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Karma: Yes? No? Neither? It Depends?

Offered as a supplement to the Nondualism FAQ
Gregorian Bivolaru: Karma Yoga,The Yoga of Daily Life



Life is governed by two principles - Desire fulfilment and Law of Karma.
Desire is the most potent force in our life and early or late all our
desires get fulfilled. We get whatever we desire and work for, but at the same time
we have to undergo the good or evil effects of our deeds in accordance with
the strict principle of retribution. This principle of retribution is known
as the Law of Karma. All our voluntary acts which affect others agreeably or
disagreeably are rewarded or punished in accordance with the strict law of
justice of Karma. This law of Karma is just and properly maintained; cosmic
justice demands that there should be strict and equable retribution in
nature since there is an arrangement in it to keep balance of action and reaction.

Hence no one can escape or evade the good or evil consequences of his deeds
accruing to him. If he does not meet the consequences in life here and now,
he can meet them in some other life, for life is vast and varied. The ego
also does not die completely. The doer of the deeds does never vanish into
nothingness. There would be chaos and rule of injustice in the universe, if
one were to cease to exist without having undergone the consequences of his
deeds. Death is only a change in our life; it shuts the physical world from
us and awakens us into a subtler world.

Why are we drawn to this physical world? It is because we have
entertained many desires connected with this world which still remain to be
fulfilled, and because we have to undergo the consequences of the deeds done
in our previous lives on this plane. Our desires and our record of deeds
bring us back to the physical plane. Life here presupposes a life there to
account for the inequalities of circumstances. Pre-existence and
post-existence are implied in the law of Karma. Rebirth or reincarnation is
not only a postulate but a fact. Some of the Western thinkers of modern
times like Shirley have appreciated these two doctrines of Karma and reincarnation
as worthy of acceptance. The law of Karma proclaims that we get what we
give, we reap what we sow. Man has power to act but his power ends with the act
committed. The effect of the act cannot be altered, annulled or escaped.

The theory of Karma is the application of the law of cause and effect to
moral experience. The law of Karma means that all actions, good or bad,
produce their consequences in the life of the individual who acts, provided
they are performed with a desire to the fruits thereof. Now if some good or
bad actions are thus found to produce certain good or bad effects in the
present life, it is quite reasonable to maintain that all actions will
produce their proper effects in this or another life of the individuals who
act. The law of Karma is this general moral law which governs not only the
life and destiny of all individual but even the order and arrangement of the
physical world. But on the psychological level the law of Karma affirms the
freedom of the self. Freedom is a real possibility and the individual can
control his desires and direct them in a proper channel by virtue of his
discrimination and reason. Fatalism or determinism is a misrepresentation of
the theory of Karma. Fate or destiny is nothing but the collective force of
one's own actions performed in past lives. It can be overcome by efforts of
this life, if they are sufficiently strong, just as the course of old habits
can be counteracted by the cultivation of new and opposite habits.

Not in action but in desire, not in action but in attachment to its
fruit lies the binding force of Karma. An action is performed with a desire to
enjoy its fruits, the soul is expectant and nature replies to it, it has
demanded and nature awards. So every cause is bound to its effect, every
action to its fruit, and desire is the cord that links them together. If
this could be cut asunder, the connection would cease and when all the bonds of
the heart are broken then the soul is free. The wheel of cause and effect
may continue to turn but the soul remains unaffected.

Our desires are innumerable and unlimited. Many of them conflict with
each other. We have to choose some and reject others. Man is a rational
being and is endowed with the power of discrimination and control; with the help
of this power he should bring about an order in the realm of desires. Some of
them are for enjoyment of the pleasures of the world while others are for
moral perfection and spiritual freedom. Indian thinkers realised that the
whole of human life should not be dedicated to the pursuit of wealth and
pleasure, for the real man, the spirit within becomes atrophied by them
alone. The Kathopanishad classified all the desires under two heads, namely,
the Preya, pleasant ones and the Shreya, good ones. The Upanishad emphasised
that the latter should be preferred to the former. The Indian thinkers did
not altogether cannive at the accumulation of wealth and enjoyment of
pleasures, for they knew that acquisitiveness and sex were very powerful
drives of man. But they also knew that unbridled enjoyment of sensual
pleasures and social disharmony. Hence they have to be guided and controlled
by Dharma, that is by righteous means and moral principles such as truth,
honesty, self-control, fellow-feeling and moderation.

The Indian thinkers knew that the law of Karma is at the bottom of law
of Moral order, the law that makes for regularity and righteousness and works
in all times and climes. This idea gradually shaped itself into the Mimamsa
concept of Apurva, the law that guarantees the future enjoyment of the
fruits of rituals performed now; into the Nyaya-Vaisheshika theory of Adrashta, the
unseen principle which sways over the material atoms and brings about
subjects and events in accordance with moral principles; into the theory of
dependent origination or Pratitya Samutpada of Buddhism and finally into the
general concept of Karma accepted by all Indian systems.

