However naïve, abstract, or idealistic it may seem, I believe in karma. The whole “what goes around comes around” mentality is comforting. It is reassuring to think that the universe or some other outside force takes into account the type of behavior, good or bad, and provides a fitting reward or punishment.
People experience karma all the time. I can recall countless instances when I stopped myself from doing something because I thought it would give me bad karma. Over the summer, I accidentally walked out of a store wearing a bracelet I had tried on. While it was only $10 and I was embarrassed to go back and explain what happened I told myself that something bad would be coming come my way if I didn’t. Likewise, I’ve done kind things hoping for something in return. On my way to an exam, for example, I stopped and gave a dollar to a man who I pass everyday on the same street corner. Usually, I walk past him without a second thought, but on that day, he caught my attention. And it paid off; I got an A on the exam.
Returning the bracelet and helping the man put my mind at ease, as it usually does when I listen to my karmic conscience. My actions were making the world just a tiny bit better. So I should feel good about myself, right? If you asked me before we studied Hobbes, I would say yes. Afterwards, I wasn’t so sure. Hobbes believed that everything humans do is selfish, including seemingly altruistic actions. In essence, people do good things to make themselves feel better or for reward. For example, I perform good deeds in order to feel better.
This idea of selfishness even in the most unselfish of situations is hard to ignore. I began to fear that Hobbes was right, and my whole concept of karma was skewed. Merriam-Webster defines karma as “the force created by a person’s actions that some people believe causes good or bad things to happen to that person.” There are two key components to this definition. Emphasis on one half over the other can help classify karma as altruistic or selfish. If we focus only on a person’s actions then we can see the beneficial results of people doing good things. However, if we look at the belief that it causes good or bad things to happen to that person, it is seems that people only do things because they want to be rewarded. Doing something kind or morally right also gives a special kind of satisfaction, and that is reward in itself for many. Hobbes would support the explanation including rewards and results. People who do good deeds aren’t doing them solely to help others, rather for the benefits that come with it.
So, is karma a selfish concept?Yes. But does that mean that people should stop believing in it? No. It still makes people do good things and help others. It shouldn’t matter what someone’s motives are, as long as their actions are good and kind.