Karma means conditioned action. Meditation Master Lama Thubten Yeshe calls it ‘habit energy’. When you are controlled by habit energy that’s what the Buddhist call being trapped in Samsara the wheel of suffering; trapping you within an endless cycle. Another name for it is addiction. There is another way of being, an enlightened way, where you are not controlled by habit energy or social conditioning but instead you are moved by the spontaneous intelligence of the present moment.
Addictions of all kinds are rampant in the modern world from drug addictions, junk food addictions, sex addictions to gambling addictions. Many people have been touched by addiction in their lives and can understand the power and force of addicted behaviour; you can’t resist the temptation or urge to get the object of your desire, over and over again, but can never be satisfied or feel complete and what you crave inevitably makes you suffer.
This is what the Buddhist are talking about when it comes to karma; being controlled by habitual behaviours and conditioned reactions, which also seems to be a great definition for addiction too. We can take this to the level of personality and self identity too. A set of behaviours and traits that are repeated over long period of time are identified in Psychology as a personality, and it’s easy to confuse the personality with the person. But personality is just the habit of acting and reacting in a certain way.
Buddhist say that the root of suffering and the foundation of being controlled by karma is believing in a fixed personality to be who you really are and trying to protect that personality from harm and to acquire things that bring it pleasure. Literally attachment and aversion based on a fictitious belief in who you are. The antidote to addiction is always contentment. Finding contentment comes from meditation and finding completion in the present moment without anything extra needed or anything that needs to be removed.