Karma is the most widely used term in popular spirituality (with an exception of Semitic religions; Christianity, Judaism and Islam). Karma is believed to decide ones progress or failure both in the material as well as spiritual spheres, in terms of health, wealth and even attainment of enlightenment. Karma is one of the cosmic or natural laws governing the universe. Though cosmic laws cannot be defined and can only be understood through application and observation, we will try to define it as much as possible.
A cosmic law Karma literally means action, whether good or bad, right or wrong. When it comes to spirituality we define it as the fruit of our actions.
What is karma and why the laws of karma? Is it a mechanical process to enforce order in the world? What is the order it seeks to establish?
The intrinsic nature of all living phenomena is to give, to offer, to sacrifice itself for another cause. This is what we observe in nature. The nature of the universe is compassion. This natural compassion, maintains harmony in the universe. Compassion is the order of this universe. When any living being or living species have deviated from this order, the law is enforced to re-establish this order. Karma is a conspiracy to awaken heart.
"The nature of the universe is compassion."
Karma is a living law and therefore its nature ought to be compassion. It is not a punisher but a teacher. It teaches through life experiences, although one needs to be perceptive to learn. It teaches a person to love, to be compassionate and vulnerable. When we have learnt the lessons that karma intends to teach us; when our lives have fallen into universal order of compassion, there is no need for the conspiracy anymore.
Each time you think (perceive), speak and act, you are setting into motion the laws of karma. You are planting a seed. The kind of seed you have sown is the nature of the sought, word and action you set in motion; fear, hate, judgement, love, blessing, anger, joy etc. And every time you think and act similarly you are nourishing the seed. The seed eventually grows to a big tree bearing tons of fruits. This is the consequence, your reward or punishment, however one likes to perceive it. You are hated, judged, loved, blessed many times over depending on what the seed contained when it was first sown. You reap what you sow many times over.
You are a creator We are the architects of our life. Unfortunately we are not perceptive enough to see the relationship between the sought and the deed. Perhaps the time lapse between the two is sometimes too much for us to keep a track. From thought to deed, it may take a week, a month, a year, a decade or more. Constant review of our life will help us to see the connection. The speed of reciprocation depends upon the evolution of the individual. Sometimes reaching the threshold could mean a life time or more. If we do not get answers to our questions even after examining our lives in the light of the cosmic principles, only the theory of reincarnation can explain the rest.
"You reap what you sow many times over"
The whole process of thought materializing into deed is a karmic cycle. Our life is a flow of karma. An awareness of these eternal laws gives us the power to alter the course of karma, but not in the midst of the karmic cycle. We have the power of wisdom and the choice of freewill to review and make changes in our life but not before the cycle comes to an end. A frog in midair cannot alter the course of its flight. Yet, on landing it can choose the direction of its next leap.
However we have already seen that karma is not a judge but rather a teacher. Therefore even in the midst of a cycle, if one can learn their lessons the karmic cycle is altered. The lessons are learnt through an intense awareness of ones thought patterns, which are creating such life situations. As one becomes aware, there is a sense of acute helplessness. In this state of helplessness, there is divine intervention and grace alters the karmic cycle. This kind of liberation is possible only through Divine Grace and not through any kind of human effort. The other alternative to liberation is through creating Sat Karma, which will be explained later on.
The self Life is a process of learning and karma is the greatest teacher. But then a question arises; "Why is learning such a painful process?"
The self, which has acquired such prominence in today's world, and all the self centred activity born there of go against the order of compassion. Man lost the faculty of feeling and this is a potential danger to the harmony of the world. Loss of feeling also means loss of responsibility. So nature is conspiring to break the self in order to create a compassionate world. The word compassion originates from the word passion, and passion means pain. Compassion means, "that which has risen from pain". We cause pain to others because we just cannot perceive the pain we are causing to them, although we try to guess it and feel guilty later on.
"Karma is a conspiracy to awaken heart"
Feeling guilty does not make us responsible, it only causes more pain. A suffering man only causes suffering to others. When we are subjected to the same pain that we have caused others, there is every chance that we will not repeat the same mistake. You now know how it feels to have caused pain. You are going to think twice, you will grow to empathize with others. You naturally become more compassionate and responsible. These are the ways of karma; by causing pain, it removes pain.
