By Scott Shaw
Before I get into the whole who, what, when, where, and why of Karma, I believe that it is important to discuss one of the most essential issue of Karma -- why people turn to this understanding for answers.
People commonly ask, "Why has somebody else achieved something?" "Why have they, when I have not?"
If you wonder why you have not achieved your life goals and desires, the first place you need to look is yourself.
Do you live your life from a place of positivity and goodness or do you live your life based in negativity?
Negativity is expressed in many ways: anger, criticism, violence, dishonesty, and so on. If you perform these actions, then you have developed bad Karma. It is as simply as that.
If you live your life embracing negativity, that is the answer to the questions of why you have not achieved your life goals. For if you live your life at this level, negativity attracts negativity and you will never be able to live your dreams -- because negativity is against the greater good of mankind and the universe.
If you find that you have been living your life embracing negativity, and you want to change, the question may then be asked, "What can I do to change?" Well, the first thing you must do is you must stop performing negative actions. Then, you must repair the negativity you have unleashed.
What does this mean? You must replace your negativity with positivity.
First of all, do not attempt to justify your actions by stating, "I didn't like that person or that person deserved it."
Who are you to judge!
As long as you negatively judge others, it is you who will inhibit your own growth as a conscious individual.
Or, "I did it because of my negative cultural programing, my bad childhood, or my family genetics."
Stop that! Take responsibility for your actions!
Furthermore, repairing your Karma is not like going to confession and being told to recite one-hundred "Our Fathers," or one-hundred "Hail Mary's." Those actions may right you with your priest, but it does not right you with the person or person's you have unleashed negativity against.
It is kind of like saying, "I'm sorry." That statement means nothing, if you do not do something to truly prove that you are sorry.
What you must do is, you must right your wrongs!
How is this achieved? That depends on what you have done.
If you have stolen, you must repay those who you have stolen from. If you have lied, you must tell the truth. If you have criticized, you must replace that criticism with praise. If you have injured, you must repair the damage.
Many people wonder why Karma hits them so hard. This is because they do not set about on a path of positivity and consciously attempt to right the wrongs they have committed.
Repair your own Karma.
Try it and you will be amazed at the results. Positivity will enter your life and you will much more readily achieve your goals.
It is you who must do this. No one can do it for you. Right your wrongs!
Now that I detailed the secret to repairing Bad Karma, we can continue forward and investigate the foundations of this ancient understanding.
The Foundations of Karma
The Sanskrit word Karma, literally translated, means "Action." This word represents the law of cause and effect, "As yee sew, so shall yee reap."
Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Self-Transcending Action.
Karma is one of the most complicated and profoundly philosophical issues you must deal with on your path towards spiritual realization. Because of the fact, right and wrong, good or bad are not universally defined in this physical world. Not only does each culture possesses a somewhat differing view of right and wrong but each person holds their own values and individual perceptions of good and bad. Certainly, there are distinct wrongs: hurting someone unnecessarily, forcefully taking something from another person, being selfish and uncaring, and so on. But beyond these obvious instances, the precise definition becomes lost. For example, what about when you hurt someone unintentionally? Or, while pursuing the Spiritual Path, you must leave someone behind, thus, causing him or her to suffer at your absence?
The question of Karma is amplified when people justify the wrongs they are performing for what they believe to be a just cause. For example, how many people have died in wars on this Earth motivated by religious idealism?
Perhaps even more disconcerting is the case of individuals who continually cause physical and emotional pain to other people. Yet somehow, their life seems to continue forward in an unhindered path of success and acquisition. When justifying their negative Karmic actions, these people oftentimes allude to the fact that they had a bad childhood, are getting back at the world for what was done to them, or due to negative peer influence they were guided down the wrong road. Though these may be psychologically valid rationalizations, none-the-less, negative actions have taken place, often times injuring good people.
On the other side of the coin, there are those individuals who continually provide a positive service to the world. Yet, they are confounded by continued negative encounters. Why should adverse experiences happen to these people if they are expounding good to humanity?
The philosophic debate on the nuances of Karma has gone on for centuries. And, it will continue. In ancient Vedic texts, three levels of Karma are defined which may provide you with some insight into the various types of Karmic action which are taking place in this material world.
