Instant Karma

Instant Karma

"Instant Karma's gonna get you,
Gonna knock you right on the head, 
You better get yourself together, 
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead."
John Lennon.

The Wheel of Karma

Good Karma

It's a commonplace term these days. We talk about "karma" to refer to a process of cause and effect whereby our actions determine what we receive in this life. Sort of "what goes around comes around". Or, to put it another way, if I do a bad thing one day, I will be bound to pay for it the next. Likewise, if I do a good thing, I will be bound to receive my just rewards.

The problem with this is that it treats karma as like some sort of a cosmic bank-account. I put in my moral cash, as it were - my good deeds - in order to receive my moral interest. Or, if I overdraw on my cosmic credit card - bad karma - I am likely to get my soul repossessed. Something like that.

Which leaves us with the question: who do we think the banker is?

Is the banker some objective outsider - like God, for instance - or is it you yourself? And how do you work out what your credit rating is, whether you are in credit or not? In other words, how many bad deeds are we allowed before we have to start paying the price?

That's the problem with this karmic bank, there's no accountability. No cash-machines on the street. No office we can go to to find out the state of our spiritual finances.

Actually, if you look up the word in the dictionary, you will see that it has a very specific technical meaning to do with the basis of Hindu philosophy. Not an immediate thing at all - not Instant Karma - but something determined over a lifetime. Less like a current account, more like life insurance.

What I do in this life determines what I will be in the next. If I'm good, decent and kind I might end up as a middle-class person in a nice home in the suburbs with central heating and a fridge. If I'm petty-minded, mean and miserly I might end up as a spider.

Sleeping off my karma
Sleeping off my karma

Personally I'd rather end up as a cat. I wonder what exactly would you have to do to become a cat? That seems like the best karma to me. You still get the nice home in the suburbs, but you don't have to commute to pay for it.

Not that we have any choice in the matter. In Hindu philosophical terms karma is a process of blind inevitability, a force of the universe, like gravity. You don‘t get a choice over how gravity works, your only choice is whether to jump off any high buildings, and whether to carry a parachute if you do.

What is also true about the Hindu philosophical system is that its aim is to eventually escape the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Only human beings are true moral agents able to make such a decision. It is up to us to determine whether we remain forever trapped in the karmic cycle, or whether to free ourselves and to attain liberation at last.

Of course, both uses of the word fail to explain how it is that bad people seem to do very well in this life - piling up wealth and privilege, private jets and holidays in the Seychelles - while good people seem often to suffer by being blown up in their own homes.

Hindus might say that the bad person will pay for his actions in the next life by becoming a worm, say, or a head-louse.

But equally this implies that in their last life the bad person must have been a good person, or how else did they get to be wealthy?

You are also left with the strange puzzle of how a head-louse can do good deeds.

Eat more dandruff.

It doesn‘t bear thinking about.

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Comments 55 comments

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Chris, that's beautiful - I was just stroking Tiggy's tummy and thinking that Tiggy is a better being in many ways than I and therefore it is right that we are the cats' property! lol

I told you my instant karma story with how I fell in the pool!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

I don't know about coming back as a cat. I mean, if you come back as my wife's cat or our neighbor to the left, you got easysauce for the rest of your life. But if you come back as one of those road kill cats born in an alley, well, not so much.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Cheers Steve. Can't remember your Karma story. Maybe it should be a hub?


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I guess I should have been more specific about the kind of cat I was thinking about. I meant, one of the bard's cats.


pgrundy 8 years ago

Great hub. A popular version of the concept of Karma making the rounds now is the "Law of Attraction" nonsense--You know, you attract what you put out there, so if you're having a crappy life, you must be asking for a crappy life, because if you were asking for a wonderful life, the benevolent Universe would just give you one. The Universe as Tooth Fairy. What? You didn't get your shiney quarter in the morning? You must not have put your tooth under the pillow! It's your own fault!

The power of positive thinking is, well, powerful, but its also true that sh*t happens. I don't think sh*t happens necessarily because in this life or a past life you did anything at all. If you're under the piano when it gets shoved out a ten-story window, is that because you bad-mouthed some piano as a small child? What garbage! Or, how about the people with cancer who are responsible for their own illnesses because they don't think positively? More garbage!

People like to feel that the world makes sense from a people perspective.

I think it clearly does not.

Thanks Chris. (PS__My cat has it made.)


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hello travelgirl, pgrundy, I'm only asking questions, that's all. I think that a lot of these philosophies (like the Law of Attraction) are just thinly veiled justifications for the world as it is. Bush must deserve to be in the White House and the Iraqis must deserve to get bombed. The wealthy must deserve their wealth. The poor must deserve their poverty. Also it isolates the process in the individual. It's MY fate, MY karma, as opposed to your fate. We no longer act and think collectively to make the world a better place, we're too busy trying to "think positively" in order to make our own dreams a reality. It's a grand spiritual version of "I'm all right Jack."


