October 2004 – Karma


You reap what you sow
What goes around comes around
Cause and Effect

Central to Yoga Philosophy is Karma

Karma literally translates as something that is done, action. The law of Karma states that every event is both a cause and an effect. Every act has consequences of a similar kind which in turn have further consequences and so on. And every act is also the consequence of some previous karma.

Karma is not just attached to your actions but also your intentions, thoughts, words, and behaviors.
Be aware of what is in your head and heart (thoughts and intentions). Everything we do produces karma in the mind, IT IS in the mind that karmic seeds are planted. The seed of an oak tree can be nothing but an oak tree. A negative thought will manifest in you and can become nothing but a negative action.
The intention behind any action is always more important than the action itself, the intention is the seed of the action. If you perform a good action with negative intentions (for example, a selfish desire–even if that desire is good karma!) you will receive negative karma from the action.

The ultimate goal is to have no karma, it is when all your karma is worked out that you stop samsara the endless cycle of birth and death and move onto the astral or causal plane (closer to God or Heaven).
Even good karma can be a trap, because we seek it compulsively tying ourselves tighter to the cycle of good karmas/bad karmas and forgetting our spiritual dimension.
Give up totally the fruits of your actions; good karma, bad karma. Perform all actions as worship. What makes this difficult? The two biggest road blocks are selfish desire and anger:

Selfish desire is found in the senses mind and intellect, misleading them and burying the understanding in delusion. Fight will all your strength, Arjuna! Controlling your senses, conquer your enemy, the destroyer of knowledge and realization. The senses are higher than the body, the mind is higher than the senses; above the mind is the intellect, and above the intellect is the Atman (soul). Thus knowing that which is supreme, let the Atman rule the ego. Use your mighty arms to slay the fierce enemy that is selfish desire. Bhagavad Gita 3:40-43 CHALLENGING. Our nature is such that we want to please the senses. Selfish desire is found in the senses, mind, and intellect. Work to control your senses. Selfish desire is the root of negative karma.

Anger is its own karma. The Buddha says that we are not punished for our anger; we are punished by our anger. Anger brings with it an increase in blood pressure and heart rate; adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into the bloodstream, all leading to physiological stress. Left unchecked, it will become chronic and predispose you to heart disease, ulcers, and migraines, among other diseases. These are routes by which the karma of anger can be reaped. The correct response instead of anger is to respond with love and understanding.

Karma is sometimes considered a matter of getting one’s just deserts. This is accurate enough, but it is much more illuminating to consider karma an educative force whose purpose is to teach us to act in harmony with our dharma (law, duty) –not to pursue selfish interests at the expense of others.

Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may my thoughts actions and words contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.”

In repeating the above mantra we are encouraging ourselves to perform actions that benefit all beings, human and nonhuman. This is the essence of karma. When we are suffering from self-pity and loneliness a surefire cure is to care for others and the reduction of their suffering, so put simply, when we are in a “funky place” do something to make someone else feel better, and in turn we will feel better.

Exploring Karma – Tales of a Universal Principle
High in the reaches of Mount Kailasha is the abode of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. One evening Vishnu, the god responsible for preserving the cosmic order, came to see Shiva. He left behind at the entrance Garuda, the half-man, half-eagle composite, who served as his vehicle.

Garuda sat alone, marveling at the natural splendor of the place. Suddenly his eyes fell on a beautiful creature, a little bird seated on the arch crowning the entrance to Shiva’s place. Garuda wondered aloud: “How marvelous is this creation! One who has created these lofty mountains has also made this tiny bird – and both seem equally wonderful.”

Just then Yama, the god of death who rides a buffalo, came passing by with the intention of meeting Shiva. As he crossed the arch, his eyes went over to the bird and he raised his brows in a quizzical expression. Then he took his eyes off the bird and disappeared inside.

Now, in the ancient thought of India, even a slight glance of Yama is said to be the harbinger of death. Garuda, who had observed Yama’s action, told himself, “Yama looking intently at the bird can mean only one thing – the bird’s time is up. Perhaps on his way back he will carry away the bird’s soul with him.” Garuda’s heart was filled with pity for the helpless creature. That it was oblivious of its own impending doom further agonized Garuda and he resolved to save the bird from the clutches of death. He swooped it up in his mighty talons, rushed to a forest thousands of miles away and left the bird on a rock beside a brook. Then he returned to Kailasha and regained his position at the entrance gate.

Soon after, Yama emerged from inside, and nodded to Garuda in recognition. Garuda greeted the god of death and said: “May I put a question to you? While going in, you saw a bird and for a moment you became pensive, why?”

Yama answered him thus: “Well, when my eyes fell on the little bird, I saw that it was to die in a few minutes, swallowed by a python, far away from here in a forest near a brook. I wondered how this tiny creature would traverse the thousand of miles separating it from its destiny in such a short time. Then I forgot. Surely it must have happened somehow.”

Saying this, Yama smiled and went away. Did he know about Garuda’s specific role in the matter? Nobody can know for sure. Garuda sat perplexed, mulling over the surprising turn events had taken.

Karma, and its Consequences:

The word karma is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘kri,’ meaning ‘to do,’ implying that all action is karma. Technically, the term incorporates both an action and its consequence. Thus Garuda’s karma consisted of the act of carrying away the bird and also its consequent snatching by the cruel hands of destiny. Hence, a deed, pure in its content, led to an apparently unfavorable outcome. Through this subtle tale, we are made to confront a dilemma which constantly recurs in our own lives, namely, the relative impurity and purity of an action. Is an action to be deemed positive or negative solely on the basis of the result it generates? Or, is there some other criterion? Indeed there is. What determines the nature of the karma is the will or intention behind an act. As is mentioned in the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya, published by the Pali Text Society, “It is will (chetana), that I call karma; having willed, one acts through body, speech or mind.”

Indeed, an action is right or wrong as the motive is right or wrong:

“One who acts with the best of intentions, does not get the sin of the outward consequence of his action.” (Yoga Sikha). For example, a doctor is not responsible for murder, if the operation per chance ends in the death of his patient. In the above tale, Garuda’s duty was not to protect the bird, but rather to try and protect it.

“Even if a man does not succeed, he gets all the merit of doing his duty, if he strives the utmost to his capacity.” (Mahabharata: Udyoga Parva 93.6)

“Some undertakings succeed and others fail. That is due to the divine order of things. If a man does his part of the work, no sin touches him.” (Mahabharata: Santi Parva 24.30)

This article by Nitin Kumar.

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