Karma is a very popular concept from the East that has become very fashionable in the West as well.
Most people think it’s some sort of “cosmic justice” that will reward the good kids and punish the bad ones.
In the East, used to shame people and ignore their suffering “It’s your own fault you are starving to death, poor karma from a previous life”. Bonus points if said with a dismissive, self-righteous, holier-than-thou tone.
Most people believe:
- I can’t get enlightened yet, too much karma
- I’m suffering because of previous karma
- XYZ is so evil, karma will punish him.
In this thinking, karma is a cosmic policeman you can never escape and that will one day hunt you down and punish you.
A very poor way to look at the complex field of karma.
Karma as Mind Energy
Karma is not something “out there”. It is not a mechanical or vengeful force out to get us. Karma’s job isn’t to punish us, to teach us a lesson, or bring justice to evil doers (which is usually other people!), or any sort of justice system that hands out lollipops to good boys and beatings to bad boys.
The concept of Karma has become corrupted through continuous and centuries of misuse. It is now something akin to Christianity’s Original Sin, something out of control that we are stuck with. Another similarity- both are used to shame and guilt people.
The Deeper Meaning of Original Sin
Original Sin is itself a corrupted concept. It has nothing to do with sexual shame, which is how it is interpreted. Sin is an archery term which means to miss the mark. To sin is to miss the purpose of life, our reason for being here. To sin is to forget who we are, beings of light, and identify with the mind instead of the all pervading Spirit.
Original Sin hence refers to the time we first forgot who we were (as individuals or as a race) and fell into suffering due to a misidentification with the ego mind (being kicked out of heaven).
Note that in this interpretation God isn’t some vengeful A-hole who punishes his children for silly things.
Rather, it is we, humans, who forgot who we are when we tasted the fruit of duality; The tree of knowledge is the tree of dual knowing, of knowing things as external to yourself, rather than a part of the whole.
What is Karma?
It is the sum total of our mental energies (mental here includes logical and emotional mind). Our psychic imprint, as it were, all the mental energy we have been putting into our inner being.
If you don’t believe in past lives, that’s fine, it’s all the shit you have been suppressing your whole life.
If you do believe in past lives, note that past lives have little to NO influence over your current life. You are born with all the unexpressed energies you created in your previous lives. That’s why enlightened people can say you don’t need time for spiritual awakening.
All the mental energies from all your previous lives are available to you NOW, and so YOU can resolve them NOW.
Of course, the process takes time, but the fact is: Since WE created these energies, WE can dissolve them anytime we are ready (conscious).
Karma is a very freeing concept. It does not bind or shame us by anything we might or might not have done in some life a billion years ago.
Karma should make you feel light and peaceful, not terrified of some past demon coming to whip your bottom for being a naughty boy/girl.
Karma says: You created this shit, you can solve it, NOW.
That’s why it is unhelpful to blame some “god” for our problems.
God, the Universal Spirit who lives in sum guides us out of the mess WE created, but he doesn’t do this by punishing or shaming or attacking us in any way.
At its most basic, karma is the energy we have been creating our whole life. If we have been putting anger, blame and attack into the system, that’s all that will come out.
As humanity, we also have collective karma, which is all the anger and hate we have put into the system. And so we must carry not just our own cross, but the cross of all humanity. And that’s why people like the Buddha said you cannot become enlightened unless the whole world becomes enlightened.
Fixed and Changeable Karma
There is a concept in many Hindu texts that some Karma is fixed and can never be changed while some can be changed.
Here is the surprising thing: 90-95% of our Karma can be changed by our actions and thoughts.
The concept of Karma has been very freeing from the start.
There are only a few things we can not change:
- Death– ours and loved ones
- Marriage (or partner) and number of children
- Major illnesses/accidents
- Roughly what our career path will be
(I say roughly for a career as many people nowadays change their career, compared to ancient India where the son of a carpenter would always be a carpenter).
And even in the above list, death is the only thing that can never be changed. Death is the only constant we have to expect.
Karma is our own mind
The problems we face in life, caused by so called “karma” are our own inner shit. All the negative and self loathing thoughts we have been collecting in the subconscious. When it becomes too toxic, the body pushes it out to protect itself, and it comes out in the form of disease, depression, and problems that seem to come from the outer world but are actually reflections of our own inner state.
No magical force
So karma isn’t some magical force that controls our life.
It is our State of Mind (conscious and unconscious) NOW.
It is merely all the mental and psychic energy we have collected (in this life or multiple, doesn’t matter) and that we continuously reinforce.
Read the last line AGAIN.
We do not just create this shit, we continuously reinforce it. Why do you think karmic energy follows us from life to life?
People ask: How can we be free of karma when we are constantly creating new karma? And that may be true if you see karma as merely a blind force of retribution. Hence the “monk” types want to retire to the forest, so they can run away from karma.
They leave their house, wife, car, and bank balance, and think they are free of karma. But they keep the one thing that keeps them bound: their mind.
Even in the forest, they carry all their mental energy. It is the only thing that enslaves them, and the only thing they cannot get rid of.
Real renunciation is always of the mind. You renounce your beliefs, your thinking patterns, and your addiction to mechanical thinking.
Our beliefs, which include for most people their religion and their concept of “god”, are what keep them bound.
Reinforcing Our Mental Crap
Not only do we have strong mental beliefs, but we continuously reinforce and strengthen them. We keep repeating the story in our heads. Usually, this starts and ends up being the victims of a cruel world out to get us.
This story that we cherish so dearly and that we hold on to, is what binds us. Action doesn’t bind us, as Krishna says in the Gita. Attachment to action binds us.
Attachment means thinking with the limited egoic mind. In this state, there is always a “me” vs “them” or the “world”. The ego needs another to justify its existence, and this other is usually an enemy; at best a temporary ally against shared enemies.
And so the ego acts to strengthen itself. It builds big houses and looks for the sexiest husband/wife.
Or it tries to be the Most Spiritual Person of All ™ (MSPA). This MSPA™ donates to orphanages, fights (literally, of course) for the environment, become a guru or joins a cult.
But like everything the ego does, it remains unsatisfied. The ego grows old, its wealth decreases, the wife leaves, or the other guru gets more likes on social media. And so the ego tries harder, putting in more energy in an attempt to become stronger.
Whether it succeeds or doesn’t, doesn’t matter. The body eventually dies. The mental/psychic energy creates a new body and the process starts again.
And that’s why karma or God doesn’t bind us. WE BIND OURSELVES. It is a choice. One taken at a very deep unconscious level, sure, but a choice nonetheless.
As the Course in Miracles says: The Teacher of God only works on him/herself.
In simple English: Fix your own shit before trying to save the world.