverberate for long periods of time or entangle with the effects of other karmic action. This present moment could be looked at as the product of all karmic activity, all the ever changing and expanding effects of the innumerable activities of all that came before it. In quantum physics they call this causality, which is nothing more or less than the effects of the events of objects on all other objects, or simply the nature of all relative phenomena. However, this does not mean that humans lack free will or suffer some type of predetermination, but only explains the ever changing daily circumstances we all must deal with. How we deal with these circumstances of life is ultimately up to us, with conscious, motivated and willed effort of mind.

In a moral and philosophical sense karma is neither good nor bad, but only interpreted as such by those affected by the actions of the events in their lives. When one proclaims "everything happens for a reason" they are indeed quite correct, however, this reason is an unwilled, unseen and unmotivated resultant set of causality. I think this is where the great error is formed; of believing that there is some great cosmic force that manipulates good and bad, right and wrong to reward the just or punish the wicked. I understand the allure of this metaphysical concept and a lot of people latch on to it and speak about it as a matter of fact. But perhaps, when we look closely, we will see this causality of karma to be nothing more than part of the great law of nature, a wonderful window into understanding the teaching of dependent arising. The selfless and kind deeds we do here, in this life, are the reward in themselves.

Interestingly enough, I caught a program on TV that was documenting and interviewing past members of the Cambodian Khmer Rogue and how they felt about some of the atrocities they committed during their horrible genocide campaign in the 1970’s. One man, who said he was a Buddhist, admitted he acted as a torturer and executioner for the Khmer at its height of terror. Obviously distraught, crying and rocking back and forth during the entire interview, the man expressed great remorse and regret for all the people he killed and spoke candidly about his fear that bad karma would come into his life and cause him great suffering. He looked like a skeleton of a man, living a life in fear and sorrow, and I thought to myself, “You are already living in your own private hell, no bad karma is needed.”


  1. My wife told me about a documentary she saw recently and I managed to find a few minutes of it on the internet. It was a documentary about men who had fought in the war in Azerbaijan a few years ago and what they did after the war. There was a shocking contrast between them - most of the mean looked like strong warriors during the war, but afterwards with the psychological effects and the sense of abandonment by their communities most of them became like empty shells - one of them was in prison, and another - one of the toughest-looking - in a mental institution.

    This, to me, is karma. I don't mean that 'bad things happen to people who do bad things'. This is naive and not borne out in reality. I just mean that the decision we make and the choices - especially the moral choies - we make shape the rest of our lives.

    My teacher described karma as cause and effect from the point of view of ego, that is, the ego lays claim to the causes 'actions' and to the effects 'consequences'.

  2. energy given ..will cycle .. to you .. it is part of development in life ..spiritually or whatever word you want to put on it.. we are to grow energies here.. we have labeled certain actions as bad or evil and other actions as good or of the gods.... energy has different vibrational levels.. people with anger that tend to attack others to feed their anger ...or whatever action done against another leaves an unpleasant feel or taste in someone somewhere.. that unpleasant feel is the opposite of love... the energy of 'love' is comfy cozy ..feel good stuff with ice cream and sunshine.. the energy of anger and attack cold and has no beauty.. it gives the feel of fear ..accentuates hatred and anger and meanness to another creates that vibrational ugly energy..but to some its not ugly..they enjoy the feel..etc .. the long and short of it.. you will get back..what you put out.. and you will become what you put rally the forces darlin .. choose well and always do the right thing..or karma.. will find you that could be a good thing eh? : )