The Shaman Podcast – What is Karma?

Speaker –        Mark A. Ashford

                        Usui Tibetan Reiki Master and Teacher and


What this is – Hello and welcome to the “The Shaman Podcast”

In this Podcast we talk about – 

  • Shamanism
  • Reiki – Reiki energy healing, especially the lineage I follow originated in Tibet
  • And everything else that is related

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Today we are talking about – Karma

Karma originates from the Indian word Karmen.

It has great significance in very many religions around the world. But in the west, we are used to thinking of it in terms of someone who has done something that deserves the same as what they have done to us in return.

A friend of mine came out of a fitness class to find the driver’s door on her Mercedes had been keyed. Someone had walked past the car in the parking lot, and used a car key to scratch the door as they walked past. The door would have to be repainted, which costs money and she would be without the car for several days. Her reaction was “What goes around, comes around.” Meaning she hoped the same would happen to the person who did this to her.

When we say, “What goes around, comes around,” we unwittingly imply there is something, a force, an entity, or energy that will judge the perpetrator for what has happened and apply something equal to them. We do not know when, or if, and we don’t care to be there when it does. We just hope that it happens.

This means we think of Karma operating by the law of cause and effect, action and reaction, it governs all life and living things. If an individual sows’ goodness, he or she will reap goodness; if one sows evil, he or she will reap evil. Something like an Excel worksheet with one column for Good and one column for Bad. 

In many religions Karma has a much bigger role to play, and there are different forms of Karma.

Let’s dig in!

Karma has suffered a chronic miss-association with the word fate, or destiny. 

Fate is a Western idea, derived largely from the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It means, with wide variation, that one’s life has been set by agencies outside oneself, and as a result we are helpless to change anything in it. We simply go from birth to death with a belief that something is supposed to be happening as decided by a power, which is greater than our self. 

We all have free will but what type is it? Is it absolutely free? 

No, there are restraints on our fee will, we cannot do whatever we want. As a scuba diver, I had to wear a lot of gear in order to descend to even modest depths and could stay down for a limited amount of time. The physical limitations were real and had to be respected, no matter what I wanted to do.

No Free will.

According to fatalism, we cannot choose to do anything, everything we do is predestined, and our feeling of being free to choose something other than what is preordained is an illusion. Fatalism is impossible to prove, but it’s also impossible to disprove, because a fatalist would say that whatever we do or say to try to disprove fatalism is itself determined by fate![1]

Limited Free will.

This is it! 

I may not be able to breathe underwater like a fish, but I do have free will to learn the skills and understand the equipment that will allow me, for a limited time, to exist underwater. That limited amount of free will includes what is necessary to challenge my mental and psychological prohibitions against opening my mouth and trying to breathe underwater.

Karma works to develop our ability to handle free will responsibly. [2]

Karma is not like that Excel worksheet, there is no netting out of the Good and Bad columns, a good deed does not offset a bad deed. And, you cannot show a “profit” on the Karmic balance sheet by doing a lot of good things while also doing the bad.

It is the consequences of Good, and Bad karmic actions that our soul is here to experience and learn from. Learning from the consequences of good karmic actions as well as from bad is the take away message. Good karmic actions give rise to good experiences and consequences. Bad karmic actions give rise to bad experiences and consequences. It is what we learn from the consequences, good or bad that is important. 

Different types of Karma.

The process of action and reaction on all levels — physical, mental and spiritual – is karma. God does not give us karma. We create our own. Karma is not fate; humans are believed to act with free will creating their own destinies according to the Vedas,[3] a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India.

Let’s refine Karma a little by bringing in the intention of our actions. 

If I punch you in the arm and hurt you but it is accidental, the effect on my karma will be less than if I had punched you with the intention of hurting you. 

At the same time, your karma is affected because you trusted me and did not anticipate or accept that receiving a punch in the arm is acceptable. The break in your trust that I will not punch you is your karma, the intention to hurt you and the action are mine.

Now to the two different forms of Karma.

The first is what we call “fruit bearing.” This is, what you sow, you reap, either immediately, or a short while after. 

The other type of Karma is accumulative. 

The philosophy of karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth in many schools of Indian religions particularly Hinduism[4], Buddhism[5], Jainism[6] and Sikhism[7] as well as Taoism[8]. In these schools, karma is in the present, it affects one’s future not just in what remains of your current life, but also the nature and quality of future lives into which you are born – that is one’s samsara.[9] [10] This means our good and bad actions accumulate from life time to life time and at each rebirth, the balance, not the net value of good and bad affects the type of rebirth we have.

This means that events in our lives are not only the result of the karmic balance in this life, but also actions from previous lives. This explains why sometimes there is a disconnect between our actions and consequences, why bad people seem to enjoy success and prosperity, while good people suffer despite their best actions and intentions.

I mentioned before that Karma is associated with rebirth and reincarnation in religions such as Hinduism[11], Buddhism[12], Jainism[13] and Sikhism[14] as well as Taoism.[15]

Abrahamic religions such as Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and Orthodox Christianity to not accept rebirth and reincarnation. Through the theory of salvation, embracing and adhering to, and worshiping Jesus Christ is the only way to escape the consequences of our bad or evil deeds when it is time for our souls to be judged.

Karma and New Age!

If you are wondering, New Age encompasses a very broad range of spiritual or religious beliefs which developed in the Western World during the 1970s. The New Age philosophy is non-unified and includes beliefs and practices from eastern and western religious traditions, as well as a holistic approach to health, motivational and positive psychological research. 

New Age is so broad because the general development of human understanding started to coalesce at that time across an amazingly wide variety of human experience and empowered people to castoff organized religious structures and organizations. New agers, as they are called, don’t limit their belief system to one particular doctrine.

Karma in Science

Yes, Science! Perhaps the simplest illustration of Karma is Sir Isaac Newton’s[16] Third Law of Motion[17]

  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In terms of karma, this would mean that a good deed done by someone would be returned to them to the same value, of course, a wrong doer would receive an equal and opposite wrong. In other words, a more scientific expression of “what goes around, comes around.”

C. C. Jung[18] in his view of World Religions[19] was quite agnostic with regard to karma, though he was careful to distinguish between metempsychosis and reincarnation since the former did not imply continuity of personality while the latter did. 

You probably guessed that whether you are a follower of a religion that believes in reincarnation and the karma you accumulate in life, or not, it does not stop you from responding to a karmic action with “what goes around, comes around.” 

There is more to read on Karma, in our book on Karma available as an eBook or paperback on Amazon. 

Check it out and enjoy.

I look forward to chatting with you in our next episode. 

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