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Karma - Chapter 4 of THE WAY: A Small Book of Wisdom

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Copyright © 2020 Oliver Bardwell


For whatsoever a man soweth; that shall he also reap.

—Galatians 6:7

Before you act, you have freedom, but after you act, the effect of that act will follow you whether you want it to or not. That is the law of karma.

—Paramahansa Yogananda

The doer of evil reaps suffering

Here and Hereafter

In both states remembering, “I have committed evil.”

Not only here, but hereafter, he experiences

More suffering because he has gone to a state of suffering.

The doer of good deeds reaps happiness,

Here and Hereafter,

In both states remembering, “I have done good deeds.”

And there is more joy

Because he has gone to a blissful state.

—The Dhammapada 1:16–17

Karma is like Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s ingrained in our very essence. Reference to this force can be found in almost every great scripture.

There are three types of karma in action: physical, verbal, and mental. Everything we do, say, and even think are like seeds planted in the ground that will someday take root. It’s important to realize this and to live our daily lives with the understanding that someday, everything we sow—both good and bad—we will surely reap.

A wise spiritual teacher, J.P Vaswani, the author of What Would You Like to Know About Karma, said, When we begin to understand the concept of Karma, we will never, ever blame God for anything that happens to us. We will realize that we are responsible for all that happens to us.

When you read that, you may think, “Well, what about the innocent young man in the wheelchair? Or the child who was just diagnosed with cancer? What did they do to deserve their circumstances?” I’ve often pondered the same questions.

In Eastern thought, it’s believed there is karma we are born into this life with, generated in other lifetimes, and karma generated in this life. There is little that we can do about the karma we were born into this life with, other than to accept it and try our best not to blame others or some outside force for our circumstances. Whatever the karma may be, whether we consider it positive or negative, it just is. We can easily recognize the karma that we are generating in this life. All we have to do is look around, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can see how every action and belief from our past, empowering or disempowering, has brought us to where we are and what we are experiencing today.

Practice: How can we accept the hand we’ve been dealt in life and turn our life circumstance into a steppingstone on the path of our spiritual journey? The most important questions about the things in life over which we have no control aren’t, “Why did it happen? Why me? Why them? Why now?” The most important questions are: “How can I find an empowering meaning in this experience?” “How can I accept what is and move forward in a way that is in alignment with my true nature, and a benefit to myself and others?” Remember, you will always get the answers to the questions you ask yourself, so it’s vital to ask quality questions.

Look at your life and your current circumstance. Think of an area of your life you aren’t happy with. How can you take responsibility for the actions or inactions that have brought you to this place? List all the things you have done or failed to do that created this circumstance—whether it’s a troubled relationship or a lack of one, or a challenge in your health or current financial situation. The first step in creating a positive change in any area of your life is in being able to accept and take ownership of how you arrived at where you are now.

Karma follows us throughout our lives

In this life and into the worlds beyond

An energy, positive and negative

That is generated by our actions

Everything we are experiencing now

Is a direct result of those past thoughts and actions

Even in death, we are unable to escape Karma

Our thoughts and actions have vibrations

Higher and lower

Good and evil

Positive and negative

When we shed this body

Like an old, worn-out suit of clothes

And only the astral and causal bodies remain

It is the vibration of our thoughts and our accumulated actions

That ferry us to the next realm

Those of higher thoughts, actions, and vibrations

Experience higher, lighter planes of existence

These have been called heavens

And are the states of existence in which we reap the

Rewards of good Karma

Those of lower thoughts, actions, and vibrations

Experience lower, darker planes of existence

These have been called hells

And are the states of existence in which heavy debts of

Negative Karma are balanced

Then, if we still have earthly desires and earthly Karma,

When the circumstances are right

We are born again to the right parents, family, and situation

Determined by our remaining Karmic balance.

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