In a forum discussion, the following point arose I thought worth sharing:
Why do we end up with such a backlog of karma?
Before we explore the answer, it would be good to review the way karma is understood.
Firstly, karma simply means action. It operates on the level of energy. In the field of action, everything seeks balance. Thus, for every action, there is an equal response. Without this balance, creation would collapse from either too much inertia, agitation or purity. (the gunas) As I reviewed prior, dharma is the force that brings balance.
If we culture good deeds, we will experience good fruits. Similarly, negatively-driven deeds will bring more of the same. Even when enjoying our good fruits we should enjoy culturing more, lest we confuse our blessings with deserving and fail to culture a comfortable future.
Karma operates both individually and in groups. Group karma tends to draw us back together with the same people or cultures.
Discussions of karma often raise the debate about determinism. However, from a karmic perspective, the only difference between free will and determinism is time. Free will in our past leads to apparent determinism in the present. Our response to what arises determines what will come around later.
As energy (action) moves in cycles, sometimes we’ll experience a quick response. And sometimes, we’ll accumulate results until the right time when it will bear larger fruit. That’s when we experience remarkable events, good or bad.
Karma is said to be in 3 forms:
1 – the mountains of our past unresolved karma that are said to drive us forward into further lifetimes. This is called Sanchita.
2 – the portion, often described as a suitcase or handful, that we tackle in this particular life. This is Prarabdha and is said to be chosen or ripened in time. At any given time in our life, we can divide this karma into the sprouted and unsprouted. The sprouted is that which is expressing in our life at present. The unsprouted remains to arise.
3 – the new karma we create in this life is called Kriyamana (or Agami). It’s largely added to the mountains.
And now to the original question: If we only produce some karmic obligations in each life, why do we have such mountains? This I would say is due to a variety of factors.
For one, karma can only be resolved on its own level in a similar form to which it was created; in a human life and in equivalent energetic circumstances. Sometimes, it needs the same people (souls) too. Thus, it awaits the cycles of time for the equivalent circumstance to arise again. Also, on occasion, we tend to produce massive debts that may alone take multiple lives to resolve.
To return to balance, we must be willing to resolve our history. There is a popular idea that we “choose” our karma for this life. And this is circumstantially true from a soul’s perspective, although karma itself operates largely via laws. It’s not like grocery shopping. When others circumstances impinge on ours, there will be some obligatory experiences simply due to equivalent circumstances arising.
We could say choice comes more in our willingness or unwillingness to take responsibility for what we have wrought. When we act, we often don’t recognize the consequences. We’re caught up in the experience and fail to consider any harm we may be producing. Or even the depth of the good we’re creating. In fact, until we’re able to experience the world from outside the field of karma, trying to consider consequences can just lead to a bunch of second-guessing. Until we’re detached enough to see the dynamic at play, we’re driven more by our reactions than our intelligence.
This detachment comes in stages. At first we realize what we’ve done afterwards. Then we start to notice while it’s happening. Only then can we begin to choose and diffuse. And finally, we begin to see the impulse to react as it arises and can let it go. From this place, we can resolve the reaction and the original energy that drove it, thus restoring energetic balance and ending that cycle of karma.
This detachment tends to arise in different aspects of our lives at different rates, depending on how much clearing we’ve done. Some of us may have bigger or more entwined issues in relationships but less with work, for example. Thus, we’ll see the unraveling more in one area than another.
For less mature souls, when the opportunity comes to resolve consequences and balance energy, we may not feel comfortable dealing with our stuff. Being ego-identified, we’re more likely to make it personal even though karma is just laws of nature. We may feel we’re taking on obligations we didn’t recognize taking on in the first place. We’ll feel we didn’t ask for it so why is it our job? Why would I want that unpleasant situation again? Thus, rather than resolving debts, we may choose to resist them. This sustains the karma (energy) and obliges us to experience it again in the future. Sometimes, our resistance will even enlarge the issue. This is the essence of the wheel of karma.
Not only that, but if we don’t take responsibility, we’re more likely to ignore consequences and add to our balance as well. It’s amazing what a deluded ego can justify. We see this writ large on the world stage all the time.
This combination of factors leads to the mountains of history. It builds up, like many people’s credit card balances. Before we know it, we have a mountain.
A more mature soul will be more willingly take on challenges. They’ll recognize the dynamics and not take it personally. They see not only self-responsibility but the benefits of clearing the decks energetically. Even there, we may choose to take a “karmic holiday” on occasion and enjoy our accumulated fruits.
Happily, we don’t have to slog through every imbalance we’ve ever made. The court of karma has some tricks.
The layers of existence are progressively more powerful. Most karma is created in the field of energy and emotions. If we bring resolving energy to them from deeper levels such as feeling, we can resolve big hunks internally. Forgiveness is a profound way, for example. Most powerful of all is spirit. When we transcend or enter samadhi, the power of pure spirit can “roast” mountains of the backlog. This just happens automatically. Also, as I mentioned here, when an open space is created, what remains to be resolved may rush in to be seen.
Then, what comes to remain is the “sprouted” seeds, the circumstances that drive your life now. Our softened attitude and approach will much reduce the production of new debts. Gradually the seeds are resolved and life becomes simpler, less dramatic, and smoother. Our purpose and path become clearer and the growing peace and bliss become less and less disturbed.
Karma is a good thing. It is the mechanism by which we’re able to draw circumstances and thus experiences into our lives. From the perspective of spiritual evolution, that’s why we’re here. Understanding how to clear the decks smoothly and invite good experiences is a big help in making the best of our time here. And in having the most fun.