Shortly after launching this blog in 2007, I published a gigantic post on something I called Karma Capitalism.
It was a provocative idea about how to build business by constantly planting Karmic seeds, giving and enabling, knowing that the fundamental nature of karma will eventually circle that good mojo back to you.
That post was inspired by someone I’d been introduced to back then, a fairly controversial figure in modern-day Buddhism named Geshe Michael Roach, who’d spent some 17 years living in secret as a Buddhist monk while applying its tenets to help grow a $100 million diamond business in New York City.
There’s a lot we can talk about around the notion of trying to “manage your karma” with at least the partial intent of having good energy circle back to you. But, I don’t really want to go there with this post.
Where I do want to go is to a comment to that original post that, much as I’ve tried to let it go, has stayed with me for the last 3 years.
In that comment, Mark shared:
Hey Jonathan, I’m sorry but I really don’t agree with the concept of karma.
To believe in karma is to believe that the victims of 911 deserved what they got – that they all did something to make those men fly planes into a building. Or that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold only shot students that in some way deserved it. That any victim gets what they had coming to them because of their past actions.
The reality is that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. There is NO correlation. Think Princes Diana got what she deserved? Or Steve Irwin? Mahatma Gandhi – Martin Luther King Jr. – Abraham Lincoln – Cassie Bernall and countless others? I don’t…
Mark also took it to his blog and added points about karma not being about you.
And, in the comments I replied:
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I believe the Buddhist reply would be that it’s not so much the act of the individual “as he/she exists in this lifetime,” but the collective actions throughout many cycles of life “as that person may have existed” that may come full circle in seemingly unjustifiable ways.
This is not always the easy answer to digest from a modern standpoint and, for sure, the scenario you describe is the one place I, myself, am still trying to get comfortable with this notion, though I don’t rule out anything at this point in my life and I continue to study and ask my teachers these very questions. As I learn more, I am happy to share.
Looking past this, though, the bigger message of the article is in-sync with your bigger picture message, too – which is to offer something to inspire people to lead their actions, even in a business setting, with acts that will leave the world a better place.
It would be amazing if this came naturally to people, I know I try to cultivate kindness as the motivation for my personal actions. But, unfortunately, in today’s world, the reality is that often people need a more me-oriented hook upon which to motivate acts that will impact others beneficially. Which is why the Dalai Lama said it is better if the motivation was kindness, but still okay if it was self-serving, because the net result was greater acts of service in the world.
So, that’s what I wrote.
But, I have to confess, looking back, I think my comment was more a diversion from the fact that I was having trouble buying into what I’d written in the post.
I buy into the quest to lead with a giving hand, and even the idea that in doing so, you may “inadvertently” also plant your own karmic seeds that, as a side-benefit, cycle the good mojo back to you.
But, I’ve never been comfortable with the notion of trying to manage your Karma with the express intent of accelerating personal gain. And, since I wrote that post, I become even less comfortable with the idea. Even if the net-effect is more good deeds in the world.
But, again, that’s not really the conversation I’d like to explore in this post (trust me, I’ll come back to it soon)…
The much bigger aspect of Karma I’ve struggled with, like Mark, is those certain situations when Karma visits horrendous tragedy on the lives of seemingly wonderful, righteous, innocent people. Especially upon children who aren’t even capable of forming the requisite thought, speech or actions needed to set such negative causality in motion.
The answer I’ve been taught is that what you see happening is likely a cycling of causality between “reincarnates” (if you believe in that as the explanation of bad things happening to good people). Bad energy sent out into the world in one lifetime rippling back to visit it’s effect in the next lifetime.
But if Karma is designed largely to encourage people to take responsibility for the state of their lives, the good and the bad, doesn’t this seem to create not a sense of ownership of your outcomes but rather a sense of fatalism?
That, I just don’t get.
Curious, what do you guys think?
And, if we have any practicing Buddhists or even teachers in our tribe (which I happen to know we do), I’d love if you’d chime in and maybe help share some wisdom here.
Always looking to learn…
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