I find quite often people referring to seemingly justice-oriented events as karmic in origin. Bad things happening to bad people; good things happening to good people; mediocre things happening to the rest of us.That’s karma. If the alleged consequence is after only a brief amount of time, the karma becomes instant; like cosmic pudding, available in minutes.

Except… that’s not karma. Karma is a universal justice, spanning eternity. The tribulations or treats one endures in this lifetime are the result of the countless lifetimes one has existed in prior to their current incarnation. If you punched a granny and then slipped as you strutted away proudly, that retribution was thousands of years in the making. The consequences of our current deeds will be felt in our lifetimes to come, not immediately after the fact. THAT is karma.

This position is not unique to the western bastardization of Indian religions. Even within Christianity we lament that God works in mysterious ways when terrible things inexplicably happen to us, and we question how God could allow this injustice to occur. However, I’m pretty sure the Bible is clear about its distribution of justice: heaven for good folks and hell for the bad ones. That is not mysterious. That is the opposite of a mystery. Granted you could counter with the Providence doctrine where God has actually laid out a predetermined plan for us all, but then your acceptance into heaven and hell has already been preordained, and if that’s the case, who gives a fuck? You either got the Grace or you don’t, and worrying about it isn’t going to change anything. If you’ve got free will, then Providence is less relevant, and you’re stuck with the traditional cosmic justice of working for your golden ticket.

Why do people reject these firmly established religious tenets in favour of their own made up doctrine? Why do we purposefully misinterpret cosmic justice for the more immediate and personal substitute? I suppose it could be we’re just a lot less patient than we used to be, and waiting til we’re dead before we experience justice does seem a little bleak. However, I think the reason is that immediate justice is much more palatable to human beings, and being able to experience justice delivers a much more significant weight to it.

The thing is, the world is the human realm. Cosmic justice is important to the nature of reality, but existence itself is outside of our jurisdiction. Our justice is our justice. When we see bad things happening to good people, it is up to us to provide redress for that imbalance. Externalizing that justice only seeks to pass on the responsibility that we otherwise would need to sustain.

If you want to include karma in your spiritual choices, that’s fine, but building better lifetimes means building a better world, and a better world is the result of human effort and human diligence, not any interference from divine forces.