Definition of Karma
What is Karma?
Karma is the Sanskrit word for action. It is equivalent to Newton’s law of ‘every action must have a reaction’. When we think, speak or act we initiate a force that will react accordingly. This returning force maybe modified, changed or suspended, but most people will not be able eradicate it. This law of cause and effect is not punishment, but is wholly for the sake of education or learning. A person may not escape the consequences of his actions, but he will suffer only if he himself has made the conditions ripe for his suffering. If he were to continue acting in such a way that the retribution cannot come about, because the conditions are not appropriate, then he may postpone the fruition of his karma. If he can suspend it until he is in the spirit world, then he may work at this particular karma in this intermission between death and next life. Or he may wait until another life in which he is more developed so that he can gleaned the educational value of this retribution. Conversely, his life could be so derelict that the blessings due to him cannot fructify until a later date or a subsequent life. All these fall into the category of suspension of karma to a more propitious period or life.
Why are we born at all?
In this section we will discuss the purpose of karma and why it is loaded with moral content. We have to start from the very beginning. After being through stages of mineral, vegetable, animal and birds we have been resting in the comfortable lap of the Source (Godhead or Absolute) for aeons. Then we decided to re-circulate as the last sentient beings, namely humans on planet earth. So in the Big Bang many of us would be released from the source at the same time. Innumerable showers of souls have taken place since the first arrival of man on earth. All souls in each dispersal would become soul mates. We have free will from the very first incarnation, and consequently we earned karma. The accumulation of good and bad karma dictates that we have to face them in each life, and resolve them as best we can. Our main aim is to learn through experience to become better souls. It is through the process of purification until we become perfect. In this way we may finally return to the Source or Absolute so that God (which is all-inclusive) may be a better one. It is so obvious that this cannot be done in one incarnation, because the karma accumulated is far too much. As we carry on in ignorance we tend to deem ourselves as separate individuals, and thus, we begin our journey of delusion. Thence onwards, we not only need more than one incarnation, but hundreds or thousands of them to clear the backlog. In order to reach the goal of being solely filled with love and compassion, we require a moral and guiding Law of Karma. So that at the end of our journeys our purity would be regained. With free will, we begin to make mistakes in our very first incarnation, thus incurring karma. Beneficial karma is also earned if we do things for the benefit of others. In other words a bank account of good and bad karma, (positive and negative balance) is opened in our very first incarnation. From here onwards, we will die and reborn many times with our soul mates and others. Every incarnation is endowed with forgetfulness of past events; otherwise it is impossible to go forward in our journeys. Without this total amnesia, we cannot perform with the knowledge that our dear ones were our past enemies. It is only in the intermissions between death and life that we realise that we have reared a family of enemies, who turned out to be very good and loving in this last incarnation. It is in the spirit world that we are able to practice forgiveness to our family members in retrospect. So even our adversaries can promote our spiritual progress.
How is Karma caused?
Of all the sentient beings we humans are the only ones that possess self-consciousness. That means we begin to ask questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I go from here? Then we begin to realise right from wrong because of the establishment of the self and selfishness. We can only become selfish because we have free will. If everything were fated, then we would have been robots without responsibility. This is the rub. With karma as the guiding law, we must be totally responsible for our actions. That means we have to suffer the consequences of our thoughts, speech and actions, whether they are wholesome or unwholesome. Self-conscious humans are now able to have concepts with which we can plan our future on the material side of things. Planning means intention. And it is intention that counts for most in karma production. If one’s intention were salutary then the karma produced would be good even though the result is negative. If the intention were evil or selfish, then the karma produced would be bad even if the result is beneficial.
Karma usually takes place for no apparent reason, for the cause might have originated from previous lives. We cannot remember the connection. Of course in this fast moving world, karma is coming back to us very quickly. For instance, a young man who, started to accumulate his millions through wheeling and dealing with unsavoury methods, became a multimillionaire by the time he reached fifty years old. But the present currency turmoil taking place in his region devastated him completely in six months. This is his karma returning like a boomerang. He ends up a bankrupt and may even go to jail for his illegal pursuits. Of course, if his karma is carried over to the next life, he will deem it as bad luck during that life because he cannot see the connection.
The next thing to consider is desire and attachment. Ill will, selfishness and pride are also karma productive. Buddha said that craving is the cause of suffering. He elaborated that craving leads to desire, clinging and attachment. All these karma-productive traits not only end up in suffering but to rebirth, which is much worse. When we merely enjoy one of the sensual objects, and there is no attachment involved, karma is not produced. However, after enjoying the object, an attachment or clinging ensues this is fraught with karma. That means we can enjoy but not yearn for it afterwards. Yearning, clinging and attachments are all seeds of karma-production. One can desire or crave for physical things as well as mental-emotional objects. Concepts are equally dangerous.
Desire and craving for sensual objects: Out of the 6 sense objects, sex is the most alluring. Being the force behind the reproductive system, it must be made strong and powerful for the humans to perpetuate the human race. If there is no pleasure in sex, the human race will die out in no time. The next object is food and wine. These cravings are accepted by our social customs, and therefore if anyone were to indulge in either, it is quite in order. However, together with drugs and cigarette, these are consumed to addictive proportions. These objects per se do not produce karma. One may become obese, alcoholic, or a drug addict, but on its own it does not produce karma. It is the craving and the attachment that is karma-productive.
