It is said that the wheel of karma regulates life of all souls on Earth, and the life we live is a sum total of the karma. Experiencing it is inevitable. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Let’s dive into understand what is karma? Good karma vs. bad karma. How can we manage Karma to be the best versions of ourselves.
What is Karma?
Karma is often misunderstood as a justice system. It is also understood as what goes around comes around. Karma is nothing more than an unresolved memory or an impression held in our consciousness. These memories carry learnings essential to understand the reality of life and who we are behind the veil of karma. Karma is created by our thoughts, intentions, actions and speech.
Types of Karma
According to the Eastern philosophy, there are primarily three types of Karma
- Sanchit Karma (Warehouse) – It is the memory or impression that has been captured across all lifetimes and is like a warehouse of karma. It is not easy to exhaust all karma in one life and could feel burdensome, and hence the soul reincarnates on Earth.
- Prarabdha Karma (That which has begun) – When a soul is incarnated it comes with impressions or memories allotted for this life by himself. This portion of karma is said to be ripe for reaping – whether those are debts or desires. Prarabdha karma determines what kind of a physical body, our parents and human life we will be born into. The position of stars and planets at the time of birth determines when the karma will be realized.
While all the karma has to be experienced in this life the suffering from the ‘bad’ karma can be lessened by using one’s free will to lead a moderate life where we create good karma through our intention, speech, thought and action. The impressions that are not experienced or accumulated in this life continue to be part of Sanchit karma post this life.
- Agami Karma (Future) – All the impressions captured in the current life that determines the destiny in this life or future lives.
Furthermore, karma is of two kinds – personal karma and family karma. We are aware of personal karma which is the unresolved energy created by our own actions, thoughts, speech and intentions. Family karma is the ancestral and parental karma passed to us in our genes. We recognize those as recurring patterns in our parents and ourselves. Some personal karmas are universal in nature such as having a competitive nature, feeling of lack of resources or running out of resources and fear of unknown, old age and death.
How do we create Karma?
Karma whether good or bad is created by thoughts, intentions, action and speech. We create bad karma when we create interference in co-existence and unity, whereas we create good karma when our actions support unity and co-existence. Good karma can also be created through good deeds, philanthropy, by refining our character, by being humble, being moral, wishing and praying well for others. Bad karma can be created not only by bad deeds but also by harboring negative thoughts, speaking harsh words and having ill intentions for others.
Here are a few ways to create bad karma
- Not speaking the truth
- Gossiping, spreading rumors, stealing
- Physically or mentally hurting people
- Wishing ill of others
- Favoritism in hiring decisions
- Taking credit for someone else’s work
- Trying to help people (who can help themselves) without seeking permission
- Misusing natural resources, wastage in daily lives
Do people who do bad things get away without retribution of Karma?
That is not simply true. People who create bad karma will surely face unpleasant karma at a later time. That said, who are we to judge whether an action is good or bad? Wishing ill for others whatever it may be is bad karma. For all we know, the ‘bad’ karma could be the effect of karma from the past. We simply don’t know. But, know this, by wanting bad for the perpetrator without us suffering the pain, could also be ‘bad karma’ on our part. Remember, karma is a result of intention, thought, speech and action.
How can you handle bad karma to lessen the effect?
Our life is reservoir of memories that we relive or balance out. Releasing karma means to lose attachment to the memories, understand the lesson and make way for expansion. Our old consciousness is released and replaced with new consciousness. When we are free of karma we ground new consciousness which helps us become the best version of ourselves and live our true-life purpose. As we reap karma we move from ‘I’ towards ‘we’, from individuality to unity and co-existence.
- Live consciously and objectively –If we take responsibility for our karma through a process of introspection and reflection, we begin to have greater control over creating negative karma. The choice to live consciously prevents bad karma to be returned in the future. Before reacting to a situation assess your feelings to understand if your reaction to any situation or person is coming from your ego and mind or from your heart. Meditation is an important tool in slowing down our reaction. A few forms of meditation include sound, mantra, guided or transmission-based. It takes us to a state of consciousness beyond the karmic plane that fosters healing, creates awareness and rejuvenates the soul – our true nature.
- Let go of resistance and bring acceptance – Acceptance and forgiveness are important aspects of our spiritual growth. Swimming against the current is harder and dangerous, while swimming with the current is easier and relaxing. Acceptance is the fastest way to move through life’s challenges and creates a whole new perspective of our life situation. When we accept our karmic circumstances as gifts, we feel empowered and realize that the situation or condition we accepted was meant to teach us a lesson. Thereafter, what we consider our weakness becomes the source of our greatest strength and joy.
- Learn to forgive – Often times we blame ourselves and others for the situation we are in. We feel anger towards ourselves or others as the perpetrators. If we harbor ill feelings or intentions, we will continue to create negative karma. This doesn’t mean that we continue to stay connected or maintain relationships with the people hurting us. Forgiving people helps release the pain, heal the wound to make way for new situations and people to re-enter our lives. For example, in the case of a divorce, it is best to forgive the ex-spouse and move on to allow good things to enter our lives. If we keep remembering and cursing our ex-spouses we live in negativity and denial of our present or future.
- Be grateful – The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” One way to avoid creating negative karma is to concentrate on things that truly matter in our lives. Additionally, when we look around, we find others who would be in worse situations than us. Focusing on and appreciating positive aspects of our life gives a feeling of joy, contentment and also, attainment. Also, we should express gratitude towards people who help us, irrespective of the outcome, because by doing that we are honoring the intention of the act. Also, the feeling of gratitude uplifts one emotional and psychological state, therefore, bring a state of calmness and connection in our heart.
This scientific research indicates that people in the gratitude condition demonstrated greater life satisfaction and well-being than the people who are not.
- Be positive and live in the present – As part of our nature we tend to live most of our time regretting or brooding over our past or be fearful of the future. We have to realize that the past is gone and cannot be changed, and the future can be changed with our current thoughts and actions. Per the law of attraction, we create our reality in every moment of the day. If we are creating our future with every single thought then wouldn’t we want that to be based on positive feelings? Additionally, this law requires that we stay positive and expect miracles without being attached to those.
- Embrace change – Change is inevitable and hence, should be welcomed. Additionally, if we are in stuck in unpleasant situations where we create karma through negativity, we should make an effort to turn things around starting with intention and action. It is said that “Great things never came from comfort zone”. Change is hard and there is a tendency to revert to old behaviors but persistence, courage and resilience are usually rewarded. As we accept and plunge into the change a sense of renewal, new growth and new possibilities takes shape.
- Be patient to be rewarded – All rewards require tremendous effort initially. If we are persistent, patient and put in hard work, reward is more than likely to follow. That said, we need to detach ourselves from the outcome to avoid karma. The lack of outcome could also a rewarding lesson in itself. Our reward is commensurate with the effort and the intention. It can also get amplified if the intention is for the greater good.
- Responsibility towards the planet and its inhabitants and resources – As we go on this journey of conscious living and releasing karma, we develop greater sense of awareness and awakening that even though we think of ourselves as individuals we are part of the collective. Hence, every personal contribution is a contribution to the whole and individual selfishness is replaced by love and compassion for all. This makes our planet a beautiful place to inhabit for us and our children. The choices we make today in terms of self-centered arrogance, hunger for power, wastage in our daily life, carbon footprint, human and animal life, natural resources and climate change will determine our future and for the generations to come. It will be our karma both personal and collective.
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