Huna and Karma
by Graeme Kapono Urlich
I have never studied Eastern philosophies in any depth and this article is not intended to be an
authoritative synopsis of the meaning of Karma in that context. The mosaic of different
interpretations, even within the original contexts, is simply mind boggling. The intention here is to
offer a Huna viewpoint as a contrast and maybe help some of those stuck in an ever decreasing
cycle of harsh self-judgement and self-punishment because of poorly understood concepts.
In Huna the first principle is Ike, the world is what you think it is. This means we tend to
create and interpret experience using our most strongly held beliefs, even if they are based on
Karma is very misunderstood mainly because of mistranslation, misinterpretation and its inclusion in
some religious dogmas. Different schools of thought have evolved it into laws and principles and it is
a concept whose meaning, importance and scope varies between Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other
traditions that originated in India/Asia, and various schools within each of these traditions.
Westerners who have come in and tried to study some of these traditions have taken bits and pieces of
the ideas and tried to interpret them from their western points of view, outside the context of the
many interlinked concepts in these traditions, learned and practiced over lifetimes, and created some
very shallow interpretations of it. These have been further distorted by others picking up on
particular aspects of it and mixing that with New Age and other philosophies.
Westerners also tend to assume what they hear within one tradition is common to all when in fact,
there can be significant differences. A lot of people don’t know that there are different schools of
thought within Buddhism about diet for example. Many groups promote a vegetarian/vegan diet while
others allow meat consumption. The Dalai Lama was raised in a group that allows it and eats meat on
Many have distilled Karma down to cause and effect where the action of the individual now (cause),
influences the future of that individual (effect) but there seems to be little attention given to the
origin of the “cause” other than to blame “ego”.
Some see Karma as a sort of spiritual banking system where when you do good you get some interest back
and if you do bad you have a debt to pay back and, at an extreme, nothing good can happen until you
have fully paid the debt with a lot of suffering. If something “bad” is happening now it is because of
something “bad” they did in the past. This gives all your power to the “spiritual
Many people have given it a very negative focus over the years, that is to say that everything bad
that happens to us is our fault and we are 100% responsible for it. This tends to take people into
self-judgement and guilt, which is self-directed anger, and the tension created by this can be
Mistranslations and misuse of the word “ego” have added to the confusion and trauma by being
labelled "bad" and needing to be destroyed, which is nothing short of self-destruction. Any
good stuff that is also happening is either is not interpreted as good or, for some, triggers more
guilt because they believe they don’t deserve it.
In Huna understanding, Karma is simply what you have now. Going back to the original sanscrit we find
meanings of action, work or deed. Humans operate primarily out of habit, learned behaviour, so we
could see this as action/reaction, our behaviours based on persistent subconscious thoughts and
beliefs about ourselves and the world creating behaviour and experience.
The action therefore, is our subconscious thinking, and the reaction is behaviour and experience. The
instant we change our habitual subconscious thoughts, Karma changes. Responsibility is defined as
being able to see our part in whatever happens directly to us, not necessarily everything that happens
around us, and our ability to respond to that in a constructive manner.
Once we have determined whether what is happening has some origin in our own thinking, sometimes we
assume this if it is not clear, we can begin to take steps to improve that thinking with
Aloha, in a loving way, to help change the situation constructively. Even when it is not
happening directly to us, there is much that we can do to add constructive input and support for
beneficial change. I have personally witnessed dramatic changes in my physical world as I have made
changes in my beliefs and behaviours.
One person I know blames her untidiness and tragically poor organisational skills on Karma. In her
mind she is destined to have a messy life until she has paid back the debt, without any idea of what
the debt is, she just assumes there must be one or life wouldn’t be so hard, but really she is only
destined to be disorganised until she has learned and practiced being more organised and that way of
living has replaced the old habit.
In Huna and Kupua tradition we have tools such as Kupono Counselling and many, many techniques
including divination systems, dream/symbol work, time travel, bodywork and the practice of Hula, for
example, to access and change our subconscious habits. There is no debt to pay back in this way of
thinking and now is the moment of power so now is the time to start.
Effectiveness is the measure of truth in this philosophy, there will be ways to create the changes you
want and the new experiences you start to create are the measure of the effectiveness of your new
thinking. Any change creates some level of resistance which can be uncomfortable for a time. It is not
a sign that you should stop or that what you are doing is wrong. It simply means there are still
beliefs to change and new habits to form.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (November 2019)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism