One idea Westerners have picked up from Indian philosophy is karma. However, we usually think of consequences when someone mentions the word. As in “It’s good karma.”
However, karma means action. The consequences come because of action. And as we’ve discussed recently, there is what happens and how we respond to that. It’s the second that allows the action to complete energetically or not. If not, it will come up again another time for completion. The more we resist or grasp at what arises, the more we build a backlog of incomplete experiences.
The basics of action are simple. For every action, there is an equal and opposite result. But it gets very complex, very quickly. Action functions on the level of nature itself, not personally. So it’s never personal. No man is an island nor does any action happen by itself. It’s all interacting with everything else. This makes it unfathomable in complexity as every action interacts with myriad other actions on all the layers of nature (physical, energetic, mental, etc).
Karma is not good or bad – that’s in our response or judgment.
Action is closely tied to energy, the ability to do work (aka action). And how do we experience energy internally? Emotions and desire are a major way and are often the driver that moves us to action. But if we’re not resolving those drives through action, we leave an unresolved charge in our actions. That energy often has more impact than the physical action itself.
For example, say we volunteer weekly at a soup kitchen. What is motivating this? Compassion for the poor? A feeling it’s the right thing to do? A sense of being superior? Or a desire to appear a certain way?
Of course, motivations are rarely this black and white. The point is – our results will depend in part on what we’re bringing to the action. Obligation? Joy? The surface never tells the whole story.
In the West, we talk of goal setting and resolutions, actions for a specific outcome. But it’s important to understand that we have control over action alone (to the degree we’re conscious and not reactive), not over its fruits. If we expect a specific outcome, we can impede or miss results and suffer disappointment.
Bhagavad Gita Ch. 2 v47-48
You have control over actions alone, never over its fruits. Live not for the fruits of action, nor attach yourself to inaction.
Established in Yoga, O winner of wealth, perform actions having abandoned attachment and having become balanced in success and failure, for balance of mind is called Yoga.
“Established in Yoga” means Self Realized. The object here is not to mimic this by playing at being detached or uninvolved. That’s attaching yourself to inaction. The process is instead to go beyond the mind and experience Yoga (samadhi, transcendence) through meditation, then get up and act, infusing yoga into life.
Then naturally, our attachment to certain results gradually falls away. Meantime, it is useful to make this process more conscious, so we can recognize the dynamics in play and favour right action. We can also surrender our grasping at expectations when that becomes conscious. Not as a concept but energetically.
As I’ve observed, if we have no expectations, we have no problems. Problems are perception. Change our perception and the solution becomes apparent. This doesn’t mean pretend difficulties are not there. It means change how we are with issues and the solution appears. Once we have a solution, we don’t have a problem.
But again, there is no point in trying to manipulate this or be perfect. The point is just becoming more conscious of our own dynamics. This will help resolve what wants to be seen and let go of those places that are ready. At first, this can be challenging. It may first seem like we have a bunch of new difficulties. But we’ve just become more conscious. And that will help with solutions.
While we don’t have control over the results, our actions are the way to get results so act we must. The key is favouring right action, to the best of our ability. While we may not then get the hoped for result, we’ll get better results than if we don’t act or we act out.
As I’ve mentioned, the tendency is to recognize we’ve been caught after the fact. Then, we start to notice during the action. Ah – I’ve been triggered again. And finally, we notice the impulse as it first arises. Then we can choose how we respond and potentially even resolve the driver energetically.
Unresolved karma also has the quality of having a shadow. While it’s great if we can see the energy arising and resolve it energetically, the bigger stuff often comes with a bigger shadow. This means we don’t see it coming and events show up in our life. It’s best to see this as the past coming up for resolution. With an appropriate response, to the best of our ability, we’ll resolve some of the dynamic.
Nature is always moving towards balance so that the world is sustained and this field of experience is available to us. Actions which support nature and sustain it are called Dharma. When clarity is lower, rules are written to guide us to right action. They become enshrined as laws. When clarity is higher, we spontaneously act correctly as our actions are driven from deep within rather than from unresolved needs.
However, it depends on where we’re starting. If this is new and trips beyond the mind have been rare, we may experience life as something of an onslaught of problems. Our backlog is seeking resolution through life experiences and drama can be constant. If we can shift the trends from fighting life to working with it, the backlog will gradually ease and the ship of life will turn in a more enjoyable direction.
Another aspect that makes karma unfathomable is timing. Because nature acts at the best time for the whole, the timing of results is unknown. We can use tools like jyotish (Vedic astrology) to monitor the cycles of time and optimize important actions, but we’re still not going to control the fruits.
In some areas of life you’ll be less caught and will find a smoother, faster flow of action and result. In fact, karma can become unmistakable. We have a negative thought and Bang, the result arrives immediately. That kind of feedback can be very useful training. (laughs) Areas of life where we have more of a backlog bring slower results, making the dynamics less clear.
However, the timing of nature still takes precedence. Things will arrive when it’s time. We should continue to act and at some point, results will come. I’ve had desires fulfilled long after they were almost forgotten. Others have been near-instantaneous.
For example, we’re looking for a new job. We need to continue to act to open doors for results. They say that if you can get 10 interviews, you’ll get yourself a job. Yet it may be easy to get interviews or it may be a big slog. But if we don’t continue to act, we’ll reduce opportunities for results to arise through. Nature works through the field of action, so act we must for results.
I’ve also found it useful to monitor how life is responding to actions. As we get clear and the responses are quicker, we’ll feel the energy of nature and how it’s responding to us. Is there resistance? Where is the resistance? Is it something within to be resolved? Or is nature resisting because it’s not yet time? When the time comes, we’ll often get a prodding to move.
There is an Indian idea known as tapas. This means warming. Tapas is actions that warm the field, bring it out of inertia (tamas), and help get things flowing. By appropriate action, we prepare the ground. When the time comes, things will flower in a smooth flow.
Buckminster Fuller had an interesting take on precession and consequence.
The field of action has been described as a dance and that can be a useful way of seeing it. We dance with life and life responds. Life will often surprise us. If we’re open to the gifts, nature frequently comes up with better results than we could have imagined.
However, it can also be mixed in with consequences from other past actions. As we work through that and resolve our energetic baggage, less karma needs to show up as life events. Life gets smoother and simpler with less drama.
We can also go through periods of life where challenges amp up. The key is how we are with this. If we can find some inner peace, we’ll culture an evenness in success and failure and resolve some of that backlog. Then things will settle again in time.
The trick with nature though is it runs on energy. We can ask ourselves how we’re helping. Our emotions are our energy tools. What kind of emotions are we favouring? Are we supporting that which is supporting us? Do we feel gratitude for life? Or are we dismissive of results? Are we thwarting the efforts of those who work for our benefit? What do we feed? This is closely tied to our expectations and attachment to a certain result.
There is lots of learning in this – whole new ways of being in the world.
But if we’re able to learn the basics and work with life in a positive way, we’ll discover resources we didn’t know we had. And we’ll come to enjoy life more and get results we would not have imagined.