Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2322228-Karma-Individual-and-Collective
Printer Friendly Page Tell A Friend
No ratings.
Rated: E · Article · Religious · #2322228
Reflections on the intersections and interdependencies of individual and collective karma

Karmic Reward: Understanding Individual and Collective Impact

Dear friends,

We bring to your attention our reflections on the relationship between individual and collective karma: the merits or responsibility of an individual with the merits or responsibility of the community of people to which he or she belongs.

In these times, when many are seeking answers to profound questions about the meaning of life and the justice of the universe, an understanding of these subtle but crucial aspects can be extremely helpful.

This article seeks to shed light on how the actions, thoughts and feelings of an individual relate to the actions and destiny of a group, society and humanity as a whole.

We invite you to immerse yourself in thinking about the spiritual laws that affect our lives, and suggests ways to realize and improve your karma through understanding and critically reflecting on the world around you.

Chaim Tal, PhD

Analogies to the Concept of Karma in Kabbalah

Since in our research we rely primarily on Kabbalistic sources, primarily the Zohar, but also on many other sources, we will first try to find terms in them that correspond to the common concept of Karma.

In Kabbalah, the consequence of our deeds is sometimes denoted by the term "Gmul".

In its original sense it means "recompense," but it is essentially used as a reference to all the consequences of our deeds: both "Schar", the reward for good deeds, and "Onesh", the punishment for sins and unrighteous deeds.

This can also include various forms of corrections (people mistakenly perceive them as punishments), both in the physical world and in the spiritual realm.

For the convenience of your perception, we will here conventionally use the widely used term "Karma".

Individual Karmic Rewards

Each person, throughout his life, by his actions, emotions, thoughts and speech constantly creates and forms a picture of his personal karmic retribution.1

Actions, emotions, thoughts and speech that cause good or evil in the universe create karma with great potential.

Neutral attitudes also do not pass without a trace - they fix in a person certain qualities "Midot", which prompted him to these reactions and manifested through them.

Collective Karma and Influence on the Individual

The question naturally arises: to what extent does the collective karma of a community affect the fate of an individual member of that community?

By community, here we mean any group of two or more people united by some common feature: kin, family, friends, collective, party, religion, inhabitants of a house, city, country, state and any other community.2  

In brief, the answer is as follows: the very fact of a person's being in a group entails the imposition of all the predispositions of collective karma on that person, as a result of which he or she may be subjected to the karmic processes of karmic collective retribution.

In rare cases, an individual can change this predisposition for himself. This becomes possible only in case of manifestation of will and constant conscious critical reflection and attitude to reality - processes occurring in the group and related to it.

But usually, as a rule, predispositions are actualized - for a person, the collective karma passes from a potential state to an actual one. There is no need for the individual to manifest the will for this to happen.

In the latter case, a person faces in his life consequences similar to those that befall the whole community to which he belongs by virtue of his collective karma.

Simply put, one shares fully in the collective karma of the community to which one belongs and which one has embraced emotionally, mentally, spiritually and at the level of physical manifestations, whatever they may be expressed in.

Ancestral Karma

At the simplest level, these spiritual laws are realized in ancestral and family relationships.

The karma of a family or ancestors influences descendants precisely through the formation of predispositions in them.

If it is a strong karma of a clan (ancestors were outstanding people, and it can be both in good and in bad)3 then it becomes very difficult for their descendant to avoid the realization of such a predisposition.

This will require constant awareness and great personal will - to question things that will seem almost obvious to him, and then to act in the opposite way.4

It is quite clear that if we are talking about strong positive Ancestral Karma, it is not only unnecessary to fight against it - on the contrary, it is better to take advantage of it and develop and improve some additional qualities.

But the potential of bad group karma of a genus should be realized and fought against it. Otherwise, karmic retribution in the form of calamities will cover such a person.

The subject of our reasoning we find in the Torah, which we could take now as a starting point for further research.

Examples from the Torah and Talmud

First, the Torah informs us: "And the God passed before his face, and cried, 'The God is the Lord, the Strong, the Merciful, and the Most Merciful, the Longsuffering, and the Great in mercy and truth;

He keeps mercy for thousands, removes guilt and transgression and transgression, but does not leave without punishment; He remembers the guilt of the fathers to the sons and the sons of the sons to the third and fourth generation."5

From this phrase, it is clear - Ancestral Karma is immutable and the guilt of the fathers is placed on the descendants until the fourth generation.

Ad Matai?!6 It seems to people that the universe and divine laws are unfair, as some people have to pay for what they have never done - for the guilt of others.

