Will Karma eventually punish those who have wronged us?
This article explores the issue of karma, if it exists, how it differs from cause and effect and why compassion, not retribution is what will bring about balance in our lives.
If someone asks me if I believe in karma, more often than not they have been recently wronged in a very hurtful and painful way. When someone displeases or disappoints us its one thing, it may leave a scratch or a rash but it feels it can be dealt with. Yet when someone we feel we have opened our hearts to, trusted and cared for, returns that love with lies, cunning, cowardliness and deceit that’s another things, that leave a cut, it creates a emotional wound that bleeds. To add salt to this already painful injury , is the feeling that whilst we are bent over in emotional agony, they seem to be merrily ambivalent and indifferent to the wretchedness they have created.
The life people lead..
It is at this of level of pain that the person , hopes and wants to believe that there is karma. What karma is in this context often means “punishment”, or “how will life make them suffer , the way they made me suffer”. Karma is seen as a kind of cosmic justice, where the unseen forces of karma go about leveling things out and bringing balance. With this type of karma we hope it goes about silently righting the wrongs that a person or persons have been responsible for. So knowing Karma exist in this sense, soothes our angry and hurt feelings, as our revenge is enacted by the just and divine forces of that govern the universe. This means thankfully we haven’t had to get our hands dirty in this cosmic delivery of righteousness. The belief in this kind of karma is quite prevalent and somewhat universal. Imagine if you were to hear of a person who got run over, who only 4 years prior, during a drunken , drug fuel bender, mounted the pavement and mowed down and killed a sweet 82 year old lollypop lady. Upon hearing this most people first thought would be “umm talk about karma” or another popular one would “yeah karma is a bitch”. Seeing as the newly run over person, had run someone over 4 years earlier, in our minds becomes “deserving” of getting run over. Yet what about the sweet old lollypop lady? What did she to that was so deserving of getting run over? It here that karma as the “Charles Bronson of unseen universal justice” ,can hit a few snags. Although we are happy to attribute “karma” to anecdotal stories where it appears someone has “got whats coming to them” .Yet we do this without seriously questioning to see if this type of “karma” really does exist.If it does, then you would think, like the rain , it falls on all, good or bad. So is “karma” evenly distributed across the world, both for rich and poor, young and old? On the surface of it at least it appears it doesn’t. As it doesn’t take too much of look around to see that many “bad” people, so to speak do all sorts of horrible and atrocious things and go through life fairly unscathed by any form social punishment or even bad luck. Then we all read of good natured people who spend a life in jail for crimes they didn’t commit, have their families decimated by war ect..If there is such a system of cosmic punishment, it seems like “Mr Karma” is on a very long lunch break from planet earth.
A reasonable want…
Yet its understandable to wish for that type of karma, some kind of payback. It’s a horrible feeling to feel taken advantage of. That sense that another person has tapped into the better parts of who we are, the trusting parts, the kind parts, the non-cynical and open parts and used all of those to somehow advance an agenda that is in stark opposition to what we were told. As we not only have to deal with the pain of betrayal but we also are left dealing watching that person walks away unpunished or unaffected by cruel and heartless actions they have taken. As sadly , as of today it is still not “illegal” to be an asshole. All of this gives a terrible sense of lacking control and power within situations, so it makes sense we would want to believe that there is some kind of unseen force that takes care of these things, when we are unable to ourselves. So if there isn’t this cosmic justice does that mean bad people do bad things are they really do get away with it untarnished, unaffected, unpunished? Well for me I see it as a kind of yes and no answer .I recently read an astonishing statistic that 1 in every 5 woman in the USA has been a victim of some kind of sexual assault(I shudder at the thought this the world my daughters will emerge as adults in .Note to self “karate lessons for my girls”). I have no doubt that the majority of the perpetrators of these assaults are not in jail and have got away unpunished.This maybe due it maybe not being reported, an inadequately robust legal system and a number of other factors .Yet the fact a man can rape a woman and walk away unscathed or unpunished is just one example of how unfair and injustice life can feel like at times. That’s just reading about it, letting alone being the victim of such heinous crime. As for the rape victim, where is the karma for them? Where is payback ?In a concrete visible sense it appears to be nowhere .It looks on the face of it people can do terrible acts, sadistic things and bad things may never happen to them and if they do, they may have happen anyway and be total unrelated to the harm they have inflicted on others. Yet this is just one way of looking at it. The “Truth” sometime can have a number of layers and can exist on a number of levels. So in this concrete, visible way karma appears random, yet on an other level there maybe some bigger order to that randomness, or it only looks random when we don’t have the full picture.
Is karma just a fancy name of simple cause and effect?
