The Real Meaning of Karma

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017

“Karma’s a bitch.” That’s how the saying goes. But I’m not entirely sure the saying is accurate. Karma is a tricky little thing – she’s an often misunderstood enigma. You could say she’s unavoidable or even indifferent. But, a bitch? Well that’s a little harsh in my opinion. You see, karma is not to be confused with a vendetta. It’s not exactly retaliation from an angry god or revenge from a Universe that desires “an eye for an eye”. We humans (especially those of us who like actions movies) enjoy the stereotypical definition of karma because we like to see people pay for their crimes. In movies, when the bad guys kidnap the main character’s child, we don’t panic because we know karma will catch up with the bad guys and they’ll later get tossed off a building or crushed by a helicopter. Likewise, in movies, when terrorists are doing unspeakable things, we simply watch and smile knowing that in approximately ninety minutes, they’ll get what’s coming to them. That’s the thing about movies – karma happens rather quickly. And when the theater lights come back on and our popcorn bucket is empty, we leave with peace of mind knowing that the world is a fair place and the bad guys got what they deserved.

But real karma? Well that’s a trickier and more complex subject. Karma in the broadest sense of the word means a rounding out of experiences. It’s both sides of the coin. It merely means to experience every imaginable situation from each viewpoint. It’s finding twenty bucks on the street corner and then having twenty bucks stolen from your locker at work. It’s finding an extra cheeseburger in your fast food bag that you never paid for, and then later being shorted one taco that you actually ordered. It’s breaking someone’s heart and having yours broken in return. It’s helping and being helped in return. To be taken along for a spin in the tornado that is karma means to experience the ups and downs, the giving and receiving, the losing and winning of life. It means taking a turn in each costume and playing the role of each character in this never-ending community theater called “life”. Sure, it’s more fun to play the role of hero. But heroes can only exist when there are villains. And that’s why, from lifetime to lifetime, we sometimes have to take a turn playing the role of trouble maker or antagonist – so that the “good guys” of the world can stay busy and have job security in trying to make the world a better place.

Karma in the deepest sense of the word can take millennia to fulfill. It takes eons and many lifetimes to complete (yes, I’m talking about reincarnation). “And what’s the point of it all?” you might be asking yourself. What’s the end goal? The goal is simply the journey itself; the experiences; the drama; the lessons we learn along the way. The point of it all is to make use of this stage, this community theater that is our Earth. And at the soft, gooey center of karma is a little nut called perspective. Keeping perspective is important in the grand scheme of things, for without it we would lose focus on why we’re actually here. Stepping back and viewing your existence through a wider lens allows you to realize there shouldn’t be any judgement – not towards the “bad guys”, not towards the homeless person or the drug addicts or the bullies at school. Judgement should be withheld, because despite the fact that you’re now playing the role of “good guy” or “hero”, YOU yourself were once playing the part of the “bad guy”. And the homeless person. And the drug addict. And the bully. And there’s a little sliver of each of those characters that still resides within the soul of each of us. We’re a little good and a little bad; part hero, part villain; part giver, part beggar; part leader, part follower. At the end of the day, we humans are far more connected than we’d ever admit – stitched into a tapestry that’s held together by karma.

I, for one, am thankful for the blessing that is karma. It adds a little pepper to the gumbo of life. Currently, I’m experiencing life as a white, middle class, male, in 21st century America. But to truly know what it means to be human, I’d have to live lifetimes in multiple time periods, being rich and poor, mean and nice, boastful and humble, strong and weak, black, brown, white, male and female. After all, how can you say you’ve fully experienced a buffet if you haven’t tasted each item on the menu? How can you say which crayon is your favorite unless you’ve colored with each of them? God bless karma. It ensures that things will get better when you have a string of misfortune. And when times are great, karma reminds us to live in the moment and enjoy it, because nothing lasts forever. Ultimately, karma ensures that we get a cornucopia of life experiences in our never-ending existence. If variety is the spice of life, then think of karma as the entire spice rack.