The Theory of Karma – A Hope or a Law?

law of karma

What do you have to say about the law of karma?

“I have very little to say about it – but it will still take two and a half hours!

“The law of karma, in the first place, is not a law. That word gives it an aroma as if it is something scientific, like the law of gravitation. It is merely a hope, not a law at all.

“It has been hoped for centuries that if you do good you will attain to good results. It is a human hope in existence which is absolutely neutral.

“If you look at nature, there are laws – the whole of science is nothing but discovery of those laws – but science has not come even close to detecting anything like the law of karma.

Yes, it is certain that any action is going to bring certain reactions, but the law of karma is hoping for much more.

“If you simply say any action is bound to produce some reactions, it is possible to have scientific support for it.

“But man is hoping for much more. He is asking that a good action inevitably brings a good consequence with it, and the same with a bad action. Now, there are many things implied in this.

“First, what is good? Each society defines good according to itself: what is good to a Jew is not good to a Jaina; what is good to a Christian is not good to a Confucian. Not only that, what is good in one culture is bad in another culture.

A law has to be universal.

“For example, if you heat water to one hundred degrees centigrade, it will evaporate – in Tibet, in Russia, in America, even in Oregon. In Oregon it will be a little puzzled, but all the same at one hundred degrees water will evaporate.

“A law has to be universal if it is a scientific law.

“If it is a law created by people themselves, by creating a constitution, a legal system, then it is nothing to do with science and nothing to do with existence. Then it is applicable only within the society that creates it. It is arbitrary, artificial.

You can change it – and laws do go on changing. Something that was legal yesterday is illegal today; what is illegal today, tomorrow may become legal. These are man-made laws.

Certainly the law of karma is neither a scientific law nor part of any legal system.

“Then what kind of law is it?

“It is a hope. A man wandering in immense darkness, groping his way, clings to anything that gives a little hope, a little light – because what you observe in life itself is something totally different from the law of karma….

To me, certainly each action has its result, but not somewhere far away in a future life.

The action and the result are continuous, they are part of one process.

“Do you think sowing the seed and reaping the crop are separate? It is one process.

“What begins in sowing the seed, grows, and one day the one seed has become thousands of seeds. That’s what you call your crop. It is the same seed which has exploded into thousands of seeds.

“No death is intervening, no afterlife is needed; it is a continuum.

“So the one thing to be remembered is: in my vision of life, yes, every action is bound to have some consequences, but they will not be somewhere else, you will have them here and now. Most probably you will get them almost simultaneously.

“When you are kind to someone, don’t you feel a certain joy? A certain peace? A certain meaningfulness? Don’t you feel that you are contented with what you have done? There is a kind of deep satisfaction.

“Have you ever felt that contentment when you are angry, when you are boiling with anger, when you hurt somebody, when you are mad with rage? Have you ever felt a peace, a silence descending in you? No, it is impossible.

“You will certainly feel something, but it will be a sadness that you again acted like a fool, that again you have done the same stupid thing that you decided again and again not to do. You will feel a tremendous unworthiness in yourself.

“You will feel that you are not a man but a machine, because you don’t respond, you react.

“A man may have done something, and you reacted. That man had the key in his hands, and you just danced according to his desire; he had power over you.

When somebody abuses you and you start fighting, what does it mean? It means that you don’t have any capacity not to react.”


Excerpted and abridged from Osho, From Personality to Individuality, Talk #9 – A Conspiracy of the Priests to Manipulate Your Mind

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