Updated: Jun 9, 2020
What is Karma ?
Karma (car-ma) is a word meaning the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions. It is an important part of many religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In Shinto (a religion often syncretised with Buddhism), Karma is interpreted as Musubi (むすび), a view of karma is recognized in Shinto as a means of enriching, empowering and life affirming.
The theory of karma can be thought to be an extension to Newton's third law of action and reaction where every action of any kind including words, thoughts, feelings, the totality of our existence, will eventually have a reaction, same type of energy coming back to the one that caused it.
In terms of spiritual development, Karma is about all that a person has done, is doing and will do. Karma is not about punishment or reward. It makes a person responsible for their own life, and how they treat other people.
I. Story - 1
Pianist and the President
Place : USA and Poland
Bert was terrified of not being able to pay Paderewski the promised amount. He felt the great pianist would be insulted. But the pianist sprang a surprise and years later, so did Bert!
Spring, 1894 CE, Stanford University, California, USA
“We’re finished,” Bert mumbled as he trundled his cycle from Encino Hall where he had just delivered a set of freshly laundered clothes to Romero Hall, where he and his friends were currently quartered. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Pic : Hubert Hoover and Paderewski
“What’s the matter?” Ray Lyman Wilbur demanded, genuinely surprised. “Something wrong with your course? How many are you taking?” He ticked off. “Solid geometry, algebra, trigonometry and oh, but you’ve shifted your major from mechanical engineering to geological engineering, right? Dr. Branner driving you too hard?”
“I’ve signed up for as many of his courses as I could; they’re so good,” Bert snapped. Then he sobered. “No, it’s just the funds.”
“Your fees? But you’ve sold your newspaper distribution business for a profit, right? You must have a good sum saved. And God knows you slave every holiday, wandering over the hills to map them...”
“Those aren’t the funds I was talking about.”
“Then what...” Ray paused. “Is this about the concert?”
In a soup
Bert drew a deep breath. “I thought it would be a wonderful idea to invite great speakers and performers to the University — excellent lectures and concerts that’ll widen our knowledge. Helps increase university funds too. It’s for all our benefit. Even the professors welcome the idea.”
“So what’s gone wrong? I thought you’d invited that famous piano guy Paddy...Pada...”
“Paderewski — Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The greatest pianist of our times,” Bert’s voice rang with pride. “It’s an honour that he even agreed to come.”
“I still don’t see the problem.”
“I was so confident of his success that I promised, on behalf of the student body, to pay him $2,000 for the concert. But we’ve only collected $1,600!” Bert wailed. “And the concert’s tomorrow. God, Ray, what am I to do? I’m humiliated. And what about him? Wouldn’t this be a terrible insult?”
Ray Wilbur nodded seriously. “It is. But I don’t see a choice, Bert. You’ll have to go and tell him how it is. We’re only students, after all. Explain the situation. He’ll cancel, I expect.”
“Probably,” Bert sounded woebegone. “But maybe there’s a way out.”
Bushy-haired Paderewski stared at the two earnest boys, his moustache fairly bristling. One was rather composed, but the boy called “Bert” was trembling; he seemed to feel the humiliation keenly.
Paderewski stretched out a hand for the money. “Only $1600?” He asked, in his rather thick, Polish accent. “That is … disappointing.”
The boy, Bert, went crimson with embarrassment, stammering and stuttering about “lack of response” and then blushed even more, for, it was an insult to a great pianist. He promised to make up the rest...a personal cheque, drawn on his own account, to be paid later.
“And are you very rich?” Paderewski asked, stiffly, taking the cheque. “You must be, to promise $400 from your funds.”
Bert swallowed, and this time, went pale. “I come from a Quaker family,” he answered in a composed voice. “We are ordinary people, we believe in hard work and simple living. My parents are dead. I do laundry and a dozen odd jobs to pay my fees. But I shall work harder, to pay off your due. I swear it. A Quaker always honours his word.”
Paderewski stared at the proud boy, and the tears that trembled in his eyes. Then, with steady hands, he tore up the cheque into small pieces. His eyes were alight with gentleness and compassion. “Here is your money,” He handed back the cash. “You need this more than I do. I would never fleece students.”
