General Question

NerdyKeith's avatar

Where does the belief in karma originate from?

Asked by NerdyKeith (5446points) March 2nd, 2016

Was it based on an ancient pagan belief system?

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10 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

I always think Buddism was the creator of such. Karma was the centre of their belief anyway. Or did they adapt it from another belief system?

LuckyGuy's avatar

Every dog has its day.
What goes around comes around.

I can see that thinking evolving a long time ago – around the first time some big Neanderthal stole a handful of hot coals from another who had been carefully tending fire . When the big brute got burned the little guy said “Krrrmah” and felt vindicated.

kevbo's avatar

It’s Hindu, and if I’m not mistaken Buddhism evolved from Hinduism. It’s in the Hindu texts, and it is part of the idea that you’re a spirit that is refined over many lifetimes by learning to navigate a seemingly physical existence.

Cruiser's avatar

It always was. There was no time when Karma was non-existent.

It appears the ancient Hindu’s first conceptualized Karma around 2,000 BC and the earliest written record I could find was in the hymns and verses of the Rigveda where the word Karma is found 40 times. It is estimated The Rigveda was written circa 1,400 BC

thorninmud's avatar

Karma predates Buddhism by a long shot. The Buddha was born into a culture that already took karma to be settled fact.

While you can construct an elaborate system of beliefs about how you think karma works, at its core karma is a very basic general premise that most humans intuitively accept: intentional actions have moral repercussions.

This doesn’t require a great leap of credulity. If I knowingly take an action that harms others in order to serve my personal interests or out of hatred, then on some level (maybe we could call it the moral sphere) things have taken a turn for the worse. It’s why most of us understand that waterboarding isn’t a good idea, for instance. That’s karma.

The perpetrator of the action, even though they may have seemed to profit from the action in the short term, is now a morally compromised creature, more psychologically isolated from others, and that’s a recipe for suffering. On top of that psychological retribution, the perpetrator also has to live in a world made worse by their own action and they can’t be entirely immune from those bad effects.

When you extrapolate from this basic understanding of karma into a belief system that purports to plot out how all of this works, then you’re on largely speculative ground.

rojo's avatar

”.... most humans intuitively accept: intentional actions have moral repercussions.”

I think that it being intuitive is only partially true. While you would be hard pressed to find a human who did not feel that “Shit Happens” many cannot make the necessary mental (or moral) leap required to understand that “Shit Happens for a Reason

thorninmud's avatar

@rojo You’re pointing to something important: trying to use karma as a way of working backwards from effect to cause, e.g “This crappy thing happened to him because he did X”, is very problematic.

That things happen as a result of causes is something that all of us can get behind, but those causes are traceable only on a very proximate level: that punch in my face is clearly a result of my spitting in your face. But if you try to trace causes for every good or bad happenstance back to some intentional action in the past, that’s quite misguided. It’s a misapplication of the idea of karma.

Karma works in the other direction. While you can’t always understand exactly how the consequences of an action will play out, we do intuitively understand that there will be moral consequences. Moral systems are a pretty universal feature of human culture, even secular ones. And at the basis of all moral systems is this intuition that intentional actions have moral consequences. Doing certain things makes the world (whether one’s mental world or the world at large, or both) a shittier place. There’s plenty of disagreement about exactly what those things are, but we tend to agree on the principle.

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Darth_Algar's avatar

@thorninmud has it right, and puts it better than I could. Each of us shapes, for better or worse, the world we live in by our actions.

LuckyGuy's avatar

There are many studies that show some dogs and chimpanzees have a very good understanding of the sense of “fairness”. (Just google sense of fairness in animals)
They know to shun an individual who doe not play fair. If one animal hogs the food the other will not deal with that one unless. they have to. They know kindness and cooperation.
Since dogs and chimps predate humans by a few million years I figure that thinking was around way before a human spread the word.

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