One of the areas of focus in my yoga education for the past month has had to do with karma yoga. While most of us are familiar with karma as a larger concept, (often described as the universal law of cause and effect) it is much more complicated in real terms – if you are a believer.
Are you a believer?
There is no proof of karma, and I cannot count the times when I have wondered “why bad things happen to good people,” and my tolerance for people who constantly resign themselves to the whims of some vast and mysterious “karmic cycle” is very low. Having said that, I do fundamentally believe that all actions have reactions and that connectivity trumps separateness in terms of a logical way to explain the universe.
I suppose that makes me a believer.
I was reading about four types of karma as I started to really think about this. Sanchita karma is the accumulation of ‘effects’ from your past lives, a cosmic debt to some degree. It is like inherited debt to which we either add or subtract everyday. I realize that may take a little more of a mental stretch to get on board with, but it helps explain “why bad things happen to good people” – though not in an entirely satisfying way I admit. I suppose it serves me best as a final filter for evaluating my actions when I have justified my way into something that might not be in my best interests… Parabdha karma is the amount of the above inheritance I am actually working with (on) in this lifetime. Unfortunately, if I say I am going to ‘pay off’ a certain amount of my former bad selves’ karmic debt and I do this, I get an automatic refill to work on. Frustrating. I hope I was not a total jackass in my past lives. Add to this our Agami karma. This is the result of the actions we are taking right here and now that are adding to our cosmic debt. This is starting to sound like debtors prison. There is also Kriyamana karma which is our daily, “instant” karma. Like treating someone really badly, and then facing the result… in my case I would feel pretty bad. That is karma.
Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed. Kind of like giving up really. I mean, I can certainly think of enough stuff in this lifetime that could up my karmic debt, I didn’t even want to think about all those other ‘me’s. Is there a way out? A debt consolidation service?
I had to take a step back and re-evaluate. Certain people I know, like Ex #3 in particular, firmly believe that their actions are their own responsibility and the cause and effect is limited to the measurable here and now (that, by the way, is a euphemism for financial well-being.) If he reaped benefits from his actions, they were good actions. [Should I mention he is in the oil and gas industry…?] I do not subscribe to this belief (then or now) but does that mean my entire existence is indebted to working off the karmic payload of the unknown me? My inner perfectionist had to step aside. Assuming a clean slate is not possible,the best I can do was to work to make my current actions as karmically solvent as possible. That may be manageable (if not tedious at times because I really do find certain things aggravating…)
Then I started to think about my known karmic debt. That can get a little depressing and I do not really recommend it, but after the inventory, I felt a bit better. At least enough to say, “Shit, I won’t do that again.” And karma works on a continuum, it is not so quid pro quo as we might think/like. With that in mind, I went to bed.
I had a very strange dream that night; the most lucid I have had amid a torrent of nocturnal mash-ups that resemble some sort of crazy artsy film noir. In this dream a certain individual who I know has unresolved karma to work out with me appeared. Said individual was lurking around, not being active [non-action is akarma, and can be as good as karma (action); it is vikarma we should avoid, ie: bad action.] He was just there. And while it was not too long ago that I would have wanted him to be around, I mostly just wanted him to go away. I was mildly curious as to why he was lurking, but not even enough to ask. I considered (in the dream) sending him a letter and telling him that really, his behavior had been so bad, so totally reprehensible, that there was no point in him being around me anymore. But I decided against it as it suddenly did not even feel worth the effort. This is his karmic debt, not mine so whatever he is doing is his own trip.
When I woke up I wondered why he had been in my dream, but was otherwise unmoved. That surprised me.
When I checked my blogsite later that day I saw that he had been there. Four separate times. [He googles his name which directs him to a specific blog in which his name appears in the comments. This shows up in the WP stats – he knows this as a former WP user. His location also shows up on the geographic tracker visible to everyone on the page. I do not know anyone in Knoxville aside from him and cannot imagine anyone would have such an interest in that old, and not really interesting blog post. He does this repeatedly and regularly. In the past six months he has visited close to 100 times. This is weird.] Karma? Vikarma? I have no idea. We never really know another person’s intentions I don’t think ’cause we only have what they are willing to pony up for info. The only thought I had about it was that his karma with me is unfinished.
That feeling was somehow validating in terms of what I have been learning, and totally freaking satisfying in non-yogic, “pay-back’s a bitch” terms. [Clearly, I am still working on keeping my thoughts and actions on the karmic path…]
So do I believe in karma? Absolutely. And I understand that it may be more fun to see everyone “get theirs” but it is not possible and in reality, probably wouldn’t actually be so fun. I do know that I feel better, like really seriously measurably better, when I act not only with good intention, but act “good.” You know, like, being a good person and doing the right thing. It is not scientific, but I think that might be exactly what everyone is getting at when they talk about karma.