The concept of karma is a science, just like Newton’s law that ‘each action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Every spiritual system has some reference to karma – even the Bible says, ‘whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap’. Karma is often linked to reincarnation, but karma can exist with or without physical rebirth.
Karma cannot be wiped out by a statement or a ritual – it is the science of accountability. We are accountable for everything we have done, and there is no saviour for us except knowledge. Knowledge gives us the ability to deal with the effects of our karma. Quite simply, karma means that whatever I have done, whether I consider it good or bad is irrelevant, because whatever form of thought, words or actions I have given out into the world, that is the energy that will come back to me. It’s like an echo: whatever is given out will be received back from the world.
A lot of people are afraid of ‘bad’ karma. In some cases, the consequences of our actions can be changed, reduced or even wiped away if we make enough effort to instil the opposite action. The exact science of this is very diffcult to work out. Prayers and rituals cannot wipe away karma, but they can help create the consciousness to carry out actions that may help one resolve their past karmas. We can take the support of a Higher Source, but they are there to guide us, not to wipe the slate clean for us. God gave us free will so that we could create and understand ourselves, so we have to be accountable.
We come in innocent ignorance into the world, and through exposure to senses and desires, we create karmic relationships. This keeps the world play alive and is no bad thing until we let it overtake us. Then we realise that pain and pleasure are an inevitable consequence of having desires and attachments. We begin to feel that pain and pleasure are impermanent and don’t really satisfy us deep down. There comes a point where we want peace. That is when we start to make efforts to reduce our karma, turn into ourselves and towards God so that we can escape the world of action, pain, pleasure, attachment and restlessness. But avoiding the world totally disconnects us from the reality we have to live in, and it ironically makes us incapable of handling our karma.
We have to participate in the world, but with the right kind of consciousness. Through prayer, meditation and compassion we can create the consciousness for reducing our ‘negative’ karma yet still living peacefully in the world. If everyone does this, the consciousness of the world will change and the karma of the world will be uplifted. According to ancient religions, this turn from knowledge to ignorance and back again happens in a cycle continuously. Some say the whole point is to realise ourselves as souls, which we all do once physical things no longer make us happy. Others say it is just a creative exercise that God wants us to participate in in order to realise what exists beyond. Through this entire exercise, seemingly separate identities are acting together in what Confucious called ‘reciprocity’. That is the law of karma.