*Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.
Hello friends! Today our question comes from Astrid Korthew of Aberdeen, Maine.
“Dear Banaba,” Astrid writes. “Is karma a bitch?”
To my friend Astrid, I say, “You know it sister, and then some.”
But in reality, that is me kidding.
As it is explained in Buddhist philosophy, karma is the law of moral causation. It is the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in this life or incarnation based on that person’s deeds in this life or in a previous incarnation.
The phrase you ask about is a very limited application indeed.
Often people use the “bitch” motif when they want to remind others that their deeds will lead to future unhappiness in a very ruthless and uncharitable manner, that they themselves are potentially on the receiving end of a sort of “karmic revenge” for something they must have done (which they feel undeserving of, of course), or they long to see the retribution of karma rain down on those which they feel have done any level of unsavory injustice.
In each of these cases, the whole of karma is boiled down to being some sort of metaphysical punisher or ethereal seeker of revenge.
Unfortunately, this is not generally how karma works. It is not something we control by our wishes and desires like some sort of spiritual voodoo doll. It is not something we can wish upon others to make ourselves feel better because we feel karma’s “justice” will take care of something we find we are incapable of doing ourselves – at least outwardly.
In most cases, we would never see the effects of karma because we could not possibly understand the complexity of the philosophy. On the other hand, all we may see are the effects of karma, but again, when we view what goes on around us through the limited scope or lens of our personal experience, no matter how broad, we are incapable of truly recognizing what we are witnessing, nor do we have the universal context needed to comprehend the vast meaning of what we see.
Human beings often limit their view of everything to the now. I am uncomfortable now. I am not sleeping well now. I am angry now. I am sad now. People don’t like me now, and so on. Therefore, their vision, their longing for and patience toward getting a resolution is limited to the now. If I am uncomfortable, I must find comfort now. If I am hungry, I must eat now. If I am passed over for a promotion, I must quit my job today and leave angry because they do not appreciate all I have done for them, those bastards, and so on.
While there is a great value in learning to appreciate the now – the moment you are currently living in – because it is the only thing you can truly count on, restricting your views and tying your actions and emotions solidly to the now prevent you from seeing the world and your place in it as it truly is. You begin to think and act without perspective because you do what you feel is right – right now.
As an example, in our first scenario you are driving. You are minding your own business. Another driver comes out of nowhere, zooms past you, cuts you off, scaring you half to death, causing you to swerve and possibly causing you to drift off the road. In our second scenario, you are driving. You have a sick child in the car and you are trying to get he child to the hospital. Time is of the essence. You swerve in and out of traffic, going faster than you should. A slow car in front of you refuses to yield the right of way to you. When you finally get the chance, you zoom by them and head on to the hospital, but in doing so, you cause them to swerve, scaring them half to death and nearly forcing them off the road. Who should karma punish in each case? The drive who cuts you off? The driver who blocks you from your goal? You, for nearly running someone off the road?
Who is to say?
It could be effectively argued that karma put that slow driver in front of you just long enough for you to avoid a potential catastrophe down the road, had you gotten there too early.
Remember, karma can punish, but also reward.
So, you see Astrid, yes, karma can be a bitch, when it is inconvenient to us. It can also be a delicious club sandwich with chips. It can also be a roadblock that takes us off our usual and predictable path so that we might see something new, or experience something we haven’t before. It can also be that stranger that sits next to us at the bus stop. The one that we don’t talk to, but politely acknowledge as another person just trying to get through the day, and we leave it at that.
The greater task for us, is to focus less on determining an appropriate level of revenge against those we feel have wronged us – or – worrying about what we might have done to deserve the unwavering eye of karma’s “ruthlessness” (although we are convinced it is nothing), and focus more on understanding the role we play in the world and in the lives of others with a more universal perspective.
Understand that when you throw a rock into the water, the are ripples. Those ripples will travel out from the center of the action you created and they will do what they do until they fade away and the next rock is thrown. The only control you have is how hard you throw the rock…or if you throw the rock at all. That is karma.
Peace to you – Banaba