The law of Karma, that works with all its might on the physical, mental
and moral planes, ceases to be all-powerful on the spiritual plane. On the
religious level, Karma loses its might and assumes an attitude of surrender
to God. Mukti or spiritual freedom would be impossible if divine justice
functioned through the mathematical rigour of the law of Karma. Religion
therefore requires that the legal concept of Karma should be transformed
into the religious concept of Krupa. Krupa or the grace of God transfigures the
rigorous law of Karma and becomes the redemptive principle of religion. From
this point of view even the law of retribution has redemption as its inner
motive, for the law of retribution does not inspire any hope of Mukti or
salvation, while the law of redemption leads to salvation. The dualism
between Karma and Krupa cannot be overcome by mere ethic or ethical

The seriousness of the moral consciousness and the reality of the sinfulness
of sin fail to bring out the spontaneity and freedom of the divine life.
This defect is removed by the loving nature of God who is the ruler as well as
the redeemer. The individual soul achieves his spiritual freedom by immediate
contact with God.

The whole discussion of the theory of Karma, in its last analysis,
amounts to this that Karma is the result of knowledge, that it is the
spontaneous expression of real understanding. By knowledge is meant the
appreciation of the truth that God is the all-doer, without this
appreciation no Karma, no moral activity is worth recognizing. Those who hold that Karma
is prior to knowledge on the supposition that it gives purity of mind labour
under the false sense of agency. It is the possession of knowledge that
makes one morally pure. The thought of individual doership is a case of illusion
for God is the all-doer. The appreciation of the all-doership of God does
not make an individual inactive but it makes him full of activity. Hence, to
think that an individual is the doer is to arrest activity. Karma or
activity of the individual becomes free and spontaneous only when he realises that it
is the supreme energy which works through him. This does not negate the
individual, it only negates the illusion of personal doership which
restricts the range of activity. There are some existentialists who separate essence
from human existence and assert that there is no God and no objective value.
But it is difficult to realise how and to whom I am still responsible
especially when there is no standing that I should bear the burden. It is
good to be reminded that in our real existence we enjoy an inner subjective
being, call it God or Truth which in its depth cannot be reached or
represented by any generality.

Realistically, there is a perspective from which nothing at all is seen.
Empty the mind, and all concepts go out the window. Close the eyes, and
all vision disappears. Plug the ears, and all sound vanishes. But from
the perspective of the "common man," is there karma? I answered yes in the
survey, because nothing else explains why death and rebirth occur, or why
some specks of this thing we call "consciousness" are born as insects, some
as animals, and some as human beings.

There is a perspective where gravity is not felt. It is called being out
of the Earth's gravitational pull, in outer space. But can it not still be
said still that there is gravity? Being in outer space, does this imply
that gravity does not exist?

Tim Gerchmez

I do not believe in Karma. The important element of that statement is
"believe." It's the same for reincarnation. All of the traditional
explanations of these issues amount to "just words." I understand that
"Karma" is a concept about action and the fruits of action, about work and
it's result, about cause and effect. If one follows the word of the Avatar
Krishna, one ceases to act in view of possible results, and therefore Karma
loses its sting. There is simply action, in which actor, act, and
consequence are one.

When an emergency situation prevails, do you stop to consider the doctrines
and explanations of Karma? Or do you just act adequately to the need of
the moment, without thought of reward? The explanations arise when people
have too much time on their hands.

"Belief" is totally irrelevant. One believes when one has ulterior
motives. Motiveless, (n)one flows with Life, and the necessary work is
done by Life.

... Phil Burton seems that everything is absolutely
predetermined for a sleeping man. Everything happens
in the only way that it can happen. And I also think that
it is possible to live in a time line above that of the Karmic
time line. By recognizing that there is absolutely nothing
I can actually do to change things it becomes possible to
change them. If that makes sense. :-) Until that point I
am trying to pick up the board I am standing on. My
way of putting would be....Is there not Karma? Is
there a world beyond Karma?

---Marcia Paul

The Root of Karma

Gene Poole

As I participate in these lists, I see submissions which predominantly
feature Hindu/Vedantic, Buddhist, Christian, and other specialized
vocabulary. Among these words, is the word 'karma'. That word means many
things to many people, just as 'ego' has many meanings, according to
personal interpretation.

I would venture that the people who originally 'made up' the word 'karma'
had something definite in mind, something which they were perceiving, to
which they gave this label of 'karma'. I imagine that they, the originators
of this term, desired to describe, as well as to label. Now, it seems that
we desire to understand 'karma', yet can we 'see' what the ancient
originators of the term, also saw?

The common understanding of 'karma' is that it puts forth 'cause and
effect', as in 'one reaps what one sows'. In this regard, the 'law of
karma' would then be seen to be a useful injunction which would imply what
is similar to the Christian 'golden rule', a guideline to behaviour, to
ease the difficulties of living among other Beings. If this understanding
of karma can indeed lead to 'moral' behaviour, so much the better. But it
seems to me, that the originators of the word, had more in mind than 'cause
and effect'.

