What Is Karma?
When thinking of Karma, most of us think that by doing something good for someone else, we will get something good in return. Thus, in order to accumulate more wealth and riches (thereby moving you up the classical Caste system—that is, if you prescribe to the Hindu philosophy where Karma originated from), you must put out good in order to receive the good you seek in return… tell that to the missionaries who are underpaid and treated as less-thans.
So, what, then, is the difference between Karma and Greed? Is it still considered good Karma if you intend to do something simply because you wish to get something back in return? That seems a little like creating bargaining chips for the good deities to push more bounty onto your side, to me…
Perhaps the only thing I can think of that actually equates to some semblance of spreading good Karma just for the sake of doing it is doing something good out of reflex. Because, only then, are you not thinking about doing something good consciously, you are doing it simply out of an innate impulse to seek out equanimity and an opportunity to restore “balance”. For example: you see someone drop a pen and you automatically go to pick it up.
However, if you, too, prescribe to the science of the brain being driven forward by a desire to seek out Dopamine (ie. happy hormones), then you could also argue that this was all still in favour of bolstering the egoic-self, just at an unconscious level. Also known as “Warm Glow Altruism,” as described in the book, Super Freakonomics*.
Well, what is Karma, then? I believe that Karma is simply giving a name to the ripples of time. Stay with me. Every action has a consequence. And by its very definition, if there is a consequence to your actions, then you have an impetus. An impetus means that there is a reason. That reason means that things are determined. There is no Random. Everything has an order; it has a place; it has a determined trajectory with Random (the name we give to things we cannot calculate in-mind or find the causal link for) nowhere to be found. It is, in effect, Determinism at play.
When looking at life in these terms, then of course the good you dish out is the good you will get back in return. I go out of my way to help you today—you show me some act of kindness the next day. But it also accounts for the good you don’t receive in return. I stop a mugger on the street who is robbing an old lady—the next day, the robber’s gang finds me and kills me. What happened to my good Karma, then? There is no good, there is no bad, there is only reason; there is only Determinism.
Actions (and inactions) inevitably evoke consequences, and that is something that we must always remember. The Karma of our choices is simply the ramifications of our deeds. No good, no bad, no bargaining; just good old fashioned Determinism—wrapped up in hope and unwittingly selfish desires.