What is Karma?

My initial, limited knowledge of the concept of Karma left me angry and resentful. The notion is often simplified to the idea that if bad things happen to me in this life it is due to the fact I have done bad things in a previous life. So if my father abused me when I was a child that must mean I myself was a child abuser in my past life. Ouch! So it’s all my fault?

I was lucky enough to be in an Ashram environment when I first learned about Karma, meditating and doing yoga every day, having the opportunity to ask questions, discuss and reflect; my understanding of Karma has continued to develop and today I find it a philosophy that brings me a lot of peace and trust.

One of the core principals in Karma is past lives and rebirths, I can’t say if I am a believer or not but it is necessary to mention it here. I know that many people in the West are not at all comfortable with this concept and that’s ok. I understand Karma to be a complex philosophy and one that is quite alien to our Western minds, it can take a while to really digest and understand.

So what is Karma?

I think of Karma as a big empty hole in the ground, my karmic debt, this hole symbolises all that I need to learn in life. When I have learned all my lessons the hole will be full (and perhaps even a garden will grow on top), my karmic debt paid. At that point I am ready to transcend this life and no longer need endure another rebirth; this is the concept of enlightenment, Samadhi, Nirvana, or Heaven. The purpose of this mortal life is to evolve and develop as an individual soul before returning to our creator.

So I was born into this world with my uniquely shaped hole in the ground. I need to learn just those lessons that with fill the complex shape that makes up the missing parts of my ditch. Believing in Karma means that I believe that I was born to just the right parents in the perfect geographical location and time in history in order to learn the lessons I need to learn; and in continuation I believe I am always being placed in the perfect situation for my continued learning, people and circumstances whose gifts and shortcomings are so perfect they provide the challenges I need in order to learn my lessons.

My life has entrusted me with much pain, perhaps the pain in this lifetime come from holes I have dug myself due to my own shortcomings in a previous life. Perhaps in this lifetime I am blessed with being so strong that I’ve been given the gift of all this pain as an opportunity to work towards my own enlightenment.

Karma constantly engineers life to give us what we need for our development so learning to reflect over what is showing up in your life can be very useful in order to move on.

‘Nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.’  ~ Pema Chodron

Sometimes we might find the same situations come to haunt us over and over again, maybe different characters but essentially the same drama. Perhaps we always end up in similar conflicts with work colleagues or we end up in one abusive relationship after the next. This is what is known as a Karmic Circle. It is Karma giving us the same situation over and over until we have learned what we need to learn; we will find that wont change until we do the work and learned whatever it is trying to teach us. Maybe you need to learn to set boundaries, become more compassionate or manage your anger in a different way. Once you have done your own inner work suddenly you will find you are no longer plagued by that situation any more.

We can also call it Karma when things work out unexpectedly, or don’t.

Do you recognise times in your life where you really want something to happen, to get that job, to make that event take place or make someone fall in love with you; you want it so much you are blind to the fact it was just not meant for you. Those times when it feels like you are walking through treacle, constantly an uphill struggle, these are times when we can learn to surrender; it may well not be the right thing for us or perhaps just the wrong timing. Try letting it go and listening to what we should be doing instead.

‘Sometimes not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck.’
~ Dalai Lama XIV

Now that I trust in Karma I trust that the right people, events and experiences will cross my path without me having to force it. That is not to say I sit back and do nothing, it’s not to say that I don’t work hard for what I believe to be right, but it’s a kind of listening and following, and it is leading me to places, people and experiences I never would have imagined.

Karma stems from Hindu philosophy but people of other faiths describe a similar path of guidance from their God, from the universe or higher self. Often now in my journey I can find myself uttering the expression ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ as an event that was not of my choice suddenly opens up and provides the most wonderful opportunities. And my Indian friend just utters one word: ‘Karma’.

This is not an exhaustive explanation of Karma. It is what I have learned from studies and discussions with people over many years. This is my understanding and I have chosen to lift the points that I find most prominent and relevant in my life.

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Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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