The difficulty in 'understanding' the concept of karma, arises as a result
of the perception that the background is different from the foreground;
that the past is different than the present; that Being is different than
the universe; that the universe is the background in which the Being
dwells, when in fact, the Being is the universe.

Karma describes _interdependence_, not cause and effect. Karma states that
'if supporting conditions change, what is supported also changes'. No cause
is posited by karma; only interdependence is pointed to. In the overall
sense, karma is itself 'cause'; karma says that outside of karma, there is
_nothing_. Karma, then, IS the universe that we live 'in', and (usually
unconsciously) _as_.

That we _are_ incarnate Beings, may be seen as the 'gift of karma'; karma
is the overall 'maze' or matrix of Being, and at the same time, it is the
wanderer in that maze or matrix.

"If" a Being transcends the maze, the Being understands that the Being is
the maze; the maze and the Being both 'vanish' as _apparently_ seperate
'entities'. No longer will the Being wander the maze, for the nature of the
Being is the nature of the maze. Now, the Being wanders 'ItSelf'.

As the 'maker' of this maze, I am capable of finding my own way through it,
if I 'remember' or 'abolish amnesia' or 'become realized'. The name of
'karma' is _simply_ a reminder of the compounded 'reality' that I am.

The common, _exoteric_ 'meaning' of the word karma is 'you reap what you
sow', but the hidden, _esoteric_ meaning of the word, is different. It is
this esoteric (to the 'ignorant') meaning that I wish to reveal.

I speak of my own current understanding of 'karma'. I am the 'maker' of 'my
own' karma. The current perceptions of reality which I have, arise as
compoundings of previous perceptions; all perceived events, are woven in
'time', to create this matrix of 'reality'. Thus, this is my reality.

If I subtract 'time' form the above equation, all events are simultaneous,
now. It is this 'now' which I am. Thus, I am not bound by time.

If events do not occur in time, no event is separate. Thus, I am all events.

If I am all events, I am the 'root' of karma. If I am the 'root' of karma,
I may then 'change'. It is at this point that the very crucial question
must be asked; If I may change, what change do I choose?

This is the question which underlies all seeking, pursuit, dissatisfaction,
inquiry, hunger, desire, and aversion. If this question is correctly
answered, outward momentum ceases. If this question is understood, the
final expansion of the universe begins.

==Gene Poole==

Gene Poole's Home Page

I would define good karma as that which will result in unconditional
surrender, meaning all roads that "worldly" life can offer, are seen as not
leading to lasting happiness so one isn't left with a choice. Bad karma
then, is what prevents one to "attain" moksha during one's life.

How one would acquire good karma is another matter. To my knowledge, it is
sufficient to have experienced "personal" suffering, to contemplate on the
nature of suffering and reach the conclusion that worldly pleasure will
always end up in suffering, caused by being forced to give up everything
when Yama knocks at your door.

From this perspective, good karma means being born sensitive (when
discovering suffering, seeing it happens to everyone) and intelligent (not
to fall into the trap of repeatedly thinking "better luck next try" until
life is over again).


One can have endless discussions about "what is the difference between the
belief that something exists and the belief that something doesn't exists".
To my knowledge, belief is always belief, no matter the object. For both
karma and reincarnation it is possible to get experiential knowledge and for
those, having obtained that knowledge, having verified if it makes sense,
karma and reincarnation are as real as observing the ocean - it boils down
to perception of phenomena and their interpretation in such a way that it
makes sense so that some rules can be distilled out of it.

If one's life is considered a soccer match, karma is one's condition to
start the game, with eventual effects from injuries, received in previous
games. Thinking of the injuries would result in playing without being fully
concentrated on the game so it wouldn't be beneficial.

Most beliefs are implicit or unconscious. For instance, with married
persons, one of the beliefs is in the partner (the motive is staying
together, eventually "for the sake of the kids"). Having had some experience
with de-traumatizing abandoned dogs, supplying food while ignoring the dog
is what restores faith (belief of "goodness") in man. Instead of belief, why
not abandon it and substitute it for something like "probability" that can
be expressed in a percentage :)
---Jan Barendrecht

Is there something external to Life which determines life? There is
difference between presence of mind and being lost in abstraction. In
presence of mind there is not projection and anxiety. In traditional
explanations of Karma there is a sense that there are good and bad Karma.
Are not "good and bad" just dualism? Karma just means action is woven
together with consequence. The only way to understand that is
dispassionately. I said I did not believe in it: I do not disbelieve in it
either. One does not need to believe in a self-evident fact: it is just

Also, it is a little pathetic when there is a use of (basically esoteric)
concepts to put "others" in their place. I have actually run across people
in this country who relate to others that way: so and so has "bad karma" so
there is no point in helping out. Sort of a New Age Fascism.

