Friday, March 31, 2017

The science of karma, a case study

Fresco of a young woman, Pompeii

Karma is a concept that recognizes a cause and effect relationship between intent, thoughts, and actions of an individual (cause) the future of that individual (effect). It is part of major religious beliefs and forms the essence of the just-world hypothesis. Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while an evil plan and bad act contribute to bad karma and future suffering. 

Probably it is not surprising that karma is a scientifically supported principle. This occurs because actions and even thoughts always have a two-fold effect. Doing your best is a generosity of effort that tends to earn the respect of colleagues, clients and the social circle of friends. But equally important, diligence and care give the feeling of satisfaction, contentment that result from a job well done. People who are reliable, good workers are more trusting not only in themselves but toward other people also. In contrast, sloppy, careless work degrades trust. People on the receiving side naturally want to keep a distance from those who are not reliable in the quality of their work. But the mind of the careless worker is infected with distrust. When the carpenter executes inferior, sloppy, negligent work, he will not want to move into the house he built, the tailor will not want to wear the suit he sewed and the shoemaker would not like the shoes he made. The distrust spreads in the mind and infects every aspect of judgment. The maker of inferior work will distrust everyone. He who cheats will be afraid of being cheated. This occurs, because the mind operates in unison, everything is connected to everything else. Happiness makes everything seem easy and carefree; bad news, on the other hand, overshadows every aspect of the mind with an unhappy tint. For this reason, anxiety, regret, and worry are involuntary. For example, individuals with depression may want to stop themselves from ruminating but are often unable to deviate from their negative thought patterns. Further, it can be shown that the difficulty to control thoughts is true not only in the depressed state but in any other highly charged emotional state.

Meditation is usually a prime example of controlling one’s thoughts. However, meditation always occurs in a resting mental state, or close to it. Resting-state is a neutral state of mind, which is relatively emotion-free, permitting considerable conscious control of thinking. This can be imagined as a ball on a hill. The emotional state represents a tilted ground, where the ball's path is deterministic. On a flat ground (an emotion-free mental state) manipulating the ball movement in either direction is easy and requires little energy.  An emotionally charged mind (in energy imbalance), cannot be easily controlled. For example, a joyful event, danger, or a sudden significant personal change exerts substantial control over one's thoughts regardless of individual effort. However, gently encouraging your thoughts toward stability and acceptance via meditation, prayer does reduce stress, it mitigates sadness, anxiety or other disturbances.

Related post: Karma, the long-term consequences of behavior

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