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

I think I did it as a Tenerife Sun story so I'll see if I can dig it out. Basically I went walking with Keith and Scampy dog on that yellow mountain we went up on and we went down to the beach and Keith and his dog both slipped in a pool. I thought it was funny because they knew the are and yet it didn't happen to me. A day or so later I was trying to get a photo of a blenny fish in a rockpool and slipped on the wet weed and fell in, grazing my knees and ruining my camera. I told Keith and he said, "you know the other day when Scampy and me fell in the pool, well I bet you thought it was funny. Have a look at this tattoo I have!" It said Instant Karma!


ColdWarBaby 8 years ago

Assuming there's any validity to Karma, and I’m not saying I do, I would venture that the Karmic bank you hint at would be the universal energy which many mistakenly think of as “God”. Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that this energy, which permeates the entire fabric of the universe at every level, is a neutral force. That is to say it isn’t good or bad. It doesn’t punish or reward, it just is. When we come into being we are endowed with a small bit of this energy which is what allows us to exist in the first place. One could see why godlike qualities might be assigned to such a force. Let’s further assume that this energy, though neutral at our creation, may be “contaminated” by the choices we make and actions we take during our lifetime. I suppose that could be one of the reasons for death. The energy needs to be put back into the pool of its pure, untainted source in order to be restored to its neutral state. Perhaps part of the cleansing process involves placing “infected” energy into the next physical being created to be rejuvenated, as it were, by occupying a more positive or nonjudgmental entity. So, energy which has been subjected to material beings that are either too good or bad must be filtered through a series of life forms until it finally brings about the balance of perfect neutrality required to make it one with the universe again.

This is just off the top of my head, as they say, after reading your hub. This stuff can really be fun.

Very interesting and, as always, well written.


pgrundy 8 years ago

Interesting how you put that Chris, since India is a very conservative, tight place socially--at least so I have been told by more than one Indian. The idea is to maintain the status quo, not shake it up, and nothing does that better than an ideology that justifies wherever you happen to be as a deserved circumstance.


Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

Nope, it really doesn't make sense, does it. Even Hinduism -one of very few religions I respect- is still just... a religion.

However, I have personally experienced bad and good karma and both were deserving. When I've been stupid, self-absorbed, selfish, arrogant, etc (typically summed up as "young") one tends to get it back later. And I've seen that treating others with kindness, dignity and respect garnishes good things in return, or coming back. I don't know if it works for everyone, but it works for me!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I think Indian society is very rigid and that traditional Hinduism is part of the mechanism that keeps it like that, but there are radical sects even within Hinduism. And I agree with you Constant Walker, treating people with dignity, kindness and respect has it's own rewards. Is this karma though? My only point in this hub is that we tend to use the word these days without really knowing what it means, nor what its implications are. It's become a fashionable word.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

I agree with you that's it's (just) a fashionable word. It's a shorthand for all the things you describe. As such, it can be useful but that doesn't of itself mean there's any truth in it. About a century ago, Freud & Co unleashed a whole lot of words into the language, ego, id, self, super-ego, complex, etc. While these words helped them to talk about stuff, they have no correlation with reality. No-one 'has an inflated ego' really, they just act like a pratt... Good hub.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I like that Paraglider: "No-one 'has an inflated ego' really, they just act like a pratt..." But maybe it's their karma that makes them prattish?


Ananta65 8 years ago

Another interesting hub, CJ. Cause and effect: http://hubpages.com/hub/A-few-words-on-Karma


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thankyou Ananta65, your hub definitely answers some of the questions posed here. I recommend it to anyone who has read this far.


Ananta65 8 years ago

Thank you CJ. I think too many people are looking for excuses, be it karma, God or some conspiracy. They simplify things, raise it to the one and single answer and lose sight of the essence.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I've put the link into the hub.


Ananta65 8 years ago

Much obliged, sir :)


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

Very Interesting read CJStone!!

I have always been a big believer in Karma..For me it means that if you do bad think bad then bad will happen one day, like you said "what goes around comes around"!..

PS.

i would love to come back as a kitty or as myself again!:)


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I agree compu-smart. As a cat or as myself, but hopefully not as a head louse.


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

Confucius says:  "Person who flies plane upside down has nasty crack up."  (slightly paraphrased..for gender sake)

Is that Karma?  Or common sense?  LOL  I tend to believe, from what I've seen, that we normally do get at least a portion of what we give "out," back.  Soo, be the best you can be...it gives you a fighting chance.

I used to tell the kiddos, (all 250 of 'em but not all at the same time, thank God and Karma) that they needed to make emotional deposits to get an emotional paycheck...

Emotional paychecks being "wow, I couldn't have done it without you!"  etc. 

