Okami: Thoughts on Karma

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Another concept that is not familiar, and sometimes misunderstood, in the west is that of karma. The Buddhist definition of karma, on its most basic level, is "actions and their consequences." Further elaborated, it also means that for positive actions there are positive consequences, while for negative actions negative consequences follow.

There are certainly a lot of karmic reactions in Okami upon closer observation. As previously noted, interactions with the natural world follow the laws of karma—by treating nature and its kami ill, the world changes to be uninhabitable for the people in it. Similarly, the player must use their natural powers in the game to rejuvenate the environment, and life begins to flourish once more upon doing so.

The stories within Okami often illustrate the laws of karma as well. The main character herself, the goddess Amaterasu, has come to the world of mortals a second time in what is likely a karmic reaction. Her actions, and those of other characters, during the first encounter with the opposing forces of the game remained in part unresolved. By the laws of karma those events began to repeat themselves, yet with greater intensity.

By the end of the game, the player learns of all the factors which have contributed to the plight of the land. Those factors have originated much further back in time than even Amaterasu's first coming to fight on the side of the people. Many of these are negative consequences, yet it is important to note that positive consequences are also abundant in Okami. The very fact that Amaterasu is regarded by the people as a guardian deity is a result of her aid in the past.

Though the idea of karma is rather simple, it is not something that we in the Western world seem to pay much attention to. Okami teaches us that simple actions, like planting flowers, can have lasting positive effects. Something more substantially positive, such as aiding those in need, will have lasting repercussions well beyond the life of the benefactor. These effects are not simply confined to the game world, but can bee seen at work in real life, which once more illustrates that Okami has a great deal we can learn from and apply in our own lives.

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