Do you believe in karma?

I do not. It seems that in this world, many bad people rise to the top.

What’s so great about the top? :neutral_face:

i think we reap what we sow, but there is more to life than karma. you are born to be you and me me, if we all act by dharma so as to avoid karmic returns then we wouldn’t be true to ourselves.

i see life as more like a slot in time, a history, where people don’t always act right and there is a greater dynamic to that! we are born with a given nature e.g. einstien was to become who he was etc etc.

you make it sound as though there were some intent behind it …?

more about the dynamic in individuality, but yes in all time our ‘slot’ would be our whole life, what you are completely.

Cause-and-effect Sutra

Karma can be understood as cause-and-effect. If I were to adopt a very broad understanding of karma as cause-and-effect, I can’t say I have much of a problem with it. The specifics? Well, that depends on the specifics, now doesn’t it?

I believe in tit for tat but that has nothing to do with karma.

Karma’s BS. It arose out of the human yearning for justice and equality.

karma = cause and effect? thing is most things we do are not like energy interactions, we could have an affair and as long as it don’t get noticed then no karmic effect!

on another note [vegetarianism karmic basis]; if we kill a cow we get bad karma, so what a herd of cows will come and get me? moreover if we don’t they over populate then suffer and die from starvation!

i would like to here a single example of how karma works + what the ethic means in real terms?

Depends on how you think about karma. There have been plenty of interpretations throughout history. In some cases, it adopts a causative agency somewhat analogous to Providence in the Western tradition. So in the affair example, it would be your karma to cheat, your s/o’s karma to be cuckolded, and the person-you-cheated-with’s karma to entangle themselves in an emotional dead-end of a sexual encounter. If we take it a step back from such an extreme position, there are others that would render that situation meaningful in a karmic sense. Perhaps it doesn’t affect you at all (assuming, of course, that other lives aren’t brought into the equation) but it does affect the person you cheated on your s/o with in some manner. In that case, you’d just be a tool of the operation of karma. Even more abstractly, by cheating with that person you may have avoided getting hit by a bus. Plenty of ways to Deus-Ex-Mechanica it. It really depends on your interpretation.

Likewise with vegetarianism. From a demographic perspective, people who eat meat have a greater incidence of cancer than those who do not. So perhaps it is the carnivore’s karma to develop cancer. Perhaps it is not, provided their balance remains on the positive side . . .

Since the mechanism of karma is, pretty much necessarily, a post-hoc explanation it can be used to explain anything and everything. Indeed, in Hinduism (more rarely, in some iterations of Buddhism) karma can be used to justify negative behavior! If, for example, I cheat someone, it was their karma to be cheated just as it was my karma to receive whatever benefit I did.

It is worth remembering that karma was originally developed using very early Indian/Vedic proto-logic. It developed and changed from there, with many different interpretations. Some of them clung to older understandings and seem/are quaint because of it. Others can be quite sophisticated, though Ing would be better at expressing what those are. While I pride my Confucian understanding as being quite refined, my understanding of Buddhism is quite rustic so it is better if I don’t discuss rarefied topics. But it does run the gambit from basically being Providence to just being cause-and-effect as you understand those terms, and everything in-between.

karma could be real, if and only if the human individual life extends beyond death or prior to birth; this is because when we only examine the individual life from birth to death, we see no evidence or reason to believe in any sort of karmic effect at all… “good” and “bad” events happen indiscriminately all the time, and the extent that we have control of our destiny is just the extent that we exercize volitive and rational control over our decision-making processes. however, even this does not guarantee that we will manifest desired or deserved effects in our futures. if, however, reincarnation is true, then there is a plethora of unknown information about ones life, which could provide the causes that generate such good or bad effects as we see in the world around us. if reincarnation is real, then karma could be the natural functioning of unknown energies obeying causality, and it could also be the willful direction of these energies by higher beings.

IF the human individual actually does reincarnate and live other lives, and IF these lives are tied together by subtle energies of higher vibrations, linking this individual lifeline to nature and other human life, then karma could be a naturally-occuring force, nothing more mysterios than cause and effect operating through a higher or unknown medium.

of course, this all presupposes that such reincarnation and higher subtle life energies do exist-- the question of karma comes down to these two questions, and the extent that we posit answers to them determines how likely it seems to us that karma is real or not.

