Dated January 17, 2019

Original text is at the bottom

"Karma" is one of the well-known words that English has adopted from Sanskrit. "Pundit" is another word which comes to my mind.

However, the process of adoption distorts the words, many-a-times. "Pundit" does not mean the exact same thing, "Karma" does not sound anything like its root word, "कर्म".

Actually, they sound very similar; I just happen to have stretched that too much. But a great many words of the Sanskrit word bank have a trailing 'a', in their transliterated spellings. It leads to corruption of pronunciation. Much to my annoyance, many people do not pronounce my name correctly.

For what it is worth, there is no /a/ sound at the end of "karma", in the root word.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word "karma"? How would you define "karma"? What do you know about it? Do you believe in "karma"?

"Do you believe in karma?"--this isn't a question people discuss when they meet new people, but over time, you may hear them say something about it.

Well, I did. And in the Asian religions--Sanatana dharm[a], Buddhism, Jainism, and as far as I have heard, Sikhism and even Taoism; the way of living the life is based on the philosophy.

However, "karma" has two separate meanings, somewhat related, but different.

In the general discussion, karma means the actions--actions that you did, or you ought to do.

In the philosophical discussion of the previously mentioned religions, the word has a deeper meaning. The division of "अच्छे कर्म" or the good deeds; from "बुरे कर्म", the bad deeds come in the spotlight.

Any being, who practices the previously mentioned religion is taught to do [a] great many number of good deeds and avoid the bad ones; but--unlike the monotheistic religions; which promises an eternal life in heaven or hell (judaism does not have the concept of after-life) based on sins and repentance; the religion that focuses on re-incarnation; they speak of the total good deeds and bad deeds, and that sum would determine which form would the being take, in their reincarnated life, and how difficult their new life will be.

The ideology is, speaking for the sanatana dharma, that the "endless" cycle of re-incarnation ends when the being is able to escape the mohmaayaa (मोहमाया) of the life, and they attain the higher level of consciousness. This enlightenment, or gaining the level of consciousness--this elevation is called "moksh" (मोक्ष) "मोक्ष प्राप्त होना" (transliteration: moksh praapt honaa) and may be explained as "gaining freedom from the delusions of the worries of this life, in order to attain that state of mind where the delusions start to feel petty".

The philosophy of karma in any of the previously mentioned religions: there is this saying:

  1. "अच्छा करने वालों के साथ अच्छा होता है।"
  2. "जैसी करनी, वैसी भरनी।"
  3. "जैसा कर्म करोगे, वैसा फल प्राप्त करोगे।"

While all three essentially convey the same meaning: the way they have been phrased, that could be the reason why people may be unclear about what it means. (More on that in a moment.)

The translations are:

  1. "Good things happen to those who perform good deeds."
  2. "You receive [based on] what you do."
  3. "As you sow so shall you reap."

I must admit the third phrase is not the most accurate translation, but that idiom is dangerously close to the intended meaning.

I don't think all the people understand the concept of karma. And to be frank, "I believe in karma" is a meaningless sentence that people use. I don't know if the people saying this are aware that it is just a set of words which makes no sense.
"I believe in justice".
"I believe in the supreme court".
"I believe my heart".

They are some of the other set of words which makes no sense. The last one seems to be out of place, but it may help understand why it is wrong.

"I believe my heart"--what? That your heart is on the left half? That it pumps blood? What?

"I believe in the supreme court"--what? Do you believe supreme court will rule in a just manner? If so, say so.

"Omit needless words". But it is very different from "Omit words".

I don't want to be speech-policing, but when you say "I believe in Karma", which may mean
"I believe good things would happen to me as a return gift for my good deeds, and in contrast, bad things would happen to me as punishment for my bad deeds"--it sounds silly.
As if the entire universe is consciously plotting to award or punish you by monitoring your actions continuously. No, you are not continuously being watched by external agents; we aren't there yet, thank you very much. [You are too trivial for this cosmos for it to maintain records of what your ought to receive.]

Call it wishful thinking, but I am curious to learn about the hypothetical world where the universe has its own conscience.

I am not sure why people say "I believe in karma" without any consideration of the possibility that it may be incorrect, and they are doing no good as they missed what karma is meant to symbolise.

