Karma and Grace

(image via Joshua Torres)

(image via Joshua Torres)

We walk in two worlds.

The first is the world of karma, a Sanskrit word meaning “cause and effect”. All great religious traditions at their core level teach this concept. “What you reap is what you shall sow” is an example of this belief—that one’s actions are at the heart of the consequences of one’s life. Aesop said it well, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

The second world is that of grace. Grace comes from the Latin root word gratia, and means “to receive unearned favor from God”. We don’t do anything for this—it is, as the word says, unearned. There is no need to do anything to receive grace; it is part of the operating system you get for being alive. At the heat of this concept is that regardless, we are forgiven.

In this holiday season I think the secret is to live one’s life with the intention of karma, but to know we are always in grace. To assume that all our actions will have impact, and thus to strive as best as we can to be as good as we can. To try to live as an example to others, and to act as if in every movement our actions, responding to the laws of karma, will shape our future.

But at the same time, to imagine we live in a larger grace, and no matter what, it is OK. To trust there is nothing to prove, and to relax into a deeper knowing, that regardless our lives have meaning and favor from something larger than ourselves—and we don’t have to do anything for it. That you were wanted into existence, and that “wanting” brings with it a sense of perfection, no matter what.

Karma begs the question, “How do I live as if every action means something?” while grace asks, “How do I live as if every action is forgiven?” It is between these worlds that we can find our uniqueness and contribution and remember the middle ground in walking our lives.

Inspiring IdeasDavid Baum