Kids in pain (even adults in pain) find it hard to deposit an emotional positive, and ask for many withdrawals.  Teaching young people (who doooo grow up!!) to give the emotional deposits to others, is not easy, but a habit that serves one well as an adult.  "You did a good job:  You are a gifted writer:  You light up my life:  I like how you built that:  What a great idea:  Thank you for helping others:  etc."  

Abused kids don't trust, they don't give much.  They take, and that does not serve them well as an adult, if they don't learn to give back.  To believe that giving will give you Karma, is a leap of faith.  Some of us leap, others scoot. 

I'm a leaper.  Great leaping hub!   CJ, as always - we can trust you to get us thinking. =)  I want to come back as a beautiful rich woman, so I can give more Karma in the form of helping others...  O the things I could do with money.  =)  honest!  no greed intended.  =)

maybe instant Karma is there to bribe us to do more...and then we get the "more" Karma "later."

I do that to my kids...sometimes they "get it now" other times, they don't get it at all....not in this life, baby. LOL


summer10 profile image

summer10 8 years ago from my happy place :)

Good karma is earned just like saving your pennies for a rainy day....... ::sigh:: try not to spend it all in one place.


Lifebydesign profile image

Lifebydesign 8 years ago from Australia

I've always thought karma was a something like an 'energetic' bank account. Would love to know what state mine is in...! Thanks CJ!


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I think all it's saying is to be accountable.  If you give off good vibes, you'll attract in kind.  You can't complain about good things not happening and yet expect good things to happen while you're doing so.  We are responsible for what we put out into the world, and for what we attract and accept into our lives.  It's not the type of thing anyone else can do for us.

Guess I'm saying basically the same thing that Constant Walker and Lifebydesign did.

By the way CJ, love the title! You are a terrific writer.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi everyone. The weird thing about this is that isn't meant to be this week's hub at all. I just threw it up when i realised that I had 19 hubs and one more would make me an expert. This is the real CJStone hub, the one I actually did some work on, http://hubpages.com/education/The-Economics-of-Spa...


Creativita 8 years ago

CJ: All I am saying is...Give Karma a chance...hmm...hmm. Anyway, MY KARMA RAN OVER MY DOGMA. (So I have to think up a new philosophy/religion... (This is the same dog that appears in my next comment:

It is in the form of a riddle: Q: What do you name a dyslexic agnostic insomniac?A. He's someone who stays up all night, wondering if there really is a dog. Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)

-Helen


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Two good jokes Helen. The second one almost describes me.


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

I wonder if the corollary would be that no good deed goes unpunished. The idea of Karma seems to me to have evolved into a convenient excuse to dodge accountability for ones actions.


Ananta65 8 years ago

Actually the whole idea behind Karma is to TAKE responsibility for ones actions.


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

That's true, but many people seem to blame their situation on luck, God, or Karma, instead of actually examining their actions leading up to the circumstance. I always hear people saying "It was just meant to be." Many times, that may be true, but if you don't look at what got you there, it can easily become a self-sustaining cycle.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

There's no phrase I dislike more than "It was meant to be". It turns life into a bus timetable.


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

Every once in a while, every road I take leads to the same place. In those instances, I have been known to utter that phrase. Most times, careful reflection will reveal where I went wrong, and how to correct the problem.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Oh I know that feeling. But then the phrase "It was meant to be" is uttered in frustrated resignation, and I guess it's appropriate enough. But - imagine this - you go an see someone in hospital who has just broken a leg and is in agony. Do you say, "it was meant to be" then? Or do you just keep your mouth shut and give them a box of chocolates?


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

I may lust give them a card, and tell them there are less painful ways to get a day off from work!


Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

Concerning good and bad Karma: I offer this observation.

I invest in oil, and the price per barrel goes up, and my corporation gets gas at nearly the costs to produce it. This is Good Karma.

I don't invest in oil, but I am merely a regular Joe who buys gas to fill my tank. The price of oil goes up, the cost of gas goes up. This is "Bad Karma."

See? It's all relative!

OK, now that I've solved the Great Cosmic Question, where do I get a good cheeseburger? LOL!!! (Good Karma for me, Bad Karma for the cow.)


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

I had a "friend" who every time something good happened to me, she would say"you're lucky." I always felt that minimized all my effort to bring about the "luck." Finally I told her luck was a four letter word spelled "w o r k."

If we are not partially at least, responsible for what we do with what comes our way, then what's it all about? =) great thoughts, everyone!!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

Marisue, there's a great line in my favorite movie (The 13th Warrior) in which a detractor of the Viking king tries to insinuate that the king is not a great warrior but only lucky instead.  The king replies:  Luck, often enough, will save a man if his courage holds.

