The word karma is from the Sanskrit, an early classical Indian language. It is still considered a sacred language because of its use in ancient religious philosophy, commentaries and texts of early Buddhism and Hinduism as well as sacred mantras of deities. In Tibet and elsewhere, mantras and sacred verse are still recited in Sanskrit by the empowerment of the holy syllables.
In Tibetan, karma is called ley, but means exactly the same thing. However, there is no single word in English adequately describing karma. We can use the more exotic Sanskrit word, karma, but the simple meaning is cause and effect. It is as natural a law as gravity, one that completely dominates our lives in an unseen manner. We construct it, both consciously and unconsciously, while experiencing it continuously. We might think that we wish to do a particular action because it is good karma, as if that was good luck, or not do something because it will bring reciprocal bad karma on us. Most intelligent people will avoid what we identify as bad karma situations, using careful logical discriminations to avoid trouble and would rather look for what would cause them to encounter good karma that bringing benefit. This is very easy to understand. However, it is actually more complicated because karma is experienced continuously, in different ways, on different levels of our being.
To have a human life is to enter into symbiotic relationships with our own karma. With almost mathematical precision, causes and conditions have arisen in this, or previous lives. Right now everything that you are, including your physical health, and the state of your relationships with others, are all due to your own actions (deliberate behaviors or spontaneous reactions). These are the energetic residues causing you to endure what you are presently experiencing. Due to that new karma that has come without your intellectual permission you will continue to have mixed karma. That means you will continue to experience both good things (when others will be kind and you will have good connection and rapport) and then you will experience people who will do very bad things to you that might cause you to retaliate. Karma gives us no peace at all and will continue to haunt us until we experience a fresh and definitive awakening similar to the Buddha 2600 years ago.
Until then there are three types of karma we will experience: Good, or virtuous; bad, or non-virtuous; and neutral karma. In addition to these general categories, useful for gaining knowledge of the natural laws of karma, there are our personal gross, subtle, and very subtle levels of mind which is how we experience karma. What we experience in our lives comes from various combinations and levels of complex activity stimulated by karma.
Gross karma has the illusory appearance of coming from outside toward us. It seems as if the actions of others and our reactions to them are happening in the exterior world. However, what we experience actually comes from the more subtle and very subtle levels of our being connected to a gross mind and body senses. For example, let us say that someone rushed in the door and began shouting at me. Even though it appears as though they are actually doing that, in energetic reality, there is no way for that to happen unless my subtle and very subtle levels of my own mind facilitate the entire process by making the other person an agent of my own karma.
To heal from the confusion regarding cause and effect, it is possible to develop powerful and profound transformative experiences and realizations based on understanding karma at very deep levels. While meditating, it is possible to have a subtle understanding of the nature of our own karma from a place inside where activities and events of our life blossom. Then we can see how the force of previously created inner causes meets outer stimuli or conditions. Because of the density of the vibration level of the human realm and the seeming solidity of the world around us, confusion arises when subtle levels that produce denser manifestations, arise without recognizing them.
In that way, to someone really wishing to know the nature of karma, appearances seem to negate inner spiritual understanding. Identifying with the grosser levels of mind, subtle appearances do not make sense, and you might think, 'Oh, this solid world must be the real one and not my inner senses because now I cannot understand what I thought I understood in my meditation.'
However, if you are alert inside and have developed some clarity, in addition to the ordinary experience of your world through your five outer senses, your subtle mind is also experiencing a panoply of events and activities surrounding you in a subtler way.
If you have clarity from inner transformation, alerting of more subtle levels of mind makes the experience of life like a delightful controlled explosion. Awareness by unawakened inner and outer senses although rooted in karmic causes and conditions, can still be alive on more than one level of mind simultaneously, experiencing stimuli. If you are not confused by the range of experience of the inner and outer senses, you will be able to clearly be alive on more than one level of your being without conflict.