Pic : Huber Hoover with Polish Children
“And I will play tomorrow, as I promised. The concert will go on.”
February 1919 CE, Warsaw, Poland
“We’re finished,” murmured the prime minister to himself, as he gazed out of the window of his office. “The Great War has taken its toll. Poland has seen too many uprisings; our people are too weary to fight, to even survive. Farming hasn’t gone on properly in years. Livestock is pitiful. What do we do for food?”
He leaned against the windowsill. “What do I do?” The door crashed opened and he turned, annoyed that someone had entered without permission. “Who is...”
“Sir, Mr Paderewski ...I mean, Mr. Prime Minister,” stammered the aide who had rushed inside, face beaming with happiness. “We’re saved...we have food!”
“The American Relief Association, the ARA. has promised to feed our people,” the aide burst out. “Just as they did, the people of Belgium.”
“Thank God for them,” Paderewski replied fervently. “Thanks be to the man who heads the ARA.”
“That would be Mr. Hoover. He headed the Committee for Relief in Belgium too, Sir.”
“Then I must thank him in person, for a debt that cannot be repaid.”
Pic : Children in Poland, 1919
January 24, 1929 CE, Paris, France
In the end, it wasn’t at least until 10 years later that he could get to thank in person, the man who had helped him and both had changed: Paderewski was no longer prime minister, while the other was now President of the United States of America. But gratitude overflowed still in Paderewski’s mind. “I cannot say enough in praise of your efforts to save the people of Poland,” he said, grasping Hoover’s hands warmly.
“You saved millions. Despite your own country’s objections.”
“Twenty million were starving,” smiled Hoover. “Whatever their policies, they had to be fed.”
“Which makes you even more generous than I had ever thought.”
“It isn’t just that, Mr Paderewski,” he paused and gazed at the older man, eyes warm with affection. “It was a pleasure. I could finally repay my own debt. You had once been generous to an indigent student.”
“I had?” Paderewski asked, in some confusion.
“Indeed. Herbert Hoover, also known as Bert from Stanford University, at your service.”
Karma : What goes around comes around
II. Story - 2
A Doctor and A Patient
Place : USA
"Paid in full with One Glass of Milk " - Dr. Howard Kelly
There was once a poor boy who sold goods from door to door to pay his way through school. One day he was doing the same and had only one thin dime left. since he was hungry, he thought of asking for meal at the next house.
On knocking, he found a beautiful young woman opened the door, and lost his nerve on seeing her. Instead of asking for food, he asked for drinking water. The woman thought he must be hungry, so brought him a large glass of milk. "How much do I owe you?" asked the boy after drinking it slowly.
"You don't owe me anything", she replied. "Mother has taught us never accept payment for a kindness." The boy said, "Then I thank you from my heart."
As Howard Kelly left that house, his faith in man and God grew stronger and physically also he felt strong. Earlier he had decided to give up and quit.
Years later, the young woman had fallen critically ill. She was taken to a big city since the local doctors there were helpless. Specialists were called , Dr. Kelly as he was one of the specialists. When he heard the name of the town from where she came, a strange light filled his eyes and they were gleaming.
Pic : Dr. Howard A.Kelly, Surgeon, Professor & Writer
(Feb. 20, 1858 to Jan. 12, 1943)
Immediately out of excitement, he went to the patients' ward dresses in his doctor's gown. He recognized her at once. He went back to his consultation room and decided to study the case and do his best to save her life. From that day, he began to give special attention to that case.
After a long struggle, Dr. Kelly succeeded to cure the lady. He suggested the hospital authority to pass on the final bill for approval before sending it to the woman. She feared to open it, for she was sure that it would take the rest of her life to pay for it at all. Finally she looked and something caught her attention when she saw these words written on the edge...
"Paid in full with one glass of milk."(signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.
Tears of joy filled the woman's eyes as her happy heart prayed, "Thank You God, that Your love has spread abroad through human hearts and hands."
Karma - What goes around comes around
III.Story - 3,
A Shrewd Businessman and his Business Venture
Place : India
The big business story these days is how Jet Airways has crash landed in slow motion. The grounding of India’s leading full-service airline has created a huge amount of turbulence: Passenger fares have skyrocketed and thousands have lost their livelihood. As a platinum privilege member and a very frequent flyer, I have been hugely impacted too.
