WHAT'S KARMA GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Today, we bring our "Circle of Life" theme to a close. It has been a very powerful month as we have looked at the idea of the circle, the cycle, of Life as an ongoing series of beginnings and endings, of openings and closings, of hellos and good-byes, yes, and even of births and of deaths and realizing that this circle is ever expanding, ever transcending and ever growing upward and outward.
Our theme was inspired by the lessons from The Lion King and each week we have explored this upward spiral of life. Today we conclude with the question, "What's Karma got to do with it?" [I think perhaps Tina Turner inspired today's talk title rather than The Lion King! Nevertheless!!] What I mean by that question is:
What does Karma have to doa with our place in the Circle of Life?
Before we explore that question, we better define Karma so that we are all on the same page. Karma is defined as: The force generated by a person's actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine his destiny in his next existence. Now, I didn't make that up -- it's straight out of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary!
In understandable English then - in the strictest Eastern sense, Karma is the result of actions taken in this life on our experiences in the next. Right?!
Words we would use to define Karma might be: Fate - destiny - providence - kismet
In New Thought, we have a bit of a different take on Karma. In fact, a lesson from the Unity Correspondence School says: "Romans 6:14 says "Ye are not under law, but under grace" which means that when man responds to the "grace of God," or the forgiving love of Jesus Christ, the effects of the wrong use of the mental law of cause and effect are nullified and man has no age-old Karma with which to burden himself."b
Or in the book The Game of Life and How To Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn: "Man receives only that which he gives. The Game of Life is a game of boomerangs. Man's thoughts, deeds and words, return to him sooner or later, with astounding accuracy. This is the law of Karma, which is Sanskrit for "Comeback." "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.""c
Bottom line is this: Karma is the experience we have in this moment as a result of the choices (conscious or unconscious) we made in the previous one!
Now, it may not be the immediately preceding moment and there may not be a direct line that we can trace, but rest assured that is what Karma is.
In his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra wrote: "Whether you like it or not, everything that is happening at this moment is a result of the choices you've made in the past."d
The Persian poet Kahlil Gibran said it this way: "We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them."e
The Law of Cause and Effect sometimes works slow, but it always works
So when we explore the concept of Karma, the thing to talk about really is what choices are we making? Are they moving us forward, expanding, growing on our path of our ever unfolding Divinity and in consciousness connection with God and the Allness and Fullness of Life or are they keeping us limited and small, perhaps even circling back on ourselves?
And, in fact, our choices don't just affect our experiences - they affect the experiences of the whole, because, of course, we are all interconnected in, and in fact one with, the Circle of Life.
We see this very clearly in the story of The Lion King -- the lion cub Simba made the choice to leave his home and his family and to abdicate his rightful place as king of Pride Rock.
Because he did not take his rightful place, his uncle Scar did. Under Scar's rule, the community experienced mass chaos and life on Pride Rock was dying away.
What a powerful illustration of the karmic, ripple effect that occurs when one person does not take his/her rightful place in the circle of life.
Let's spend the next few moments, then looking at the idea of the choices we make. We'll talk first about the unconscious and conscious choices we make today that impact tomorrow and
Then we'll look two ways to make choices today that can shift the direction of the effects we are experiencing from past choices.
1. CHOICES MADE TODAY - CONSCIOUS OR UNCONSCIOUS CHOICES
1. Choices Made Today - Conscious or Unconscious Choices
We are constantly making choices. Mark Hicks said: "Several times today, and everyday, we are presented with a choice-a choice that changes our life."f
Eric Butterworth wrote on thinking: "Taking responsibility for thought changes our life. But we must know that our thoughts are the cause of the problems in our life. Discipline is the capacity to make yourself mind you. We are all disciplined creatures. We groom ourselves in a mirror before going out into the world, and we must also groom our state of mind as well."g
A lot of the time, a lot of us make choices unconsciously, and therefore we don't think they are choices - and yet they are.
Like the construction worker who sat down next to a coworker to have lunch one day and began to complain about getting another peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Every day the same thing - peanut butter sandwiches. Yuk! "Why don't you ask your wife to make you something else?" said the coworker. "That won't work," the complainer replied, "I'm not married, I make my own lunch."
Here's an example. If I were to insult you, be insensitive, stand you up or do something else that you didn't like, you would most likely be upset or offended. If I were to pay you a compliment, offer you a courtesy or a thank you, you would most likely be pleased or flattered.
However, I could insult you, be insensitive, stand you up or do something else such as that, and you could not be offended. I could give you a compliment, offer you a courtesy or a thank you, and you could not let that flatter you either.
In each instance, you made a choice. Unconscious though it surely was - nonetheless it was a choice. Even though we are infinite choice-makers - we have become bundles of conditioned reflexes that are constantly being triggered by people and circumstances into predictable outcomes of behavior.
