What is Karma?

We sometimes hear our friends say when they’re angry with someone, “Ka-karmahin din yan” or “Karmahin ka sana.” But when they tell it that way, they think of it as some sort of curse or bad luck happening on the person concerned. If we put it that way, they are actually saying, “Malasin ka sana.” As if the God they believe in will punish that person for doing them wrong. But that is not the case. For those who don’t believe in God, you know why.

In this world, the wrongdoers don’t always get what they deserve. We might see a few who are punished publicly but that’s it. But why be invested in what is happening to your enemies? For now, let us focus on our Personal karma.

For those unfamiliar with karma, the first thing you have to know is that we are born with karma. The environment you were born into is part of your karma. That is the start of your karma. And for people who believe in reincarnation, your current life is just a continuation of your karma from a previous life or lives. Putting an end to personal karma is a part of the work of Buddhists.

You must realize that you are not alone and there are other people in this world with you. Everybody is creating his/her own karma that affects the rest of us. For example, Person A murders Person B. It is Person A’s karma that led to him being murdered. Then it is the Person B’s karma that leads him to be sent to jail.

Karma means that our actions bring about consequences that affect us in the long run. “You reap what you sow” as they say. Think about it, every move we make will start a chain of events that will keep on going through everybody until it reaches us again. I guess it is similar to Chaos Theory. That’s just my opinion.

Karma is not done by some supernatural force that chooses to give it to you when it wants to although when karma gets you, you won’t be able to escape it. It was just meant to happen that way to you. So what must we do? The only way is to change your bad karma into good karma. If you don’t then you will continue to make bad karma for yourself. Karma will not feel like a single event and it is not totally your fault. It is the result of a combination of many different factors, you and your environment. Karma is neither good nor bad, it is an experience that just does what it is supposed to do in your life. And it is up to you to try to deal with it.

Karma can also be applied to any group. The actions of each member contribute to the karma of the group. You might notice that your Family has its own karma. Higher than that is the karma of your Community. Next to it is the Country karma. Our beloved Philippines is now feeling the effects of the karma produced by the past generations. The last is the karma of the whole planet. So create good karma for others and not just yourself.

If we don’t do something about our own karma, others will continue to suffer as a result of our ignorance. We can find a way out of our ignorance by being better informed of what is going on around us. Learn to anticipate different situations that may come. Make friends with the right kind of people who really know. And lastly, get to know yourself as an individual human being apart from the people around you so you can put your whole trust in yourself. Do something about your life.

What you are experiencing at this moment is your karma, whatever has happened in your past has brought you here to be on this site and read this right now. There are things you just can’t control but the future is not written so use your free will to make the right moves in your life.


  1. This is really late, but I will offer my humble dos centavos because I am a Buddhist and so I have some interest in articles like this one.

    Karma, as I understand it, is not mystical. Karma is just a Sanskrit word that means action (in Buddhism, karma means specifically volitional action). At the most basic level, I choose to do x and this happens. I choose to do y and something else happens. Since we're all acting, we're all doing karma (and reaping the fruits of karma).

    Is our karma (read that: our actions) a major force in our lives? Of course. Is it the only major force in our lives? Of course not. There are other natural forces: the weather, earthquakes, etc. that are not influenced by karma. Can we control our karma? Yes, we can control our actions. Does that mean that if we are "really really good" and behave "really really well" that shit won't happen to us anymore? No. No amount of being spiritual and kind is going to prevent an earthquake from happening. Karma neither causes nor prevents natural occurrences.

    Anyway, I don't like using the word karma, at least not in conversations because I get the sense that most people think karma = mystical force. So unless I'm in conversation with another Buddhist, I prefer to use English terms for clarity.

    If you want a clearer explanation of karma, go to this page: http://buddhism.about.com/od/karmaandrebirth/a/ka

  2. these "freethinkers" refuse to accept concepts that are not couched in their terms; much in the same way children who refure to drink fresh water if not placed in their glass. Call it karma, they will say its bullshit; call it "causality", and they'll agree.

