There are many takes and nuances to what Karma is and what it means in our daily lives. I think many views of the Western world is that Karma is a cosmic piggy bank you invest in for the afterlife or even the next life. The following is written by Jonathon Twiz and I think is one of the best takes on what Karma is and how it affects our lives daily.
Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;
And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
—?Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BC
In the West we look at Karma as a cosmic law of justice — cause and effect, what goes around comes around, etc. You may be of the large majority in the West that look at karma as the balancing scale of justice that distinguishes right from wrong. Esoterically we look at karma as something that will affect you lifetime after lifetime, as in, the actions that you make in this life will affect the way you live in the next life. I don’t have any knowledge of what is beyond the here and now; with regard to this present moment, living in the now, you and I are still here, and that is as much certainty as we can get. It is for this reason why I will not talk about karma with regard to its effects on the next life. What I will talk about is the way in which karma affects you in this lifetime.
There are a lot more subtleties and layers of the human psyche involved in the way karma plays out. Your reality is your perspective, and over time your perspective of yourself is going to change based on your memories of your past actions and intentions. This will project an identity of who you think you are, which will enhance or diminish your sense of self worth. One thing that is for sure is that who we are at the present moment is not who we will be in the future. As we live life and collect wisdom in our library of experience, we become more conscious of ourselves. Whether we choose to use this ever growing consciousness to guide our actions is up to us (bearing in mind the consequences if we don’t). The simple awareness of your ego, past actions, and intentions gives you the freedom to carve a new destiny that will release you from your karma.
“No matter what happened to you in your past, you are not your past, you are the resources and the capabilities you glean from it. And that is the basis for all change.” – Jordan Belfort
Awareness is the first step when it comes to removing karma. If you are not aware of your actions, intentions, and feelings, you will continue to make free choices that are heavily influenced by these same feelings–>intentions–>actions. People who are unconscious do not evolve. They are forced to learn things the hard way in life, and the more stubborn they are the more difficult it becomes for them to break free of their karma. Living an unconscious life, even if you get away with your choices, puts you in situations that don’t allow you to be free. For example, greed will attract the most fickle and conditional friendships and relationships in your life. Your ego will be built on a false identity of fleeting possessions which can lead to status anxiety. You will attract situations in your life where people make unconscious greedy decisions against your best interests. There is a wide spectrum of less than optimal scenarios that can and likely will occur as a result of living an unconscious life.
Again, this isn’t a universal punishment, or a cosmic law of justice. The universe is indifferent, and the notion of good and bad are constructs in our own minds. The more selfless you become, the more chaotic you become to humanity. The more selfish you are, the more disharmonious you become with humanity. This person has a total lack of empathy for the situations they cause and in time they will increase the likelihood of running into situations that reflect their behaviour towards them. This is the aspect of karma where the external environment that you attract becomes your karma. When you take from someone or harm someone, you are adding chaos and causing more disharmony in your life and in the collective. When you are empathetic and selflessly contributing to the collective, you are more in harmony with it.
People who have awareness of themselves are in a much better position than the unconscious person. This person may still continue to make selfish, ego-based decisions, but they are far more likely to be slapped in the face by the guilt. This guilt may even become further magnified if a psychedelic is taken. The guilt one experiences should not become your identity, but rather a wake up call to rise to the occasion toward becoming a more evolved person. This is the type of karma where you’re feeling judged from within; your own mind is telling you that you are out of sync with your higher self. A bad trip can be nothing more than a look in the mirror, seeing all the ugly sides of yourself that disgust you to the point where you feel very uncomfortable with yourself. This is how psychoactive substances force us to break out of negative patterns of behaviour; they show us our shadow side, which ultimately scares the shit out of us. You become aware of the two fighting wolves inside you, one which is good, the other which is bad. From this point on you know that you are responsible for the wolf that wins, which is the one that you feed.
“Karma is real, part of it starts with how you’re starting to feel.”
