Karma: Do we Really Reap What We Sow?

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. – Wayne Dyer

The belief that the universe restores moral order by rewarding and punishing people based on their past actions.

Karma refers to action, words or deeds. In the Western world, it has become the trigger word used for a known thought process that refers to as: “what goes around, comes around”. It has been simplified in meaning in urban contexts and reduced to a concept that you reap what you sow. 

When you dive deeply into extensive historical works, karma means more than just: what you reap, you sow. 

In its original meaning derived from Indian religious principle, karma refers to a spiritual context of cause and effect, whereby an individual’s intent and actions can influence the future of said person. Karma also affects the nature and quality of the future of the present (and future lives, if one subscribes to the idea of rebirth which is prevalent on Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism and Jainism). Nevertheless, you do not have to believe in reincarnation to take note and understand how our collective ancient histories shape up and continuously send ripple effects that reach out into the present time.

There are essentially 3 types of karma: 

  1. The first one refers to stored or accumulated karma, also known as the sanchita karma. This past accumulated karma (from the present and previous lives) can be changed by having the right attitude, intention and planting the right seed of thought in the present moment. 
  2. Second karma refers to the prarabhdha karma which is matured karma that comes from the portion of sanchita karma that is still influencing the present. 
  3. The third karma is the agami karma. It refers to the present karma that has the power to affect the future. What we do today can impact our future and it is important that we cultivate self-awareness when engaging in our daily activities.

Types of karma aside: How does one actively apply the concept of karmic belief in our modern day-to-day life? Instead of looking at it through a lens of reward and punishment, it is wise that we leave the black and white mindset and begin to appreciate that it is far more nuanced than that. We bring karma into focus when we realize that it is basically all about our intentions and attitudes that fuel our present actions. 

One of the popular questions about karma posed by many is looked through a view of karmic injustices is along the lines of this: If karma holds credence in life, then why do corrupt people continuously experience “success”;  and “good” people go through struggles?

With this question posed in mind, we must stop to think about what exactly is the actual definition of “success”. What do we think about when we relate it to those possessed by certain corrupt individuals? Is it material resources or opportunities in businesses that are enabled by and all the sensory pleasures the mind can think of? In all honesty, do we all need excess wealth to experience the “good” side of life? What about the struggles that we experience; whether we are in a place of power (as defined by society) or not? Everyone feels emotions, whether good or bad. Everyone has an expiration date, no matter their social status or bank balance. The quest for power that can improve our lives can be a satisfying process when approached in a balanced way. But if we get stuck in a materialistic loop, associating visible signs of success as everything to achieve and arrive at, then we become a slave to all types of desires and this weaves us chronically into the grip of karma. The same applies when we lean into the opposite side of the spectrum and become spiritually-obsessed.

Anything that is operating in the realm of our existence when it is swinging from aversion to affinity (unconsciously) ties us to karma. It is when we surrender to something larger than our ego-based wants and needs, we may hopefully come closer to perceiving reality in clarity and return to the Self, or the source of Life, God or whatever it is you accept as the very heartbeat of existence.

Karma poses the debate between deterministic fate or destiny and our own ability to change the course of our lives through free will. If what we choose to do is influenced by something that had already happened and we hold the mindset that it is all predestined, then we may feel bound by something out of our sense of control. This may feed an unhealthy prone-to-blame attitude that can make us an impotent bystander of our life. In the second outlook of karma that is associated with our ability to affect present changes, coupled with the knowledge and acceptance of the mistakes we have made in our past, then we can then practice accountability and hold ourselves an active participant that can influence the pathway of our lives even while accepting that the bigger picture is elusive to us and understanding that we are working with something larger than us. 

In this way, we are able to be a creative author of our own lives as we choose to approach karma by bringing consciousness into our unexamined past actions that may have influenced or is still influencing our current life choices. Working with various fixed variables of our own lives, such as our physical traits which may include our perceived weakness, we are able to have a wholesome grasp of our purpose here on earth while keeping an open heart to various possibilities that are presented to us in our everyday lives.

To reduce the grip from the wheel of karma, one should practice fewer attachments, openly surrender to the heartbeat of life/and live according to the dharma (truth of reality). Have faith and let your actions and deeds carry you forward without attaching or identifying yourself to a particular end-goal. By putting your heart and spirit in the process, you will realize that in working with your own karma, you come closer to finding out who you truly are in the grand scheme of things.