Emotional reaction and thoughts: the emotional reactions to the 6 sense objects as above at the first contact are: pleasure, displeasure or neutral. With pleasure, clinging and attachment will arise as emotional memories. These in turn will lead to constant yearning and longing, and these would lead to karma production. Similarly with displeasure, the aversion and resentment will also be karma productive. In other words, these emotional reactions would consolidate as emotional memories. When the latter are fixated as negative and positive thoughts with emotional desire and aversion they would generate karma even though nothing is done about it. Similarly, with only thoughts and concepts, these will also produce karma when these intentions are prelude to speech or action. So thoughts, speech and action will generate negative karma if the intention is to consolidate the self. Conversely, it will generate good karma, if thoughts, speech and action are for the sake of others. If these ‘actions’ are merely passing phases, then hardly any karma will be produced. However, if these ‘actions’ are fixated and the attachments are strong, then karma will surely ensue
Can Karma be suspended, modified or eliminated?
There must be a time and place to repay our debt. In modern society, when we borrow a large sum of money to buy a house, we usually ask for a period of time before we can completely pay the entire dept. We have a choice here as to the length of time we need to pay off the debt. As humans we have freedom of choice. Normally, in a housing loan we can pay back by instalments. In karma, although we may do the same, we prefer to gather strength in the intervening centuries and perhaps clear some of them in the spirit world. However, the major portion of the karma has to be paid back finally in one life. In the intervening period, we would have developed spiritually, and consequently we are able to face our karma with greater wisdom and strength. In addition, we would also like to choose the time for its appearance because the conditions are more appropriate.
Can karma be modified or changed?
The answer is a definite "Yes". Firstly, we must recognise that we have injured the other person. Then we ask for forgiveness from that person. At the same time we must also forgive ourselves and the person in order to lay the pathway for the karma to be modified. Paripassu we ourselves must U-turn or grow spiritually. How do we do that? We must purify ourselves of our foibles. Then we must now extend service to others to such an extent that it becomes our goal in life. Lastly, we should either pray or meditate to increase our vibrations. With all these practices we are able to postpone the retribution from appearing now to a more propitious time. In the same token, we should be able to modify our karma to a much more palatable form. In the Buddhist sense, we make sure that the conditions are not ripe for the present and hopefully after many decades or centuries of development we will be stronger to face the karma when it does appear.
Can karma be eliminated?
Again the answer is "yes" but it is almost an impossibility for most of us. One has to realise the Self or the soul first. That means we have to reach a spiritual height of Christ Consciousness. Christ Consciousness is not the exclusive property of the followers of Jesus Christ. It is the same as Bodhicitta in the Buddhist parlance. It is Self-Realisation or Moksha of the Hindhus. This is the stage when our consciousness has reached the ultimate state, which is beyond the Causal Realm, a divine state. In this state we have transcended all states of consciousness below and we are in the same plane as the Absolute in Cosmic Consciousness. In this plane, all karma is annulled without exception. How many of us can be enlightened in this life? The paucity of these enlightened saints in one generation makes this method of elimination of karma like an impossible dream.
Where is Karma stored?
Every individual has at least 7 major chakras and 7 auric bodies. In the Buddhist teachings, the storing of karma is dependent on whether the action is intentional or unintentional. If it is intentional, then repercussions accruing from these actions will arise depending on the conditions ensuing. The repercussions may be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. The recipient will then suffer or enjoy the result accordingly. However, if it is unintentional, the recipient may not suffer or enjoy the consequences.
or instance, a wound inflicted by someone else in the previous life will only reappear as a birthmark in the present life without any physical handicap. Generally speaking, actions whereby there is attachment to the results will be stored in the astral body. In actions where there is no attachment to the results karma is stored in the causal body. The causal body is never shed no matter how developed we are, and it follows us life after life. It is in this body that the Akashic records are kept. This is the body that stores our past karma and our samskaras. Our G-plan (life plan) is also seen here. All these can be detected around our head and shoulders. When one has developed to the ultimate consciousness (enlightened) one would be residing in a realm beyond the causal realm, and all karma is then annulled.
The Eradication of Karma
This has been lightly touched upon earlier. We will now enumerate the steps we can take to achieve this. It will have to take many lifetimes, but the fact that we realise that we have to walk this path is itself very salutary. The disciplines involved are (1) Purification. (2) Service (3) Meditation or prayer.
Purification: In this category, we basically have to work hard at letting go of (a) craving, desire and attachment. (b) Ill will, which includes anger, hatred, jealousy, envy and other negative emotions. (c) Pride (d) Selfishness.
Service: In this category, we have to service the mineral, vegetable, animal kingdoms and humans. In humans, we have to help our immediate families, distant relatives and friends and fellow colleagues and underlings,
Meditation or prayer: In this category, it is better to meditate. In meditation we expedite the process of letting go. The main goal of meditation is to empty one’s mind, and it is during these periods of emptiness that we can reach the causal realm temporarily only to come to earth again when we stop meditating.Summarising, one does not need to resolve every karma earned. In order to eradicate all our karma, we merely have to be enlightened!
By Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo
Reference: Cerminara, Gina. Many Mansions. Neville Spearman.LtdHiroshi Motoyama.
arma and Reincarnation. Judy Piatkus (Publishers)
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