Karma is a belief that whatever you do will come back to you, either in this life or the next. It is embraced by followers of Buddhism, Hinduism and others around the world. For some, this is not only deeds, but thoughts and words as well. Many karma examples, both good and bad, can be seen in everyday life.
Examples of Karma in Life and in Fiction
Taking a Look at Karma in Everyday Life
The phrase “what goes around comes around” illustrates what karma is. Sometimes consequences attributed to karma occur instantly, but sometimes the results of one’s actions can take quite a while to occur.
Good Karma Examples
When a person does something good and that individual’s positive actions seem to lead to positive consequences, that can be described as good karma.
- Putting money in a church collection plate and coming home from that day’s service to find some money you had forgotten you had.
- Sharing extra produce from your vegetable garden with a local food bank only to have your garden become even more productive and bountiful.
- A businessperson volunteers their time and talent with a local nonprofit organization. The director of the organization later purchases goods or services from the individual.
- A music teacher goes out of their way to help students succeed. A successful student later joins an orchestra and recommends the teacher for a job with the orchestra.
- After a power outage related to severe weather, a homeowner lets a neighbor connect to their generator. That homeowner does not lose power in the next similar storm.
- A team member who admits and corrects their mistakes is up for a promotion against someone who blames others for their mistakes. The honest person gets the job.
Bad Karma Examples
When a person’s negative or unethical behavior seems to result in negative consequences, that can be described as bad karma.
- A co-worker steals a cell phone from someone in the office. Later on, the cell phone is stolen from them.
- While driving along at a speed below the speed limit, you notice someone riding your bumper and gesturing. They roar past you, then get pulled over by the police for speeding.
- A person makes fun of elderly people who have to get around using scooters. Later in life, that person develops very bad arthritis and is confined to a scooter.
- A kid bullies a schoolmate and later on, winds up working for the victim's father. Soon, the victim becomes the bully’s boss.
- A greedy businessperson cheats people, lies on taxes, and engages in insider trading. They get caught, go to jail, and lose all their wealth.
- A person tells their boss they need to be off from work because their mother is in the hospital, but the boss refuses to grant the time off. The boss ends up having to take their mother to the emergency room that evening.
Historical Examples That May Be Karma
When considering some of the things that have occurred throughout history, it’s easy to get a sense that karma may be at play.
- There have been multiple incidents of poachers being eaten by wildlife. In this true story from South Africa's Kruger Park in 2019, a poacher who was illegally hunting rhinos in this protected game reserve was killed by an elephant and eaten by lions. In 2010, a poacher in the same park was chased by hippos before being eaten by lions.
- King Louis XVI of France supported the U.S. to get back at Britain for taking some Canadian territories in the Seven Years War. Because of this, there was a financial crisis in his country and many Frenchmen were inspired by the revolution. These were factors in the French Revolution when King Louis XVI was overthrown.
Examples of Karma in Literature, Film and Television
There are numerous quotes about karma and examples of karma can be found in many works of fiction. Considering how frequently karma seems to be at play in everyday life, it shouldn’t be surprising that karma is a common theme in literature, movies and television shows.
- In Aesop's fable The Ant and the Dove, the dove saved the ant from drowning. Later, the ant saw a bird catcher laying out twigs for the dove. The ant stung him on the foot, he dropped the twigs and the dove flew away.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gilderoy Lockhart takes credit for other people's achievements then erases their memories. In the end, a memory charm backfires from a broken wand and he loses his memory.
- In the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, the prince does not show kindness to a poor old woman. The woman is a witch in disguise and turns the prince into a beast.
- In Polar Storm, a television movie, the main characters knew that anyone inside a car that is hit with an electromagnetic pulse would die. Their car was hijacked and within minutes, an EMP killed the hijacker inside the car.
- In Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, the main characters were encircled by Ewoks. They had a choice of whether to fight or surrender. They won them over and the Ewoks became a powerful ally.
- In Greek mythology, Tantalus tried to steal ambrosia from the gods and was banished. He invited the gods to his home where he killed his children and fed them to the gods. For this, he resides in the Fields of Punishment where anytime he tries to eat or drink, the food and water move away from him.
- In Jason and the Argonauts, Jason was kind to an old woman, who was actually Hera in disguise. This led to his adventures with the Argonauts.
- In The Lord of the Rings, every ring-bearer that shows mercy to Gollum is rewarded. Bilbo was able to give up the ring later on.
- In a South Park episode, Le Petit Tourette, Cartman claims to have Tourette's syndrome so he can say anything he wants. Soon he loses control and actually says things he doesn't want to say.
Is Karma at Play?
The next time something good or something bad happens to you, take a minute and think about whether it could be karma. Did something good that you did lead to a positive consequence? If you engaged in a negative action, did a related negative consequence occur. It’s certainly wise to consider that actions have consequences. While karma is on your mind, this is a good time to also consider the relationship between ethics, morals and values. Review some ethical dilemma examples and consider how karma might impact the consequences of what a person does. Then, explore more facts about Buddhism to better understand the concept of karma.