Karma definition: Most people are wrong about the meaning

Just about everyone’s heard of karma. Some people think it’s almost fate.

But have you ever stopped to think what Karma really means?

The truth is, most us have it wrong. And this misunderstanding doesn’t help any of us.

When you truly understand what Karma means, it can be used as a powerful tool for personal development.

So below, we’re going to explain exactly what Karma is and then we’ll go over how you can use this philosophy to give you more freedom and control over your life.

A Buddhist Master’s Simple Explanation of Karma

To begin with, let’s get one thing straight:

Karma has nothing to do with “fate”. If you do something negative, it doesn’t mean that something negative has to happen to you to “even it out”.

Karma is actually based on your actions and thoughts in every single moment.

I love this simple and clear explanation of karma by Barbara O’Brien of the buddhism.about.com blog:

“The word “karma” means “action,” not “fate.” In Buddhism, karma is an energy created by willful action, through thoughts, words and deeds. We are all creating karma every minute, and the karma we create affects us every minute.It’s common to think of “my karma” as something you did in your last life that seals your fate in this life, but this is not Buddhist understanding. Karma is an action, not a result. The future is not set in stone. You can change the course of your life right now by changing your volitional (intentional) acts and self-destructive patterns.”

Why does mainstream society get karma so wrong?

Karma in pop culture often means that people get what they deserve.

How did we develop this view?

Because we have this misguided perspective that we need something outside ourselves in order to be happy.

It’s because of this false view that we desire to transform karma into a sort of cash machine based on our ethical and spiritual behavior.

However, if we can let go of this understanding of happiness, we can see that all we really need is to live deeply in the present moment with mindfulness and discover our true nature.

Karma is simply an energy. It’s our intentional thoughts and actions. The energy we generate now and in the future will affect us. It has nothing to do with reward or punishment. Karma is unbiased and it’s ours to control.

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Watering the garden of your mind: How to use karma as a guiding force

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

The best way to think of karma is an energy that you’re creating every moment. Every intentional action or thought generates this energy.

We feel this every day, and it’s not stored for future punishment or reward.

However, if you’re reacting with anger all the time, you’re conditioning the mind for anger. Similarly, by reacting to things with peace and calm, you’re conditioning the mind for peace and calm.

All these qualities, such as anger, discontent, joy, harmony etc can be seen as flowers and the seeds they sprout from.

When we’re born, all these mental qualities and emotions are seeds. Now imagine these seeds resting in the garden of your mind and constantly being either watered or neglected with your intentional thoughts.

Depending on what you do, you’re either watering the bad seeds or watering the good ones. These seeds can eventually grow into flowers or they can wither and die.

The important thing to realize is that the energy we give to these flowers is our karmic energy.

(Not only does Buddhism provide a spiritual outlet for many people, it can also improve the quality of our relationships. Check out our new no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism for a better life here.)

By living with mindfulness we can observe this karmic mind which is becoming conditioned in our minds and begin to change how we react in our daily lives.

Mindfulness gives us the ability to choose which flowers we water and which we don’t. Without mindfulness, we’re simply reactive to conditioned thoughts patterns.

So in order to use karma as a force for our own personal and spiritual development, a force for great good, you need only shine the light of mindfulness on your life in order to identify your karmic energy and work to heal any karmic energy holding you back.

Here’s an excellent example of how karma can come back to reward you in the future:

If you want to dive deeper into the meaning Karma, check out this excellent 30 minute video on what karma means:

In conclusion

By living with this knowledge of karma, we can let go of mental baggage and worries that we think are assigned to us and instead take control our life.

Sure there are going to be outside factors that affect your life. But if you deepen your understanding of what true peace looks like, you’ll have the ability to experience life fully no matter what’s going on around you.

Karma shows that we have the freedom to decide what happens to us. It’s our intentional actions and thoughts that govern our lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about Buddhism and eastern philosophy, we’ve put together a no-nonsense guide. It’s a 96-page eBook and focuses on specific actions you can take to improve all aspects of daily living, including your relationships, emotional resilience and state of mind.

Notable replies

  1. @Lachlan great article about what karma means. I think many people can get superstitious when thinking about karma, but it makes sense to think of karma more as the creative energy we create through our action.

    I also saw you’ve put together this eBook sharing some of what you’ve learned from Buddhism and eastern philosophy on living a fulfilling life. I’m looking forward to checking it out soon:

  2. Marie says:

    Great article and timely. I have started my discovery journey and it looks like a life will not suffice to uncover its richness and wisdom. Thanks for the e-book recommendation Justin.

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