What Is Karma?

Learn how to invite positivity into your life and enjoy its benefits

Because the term is so often discussed in books, on the radio and on TV, you’ve probably asked yourself, “What is karma?” Although even today’s youngest generation uses the term, karma is actually an ancient concept that Buddhist expert Mahasi Sayadaw says existed before the birth of the Buddha. The definition of karma can be explained by the phrase, “What goes around comes around.” Learning about karma can help you live a more positive lifestyle.

Definition Of karma

According to Sayadaw, karma is the belief that a person deserves and creates everything that happens to him or her in life. However, this does not mean it’s easy to pinpoint the reason why you won the lottery or got in a terrible car accident. Traditionally, Buddhists believe that karma results not only from our actions in this life, but also in our previous lives. A more secular view of what karma is holds that when we do good, good will be done to us, and vice versa.


Understanding what karma is can lead you to change your lifestyle. Both good and bad karma exist, according to traditional Buddhists. Keeping the concept of karma in mind as you go throughout your day can help you lead a positive life. Constantly doing good to others makes you feel better, and feeling better means better performance at work, better relationships with your family and better healthy habits. Even if you’re not a spiritualist, thinking of the benefits of good karma can lead to more good all around, especially for you and those you serve.

Modern history

It may have been around since the days of ancient India, but karma revolutionized the contemporary world when a superstar named John Lennon wrote a song called "Instant Karma." In the song, Lennon implies that people will get what they deserve for not acting kindly to their fellow humans. Today, charities still use Lennon’s name to encourage people to give to others, and be quickly rewarded. For most, instant karma comes as the good feeling resulting from service and generosity toward others.

Improving your karma

Many books and programs are being sold online today that offer fast karma changes. However, changing your karma is as simple as learning the definition of karma. According to Leo Babauta, author and creator of Zen Habits, some easy ways to change your karma include thinking positively, learning from mistakes and practicing forgiveness. When you rule out the negative and embrace the good, you can have good karma — you can attract positive actions into your life.

Karma and your health

According to WebMD, good karma can do more than give you a rich inner life, it might also extend your life on earth! A study in 1956 found that housewives who volunteered were more likely to avoid serious disease, suggesting an interesting link between karma and physical well being.

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