Does karma really exist?


Fact Box

  • Merriam-Webster defines karma as “the force generated by a person's actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person's next existence.”
  • Researchers attribute a belief in karma to “...belief in a just world, belief in a moralizing God, religious participation, and cultural context.”
  • A 2019 Statista poll reported that over 60% of those surveyed believed strongly in the concept of karma.
  • There are 12 laws associated with karmic belief: the Law of Cause and Effect; the Law of Creation; the Law of Humility; the Law of Growth; the Law of Responsibility; the Law of Connection; the Law of Focus; the Law of Giving and Hospitality; the Law of Here and Now; the Law of Change; the Law of Patience and Reward; the Law of Significance and Inspiration. 

Amanda (No)

Karma, as generally understood in the US, suggests that actions taken by humans can lead to appropriate or even deserved outcomes that may not be the direct result of the initial action. However, humans are pattern-seeking animals, and though this can be useful for learning new skills, this often means we can see patterns in situations that are coincidental--such as a coin flip coming up heads multiple times being mistaken for deliberate design instead of happenstance.

This propensity for pattern recognition can also mean we inadvertently draw conclusive evidence of karmic retribution or reward between two unrelated events, making karma more akin to the just-world fallacy, in which negative or positive outcomes are perceived as the result of a flaw or virtue within a specific person, rather than coincidence or luck. 

Further, there are multiple real-world examples of people engaging in unethical behavior while experiencing little or no consequences for them, while others have acted ethically but suffered harm. For instance, in 1898, William Randolph Hearst used the New York Journal to print poorly-sourced stories to gin up outrage at Spain’s then-current actions in Cuba, leading to the Spanish-American War. Yet, the Journal’s circulation numbers during its coverage went up. Conversely, Martin Luther King, Jr. worked tirelessly to advance civil rights in the United States, yet paid a horrifically steep price for his efforts.

As these are just two examples among many, they suggest karma is not, in fact, a primary force in the universe.

Noah (Yes)

Yes, without a doubt, karma exists. And in many different forms.

Most people consider karma to be how Mother Nature settles the score on injustice, and in a way, that's true. 

Karma is a kind of residue left over after any action one takes. And the critical operative that is always working behind karma is the power of patience. Righteous and virtuous actions create good karma, while immoral, selfish, or harmful activities produce negative residues that come back later to rebound on the individual.

We can see karma working every day, as it is the key engine behind all of our myths and stories in popular entertainment. The wicked get punished; the hero finds his reward. Risk for good yields happiness, while harmful actions against the hero lead to destruction. Karma works on a cosmic scale, but more importantly, karma is a powerful force behind the actions of a single individual: you, for example.

If we accept karma as an active principle in our lives, we can guide ourselves, our careers, and even our businesses by its force. In fact, corporate executives have taken notice of the infinite power of karma and are integrating it into the study of contemporary ethical management.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about karma and how it operates, as much of its influence doesn't just come from the actions we do in this life. Therefore, it's imperative to see karma for what it truly is: not a negative force that always seeks vengeance, but rather, a wise teacher instilling lessons about the nature of balance in the universe. 

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