Thinking of Jet took me back 25 years to 1994. Post my MBA, I was thrilled to be accepted by the prestigious Tata Administrative Services (TAS). Even more exciting was my first project: The Tata Singapore Airlines JV. This effort to start a world class airline in India was the big business story then.
Few people know that the inspiration for Singapore Airlines was JRD Tata’s Air India — then among the best airlines in the world. The Singapore politicians and bureaucrats came to learn from him how to build a world-class airline. JRD, with his magnificent generosity, shared his mantras of service, humility and operational excellence with them, and Singapore Airlines (SIA) was born. Soon, it became the best airline in the world, and has kept its crown almost every year since then.
It was poetic justice, therefore, that in 1994, they came back to build an airline with Tata — in a sense, repaying the debt they owed to its legendary founder. The largest and most respected industrial house in India was going to join hands with the best airline in the world and create Tata Singapore Airlines.
No wonder everyone, including me, was giddy with excitement. I still remember the project vividly. I flew around 19 cities in 14 days with two hugely experienced SIA pilots. Once they overcame their initial disappointment that I was not a pilot — in fact, I could not even fly a kite — they adopted me as their own as we went around the country surveying airport and airfields. Their flying experience, their aviation knowledge, their assessments of pilots and Doppler radars was a learning experience. Their attention to detail was terrifying. I spent days finding out costs and specifications of wheelchairs we would need to buy for differently abled passengers. While I lost touch with the pilots, I remembered the lessons they taught me. Along with the entire nation, I was convinced that we were building something special and expectantly looking forward to it. All of us, except two men — the then aviation minister and Naresh Goyal, Founder of Jet Airways. It was an open secret that the founder of the fledgling Jet Airways saw Tata-SIA as a threat, and he did everything possible to stop it. Rules were changed, permissions withdrawn, words taken back, as the aviation minister was favourable to Goyal. The Tatas could not stoop to retaliate to this form of competition. They did not, and would not, manage the environment. SIA went back to Singapore to continue building the best airline in the world, and Jet Airways spread its wings and became the leading airline in the country.
Many of us, I remember, refused to fly Jet for years afterwards. Now, 25 years later, the shoe is on the other foot. As Jet goes through its death throes, and Naresh Goyal fades into obscurity, their biggest hope is the Tata Group. And, as it withdraws from its prized slots and premium routes, one of the airlines working overtime to fill those is Vistara — a joint venture between the Tata Group and SIA. Tata Singapore Airlines Version 2.0.
I tweeted this story, and it went viral on Twitter and WhatsApp, as more people than I anticipated were interested in it. A couple of days back, an email pinged on my phone. I paraphrase the same:
“Hi Jaspreet, I am XXX, retired SIA captain. Your post on Karma and Jet Airways was forwarded to me by a former colleague who knew I was involved in the original TATA/SQ project. It was an exciting and truly unforgettable project!
A pity it didn’t come to fruition then, but better late than never. During our trek around India then, my colleague and I were warmly and competently chaperoned by a bright young man, fresh out of graduate school. Since then, I’ve always wondered what became of him and the wonderful opportunities that lay in his future. Are you that gentleman? If you are, it would be nice to reconnect after 25 years and relive some experiences of that adventure.”
Time is not linear, explained our ancient sages, it is a circle. The core concept of karma is that what goes around comes around.
The axe forgets, but the tree remembers.
Karma : What goes around comes around
Jaspreet Bindra is a digital transformation consultant and the author a forthcoming book “The Tech Whisperer” The views expressed are personal
Internationally, Indian or Hinduism based words such as Guru, Pandit, Mantra, Karma and Yoga have become very popular across the world.
One of the Outstanding Word is Karma, It means, what goes around and comes around. This invisible Universal Law of Karma works on the basic principle of " Cause and Effect"... If you cause good, effect will be good.
Karma means, if you do good in your daily life, returns will come in Multitudes of good and same with bad.
As the times are circular in nature, not linear ,sometimes, we meet the same people again after long gap of 10 or 20 years and will exchange the views based on how we dealt with each other in past.
So, One has to be mindful while conducting himself or herself in daily life, keeping in mind the Universal Law of Karma or simply Karma, as what goes around comes around.