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What is Karma?
● (in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
● informal: destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.
Used in a sentence: The definition of karma is the destiny that you earn through your actions and behavior.
As succinctly explained on A Buddhism Guide :
"Karma means action, means "to do". Immediately we have an indication that the real meaning of karma is not fate because karma is action. It is dynamic. But it is more than simply action because it is not mechanical action. It is not unconscious or involuntary action. It is intentional, conscious, deliberate, willful action. How is it that this intentional, will action conditions or determines our situation? It is because every action must have a reaction, an effect."
Q: Why do we care about using that here on a community forum? Isn't it just used as a popularity contest or a way to get back at those you don't like?
A: Karma is all about how we choose to interact with others, and the consequences of which we face ourselves with our choices, which is even more important on an online forum where anonymity removes negative consequences to bad behavior. Without facing societal or social repercussions to unwelcome comments, there is less incentive to behave kindly, helpfully, or constructively with virtual neighbors.
Using the karma system responsibly ultimately reflects back on ourselves and the quality of this site - if we all give positive karma to those who deserve it for good posts, then we encourage better posts from others who wish to increase their own karma=positive reinforcement. If we responsibly give negative karma to those who are only here to disrupt or troll the forum, or anger other members just to get a reaction, then we discourage that kind of behavior=negative reinforcement. However, if we irresponsibly abuse the system, i.e. give positive karma to others just because we like them, and negative karma to others only because we don't, then this site eventually becomes known for being a "clique" environment for certain people only, and we all suffer as a whole with lesser quality interactions and fewer members participating. Ultimately rewarding or harming ourselves, the very definition of karma, for our choices, not just those to whom we are irresponsibly giving karma. It's the members' responsibility to use it wisely as it's intended. We can choose to build this site, or tear it down, with our conscious, deliberate choices; thus, the power to make this site better or worse is in its members hands - the result of which will be our own karma.
This article sums it up pretty well:
The karma system is one of those neat little things that contributes to the community aspect of a website by empowering you to give feedback to those who deserve it. It is a tool you can use to show appreciation or disapproval for anything that another member has done.
Maybe you posted for help on how to do something and got such a swift and helpful response from another member that you want to show appreciation in more than just words. You can applaud them by giving them Karma. Perhaps another member responded to that same post negatively offering no help and unnecessarily making you look foolish when you genuinely needed help. You can smite them by take away Karma. However, should you smite someone, you should follow that up with a message to an admin or moderator and let them know just in case there is a larger issue.
Please use the karma system responsibly. Don't abuse it by artificially inflating someone's karma or waging a personal war against someone by reducing their karma unnecessarily.
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