The choices we make through our life do have consequences. We all live in a cause and effect universe .Sometime those consequences are immediate ie.I ate too much cake and know I feel sick. Sometime those consequences take time to unfold ie. I ate too much cake my entire life and now I have heart disease at 50 years old and I am about to die. Damm you cake!!! This is more the law of cause and effect, rather karmic justice .If you’re a person always stealing money from their family and never pays it back, rips off anyone they know for a few bucks, steals from any employer willing to hire them, would beat up a defenseless granny for a few bucks and it general always involve in some kind of scam over time his life is impacted by these choices. This type of person over time does have to deal the consequences of their choices. Maybe their family wants nothing to do with them, they have no friends, they have trouble finding work and end up living a very lonely and destitute life. That being the fact, is that karma or just what happens when you live selfish and petty life? Now in the society we in psychopathic behavior is often reward. This means if you have been born into privilege, you’re white and a male,you are cunning, deceitful, vengeful and overall a vile human being, you more than likely rise up the corporate ladder and be applauded for being monumental asshole (look no further then the top CEOs on wall st) . The material consequences for this person of those choices ,unlike the petty conman, mentioned above , is enormous wealth and power. Yet the relational costs I have no doubt will be the same. Now “Mr MoneyBags” may have enough wealth that people suck up to them but beyond that they would be despised, hated and loathed by anyone who has to spend any reasonable amount of time with them. So although the karmic consequences external may vary, the inner world of a person who consistently hurts, torments and is cruel to others would look very much the same. Again, is this karma or just basic laws of cause and effect in a relational context .So we can see that if we want to call it karma we just can’t measure its workings based on external factors. The inner world of people is the world, at heart all of us dwell in. Whatever happens “out there”,it still has to be processed and filtered “in here” .If that “inhere” environment, is absent of love, warmth and compassion that could be considered “karma”. The difference between the petty conman and the CEO is one just has higher standard of misery or inward poverty.
Judge ye not..
An other thing to be aware of when we discuss karma, is its application isn’t brought about by some silent divine light that shines upon those who have been chosen for a “karmic beat down”. Normally who is judged to be worthy of karma, come from our own mouths, conversation and discussions. We quickly forget that our judgments will often be filtered through our own ego’s and it inherit blindness and bias .Who am I to say this person needs to learn this lesson , all because they somehow wrong me? Was what happen to be me really such a terrible thing? Is it possible that there are people in my own life I have wrong somehow, who like me, wish that karma would come along and teach me the lesson they never could? As inherit is the thinking that someone else is deserving of things going wrong, is the assumption that our judgment is objective and reasonable. Maybe in the case of person being murder in cold blood, that maybe be correct but often the more mundane issue of heartbreak, infidelity and betrayal are more complicated than the victim and villain narrative we set up in our minds to feel justified in our pain. The man who leaves his wife to be with someone else , from the ex wife’s view is selfish, lying, perverted dirtbag, that deserve karma in the form of STDs and financial ruin. From his point of view his ex-wife is a cold, uncaring, vain and materialistic hag who deserve to wither away in dire poverty. Everything is about perspective.
Can karma follow us after we die?
Another factor to be aware of when we look at karma is the need to look at within the bigger picture of life. As life unfolds more laterally than linearly, at times people hurtful choices may appear to have no negative impact on their life. Yet when you look at their life as whole, will it be possible for them to escape from the impact of those choices? Not due to a divine punisher, rather due basic cause and effect, that all our choices, actions ripple outwards , as do everyone else’s and our lives are constantly process of navigating, responding, reacting, replying and reflecting on what we do and what others do. What’s fundamental drives those actions and responses, will shape much of how we feel about ourselves and the world . If we are willing to consider the possibility of that consciousness never ends, rather just keeps changing shape and location, then the inevitable ripple back effect of our choices would truly be “inescapable” . Then what happens to a person who has live a life fully of cruelty and sadism would be felt in some way, at some time in their existence A Hare-Krishna once told me at a market stall, as I mindlessly chomped away on my ham sandwich, that as result of me choosing to eat a pig, I would return in my next life as flea hanging off a piece poo dangling from a pigs bum. A thought I could carry with me to remind myself that things could be worse (and would be, once I died) How he knew this I don’t know, maybe in his previous life he ate bacon butty and this very existence he so vividly described. Either way for him “karma” was not felt in this life but the next. For many religion the “afterlife” is critical part of their teachings.With this basic belief in some version of heaven and hell , the good will be rewarded with harps and angels flying around as they arehand feed grapes in plush lounge rooms of heaven, whilst the sinful and wicked amongst us will burn in the fiery flames of damnation, not just for a few weeks, but for all eternity. Crickey!! Karma really is a mega-bitch if you believe that. Yet the manipulative set up behind this way of seeing what awaits us, doesn’t take Colombo to undercover. Heaven and Hell soon ended up a means of control and of negating all the injustices, on the fact that the baddie will get their dues when St Pete sends them to the basement level on the celestial elevator. Yet if we allow our selves see beyond this simplistic view of an afterlife, then it is possible that the flow of our choices here on earth, does impact where or how we end up where it is we go once we die. If you believe we go nowhere and just cease to exist, then any further speculation is mute. Yet if you believe or feel intuitively there is “something” but you’re not exactly sure of what that something is (such as myself) the question of where our choices lead us “post” life on earth can offer some small comfort. As it opens up the possibility at least there maybe some form of justice or some kind of cosmic hall of mirrors, were we are forced to face all of what we have done without the layers of rationalisation, justification or denial. If there is life after death what we know is no one will take their status, bank account, wealth or power. As the Greek emperor Marcus Aurelius’ said “both the stable boy and the King meet the same fate when they die” .They will be stripped bare of all tangible things, including their body and will be left with the feelings they have inside. How those accumulated feeling impact, or carry forward into the life after death, I have no idea. Yet I think to leave this world being surround by people that love you, knowing you did you best to be a kind and loving person, must feel quite different to a person who has done nothing for nobody, that has no one to care for them, has few loving memories to recall.
