Why You Need to Attend to All of Them
Most of us think we have an idea of what karma is about—there’s good karma and bad, right? While scholars and pundits sometimes confuse us with too much detail, believe it or not, karma is pretty straightforward.
Karma is, at the bottom line, a combination of cause and situation creating results. Like this: A man kicks a dog. We can look at two different situations. Suppose the dog is minding her own business and, BAM, the guy boots her. Not terribly enlightened behavior. But what if the dog is about to attack a small child, and there’s no other way to stop her aggression? This makes the behavior look somewhat better.
So, what we do certainly creates results—and those results are thought of in terms of karma. Why we do what we do mitigates, or directs the karma. Karma is a result, then, that can carry far into the future, even into future lives. So what are teachers talking about when they divide karma into types?
Think in terms of stages of readiness, maybe.
1. Accumulated actions. This is about completed actions across all of your lives, present and past. It explains the sort of energy that surrounds you because of things you’ve done, and a balance is struck between the good things and not-so-good.
2. Actions you’ve set in motion. These are not yet finished—like a boomarang you’ve set in flight that hasn’t yet returned to you. The results are unclear, the circumstances still undefined.
3. Actions being born. This is that favorite of John Lennon: Instant karma. It’s about those acts or actions that are presently, in this life, right under your nose and waiting for you to choose which way you’ll go. Like a bubbling pot—something is going to happen, but until all decisions are made and the heat is turned up or down, it’s too soon to decide what.
4. Future actions or future results. This is the bottom line sum of all you do in your present life. Work off your past debt, and you’ll sail on smoothly. Slough off and ignore your spiritual growth, and the stuff you should have fixed will pile up in your accumulated karma. You can’t escape consequences and will face the same tithe in future lives.
At first glance, it may seem we can be kind of casual about our motives and behaviors. I mean, you’ll have many lifetimes to work it all out, right? Not so fast. It’s probably better to carefully consider your everyday karma and not end up with a heavy burden down the road. From small acorns grow large trees.