Karma is a word of Indian origins and it translates roughly in English as ‘action’. This simply means that karma is a way of describing the ‘reaction’ that occurs after a particular ‘action’. All actions have consequences, some immediate, some delayed, others in future incarnations, according to Eastern beliefs. Thus individuals bear responsibility for all their actions and cannot escape the consequences, although bad actions can be expiated by good ones.
Action is not homogeneous, but on the contrary contains three elements: the thought, which conceives the action; the will, which finds the means of accomplishment; and the union of thought and will, which brings the action to fruition. It is plain, therefore, that thought has potential for good or evil, for as the thought is, so will the action be. The miser, thinking of avarice, is avaricious; the libertine, thinking of vice, is vicious; and, conversely, one thinking of virtuous thoughts shows virtue in his or her actions. There is also a viewpoint which believes that karma comes not from the action itself, but the beliefs and feelings which motivate or allow the action. "The law of karma is not a justice and retribution system, so anyone who has had much suffering in this life is not a victim of 'bad karma,' but simply finds themselves in predicaments that are simply the result of their own beliefs about themselves." Arising from such teaching is the attention devoted to thought power. Using the analogy of the physical body, which can be developed by regimen and training based on natural scientific laws, Theosophists teach that character, in a similar way, can be scientifically built up by exercising the mind. Every vice is considered evidence of lack of a corresponding virtue—avarice, for instance, shows the absence of generosity.
The doctrine of karma, therefore, must be considered not in relation to one life only, but with an understanding of reincarnation. In traditional Hinduism individuals were seen as immersed in a world of illusion, called maya. In this world, distracted from the real world of spirit, one performs acts, and those actions create karma—consequences. In traditional teaching the goal of life was to escape karma. There was little difference between good and bad karma. Karma kept one trapped in the world of illusion. Ultimately karma is very real and is important in our everyday lives.
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