As I’ve come to understand it, the law of karma is this:
every action has a consequence. The action itself is called karma;
the consequence of the action is called vipaka.
What happens to you is the result of something that has preceded it.
If you jump out of a top-floor window (karma),
you are most likely going to be splattered all over the sidewalk below (vipaka).
This is not because someone or something is punishing you
for jumping out of the window – rather, hitting the sidewalk
is a result of the fall, which is a result of your jumping out of the window.
Your decision to jump out of the window
is a result of previous karma and vipaka on your part.
Cause and effect, not punishment and reward.
But it’s common to hear people talk about how it’s
someone’s “karma” to live in an impoverished country,
or have a debilitating illness, or any other predicament.
This shows a sad lack of any understanding, let alone awakening.
Such people use the word “karma” as an umbrella
that covers all causes and all effects, and they do not distinguish
the volitional from the random.
But karma is only one of the five vinayas;
there is also dharma (the laws of nature), irthu (seasonal changes and climate),
biija (genetic inheritance) and chitta (the will of the mind).