Karma and the Gunas

Karma and the Gunas

In the Gunas in Awakening, I talked about how inertia is transformed into clarity with fire, tamas into sattva via rajas.

In this article, I’m going to talk more about karma. Karma means action, movement, or energy. When we act in tune with our environment or nature, we are always moving to balance and the energy completes and resolves. We are in dharma, we are keeping the gunas in balance.

However, when we act out of tune or get into resistance to what is unfolding – a common habit for many people – we create a boundary, a point of friction. This is also called a Vasana or impression. It holds things a little out of balance and restricts the free flow of life. It also creates a “seed” for future action because it contains the impetus or desire for it’s own resolution. Kinetic energy becomes potential energy.

Notice the words like action, energy and desire – words to describe Rajas guna. (rajoguna) Resistance or friction also points to rajas but contains that undercurrent of inertia – tamas guna (tamoguna). Rajas is being held rather than moving. Rajas needs to be shifted to movement so it can release and convert inertia and dissolve karma.

It’s useful to note that boundaries themselves are not a problem. It’s useful to have “edges” so there is a form to experience through and forms to experience. The issue here is when the attention is attached or identified with the forms rather than flowing. The observer is bound to the observed rather than playing its role.

In traditional teaching, karma is said to be of three types: There is the “unsprouted” seeds; the past resistance that remains held but is not currently playing out. This is typically described as mountains of backlog, the seeds of future lifetimes. There is also the seeds that are “sprouted” or acting out in our life now, the energy that drove our current form and life into being through the impulse of desire, seeking a way to resolve. And there is the resistance we are currently adding to the pile, the new identifications we’re adding to the backlog.

These are called Sanchitha, Prarabdha, and Agami karmas.

When we finish our sprouted Prarabdha karma, this life ends. Then a new portion drives us into the next incarnation. Some traditions describe a meeting to discuss what you’ll take on in this life before it begins.

Many peoples lives are full of boundaries and limitations, barriers to the easy flow of energy and blind spots. In fact, many consume the lions share of their energy just supporting their internal resistance. We don’t even realize it because we’re so used to it. But we may feel it’s weight and draining qualities.

The advantage of the spiritual awakening process is multi-fold. For one, touching pure being or the source in Samadhi is said to burn the backlog of seeds of karma. Thus you want a proper technique that brings you samadhi. Secondly, we become increasingly in tune with what is and resistance falls away. Thus we cease creating new resistance that leads to new karma. This leaves only the sprouted tendencies active in our life.

Of course, behaving in a more conscious way helps us to better choose. At first, we’ll realize after the fact that we’ve done it again. Then, we’ll catch the impulse in the act, while it is unfolding. Finally, we begin to see the impulse as it arises and can begin to resolve the energy on the level of energy itself. We no longer have to live it all out to resolve it. This will happen at various rates in different parts of your life, depending on how much you “carry” there.

By this process of melting resistance (tamas), we step off the “Wheel of karma” that has driven us back over and over. We no longer have to act it all out in an effort to come to balance.

It is a much easier way of being.

Last Updated on April 8, 2014 by

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  6. Mary Gwen

    As happens frequently, you touch on an issue I’m currently working on. This one, sprouted karma, in my case, seems to come up again and again (by definition, I suppose).

    And always interesting when you reposted On Twitter something you wrote years ago.

    Merci beaucoup, Davidya!

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