In the same way we create karma in the good we do for others, I agree with Voltaire that we also create karma for our lack of doing good when faced with opportunities to do so.

We may not always realize the potential or opportunity for doing good until after the fact and Captain hindsight realizes the missed opportunity for doing good.

When this occurs we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we haven’t intentionally chosen to ignore the opportunity I don’t think we can be held accountable.

When awareness of the blunder provides us insight, we will be held accountable for using our foresight to identify future good we can do in the same or similar circumstances.

Each day is a new opportunity to do good which helps make up for missed chances from yesterday.

Brandon

6 thoughts on “Guilt and Karma

  1. The transliteration of concepts from eastern philosophy to a western mindset can be a bit tricky. We don’t share a common philosophical or religious background out of which the idea of karma emerged. We in the West lack the cultural context and theological underpinnings necessary to fully understand the Law of Karma as it was intended to be known by Sikhs, Jains, Hindus and Buddhists. So in the material West karma becomes more of a bank ledger of good deeds and bad deeds. [which prompts another question, who determines what’s good and what’s bad?]. In the West where the Judeo-Christian traditions have dominated, this idea became taken up in the theological arguments over whether redemption can be obtained through good deeds, or through faith.

    Basically, karma simply means action. Every action involves energy. What kind of action or energy is helping us? What kind of action or energy is helping others? What kind of action/energy does both? What kind of action/energy hurts us and/or others? The only way to be free of karma is to reduce activity to a null state, in other words, to do nothing. But sometimes doing nothing in the face of great challenges can also invoke karma. It gets complicated.

    A fuller understanding of karma in the Buddhist sense requires at least a limited understanding of dharma and the Noble Eightfold Path…and reincarnation, if one wants to really go out on a limb. All good stuff, to be sure.

    At some level, I have always equated the way the term ‘karma’ gets thrown around in popular culture with the pedestrian concept of ‘heaven and hell’. In other words, “You better behave yourself, or else!” IMHO both concepts have lost their essential meaning in modernity. When organized religion starts using itself to beat people over the head, I head for the door. I go to church for guidance, not to be shamed or made to feel guilty. I don’t know, I guess some people really get into that guilt thing, playing the victim. Ultimately it is ourselves who must choose what action to take, if any. To only do or not do something because we are told to is not particularly helpful.

    In the Baha’i Faith there is the practice of “taking a daily accounting” each evening before retiring. There are prayers, of course, but those are directed towards God. This daily accounting is a reflective process where we turn within and run through the day’s events in our minds and see how they each make us feel. By taking an account regularly of our actions, or our failures to act, we plant seeds in the mind which can grow during sleep. This process, when practiced regularly, can lead to more accountability and improve our behavior over time.

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    1. Thank you Tim for sharing so deeply of yourself with your knowledge and experiences. Your thoughts on karma I find especially interesting. With regard to karma, of course right and wrong can be sublective and complex, but I also do feel there are universal right and wrong actions: Creating possibilities to intentionally do good for or help others I think we can agree is blanketly good (although I agree what defines good or help again can be subjective) and creating possibilities to intentionally harm or hurt others is bad. I believe in. either of these situations intentional good creates good karma and intentional harm bad.

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      1. Yes, subjectivity does complicate things. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Universe was black and white instead of an infinite number of shades of gray? I have started out so many things with the best of intentions only to find out later that my intentions do not always ensure the hoped-for outcome. Sometimes it even makes things worse. One of the things I like about Buddhism and meditation is being reminded that I am not my thoughts. Learning to be fully present ‘in the moment’ is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted. I can do it for brief moments, and I can do it for a time in certain activities for short periods. But to take it out into the world and practice living that way is really a challenge.

        But as for karma, I have seldom experienced anything I could honestly attribute to karma. I mean, when you are in the moment, you aren’t thinking about “where this came from”, or “why did that happen”, or “this must be because of ….”. I can imagine a lot of that sort of thing, but I have no way of knowing what the karmic connection actually was, or if there was one.

        This may be like when people say they can sense God moving in their lives, or God’s absence, or the absence of the awareness of God. I can imagine God doing this or that, God being here or there. Or “God’ll get you for that!” But I don’t know, nor do I have any way of knowing what God’s doing or not doing. For me, it’s easier to understand how I live in, move, and have my being in God rather than trying to figure out what God’s doing or not doing. By having my being in God, I take more responsibility for my actions, instead of saying “God made me do it” or “the devil made me do it.”

        I think we all have a higher self and a lower self, with many levels in between probably. ‘Good’ karma might be when we are active more often in the higher self. ‘Bad’ karma might be when we are acting in the lower self, letting our thoughts get the better of us and pushing us into actions that may have unintended consequences due to our lack of awareness.

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  2. colinandray says:

    Life is better than any formal education system for learning about ourselves, and reflecting on missed/avoided opportunities is a wonderful start. Questions like “Why didn’t I offer to help that old man up those steps?” Why do I avoid eye contact with street people?” “Why can I treat myself to Starbucks coffees and pastries on a regular basis, but do not donate anything to a food bank?” “Why am I not comfortable around (a culture) when they’ve done nothing to me?”

    Just thinking. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Counselor says:

      Agreed, great thoughts, insights and questions for consideration :). Thanks for adding to the discussion! 😊

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    2. Counselor says:

      Valuable thoughts and considerations! Thanks for sharing your perspective πŸ™‚

      Like

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