I think that's what you are saying too in a way.


msms profile image

msms 8 years ago

GITA says ' The selfless action is Seva, KarmaYoga, sacrifice, yoga of work, science of proper action, and yoga of equanimity. A KarmaYogi works with love for the Lord as a matter of duty without a selfish desire for the fruits of work or selfish attachment to the results, and becomes free from all fear. The word Karma also means duty, action, deeds, work, endeavor, or the results of past deeds. A selfless worker has resolute determination only for God-realization, but the desires of one who works to enjoy the fruits of work are endless which makes the mind unsteady.'


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thankyou msms for that clarification. Is the Gita you are referring to the Bhagavad Gita? In which case, of course, we have to bow to it's venerable truth and acknowledge its definition as the final one.


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

shadesbreath,  exactly!  My dad always told me "not to count on luck, but consider it a gift when it comes your way.  You make your own luck."


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

Just wanted to add one of my favorite movie quotes: "Give a man a little luck, and anything'll do, for brains". Albert Soady, Escanaba in Da Moonlight.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Your dad was very wise marisue. And I LOVE that movie quote rmr. Never heard of that film before. You leanr a new thing every day on hubpages.


rmr profile image

rmr 8 years ago from Livonia, MI

I don't know if that movie got a lot of press outside of Michigan. It stars Jeff Daniels, and was filmed in our upper peninsula. Funny movie, though.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

I will check it out.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 8 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

You want to know something weird CJ? When I saw your hub on Karma it was right next to my hub about Karma my dog and her getting hit by a car. Talk about the gravitational forces of Karma! What would the chances of that happening be with the thousands of hubs published?

Weird stuff!

Great hub CJ!


Ananta65 8 years ago

There's no such thing as coincidence, some would say, Dorsi ;)


rkat profile image

rkat 8 years ago

what goes around, comes around, interesting hub


Jonno.Norton 8 years ago

Wow, CJ you've inspired a lot of debate around this hub. Well put though, I especially like the stuff about a karmic bank. That's a great analogy, and it really holds true to how many people tend to think of Karma. I've found myself making good, unselfish decisions only in hopes of having it come back to me later (tenfold, of course!)

And yeah, exactly how do animals acrue their karmic credits? I like to think my kitty gets good karma when she lets me groom her, and she doesn't scratch me. Likewise, she gets bad karma (read:I don't feed her haha j/k) when she acts up. In kitties world, I am god, and I shall decide her karmic credit rating =)


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

very interesting read


metaphysician profile image

metaphysician 7 years ago

You got the point there and sometime it's really intrigues me how everything works but it seems that the answer is beyond thinkable. So the karma here is I think and therefore I shall receive but yet it doesn't reveal.

Yeah, eat more drandruff! Add a cup of tea!

Thanks for your thoughts in this unstoppable debate!


evemurphy profile image

evemurphy 7 years ago from Ottawa

I've been wondering about that "instant" part myself since I heard the Lennon song. I think Lennon was often pulling our legs and taking the piss out of people and ideas in his songs, when we were thinking he was serious. Yoko after all is knitting with a blindfold in the background...was he saying something like 'karma isn't like instant coffee...you put some in a cup and get your reward...' Life doesn't work that way. So in effect, I'd say he was agreeing with you and saying it's all bunk.

Well that's how I see it too. Something worthy of making fun of because it is just primitive superstition prior to the age of reason and we should treat it that way.

More coffee waiter! ;)


CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hi eve and metaphysician, so is this karma do you think? I came over here to approve your comments and had to sign in to do so. While I was here I decided to update my tags and got "karmic" and "head louse". So now I have new tag on this hub, "karmic head louse". I wonder if anyone will ever google that, and what they will expect if they do. I'm waiting for the comment from this person.


HattieMattieMae profile image

HattieMattieMae 5 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

Well with my own experience whether it was karma or not, I've noticed lots of times when I have wronged someone to find it does end up coming back around in the next realtionship or situation. I understand God holds me accountable all the time for my actions whether they are positive or negative. It's like saying if you give love you receive love. You reap what you sow. What you plant with others you get back. So if you are sowing hate towards someone you get it right back. If you judge you will be judged by someone. If you criticize you will be criticized. I think in a sense you always get back what you send out to other people whether it is anger, rage, love or hugs. You get exactly what you do to someone else. Whether you consider that karma, or not, I don't have any idea. But I do understand I don't bank anything. I understand what I give I get back!


wallysworld 5 years ago

inspirational chris i fancy a mcsacredkarmiccowburger myself


CBartelmey profile image

CBartelmey 4 years ago from Colorado, United States

I pulled this from one of your earlier comments: “Also it isolates the process in the individual. It's MY fate, MY karma, as opposed to your fate. We no longer act and think collectively to make the world a better place, we're too busy trying to "think positively" in order to make our own dreams a reality.” I think karma acts quite the opposite. I wrote a piece on karma as well, and if you are interested in reading it I would love to hear your comments.

http://hubpages.com/education/Karma-Unfolded

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