top of page
  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

K is for Karma

“Before you act, you have freedom, but after you act, the effect of that action will follow you whether you want it to or not. That is the law of karma.” Paramahansa Yogananda

Karma, is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘karman’ and roughly translates to ‘action,’ ‘to act’ ‘effect’ or ‘fate’ The concept of Karma is core in some Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism where it is specifically refers to how a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence decide their fate in future lives.

Karma is a word meaning the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect and encourages people to take responsibility for their actions and to expect and accept the consequences. The thinking is that if you put good into the world, good comes back to you whereas if you choose to do harm you will suffer the consequences of your actions in the long run

Karma is also about intention.

“The intentions behind actions are what matters. Those who are only motivated by the desire for the fruits of actions are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do” Bhagwat Geeta

The opposite of karma is inaction and a belief that destiny has predetermined your present and future with no way of changing it.

I definitely don’t belief in the opposite of karma because I do think that our actions have an impact on our lives and that of others but I’ve not really thought much about karma, per se, in the past apart from when ‘bad things’ have happened to ‘good people’ and it has made me question where the fairness (karma) is in that.

“Your believing or not believing in karma has no effect on its existence, nor on its consequences to you. Just as a refusal to believe in the ocean would not prevent you from drowning.” F. Paul Wilson

Over time I have learned that life isn’t fair, it is what it is, and some will suffer because of others’ actions or lack of them and other, seemingly ‘good’ people, will die through accidents or because of horrible illnesses despite living healthy lives or doing all the ‘right’ things and being beautiful, kind people. All we can do is to step in and help alleviate suffering where we can.

“It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others. This perspective is at the heart of Buddhist teachings.” Daisaku Ikeda

What I like about the idea of karma is that if we do all we can to do good in the world, through our daily interactions with others, and things still go ‘wrong’ then it can help us to relax and accept life as it is, knowing that we don’t know the bigger picture and don’t have ultimate control.

There are a lot of familiar sayings all based around the same theme:

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”,

“What goes around comes around.”,

“You get back the same energy you put out.”

“You reap what you sow.”

all imply a sort of ‘cosmic justice’ that will make it all ‘fair’ in the end.

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.”

Edwin Hubbell Chapin

For me karma is basically an energy. A person gives out energy through their thoughts, words and actions, and it will come back, in time either directly or through other people. We have to reap what we sow, so we should aim to spend our life in a positive way, treating everyone with kindness.

“By each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” David Mitchell

If you take something as ‘simple’ (??!?,) as your thoughts e.g. if you look for the negative all the time then you will see it; your relationships will lack trust and intimacy whereas if you look for the positive, your view of life and your relationships will be entirely different.

We all have daily opportunities to change the direction of our lives and the lives of others if we embrace new experiences and connections

“Even chance meetings … are the result of karma. …things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.” Haruki Murakami

Hindus see time as a circle where things cycle around and return again. Karma is a law that applies to everybody regardless of status. ; it puts man at the centre of responsibility for everything he does and everything that is done to him. The practice of trying to live a virtuous life because of this is called dharma.

“There are the waves, and there is the wind, seen and unseen forces. Everyone has these same elements in their lives, the seen and unseen, karma and free will.” Kuan Yin

In Hinduism, the belief is that karma is something that extends beyond this life. The pleasures and pain you experience in your current life may have been caused by your decision-making in the life before this one.

There are three types of karma in Hinduism:

1. sanchita karma, the sum total of past karmas yet to be resolved;

2. prarabdha karma, that portion of sanchita karma that is to be experienced in this life; and

3. kriyamana or agami karma, the karma that humans are currently creating, which will bear fruit in future i.e. it is the result of current decisions and actions.

In the Buddhist tradition, the emphasis is more on the present. The energy that you put into the world or the choices that you make will return to you in this life, both the good and the bad. In Buddhism, karma refers to action driven by intention (cetanā) which leads to future consequences. Those intentions are considered to be the determining factor in the kind of rebirth in samsara, the cycle of rebirth.

“When you truly understand karma, then you realize you are responsible for everything in your life.” Keanu Reeves

There is no universal symbol for karma ( “ कर्म “ in Sanskrit) but instead various symbols e.g. the lotus flower which symbolically represents karma in many Asian traditions. A blooming lotus flower is one of the few flowers that simultaneously carries seeds inside itself while it blooms. Seed is symbolically seen as cause, the flower effect. The lotus is also considered a reminder that one can grow, share good karma and stay unchanged as a person.

Another frequently used symbol is the endless knot, symbolising the interlinking of cause and effect (for every action there is an outcome i.e. you are free to choose but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.)

“Learn to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Leonardo da Vinci

The benefits of acting intentionally:

“Live a good and honourable life. Then, when you are older, you can look back and enjoy it a second time.” Dalai Lama

Our thoughts , words and actions, or lack of them, have an impact on our own lives as well as on the lives of others

“If your actions were to boomerang back on you instantly, would you still act the same?” Alexandra Katehakis

Further reading:

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page