2002 Kauai Innersearch/Guru Purnima Day 1, Part 2Bodhinatha discusses some common misconceptions about the law of karma and balances them out with a few very clarifying correct concepts.
So, misconception. After I give the misconception, I will ask you to raise your hands and let me know how many of you have heard this misconception at least once before. The misconception goes something like this.
"Nothing but bad things are happening to me. It is my karma. There is nothing I can do about it at all. Even if I try to change my karma and make things go better, I can't do it. It is hopeless, I give up. What can I do?"
How many of you have ever heard someone explain karma like that? Quite a few, okay!
This explanation, in fact, is responsible for this whole presentation. There was a young man in Maryland whose family is affiliated with the Murugan Temple in Maryland. They were calling in for a Satsang, the Master Course question and answer session over the phone. At one point, this young man made that statement and it got me fired up. I said this is about the third time in two months that I have heard this. It keeps coming in, in different ways, the third time in two months this statement has come. Since then, there was a fourth time when we went back to Pennsylvania. Some young man stood up and said, "I don't like the Law of Karma", and said the same thing.
So, it is a common misconcept among younger people. People, say under the age of thirty, have this fatalistic idea about karma. "It is bringing bad things to me. It is hopeless. I have a destiny that is unchangeable. What is the use? Why even try? Hinduism just gives me no hope."
Of course, as we all know from Gurudeva's teachings, that is not a correct concept. It is a very flawed concept but it is still a common one. Why is it flawed? How is it flawed? It is flawed in two important ways.
The first is, it says you cannot change your karma, which is not correct. Gurudeva gives us a number of techniques for changing our karma and the name we use to describe that is 'mitigate', to lessen the effects of something. We will get into that at length because that is one of the most important principles of Effective Karma Management. How can I mitigate my karma? How can I change it? How can I reduce the negative impacts of it? So we can.
The second point, which should be self evident is, the Law of Karma governs our future. Right? It does not only govern our present. What we are doing now, is creating our future. Don't we want to create a happy future? A problem free future? A future in which we have plenty of everything we want? A future in which our spiritual life is going well? We are not just talking about this life but next life, the life after. Don't we want to create that if we can? Well, we can create that by applying the Law of Karma to the future. But, it is amazing that is not commonly thought about. We tend to think, "Oh, here I am in the present and this is all happening to me. It is my karma." Instead think, "Here I am in the present creating my future by how I live now. I am going to create what I experience both in this life and in future lives."
That shows us the two ways in which this common misconcept is seriously flawed.
We chose three correct concepts to present this morning. Each time we give a talk, we will choose a few concepts. We don't want to overwhelm everyone with all the terminology at once. So we are just throwing a few out every day and a few effective principles every day.
Start with the obvious. What does the word karma mean? Just in case somebody does not know. Sometimes, we don't start with the obvious, we keep going and we leave someone out. So we want to start with the obvious, which is karma means deed or action. That is what it means. The literal meaning of the word karma is deed or action. One of the most common uses of the term outside of just talking about karma as we were is in Karma Yoga. How many of you have heard of Karma Yoga? Karma Yoga is the path of union through action. Meaning, we are doing good deeds, we are being selfless, we are helping others. Through that path, we create good karma and become closer to God. So, it is a common use of karma, the phrase, Karma Yoga.
Second concept, karma as the Law of Karma. That is one way in which it is commonly used. The Law of Karma, what goes around comes around. That is the popular understanding of the Law of Karma, the law of action and reaction or the law of cause and effect, which is very simple. Whatever we send out to the world, the world sends back to us.
Gurudeva would always, when visiting temples, be generous. He would start 'Building Fund' drives, give the first hundred dollars. Well, he did it for a few reasons, one of which is, he is a very generous person. But, he was creating funds coming back to us. You cannot give anything away really, eventually it comes back to you.
That is an example of the Law of Karma. Being generous to others, others are generous to you in the future. Likewise, if we are stingy to others, we don't share, we hoard. In the future, people will hoard from us. We will be without.
Whatever we send out comes back to us in the future. Not only our actions create karma but also our words and even our thoughts. So karma works at all levels. Even if we just think negative, terrible thoughts about certain people, that is hurting them. People are influenced by the thoughts about them. If we think positive thoughts about people, it makes them feel better. If we think negative, strong negative thoughts not just a passing one, but strong negative thoughts about other people, it hurts them. That will come back to us as well.
The third use of karma is one's individual karma. The easiest way to think about that is, every action has a reward or a punishment that goes with it. It is like the Justice system. In the Justice system, if you do something wrong, eventually you get punished. But, it can take a long time because the Justice system moves very slowly. The courts are backed up, it could take years before your wrong action is finally punished. If you think the courts are slow, the Law of Karma is even slower. It can take lifetimes and that is the part we can't really see.
When we are born into this life, we bring with us all the rewards and punishments from our past actions that have not yet manifested, that have not yet expressed themselves. We bring them with us, both good karma and bad karma. So, that is called an individual's karma.
Sometimes we jump back and forth between the Law of Karma and one's individual karma. We call both 'karma'. It confuses people, which it should. We should have another terminology, but we don't. We use karma to refer to both.
The idea is to distinguish between karma when we are talking about the Law of Karma and karma when we are talking about an individual's karma, that they bring into this life.