---Phil Burton

New Age Fascism - I like that a lot - it brings to mind that many use the
term karma in the same way as 'sin' and punishment/reward. Something keeps
us tied to the physical wheel of life, something that keeps us from knowing
our true state of perfect spirit. I simply think that defining it as the
karmic impressions is as good as any other term. And for myself it is those
impressions that life works on to get us to the truth. One can't base a
belief system around it because like the air we breathe the work that life
does just is - some call it karma, others have a different name for it and
others don't think of it at all - they just think they are lucky or unlucky.

---Linda Callanan

Namaste, Brothers and Sisters,

There is only no karma for God. If one has surrendered then one has no
ego and has realised God. The rest of us just attempt to surrender but
hold on to the corner of the envelope! If there were no karma the
whole drama would collapse. If there were no duality of any kind
creation would collapse. Action/Reaction.

Ultimately Phil is correct but relatively is another matter.

---Tony O'Clery

From: Tim Gerchmez <>

Here is more, for the curious. Note in the reading what a very, very
subtle and complex phenomena karma is. It is the "usual" definitions that
should be gotten rid of. Karma as "commonly" defined to mean simply "what
you sow is what you reap" is far too simplistic, and misses the point


"To find happiness and avoid suffering, we should understand the principal
causes and conditions that bring happiness, so we can practice them, and
perceive those that bring suffering, so we can avoid them.

The main cause of all success and happiness is your own mind, it is good
karma, a positive, pure, healthy intention, a peaceful attitude toward
life, the nature of which is non-attachment, non-ignorance, non-hatred and
non-self-centred mind. What is karma ?

Karma is a mental factor. Karma is the principal cause of happiness and
suffering. It is the inner cause. Karma is the mind. The experience of
enjoyment comes from the mind, which in turn comes from karma. Your present
good rebirth with many opportunities to achieve happiness comes from good
karma, your positive virtuous intention. Your mind is formless, colourless
and shapeless and in taking its place in a fertilised human egg, creates
the continuity of the physical body. The mind itself comes from its own
previous continuity, the life before this one, the past life. And there are
many past lives. Good luck depends on good karma. Success and happiness in
this life and beyond this life up to the perfect fully completed bliss and
peace of full enlightenment all depend on creating good karma, collecting
merit, practising Dharma, and keeping your life attitude in pure, positive
virtue. To understand karma more clearly, let us examine the explanations
of karma given in the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.

According to the sutra teachings of Lord Buddha, there are ten non-virtuous
actions and ten virtuous actions that have a direct bearing on karma.
Therefore, every complete negative action creates four suffering results,
while every complete positive virtuous action creates four happy results.
The ten non-virtuous actions comprise three of the body, four of the speech
and three of the mind. Those of the body are killing, stealing and sexual
misconduct. Those of speech are telling lies, engaging in slander, harsh
speech and gossiping. Those of the mind are covetousness, having ill will
towards others and having the wrong views. The ten virtuous actions
comprise abstinence of all the non-virtuous actions. Every complete
non-virtuous and virtuous action has four suffering and four happy results
respectively. And the sum total of these results is the karmic inheritance
that defines the type of rebirths that all sentient beings bring with them
in their mental continuum. This is karma.

The first of the four results can be described as the fully ripened result;
where the suffering of negative karma causes rebirths in the suffering
lower realms (hell, the realm of hungry ghosts or animal realms). Here one
experiences unimaginable sufferings that are far worse than the sufferings
of the human realms. The happy result causes rebirths in the body of a
happy migratory being in the human or deva realms instead of rebirths in
the suffering realms. The second of the four results is experiencing a
result similar to the cause. The suffering result is to be reborn as a
human being and suffer the result of the harmful action committed in the
past. If one has killed, one will be killed; and if one has stolen, one
will be cheated, if one has slandered others, one will be slandered
against... The happy result is rebirth in the human realm with a long and
happy life. There will be wealth and enjoyment. And if you have practised
the right view you will be reborn with a clear mind, be attracted to
virtuous actions, good friends, and right philosophies. You will gravitate
to people who help develop your wisdom. You will discover great faith in
the Four Noble Truths (True Suffering, True Origin, True Cessation of
Suffering, and True Path) and the right view of emptiness. Among the four
schools of Buddhist philosophy, you will be especially attracted to the
extremely subtle Prasangika view, which cuts through the root of samsara,
thus eradicating suffering and all its causes. Your strong faith leads you
quickly to achieve liberation from samsara. Consequently, you will be able
to liberate numberless other sentient beings from all the suffering realms
of samsara and bring them to enlightenment with the support of bodhicitta,
the pure wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The third of the four results is the possessed result. The suffering result
ripens in a future place of rebirth where food is scarce. There is drought,
war and famine. The happy result is a glorified place where food, medicines
and crops are plentiful. Your rebirth environment is clean, healthy and
filled with beauty. The fourth result creates similar results to the
previous cause i.e. continuing to commit the same action in the future, and
continuing to create the karma over and over again. All good and bad
results of actions can also be experienced in this life. The 10 virtuous
actions do not lead only to the happiness of future lives. Most
significantly, if the 10 virtuous actions are practised with genuine
bodhicitta, the altruistic mind to benefit all others, it becomes the cause
of the highest ultimate happiness - Enlightenment.