To be honest, I like the idea of karma--that it counts both good and bad deeds. The reason being that you would not be condemned till the end of time for the bad deeds. Even if you have done something that can be classified as a bad deed, you are not doomed. You can still try to be a better person. You have many chances to do good things. And more importantly, repentance is not the precursor to salvation. If you have ever done a bad thing, and you regret it--it is good that you analyse your actions; but if you strongly regret it, you would try to make up for it. The concept of karma provides opportunities for making the world a better place.

I feel the concept of counting the weights of all the good deeds and all the bad ones also try to teach people to be accountable for their actions. But chaining it with re-incarnation, it is a caution for people that if you somehow escape the consequences of your actions now; well, you can not outrun it forever.

So even though I can see the good motivations to base the idea of re-incarnation of the accountability of one's own actions, I do not subscribe to the idea as I have not discovered any evidence to trust incarnation is an actual phenomenon.

Remember that quote: "Good things happen to those who do good deeds?"
The way this quote is framed, it gives creates an illusion of that: something good ought to happen if you do good deeds. Or as if the universe somehow owes you a good thing in return for your good actions, I might as well argue that such greedy and self-centric desires undo the good deeds and now the bad deeds weigh more. (I promise I will tell you why)

One of my favourite quotes has been spoken by one of my least favourite mythological beings, Krishna.
(What is the difference between "mythical" and "mythological"?)

The version of the verse I like is:
"कर्म करते जा,फल की आशा मत रख।"
which translates to, "Keep on performing your actions, do not expect returns."

However, the entire quote is:

"कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ ४७॥

I would use Swami Dayananda Saraswati's translation:
"Your choice is in action only, never in the results thereof. Do not think you are the author of the results of action. Let your attachment not be to inaction."

It would be a valid concern:
if no entity owes me, if I should not expect any results of actions, and if there are no convincing proofs to trust reincarnation is a real phenomenon, why to bother doing good deeds?

(I hope I remember to offer my views on "reincarnation"--what it may symbolise.)

I have seen people do good things by their own will, but not by heart. I could not help but notice the duality of their personality of acting noble in front of everyone, but their standards degrade when they aren't being watched.

There are some who help the needy for the reason: "मदद करना पुण्य का काम होता है।"

I do not know how to translate it, as I have no idea how to best explain what "पुण्य" means. However, I can say for certain that anyone who does the deeds labelled "good" for the sake of earning some brownie points, they have not earned done any good deeds, and they would not receive any good returns.

"Why?", you may ask.

I said that we weren't being monitored by an external agent continuously. Do you remember the second quote? "You receive [based on] what you do." So how does that work without any arbitrator?

The important thing that people who "believe in karma" are missing is that the bad deeds that you perform consciously, any external entity may not be watching it, but the mind is. The mind monitors you continuously. The bad deeds that you do, it disturbs the mental peace and rots your mind. Bad deeds destabilise the mind and you lose control over your own mind. You can't control your mind and thus, you are more susceptible to the bad experiences. Also, the bad deeds that you do, if you are aware of it, the feeling of guilt is going to add to the misery.

Anyone who is trapped inside the intense feeling of guilt, lost their mental peace, and have a destabilised mind out of their control, they "receive" the "punishment" of their bad deeds almost immediately,
and what "instant karma" now means--getting "pwned" by someone else, it is just a coincidence. The one experiencing guilt, has lost the peace, whose mind is chaos and who can't control their mind, they also become restless, and they are like a wrecking ball. Not just because the wrecking ball causes destruction [in its path], but, the wrecking ball does not have the consciousness to realise the destruction they are causing, and how it is also hurting them.

I really can't think of a more terrible situation than:

  • feeling guilty
  • losing peace of mind
  • destabilised mind
  • unable to control the mind
    and becoming restless[, as well as impatient]

People do stupid things when they are impatient [because they can not think or analyse properly]. In this case, the person loses their most priced prized possession.

And those who try to ignore the ill-feelings that the bad deeds ignite:

Ignorance is a bliss…ter.

Don't be ignorant or arrogant--which is going to dehumanise you, as you start surrendering the feeling of emotions. You would not feel satisfied, you would not feel complete.

