Understanding Karma

Mitigate karma by living a religious life, being disciplined, following dharma, being of service, accepting responsibility. We create the future by how we act in the present, wisely, through introspection, punyam, detachment from emotion. Utilizing the law of karma we mature spiritually keeping life sublime. Challenges are good making us stronger, developing new abilities. Commentary on The Master Course, Lessons 341,342.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning.

Looking at two recent slokas from Dancing with Siva, 31 and 32 about karma.

"Karma literally means 'deed or act' and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction which governs all life. Karma is a natural law of the mind, just as gravity is a law of matter.

"Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will, creating his own destiny. "

Many individuals are under, hold the idea that karma is unchangeable. What can I do? It's my karma. It's kind of... I know one Hindu man who was talking to me that way. What's the point in trying? You know, it's all determined. He was kind of feeling fatalistic and negative about life. That no matter what he did it wouldn't work out right. And, that's not the attitude we want to have about karma cause it, it motivates us not to try as much as we could which would actually make things go better.

So, in that regard, the related principle is to make sure we're looking at karma -- our karma -- as something we created. Sometimes, particularly when it gets difficult to face, it's harder to accept responsibility for having created it so we have to kind of keep a sense of humor about it. What in the world did I do that I could have created this mess. Must have done something pretty unwise.

The concept that Gurudeva give us is mitigation. As we all know, mitigation means to lessen the negative effects of. In other words, the karma still comes; we haven't eliminated it, we've mitigated it. So, we've lessened the extent of the negativity. Example Gurudeva gives in the Master Course is: Instead of losing our leg, we get our legs scratched. Remember that one? And then we read in the paper about somebody losing their leg and then we take on the whole emotion as if it were us. That's the example he gives. So it's much better to have a scratched leg then no leg at all, right? So that's mitigation. Still comes but the negative impact of it is lessened.

So, how do we mitigate karma? Well, by doing what you're all doing, by living a religious life. By being disciplined or by following dharma. We naturally are being of service; we naturally mitigate our karma. We don't have to think about it. It's not something that we need to consciously try and do. How can I mitigate my karma today? No! It's just a byproduct of following a religious life.

Also, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, karma can be eliminated. We were talking about burning the seeds of karma. But that's rare but it can happen through intense worship or intense meditation particularly on a longer pilgrimage. Remember that? We talked about how the karma could be totally eliminated, not even show up in our life. But that takes a very strong blessing either from the deity by going to a temple on pilgrimage or a very intense and sustained type of meditation can, can burn the karma. It's like roasting a seed then it won't sprout; it won't manifest.

So those are the two ways in which karma can be changed and that's always important to keep in mind. And of course, where we have total control is in the future. Because we're creating the future by how we act in the present. If we're acting wisely in the present we're creating punyam, good karma, merit for the future. So, in that way we're utilizing the law of karma in a way which is, keeps our life sublime. Cause once we understand it there's no point in creating unnecessary negative karma by unwise action in the present.

"...conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction."

Opposite of dispassionate reaction is we get upset. Seriously upset. Become discouraged or become combative, something like that. We've reacted strongly to events that have come to us. So, if we do that we can't also act intelligently. The two things don't go together, intelligence and passionate reaction. They're mutually exclusive.

So, we need to minimize the amount of upset, the amount of emotion when challenges come to us in life through other people. Doesn't mean not get upset at all, that can be an unrealistic goal. Not to have it effect your emotions at all, to be really in control of them. Usually we get upset to some extent but try and minimize it in terms of the size of the upset. Try and minimize it in terms of the length of the upset and get through it so that you can move on to intelligent action.

This passionate reaction causes emotions such as wanting to retaliate in some way. Of course, we're not going to go out and hit someone; all of us are too refined for that. But you know, maybe we give some nasty remarks, very subtle ones as a form of retaliation. Oh that's not good. That's perpetuating a cycle of karma that goes on forever. You have action, then you have retaliation. Then you have retaliation to the retaliation and it just goes on forever, right? It never ends. It's like a permanent feud between two families. They never get over it.

So we want to be careful not to have any form of retaliation as part of our passionate reaction. And, a good way of minimizing a passionate reaction is to remember that whatever's going on we created it, right? I created this mess by something I did in the past. If it wasn't coming to me through this person it would come to me through another person. It's got to come to me through somebody. So if we can manage to pull in that wisdom, which does require definitely not getting too emotional. Then it's easier to handle it too because we don't take it, we don't put it on that person as much as we would otherwise and blame them and criticize them. We, it's more introspective, we say: Oh, wonder what I did to deserve that? Who else might have done it if he or she didn't? So, all of that is helpful.

"The several kinds of karma are: personal, family, community, national, global and universal."

Generally when we think of karma we think of personal karma. Of course, personal karma is the strongest one. The others are much weaker by comparison. But, the others are there as well. So if we're a citizen of the United States and the United States does something that creates a karma we get part of it.

Family karma: Other members of our family do something, we get part of that as well. If the Universe does something -- I haven't quite pondered that recently. What would the Universe do that would create a karma? At any rate it's listed.

In terms of the next sloka:

"In the highest sense, there is no good or bad karma. All experience offers opportunities for spiritual growth. Selfless acts yield positive, uplifting conditions. Selfish acts yield conditions of negativity and confusion.

"Karma itself is neither good nor bad but a neutral principle that governs energy and motion of thought, word and deed. All experience helps us grow."

As you know I encourage not labeling things problems. Oh, I've got a big problem. As soon as we label something a big problem we start to procrastinate in dealing with it. We've singled it out somehow, big problem. Whereas if it's just the next thing to do it's easier to face and handle. So, that's kind of what this is talking about. Instead of labeling things problems and wonderful things or good and bad karma try and be more detached. Because it's natural to want the good karma and not want the bad or want the pleasant experiences and not the challenging ones. But that's a bit like going to school and wanting all the tests to be so easy you can get an A, you know. You need challenging tests in school. You need to be challenged.

In being challenged we develop new abilities that we didn't have if we weren't challenged. So, but you don't want to be challenged too much; that's called stress. So challenges are good, difficult situations are good. They make us stronger afterwards, we've had to handle them. And it's all part of maturing spiritually. So we don't want to get attached to just the good and the pleasant. We want to realize the challenging, the bad is also there. And we'll encounter it and life is a mixture of both. And in handling both in intelligent action rather than passionate reaction we develop spiritually.

As Gurudeva says: "Even harsh karma, when faced in wisdom, can be the greatest catalyst for spiritual unfoldment."

Remember the story that he made a comment once: My astrology is so good there are no challenges coming to me. Therefore, I'm not making spiritual progress. So points that out that "... even harsh karma ... can be the greatest catalyst for spiritual unfoldment."

So, thank you very much.

Aum Namah Sivaya