- Vancouver, British Columbia - Finding a soul that possesses any religious conviction these days is becoming increasingly more difficult, but finding one that accepts the principle of Karma is not nearly as challenging. With mantras like "what goes around comes around," it is easy to accept this pop theology as being fair and just. You do bad things, bad things will happen to you. Do good things, and good things will happen to you. It were as if many people were more comfortable with the notion that an impersonal, faceless non-entity like Karma watches over the world, ensuring that no one gets away with anything, nor that any good deed goes unrewarded, rather than the idea of a theistic entity judging the acts and deeds of humans.
I'll admit it, a strong part of me wants to believe that what comes around goes around, but it is difficult for me to be honest with myself that this actually happens. There has simply been too much evil that has gone unpunished in the world for me to believe that if you do bad things, bad things will most assuredly happen to you. Alternatively, I see far too many good deeds being unrewarded to accept this notion of Karma as being true. But there is more to this than simply seeing certain deeds going unmatched.
I was discussing Karma with a colleague the other day, and she spoke of her mother who went to the grocery store and paid for her groceries with her credit card, or at least she thought she did. What happened was that the computer saved her credit card information, but since the transaction hadn't been fully closed by the cashier, the next person's groceries were added to her bill after her mother left, without a receipt. Needless to say, when she saw that she had paid over $400 for about $20 worth of groceries on her online statement, she was a wee bit surprised. Apparently the shopper after her had "paid" with a gift card and didn't think anything of the fact that her gift card's balance had remained unchanged on the receipt. For all we know, in her mind, she probably felt like she had been blessed with a little bit of good Karma and went about her day feeling as though the faceless Karma monster was smiling upon her. Meanwhile, my friend's Mom was out $400 on her credit card bill. Thankfully, the grocer voided the $400 from her bill, which was met with relief. However, now the grocer was left taking a sunk loss of nearly $380 just because someone left the store feeling like it was their lucky day.
The point is this: Often when wonderful surprises happen to us, they are a result of someone else's mistake or accident. I'm not necessarily arguing that we operate in a zero-sum world where it is not possible for something positive or fortunate to happen without someone else being negatively affected. Instead, it seems that this frequently occurs, and we rarely acknowledge that our good fortune often comes at the expense of someone else's misfortune. I was in the bank the other day and I noticed a $20 bill lying on the ground. There was something awkward about picking up lost money in a bank, so I watched it for a while and several people walked past it. My friend and I agreed that if it was still there when we were leaving, we would pick it up and get ourselves lunch for free. Sure enough, we snapped it up and felt pretty great about ourselves. In hindsight, however, some poor sucker was out $20 and probably scratching their head wondering where the heck their money went.
Karma would suggest that this person, who was out the $20, probably did something to merit such an unfortunate loss, while my friend and I had done something to gain a free lunch. I'm not entirely comfortable with that suggestion. If Karma is guiding the universe, is it keeping score on all of us? Because I know that I've done a lot of stupid, selfish things in my life, while alternatively, I think I've done some rather selfless things with my life. How long must we wait for Karma's righteous judgment of our activities? I recall one of my co-workers dealing with a less than pleasant customer one time and after the offending customer had left, she muttered to me, "Karma's a Bitch." Do we really believe in this non-entity of Karma as the guider of the universe? Is there anyway to get Karma's favour other than to do good deeds?
I'm not sure that I am comfortable with the notion that Karma will judge my life as being good or evil and then determine if I am worthy enough to move up the Karma food chain into some superior being, or down to being an Ant. No offence to the Ant, but I don't want to get stepped on. More seriously though, what activities does an Ant do that Karma judges to be good and worthy of moving up the ladder? Please don't make me an Ant...
It is for reasons such as this that I take comfort in my religious beliefs that I will be judged by an entity that shows grace to give me when I don't deserve it, and grants me mercy by not giving me what I do deserve. Karma is just too impersonal, which terrifies me that my whole life would be judged by something that shows no compassion, nor shows any understanding for the gray areas of my life where decisions weren't so black and white. I've made mistakes when I didn't know what to do, but even when I knew what to do, I did the opposite any way. May God have mercy upon my soul.