What is Karma?

I recently had a conversation with Darian Parker — PhD, personal trainer, and podcaster — in which we covered many topics regarding my life, meditation, karma, and the changing landscape of religion and yoga — and what that all means for people today. One of the highlights for me was our discussion on karma. While most people feel that karma is just something good or bad, the reality is that karma is much deeper than that. Karma is everything.

We’ve all heard that phrase, “I guess it’s your karma!” Everyone has been in a situation where karma becomes our fate due to a negative situation. Whether a loved on cheated on you, or someone stole something from you, you got fired from work — it’s your karma, so you have to accept it and move on.

Or, you’ve experienced a boon! Something good in life has come your way and your karma has brought a blessing. You’ve got good karma now, and it feels good like you’re in the flow of life and you protect that state from getting ruined for as long as you can. Good karma, bad karma — that’s how society has understood this ancient Hindu law of action and reaction.

While those experiences accurately depict karma, they don’t contain the entire meaning.

The truth is, karma is the process and sequence of action and reaction. When we move, speak, think, or act; when there is forward motion consisting of energy, either spontaneously or because of a reaction to something, we are inside of karma. Karma is indeed life itself — a cyclical and unending field of desires happening all over the world, every moment, all the time.

Of course, as good natured humans we want good karma, and we’d like to help others by improving their karma at the same time. Most of us would like to avoid bad karma, living as harmoniously as possible. People seek contentment while living a life that has as much meaning and purpose as possible. But, is there a deeper aspect of karma than this? Is there a way to break free from the cycle?

Moksha, the Hindu concept of liberation from rebirth, is usually too esoteric for most people to find significance in it. While I don’t recommend you seek to lose your individual identity for the ocean of omniscient bliss by submerging your sense of self with everyone and everything, there are some benefits to seeing the principles that lead to moksha — even if from afar.

The secret of meditation is that it has the ability to suspend — and eventually burn up — karma. In the deepest of meditations we don’t have action and reaction, no motion or creation of any kind. Samadhi, as it’s known in Sanskrit, is the removal of attachment to any and all things. As we go deeper into ourselves — beyond the mind — we are slowly freed from form, space, and time, and our consciousness enters into formlessness. This mystic meditation “place” suspends the cyclical nature of creation-through-motion, or life, and temporarily putting a stop to karma. For the advanced yogi, samadhi can burn previous karmas — both good and bad — and keep someone even on the scale of experience.

The goal of every yogi should be to stay even, current, not having too much from the past and not creating too much for the future. In this way, people can be mindful and present as they go about life peacefully. This is what it means to be living in the now. And, this is the Path, the Way, the Tao; the ultimate direction of every peaceful warrior, yogi, mystic, monk, and evolved soul.

The fruits of meditation and the understanding of karma isn’t just for yogis, monks, and the naked wanderers of India (Sadhus). This law of past, present, and future harmony is for all people wishing to be content. When we live our lives with this evenness of the scale we can be spontaneous, creative, passionate, present, and caring. The best part about having this philosophy is not only just for individual success, but it also expands out into our small community.

Parents can raise better children; relationships can thrive; corporate business life can be extremely productive; our life can finally have a sense of meaning that extends beyond our base instinctive needs. Knowing our thoughts can influence our actions towards other people, and seeing the sensitive nature and relationship of karma in all things is one of the first steps a soul takes in its own evolution. As my guru taught me, “Observation is the first awakening of the soul.”

Observation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is being in the moment enough to see it fully. Having the desire to do any of this requires our interest, and that all begins by first knowing karma exists, believing it, then in understanding how it works and letting it into your life. How do we know when we’ve reached that point? Reading this article is a good start.



Former monk of 12 years. Human performance specialist. Rajanshankara.com

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