Well, but the Buddhist stueck is “rebirth” not “reincarnation”. We are born anew every second, but we are only reincarnated upon our death. A world of difference between the two. Ing will disagree with me, but I think rebirth usually (necessarily?) entails reincarnation, but that is inside baseball. If reincarnation is the equation, rebirth is the derivative (though ‘reincarnation’ ought really be conceived as an integral of rebirth, but details).

well, i was not referring to buddhism, only to karma itself. the concept of karma transcends buddhism.

Don’t know about Karma per say but, I do know that if you act like crap you get crap in return eventually and same for acting kind or good. Besides; better safe then sorry.

yea, clearly cause and effect operates in our daily lives, and tends to manifest strongly over time. of course this is not for certain, there will always be the exceptions-- but the idea of karma is quite different than regular “people tend to treat you how you treat them”…

as for “better safe than sorry”, i would contend that while this seems logical on the surface, i dont know if its a valid reason for believing in anything, abscent evidence. certainly, we should ACT as if our actions matter, but i dont think we need to hold onto beliefs such as karmic law in order to justify acting in this way. rather, the golden rule can just be seen as a reflection of basic human behavior.

karma would contend that even if you do a “bad” or negative behavior, such as say killing a mouse you find in your house rather than letting it go outside, that this will have a negative effect on your overall karma-- this may or may not be true, but i dont think we should buy into that belief just because it MIGHT be true, just because “theres nothing to lose” by erroring on the side of caution. that same argument is invoked in trying to convince people to believe in god, or religion, but when you realise that there are countless beliefs out there, in order to “error on the side of caution” you would need to believe in them ALL equally, or rank them with regard to how potentially-bad they might be (hell, versus pergatory, for example), and then believe in the ones that seem the most potentially harmful to you if you rejected them… while this certainly would be “playing it safe”, its not any grounds for justifying ideological or religious belief systems. and certainly such attitude would not constitute true “belief” per se, excepting perhaps christianity, where it is encouraged to “fear” god and have this fear be a motivator for your beliefs…

the golden rule is all fine and good, but believing that i will be punished or negatively affected because i killed that mouse instead of letting him go is quite a different thing altogether. we would need further evidence to justify such a belief.

Well safe then sorry is one of the best rules of thumb to go by. It does not mean you stick to it it just means you run it through your brain then make an informed decision. Jumping off a cliff into water may be cool, I have done it many times, I would not jump from an unknown cliff. Why? Because I have no clue what is under the water. Belief is that way. Beliefs are cliffs, the water and what is under or not under is what you get if you jump off that cliff of belief. Check out the water before you dive into it from that cliff. Or don’t. Karma is a pretty rational idea. You get what you put into it. The older you get the more you see this is true, there are patterns in life. Karma is like Christianity, there are a lot of different sects in that religion, not all Christians believe the same thing. Karma adjusts itself for the individual. At least that is how I see it.
Check out that water as best you can then be safe or not. I have lived long enough to know that if I behave like an ass then it will come back and bite me on my ass. Most folks around my age or older have experienced the same. But its not karma that is believed per say it is just the patterns of life. You get what you put into it.

good points there.

in the secrecy example, for karma to have an effect it would have to be something that attaches itself to you? so now we are thinking of it as like an energy or something?

why dead end? such a thing could end up in marriage or partnership they often do. of course then the secrecy is no more, but why is it bad karma to get remarried, people change.

haha, nice one. this point to a chaos element where it all becomes meaningly by abstraction ad infinitum. it also becomes pointless when the sun goes supernova.

like the negative behaviour thing.

…and i like confucianism although my understanding of that is ‘rustic’ as you would say.

good point! if life does extend beyond death then how does karma/action effect the next incarnation? i suppose in loose terms we can say that our next incarnation is simply a composite of our present one. hence if one is a murderer then in the next incarnation we may has a disposition towards this [if circumstances bring it out in us].

i think we should mainly clear up the point that there are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ actions as such, considering that there is no good and bad, period. thats all a bit black n white for me, where life is rather grey.

secondly that it is not all about us! the environment is largely responsible for our every action. mostly we simply react to the given events, and we are designed to act is given ways too. that doesn’t leave a lot that comes down to us bar our disposition to act in a given way when confronted with something.

can we say that karma is largely that? i.e. ones incarnate totality [from one incarnation to the next] + our general and specific disposition to act and react to the given stimulus.

exactly! we may be missing the point that we are supposed to act and live in a certain way. you are supposed to be you and i, me. life is a story with many characters, if we all had no karma there would be no life in this sense.