    • Hey schopenhauer, why don't you go to the saturday meet up. Your IP says your in manila naman eh. Lets have this discussion face to face. Don't worry about people ganging up, its in a public place naman eh. Feel free to drop by and Identify yourself.


      • the problem is some people limit the concept of causality to scientific relation. karma simply means "you reap what you sow". plant mango seed, if the conditions permit you'll have mango tree. if one sows the seed of evil, one cannot expect to reap a good fruit. that is cause and effect!

    • karma != causality. the term 'karma' is vacuous. a 7 year old boy acquires cancer, or dies of famine, how does karma explain that? karma is 100% BS.

  3. "For those unfamiliar with karma, the first thing you have to know is that we are born with karma." -freespirit

    – Really now? I think I lost mine in a childhood accident.

    • that's what you think…

      but the next time you meet a foreigner who thinks that the only things filipinas are good for are being domestic helpers or mail order brides, think of what you did to deserve such discrimination – which is absolutely nothing. Thing is, we get a lot of flak just by being born Filipino and its often a sore topic analyzed-to-death on the internet. And no amount of complaining is going to change their minds, you just have to fight an uphill battle against the discrimination.

      If you don't want to call it "karma", then call it negative publicity… same concept, same shit we have to deal with.

      • karma and negative publicity are not the same. Karma is “the law of moral causation”. It doesn’t matter what you do, all good and bad action constitutes karma. While negative publicity is “the adverse publicity that a firm may incur due to a particular reason, which may lead to potentially disastrous consequences”, which have exact causes.

        The Spam software's not allowing me to post links much, but you should try to look it up yourself.

  4. Does that mean the Philippines is forever inferior because it's a tropical country? that its people are inferior too? that Philippines can never progress at all unlike many other countries?

  5. 1. This is not some literary article (or if it is, it fails in that regard). It tries to sound like an explanation of what "karma" is. Based on that I find it lacking. The author just throws the word around and expects us to find his observations profound. They ain't. We know certain actions have effects; calling it "karma" doesn't help explain anything.

    2. Demystifying "karma" is fine. This article doesn't do that. It bandies the word around and offers advice (such as "If we don’t do something about our own karma, others will continue to suffer as a result of our ignorance.") which don't mean anything at all. If "karma" simply cause and effect, then how the hell do I "do something" about "my" cause and effect? It sounds like the spiritual bullshit we're supposed to discard as freethinkers.

    3. There is no censorship going on. You're free to use the word "karma" as much as you like. Doesn't make it any less stupid, though.

    • If its not a "literary article" then what is it? Did you even bother to ask the author himself or did you jump to conclusions? Why does anybody write anything? Why do you yourself write a blog? Is it only to "feel profound"? Then you do yourself and writers everywhere a great disservice with that attitude.

    • Let me break it down for you: Its topic is a philosophical concept, not a scientific one. So one should read it like a philosophical essay rather than a scientific paper. What you're doing is like criticizing a song lyric for not sounding like a physics term paper.

      It seems to me that all the author is trying to do is to explain what a philosophical term means to him. How can you find it "lacking" when it's a personal definition? Philosophical terms have no "official" definition, you know. That's why it's philosophical, not scientific. What if you came across an essay entitled "What is Love?" Would you likewise lambast it because the author's definition of love doesn't match yours?

      "oh no! don't use the word karma, its all magical and spiritual and stuff, oh wait you're trying to make it sound normal… that's even worse! I've always known karma to be this mystical shit so everyone has to follow my definition! How else can I make fun of it?"

        • Exactly. Why should I give him the benefit of the doubt when he obviously believes that spiritual bullshit? That ain't freethinking.

          What got my goat was that the article sounded like he was proselytizing. Karma is mystical shit so it doesn't belong here unless it's to be ridiculed/dissected. The article doesn't do anything to change that.

          • I'm against the belief of karma and most superstitious nonsense (yeah, I'm still trying to get a few superstitions out of my system), but I believe the article is here to be dissected, and hopefully those who know better not to belief in all that BS are willing to have some rational sense knocked into them.

