Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Karma and Spirituality

We often use the word Karma in our every day language. It means various things to different people. For some people, Karma is something that one has no control over. For others, it is simply bad fortune or fate. And then there are others who consider Karma as the law of cause and effect. I guess everyone has their own theory about Karma. Different people have a different interpretation. Different religions have different views. People from different countries have different opinions. But what exactly is Karma?

I will not claim that I know a lot about the concept of Karma as has been accepted by different religions. But I do know one thing. All religions speak about Karma in some form or the other. In my opinion, Karma is an important aspect of leading a spiritual life. This is my interpretation of Karma. Most of it has been influenced by what I have read over the years. And what I have derived is what I felt will help me be more spiritual and more at peace.

* Karma is intention

Karma comes from the intention that we have. Each thought that we have, each word that we speak, and each action that we take stems from an intention. If our intentions are bad, the chances are that the effects will be bad.

So, if we are distributing food to the poor, but our intention is to become popular by doing this act, the intention is bad and the Karma we generate is bad. Such actions will only generate unhappiness, distress, and bad health for us. But if our intention is actually to help out the poor by providing food for them, then our intention is good and our Karma is good. A good intention will lead to happiness, peace, and good health.

One of the most important aspects of spirituality is intentions. When we lead a spiritual life, we learn to identify our intentions, understand them, modify them, and use it for the goodness of the whole world. This is what Karma is. Good intentions.

* Karma is awareness

But what if we are unaware of our real intentions? Is our Karma affected in such a situation? If we make a mistake once and learn from it, we still have to face the consequences. But since we have learnt from our mistake, we can prevent the bad consequences in future. But if we keep making the same mistake again and again, the consequences will go from bad to worse.

Similarly, if our intentions behind a particular action are not good, but we are not aware of it, the Karma generated will be bad. But we can reduce the effects or nullify its effects by becoming aware of our intention. But if we keep acting the same way with the same intentions, we increase the bad Karma that we generate. So, just because we are ignorant doesn’t mean that we are above Karma.

Spirituality helps us become aware of our intentions. When we understand our intentions, we are no more the ignorant fools that we have always been.

* Karma is taking responsibility for your actions

The cause and effect philosophy of Karma helps us take responsibility for our thoughts, words, and actions. If we have bad thoughts, we have bad Karma. We should take responsibility for thinking inappropriately. If we say words that hurt others, we have bad Karma. We should take responsibility for speaking inappropriately. If we act wrongly, we have bad Karma. We should take responsibility for our actions.

So, Karma basically helps us take more responsibility. Instead of pointing the finger towards the outside, Karma tells us that we should actually look inside. Just because someone else has hurt us, an act of revenge is not justified. Just like the other person is responsible for his/her actions, we are responsible for ours.

This is where leading a spiritual life really helps us. Spirituality helps us take more responsibility for our emotions, our spoken words, and our actions. When we take responsibility for our feelings, words, and acts, it becomes much easier for us to manage them, manage our life, and be at peace.

* Karma is free will

Often, people have equated Karma with “no free will”. Again, I don’t know how much of it is true. But for me Karma is free will. Karma is not just a result of our past actions. It is also the result of our present actions. And all our accumulated bad Karma from the past can actually be gone with one powerful act done with the best of intentions.

So, when you act with good intentions in the present, your Karma accumulated from the past may not really stop you from getting good results in the present. Your present intention and action are very powerful tools in your hands. One blessing from a person-in-need can actually wash a lot of it away.

Spirituality teaches us how to handle the present situation in the best possible way. It helps us stay focused on the task at hand. It keeps us be aware of our motives. It helps us avoid any distractions. And this is how leading a spiritual life takes us towards a better and a more wholesome life.

* Karma is action without expectation
The core of Karma is intention. The core of Karma is acting without expecting anything. So, when we go out to help someone, we should do it without expecting anything in return. We should not expect that someday we will need a favor and this individual will return it. Again our intention here is getting something and not helping someone.

So, don’t choose to help only those people who you think can help you in the future. Help everyone, whether friend or foe with the intention of helping and without expecting anything.

Spirituality helps us be unselfish. Karma is unselfishness and leading a spiritual life will make us think and act in this way. If we have a talent, we should choose to help everyone with it and not choose those we want to help. This is what spirituality does for us.

As I mentioned, this is my understanding of Karma. In no way do I intend to go against the tenets of Karma as propounded by different religions. I have just taken this word and this concept to have a more spiritual way of thinking and living. And with the best of intentions, I hope that they can also help someone else.

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