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Karma Straight Up

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You might be hearing a lot about karma and its random applications to modern life. In general, folks are getting karma confused with the "eye for an eye" notion found in other faith systems. Well, no, that's not it. Karma is not a spiritual weapon to be wielded against all those who might act against us...or, horrors, might even commit the egregious act of disagreeing with us. So heads up. This is karma as it is, or at least as I've found it to be. I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track here, but if you choose to disagree with me, it would hardly be egregious.

Recently I read a post about karma being an Eastern concept and discipline and why does it show up so often in Western practice and traditions. True, Western traditions have similar ideas woven into their origins. Why aren’t we using those?

Karma comes to us from the Sanskrit karman, which means action or deed, or the whole cycle of cause and effect. It is a more subtle version of its Western counterparts, such as “an eye for an eye”, “you get back what you put in”, “you reap what you sow” and so forth. Karma is the totality of what each of us do and say and think. That is, karma is the measure of who and what we are. In the West we often take karma as something that can be improved upon or serve as a moral compass. The idea is more our place in this spinning universe and what we do with the physical life we were given.

So what does karma have to do with us? In the first place, it is universal, a word people feel comfortable using to explain a truth which basically is beyond our human understanding. Sanskrit itself is an Indo-European language, which makes it quite relevant to the West. After all, Sanskrit has given us other words as well–aubergine, avatar, ayurveda, bandana, cheetah, crimson, crocus, jackal, jungle, mantra, orange, punch, rice, sandal, shaman, sugar, and vivid, to list a few.

We have an Indo-European language producing a term, but we’re thinking perhaps there is a better term to be found in Western traditions. But karma in its roots is as much the inheritance of Western language and tradition as anything Celtic or Germanic. Besides, karma has been brought into mainstream English language thinking. This thinker advises you to use what suits you, but please try to be at least a little aware of the origins. Never feel awkward applying terms of karma to yourself.

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