"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours." -- Wayne Dyer
We are all created equal in spirit but are not equal here on earth. Either this inequality has a cause, or it is purely accidental. No logical person would attribute this inequality to blind chance or pure accident. In fact, it would be illogical to do so. Each one of us is born into circumstances not of our choosing, or so we think. What then determines the intricate plot of this thing called life? Is everything the result of an invisible cause? In other words, is everything karma?
This apparent inequality seems to suggest that life is somehow unfair. Why should one person be a genius and another an idiot? Why should one person be born into the lap of luxury and another into abject poverty? Why should one person be born with altruistic qualities and another with criminal tendencies? Why are some blessed and others cursed from the moment they enter this sphere of life? What could possibly create such a diverse set of life circumstances?
The theory of Karma, the law of moral causation, comes from Buddhism, but this belief was prevalent in India before the Buddha came into being. Nevertheless, it was the Buddha who formulated this theory into a complete doctrine. According to Buddhism, this inequality among people is due not to heredity, environment, nature vs. nurture, but also to Karma. In other words, our own past action is the cause and our present expression is the effect. How could this life that you and I live be the effect of a cause? Is this effect solely based on this life alone? From the Buddhist perspective the answer would be no but it is a contributing factor.
Also, the theory of karma alludes to predestination, but if this were true then free will would be an absurdity. The only thing that is determined and fixed is gender, race, physicality, family and the dynamics we inherit from all these factors. Are these then not the seeds that reveal a particular path or destiny? However, what we choose to do with what karma has created for us is ultimately the goal.
Part of our growth is to understand our individual relationship to the cosmos, to understand how the universe affects us. Based on the principle that individual behavior mirrors universal patterns -- any act -- a thought, for example -- can have enormous impact. An examination of karma offers clues about our life purpose, showing us the deep imprint within our psyches and helping to guide us out of tendencies and thoughts that are no longer useful.
Karma, in the world of form, manifests as gain and loss, disgrace and praise, happiness and misery. Since the accumulated effect must somehow express itself through our experience we are often left feeling like a victim: "Why is this happening to me? What did I ever do to deserve this?" Rather than taking this stance, we need to remember that the law of karma is the teacher of individual responsibility. We learn through our reversal of fortunes that we are indeed the architects of our destinies. With our own self directed efforts there is every possibility for us to create new and favorable environments in the here and now. This is the beauty of the physical realm that we can undo, redeem and transform all causes into beneficial effects.
When the unexpected happens, when we meet up with difficulties, failures and misfortunes -- is this karma in action? Perhaps. But does it really matter whether it is or not? Should we not focus on our present life instead of blaming a past causation for our personal ills? By understanding karma, we have insight, and with insight come intention to make better choices in the present which will ultimately create favorable effects in the future. "As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes, similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all Karma to ashes." -- Bhagavad Gita