Recently, I listened to a talk on jyotish (Vedic astrology). They spoke of the way Jain’s view karma. Jainism is an Indian faith based on non-violence and transmigration of souls in an eternal universe.
While their philosophy of karma is very like the Vedic view, there are a few variations in emphasis worth noting. This exploration is my perspective on the points rather than a Jain view.
Firstly, they describe the apparent vs actual cause of circumstances.
Nimitta Karan is the apparent external cause of circumstances.
When events arise in our life, the mind doesn’t just note what happened. It complicates it with a commentary or story to explain the why, typically using superficial, external appearances.
This is most obvious with a negative experience. Someone unexpectedly lashes out at us. We will of course blame them for the experience. And, seeing them as the cause, we may feel justified in responding by lashing back.
However, this response not only amplifies the conflict but has the effect of keeping the karma going. It takes two to tango.
Inversely, with a good experience like winning the lottery, we’ll be inclined to make a story of luck and deserving. But not recognizing the actual cause, we’ll tend to dissipate our good fortune. Most lottery winners have spent it all within the year.
Jain’s call an incoming karmic impression (the energy of an unresolved experience) an Asrava. (similar to a Vasana) This is stored in our energy body as past impressions which colour our experience of life. And then when its time comes, those impressions rise as experiences. This is the release or shedding called Nirjara.
When it arises, the experience has the same qualities or energetic flavour as the original impression. Not the same circumstances, just the same quality (grief, anger, etc.). But it can also be mixed with other impressions so it’s really not useful to try to figure it out.
Further, figuring out is the mind. The mind will not help you resolve it. Nor will blame help.
The real cause is called Upadan Karan, nirjara karma arising in (to) the recipient creating flavours of experience.
If we instead recognize that circumstances in our life are often* the result of past actions, then we have a choice. Rather than resisting or reacting or blaming or telling stories, we can see it for what it is, allow the energy to complete and let it go. Then it’s done.
Otherwise we just cycle it back again. If we get into a big reaction and thrash around, we can amplify it.
It does not help to see ourselves as victims or trapped by fate.
This is also a learning process so it’s useful to go easy on ourselves when we realize we’ve fallen into reacting again. As the Bhagavad Gita outlines, at first we realize after the fact. Then we start to notice during, in the middle of the drama. And finally, we notice as the impulse to react first arises – then we can choose. And of course, some areas of life are more conscious than others.
What helps is simple acceptance and allowing the quality to wash over us and be resolved. Then the energy completes and the impression is gone. There may also be circumstantial bits to the experience like fixing the flat tire. But a little practical activity without drama will finish things. Then the shadow is gone and the load lifted.
Sometimes, the big stuff has more shadow or challenge. That’s when healing techniques or help can be very useful. Our past does not have to be a burden.
The world media is full of stories of what’s wrong and who’s to blame. But none of that fixes anything. Seen more deeply, the world is working to come back into balance and heal. If we cooperate, we can be part of that process rather than an unwitting participant in a drama.
Acceptance comes from equanimity and taking responsibility. (not blame) When we do the work of self-knowing and healing we can make giant strides on our path.
Over time, our life will get less coloured by our eventful past. We can be more present to what is here. More at peace. And so much happier.
In the talk, the jyotishi said that Vedic astrology is nothing but the practical application of the theory of karma. Our chart is the schedule of karma in this lifetime.
But again, this doesn’t mean fate but what we’ve chosen to work on. Free will comes from how we choose to respond to the consequences of our past choices.
*not always. In the field of action, action predominates. But this is taking place within a larger process of growth and evolution driven by the divine. So there are undercurrents not driven by karmic interplay.