Karma Clarity

Often upon receiving hurricane warnings some refuse to evacuate because they can't imagine a state of affairs so at odds with the current calm. Before we judge their lack of foresight consider that the saints and sages of the ages have been giving us fair warning about an even more dire inclemency and we blithely proceed as if we're forever invincible.

Simply put, karma is a universal constant, intrinsic to how the game of life and being has been concocted.“Cause is effect concealed, and effect is cause revealed." Karma is the code in our soul’s DNA. For people on the path of Spirit, clearing karma is the most pressing project we can ever undertake.

Who set up the game? The answer would have to be Divinity, an organizing principle beyond our finite comprehension. Many point out that if there is a loving God, then how can one account for all the suffering in the world? After all, if the NFL (for instance) can change its rules, do we need to remain karma mules? Short answer, yes. But there is a qualifier known as grace which is granted through mysterious processes, but mostly earned.

The theory states that karma impacts us because of debts incurred (in past lives). There is karma that we create in this life. And then there are qualities of karma (obstructions) that tether our soul to the cycle of birth and death. The greatest of all miracles is that these categories of karma, against all odds, can be buffered, transformed, redacted and redirected.

There is karma that prompts us to experience life on a see-saw of pleasure and pain. Our mind compares, measures, judges, justifies, obsesses, and generally acts out—all karmic-inducing tendencies. That's why yoga in essence is learning to monitor, uplevel, and redirect our mind's erratic nature.

There is karma, fortuitous or problematic, that casts us into a certain body, a certain social milieu, with a silver spoon or plastic fork, emblematic of a charmed or problematic hand.

There is karma that prevents our soul from using its inherent power for the betterment of all in favor of self-aggrandizement, status-seeking, and a favored pew in the temple of "I."

Self-awareness is both the hero and villain in the karma equation. Self-aware­ness is the force that allows us to self-identify with our actions. The more we are self-aware, the more autonomous or attached we can be. Humans are masters at self-identifying with their actions, consciously, intently, and passion­ately. Animals and angels are not subject to karma because their trajectory and orientation are pre-determined. As humans, we have it within our power to essentially be all or nothing, beyond angelic or a cockroach scurrying from the light.

There is also collective karma with our family, extended family, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, nation, and world. We tend to transit life to life with a posse of fellow soul travelers whose collective lessons, at times, are to grow through adversity and reset priorities. Various countries and regions often reflect certain levels of soul growth. One theory state that up until age seven we're influenced by our mother's karma. Seven to fourteen, our father's. After that, it's us against the world (as it were).

Although karma and fate are used inter­changeably, they are not synonymous. The human condition is a dynamic collaboration of fate and free will. No one is ruled by fate alone, as some Indian astrologers insist, and no one's life is completely under the aegis of free will. It’s easy to pay homage to free will as long as everything’s easy-peasy, but when we’re t-boned by tragedy at the intersection of time and space we become beggars at Saturn’s (the Lord of Karma) door. Actually, Saturn is just following orders. We need to go over his head and take refuge in someone/thing with some cosmic clout under the aegis of a Path with Heart.

There are powerful backstories in the dharmic equation. People of Spirit, our of compassion and at great personal sacrifice, create paths for us through the minefield of egregious circumstances. It's said that Guru Nanak spent eons formulating and encoding the mantra Wahay Guru for our benefit. Guru Gobind Singh gave us the gift of the Guru Gaitri mantra (Gobinday, Mukunday...) which is known as a "fate killer." Normally to receive a mantra of that magnitude we would be expected to offer our body, mind, and soul to a guru but Guru Gobind Singh did the necessary work behind the scenes so that it could be received with no strings (except, hopefully, reverence).

We have it within our power as yogis to defuse karmic limitations through austerities, devotion, and awareness. A deep dive into the nature of cause and effect allowed the Rishis, the seers of the Vedas to evolve meth­ods through which they could achieve specific outcomes. These methods are forms of conscious sacrifices to activate the energies of the Universe on our behalf and on behalf of all beings. Kundalini Yoga is the synthesis of these methods.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells us that assigning the fruits of our actions to the Infinite is the highest path. When we offer our actions and works at the feet of the Infinite it engenders well-being for us and all in all fields of activity, just as watering the roots of a plant evokes beautiful flowers.

