Karma is one of those ancient ideas that is very obscured and manipulated by popular culture. Karma means action, and refers to causality and how actions affect and shape the future. The idea is that there are two things involved with any action: intent and the result of the action. Of these two things, in Karma, the intent is more important, determining the state of future happiness. The result is caused by the intent, though is often contradicting of the intention. When the result contradicts the intent, past-Karma would likely be the cause. Therefore, Karma is mostly about intention and the current state of your karma can be determined as the end result.
This definition gets a little confusing. We can more precisely define Karma by talking about Kriya, which refers to the amount of effort exerted, or the steps to completion of the work. These two are often used to help individuals determine their current state of Karma. It is also important to understand Samsara in this context and how past lives, and old energies can affect your current state of Karma.
With that said, I have a modern interpretation of the concept that seems to work pretty well in my life. Karma is something that is collective, cultures, countries, societies, families, and individuals seem to share Karmic states. For instance, due to the decision of our American forefathers, America currently has the best economy in the world. This could be said to be a result of the heroism of America in WWII. Another example is the wealth of the Walton family, who through their father’s ingenuity, hard work, and business acumen has led his family to become the richest in the world. Now here’s the clincher, even though these actions have led to prosperity, they haven’t necessarily led to optimal happiness.
So this is where the original definition comes into play, the intention of the action determines the end-state happiness. Even though Sam Walton made more money as a result of his actions, it is likely true (I can’t verify, Sam died in 1992) that the founder’s intention was not for happiness, but for prosperity. But regardless of the intention, one wouldn’t hesitate to say that the children born into the Walton family would have an enormous amount of Karma built up in their past-lives. Intention of the action leads to the resulting happiness after the action and the Kriya of the action, combined with the past Karma of the individual determines the end-result of the actions.
I don’t personally believe in past-lives, but Karma hints at an idea that I would like to dive deeper into; that life seems to be a thing of momentum. Opportunities are the result of past decisions, even if they were not our own. It seems that there are certain limitations or advantages that our past, history, or circumstances create for our present states. And our present state also seems to allow for the potential future state. So when considering the results of your actions, the circumstances and past surroundings will likely indicate the future.
Energy recycles and present states potentiate future states. Be mindful of your actions as they will undoubtedly determine opportunity and future states. But detach from results, focus on the intention behind the actions and you will find happiness regardless of the outcome.