Sat Karma (good deeds) Now that we have understood what karma is and why there is karma, let us see why Kalki, the founder of The Golden Age Foundation, emphasize on creating sat karma (sat karma = good deeds).
"A frog in midair cannot alter the course of its flight"
In Bhagavad-Gita Sri Krishna says; "Do your actions without expecting the fruits of it". But Kalki differs here and says that "Think, speak and do only such actions that create good karma". Why is such importance being given to creating sat karma? Let us see a story that illustrates the importance of creating sat karma.
Once upon a time there lived a pundit in a village. One day he suddenly had an urge to attain God and hence decided to renounce all his worldly possessions and go into the jungles to perform tapas (penance) to attain God realization. As he steps out to leave, the goddess Lakshmi, appears in front of him and says that she is entering his life and from then on all luck will be in his favour. He tells the goddess that he has nothing to gain from luck as he is renouncing the world. But then the goddess insists that she has to enter as it was destined to be so. The pundit agrees to this but makes a request that as she entered his life after telling him, the same way she must also let him know when she is departing. The goddess agrees to this. Now luck is with him.
He continues his journey. Half way through he meets the king's messengers who say that the king has sent word for him to be his guru and advisor. The pundit is surprised at the turns of events. He reaches the kingdom and is received with great honour by the king. The pundit is in doubt and has a desire to test as to whether luck is really with him or not. So he thinks of dragging the king down from the throne. Everybody is stunned and angry. But as luck is favouring him, the dome above the throne cracks and fall exactly on the throne missing the king. Everybody including the king is thrilled and thankful that he has saved the kings life. But then he is still not satisfied.
That night he enters the king's chamber where the king is fast asleep. He just lifts the cot and topples the king down. As the soldiers come to give him a lashing, they see a snake come out of the bed and he is again saved. Now the pundit is convinced about the luck favouring him and repents for all this actions and is truly transformed. After a long period one day he is sitting under a mango tree meditating. Goddess Lakshmi manifests and tell him that she has come to take leave of him. His time is up. He prostrates before her and thanks her. The king then comes and asks him for teaching and Sadhanas (spiritual practice). To this the pundit said, "go and perform this puja (ritual) and then come to learn from me". Saying so, he gives a mango as prasad (offering).
Unfortunately the mango had a poison of a snake, which had bitten it. So when the king eats the mango after the offering ritual he dies. And now the pundit is punished for what he had not done.
What does one understand from this story? As long as you have good karma everything goes well. The moment good karma is exhausted you starts to suffer. That means that we need to keep creating good karma. It means that we need to think, speak and do only such actions that give joy to others and not pain. Otherwise its like the bank balance being empty and we are in debt.
How to create Sat Karma
There are three types of Karma; physical, psychological and spiritual and hence three ways of creating sat karma.
Physical Sat Karma Physical sat karma is earned through words and actions. Many a times consciously or unconsciously we tend to use words that hurt or gives pain to others.
Right words are words that do not pain others. Sometimes there might be good intent but the words might be harsh. A good intent must be matched by the right words. Words must be sweet and must soothe the soul and create joy. Even a kind word at the right time can be of immense help to a depressed person. Right actions are basically actions that are sacred and do not hurt others.
Psychological Sat Karma Psychological Sat Karma is earned by right thoughts and emotions. Many a times one tends to feel that I am not doing any harm to anybody, but within my mind I have the freedom to think, as I want.
"By causing pain, karma removes pain"
The realm of thought is very powerful. Hence having right thoughts are very important. Here the question arises that many a times one doesn't want to think negatively but is nevertheless plagued by negative thoughts and emotions. What must one do then? Kalki just advice us to be intensively aware of the thoughts and emotions, without attempting to pull or push the thoughts away. The Sadhanas (spiritual practice like meditation) in itself will help in creating Sat Karma.
Spiritual Sat Karma Helping yourself and others to grow spiritually creates spiritual Sat Karma. Doing spiritual Sadhanas, applying teachings, praying for yourself and others, teaching others the path of spirituality and helping them to grow spirituality, chanting mantras etc, are all ways and means to earn spiritual sat karma. Our spiritual sat karma helps us to progress on the spiritual plane, opens the doors of grace for us and ultimately also leads us to enlightenment.
Therefor, one must consciously strive to create sat karma.