Time for a different question….
So will peoples karma eventually catch up with them? My most honest answer would be i don’t know. As it’s not a question I can give definitive “no” or “yes”, as to do so requires knowledge of things that for me remain unknown .Yet another interesting question to ask is “Why do I want to know?” Do we really live in a world of “bad people” skirting and skiving out of their karmic debts? Where does this way of thinking of justice, punishment and vengeful retribution actually come from? Maybe karmic reckoning isn’t what the world needs. As in my heart I don’t believe most people bad actions arise from the fact they are bad people. There is small percentage of psychopaths, that are like alien creatures to anyone who feels love and empathy. These psychopaths have seemed to accrued much more power and control in the world then they ever should, yet they are still the minority .For the majority us “non-aliens” we hurt others because we ourselves our hurt. We do wrong out of ignorance, fear, insecurity and shame. There has been extensive research showing most abusers have been abused , most violent act are committed by people who themselves have been subject to violence. This doesn’t excuse or justify peoples bad actions, it just puts them with a context . Rather than some karmic punisher, serving justice on those who hurt us, I think a better force to enlist would a force of cosmic compassion, showing them love, forgiveness and empathy. Giving to them what they were unable to give to others. Showing them how what they do to other, they ultimately do to themselves.I think its something only the lines of what Jesus may have been talking about when he ask his disciplines to “Love thy enemy” .I don’t think most of us need more reminders of how bad and hurtful we are. Most of us do a good job of that ourselves, as our incessant negative self-talk can be hard to shut off. I don’t think most of us need to be punished “more” harshly , because we didn’t learn our lessons the first time. As at heart we are not bad people trying find goodness in ourselves , we are good people forgetting we our inherently loving in nature and in turn forgetting the goodness and loving nature of others. As when we disconnect from others, when we forget their humanity, their pain, their hearts, when we dehumanise them, categorise them, we then enable all sorts of horrors to be unleashed. As doing so to them it makes it easy, almost understandable to hurt, inflict pain and not care how they feel. As they stop being a “someone” and become a “something”. So what I know is when I have been hurt by someone ,once the initial flurry of anger subsides, I don’t want to wish bad karma to fall upon them. I know that whatever judgments I make about them, I will do so with most often a very small part of their true story .I know that without be deserving of bad things, life can be pretty tough and hard for many people, just as it is. I keep in mind the fact I have wronged and hurt others and I am deserving of what most others are as well. That doesn’t mean I am on par with child killers or sadist dictators and how the universe brings balance to those horrible acts and people I don’t really understand. What I know is given a choice between being “randomly murdered” or being a “random murderer”, the choice is easy, as I couldn’t think of more of a hellish existence to be someone who has kill a stranger for no reason.
I guess we all have to accept that life throughout the world is unfair .Bad people, do bad things, to good and undeserving people all of the time. Most of the wars waged in the last fifty years, the majority of deaths have been civilians .Families torn, broken, murdered and ravaged, all for the crime I just being born in the wrong country at the wrong time .This happens, this is happening. From the petty criminal to the politician who sends others to kill and be killed, there isn’t any obvious justice or karma. If in the afterlife there is some justice and some cost of those choices , I have no idea .I would like to think there would have to be but I don’t know. So what I do know, is I have very very little or no control in how justice is administered in life, how karma gets done. What I do know and what I do assert is some control over my own karmic foot print, my own cause and effect. It is so easy and lazy to focus on the bad deeds of others and how utterly deserving they are of bad stuff to fall upon them, then it is to really look ,long and hard at myself .Yet it is here, that if I truly wish to make some difference in the balance of “good vs bad” that I can actually make an impact. My karma is the karma that counts for me. It’s the karma I need to be most aware of, it’s the karma what I need to take responsibility for .It the karma I have to live with and die with. Knowing that bad people have got away with bad things is easier to stomach , knowing, I as a good person , did good things .That the ripple I set off in the pool of life, when it touches others, their response will invoke more ripples of warmth, kindness and care across the pool of life. That’s the only karma I can afford to think about. Therefore I have to ask the truly tough and confronting question , which is not “What will their karma be?, rather “What will my karma be? This one I can impact, the other I just have to wait and see.