Buddha once said “You harm yourself as dust thrown against the wind comes back to the thrower.” This is an extremely powerful message, but oftentimes misconstrued. Karma is not a universal, moral justice system, and it is not about equality! Rather, karma is a personal, psychological law of cause and effect. It doesn’t hand out rewards or punishments,  but rather is an energetic exchange that is created and contained solely between one’s own mind and actions.

Karma is the Sanskrit word for action, and action is what rules our lives. It can also be simply translated to the word “doing.” In the Buddhist tradition, karma refers to actions driven by intention.  What one experiences internally both before and after carrying out an intentional action is a part of the karmic cycle. Karma is not a universal law, but a personal experience based on the impact one has had on the world.

Imagine a pool table set up for the start of a game. There is all of the numbered balls on one end of the table, and the cue ball on the other end. Imagine that you are the cue ball, and the cue ball rolling and hitting all of the other balls in the rack is representative of your action. All of the balls in the rack are affected by your actions, and will disperse in different directions. This is the effect that your actions have, and put very simply, that is your karma. Odds are, many of the effects you had on the table will not come back and affect or “get back at” you, but your actions have still had consequences in the game and on the table. Similarly, each of our intentions and actions have consequences on the outside world and other people. We all carry the responsibility for our own actions, whether or not the effects of them will come back around. Karma is about personal responsibility! 

The Cycle of Rebirth