A working theory of Karma

Karma is one of two aspects of Buddhism that I have not been able to reconcile with my thinking, the other being a related phenomenon – reincarnation/rebirth. My understanding was only based on the limited reading I had done on the subject, this was something I hoped to correct in the medium term. But recently, a post on awareness by Umair Haque put Karma in a nuanced new light.

More searching (google, not within 😉 ) took me to Two Meanings of Karma. The author distinguishes between universal and psychological karma. The former is the cosmos driven moral justice model, probably influenced by the Hinduism version of karma, which I was finding difficult to reconcile. The latter is in line with the one Umair Haque has written about. Our innate sense of morality.  More

Map making



In “The Case Against Cosmic Justice” I’d brought up how (IMO) randomness was the key driver of the universe, and that pretty much every other concept (God, karma etc) was a narrative fallacy. I think that requires a little editing. To use a phrase from “Sapiens”, these other concepts aren’t really fallacies, they are inter-subjective realities. That means it they are belief systems that a lot of people share and agree to. e.g. money, nations. This is different from subjective reality – my personal reality as I experience it or choose to see it e.g. Salman Khan should be in jail for killing people, and objective reality – one which exists irrespective of anyone’s belief systems e.g. gravity. More

The world we create

A while ago, I had written about the narratives of our lives, a look at various narratives across time – from religions and nations to popular culture and brands to the internet – that have (arguably) tried to fulfill our sense of belonging. All the narratives I had considered were external in nature, though they might be dictated by our choices and preferences.

An excellent comment on the post by The Lit Room made me consider ‘the narrative of individual imagination’. As I answered, it is probably the most important one, as it takes all sorts of external stimuli, and converts it into a unique stream of consciousness. Just when I began thinking of writing a follow up post by including that aspect, I was reintroduced, thanks to Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita, to the concept of ‘aham brahmasmi‘ – “every human creates his own imagined version of the world, and of himself. Every human is therefore Brahma, creator of his own aham“. I think it is impossible to crack everything that goes into the making of one’s own consciousness, which is probably what led to


(image via)

But there are at least a couple of perspectives that the book provides in terms of how one can create an ideal ‘world’ for oneself. It says, “stay true to the idea of dharma. Be the best you can be, in the worst of circumstances, even when no one is watching.” I thought a bit about what actually drives our actions, and realised that at the bottom of it is fear. (debatable) Not just one fear, but many, many fears driven by our contexts – some we acknowledge, some we don’t. George Lucas probably figured it out earlier, (see) though we might travel paths different from what Yoda has suggested. The book also states that – Fear is a constant, and faith is a choice. Fear comes from karma, from faith arises dharma. Faith in what, was the next thing I pondered over. In oneself, and a moral code that one adheres to? Or a higher power/cosmic law that governs all that happens? Or is it just a mechanical process with the fittest surviving? There are more options as well, probably, but I like to go with the first, because in the world that I create, my actions can ensure I do not have to fear.

Meanwhile, also from the book – Shiva chooses the path of asceticism and self control to control the aham, and the world it creates. Vishnu chose to live amidst materialism and yet find a way to break free – a middle path. (now I can see why Buddha is assumed to be a form of Vishnu) I think there are several degrees to choose from, and there lies the challenge. I also realise that it if each of us are creating our own worlds, we cannot really answer the questions of the world at large – a universal answer – because it is an aggregate of each of our worlds, which are different from each other and have unique rules. We can only find the answers to our own world, and through our individual paths, find our own version of the answer to the purpose of life.

until next time, muddled path