Karma has a bit of a negative connotation here in the West. When you hit your toe after using a swear word, people will quickly say ‘karma’s a b****’. Yet, karma simply means ‘every action has a reaction’. This concept is quite similar to Newton’s law which states ‘every action must have an equal and opposite reaction’. Where karma differs from this scientific law, is that it is applied to the metaphysical realm. The laws of karma state that your actions and thoughts will have consequences.
The concept of Karma is found in many Eastern traditions, from Hinduism and Buddhism to Sikhism and Taoism. Each tradition has a slightly different interpretation of the concept. The main idea is that every thought and action sends out a (metaphysical) energy into the world, which is met with a reaction. Positive thoughts and actions will be met with positive energy. The same principle applies to negative thoughts and actions. Since many Eastern traditions believe in reincarnation, they also believe that karmic energy can be transferred from one life to the next. On the one hand, this explains why bad things happen to good people. On the other hand, this idea raises the moral agency problem, something monotheistic traditions suffer from as well. As I studied philosophy in my undergraduate degree, I am fascinated with questions like these.
Alas, without turning this post into a philosophical debate, let’s look at the 12 karmic laws and how they can help us live a better life.
1. The Great Law
This law is the basic karmic law, which states that ‘the energy you are sending out to the universe, will come back to you’. This law is about basic ‘cause and effect’. If you want good things to happen to you, you will have to act kindly and positively. Remember that the concept of karma includes inherited negative karmic energy. If you are living a kind life, bad things can still happen to you. This notion makes karma a gentler concept than the popularised ‘law of attraction’.
2. The Law of Creation
This law states that we are all co-creators of the universe. As Rumi put it: ‘you are not a drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in a drop’. In practical terms, this means that life doesn’t just happen to you. You can actively shape the course of your life.
3. The Law of Humility
Acceptance is the basis for transformation. We must always first accept our fate before we can ever hope to change it. This has been a powerful thing to learn for me during my health crisis.
4. The Law of Growth
This law states that only we have control over our thoughts and actions. If we want to grow in spirit, we should focus on changing our attitudes and mindsets. Don’t focus on nit-picking on the behaviour of others, but instead focus on your own conduct.
5. The Law of Responsibility
We must take full responsibility for our lives. As I mentioned before, we do not have control over our circumstances. We do however have control over our response to the circumstances. So, we must take responsibility for our conduct and attitudes. Notice a pattern here?
6. The Law of Connection
Everything in the universe is connected, including past, present, and future. For us to relate to the entire universe, we need to be present. Being present allows you to live in connection to all that is, was and has been. If this law sounds odd, try meditating and see if you can feel what this law means through first-hand experience.
7. The Law of Focus
You cannot focus on two thoughts at one. So, when you focus on the positive, you cannot simultaneously focus on the negative. Training your mind to focus on the positive will naturally make you less negative.
8. The Law of Giving
Selflessness can only be shown through our actions. Being virtuous is pointless if the kindness is only directed to ourselves. If we want to grow spiritually, we need to learn to become selfless.
9. The Law of Presence
This law can be best explained with a well-known Zen story about two monks and a woman. Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch women. One day, an old and a young monk saw a woman who was unable to cross a river. Without hesitation, the old monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river. Afterward, the two monks continued on their path. A few hours later, the young monk exclaimed: ‘How could you have touched that woman? We are not allowed to do that!”. The older monk responded: ‘I dropped off the woman hours ago, but it seems you are still carrying her.”
10. The Law of Change
Lessons will repeat themselves until we learn from them. We need to use our history to grow and evolve from it, or the same thing will keep happening to us. Growth is not possible without change.
11. The Law of Patience
We cannot influence divine timing. All we can do is work diligently and trust that the rewards will come in their own time. Enjoy life as it comes, rather than waiting for a magic end-result.
12. The Law of Significance
Each of our contribution matters to the Whole. Contributions with a loving and kind intention bring life and joy into the Whole. Simply said, this law states that you should be the change you want to see in the world.
Looking at all these laws, we can extract two main lessons: be present and be kind. Regardless of your religion or whether you believe in karma, you can apply these ‘laws’ to your life. Not only can this create a better world. It will also make us all a little happier. So, if you cannot remember all these laws, keep in mind to be present and kind. That will guarantee to make your life a little sweeter.