"Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering." Wikipedia's two sources sum-up this notion quite nicely. I know many people that don't believe in karma, but personally I like the idea of it. I'm not keen on the idea of a prime mover or god that keeps a tally and ensures the proper cause and effect, but for some reason I can totally get behind a Universe that is constantly attempting to keep itself balanced, with its entropy increasing, but at the same time keeping some order within the disorder.
Maybe I'm a Buddhist.
I know I've experienced moments where I've put something bad out and received something bad in return. I've also put a lot of good out into the world and received a lot of good in return. Now, I don't do good things with the expectation that good things will come back to me, but I do try to make sure I'm putting more good out there than bad. I find that the reward for doing a good thing comes from simply seeing the impact it has on someone else. So I suppose I'm greedy in the sense that I really like seeing other people smile.
Once, I tried to fill the karma tank on purpose and it worked out for me, but generally speaking I try no to abuse the system. It was near Christmas time and I was in Toronto with a car full of people on a really busy street on our way to Ikea. The roads were pandemonium. About two blocks from the store, I stopped short of an intersection to allow a few cars to get into my lane. Someone in the car made a comment about that being a nice thing to do and I responded with, "Have you seen this place before? I need all the parking karma I can get!"
At that exact moment, a truck pulled around the corner with "KARMA" written in big brown block letters on the side.
We all just kind of sat there in traffic with our mouths agape as we inched our way closer to the parking lot. Upon entering the craziness that is an Ikea parking lot at Christmas, I drove to the closest row to the door. You never know, right? Well wouldn't you know it, someone in the closest non-handicapped spot by the door pulled out just as I was approaching. Boom! Wish granted.
We've all had personal experiences just like this, regardless of whether or not you chalk them up to karma or simply coincidence. Either way, there's no denying that there are ebbs and flows in everyone's lives. It's not too often, however, that you get to witness these ebbs and flows for a complete stranger. I'm talking about karma in action. I mean, actually seeing it unfold before your eyes in all its glory. To witness this as an unaffected third party is remarkable.
This train of thought all started one day at the office a little while ago. Someone in one of the back rows of the parking lot had pulled in a little too far and their front tires sunk into the swale (because we have one of those eco-friendly parking lots with grass swales instead of concrete barriers). He asked for help from a couple co-workers, but they weren't getting him out. As the saying goes, he was done stuck good.
On the surface, this looks like a terrible situation, and it would be if not for the fact that after refusing to allow someone to call him a tow he proceeded to grab his things from the car and then leave our parking lot on foot and walk to the building next door. You see, his lot only had spots at the back and he didn't want to walk so he parked in the back of our lot, closer to his building. I should point out at this point that this is not allowed. He was parking illegally in our lot to save him a few steps on his way to the office. Well, that's what you get, buddy. If that's not a perfect example of live-action karma I don't know what is.
In fact, because I was riding a bit of a mean streak that day I went down and took the picture you see above and pasted it all over the Internet. I also left him a note on his windshield with nothing on it but the word "Karma." On top of all that our building leaseholder is going to bill him for the repairs to the eco-friendly swale. That seems like a lot of negative kick back for a minor parking infraction, but who am I question the Universe?
Call it what you want or call it nothing at all. You don't need to be religious or spiritual to see that you should try to minimize the bad things you do. In other words, don't be an asshat. As a corollary, you shouldn't do good things expecting good things to happen in return. The return will take care of itself in due course.
It's really quite simple: if you do good things then it stands to reason that others are more likely to do good things as well. Everyone benefits and we don't have to keep track of the quid pro quo exchanges. Be content to let karma (or whatever) take care of the math.
It is said that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. I think of karma as the luck portion of that equation. The preparation piece is the practice of doing good things. Opportunity is obviously the situations you put yourself in where you can do good all those good things. The more good you're willing to do and the more chances you give yourself to it, the luckier you'll be.
In summary, be excellent to each other.