The word Karma literally means “action.” The law of karma refers to our actions and the reactions we set in motion when we do something. India’s spiritual tradition consider the law of karma a natural law, similar to the law of gravity. That is, it’s a law that acts irrespective of whether one believes in it or not.

Acts of kindness offered to others tend to attract kindness of others; malicious actions tend to do the opposite; and we feel pain.

Of course, our experience in this world often shows us the opposite: good people suffer and bad people go unpunished. But all actions have corresponding reactions, and all reactions are fulfilled in time. Whatever action is performed is like planting a seed that will eventually grow to produce a corresponding reaction. A seed may lie in the ground for sometime, but when the conditions are right, it will sprout and grow. We can’t always predict when this will happen.

The principles of karma is simple, but the details of how it operates are complex.

A simple example is that if someone were to get malaria, it is not possible for that person to trace the exact mosquito who had bitten them. Despite this, the symptoms are clear and now they have to take proper treatment.

We may not be able to trace the specific cause of our suffering, but we can ascertain that at some time we have acted in a way that sowed the seed that grew into our present condition. The seed may have been sown in this life or another, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is recognising our symptoms, taking the proper treatment now and being careful of reinfection in the future.

The philosophy of karma is not meant to induce depression or an unhealthy guilt; it is provided to help us grow emotionally and spiritually in whatever our situation is by taking responsibility for our choices and then gaining wisdom from whatever ensues. With this understanding, let’s briefly explore ways we can benefit from this vision.

Think of karma as an aspect of the universe that realigns itself in response to how we love in the universe. That is, for every action, there will be a corresponding reaction. Because life is a long continuum of actions and reactions, our results, our results include both joy and suffering. Both can bring wisdom if we open ourselves up to our responsibility for our actions and we desire that wisdom.

Making wise choices in our personal behaviour, especially in how we treat others, is often a good place to start when thinking of how to apply the concept of karma to better ourselves.

Four Stages of Karma

  1. Desire- The Seed | Bija

  2. Decision- The Bud | Kutastha

  3. Action- The Fruit | Phalonmukha

  4. Reaction- The Harvest | Parabhda