The meaning of karma has been greatly misunderstood in the West. Many uninformed Westerners think that karma is some form of a curse, or the effects of a curse experienced by the people in the East.
But it is the law of interdependent causation. Every happening of everybody’s life and of the whole world develops, functions, and ceases because of causes and conditions.
Our spiritual experiences and growth are also caused and driven by causation. It is really just a description of how phenomena come into being, like the process whereby a flower comes from a seed: first you see the seed, then the shoot, then the buds, until the flower finally blossoms. Then the flower produces seeds, which take the process back to the beginning again.
If we have an open and peaceful mind and are a positive person, we will have a positive life, peaceful feelings and experiences.
It is important to believe in karma, for if we really believe in it, we will never engage in negative acts that we can avoid because they will just foster negative results, and we do not want to be victimized by our own doing.
We engage in negativity only because we do not believe in karma—that doing something bad will produce bad results.
Especially at the time of death, nothing else will follow us. Money, power, friends, and family will not come with us. We will not have the opportunity to take even our most cherished body with us.
Only the karma, the virtuous and unvirtuous traces and energies we have created in our mind, will accompany us, lead us, and push us through our bardo stages.
The effects or energies of whatever karmic tendencies we have will arise as or create the phenomena of our next lives.
So every experience of our enjoyment and suffering is dependent on and the product of our own creation, the karma of the past.
So understanding karma from the depth of the heart is essential in order to inspire our minds to develop good karma by doing such things as Dharma practices.
The Buddha said: “If, when his time comes, even a king should die, His wealth and his friends and relatives shall not follow him. Wherever men go, wherever they remain, Karma, like a shadow, will follow them.”
(Source: Taken from Thondup, Tulku. Enlightened Journey: Buddhist Practice as Daily Life. Shambhala. Kindle Edition.)