Do you know the 12 laws of karma? Surely you have heard someone say that life “is a matter of karma”, or that something good or bad has happened to him because of karma. The truth is that this concept, which is so closely linked to Buddhist philosophy, is very much related to the idea of justice that one has through that religion.

But this is not a model of justice to be followed under the threat of others (people or gods) punishing us if we do not, but according to the laws of karma, we must make this notion of justice part of our lives for ourselves.

Buddhism and the Laws of Karma

The concept of the laws of karma arises from Buddhist philosophy, a religion that is based on a set of knowledge, habits and teachings that, through meditation and small gestures of the day to day, allow us to go carving a transformation of our inner self.

Many people maintain that this philosophy makes us wiser, opens our conscience and makes us more consistent with our actions. In fact, the influence of Buddhism has had a decisive impact on great European philosophers, such as the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who was greatly influenced by this current of Eastern thought when developing his ethics.

In search of karma

Buddhism has a particular way of understanding the existence and relations between humans . This religion states that life is a process of constant change, a process that requires us to adapt and re-educate our minds to become stronger. This can only be achieved by becoming people with discipline (and therefore self-control) and by being generous and grateful to others. In this way, we will be able to improve our state of mind, achieving focus and spiritual calmness.

People who practice this discipline often say that Buddhism in general and the laws of karma in particular allow them to connect better with their emotions, achieve better levels of understanding, and come closer to happiness and well-being. Furthermore, Buddhism seeks a spiritual development based on a holistic and humanistic understanding of reality , trying to make us careful about the way we relate to other human beings. The laws of karma are a way of expressing this philosophy of life, in which harmony between oneself and others is sought, in a series of concrete points that can be communicated verbally.

What are the laws of karma and what do they explain to us about life?

First, let’s start by defining the concept of ‘Karma’. It is a term of dharma origin and comes from the root kri , which means ‘to do’. Therefore, karma is a concept closely related to action, to doing . Karma is an energy that transcends us, and which is the direct effect of the actions of each individual.

There are twelve laws of karma that explain to us exactly how this transcendental energy works . These laws allow us to know the ultimate meaning of our existence, through the teachings and advice of Buddhist philosophy.

It should be clarified that Buddhism is not a common religion from a Western point of view. Buddhism is a religion not a theistic one , since there is no omnipotent and creative god. In Buddhism, the laws come from nature, and the freedom of each human being to adhere to the advice of this philosophy is trusted, or not. In short, to act well or not so well is an individual decision and, from these decisions we make every day, we are equally responsible for the consequences and effects we have worked out.

The 12 laws of karma and their explanation

But, what are these essential laws of karma that Buddhist philosophy proposes to us? And more importantly: how can we apply them to our life in order to be a little happier and live a life full of love and respect for others?

We explain this in the following lines.

1. The essential law

As you do, so you receive . It is the law of laws when we talk about karma. We reap what we have sown during our life. This has an evident relationship with the principle of cause and effect: everything you do has a return. Above all, the negative things we do will be returned to us tenfold.

2. Law of Generativity

The mission of every human being is to be a participant in life, and that implies creation . We are an inseparable part of the world and the universe, and with them we form one and the same thing. Our responsibility is to take the good that we find in the place of the world that we inhabit, to build our own life.

3. Law of humility

Everything that we deny, ends up influencing us negatively . If we only see the bad side of things and of other people, we will be renouncing humility, that virtue that makes us grow morally and intellectually.

4. Liability law

We must accept responsibility for the things that happen to us . If bad things happen to us very often, we may be doing something wrong ourselves. This is one of the laws of karma that focuses on the direct consequences of everything we do, which can be either good or bad. Every act has its consequences, let us learn to assume them and face them.

5. Connection law

Everything is connected . Every act, however inconsequential it may seem, is connected to many other elements in the universe. As they say, the flapping of a butterfly can initiate a tsunami. Reality is complex and absolutely all our acts have their echo in the future.

6. Development Act

We are in constant change, in a permanent flow . Whatever we do in our life, we must be aware that we are sovereign over our destiny, and to do so we must evolve spiritually. If we are able to improve our mind, everything around us will also change… for the better.

7. Targeting law

We learn things little by little, in a sustained way . We are not able to access high levels of wisdom without first having been in intermediate stages. We have to pursue certain goals in our life, and move towards them little by little. The effort almost always has its reward.

8. Law of generosity

It is vital that we act with generosity and kindness towards other human beings . Living in a state of mind of respect and compassion for others makes us more connected to our condition as beings who inhabit the same planet.

The fact is that the laws of karma are not independent of the way we relate to others, since our actions have consequences on others, and also have an effect on our identity.

9. Law of the present

To live thinking about the past, about what could have been and what was not, is a perfect way to disrupt our present and our future. Everything that anchors us to the past must be reviewed : we must renew ourselves in order to move forward and find what makes us happy.

Thus, this law of karma emphasizes not creating artificial problems by feeding uncontrolled concerns based on what took place in the past and what might happen in the future.

10. Law of change

Misfortune tends to repeat itself until we find the courage and the means to change our lives . This is achieved on the basis of the knowledge and experiences acquired, from which we learn and improve. With them we must be able to correct our course and build new goals.

11. Law of Patience

The fruits that we harvest after much work taste better . The more dedicated we are to the tasks at hand, the greater the happiness in reaping the reward. We must succeed in making patience a fundamental value in our life.

12. Law of Inspiration

The more effort, energy and courage we devote to our daily life, the greater the merit of our triumphs will be . Watch out! Even from mistakes we learn, as we have seen in the previous laws. Karma recognizes that we are individuals with the capacity to create and evolve, even in not entirely favorable circumstances. At some point the fruits will come, and we will have travelled a path of effort and courage, in accordance with the laws of karma.

Bibliographic references:

  • Dasti, M. & Bryant, E. (2013). Free Will, Agency, and Selfhood in Indian Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Jaini, P. & Doniger, W. (1980). Karma and rebirth in classical Indian traditions. Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Krishan, Y. (1988). The vedic origins of the doctrine of karma. South Asian Studies, 4(1): pp. 51 – 55.
  • Lochtefeld, L. (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 2.
  • Reichenbach, B.R. (1988). The Law of Karma and the Principle of Causation, Philosophy East and West, 38(4): pp. 399 – 410.
  • Sharma, U. (1973). Theodicy and the doctrine of karma. Man, 8(3): pp. 347 – 364.