You walk into your favorite coffee shop and notice a jar on the counter that reads: “Tipping is Good Karma.” Does this inspire you to turn away, or reach deeper into your pocket book, in hopes of getting greater gratuity yourself? I invite you to stop and ponder: What is Karma? And what forces govern this law?
The basic concept is not only common to Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Jainism and Paganism, but is becoming a mainstream Western assumption. Karma is the law of cause and effect, and it is associated with such clichés as:
-“What goes around, comes around”,
-“You get what you deserve”
-“What ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
The Sanskrit word Karma translates to 'action, deed, destiny.' The earliest written records of this principle are found in the Vedic Upanishads around 1500 B.C. In India, where the term originated, good and evil deeds are believed to return to a person in this life, or in a later life. Karma is deeply intertwined with the concept of reincarnation, and one’s disposition. Circumstances, and station in life are all determined by past karma, which is a possible explanation to the disparities and varieties of life.
In Hinduism, Gods or planets play a role in dispensing one’s Karmic retribution. This is similar to the Judeo/Christian notion of God punishing or rewarding people for their sins or their virtues.
In contrast, most Buddhists see the consequence of an action as inseparable from the original action which caused it; karma is an inherent principle of the universe, without the intervention of a supernatural force. Osho says, “There are no books which God is keeping. Your being is the book! Whatsoever you are and whatsoever you do is constantly being registered. Not that there is somebody writing it; it is a natural phenomenon.” The Threefold Law, or Law of Returns favored among Pagans, similarly states that whatever negative or positive energies one sends out into the world, will come back to the sender with THREE times the force. Swami Sivinanda notes, “Destiny is created by man's thoughts, habits and character. There is every chance for his correction and improvement by changing his thoughts and habits. The scoundrel can become a saint; the prostitute can become a chaste lady; a beggar can become a king.” This view of karma is very empowering because it enables us to more consciously create our own lives. Many Buddhists however, view karma as the greatest obstacle to enlightenment, regardless of whether actions are positive or negative. Karma burdens one’s freedom. The goal of spiritual practice is to break the bonds of karma and unite with the infinite. Once we’ve transcended all duality of self-separate-from-the-universe, there is no individual self to receive the Law of Karma, whether good or bad.
Liberation can also be experienced through Karma yoga, which is the practice of doing good without being attached to the fruits of your labor. Selfless actions are said to purify the heart and prepares the individual for Self Realization.
In conclusion, if you choose to put money in the tip jar, in hopes of getting something back, you will be happily rewarded. But if you de-identify with the act of tipping, and chose to tip as self-less act of love, you are that much closer to enlightenment.
Enjoy the dance,