But this is not true - Divine laws are just, humane, and dispassionately inescapable.

The Torah further elaborates, "In those days it will no longer be said, 'The fathers ate unripe fruit, and the children have splinters in their teeth' "But each one will die for his own guilt: everyone who eats unripe fruit will have splinters in his teeth."7

The Talmud clarifies, "If they follow the (bad) example of their fathers, for it has already been clarified in another verse, 'those who hate Me."8

That is, there is punishment for descendants up to the fourth generation only if those descendants continue to adhere to the unrighteous deeds of their ancestors.

There would seem to be a contradiction in this: it turns out that the descendants are suffering for their own sins - so why say that they are being "charged for the guilt of their fathers"?

The truth is that a descendant who continues the sins of his ancestors joins those sins, and becomes one with the sins of his entire family.

And this is when he is subjected to negative karmic consequences: both for his own sins and for the entire karma of his family.

Simply put, he is subjected to karmic retribution for the totality of his personal sins and Ancestral Karma.

This is the punishment for the guilt of the fathers, of which the Torah speaks.

Kabbalah: The Basic Spiritual Law is the Law of Likeness

We find an even more profound explanation of this in the Kabbalistic sources. In order not to bother you with numerous sources, we will cite only a few of them.

For example, the Zohar describes how the spiritual worlds and entities are connected based on the similarity of their properties.9

In the same place, it also speaks about the connection of souls through the similarity of their qualities.10

In "Shaar Gilgulim" (The Gate of Reincarnations), the Arizal describes how souls connect and evolve through the principle of similarity.11

In "Pardes Rimonim" (Pomegranate Garden), the Ramak describes how spiritual entities strive for unity and through similarity of qualities and forms.12

We now realize that the basic spiritual law is the law of likeness.

So, Kabbalah emphasizes: different entities, with similar qualities and characteristics, combine into one entity.

And, on the contrary, if within one entity some part of it begins to differ noticeably from the other parts in its qualities, it separates and turns into a separate entity.

Therefore, acquiring by our actions, emotions, thoughts and speech karmic similarity with the whole genus, we merge with it into one whole and receive the full karmic reward of the genus, supplemented, in addition, by personal karmic reward. All of the above is true for any other group, community or collective.

A Simple but Difficult Choice

It would seem that the basic ethical conclusion from this is simple: join good people and avoid bad ones. That way you'll attract strong collective positive karma and won't be influenced by negative karma.

But this is easier said than done. As we mentioned earlier, it takes awareness and a strong personal will to reject negative collective karma. Moreover, a person is often unable to fully recognize what exactly is "good" or "bad."

Furthermore, people and communities are rarely divided into absolutely "good" or absolutely "bad."

Those people and communities whose karma approaches absolutely black (negative) are under such a powerful influence of the higher forces that they cease to exist, at least as they existed before.

That is why among those who continue their way in our world one usually finds the owners of mixed karma, varying in a wide range.

For karma - and that is the whole responsibility, and at the same time the whole beauty of it! - is not like a linear value stretching from large positive values to large negative values.

No, it is rather like a cloth woven of many threads that "dive" under the cloth and then "emerge" again in another place. It includes all the consequences of all the actions of a person or a community, both recent and very long ago.

Individual and Group Karma of the State

Everything we have discussed regarding Ancestral Karma applies equally to the larger community, the state.

The more closely we are involved in the life of the state, the more we transfer its karma onto ourselves.

And here, as in the case of the clan, there are many degrees.

Let us list only the main ones.

1st Degree - The very fact of recognizing oneself as a citizen of a certain state or part of a people, ethnos, nation makes a person a passive accomplice of this collective karma, although to a very small extent.

2nd Degree - Emotional support of this community (people, state) creates a stronger karmic bond, and this can lead to the fact that the person will be more accessible to transfer to him both positive and negative karma created by this community.

3rd Degree - Active participation in the life and affairs of the community, political, social, cultural activities, any other activity (e.g. volunteering) makes the person fully responsible for the karma of that community. He becomes an active co-conspirator who contributes physically, mentally, and emotionally to changing the karma of the community and fully shares in that karma.

4th Degree - Leaders of states, political figures, heads of religious, public and any other organizations and institutions in all spheres of life have a special responsibility for the collective karma of the community, because their decisions and actions have a significant impact on the lives of many people.

It follows from the above that there are different degrees of involvement.

Those who stay in a burning house until the very end will inevitably burn with it.

Conversely, they may be the ones who at the last moment manage to put out the fire and save the house - at least they believe so. Their strong karmic connection to the house makes them think this way.