For those [dual personality people] who are performing actions labelled "good", the reason they would not experience anything good is because their mind is also convinced such deed would earn them brownie point which they can exchange for gifts: unfortunately, but unsurprisingly; they are not in control of their own minds. The mind is too busy being self-absorbed, that it is restless. The mind is at higher state of entropy and therefore, it is unstable.

The other half: the good actions done willingly, without any greed of the reward, because they feel it is a nice thing to do; those people attain mental peace and [a] sense of satisfaction. That is undoubtedly the greatest "gift" one could receive. The stability they attain: it is the instant gratification.

And therefore, good deeds, which calms you--it acts as an excellent medicine against the traumatic experiences of bad deeds. It is very easy to disturb an already destabilised system. But any system in equilibrium would tend to stay in equilibrium. Mental peace makes the mind stable, makes the being feel relaxed, calm, and above all, makes them patient, granting them [a] clear vision.

A great many things are possible when a person has patience and peace of mind.

The universe does not owe you any happiness. Nor do you need to wait to reap the reward. There is no greater reward than having control over a peaceful, patient mind. You are reaping the reward.

You are accountable for your happiness. There is no list of good deeds and the bad deeds which is applicable for to everyone, you have to figure out on your own. But one thing I can say for certain is that the good deeds will humble you and make you experience joy.

And I disagree with that quote that we aren't the authors of the result of [our] action. Every action that we do with our will, it dictates the plausible result. We aren't being judged by any external entity. Our conscience and our mind are with us, continuously monitoring, and they "reward" us accordingly. The mind is the best judge, and the punisher as you can't escape your mind.

So, to answer the question:
No, karma is not a bitch. Probably you are--for choosing to do something that your conscience was warning you about, and you choose to do it anyway--becoming the author of your own misery.
And then you shamelessly blame it on karma. Karma doesn't bite you in the ass. Your decisions and actions have an affect effect on you as well as the surroundings, which you are accountable for.

Remember when I said[,] "I might argue that greedy, self-centric desires undo the good deeds"? such desires spark the "want" in you and your mind is restless about it. It is unstable and your mental peace is flushed out. And hence, "bad deeds would weigh more than good", as its results are influencing you.

If you do not control your wants, they would control your mind. Focus on what you need, and not what you want. You don't have a convincing reason for your wants. But you know why exactly you need something.

"I want to be rich."
"I want donuts."
"I want to watch the movie."

"I need to rest."
"I need some advice."
"I need a glass of water."

Wants aren't alienable, and you should use your conscience. Remember that "we often trade the long-term benefits for small, potentially insignificant benefits."

I think the higher state of consciousness, the moksh praapti, it refers to attaining the peace of mind that it is undisturbed and can not be disturbed. The long-term benefit of peace of mind to escape the mohmaaya frees us from the illusions of the trivial problems in the life.

Karma is a beautiful concept, tied with re-incarnation. Not taking it literally, and looking at what it symbolises:
Every new stage in your life is determined by your past actions: if you did good, you enjoy the peace. If you did bad, the terrible feelings it causes--those are the obstacles and the hardships [of the "new life"]. You can improve in at this moment, which determines the next moment.
And each moment is like a new life, resulting from the deeds you have done, and the "re-birth" ends with attaining the inner peace which liberates you from the temporary issues.

With the peace of mind that one achieves, the clear mind is able to navigate and filter away the maayaajaal--the illusionary trap: and feel satisfied. It is not the ignorance of the worldly problems, but prioritising them and weighing its impact.

What Krishna told Arjun about doing your work without losing control of your mind to desires of returns; it can be deconstructed to understand.
A newbie needs to have the encouragement to practice critical thinking which is crucial for moksh praapti.
It makes you think "why should I not care about the reward?" when the entire life you have been rewarded or punished. This quote, the learning ignites self-discovery of the working of [the] mind and how to not fall for the traps. It also emphasises on continuing the [good] work.

You are very much the author of rewards that you reap--which is embedded in your actions you are responsible for and you have chance to attain moksh, no matter what you have done, no matter what you have been through. You are not out of chances, as each moment, resulting in the situation you have already, lets you to be better than you are.

Don't say "Karma is a bitch", be accountable for your actions as your mind would be the judge.
Do you still "believe in karma" or do you understand the state of mind is the best reward and the endless cycle of re-incarnation ends with you gaining the everlasting peace of mind, or when you die.

Use your conscience to decide what your goal is.