          • Yes, indeed that article shouldn't be found here. Hhhmmm but really depends on how one defines Freethought. Kinda like how you define pro-life. Maybe this is a new site? What's next, my alien abduction story?

  6. We cannot know for sure and we can only deduce after the event.

    The sad part of history of Philippines led it to what it is now. The sad part of Korean War led it to prosperity, so is Taiwan, and China and Vietnam.

    Thank you for your honesty.

    • here's another way to look at it:

      in "old-school Karma" – why are some people lucky enough to be born rich? because they earned good karma that enabled them to be reborn into a better life. they worked hard in their previous life to earn enough karma points to be born wealthy

      in practical terms – why are people in 1st world countries enjoying the good life while there other people in third world countries still suffering? answer: because the ancestors of those in 1st world countries struggled to build a good society for themselves and their offspring. So now everyone is enjoying the fruits of their labors. On the flipside, people in the third-world were selfish (as the Buddhists say, greed and desire is the root of all sufferings)… the rich hoard their wealth, the politicians are corrupt… so the cycle of poverty can't be eradicated.

      see the parallels?

        • Perhaps it would be better if you'd cite the relevant points in the book? God knows we've already got a lot of here telling me to go read the Bible, the Koran, Ayn Rand, and a lot of other books to "prove their point".

          • faulty logic. just because a book cites an example that one 1st-world country became progressive through conquering does not mean that all 1st-world countries acquired their wealth through similar means. other countries acquired 1st-world status not through guns, germ, or steel but through the industriousness and business savvy of its citizens.

          • " because the ancestors of those in 1st world countries struggled to build a good society for themselves and their offspring."

            They didn't. They were lucky because the "primitive" cultures they conquered died from the germs they brought. Basically the book debunks the idea that the Europeans are smarter or more industrious. They just got lucky.

            There was no "good" or "bad" karma floating around. Shit just happened.

  7. *bemused*

    guys, chill okay?

    why are some people so offended by terminology? its like a reverse-sacred-cow-syndrome 🙂 Its like being a fundie, but in reverse. They have this irrational aversion to the use of words that have even the tiniest spiritual connotations even though their current usage may or may not convey any religious sympathies or mystical qualities in the said conversation.

    What harm is there to call it karma or causality or chaos theory? People get what you mean either way and isn't that what counts?

    will it attract the ire of the gods of science and rationality? no.

    will it cause the laws of physics to break down, plunging the universe into total entropy? no.

    So chillax and give people the freedom to use the words the want to use for poetic reasons, personal preference or what-not. A lot of the words in the English language are borrowed from other cultures, its the most hodge-podge language in the world. They may or may not even carry the same cultural semantics anymore.

    I would have expected freethinkers to be more open-minded about this. The minute we start censoring word usage because we feel uncomfortable of the cultural overtones of that word, then we become no better than those conservative theocratic states that ban this and that for whatever cockamamie reason

    • There is harm because "karma" means a specific thing in certain religions. The author is redefining it to mean something nebulous and, well, ordinary. I am not censoring word usage; I am merely calling bullshit on what the article contains. Again, like pantheists, who say God=universe, why bother calling it "god" at all? Call it the universe.

      Why bother calling it karma at all if what you mean is…? Well, maybe that's the problem; I don;t know exactly what you mean. The author is just describing how the world works and is calling it "karma."

      • @patrick: can you be a bit more specific by your use of the word "harm"? harm who? how?

        are people being oppressed? are human rights being trampled? is superstition being endorsed over rationality?

        Quite the opposite I think. as a pragmatist first and a buddhist second, I personally feel that any effort towards modernizing concepts that were once steeped in mysticism is a good thing.

        From alchemy into chemistry, herbal medicine into pharmacology, and yes… even turning concepts like "karma" into a viable sociological concepts… I think these are all positive evolutions that are all part of refining humanity's body of knowledge and understanding about the world around.