The Three Levels of Karma
The three levels of Karma are: Sanchita Karma, "Accumulated Karma", Prarabdha Karma, "Actions which create Karma: good or bad," and Kriyamana Karma, "Current actions."
1) Sanchita or Accumulated Karma is the Karma which you have previously substantiated. Sanchita Karma, not only defines actions which you have taken in this life, but also actions which you performed in previous incarnations. Many believe that this is one of the primary components which go into the formation of a individual's personality - as they are acting out a life style and mindset which they substantiated in a previous life.
The understanding of Sanchita Karma is also used to define why seemingly good people, in their present incarnation, encounter negative events in their life. It is understood that though they may now be very good, in a previous existence, they must have created adverse Karma. Thus, they suffer in this lifetime.
Certainly, in the Western world, the concept of paying for sins from a previous life strikes an adverse chord in many people. This is because of the fact that they believe that their current body is their only body and even if they do accept the theory of reincarnation, why should they have to pay the price for an existence which they no longer have any control over? This is where the belief systems indoctrinated by religion comes into play in the definition of Karma. For example, a Hindu or a Buddhist would simply let go of philosophic questioning and relinquish themselves to accepting the understanding of Sanchita Karma as fact. Thus, any life occurrence, be it positive or negative, is quickly rationalized and accepted as Karma.
2) Prarabdha Karma is the Karma which has come into existence due to past actions. Illustrative of this type of Karma is the individual who performs negative acts, for what ever physical, emotional, or psychological rational, and then later in their life they encounter unfavorable situations. These events may take place in the next life, the distant future or may happen almost instantaneously. This understanding provides some solace to people who have been wronged by others -- as they know, sooner or later, that unjust individual will have to pay the price for their actions.
It is additionally understood at this level of Karmic understanding, if one's Karmic debt is paid up, then any Karmic retribution for a negative act will be incurred relatively quickly, as there is not a long backlog of wrongs waiting to be repaid.
Prarabdha Karma not only details the events which occur as a result of adverse Karma but it is also equally applicable to positive Karma, as well. This can explain why the rare case of a truly negative person, in this life, continually encounters seemingly positive experiences - they were a very good person in a past life.
3) Kriyamana Karma is the actions you take which lay the foundation for either positive or negative Karma in the future.
Some people were born into economically poor living conditions, dysfunctional families, or have had childhoods corrupted by very bad influences and occurrences. Others have experienced a relatively positive childhood only to be impacted by negative influences as they have grown older. Sociologists and Psychologists have, for decades, attempted to draw conclusions to why an individual follows a particular path in life, due to foundational attributes. Though there is, no doubt, quantitative validity to some of their findings, it must be ultimately understood that we each are the masters of our own destiny. At any point in life, be it before you instigated any adverse Karma or post having unleashed a plethora of negativity, you can take back your life and choose to consciously move forward - doing good things for the world, creating good Karma, even while you suffer the inevitable repercussions for actions you have taken in the past.
Certainly, most of us have encountered influences in our lives which were not of the purest content. Additionally, due to innumerable psychological factors we have walked down impure paths with people we should not have. Under these influences most of us have all performed acts which we now can see as "Bad Karma." Knowing this, you have two options in your life. One, you can hold on to those experiences and allow them to set a pattern for the rest of your life. Two, you can consciously let go of the past and move forward into a world where you will never allow negative people or situations to guide you again. With this more positive approach, you allow yourself to live each new moment of life in a positive fashion - following the path to Self Realization while you do good things for all those you encounter.
Creators of Karma
From ancient Vedic texts we learn that once one's personality is initially set in motion by Sanchita Karma, the individual then moves forward into life choosing to act out one of three levels of Karma: Sattva, Rajas, or Tamasa. These three types of Karma parallel the understanding, known in Sanskrit as Gunas, or "The Three States of Consciousness."
Sattva is the pure state. Rajas, is the active, passionate state. Tamas, is the dark, overripe state.
The Sanskrit word Karman is used to describe an individual who is creating a specific type of Karma. Thus, an individual is either a Sattva Karman, Rajas Karman, or a Tamas Karman.
The Sattva Karman's actions are pure, precise, and directed towards a higher good each step of the way. A Rajas Karman's actions are all performed from a sense of ego - everything is done for the betterment of himself. A Tamas Karman's actions are performed from a dark, deluded, and confused state of mind. Serving no one and nothing.
