Karma was probably one of the first words to migrate into the English language from India. The 50’s used karma to get high, 60’s to make love, 70’s to boogey, 80’s to work harder, the 90’s to believe and manifest (and work out more) and today we use it to hold our breath on the yoga mat. The word Karma has been embraced both by the pop culture and spiritual seekers and is even starting to show up in corporate board rooms.
This word is strangely bendy and pliable and has been used to mean so many things and to express so many emotions. If you do a google search you will find many kinds of karma – karma pants, karma spray, karma dog training, karma lounge and bar, karma chocolate etc. Obviously, karma sells and it’s most obvious interpretation as a reward/punishment system of what goes around comes around is a no brainer. But is this is all there is to one of the most cherished and deeply philosophical concepts in the Hindu culture for thousands of years?
The new age law of attraction is often confused with this ancient law of karma. In Hindu/yoga philosophy the law of karma is the engine that drives your life and it is complex and inaccessible by the intellect because the current events in our lives are not always determined by our actions in this life, they may be resulting from the actions we performed in our past lives.
Does this disconnect between our actions and thoughts and their short-term consequences make all the popular new age theories about “believing, visualizing and manifesting” obsolete? Of course not, however, we have to be prepared that the law of Karma states that the result of our current actions may not always show up immediately, or even in this life.
Good people will be confronted with very difficult circumstances and many seemingly negative people will have great strokes of luck. Some aspects in our life will give amazing results with little effort and others may not bear fruit despite all our best intentions. Most will fall somewhere in between; this is the law of karma as cognized by the ancient yogis of India.
Furthermore, we are also under the influence of our collective karma. Nations, cultures and societies also have their own particular karma that has been set in motion and may only now be coming to fruition. Collective and cultural karma will override our personal karma and intentions. Even the earth has its own karma, known as Yuga (earthly periods) which will override personal karma.
The law of karma explains that we are all caught in an endless cycle of birth and death, which includes suffering and joy, as the process through which our souls evolves to know our Higher Self. Each birth brings with it certain set of Karmas based on our actions in past lives, which allow us to experience life in all its colors and hues until we have exhausted all our karma on earth. Then the soul no longer incarnates, it merges with its cosmic roots – a state known as liberation. Evolution is not a choice, and everyone, regardless of his religion, beliefs and lifestyle is in this process of liberation.
Thus, the law of karma should not be seen as a system of reward and punishment but rather as a self correcting mechanism. It is the mechanism for human evolution. It is the chiseling process through which our divine nature is finally revealed. Living our karma means embracing difficult situations as they arise and accepting them as part of our spiritual growth and destiny in this life. It means not focusing on what is lacking but performing our actions with detachment and understanding that there is a higher plan for us and life is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to for our own evolution.
To some this may sound like “giving up” and defeatism but ironically the ability to relax into “what is”, even while seeking to improve our situation, constitutes good Karma, as this attitude gives good outcomes (karmas).
The sages of India not only cognized the law of karma they also gave us the science of Jyotish, or Vedic Astrology, to cast a horoscope based on the moment of your birth, giving us a blueprint of how your karma will unfold from birth to death. The Vedic horoscope illuminates our predispositions (samsaras), which are often so strongly entrenched within us that as a result of our conscious or unconscious actions certain perceptions, desires, motivations, actions, feelings, and events become fated to occur. The Vedic horoscope Dasha system (planetary periods) reveal the dates when these events will occur.
How do we overcome our predispositions? How do we prevent certain events from occurring? The sages say, practice Yoga in your every word and deed – carry a posture of consciousness by surrendering your likes, dislikes, cravings and desires to divine will. As my guru Amma also says, “The law of karma takes effect when the ego arises.” Don’t identify with this body/mind/ego and disengage from your karma – this is Yoga. Or simply see the grace in every life situation – this is also Yoga.