Part 2

Imagine holding a turned-around slingshot. The interval in which we draw back on the rubber strap represents the illusion that we can get away with dubious actions. Eventually, thanks to the ineluctable laws of the universe, those actions will inevitably smack us in the face. Sorry to be so graphic, but hard words presage the urgency of the matter.

Can we simply isolate ourselves and step outside the purview of karma? Renouncing the world is not the answer unless we purify our attachments to things of the world and errant proclivities..

When we step onto the Path of Spirit we are given a grace period to reconcile our dualistic nature but there comes a time when we need to finally decide to be accountable to dharmic ways of living and being. Karma has been called habit energy. Thus we need to redirect habits that are self-unfulfilling.

A key component of karmic "theory" is that our soul transits through lifetimes, Groundhog Day-style, until we get it right.

Reincarnation was referenced in Vedic literature. By the time of the Bhagavad Gita, it had become one of Indian thought's central pillars. The sto­ries in the Jataka Tales, for example, are Buddha's experiences in previous incarnations which he used as teaching stories.

Pythagoras claimed to remember eight past lives. Plato theorized that we don’t remember our past lives subject to an event boundary. Our mind categorizes experience into small packets for processing. It’s analogous to walking into a room and forgetting what we came in for. It is said that recall of a previous incarnation can potentially cause a confusion of identity and present purpose. That's why nature ordinarily doesn't allow us to remember our past lives until we are no longer in danger of being overwhelmed by them.

Jesus declared, 'We must be born again.' In the Jewish mystical tradition, it’s said that the notch between our upper lip and nose is the imprint of the index finger of the angel Gabriel, who induces forgetfulness before our dive into this human arena. Thus, we are born spiritually blind, subject to the illusion of a fixed form of the world as well as ignorance of our true nature and the true nature of things.

The tantric worldview posits that this world of duality, in which karma exists, should be considered as real as the absolute non-duality which is the Ultimate Reality of the Universe, and that each of these is implicit in the other: All-in-One, One-in-All.

Eastern teachings don't focus so much on "sin" as a-dharma ("against dharma"), a state which encompasses all acts that impede our inner evolution. Dharma is doing what we are born to do and aligning ourselves with the rhythms, flow, and "laws"of the Universe. Dharma is the universal law that makes a thing what it is.

There is a story about an intuitive who witnessed a hit-and-run accident. The spirit of the victim immediately flew out of its previous body after the perpetrator. This dynamic had been continuing, life after life, with the pair alternating between victim and perpetrator, each orchestrating the demise of the other. Before we follow up on an impulse or thought, we owe it to ourselves (and all of our generations) to assess the risk-reward ratio from a karmic perspective. Impulsive, vengeful thoughts and acts create karmic entanglements, compound our slavery and seal our fate.

Emotional toxicity, which, karmically speaking, is worse than the physical kind, requires a karmic cleanse. The Universe delights in receiving the sacrifice of our lust, anger, greed, pride, and attachment. These thick cords that yoked us to the world must be severed if we are to become truly autonomous beings. Until these limitations are sacrificed we are considered to be no more evolved than an animal which is why Tantric writings call certain people pashus (animals). Harsh, but sadly, too often accurate. According to Eastern teachings, humans who incur certain types of karma actually devolve back to the animal kingdom in their subsequent incarnation.

If belief in reincarnation is not your cup of tea, consider Carl Jung's appraisal: 'What we don't bring to the light of awareness appears in our lives as fate.'

So, how do we offset karma? Let's remember that Kundalini is called the Yoga of Awareness. Let's try to be aware of the feelings and needs of others. Let's walk a mile in their shoes. As we treat others well, let's treat ourselves well, not in an ego-grasping way, but in a way that honors our Divinity and potential. Let's get up pre-dawn and vibrate the Holy Names. Let's look for opportunities to be of service. Thus we become a healing force in the world (that will be redeemed via our efforts) and all of our generations and everyone within our sphere will be blessed.