Karma and the Human Being
Existing in a human body means that everyone, no matter how holy, is bound by Karma. It must be ultimately understood that no act is wholly good and bad. What may benefit one may cause pain to another. Thus, as we are bound by the complexities of human existence, good and bad will remain an individual's perception.
The Yogi does all that he can to create a positive world: forgiving those who have hurt him, helping those who need help, guiding those who need guidance. Any action is attempted from only the most pure of motivations, understanding that, ultimately, each person is their own person, with their own emotions, desires - cultural and psychological influences. You can not make everyone happy. Thus, the Yogi walks his path, embracing life and attempting to do the most possible good each step of the way.
Karma Yoga is the "Yoga of Self Transcending Action." What this means is that the individual puts his own desires aside and performs acts for the betterment of God, society, a specific group, a particular person, or the world as a whole.
The purpose of Karma Yoga is two fold: first of all it is a meditation in selflessness. It teaches the practitioner that there is a higher good and due to the fact that we are in the material world, physical actions must be taken to achieve this wide spanning righteousness. Secondarily, Karma Yoga, instructs the devotee to make all physical actions a conscious gift to God. Thus, everything one does is an act of reverence.
Karma Yoga witnesses the practitioner doing acts, without any debate, which are oftentimes actions which one would normally not under take. We as human beings each have our own predetermined sets of perimeters which we believe is our station in life. These have been instigated from a combination of factors: our upbringing, our financial condition, and our self image, to name only a few. What these predetermined set of perimeters does is to cause us to take action which are deemed normal and appropriate to us. Though these actions may lead to the betterment of our personal lives, they, oftentimes, do nothing for another person or the advancement of the world as a whole.
The Karma Yogi steps beyond the boundaries of the accepted norm and performs whatever actions are necessary to help another individual or cause -- even if these actions are a large step downwards from one's position in life. This is why Karma Yoga is considered an act of selflessness. As one is performing these acts, the mindset of, "This is below me," or "I am better than this," is never contemplated. Instead, the act itself is seen as cultivating necessary humility in the individual and the person performs it to perfection, only wishing to provide a helping service.
Many times a Karma Yogi is given specific actions to perform by his Guru. As the spiritual teacher is understood to be all knowing, it is immediately understood that these actions are a necessary action in the Karmic unfoldment of the individual. Thus, they are immediately performed.
As a meditation device Karma Yoga is a great tool as it causes the Yogi to raise his mind above the limited perceptions of the self and move towards a mindset where all people are interactive parts of the cosmic whole - none, more or less than another. This is why a Karma Yogi often times performs no formal seated meditation. Instead, they focus all of their Sadhana upon the positive actions they are performing in the name of Karma Yoga.
On a much deeper level, the Karma Yogi performs all actions as reverence to God. The Karma Yogi does nothing which will knowingly injure another person or damage any aspect of this world. All they do, they do in the name of God. They see God in every aspect of humanity, nature, and even material objects of this physical plane. Thus, every action is taken with the embracing of the knowledge that God is being served.
Misinterpreted Karma Yoga
There are those who believe that by performing actions in service of another person they will automatically be repaid with "Good Karma." This mindset is completely false. The Karma Yogi seeks no repayment. All actions are simply taken as a gift to the universal good. If positive reaction comes from this - that is fine, but it is never sought after.
Some very pure spirited people truly obtain joy from helping the less fortunate and providing service or giving money to others. Though these are good and helpful actions, they are not necessarily Karma Yoga. For if one performs any actions with the slightest glimmer of ego gratification, self worth, or superiority then the action is lost from being truly holy.
Karma Yoga is not about obtaining joy or satisfaction from your works, nor is it about the varying degrees of egotism which may arise from helping those you see as having less than yourself. Karma Yoga is a meditative pathway of complete self abandonment, letting go of all of your thoughts, and emotions, while performing service for the betterment of humanity, while devoting your actions to God.
A Karma Yogi strives to be selfless in every movement in life. What he does, he does -- he seeks no thanks or congratulations. He understands that every action is a combination of good and bad. No movement in this physical world is wholly free from possible negative ramifications. Thus, he does all he can to serve others and provide a positive service to the world, hoping to limit evil and bring about everlasting good.
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