‘reborn every second’? sounds a bit stop start to me, perhaps that actually equates as not being reborn in every second i.e. there is simply continuance our lives are merely sine-waves.

I disagree with your statement this time because I find it to be too focused on a specific interpretation of death. There is no ‘we’ to be reincarnated…when you lose that illusion, the issue disappears. Because it’s only conventionally real.

I don’t care much for discussions of karma as the term’s often viewed by westerners influenced by some new agey ideas of it. It’s not like there’s a Supreme Universal Accountant in the heavens keeping a chart of accounts on our deeds, reminding us to “keep it in the black, please.” Or even that we’re supposed to act as our own accountants, although we do need a reasonable moral code for living. Really, the self-centeredness of Chrisitianity’s assertion that God’s in control of our lives is no different from the New Age assertion that the Capitol-U Universe will provide for us. We suffer from our perceptions of separation when we abide by such notions. IMO. Karma is self-operating, a universal law of action and consequence, like a moral force. It’s not deterministic, however, because unlike in Hinduism (or any theistic doctrinces), there is no god who’s controlling anything. As I said, self-operating. It’s a driving force behind our actions, produces the effects that correspond to those actions and it’s this very thing that keeps us stuck in the cycle of life and death. You could think of it as the force behind the process of the world as perpetual becoming. If there’s a ‘goal’, at least in Buddhism, it’s in the possiblity of the release from this through the will. We are, after all, each beings with our own karma (call it the ongoing fruits of our actions), but our karma is fundamentally and infinitely linked to the ongoing flux of the force of karma in the universe. And the point is that we’re also beings with self-consciousness and free will, so we have the opportunity to be liberated (nirvana) through our actions that are informed by the fundamental realization of this beginningless/endless process of karma as it operates in the universe.

It’s important to understand that the concept of karma in a specifically Buddhist context (the popular idea of karma is a vague synthesis stemming from multiple historical traditions, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist) is best understood in relation to other Buddhist concepts - for instance “dependent arising” (Pratītyasamutpāda) and “emptiness” (Śūnyatā).

I personally think karma is best understood as an explanation of how the quality of our experience is determined by the quality of our thoughts, speech, and behavior - and that such deeds of body speech and mind can “ripen” at any time, after lying dormant. Thus, trying a “good deed” on for size won’t necessarily lead to any immediate effect - therefore the workings of karma resist study of a scientific or empirical nature. Yet if one goes about life as if karma is true, one will start to see the quality of their experience improve - even if “objectively bad” things occur. So “creating good karma”, even though typically understood in realist, linear, or otherwise somewhat deluded terms, inexorably leads the practitioner towards an ability to understand more subtle aspects of their existence. Liberation from karma is stated by Buddhist tradition as both possible and desirable, yet it is through the development of “good karma” that such liberation is most dependably made possible. It is like material comforts - a basic foundation of material comfort may be necessary for people to attend to what really matters in life. But to get caught up in pursuing more and more material comfort is to miss the point entirely. Like that, Buddhism takes the workings of karma for granted in a conventional sense, seeing that as important, but doesn’t dwell on the creation of good karma as the main point. So it might be slightly misleading to say that Buddhists “believe” in karma - after all, the person, the action, the karmic result, etc. are all empty of inherent existence. None of them have “real” or “true” existence, which confusing as it may sound at first is precisely why karma actually works.

I wrote an essay on how emptiness and virtue can be understood as related (please excuse the formatting problems).

Also, is another topic that discussed karma, specifically calling attention to its nontheistic character (same formatting problem).


I can agree with your description of rebirth, but that is why I described reincarnation as an integral of rebirth. We are constantly being reborn. Now, we can select a defined area and call that a “life”, but yeah, there isn’t anything to be reincarnated in a strict sense. As for a universal accountant, it depends on whose Buddhism. Mara can (and has been) taken quite literally. As a rule of thumb in my (limited) studies, the Japanese tend to have a more Providence-like conception of karma (and for a while, it pretty much was fate. I recognize this is an exception). And since most Western understandings of Karma are filtered through D.T. Suzuki as well as the Hindu tradition (where Mara is also taken quite literally) it makes sense that the new agey version looks the way it does.


Great post.


Like I was saying to Ing, it depends on whose conception of karma you are using in any and all of those cases. Let’s first pick “a” karma to talk about between the various karmas and then you can start examining the various events.