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antimatter's avatar

Is Karma just another invented term?

Asked by antimatter (4229 points ) September 28th, 2013

We all know the term Karma, what you sow you shall reap.
My brother told about someone who ripped him off in a business transaction and now that person got it back double, he lost his job and about everything. He believes it’s Karma.
Was it coincidence or Karma?
And it’s not the first time I heard people using the term Karma will get you, is it an invented term or not?

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22 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Oh, I think like all religious ideas—and karma is a Buddhist dogma—it’s invented. It may have its roots in the best intentions laid down by the Buddha or his followers, but in the end, it’s a man made idea.

It seems entirely possible that we make these terms to relieve ourselves of fear. In this case, it’s the fear that chaos might be the natural state of affairs and chance might reign.

Pardon me. I just finished reading Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, and I wax philosophical. Life is full of chance. Death is more than likely the end. Why worry? Be happy.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s a Sanskrit word. If I’m not mistaken, the term and the concept predate Buddhism by quite a while.

ETpro's avatar

All words are man made terms. Thus, the question is ill formed. What I think you mean to ask is, “Does Karma exist on its own, or is it only a manmade term?”

antimatter's avatar

@ETpro I was actually under the impression that it was only a term, like a saying. I don’t think it’s an entity that exists to get even with people.
I tend to like what @Hawaii_Jake said it’s only a religious idea.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Jeruba You are correct. It predates Buddhism by perhaps 1000 years. I was just reading the Wikipedia article on it. I do believe that like all religious ideas it rises from our human need to impose control on a world that seems out of control.

antimatter's avatar

Well said @Hawaii_Jake and @Jeruba I just done reading your link in Wikipedia.

Symbeline's avatar

I think it’s an invented term, and one that was easy to invent through association. You can associate everything you want with the idea of karma, and since most of man’s history has operated on a black and white basis, the whole morality thing is easy to fit in there.

For chaos, yo! ’‘raises sword in honor of Wotan’’

nebule's avatar

Hmm… I love the above answers and really interesting to know that it was originally a Sanskrit word. I do think the world is rather random and therefore there probably isn’t Karma as such. However, from a spiritual perspective it is an interesting concept to play around with; so notice things that happen in your life when you feel like you’re on the right path – and everything seems to flow and go your way…as opposed to feeling like you are struggling with everything you do. I am not sure that that’s Karma per se though….?

LornaLove's avatar

Oddly I do see people experiencing Karma. It seems to be a concept used by all sorts of religions so it could be a cause and effect situation.

Bill1939's avatar

The human mind attempts to understand what it observes and invents labels/names for their understanding. While the label is an invention, the observation is not. I see the concept of Karma as analogous to momentum. It resides within minds, directing what is perceived and what the perception means and applies to both the individual and their society. Karma establishes the basis upon which choices are made and creates self-fulfilling expectations.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

All terms are invented. But Karma is one of many whose original meaning has been perverted to accommodate American culture. Pop culture. It lost a lot in interpretation and most Americans have no idea of what the definition of Karma really is. I see it used to define a mechanism much like an earthly purgatory, little paybacks for evil deeds. How parochial of us. Wouldn’t it be nice if every action had an appropriate reaction, that everything was predictable and we could be assured that the Hitlers, Stalins, and even the Duamers would be appropriately punished by an avenging superpower, preferably within our lifetimes so we may witness it. How convenient that would be.

ucme's avatar

It’s certainly a fabricated philosophy, “what goes around comes around”...yeah, that’s the luggage carousel at an airport.

KaY_Jelly's avatar

All words are invented. They all have a purpose for us to understand. What is the meaning of Apple? Well 37 years ago it was just a fruit and then 3 guys decided to sell the Apple 1 personal computer kit forever changing the meaning of the word “Apple” and adding it as a second term to our vocabulary.

Without a term how do you describe it?

Does the Christian God give me good karma? My guess is yes. Not that physically He himself is giving it to me but by following His rules I am not setting myself up for so much bad juju because I should be doing and saying all good things if I understand the words of the Christian Jesus Christ, IMHO. I don’t actually have proof of His existence so if He actually makes karma happen is up for debate.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
blueiiznh's avatar

Be very careful how you question Karma.

dabbler's avatar

Karma is a sanskrit term going back at least to Vendanta philosophy texts a few thousand years old, predated even Hinduism.

It’s a word used to identify an observable phenomenon that exists. It’s basically the same as the physics principle that for any action there is a reaction… i.e. if you do something, something happens.

The relative newcomer, the Judeo-Christian Bible, says you reap what you sow, same thing.
In neither case is it a matter of some entity that is keeping the books and will be out to get you if you misbehave.
It’s a matter of the fact that actions have consequences, as we try to teach kids. The universe as we know it simply causes this. For the kids the parents are likely to be imposing the consequences, but in general society at large will do that, too.
If you plant trees a forest will grow. If you burn trees down you get smoke.

It’s not at all confined to “getting even” although it’s almost always brought up that way in current pop usage. It’s the same as “hard work pays off” “a stitch in time saves nine” and the Golden Rule to treat others as you would like to be treated.
Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration;
[ or Tad Friend “Luck is the residue of design and devotion” New Yorker Sept 16, 2013 ]

Awareness of the idea of karma, that life is not consequence-free, and that one ought to pay attention to one’s actions even if only for purely selfish reasons, does seem to be a principle embraced by all religions and philosophies.

Pachy's avatar

I never believed in Karma until I saw how many times this question has returned in one form or another. ;-)

Sunny2's avatar

Isn’t it the same idea as the golden rule in a way?

zenvelo's avatar

It is, as @Sunny2 describes, a form of the golden rule. And it is an understanding of observations in the world as an explainable phenomenon.

To put it in essence: “Do good and good things will happen to you; be an asshole and people will treat you as an asshole.”

It would be different though, if there was a direct and consistent correlation. Where it becomes more of a belief than a tested principle is that we see assholes succeeding all the time, and we see good people that are still having to deal with life’s problems.

Where karma kicks in, though, is that the good people sleep easy at night, and the assholes are alone and unloved in this world, and miss the deep joy that is possible.

Rarebear's avatar

Yup. It’s invented.

ETpro's avatar

@dabbler Well said.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think of it as a metaphor.

A bit like the term Gaia for planet earth.

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