Ultimately, whether they were right or wrong, we will only find out at the end.

Individual and collective karmic Rewards are inextricably linked and interdependent.

Every deed, word and thought creates invisible energy traces that affect not only a person's personal destiny, but also society, the environment and the Universe as a whole.

We are responsible for both these traces and how they shape our existence and environment.

Being constantly aware of this interconnectedness allows us to make better decisions, taking into account the potential consequences for ourselves and others.

potential consequences for ourselves and others.

Striving to create positive karma around and for ourselves becomes a key element of our spiritual development and harmony with the world.

Connection of Individual and Collective Karma: Recommendations

Recommendations on the issue of connection of an individual with collective karma are different, as they directly depend on the level of awareness and volitional maturity of the individual.

Passive, suggestible people with poorly developed critical thinking are unable or with great difficulty able to realize and correct their own karmic mistakes, not to mention the accumulation of positive karma.

Such people would be better off trying to join some community with positive group karma that will help them do this.

But, it should be said, this is a very responsible choice, a mistake in which can cost everything.

For example, by supporting a state or national group, a person, instead of being uplifted and reformed, may bring upon himself countless misfortunes intended by providence as karmic retribution for the correction of that group.

As a result, he will suffer karmic retribution not only for his own sins, but also for the collective sins of the community he has actively joined. 

The situation looks much more optimistic for a conscious person who has positive but critical thinking, who is determined to self-improvement and work on himself.

Such a person consciously, with every feeling, thought, word and action changes and creates his karma, which does not need correction, but, on the contrary, protects and fills him.

The conclusion is obvious: if you are not such a person - stay away from the karma of the state.

There is no need to get involved in it on mental, emotional levels and even less so on the level of deeds.

Collective karma is always stronger than individual karma, and the karma of even relatively prosperous states is usually darker than the karma of an individual.

The state is a controlling machine in which there is a constant struggle for influence, resources, and ultimately for power itself.

The desire for power attracts, above all, selfish and greedy people, like vultures eager to pounce on fresh prey.

Sometimes such people may do good deeds, but their nature makes them prone to various vices that inevitably manifest themselves.

This is why almost no government is without intrigue, scandals, corruption, conflicts and power struggles.

These problems may be more acute in some places than in others, but for a person striving for purity, no situation is off limits.

Of course, all this does not mean that a person should isolate himself from the world for fear of being defiled by someone else's karma.

There is such a rule - if in some community, starting with a family and ending with a state, country, you have an opportunity to improve your personal karma by your consciously positive actions, emotions, thoughts and speech, the consequence of which will be the improvement of the collective karma of the whole community - it makes sense to join this community and become a part of it.

If this community does not accept your initiatives, and on the contrary, has a negative potential, then staying in it will inevitably entail the transfer of the negative potential of the group karma to you, and this is in the best case.

As a rule, an individual, having socialized in a community to a certain extent, accepts its rules, then activates joining the group karma of this community.

Therefore, it is better for a person to leave such a community immediately on the physical, emotional and mental planes.


The questions raised here about karma and spiritual laws do not have definite answers and require deep personal reflection and experience.

We hope that our reflections have helped you to look at your life and the world around you from a new perspective and to consider how our actions affect ourselves and the communities to which we belong.

May an understanding of the principles of individual and collective karma be your starting point on the path to spiritual development and harmony with the world.

We invite you to continue exploring this topic and share your thoughts and discoveries with your loved ones, for only through awareness and mutual assistance can we create a brighter and more just future.


         1          Three Moments" - in each interval of approximately 3 seconds,          the potential for the consequences of deeds occurs


         2          This issue is much more complex, but the format of this article does          not allow for a complete review of all aspects of this issue.


         3          Good and bad qualities - positive: benevolence, gratitude, justice,          etc. and their antipode: hostility, hatred, judgment, ingratitude,          injustice, etc.             


         4          There are Kabbalistic sources describing methods of identifying          qualities in need of correction and methods of correction. We may          cover them in other articles.


         5          Shemot, Tisa 34:6; 34:7


         6          For what?! (Hebrew)


         7          Irmiah 31:28-29


         8          Talmud Brachot 7a; Sanhedrin 27b


         9          Idra Raba, vol. 3


         10          Zohar, vol. 2, Commentary on the book of Leviticus


         11          r. Yitzhak ben Shlomo Luria: Shaar Gilgulim, Ch. 11


         12          r. Moshe ben Yaakov Cordovero: Pardes Rimonim, Shaar Alef

© Copyright 2024 Chaim Tal (chaimtal at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2322228-Karma-Individual-and-Collective