There are several thought provoking definitions of karma but I prefer the one by K. Taimni in 1974. Karma, he says, “is nothing but the law of Cause and Effect operating in the realm of human life and bringing about adjustments between an individual and other individuals whom he has affected by his thoughts, emotions, and actions.”
Karma is an eternal natural principle which no human being can manipulate or wish away. It arises in the daily course of living as people operate to carry on the business of living. It is debatable whether human actions or inaction in various situations (inaction is verily an action) which result from compulsion does attract karma as in someone avoiding saving a life because doing so would threaten own life. For anyone with full mental faculties it is necessary to weigh options before acting for each action attracts karma when it has to do with others and the system. Which begs the question: does harm to self such as suicide generate karma or is it actualization of karma?
Karma is more commonly thought in the negative sense as in punishment for wrong doing. But karma does play at the other end as in generating reward for good deeds. This informs the need to do what is good all the time.
Freewill should be regarded as an important component of karmic reality. For anyone who has reached a certain level of intellection or understanding or knowledge of good and evil one can hardly tender an excuse for negative activities. ‘Anyone’ is used here because children do act in ways that induce or conduce pain even when they are conscious of the impact of their actions. No one should ignore a child of three who steals or inflicts pain when there is no cause for it.
In several circumstances people strain to justify their actions. It is easy to justify racism for instance. The Nazis put forward a case for attempting to wipe out Jews just as owners of slaves, majority of them Christians saw nothing wrong with buying, selling, and manhandling fellow human beings. The system goes on in Nigeria today where religion is used to justify keeping down certain sections of the society or sustaining servitude in the guise of domestic service. Russian dictators argue with nationalistic fervor the slaughter of Ukrainians today. But does karma look the other way? When Putin faces retribution later in life or in the next life he and others may or may not know the cause. The immediate thing is to blame someone or even the Supreme Being. Somehow the wheel keeps turning till reward or punishment comes to pass. In law retributive justice is a form of karma. However when applied in the context of things done in earlier existence the situation becomes more complex, reason martyrdom was mentioned in the first part of this post. It will remain an eternal subject of controversy why some early disciples bowed out in very painful circumstances.
Still on justification, when George Orwell said all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others he spoke the minds of oppressors who needed and till date need to eat apples because it is good for brain work. Human beings go the extra mile to justify the unjustifiable and the society of the Orwellian times remain till today.
Let us attempt to apply some laws of chemistry and physics to karma after all chemistry and physics are natural sciences and karma is a natural datum.
The law of conservation of mass is 18th century credited to Mikhail Lomonosov and rediscovered by Antoine Lavoisier. It holds that for a closed system the mass of the system must remain constant over time. In a chemical reaction mass is conserved or mass is neither created nor destroyed in a process. If we assume a closed universe, nothing new comes in or goes out. This includes what people do, which means our actions and inactions remain in our account as we affect people and systems.
Isaac Newton’s third law of motion is more applicable. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This in our context means when someone does something there is a repercussion of equivalent magnitude. If weight of one kilogram is assigned to an action (cause) for instance, the outcome (effect) in weight should be one kilogram good or bad.
Above sounds simple and straightforward but may not be as simple and straightforward in reality. The complications arise from time and the fact that the outcomes are most unlikely to come in the form of the cause. For instance if Miss A pays school fees for the child of a poor person, a direct effect should be another person paying school fees for Miss A. But in real life the child of Miss A may receive equivalent support from another person or some other support the reason which Miss A cannot fathom. However based on the law of conservation of mass what Miss A reaps will be an equivalent of what she sowed in terms of value.
“In terms of value” relates to time. Naira paid as school fees even one year ago is not the same value as Naira paid for school fees today. This is why it is laughable when a person’s family proposes to refund fees paid to their child or ward years after. My 93-year old uncle Elder Asuquo Bassey continues to dwell on school fees of ten pounds paid for him in the 1950s by a good Samaritan. It contributed to what he turned out to be in his life and he has reason to believe his benefactor has been or will be rewarded.
If human beings were to see their actions and inactions in the light of karma (cause-effect framework) which means a continuum of rewards and punishments, they may think less about hurting people and more about doing good to individuals and systems including Mother Earth. To every action (and inaction) there must be an equal and opposite reaction in this life or the next.
We can conclude that karma is an eternal natural and universal principle that when created generates an equivalent positive or negative outcome to equilibrate the cosmos which in fact is a closed system.
I rest my case.