I’ve always heard my grandmother say “all our misery in this life is because of our Karma from our previous life”. You can be a good person and yet have the worst people surrounding you and making you miserable. It has nothing to do with who you are now, according to the Vedas, it has everything to do with what you did before you were born!
Karma is a Vedic-Brahmanic idea, that Prince Siddhartha, a Kshattriya Prince (Kshattriya being the second highest in ritual status of the four varnas, or social classes, of Vedic ancient India – traditionally the military or ruling class), learnt it from his Vedic-Brahmin teachers and developed further as he left worldly connections to became an ascetic and spiritual leader of South Asia (better known to the world today as) Gautam-Buddha.
If you have any Catholic upbringing you will see that the Biblical: 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5), pretty much talks of Karma too.
Luke 6: 37-42, John 8: 1-8, James 4: 11-12 etc., all speak of Karma. The proverb: “what goes around comes around” or the consequences of one’s actions will have to be dealt with eventually, is exactly that. Karmic wheel.
Vedic idea of rebirth is rooted in Karmic wheel, something that Buddhists believe in as well. Christian belief is rooted in immediate retribution which is not so far from Karma either. And so does Judaism (in ancient Egypt, it was called “ma’at,” in Greek, “heimarmene” or “fate” and in Germanic, “wyrd.”) Basically, the idea is that “everything is within the cosmos”. Thus making Karma a concept that also deals with the ideas of fate and destiny.
Of course unlike in Vedic, Buddhist and Christian Karmic system, there is a loophole in the Jewish one. Divine Providence (“hashgacha”) means that one can reach beyond the system. One can plead with the Creator of the system, or do teshuvah (repent) and transform themselves, even change their past. For example: Give generous donations (towards a cause like helping Ukrainian refugees, planting trees, supporting orphanages etc) to wipe out their bad Karma. Basically one can play around with the system and even manipulate it. But can you truly escape it?
I will go by my Vedic upbringing and Catholic morals, and say no. Karma can’t be escaped if one doesn’t truly repair their bad deeds. Whether that chance to repair is given to them or not – the honesty and honour of doing so truly comes from within and not as an outwardly show. Repentance is to be heartfelt, it lies in understanding the suffering one brought on others. If a person doesn’t understand that and sides with ego and id (interactions of the mental life of a person) rather than being capable of distancing themselves from that – that’s when Karma strikes.
I was reminded of that for the past few days. As my life cleansed of negative influences, i.e. people who brought negativity into my life as they rode on their high horses borrowing the essence of power as much as manipulating that power to serve themselves as “greater” or “better”, draining me of energy and happiness. The past few days I gained (and saw) for the first time the simple joys of positive influences in and around me when I recognised and voluntarily distanced myself from those with such patterns. Of course it would be easier to blame it all on their psychological trauma/mental health/ disturbed upbringing etc., but that is the whole point of Karma through and through. Vedic Karma to be precise. And having my own brand of ADHD and Dyslexia – I don’t see neurodivergence as particularly problematic (unless problems are caused to hurt others). Of course I would argue that one could purposely do a person hurt – so at least these people causing hurt can master the respect of not trying to explain themselves and their behaviour/motive just to come out looking like the better person – then to them their karmic cycle “Mubarak”.
All in all, this post is about the idea of not dwelling in the good work one does just to expect fruitful returns. কর্ম করো, ফলের আশা করো না!