Contextual Data: Over Spring Break, I was at dinner with my family, and my dad accidentally bit his cheek. He cried out and my mother, who was sitting next to him chirped out, “Instant Karma!” I had heard her do that once before, and so I asked her what she meant by it and where she had heard it. The following is an exact transcript of what she said.
“It’s the saying that if you bit your tongue or your cheek that means you were either having bad thoughts about somebody or thinking bad about somebody…or cursing somebody. That’s why in… uh, karma you got bitten — because of bad thoughts about bad [Laughs]… As soon as you get bitten, you — first thing comes out of your mouth is ‘Ouch!’ and then person across from you knows that ‘Oh, you did something wrong. That’s why.’ So they assume you were having bad thoughts about somebody that’s why you got…”
– End Transcript –
Karma (the general idea of what goes around comes around) is a big part of Hindu culture and that can certainly be seen in this little saying. For the most part though, it doesn’t seem as though this saying is meant to be taken seriously — partially because it’s not a wholly accurate representation of Hindu ideas of Karma. Beyond this, most of the times that it happens, the person “accused” usually isn’t actually cursing someone else. When it happened in this particular situation, my dad just kind of laughed it off. It therefore seems as though this saying is meant to be passed on as more of a joke. It’s teasing and can make people very defensive, particularly messing with them if they were thinking bad thoughts about someone else. My informant enjoys sharing it just to poke fun.