You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I suspect Emerson was here providing his modern version of the definition of karma. We often think of karma as a two headed coin. If we do bad things, bad things happen to us. If we do good, good things happen to us. Lately, I have to admit to having a difficult time believing in the concept. On a personal level, I admit I am no where near perfect, yet I’ve tried hard to add value to the parts of the world in which move…work, social, spiritual, home. But somehow, when I think things are starting to work out, I get kicked in the shins.
In Buddhist teaching, the law of karma, says only this: `for every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful.’ A skillful event is one that is not accompanied by craving, resistance or delusions; an unskillful event is one that is accompanied by any one of those things. (Events are not skillful in themselves, but are so called only in virtue of the mental events that occur with them.)
Therefore, the law of Karma teaches that responsibility for unskillful actions is born by the person who commits them. So, it follows that ones motivation (or feelings) for doing good things might have an impact on your karma.
Another definition says, Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The effects of all deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one’s own life, and the pain in others. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one’s present life and all past and future lives as well. This would seem to indicate that you receive your reward or punishment only after reincarnation.