Karma that is repeatedly done becomes very powerful. Karma done in relation
to a powerful object such as one's parents, or one's Guru is very powerful.
This is as true of the smallest act of disrespect as to the tiniest service
or act of love. Karma is definite. It is expandable. Once it is created,
good or bad, positive or negative, its results are experienced in many
future lifetimes. Sufferings inevitably result from non-virtuous actions
for thousands of lifetimes. And negative karma created is irrevocable,
unless purified by reading profound sutras, reciting special mantras, or
following spiritual practices explained in the holy texts. Practising
genuine compassion toward others, what the Buddhists term the bodhicitta
mind, can also purify karma. The more compassion one is able to generate
toward others, the more one succeeds in achieving powerful purification.
Generating compassion has incredible power to purify many eons of negative
karma. And it is an especially quick way to collect extensive merit and
achieve the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. And if our daily life
actions begin with a good heart, then even negative actions can be
transformed into virtue.

Even if you are not Buddhist now, even if you do not recite Buddhist
prayers, if you generate compassion and spend your life serving others, it
is the best way of achieving merit. Practising the kind and good heart
itself becomes a powerful purification practice; it is also the best cause
for your own happiness and success in this life and future lives. Living
your daily life with strong compassion, serving others and sacrificing your
life for their welfare - this is the way to truly enjoy your life. This is
the advice given by the fully enlightened beings. I am offering this advice
of Buddha to you. Please take care of your life."

Lama Zopa Soquel, California August 1997

The four properties of karma:

1.Actions are definite. Virtuous actions definitely bring the result of
happiness and never bring the result of suffering. Likewise, non-virtuous
actions definitely bring the result of suffering and never bring the result
of happiness. Internal causes and results function along much the same
principles as external causes and results. An example of an external cause
is planting an apple seed in the ground; in accordance with the cause, the
apple seed, the result of an apple tree is produced. Instead, if we were to
plant a pepper seed the result of a pepper plant would arise. An apple seed
cannot give rise to a pepper plant nor can a pepper seed give rise to an
apple tree. Internal causes and results function in the same manner; in
accordance with the cause, virtuous actions, we definitely experience the
result of happiness. Likewise, in accordance with the cause, non-virtuous
actions, we definitely experience the result of suffering. Just as the
small pleasure if a cool breeze on a hot day is the result of a past
virtuous action, similarly, the small suffering of a thorn pricking the
sole of our foot is the result of a past non-virtuous action.

2.Actions increase. In the same way that a tiny seed can produce the result
of a huge tree, a very small virtuous or non-virtuous action can bring a
great result. This is due to the fact that an action continues to increase
as long as its antidote is not applied. If a non-virtuous action is
purified using an appropriate method, even if we cannot completely avoid
experiencing its result, at the very least we will be able to stop it from
increasing. Similarly, it is possible to destroy our virtuous actions
through becoming angry or developing wrong views.

3.Actions not done will not be experienced. Not having planted seeds in the
ground, we will not reap a crop in the autumn. Likewise, if we have not
done a particular virtuous or non-virtuous action, we will not experience
its respective result of happiness or unhappiness.

4.Actions done will not go to waste. Having done a virtuous or non-virtuous
action, if it is not destroyed by its antidote, it will bring its result
when the necessary conditions come together. An action will never go to
waste due to the passage of time. Just as when we put our money in a bank
it is not used up as long as we do not withdraw it, and in the meantime, it
continually produces interest; likewise, when we do an action, if it is not
destroyed by its antidote, it will not go to waste but will continually

In addition to explaining the detailed functioning of actions and results,
the Buddha also explained, by way of his clairvoyant powers, why a
particular person was experiencing certain problems. He often told how at
one time such-and-such a person had taken such-and-such a birth, did
such-and-such an action, and was thereby experiencing such-and-such a
result. Many examples of these stories can be found in The Sutra of One
Hundred Actions (Skrt: Karmashataka, Tib: mDo sde las brgya pa) and The
Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish (Damamuko nama Sutra, mDzangs blun zhe
bya ba'i mdo).

Through understanding that virtuous actions bring happiness and
non-virtuous actions bring suffering, we see how important it is to strive
continually to develop a good motivation and to engage in virtuous actions.
At the same time, we understand that we must completely abandon committing
even seemingly insignificant non-virtuous actions so as to avoid
experiencing further suffering and problems in the future. However, even
though we may intellectually understand this, because our mind is not
subdued and is therefore influenced by many types of negative emotions or
afflictions, we continue to commit non-virtuous actions. Our negative
emotions are very strong while our positive thoughts are generally quite
weak; consequently, these two are always in competition. Most of the time
the weaker positive side loses and the more powerful negative side wins.
Thereby, our mind remains dominated by afflictions that, in turn, cause us
to engage in non-virtuous physical and verbal actions. Therefore, just as
to clean our dirty clothes we wash them with soap and water, in a similar
way we need to wash, or purify, our mental continuum of non-virtuous
actions of body, speech, and mind. To avoid experiencing their unpleasant
results it is extremely important that we develop the habit of regularly
purifying our inner dirt, the impure mind. For this purpose we need to
engage in a practice of purification.

