People frequently use the word, but they don’t understand what it means. From a literal Buddhist perspective we would be delving into subjects like reincarnation, deeds done in past lives, and a lot of other stuff which I frankly don’t care very much about. I don’t have any disrespect against those of this faith, but I don’t believe in karma in this sense.
I believe the reality behind karma is that life is really a sort-of interlinked chain. We are an ecosystem, both physically and emotionally, which depends on a massive interwoven community for our happiness, well-being, health and survival.
What happens when you unjustly piss somebody off? He will go to work and take that bad emotion out on some new employee, firing her. She will go home to her boyfriend, angry and upset, and take it out on him—inciting a brutal verbal argument. After they break up, the boyfriend will become an emotional wreck, which creates severe worry and depression among his friends and family. This depression will rub off on the friends of his friends, and lead to yet more woe.
Guess what? It may not directly affect you, but eventually this nasty daisy-chain pattern could come back around to haunt you. This phenomenon occurs simply because of the emotional dependency we have with one another. There is nothing supernatural about it.
Combine this with the fact that mental health is directly linked to physical health. Stress, depression, and all variety of bad emotions are often the things which conjure up illness, disease, and a weakened immune system. Spreading bad emotions is like planting seeds of disease and death.
You have to, therefore, be kind and warm to everybody you meet. It’s that simple. Yet, you must combine that kindness and warmth with strength in the face of adversity. If you have to get down to business, and be tough, there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s for the general betterment of either the individual or society.
It’s not bad karma to make a tough business decision or a choice that could negatively influence people. Just learn the art of seeing things from other people’s vantage points, and soften the blow by helping them to understand the ultimate purpose behind a decision, and to keep an underlying attitude of warmth.
Mindless, destructive criticism is really the stuff nightmares are made of. If you routinely put people beneath you, or attempt to make people feel inferior, you are severely damaging the community. And, it’s going to come back around to haunt you. It means that you are living in an emotional bubble of bad vibes. People around you won’t respect you, and will generally resent your existence. This will take an emotional toll on you, and could even lead to untimely sickness, and death.
The karmic cycle is therefore an emotional phenomenon. You don’t have to be a Buddhist or a New Age student to understand it, because it is neither religious nor metaphysical in the conventional sense.