Ten Ways in Which Karma Affects Our Lives
Ten Implications of Karma Doctrine
According to the Karma Doctrine in Hinduism, actions have positive or negative consequences, depending upon the intentions with which we perform them. Good deeds lead to peace and happiness and a better life in the next birth, and bad deeds lead to their opposite. Literally speaking, karma means any actions which we perform with our karmendriyas (the organs of action) namely the hands, the feet, the mouth, the anus and the genitals.
However, in a philosophical sense, karma includes both physical and mental actions. In other words, karma arises from all our actions which we may perform with our minds and bodies consciously and unconsciously. Our lives and destinies are shaped by them. As the Bhagavadgita states, even inaction (doing nothing or delaying an action ) can have consequences.
Such consequences need not necessarily arise in the current birth or in the immediate future. According to our beliefs, they may manifest in future lives. Belief in karma broadens our vision of life and helps us think about our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing on a long-term basis spanning across several lives. For Hindus, belief in karma is integral to their faith. Its origins are rooted in the ancient Darshana schools (philosophies) who speculated upon the relationship between causes and effects.
The working of karma cannot be proved conclusively as we cannot accurately establish the connection between our actions (causes) and their consequences (effects). However, we can infer from observation and experience that our lives are largely shaped by our thoughts and actions, those of others and of chance. They also depend upon how we respond to situations and resolve our problems. Hindus believe that karma is a deity (devata) who ensures that the law of consequences is properly regulated and implemented.
Belief in karma affects our lives in several ways. It teaches us that we must take responsibility for lives and actions and live responsibly. Karma is inherent in many functions of Nature, and in the way life goes on in our world. We often see the predominance and triumph of evil and falsehood, and the defeat of truth and righteousness. Such aberrations can be explained well by the karma doctrine. Here are ten most important implications of karma, or how it affects our lives in beneficent and transformative ways.
1. Karma is a perfecting mechanism
Karma is not entirely a punishing and rewarding mechanism, although outwardly it may appear so. Karma helps us in our self-transformation and self-improvement through a gradual and grading process, although is time consuming and tedious and may span across several lives. Reward and punishment are the transformative means through which we are pushed by the laws of karma towards purity and perfection so that we will spiritually become self-aware and fit for liberation. It is similar to the manner in which a sculptor carves and chisels a beautiful statue from a stone or a potter makes a pot from clay.
2. Karma teaches valuable lessons
We may not always notice it, but life teaches us many valuable lessons. These lessons are but the lessons of karma only, which we learn when we cross milestones, make mistakes, observe or violate natural laws, engage in desire-ridden actions, succumb to bad habits or evil impulses, and so on. When we engage in unwholesome actions and negativity, we keep suffering, and the lessons will keep repeating in various ways until we pay them attention and learn from them. If you are not happy, examine why you have precipitated this situation, where you failed, what lessons you ignored to follow or learn, and how you can end the suffering by learning from them.
3. Karma lets you know how you are doing in life
Your thoughts and actions shape your life. They let you know where you stand in life, where you are heading, whether you are making right choices and how satisfied you are with your circumstances. As the fruit of your actions and decisions, karma is a barometer of your material and spiritual progress If you are enjoying a good life, it means you are reaping the rewards of a meritorious past and engaging in right actions or making right decisions However, if you are mostly dissatisfied with your life or with yourself and if your actions are not yielding desired results, it is an indication that you may have to rethink and reevaluate your life and make suitable changes to correct the situation.
4. Karma helps you take responsibility for your suffering
People tend to blame others for their problems or failures. They project their own faults and failures into others to avoid negative thoughts about themselves. The truth is, our suffering is mostly self-created. We create it through our actions, ignorance, delusion, lack of control, desires, poor knowledge, indiscretion, mistakes, errors in judgment, poor choices, negligence and so on. Blaming others is in itself a bad karma. When we realize how we hurt ourselves through our own thoughts and actions and try sincerely not to repeat the same mistakes, we have an opportunity to resolve our suffering, although we may not completely escape from it. It is also a good karma to be truthful and honest with yourself.