(Extracted from Everlasting Rain of Nectar Wisdom Publications, 1996, (c)
Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa and Geshe Jampa Gyatso. Reprinted by permission
of Wisdom Publications, Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

Ramana said, "Until realisation there will be Karma, i.e., action and
reaction; after realisation there will be no Karma, no world." (Talks...
p. 462)

This verse from Mandukya Upanishad appears to cut off Karma at the root:

"No individual being, whichsoever, takes birth. It has no source (of
birth). This (Brahman) is that highest Truth where nothing whatsoever
takes birth."

The Bhagavad Gita speaks of freeing oneself from the bondage of karma.
Speaking to Arjuna, Krishna says: "Give up all your dharma and adharma
and surrender yourself to Me unconditionally. I will save you from all
bondage. Do not grieve."

And this from the Avadhuta Gita reserves no quarters for Karma:

"There are no Vedas, no worlds, no gods, no sacrifices. There is
certainly no caste, no stage in life, no family, no birth. There is
neither the path of smoke nor the path of light. There is only the
highest Truth, the homogeneous Brahman."

All that is fine and dandy for those who are realized. It serves those
who intuit the nondual state, as well, and may nudge one further. What
of those of us who are not realised? Well, Karma can be transformed into
Yoga through Karma Yoga, Yoga of intense selfless service. And that
brings the discussion back to the existence of Karma!

---contributed by J. Katz

I'm one of the people who does believe in the term of karma as one
of the elements that works in our lives until we are 'realized'. I
also believe that we can move beyond karma through realization, purification and

When I hear the word Karma, it brings to mind Astrology. It is said too,
that we are under the effects of the planets until realized. With astrology,
we are working with energies... the ebbs and flows of the pull of the moon
(emotions/feelings), the power of the Sun (God/Higher Self), the ego drive of
Mars (energy), the benefice of Jupiter (good luck and benefits), the love of
Venus, etc.

If one were to ask me if I believed in Astrology, as well as Karma, I would
have to say yes and no. Depends on which perception and definition one is
talking about.

With astrology, you are given a natal chart at birth -- it's like someone
took a snapshot of where all the planets, including the Sun and the Moon,
were in the sky in that moment in time you were born. This is us -- we are
the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and
Pluto, and each planet represents different parts within us. We are also
the Earth, which lies in the center of the chart, with all of our attributes
(planets) surrounding us.

Your natal chart never changes. It's a snapshot, not a video.

As we go through life, the planets in the sky at any given moment in time
revolve around our natal chart. Each time a revolving planet touches upon
one of the degrees of any planet in the natal chart, there is energy and
movement -- action from the transiting planets and reaction from our natal
chart. The kind of energy that occurs depends on the planets involved. The
Sun and Moon are considered planets in the sense that they too, are circling
our chart.

With astrology, the Earth does not revolve around the chart along with the
other planets. In astro-reality, there is no Earth outside of you. You are
the Earth. The Earth is represented by the natal chart as a whole, with the
Earth's placement within the center of the chart itself. The natal chart is
all things that lies within the chart. The natal chart is all inclusive.

When we tend to focus on the energies outside of us, we call this time. We
think the planets are orbiting around and outside of us (our natal chart).
We think we are a video that moves with time, when in essence, we are
changeless. In reality, the planets are all within each one of us. Time
doesn't exist, and there is no world 'out there'.

When we put our focus on the energies of the planets in the sky that are
aspecting our natal planets, something occurs. Karma. Positive or negative.
The planets revolving outside of our natal chart represent our thoughts
about ourself, people, situations, ideas, beliefs... everything you *see*
outside of yourself, including yourself, your body, your personality, and
even your mind. You could say that the planets represent perception. As
we focus on the thoughts, ie. the planets outside of ourselves, we will see,
and experience, the energies of the aspecting planets/perception... creating
action and reaction.

Even the Sun, which represents God/HigherSelf/Power, is shown revolving
outside of ourSelves (our natal chart). We make god's and idols of the
things, people, ourselves, and situations of this world, and because we do,
they are destinied to fall off their pedestal, because they are not real.
They do not exist.

After so many of these gods and idols orbiting us, taking its' toll on us,
we begin searching for answers. We begin talking to our God (the Sun)
within, meditating to our God, contemplating God, and praying to our God. We
stop looking outside our natal chart towards the planets which causes the
karmic energies, and we turn inwards, looking towards the Sun.