These conditioned reflexes are like Pavlovian conditioning. Pavlov is, of course, famous for demonstrating that if you give a dog something to eat every time you ring a bell, soon the dog starts to salivate when you just ring the bell, because he has associated one stimulus with the other.
Most of us, as a result of conditioning, have repetitious and predictable responses. Our reactions seem to be automatically triggered by people and circumstances, and we forget that these are still choices that we are making in every moment of our existence. We are simply making these choices unconsciously.
If you step back for a moment and witness the choices you are making as you make those choices, then in just this act of witnessing, you take the whole process from the unconscious realm into the conscious realm. This procedure of conscious choice making and witnessing is very empowering.
When you make any choice - any choice at all - you can ask yourself: "What are the consequences of this choice I am about to make? Will it bring happiness to me and to those around me?" If the answer is yes, then go ahead with that choice. If the answer is no, if that choice brings distress either to you or to those around you, then don't make that choice. It really is that simple.
Realize that your future place in the circle of life is generated by the choices you are making in every moment of your life. Here's a modern parable that serves as a great example:
There was once a farmer who, each year, entered his corn in the state fair and, each year, his corn won a blue ribbon. One year, a newspaper reporter interviewed him and asked him about his secret to success. The reporter was quite surprised at what the farmer said. He said that for years he had been sharing his prize-winning seed corn with his neighbors.
"Why in the world would you share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering the same corn competition as you are each year? Don't you want to win?!" the reporter asked.
"Of course I want to win, but what I really want to do is grow the best possible corn," said the farmer. "And to grow the best possible corn, I can't afford not to share. You see the wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. So, if my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow the best corn possible, then I must help my neighbors grow the best corn also."
The more you bring your choices into the level of your conscious awareness, the more you will make those choices which will create a positive, empowered future - both for you and those around you.
2. HOW TO ADDRESS EFFECTS OF PAST CHOICES
2. How to Address Effects of Past Choices
What about past karma and how it is influencing you now? If you don't like it, you can change it! You can change the cause which you set into motion any time you decide to.: Whatever you have done with your thinking, you can undo with your thinking.
If it is your desire to grow, to expand, to be more aligned with and engaged in the Circle of Life, then there are two things you can do about past karma - you can either transform it or transcend it.
a. Transform Your Karma
This is a very interesting process in which you ask yourself, "What can I learn from this experience? What is the message that the universe is giving to me? How can I make this experience useful to myself and my fellow human beings?"
Deepak Chopra in Seven Spiritual Law of Success writes: "By doing this, you look for the seed of opportunity and then tie that seed of opportunity with your life purpose. This allows you to transmute the karma to a new expression. You haven't really gotten rid of your karma, but you are able to take a karmic episode and create a new positive karma out of it."h
As Simba struggled with whether he should go back to Pride Rock, he spoke earnestly to the wise baboon Rafiki, he said, "I'll have to go back and face my past. I've been running from it for so long."
Then Rafiki smacks him on the head with his stick. "Ouch!" Simba cries. "What was that?" Rafiki laughs and says, "It doesn't matter. It's in the past." "But it still hurts," Simba says.
"I know, the past can hurt" replies Rafiki, "But the way I see it, you have two ways to look at the past: either you can RUN from it or you can LEARN from it."
With that, Rafiki swats his stick at Simba's head again, but this time Simba ducks, and it is in that moment that he decides to return home and take his rightful place.
b. Transcend Your Karma
To transcend karma is to become independent of it. The way to transcend karma is to turn to God, to remember who you are (Simba's father said in a vision - "Simba, you have forgotten who you are. You are more than what you have become."). Do that continually and regularly.
It becomes like washing a dirty piece of cloth in a fresh, clear stream of water. Every time you wash it, you take away a few stains. You keep washing it again and again, and each time it gets a little cleaner. You wash or transcend the seeds of your karma every time you open to God, every time you remember who you are. This, of course, is done through the practice of prayer, meditation, turning to God, seeing God in all, etc, etc.
Emilie Cady wrote: "Unity teaches that we remain under the law of cause and effect, but as we evolve we live under a higher level of cause and effect: grace. The laws of grace operate on a higher level than the laws under which man lives ordinarily (mechanical cause and effect, karma)."i
"The Jesus Christ principle in each human being makes him the beloved of the Lord. If man has faith in God's love and mercy and is willing to crucify the "old man" (Eph. 4:22), or to cross out his erroneous beliefs in regard to God and himself, he repudiates the bad effects of the wrong use of the mental law of cause and effect."j
And I will add, and then you will have found your perfect place in the Circle of Life. And so it is!
aResource book: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success Deepak Chopra
bUnity Correspondence School
cThe Game of Life and How To Play It Florence Scovel Shinn
dThe Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra p. 40
ePersian poet Kahlil Gibran
gEric Butterworth on thinking
hDeepak Chopra Seven Spiritual Law of Success p. 45
jUnity Correspondence School