Karma – What is it and How Does it Work?

The lotus flower, a symbol of karma.
Tema, Nezahat Gokyigit Park, Kucukbakkalkoy, Istanbul

I’ve been thinking a lot about karma lately, what it is, and how it works. I actually worked all of this out while talking out loud to one of my cats.

Wikipedia says:

Karma means action, work or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and future suffering.

I don’t disagree with any of that, but it implies that karma is focused on individuals, and I don’t believe that. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Karma is not a currency, it is an effect.
  • Karma is not individual, it is universal.

Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Karma is not a currency; Karma is an effect.

A lot of people think of karma as a currency. They believe that when you do good things, you acquire good karma, and when you do bad things, you acquire bad karma. These karma-currencies are then spent on good luck or bad luck.

IE if you won the lottery, you “spent” your good karma and now you will need to do other good things for more good things to happen to you. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen things work this way. Lots of bad people win the lottery and “only the good die young,” so barring the idea that dying isn’t a bad thing, it seems like good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.

Another example would be when a bad thing happens, you “deserve” it because you had bad karma built up. But, now it’s spent and universal justice has been doled and now you can move on with life and everything is balanced and “reset”. I don’t agree with this, either.

As Wikipedia said, “Karma means action, work or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect”. This is what I’ve decided to be true.

Karma is a concept that when you do good, good thing will come back to you and if you do bad, bad things will come back to you. But it’s not a currency.

Instead, it’s cause and effect.

Pay it Forward.

We are all familiar with the concept of “pay it forward” right? If not, basically the idea is that if you do a good thing for someone, they pay it forward and do a good thing for someone, and this goes on in perpetuity and we have a chain reaction of good things happening.

This is karma, and this is how karma works.

When you do good things, good things come back to you simply because good things have been bouncing around the universe, being paid forward.

When you do bad things, bad things come back to you simply because bad things have been bouncing around the universe, being paid forward.

Ripples in a pond.

Think of it like ripples in a pond. When you toss something heavy into a body of water, ripples form, and they go out from the center of contact.

If multiple things are thrown into the pond, the ripples bounce around off each other.

The pond is the universe, and the stones being thrown into it are our actions.

Our ripples are bouncing off one another, and affecting each other.

It’s not individual. Let’s unpack that, now.

Karma is not individual; Karma is universal.

While, as individuals, our actions do have effects, karma itself is not based on an individual’s good and bad deeds.

As previously stated, it’s the concept of pay-it-forward.

As we do good deeds, we send them out into the universe and so more people do more good deeds.

Then more good deeds are sent out into the universe and again, more good deeds.

The more good deeds we, as individuals, create…the more will be created and out in the universe.

Unfortunately, the same goes for bad deeds.

If we’re all walking around like the biggest assholes in town, that’s going to be a problem for everyone. It gets paid forward.

It’s probability, really.

Taking a look at how it’s not individual, but universal, is really just probability.

Let’s say red marbles are bad and green marbles are good.

If you have 10 of each, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll pull a red (bad) or green (good) one out.

If you have 5 red (bad) and 15 green (good), you have a much higher chance (75%) of pulling out a green (good) marble.

This is how karma is universal and not individual.

Every time you do a good thing, you’re increasing the odds of a good thing happening to you because you’re putting more good karma out into the world.

Every time you do a bad thing, you’re increasing the odds of a bad thing happening to you because you’re putting more bad karma out into the world.

Some side notes.

In the context of this post, karma is 100% human controlled.

Getting hit by a bus or winning the lottery are events that are the results of ((human action) + (chance)).

Doing lots of good things will not help you win the lottery, and doing lots of bad things will not cause you to be hit by a bus.

Karma does not work that way.

Karma is only based on human actions and is the universal cause and effect of more good creating more good, and more bad creating more bad.

Events that are ((human action) + (chance)) exist independently of karma.

Go do good.

Please share your thoughts.