As we focus on whatever representation we have of the Sun within (God,
Buddha, Jesus, Higher Self), and only the Sun, something happens. The
Kundalini, the Holy Spirit within -- our free will -- rises to where our
thoughts and focus lie. Because we are focusing only on that one aspect of
ourself, we receive a vision, a realization of God and the attributes of the
Sun. We are literally lifted for but a moment in time, into the Mind of
God, where nothing and everything exists, perceptions are seen in Truth, and
everything is the same and is but Light. If we continue to focus only on
that realization, an imbalance occurs. We may begin thinking we are the Sun,
that we are God, and stop right there. We haven't looked at the whole of
ourSelves. We haven't taken into consideration all the beautiful and
wondrous traits of all the planets in our natal chart which make up who we

But, if we continue to focus on the Sun/God with an open mind, we are
literally driven, by the power of the God, to see outside time and space,
outside the natal chart, the reality of it all. You remember who you are.
If we look but from a place of fear, we can only see the workings of the ego,
the time spent and to be spent in this illusion and the planets orbiting your
natal chart. We think that is truth, and it can send you spinning, once
again, outside of yourself into the world of maya.

If we but open our eyes and look fearlessly, we would but lift the veil of
illusion and orbiting planets and see the Truth. We would see our natal
chart, our wholeness, our Self. It takes great courage to look upon this
veil and deny the reality of it, if you do not realize your wholeness exists
and do believe in the illusion. If one cannot raise their eyes to see the
Truth, we are given amnesia of this experience, and are once again, thrown
back into the world of maya.

But with the experience of realization of the Sun/God within your natal
chart, your desire grows stronger to know this God. You are taken to the
center of your chart, the Earth, where you truly reside, to be given the
opportunity to look at Self. When we focus on only the center, the Earth, we
see the void, and are eliminating the essence of what makes you, you.
Personality (all the planets) is lost and can be quite frightening and empty.
We must open our mind to see the whole of us. If we keep our mind closed,
psychosis could result, and we are once again thrown into the world of
illusionary orbiting planets and karma.

As we begin to understand Astrology and the planets as a whole in the natal
chart, we begin to know ourselves. We begin to honour those parts of
ourselves -- both the positive and negative aspects, rather than focus on
them. We begin to honour the whole of everything and everyone we may
continue to perceive, rather than focusing on any one part. As we do this,
we become more and more centered, into the Earth of our Being. The IAM.

Karma falls away. The planets revolving around us no longer exist. We see we
are all things. We are not God, but God is within us and surrounds us. We
are in the mind of God. The only thing left is our changeless Self.




by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

For free distribution only. You may reprint this work for free
distribution. You may re-format and redistribute this work for use on
computers and computer networks provided that you charge no fees for its
distribution or use. Otherwise, all rights reserved.

Karma is one of those words we don't translate. Its basic meaning is simple
enough -- action -- but because of the weight the Buddha's teachings give
to the role of action, the Sanskrit word karma packs in so many
implications that the English word action can't carry all its luggage. This
is why we've simply airlifted the original word into our vocabulary.

But when we try unpacking the connotations the word carries now that it has
arrived in everyday usage, we find that most of its luggage has gotten
mixed up in transit. In the eyes of most Americans, karma functions like
fate -- bad fate, at that: an inexplicable, unchangeable force coming out
of our past, for which we are somehow vaguely responsible and powerless to
fight. "I guess it's just my karma," I've heard people sigh when bad
fortune strikes with such force that they see no alternative to resigned
acceptance. The fatalism implicit in this statement is one reason why so
many of us are repelled by the concept of karma, for it sounds like the
kind of callous myth-making that can justify almost any kind of suffering
or injustice in the status quo: "If he's poor, it's because of his karma."
"If she's been raped, it's because of her karma." From this it seems a
short step to saying that he or she deserves to suffer, and so doesn't
deserve our help. This misperception comes from the fact that the Buddhist
concept of karma came to the West at the same time as non-Buddhist
concepts, and so ended up with some of their luggage. Although many Asian
concepts of karma are fatalistic, the early Buddhist concept was not
fatalistic at all. In fact, if we look closely at early Buddhist ideas of
karma, we'll find that they give even less importance to myths about the
past than most modern Americans do.

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear. Other Indian schools
believed that karma operated in a straight line, with actions from the past
influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a
result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that
karma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by
past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but
also the present. This constant opening for present input into the causal
process makes free will possible. This freedom is symbolized in the imagery
the Buddhists used to explain the process: flowing water. Sometimes the
flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand
fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be
diverted in almost any direction. So, instead of promoting resigned
powerlessness, the early Buddhist notion of karma focused on the liberating
potential of what the mind is doing with every moment. Who you are -- what
you come from -- is not anywhere near as important as the mind's motives
for what it is doing right now. Even though the past may account for many
of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the
hand we've been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our
own measure by how well we play the hand we've got. If you're suffering,
you try not to continue the unskillful mental habits that would keep that
particular karmic feedback going. If you see that other people are
suffering, and you're in a position to help, you focus not on their karmic
past but your karmic opportunity in the present: Someday you may find
yourself in the same predicament that they're in now, so here's your
opportunity to act in the way you'd like them to act toward you when that
day comes.

