Is Karma Real?

Do you believe in karma? With its roots in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, it’s an old concept that’s managed to stick around today, even outside those religions. Everyone knows what karma ultimately means: Do good things, and good things will happen to you. Do bad things, and bad things will happen to you. You don’t have to subscribe to an ancient Indian religion to take the concept seriously, as many do.

In Hinduism, karma is often explained by the following quote, one of the first known references to the concept:

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
—Excerpt from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

But you don’t have to be religious to believe it. Over 1,000 years later, transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson published an essay on something he called the “Law of Compensation,” about the polarity and duality of things in this world. While he doesn’t explicitly reference karma, much of the essay speaks to balance in the world between action and reaction. This type of spiritualism is a common theme in transcendentalism:

All Things are double, one against another … Give and it shall be given you.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

A hundred years later, engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla even subscribes to the concept. A man of science with uncertain views on religion still believed in the concept of karma:

The true rewards are ever in proportion to the labour and sacrifices made.
–Nikola Tesla

And even in modern times, some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world have the same belief:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
–Steve Jobs

So, is karma real? I certainly can’t say for sure, but there must be some reason the concept has stuck around thousands of years. It’s believed by everyone from the devoutly religious and spiritual philosophers to scientific agnostics and modern successful innovators. You don’t have to have faith to believe it’s true, and trust your life to it.

What do you think… Do the intentions of your past choices tend to come back to you in some mystical way? Is that karma?

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