The law of karma has been misinterpreted, misused and misunderstood, and this has caused great calamity in the spiritual community. Not only in the West, but in the East, as well. In this episode, I will reveal the biggest myths about karma, so you can get a clear picture about what karma is not.
The first and perhaps biggest myth is that karma is the law of cause and effect. Especially here in the West, with our materialistic and mechanistic worldview, we believe it works like a well-oiled machine, in which one cog turns the next wheel. If I do this, then that will happen, and my actions cause certain effects.
But karma is not like that in reality. The Buddha spoke about it in terms of dependent origination. When this arises, that emerges. When that ceases, this ends. One event doesn’t happen because of the other. Rather, they happen simultaneously, without time or any other medium playing a part.
If you are born, you will also die. It’s not that your birth causes your death, it’s just that your birth already contains your death, they are interdependent. Without birth, there’s no death, just like without death, there would be no birth, because death is necessary for life. But when you realize that you are deathless, you will know that you were never born either. The two concepts cease at the same time, because one cannot exist without the other.
This also concerns the second myth, namely that the effects of karma need time to come back to you. It may indeed seem true at first, after all, a lifetime separates birth from death. However, in another episode I argued that karma is equal to identification. And the moment you identify yourself as a person who was born, that same moment becomes your death sentence.
If you identify yourself with one, the other appears immediately. If you do something you identify as bad, then at the same time you also identify yourself as bad. This will result in even more bad actions in the future, because we tend to act congruently according to our beliefs about ourselves. But the initial karma, the first identification, emerged simultaneously with the action.
The third popular belief about karma is that it can come from a past life. In my video titled “The truth about past life karma”, I explained why this belief is false. It cannot come from a past life, but it can definitely come from a past generation. Karma has nothing to do with the afterlife, but it has everything to do with how you live this life.
Subsequently, the idea that karma guarantees universal justice in the universe is also just a myth. Just the opposite, its myth keeps up injustice in the world. The concept of karma originates from Hinduism, from a country with a famously strict social class system. If you were born a peasant, you also die as a peasant, there’s no movement between the casts.
But how to sell this inherently unjust, intentionally strict and immensely arbitrary social system to the people? It had to be justified somehow, and the best way the leaders could find was to explain it away with the help of karma. They argued that if you were born into a low cast, it was because of your past life karma, thus ultimately because of you, and not because of them.
While giving you the veil of justice, they also gave a false promise: that if you act well, in other words if you do what’s expected of you, your next life is sure to be better, you may even be born in a higher cast. This is how they kept people in place, and cleverly uprooted the seed of rebellion: the sense of social injustice.
The next biggest myth is that karma is about ethics and morality. If you do good things, good things will happen to you. But if you act seemingly selflessly just because you expect some future reward, then your action is still ultimately selfish. Karma is about selfless and selfish actions, but not in the conventional but in an absolute sense.
When I speak about self, I refer to your ego, so anything you do from your ego is selfish, because you do it with a sense of self. Doership arises, as you identify yourself as a separate person carrying out a distinct action. True selflessness is much more than just forgetting about your own needs for the sake of others. It’s about realizing that you don’t really exist as a separate self.
The sixth myth about karma is that there are absolute good and bad actions. No, positive and negative are relative concepts, as I explained in my episode titled “There’s no such thing as good and bad”.
Furthermore, there’s not even that big need to separate the two types of actions, because the goal is not to collect positive karma and to get rid of the negative. No, the ultimate goal is to release all karma, to get rid of it altogether. Karma, in other words identification, keeps you in the cycle of illusion. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if your dream is terrible or pleasant, because it’s all just a dream after all.
The point is not to make your unconscious state comfortable, but to awaken from the illusion and become fully conscious. That’s why in some cases, a lot of negative karma can cause a sudden spiritual awakening: it’s much easier to awaken from a nightmare than from a pleasant dream.
With this, we arrived to the next myth: that only conscious actions create karma. Oh, this one couldn’t be further from the truth. Deed, by definition, is a consciously chosen action, which can either be beneficial or harmful. They argue that the intention behind an action is more important than the outcome it causes. Thus, if you harm somebody by coincidence, then it doesn’t count towards your negative karma.
However, I don’t agree with this. As karma is equal to identification, and identification arises from ignorance and lack of self-consciousness, anything you do unconsciously increases your karma. The more times you repeat a certain action, the more unconscious it becomes, and the more you identify with it. Until you’re acting from your ego, your actions will remain unconscious, and you will create karma.
The last and perhaps most harmful myth is that your karma is responsible for your circumstances. If you believe this, it quickly helps you develop a victim mentality, which demotivates you to change anything for the better. Never accept suffering as your destiny, don’t blame your inabilities on karma!
The truth is just the opposite: you are responsible for your karma. Yes, it’s true that until you don’t release your karma, it will run your life. But it’s your responsibility to disidentify from your limiting emotional and mental patterns, to see yourself and your life from a new perspective, to free yourself from the unconscious identification with your body and mind. And from that perspective, you can start consciously creating your circumstances, without blaming anything on your karma.
If you want to know more about death from a spiritual but down to earth perspective, you should read my book: The Power of Death. Click on the link below, and get it now! I’m deadly serious.