This belief that one's dignity is measured, not by one's past, but by one's
present actions, flew right in the face of the Indian traditions of
caste-based hierarchies, and explains why early Buddhists had such a field
day poking fun at the pretensions and mythology of the brahmins. As the
Buddha pointed out, a brahmin could be a superior person not because he
came out of a brahmin womb, but only if he acted with truly skillful
intentions. We read the early Buddhist attacks on the caste system, and
aside from their anti-racist implications, they often strike us as quaint.
What we fail to realize is that they strike right at the heart of our myths
about our own past: our obsession with defining who we are in terms of
where we come from -- our race, ethnic heritage, gender, socio-economic
background, sexual preference -- our modern tribes. We put inordinate
amounts of energy into creating and maintaining the mythology of our tribe
so that we can take vicarious pride in our tribe's good name. Even when we
become Buddhists, the tribe comes first. We demand a Buddhism that honors
our myths.

>From the standpoint of karma, though, where we come from is old karma, over
which we have no control. What we "are" is a nebulous concept at best --
and pernicious at worst, when we use it to find excuses for acting on
unskillful motives. The worth of a tribe lies only in the skillful actions
of its individual members. Even when those good people belong to our tribe,
their good karma is theirs, not ours. And, of course, every tribe has its
bad members, which means that the mythology of the tribe is a fragile
thing. To hang onto anything fragile requires a large investment of
passion, aversion, and delusion, leading inevitably to more unskillful
actions on into the future. So the Buddhist teachings on karma, far from
being a quaint relic from the past, are a direct challenge to a basic
thrust -- and basic flaw -- in our culture. Only when we abandon our
obsession with finding vicarious pride in our tribal past, and can take
actual pride in the motives that underlie our present actions, can we say
that the word karma, in its Buddhist sense, has recovered its luggage. And
when we open the luggage, we'll find that it's brought us a gift: the gift
we give ourselves and one another when we drop our myths about who we are,
and can instead be honest about what we're doing with each moment -- at the
same time making the effort to do it right.

---contributed by Tim Gerchmez

The machinery of karma requires one to go back in the course of events and this is the reason why for
instance Rosicrucians have an elaborate cosmology - just to "explain" existence from the "first cause" to
one's present existence.

From a nondual perspective, karma is the initial condition of one's life and if sadhana complements it, it
will be overcome.

Ego is a biological necessity; without the identification "I am the body" one's body would be very short
lived and when this identification has disappeared but one's emotions (still) aren't adapted to this "new
reality", it is tempting to discard the body, for instance to feed a hungry predator.

The "culprit" isn't ego per se, but the identifications like "I am the doer, enjoyer, possessor, thinker,
sufferer" etc. Without identification, it would be impossible to enjoy a movie or a book. Ego starts "small",
by sense experience beginning in the womb. The process of identification (with an adult) starts early in
childhood but if one escapes from this, it is a definite advantage, as the list of "I am this / that" remains
small. Kundalini "burns away" all identifications as one's real nature can't identify with anything but itself.
The gradual dissolution of identifications is what is interpreted as a change in one's perspective.

---Jan Barendrecht

Trika Shaivism offers a slightly different explanation of karma which you
may find interesting.

According to Trika, there are 3 types of karma.

The first is what you bring into this life from lives before. These are
psychic impressions. These are called samskaras. Samskaras are stored in
the karmic storehouse called the San Chitta.

The San Chitta lines the mystic etheric sushumna canal. These samskaras are
burned away with the expansion of the prana shakti (kundalini) in an

The second type of karma is called kriyamon (sp?) karma. This is the karma
of action which accumulates from good and bad actions.

Accumulatation of either good or bad merit and one returns. Good merit
improves ones life situation with each lifetime, bad merit the reverse.

In the infinite game, both good and bad merit are undesirable because both
keep one bound into the finite game. The key is to accumulate no new merits
and while dissolving the old.

In order to not accumulate good and bad merit, actions must be either
performed without doership, or the action must be offered up to the
absolute prior to performing it.

The third type of karma is called parabdha karma. This is the karma of the
individual body. Each body has it's parabdha karma to fulfill.

This third type of karma also explains why no two saints or sages act or
teach alike, even though the same degree of consciousness lies within.

Each must fulfill their parabdha karma of their individual body.

The Bhagwan Nityananda had terrible arthritis when he was older. Couldn't
even bend his fingers.

It is said that just prior to leaving the body and taking mahasamadhi, his
entire body relaxed and all the joints were able to be moved. His parabdha
karma had been fulfilled.

So you see, karma is slightly more complex than just good and bad actions.

Samskaras are like seeds. Given the proper situation and context, they
sprout. It is endless until all the seeds are all burned by Svatantrya
shakti, or Grace and no new seeds are accumulated.

Hey.... No one ever said it would be easy. :)


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