Is Karma Real?

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Is Karma Real?
Self

What is karma? We’ve all heard “what goes around comes around,” but how true is this?

Karma was originally found in the religious teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, but the reality of karma has been long debated.

Is karma real?

Karma seems to be real when something good or bad happens.

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Karma is real when it explains why certain people reap rewards and to justify extreme punishments by fate as a result of decisions taking place.

Believing that karma is real can help to keep society in line. Karma is real in that it ensures that we are putting good into the world.

Outside of religious belief, it's hard to prove whether or not karma is or isn't real.

Some ancient religions teach that karma is what you practice.

Rather it is simply a belief in practice.

In Buddhism, karma primarily means intentional actions in thought, word, and deed, as stated by Tricycle.

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Belief in karma is that “skillful intentions tend toward pleasant results and unskillful intentions toward painful results.”

However, this is a little different than the modern outlook of karma.

Buddhist guidance explains that these intentions must “be free of greed, aversion, and delusion.”

This seems to be the part where we get a little lost when it comes to karma.

Even I fall victim to making a decision that I believe will benefit me, in the long run, using karma as an excuse.

Nonetheless, karma is real when it is rooted in selflessness because it compels the person to take any action to promote cause and effect.

There also comes the importance of wisdom within our intentions.

When we make decisions that are well thought out, it’s more likely that we will gain positive results, and it can be referred to as "karma".

Buddhism accepts the inevitability of suffering which implies that bad karma or negative results will continue to present themselves.

This is why the Buddha urged against working out all the implications of karma.

Tricycle describes, “actions yield results, but nobody deserves to suffer.”

Unfortunately, there is no way to outlast the effects of karma.

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We will all suffer and get back up, just like we will all receive blessings and give to others.

American Theravada Buddhist monk, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, clarifies that “the only happiness that’s truly reliable — and genuinely harmless all around — is the happiness of nirvana, which isn’t dependent on karma at all.”

The hope in Buddhism is that we relinquish the strain of karma and find enlightenment.

The modern-day vision of karma

Similar to many, my first introduction to the idea of karma came from my mom who used it as a way to assure me that those who wronged me will get what’s coming.

It was comforting to know that with time, they will be punished for hurting me.

From here, the decisions I made came with a desire to never receive that same punishment.

I felt that by intentionally hurting someone, bad karma would come my way.

Nevertheless, I’m human and I make mistakes.

So, I wouldn’t always settle on the right choice.

Did something bad happen to me? If so, was it overlooked as a coincidence?

Or did I see it as the natural course of life?

This cycle has continued for what feels like my whole life — wanting to believe that others might be punished and hoping that it’ll skip over me.

Karma has pushed us all to believe in a powerful cosmic working and maybe this is the only truth we need.

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The reality of karma

Simply put, the way we perceive karma is not real.

Radford University professor, Ian Barland, explains that “it’s not some mystical force of the universe that restores balance, punishes evil-doers, and rewards the meek.”

However, karma is a real social, psychological reaction to events.

Barland gave two examples of the way karma works within our society.

The first comes from some simple neighborhood friendliness.

He tells how his neighbors once took out his trash for him.

He appreciated this gesture and will repay the favor every now and then if they haven’t already rolled out their trash can.

So, their good karma is being repaid and vice versa.

The second example involves a friend of his who had financial troubles in college.

This friend was lucky enough to receive financial aid from an anonymous donor.

Once she graduated and became more financially stable, she began to make frequent donations to the same scholarship fund.

The ebb and flow of karma in this scenario shows that her giving is a result of her receiving.

Positive signs of others’ generosity will most likely influence you to do the same.

This is the way karma typically plays out.

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The reverse can also be seen clearly. If you feel that your call for help is never heard, you may be less willing to help others.

Barland believes that karma only needs a small amount of energy to keep moving.

He says, “If I take the initiative to be kind in small ways, without expectation of returned favors, only then do I help karma flow around my community, returning to me unexpectedly.”

There is no way to guarantee that you will receive reward for your good acts.

Instead, you must hope that your kindness and generosity will help others and inspire their decision making.

You shouldn’t have a hidden agenda to the karma you put out into the world, just like you shouldn’t expect to be recognized for your goodness.

How to live according to good karma

We all find our own unique ways to be the best person we can be.

If karma is how you find your motivation, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Always remember that karmic action is based in selfless love.

Do good for the joy of doing good. Accept that things can’t always be perfect.

And celebrate the small things that come your way everyday.

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Isabella Pacinelli is a writer who covers relationship, self-love, spirituality, and entertainment topics.