For my final piece on religious practices that can be appreciate by all, I end on a belief close to my heart; Karma. My Name Is Earl taught me the basic principle of Karma, but from that day, at the age of around 10, it’s been my firmest spiritual belief. Although it can be found within Hinduism and Sikhism, I will be focusing on the Buddhist view of Karma.
“Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit.” Buddha, Upajjhatthana Sutta (A Buddhist writing)
Karma essentially means that good deeds are rewarded with happiness, and bad deeds result in unhappiness; if you do something good or bad, your life will become better or worse, respectively. Karma also effects reincarnation in the next life, meaning the way you live determines what form of life you will return as. Although, I do not strongly believe in reincarnation, and hence that karma affects you in the next life, I am a strong believer in the more immediate effects of Karma. I like to believe that if I lead a moral life, I will be rewarded for it, and on the other hand if I – or any other – were to behave immorally, they would be punished in some form.
I sometimes think of Karma as a spiritual common sense; a religious reinforcement of the golden rule – Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. If I do something for the benefit of another person, then they are more likely to be there when I need help myself. Similarly, if you do a good deed, karma will return this deed to benefit you in the future. However, this is only a comparison, and inhibits the selfless mentality that Karma encourages. Indeed, Buddha also states that the karma of a deed is affected by the person and the context in which it is committed. If I were to spend a day being entirely selfless, with the motivation of being rewarded by karma, the day becomes entirely selfish. My deeds would not be rewarded, and perhaps I would receive some sort of punishment for being so discreetly selfish.
I appreciate this interpretation a lot, but I think there is a compromise to be made in terms of the altruism of a certain deed. The forethought in any selfless deed should be to help or benefit another person, but I think it’s fair to hope for some appreciation from the person you help.
If everyone considered the moral consequences, at least briefly, before they committed a deed, the world would, I hope, be a happier and better place. Even without the reliance on spirituality to balance the status quo, it’s only logical that good deeds and their performers are remembered and reciprocated, whilst the selfish and immoral are also marked, as people we may think twice of before giving assistance.