The Universe really does work in mysterious ways. No matter if you’re a super-skeptic who only believes what they see with their own two eyes or somebody who checks their horoscope every morning, you can’t deny that it’s spooky how quickly karma sometimes catches up to people. On rare occasions, it’s nearly instantaneous. And karma loves putting evildoers in their rightful place.
To show you what we mean, we’ve collected some of the best posts from the ‘Instant Karma’ subreddit that prove that Justice (yes, with a capital ‘J’) can sometimes strike like a bolt from the blue. As you’re scrolling down, upvote the pics where you agree with how karma dealt with people and let us know in the comments if you’ve ever seen any instant karma moments in your own life. Be sure to give r/instantkarma a follow if you like what they do.
According to Dr. Alex Lickerman on Psychology Today, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that everything that happens to us is “ultimately due to our own influence.” Whether intentional or quite the opposite. Meanwhile, coincidence is considered to be but an illusion. Or, in short, what goes around really does come around—but with everything that you think and do.
Bored Panda reached out to Lickerman, the author of The Ten Worlds and The Undefeated Mind, and spoke to him about humankind's hardwired sense of morality, as well as the benefits of taking responsibility for all of our actions. Read on for his insights.
If we’re to believe the Buddhist perspective on life, it means that at the end of the day we’re all responsible for what happens to us. However, this doesn’t mean we’re to blame.
For example, we’re not to blame for being born into poverty or for having something awful happen to us. However, we’re responsible for how we deal with the situation, how we respond to things, and what our next steps will be. In other words, we have the power to better our situation and not just be flung about by the winds of fate (or, rather, by our own decisions).
Though some people would argue that morality is something that's learned through experience, Lickerman told Bored Panda that "our sense of morality may actually be neurologically wired into us." However, this doesn't mean that acting morally or responsibly is easy or the go-to decision for most of us.
Lickerman told Bored Panda that we tend to need some sort of push to make us act responsibly. "People, in general, need a motivation to accept responsibility for their actions," he said. That motivation could be pretty much anything, however, Lickerman suggests that accepting responsibility for our actions "may actually make us stronger, more resilient."
He added that it's difficult to say where the limits of our ability to change ourselves to match our own perceptions are. "Research shows our self-perception is a very powerful influencer of our behavior. Can’t say it’s been quantified. It won’t change immutable characteristics, like personality characteristics, but it will change behaviors," he said.
In his first book, The Undefeated Mind, Lickerman explains how research has begun to show that belief in good (what is just and fair) and evil (what is unjust and unfair) may be "far more universal than previously thought." Psychologist Marc Hauser and his colleagues conducted an internet study with 5,000 subjects in 120 countries, asking them to "render moral judgments and to justify them" in moral scenarios. One of them was the infamous trolley problem where you have to choose between killing one person and five.
Lickerman writes: "The subjects agreed about which actions were moral and which weren’t in most of the scenarios, delineating in the process a set of moral principles that seem to be shared by members of all cultures—namely, that it’s less morally permissible to intentionally harm someone than to allow them to be harmed, that it’s less morally permissible to invent a way to cause harm than to cause harm with an existing threat, and that it’s less morally permissible to cause harm directly than to cause it indirectly. Yet the vast majority of subjects couldn’t name these reasons as their underlying justification for judging the actions in each scenario as they did."
He continues: "When we take moral action, we seem to rely not so much on moral reasoning as on moral intuition and then work backward to rationalize the judgments we’ve already made. (Which isn’t to say our moral intuition can’t and shouldn’t be influenced by reason, but rather that our moral intuition remains the primary driver of our moral decision making.)." However, where our moral intuition comes from is still unclear. However, our conception of good, the desire to provide help and prevent harm might be "rooted [...] in the psychological and perhaps even neurological processes of the human mind."
Meanwhile, becoming responsible for our actions can have the added benefit of making us stronger and more resilient. In his book, Lickerman alludes to a study led by psychologist Kurt Gray where participants would hold up a 5-pound weight, would be given a dollar, and half of then would be given the opportunity to donate it to charity. Donating the money made the participants able to hold up the weight 7 seconds longer than the control group.
"Why? According to Gray, because doing good increases our sense of agency, or potency, a phenomenon he terms moral transformation. (Interestingly, this effect wasn’t seen only with acts of charity but also with acts of villainy.) [...] Which all suggests a reason that action in the moral sphere, whether good or evil, makes us strong: it requires us to be. Or, at least, that’s what we think people who take moral action are: research shows that we’re cognitively biased to 'typecast' people who take such action as resilient—-a bias, it turns out, that affects not only our perception of others but also of ourselves," Lickerman writes.
"And when we perceive ourselves to be endowed with a particular quality, we have a tendency to conform to that perception. All of which implies that performing or even attempting to perform moral action may increase our resilience because it causes us to perceive ourselves as more resilient. This then makes us act, and therefore feel, as if we were."
With nearly 1.9 million members and 8.5 years of getting their show on the road, the ‘Instant Karma’ community is one of the leviathans of Reddit. However, don’t think that they’re just about seeing only unethical people get punished. They also urge their members to post examples of folks getting rewarded for good behavior as well.
Examples of delayed karma or scripted events are, obviously, not permitted on this subreddit. The name of the community is pretty self-explanatory. What’s more, r/instantkarma’s moderators have pointed out that they have no tolerance for calls to violence.
Just because somebody deserves to be punished doesn’t mean that redditors should pour hatred and vile language online. Of course, discussions are encouraged, but they have to be civil. Exactly like people ought to be in real life.