5. Karma makes you live responsibly
If you believe in the law of karma, you know that you are solely responsible for your life and destiny, and you cannot blame others for whatever happens to you. Others may influence your life and actions, but deep down it is a part of your karma only. This awareness shall make anyone feel responsible for one’s life and actions. It shall encourages you to be on the right side of life and engage in actions which will bring you peace and happiness. Live responsibly, knowing that actions have consequences, and what you do to others or think about them will return to you with multiplied force. Some ascetic groups in Hinduism know this and accept criticism without countering it, even if it is false and unfounded.
6. Karma makes you answerable to your relationships
The world is a web of relationships and attachments. Our thoughts and actions leave their ripples in the ocean of samsara which may touch others and leave their impact upon us and them, especially because we are driven by attraction and aversion and engage in desire-ridden and selfish actions. It means, we have to be careful how we deal with others or what we think about them. We do not live in isolation. We are connected to others through innumerable, invisible bonds. What you do in life will create positive or negative consequences for you and they. We shall therefore be aware that our actions lead to both individual and collective karma., and must take responsibility for our actions and relationships.
7. Karma gives you hope
One positive aspect of the karma doctrine is that it teaches you to be self-reliant, believe in yourself and acknowledge your role in your suffering as well as enjoyment. It teaches to be the master of your life and destiny, and not to give up believing in yourself or rising to the occasion. Your present life is a consequence of your past actions, and your future will depend upon how you resolve them and what actions you perform in the present. You may seek the assistance of gods, but again it is your call. It means that if you are not satisfied with your present circumstances, you still have hope to change it or improve upon it by your own thoughts and actions. Knowing where you went wrong or how created the present reality, you can always sow new seeds for a brighter and better future.
8. Karma helps you make peace with your circumstances
Belief is karma teaches us that we should accept our present circumstances as a consequence of our own past actions, and blame neither God nor others nor fate. Even the so-called fate is a consequence of our own actions. Also, we should not envy others who are more successful and prosperous than we and incur more negative karma, because they may be reaping the reward of their past actions. The best approach is to make peace with the present and be contended within ourselves, rather than blaming others and harboring anger and resentment. It may also help you not to envy others, their success or happiness since you see it as the fruit of their past actions. It is also beneficial to forgive others who may have wronged you because they may be acting according to your karma only.
9. Karma strengthens your faith
People's faith in God and divine justice is shaken when they look upon him as the source or the cause of their happiness and sorrow, and when it appears that he is not at all responding to their prayers and supplications or seemingly supporting evil people. Our scriptures suggest that God is indifferent and do not intervene in our lives, except in rare cases. When you realize that your life is not shaped by God or any deity but by your own actions, and you can seek divine intervention through exemplary devotion and desireless actions, you will look upon God as liberator and savior rather than the cause of your problems. Devotional worship and service are considered good karma. They strengthen your faith and devotion rather than weaken it, and they are the best means to seek divine intervention to neutralize bad karma.
10. Karma helps you appreciate diversity and disparities
Diversity is an essential and integral part of God’s creation. It is inherent in the very functioning of Nature and the laws that govern our lives. The Vedas acknowledge that God created different classes of beings for different purposes. Therefore, however enlightened and compassionate we are, we cannot ignore the harsh reality of social and economic disparities. They exist because of karma or individual and collective actions only. Knowing that the law of karma is universal and impartial, we cannot attribute them to God or some manmade system or institution. This awareness shall help us accept the disparities and inequalities in life with philosophical stoicism and improve our lives through self-effort.
You do not have to believe in God or in Hinduism to believe in karma. Buddhists and Jains also believe in karma, but not in God or divine justice. Even as a rational person, it should be clear that although it may not always be possible to establish a clear connection between causes and effects or between our actions and their consequences, we can still see a vague connection between our lives and our actions. We cannot ignore the invisible connection between what we do and how we live, or how our lives are largely shaped by our thoughts, desires and actions. It should be comforting to anyone to know that it is within your control to do something about your life and destiny through intelligent choices, actions and decisions.
Suggestions for Further Reading
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- Ten Distinguishing Features Of Hinduism
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- Hindu Gods - Lord Ganesha
- Symbolism and Significance of the Descent Of Ganga
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- The Origin and Significance of the Epic Mahabharata
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- Symbolism in the Story of Sagar Manthan, the Churning of The Ocean
- The Symbolic Significance of Puja Or Worship In Hinduism
- Essays On Dharma
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- Introduction to Hinduism
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- Essays On Karma
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- The Origin of The Sanskrit Language
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- Essays on The Upanishads
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