Karma is not just about bad deeds but it is also about how you feel about yourself. Your feelings and emotions have a lot to do with your karma. Eckhart Tole talks about the “Pain Body,” which is another identification with the ego. It makes us feel like victims whenever we don’t get what we want, feel misunderstood, or victimized. There are legitimate times when we feel wronged, but the degree to which we wallow in sorrow and/or anger can create bad karma for ourselves, even if we truly were the victim. Continuing to identify with these emotions will affect your perspective, adding a negative filter to your world. You will then make actions based on this perspective, which could lead to more circumstances that caused the initial sadness/anger. You will begin to cause problems in your reality that don’t even exist, all because you are identifying with your pain body all the time.
When working on your karma, everything on the radar is just a tip of the iceberg. Karma is often a lack of awareness of how your patterns of behaviour (which often come from your emotions) are holding you back. This is why psychedelics are popular among some people, as they have a way of showing you the karma that you’re not aware of. Emotions can cause a lot of misunderstandings because they filter your ability to process reality when in an emotionally charged state of mind. Subconsciously, unresolved emotions navigate our Ego through potentially destructive terrain. This can leave karmic imprints that create a repeat cycle of more unhappy circumstances. Emotions that we hold onto can manifest into stress which can cause all sorts of physical symptoms. It can even change the way the brain is hardwired. This is what is called in Vedic and Buddhist philosophy as “Sanskara.”
Sanskara is “mental impression, recollection, psychological imprint,” and this meaning in Hindu philosophies is a foundational element of karma theory.
“According to various schools of Indian philosophy, every action, intent or preparation by an individual leaves asanskara (impression, impact, imprint) in the deeper structure of his or her mind. These impressions then await volitional fruition in that individual’s future, in the form of hidden expectations, circumstances or unconscious sense of self-worth. These Sanskaras manifest as tendency, karmic impulse, subliminal impression, habitual potency or innate dispositions.” – Wikipedia
Embrace your karma, use it as a teacher, make friends with it. It’s not judging or punishing you, but it is telling you the truth about yourself without holding anything back. It is the most honest account of how to conduct your human experience. As long as you choose to evolve, you can suffer successfully through the events in life that slow you down and/or make you feel insecure.
Karma is a very real thing. It is not just our actions that create karma, but also the way we think, especially the way we think about ourselves. The grumpier you are, the more assholes you meet. Our Ego and the actions that spur from it brings us into resonance with situations and people of similar vibration. These conditions that we unknowingly put ourselves in facilitate more actions and ways of thinking that lead to more karmic consequences. Does the Ego create the conditions or do the conditions create the Ego? It’s a chicken and the egg paradox, but a cycle that traps us all. I’m not telling you to abandon society and become a monk in the mountains, rather I am telling you to just become more conscious of how you live your life.
Don’t try to be superior to your fellow man, aim to be superior to your former self. Who you are at the present moment is a different incarnation of who you were before. If you allow yourself to devolve, you will then become more confined to the conditions of your karma. If you evolve through reason and intuition, you will gradually escape the conditions of your karma.
Karma is nothing more than a path you put yourself on. As you become more aware of your decisions and actions, you will then learn to make choices that are mindful. The more conscious your choices are the more you will find yourself in situations that benefit you, and less in situations that cause frustration, anger, sorrow, guilt, or sadness. Bodhidarma said that your choices are like seeds, each of which will harvest at the right time in your life. Karma hits you at an unexpected time in ways you cannot prepare for, therefore making the consequences of your actions more devastating due to the inability to prepare for them.
If you feel guilty about something, that’s your karma.
If you feel insecure about something, that’s your karma.
If you feel frustrated about something, that’s your karma.
If you feel angry about something, that’s your karma.
If you feel sad about something, that’s your karma.
Even with things that are not your fault and genuinely caused by circumstance, the way in which you handle them ultimately affects your karma. In life, there is only one direction… FORWARD. Allowing your emotions and circumstances (no matter how hard) to hold you back from happiness is another form of karma. Self survival and self aggrandizement of the ego are the source of all karma. We have to allow ourselves to go through the process of what we need to feel, let them go, and then move on. The problem is that most people don’t move on.