Where and how does karma fit in to your religious practice?
A friend of mine asked this today in relation to something that has nothing to do with me. (I’m not going to mention who said what and when because it’s not my whistle to blow.)
To start off, what exactly is ‘karma’ anyway? We hear about it all the time. Whenever someone cuts us off and we bitch about it on Facebook, invariably there is someone on there who will say that “karma will catch up to that guy.” And we hear about it in reference to Hinduism and something to do with a Caste system of some sort. But, aside from that, do we even really know what karma is? Can we, really, say that it has any part to play in what our religious beliefs are? And if so, why does it fit there? So, let’s see if we can adequately define it before we get into the meat of this.
First of all, according to Wiki, the whole karma thing has to do with “actions” or “deeds” that cause the entire cycle of cause and effect (also known as Saṃsāra), which originates in ancient India. Now there are about four religions that use the concept of karma in their doctrines: Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. However, chances are, we don’t really utilize or understand this concept in relation to those religions unless we practice them. I can safely say that I do not and so, therefore, the concept as written in the basis of these religions is null and void. However, we also see the concept of karma adapting to a Western traditional interpretation, which seems to have found its start in Theosophy, to be born again in a new age doctrine. The work that the Theosophical Society put out there seems to be a precursor to the neopagan “Threefold Law” or “Law of Return.” In effect, “the idea that the beneficial or harmful effects one has on the world will return to oneself.” (Source: Wiki.) Also on the Wiki page already cited: “The modern view of karma, devoid of any spiritual exigencies, obviates the need for an acceptance of reincarnation in Judeochristian societies and attempts to portray karma as a universal psychological phenomenon which behaves predictably, like other physical forces such as gravity.” That’s interesting, but not really conducive to where I’m going with this… if I even figure that out, myself.
So. In effect, we can say that karma in a neopagan context is simply “what goes around comes around.” (Now, before I go any further, I am going to have to say this: I am only using the term of karma as seen in its neopagan context because I do not understand its context in a Hindi relation. I will not understand this context either, and so therefore, I don’t believe it has merit in this conversation. For anyone who does practice/understand the relationship, then good for you and you can utilize that in how karma relates to your religious doctrine. However, from hence forth, I am only using the context as a basis in neopaganism because (A) that is what I self-identify with at present and (B) it makes sense to me to do so. And also, you know, this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. So, there!)
Now, I practice a big huge conglomerate… thing that I call “the spiritual turnpike.” This is because, in effect, naming what the hell I do and think and believe in a less broad spectrum is nearly impossible. I know this for a fact, and so does this blog, because I’ve whined about it often enough. Currently, I say that I’m eclectic pagan, but in reality, I am a huge mudpie that knits itself together as time goes by. With all that being said, I have to say that I tend to work more commonly with a Kemetic background because it is a comfortable fit, it is something that I understand, it is something that I have researched often enough to get to a basic understanding, and the fit of Kemetic jeans is better than, say, Greek or Celtic jeans. You dig? (I don’t look so fat wearin’ my Kemetic jeans…) However, I have mishmashed certain other aspects into my religion for similar reason: it felt right to do so. In regards to that, I reference to two blog entries I wrote last year (links below). In effect, I’m all about reincarnation.
Yep. Yep. That’s right: this crazy, weird, insane chick is all about reincarnation. This has been a concept that I’ve been particularly fond of for years, actually. Even when I considered myself an atheist, I couldn’t help but get a kick out of the whole reincarnation thing. The thoughts about karma were periphery, at best, but it was the reincarnation belief that stuck with me. To the point that I’ve incorporated it, myself, into the religious hodgepodge I practice now. In effect, I believe that we do have portions of our soul (as I ascribe to the Kemetic belief that our souls are multiple parts and I’ve deemed the whole portion THE SOUL™) that do move on to live the next life. And the basis of this life is lesson-learning: We are constantly trying to achieve complete divine status in a sort of Lwa-like way, as opposed to a deity-like way, and in so doing, we have to learn lots of lessons. And in order to do that properly, a portion of THE SOUL™ (I’ve decided it’s the ka portion) moves on to a sort of Soul Way Station where it hangs out, figures out what it was supposed to learn and failed versus what it was supposed to learn and achieved before sitting down and getting down with the plot-points necessary in the future life. And all of this, of course, to achieve the ultimate goal. (I say it is a Lwa-like ascension to a divinity, but I haven’t really decided that yet. ONE DAY!!!!)
OKAY. SO. What have we got so far? I’ve rambled about what karma is. I’ve rambled about what definition of karma I’m going to be talking about here. And I’ve gone on about how I have a whole background belief in reincarnation that I’ve easily meshed with my Kemetic belief system. And real quick, let’s jump back to the karma thing in relation to neopaganism, which is that what we sow is what we reap; what we put out there will come back to us… So, let’s get back to the nitty-gritty, right?
Where and how does karma fit in to your religious practice?
I’ve tried to look at this from a lot of different angles before I answered this, but you know what? Karma has absolutely no part of my religious practice. In a broad context, we could assume that when I talk about the ka and its Soul Way Station time, it is via karma that the life the ka plans out for its future is set up. But, to me, I don’t see this as a true basis, at all. In my belief system, I don’t see as what I say or do to another person, whether it be beneficial or malignant, has much to do with what I’m doing in the ka‘s long run. Yes, I suppose if it’s a major life lesson that my ka has planned for me, and I fail it, then I suppose in that context we could say that karma does have a place in my belief system. However, the whole “what comes around goes around” aspect of neopagan karma doesn’t fit with the overall basis of what I have here. When I talk about the Soul Way Station and the plotting of the next life, I’m talking about major aspects of soul teaching. I’m talking about things based on a more divine concept than in the mundane.
And to me, the concept of karma in a neopagan culture is more along the lines of the mundane.
So, in relation to the question, karma doesn’t have anymore play in my religious life than, say, the dog down the street.
What say you? How does karma play in your practice?