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My Karma Ran over Your Dogma

John W. Pinkerton


I recently wrote an essay on superstitions in which I concluded that I have none, but I suggested that perhaps any past superstitions I might have had have been replaced by a belief in karma.

Recently a friend did something which I believed was not justified and hurtful to another friend.  My first thought was, “Well, that’s a boatload of bad karma.”

I’m not sure when “karma” came into the American lexicon, but the Theosophical Society was formed in New York in 1875.  It promoted the universal brotherhood of mankind, encouraged the comparative study of religion, philosophy, and science, and promoted the investigation of unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.  Their interest in eastern religions included the concept of karma.   The organization eventually wandered off to India.

However how or when karma became a concept known to just about all Americans doesn’t matter much; that it did is the point.

In some eastern religions there is the concept of reincarnation, which is part of karma which is not widely accepted by Christian Americans, because Christianity states with capital letters that we only get one shot at life on earth.  It’s just as well; I suspect I’d come back a lowly toad…even lower than the toad I presently am.

Leaving reincarnation aside, “karma” for Americans means good or bad actions results in good or bad results.  In the Christian religion, the karmic statement is  “…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

One of the earliest references to karma came from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in the 7th Century B. C.: “Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

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.”

I suspect one reason we are so receptive to the idea of karma is that it allows us to believe that no good will come to those whom we consider intentionally doing harm to us.  As Beth Ditto, the self-described “fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas” and darned fine singer says, “I’m a great believer in karma, and the vengeance that it serves up to those who are deliberately mean is generally enough for me.”  The only problem with this thought is that by thinking this we are harboring an evil thought which bestows upon us bad karma.  Oops, I just overthought the subject.

Karma does, by the way, consider whether the harm done by folks is intentional or not.  If there is no bad intention, there is no bad karma resulting.  Well, I guess this lets all of the idiots and liberals of the world off the hook.

The origins of the concept of karma can be seen in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Ching Hai, and other eastern religions.  I suspect some of these religions believe that the evil folks of the world will get their come-up-ins from their own actions.  I’m Irish and get much more satisfaction from the thought of a well-placed two-by-four up side the evil doer’s head…but that’s just me.

Other folks have a different view of “Karma”:

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.

Wayne Dyer

Worthless people blame their karma. Burmese Proverb

Before you begin on the journey of revenge, dig two graves.


People pay for what they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become.  And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead.

Edith Wharton

In every conversation I've had - with housewives in Mumbai, with middle-class people, upper-class, in the slums - everyone says there is an underlying consciousness of karma. That people believe in karma - that what you're putting out is going to come back. If I do something to you, the energy of it is going to come back to me in the future.

Deepak Chopra

And my favorite:

My karma ran over your dogma.

Author Unknown

For want of a better expression, I recognize bad karma and good karma of folks almost daily.  Folks who put out positive vibes and seem to want the best for their fellow man are rare…but they do occur.  I call them “shiny people” who just seem to have a glow of good will about them.  On the other hand, the folks with bad karma are pretty easy to spot.  I’ll just give one example: as I sit on my front porch, I occasionally first hear an old car rattling toward me;  then I see smoke curling from the exhaust; then I see windows rolled down in 100 degree weather; then I see a pretty girl who looks haggard but determined to keep the old heap rolling.  It makes me wonder how she created so much bad karma for herself.  Did she think her momma, her daddy, her teachers, her minister were all full of crap and let them know how she felt, didn’t study in school, and married that worthless boy she had been warned about?

Well, maybe things will be better in the next life; oops, you just get one shot.