Good and Bad Karma: What Is It?

By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 26 December, 2014

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I ordered Tibetan prayer flags and noticed on the outside that they were titled “good karma” flags. What is good karma? Rosalind R., Newport, RI

Dear Rosalind: Karma is a very interesting subject and I noticed the same thing on those Tibetan Prayer Flags, which incidentally come in small, large and extra large size.

There are many people who are glad to speak of good and bad karma respectively. Frankly, I don’t appreciate when people say of somebody whose act they might disapprove of,”Uh oh, that’s bad karma for them.” My own spiritual teacher Ma Jaya said that karma is a very complicated matter, and it was not wise to assume that one had a knowing of who was entitled to good karma and who was the recipient of supposed bad karma. Sometimes I think that when you utter judgments of bad karma on someone, it might even rebound back to you, such is the arrogance that one might carry around when speaking of others without compassion

Prayer Flags

I do know that the nuns, who reside at Dharmasala, where the Dalai Lama also resides, make the Tibetan prayer flags. The people who own the distributorship support fair trade, which essentially means that the distributors support viable and fair relationships with their vendors, artisans and crafts people that they work with. This also means that the vendor has an opportunity to fix the price that they wish to sell their items, thus providing livelihood to many people around the world. And if I had to say anything about bad or good karma, I would say that sounds like good karma to me.

From my limited knowledge, I know that some very good people have their share of hardships which some might attribute  to bad karma, which means to them that they are paying off some old debts that they might have incurred either in this life or another one. I also know people who talk about their supposed good karma when things are going well with them and they feel they are prospering. But again, does that mean that they are suddenly reaping the benefits of past actions and karma?

It is a very sticky matter indeed to pretend to have knowledge of what constitutes good and bad karma. Sometimes it just smacks of “judgment” on the part of people who wish to judge peoples’ bad or good fortune as they see it. I know of other wise people, having gone through difficult circumstances, have seen their trials as an opportunity to pay off old debts and perhaps through their absolution, accrue good karma once again.

These are very uplifting prayer flags indeed. Each flag has a wind horse in the center guarded by the four Tibetan Dignities: snow lion, tiger, dragon and Garuda. These four animals represent the spiritual qualities we long to possess: compassion, kindness, joy, awareness, non-judgment and humility.

My friend who is a Buddhist teacher hangs her prayer flags outside her home. Since she lives in a small town, which has mostly Christian influences and churches, I am sure that the townspeople wonder about those pieces of cloth gently listing in the breeze. I myself am very heartened by her devotion and belief that these prayer flags as they are touched by the wind blowing through them, are emitting the prayers inscribed upon them. These prayers are meant to positively benefit the world.

And if I had to make a statement, I would say that was good karma indeed. Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

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