        • "Karma can also be applied to any group. The actions of each member contribute to the karma of the group. You might notice that your Family has its own karma. Higher than that is the karma of your Community. Next to it is the Country karma. Our beloved Philippines is now feeling the effects of the karma produced by the past generations. The last is the karma of the whole planet. So create good karma for others and not just yourself."

          To me this sounds more like spiritual bullshit than an attempt to explain sociological phenomena scientifically. Oh, and "evolution" doesn't work like that. There is no "positive" or "negative" evolution.

          • I think the problem is that you're reading this essay like you would a scientific journal, which it isn't. Wrong genre. You're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and upon finding that your expectations and personal preferences didn't match the author's literary style, then proceed to sling around accusations of it "causing harm".

            Sure, you're entitled to call it "spiritual bullshit", that's your opinion and you're entitled to it. Not everyone appreciates figurative abstractions in literature.

            But what I don't understand is that you slam the essay for using words with pseudo-mystical connotation then later on complain again when the author tries to de-mystify it by "turning it ordinary". So what's the alternative? Don't use words like those at all? Isn't that what censorship is?

          • Maybe I'm a 'subjective' person, other people prefer to be more 'objective.'

            Karma is more subjective. Like what is our role in the future of the group.

        • @wes

          …Or translating the age-old concept of "Chi" or "Spirit Energy" in older martial arts into tangible concepts like biomechanics and modern medicine 😉

          Ideas, like people, mature after all. You take nothing from the idea by developing it.

          Even Greek Philosophy set the groundwork for the modern sciences if I recall.

    • We cannot know for sure but we can observe what is going on around us. Would you agree that the return of Ninoy Aquino to the Philippines led to his death which led to People Power and the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos… and to what is happening now in our country? I don't know if we can call that karma. We can even go farther back in history. People do whatever they want even without the directing of karma.

      The word karma is just what they call it. It is used to let people know why things are happening a certain way in their life and also the consequences of what you might do right now. So next time they might be able to avoid it if its an undesirable situation. But that takes some experience. It is not an actual entity in itself. Many of our actions are of little consequence. Like a small ripple. But you might also do something that will affect the rest of your life. And the effects of your actions cannot always be known or predicted like when you take a risk.

      I'll talk about Personal karma for example there is a compulsive gambler, he keeps on gambling without realizing he is losing money and ends up bankrupt. Because he had not the insight to know what he is doing, he gambles everything he has. He might become a beggar. But those situations are rare. So to avoid those kinds of things Buddhists live a spiritual life. They don't really talk about Group karma in buddhism I just put that in.

      Sorry if I'm going in circles. You don't need to become a Buddhist. Thinking about karma too much is a lot of work 😉 Enjoy every moment.

      • "Thinking about karma too much is a lot of work"

        Maybe because there's really nothing to think about. What you're explaining is cause and effect: your actions affect others/the environment, which, in turn, will affect you (eventually). That's just how the world works. Naming it "karma" is useless. Just like the deist god is a useless hypothesis, so's this "karma" of yours.

    • Karma is meant to explain the disparity between the blessings and afflictions that every person born on Earth get. And whatever you have with you and the way you use it is either going to bring you more or less blessings in your life. Buddhists are also trying to escape the wheel of Karma or the cycle of rebirth/reincarnation because you can do that. It's not just about turning bad karma into good. Every moment is variable. Everybody and everything is interacting with each other. Whatever you do creates a Ripple Effect, you just don't realize it.

      • … and I'm surprised to be reading comments like this too. you're right, it could be bad karma… 😛

        *looks at the banner sign on the FF Forums…*

        "… Filipino atheists, agnostics, deists, humanists, skeptics, and liberal theists"

        Mr. KSW: you are free to be a "skeptic" but allow others the same courtesy to be "liberal theists"

    • I don't know why I was born, I had no control over being born into my family, into this life. Karma is what you can call, Cause and Effect. Something must have caused me to be here on earth and started the ball rolling. I am the effect of that.

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