Karma is a universal principle known as being the "Law of Cause and Effect".
This concept was made popular through Eastern traditions. In specific, we have the famous Bhagavad Gita (lit. "The Song of God") where Krishna instructs Arjuna quite implicitly about this "law".
In physics, it is known as "action-reaction". As we know, from Newton's third law, "for everything action there is an equal an opposite reaction".
What needs to be said here in this blog post is perhaps a topic of longer discussion, as indeed we are diving into the metaphysics of Yoga and Samkhya philosophy, which require much more exposition and an in-depth layering of concepts to obtain a proper experience and relationship to the word "karma". We must look beyond the New Age view of things and get to the core of the matter.
So, what can be said in this brief blog post, and why would I write about it, now?
Well, for one, I definitely have been observing the "Law of Karma" play out in my life in a variety of interesting ways, and the more I read and re-read the Gita and the Yoga Sutras and these canonical yogic texts, the more I am learning about the importance of really understanding what the "laws" are that I am contending with as a human being.
Just as I am subject to gravity, as all Earth dwelling creatures are, I am subject to other (at times less obvious) "laws". Principles that are, essentially, pre-determining my reality -- to a certain extent.
My path, as both a spiritual practitioner and a intellectual philosopher, has been constantly nudging me -- through experience -- to notice the subtle forces at play. I realize I'm not alone in this vast Universe as a single undivided principle of Awareness. No, far from being undivided -- I am in fact comprised of a multitude of various interacting forces and "beings". Who I think I am, as Grant, is a woven tapestry of multiple colors; the threads themselves different aspects of my essential nature and the patterns and ways in which the threads weave all related to the "rules" that each string must play by. Yes, the strings themselves follow the Great Pattern. This is ensured so that we can make a harmonious, functional "tapestry" -- a creature that inhabits the Universe and shares consciousness with other creatures -- which ultimately becomes not only a functional part of the whole system, but indeed an integral and essential part of the Whole. Because without a single gear in a great machine the entire thing does not work.
And this is much like the Law of Karma. Great thanks to our beautiful, mysterious Creator God who so brilliantly developed this infinitely complex and yet so simple principle. Everything action has an equal and opposite reaction. Brilliant. The entire Universe is a give-and-take. No one gets away with anything. How could they? If we are really all emerging from One undifferentiated Source, then all that we do affects only US, ultimately. To actually see and experience this is, of course, a completely different story, but this is why we practice and why we aspire to live spiritual lives, no?
Like Arjuna, we are caught in what appears to be the battlefield of life. At times, the battlefield of our life may appear far more ... bloody? Shall we say? Sometimes there is peace. But the fact remains that we all know -- by principle of being alive -- life is filled with tragedy. I say "by principle of being alive" because know that on the other end of life is death. The ultimate "karma" of birth. Action, reaction. Nothing escapes.
So, what do we do? This is where understanding the mechanics of this cosmic wheel may help us.
A great teacher of mine, quoting the Gita, explains the value of being able to act without being attached to the outcome. Essentially, this "action without attachment" is the way we escape of the wheel of karma, as it is only once we attach doer-ship to our action that we expect anything from it in return. It would appear that the moment we identify with what we are doing, our ego immediately creates a timeline and outcome to the process we are involved in. Thus, we only take actions that lead to self-benefit. This would make sense. Our ego is responsible for the preservation and continuation of our "self" -- that is, the limited ego identity that we believe is us. However, these sacred texts such as the Gita, offer us a chance to consider a different way. A way in which we are not focused on our self-interest and instead, turn ourselves over to a "higher" force. What would the result of this "turning over of the self" be?
Well, this is a deep spiritual question that can only be a lived experience. But I believe that everyone, to some extent, has confirmed the validity of this in their own lives. Spiritual principles are not exclusive to hardcore practitioners. They are available -- and, indeed, prevalent -- in all places at all times, for everyone. The most normal and average human beings have experienced what it means to "turn it over to something higher" in their own lives, whether they use that language or not. What this looks like, practically, is the perfect execution of a step on the path without being concerned about what happens next. This could have be in the act of washing dishes. It could be in a conversation with a friend. Out for a walk. Or a big life decision ("I just ... knew it was what I needed to do"). Actions where we are compelled to act, and yet we are not worried about what will happen next. This is the ultimate liberating action. This is what Krishna is instructing of Arjuna.
"You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat."
(Ch. 2 Vs. 47, Bhagavad Gita)
Freedom, or should we saw "liberation from the cycle of actions and reactions so that we can be free from our past and live eternally in the present moment", is the result of understanding and abiding by this cosmic Law of Karma.
Discovering how important it is to come to know this principle is each person's individual journey. This blog post is only meant as a beacon of inspiration for whomever is reading. Inspiration meant to help -- me, you, us -- wake up to the reality of our interconnectedness. That each of our actions affects every other being here. And that we can choose to live lives that are positively uplifting and beneficial for everyone and everything else. Karma is a Law that makes this possible.
Thank you for reading.
with love and prana,