Karma is often thought of as retribution for past ill deeds you’ve committed. Say you forgot to speak with your God this morning and as a consequence you decide to steal the tin box where Grandpa keeps all his money. This is easy to do since you know where he hides the box and to make it even easier Grandpa is blind, deaf and confined to a wheelchair, and you are his caretaker.

On the way to hide the stolen money in your secret hiding place that can be reached only by crossing a rickety foot bridge over a deep, deep river, you slip. To save yourself from drowning you toss the tin box into the deep, deep river and catch your balance.

This sequence may be interpreted as karma.

Say, instead of stealing his money you decide to electrocute Grandpa, since you are a psychopath. You rig up a plug and a cord with bare wires on the ends. You plug it into a wall outlet and in your haste to accomplish the deed, you inadvertently grab the bare wires and electrocute yourself. The last thing you hear is grandpa saying, “Light! Light! I can see! I can see!”

This may be interpreted as “instant karma.”

Karma is not like a strict and vindictive stepmother who whacks your head the moment you make a little mistake. Nor is karma like a strict and vindictive stepmother who waits a couple of days or a month or a year and then whacks you upside the head.

Karma doesn’t care. Karma is karma, period, probably regulated by a Cosmic Accountant, sitting behind a dingy wooden desk in a dingy corner of the universe surrounded by millions and millions of dusty ledger books. This pot-bellied, bespectacled character strives forever (literally) to balance the books between good karma (credit) and bad karma (debit). I wouldn’t want his job.

Atilla – courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Some folks believe that karma carries over from past lives and that we may have a tough row to hoe in the next lifetime because we electrocuted Grandpa in this one.

Let’s say there’s a sweet old lady who regularly does acts of kindness and charity for others, yet scat keeps falling on her head. She might be paying down her karmic debt from a past life, like when she was Atila the Hun. She might go through many, many lifetimes as a Good Person before the debt is paid.

Karma can happen right now or it can stretch across centuries or more. It can cause us physical pain and mental anguish. It can make us feel bad and it can make us feel good. It can’t really be explained and we don’t know if it’s fair.

But we do know this: debt in any form is undesirable. If we do our part to balance our own books we might find a whole different consciousness springing forth in our lives, in the world, and in the universe.