Karma points are defined by urban dictionaries as good deeds done by you – or bad deeds done to you, for which you are owed something in return. Looking at it from that perspective, it is interesting to know how you fare on the Karmic Scale. Are you in credit or debit? Does the world owe you more than you owe it? Much as this sounds like daydreaming or fantasy, several cultures around the world believe in the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” concept of human dealings.

Karma in Hinduism

The Hindu origins of the concept of Karma go well beyond the simplistic interpretation of ‘an eye for an eye.’ In this religion, the word ‘karma’ means action. Explained in simple terms, it is the ancient equivalent of Newton’s Third Law, which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The underlying belief of the original Karma is that actions have consequences, and these consequences cannot run away from, even when you die. After death, the reincarnated form of your soul will be responsible for the actions of your former life. The concept itself is connected with ultimate salvation, or Moksha. The mechanism of Moksha is, in effect, lubricated by the cycle of action and consequence that is Karma.

Karma in Judaism

In ancient Hebrew belief, the idea of karma is taken to another level altogether. While Hindu Karma is one soul bearing the consequences of its actions, the Jewish belief is that the results of an action can often be seen elsewhere in the world. As an example, the Jews of yore believed that a good act in Tel Aviv could avert a road accident in Tokyo. Although this is a simplistic view of how the Hebrew culture looked at karma, this is the essence of their belief.

Karma in Today’s World

Today, youngsters believe in karma as a stylistic instrument rather than a moral one. The word itself is thrown about so much that it is associated more with the hippie generation than any real or concrete concept of action and consequence. If you ask a teenager today what karma means to them, you will likely get a rote response reminiscent of the 60s! The idea that one’s actions can lead to consequences far beyond their control is a hard one with which to convince the skeptical mind of today. However, the fact that it appears in urban dictionaries shows that there are still remnants of ancient beliefs in the modern collective psyche.

Karma in the 20th Century

The essence of karma points is in the doing of good deeds. Inasmuch as this serves the general welfare of the human population, it should be nurtured to whatever extent possible. For example, someone who regularly donates to a needy organization that helps homeless and orphaned children should be encouraged, as should the behavior of that person. If someone is willing to turn their right cheek to the offender when their left cheek has been ‘smitten’, then that serves to keep the peace.

But this ideology goes far beyond turning the other cheek, as Jesus Christ professed. It can change the world into a better place if everyone understood the good intent behind the concept of Karma – irrespective of whether they were following the Hindu beliefs or the Jewish ones or the Christian ones. The sad truth is, this world could do with a lot more good deeds.

On the flip side of the coin – the “tails” of the matter – is the fact that bad deeds can exacerbate an already-bad situation. Adding insult to injury is one thing, but repeated oppression of a person or a group of people can lead to severe consequences. Take the Nazi regime as a prime example: the oppression they dealt to the Jews led to repercussions that went far beyond the “usual” retribution claimed by victors of war. The German community is resilient, no doubt, but the effect that WWII had on the German psyche is one that is hard for any hot-blooded German to swallow. Yet, they were forced by global pressure to swallow that very treatment. The Japanese are no different: two atomic explosions and several devastating natural calamities later, they are still as resilient as ever, but one must stop and consider that their actions during the Great War had something to do with their troubles of late.

Flip that coin again, and you will see America in all her glory. What atrocity has the United States NOT been a part of across the world? Can it be said, then, that their harrowing experiences with terror and fiscal disaster are the result of their past actions?

Apparently, no human being or even sovereign power is beyond the law of Karma. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that if major superpowers are not immune to karmic principles, then ordinary human beings are equally – if not more – answerable for their actions.

Karma in the 21st Century

The only way forward, or so it would seem, is to keep doing good deeds and building up our karma points to an extent that tips the cosmic balance in our favor. If we can do enough good deeds to offset any offense – intentional or otherwise – to our fellow man, then the whole exercise is worth the effort. Looking at it from a purely selfish and egoistic point of view, if we can save ourselves by saving others, then life on this planet gains a new meaning.

One of the shortcuts in Karma that very few people know about is the concept of forgiveness. Despite popular Christian belief that Jesus Christ was the one who planted this seed in the collective human mind, the real fact is that nearly every culture from Judaism to Islam to Buddhism to Zoroastrianism has the concept of forgiveness explained as part of their belief system. Essentially, it is a way to short-circuit the consequences of karma because forgiveness puts a full stop to the never-ending cycle of “tooth for tooth”.

How to Live

Karma, therefore, and the gaining of points thereof, leads us to one inevitable conclusion: “love thy neighbor as thyself”. Nothing is more poignant and succinct as these five words from that Nazarene who has impacted more lives than anyone on earth by his simple sacrifice of self for the salvation of many. This is Karma at its very best.

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