Karmic webs

“There is no beauty without fragility.” – Susan David

I recently heard a talk by Francis Lucille in which someone asked the spiritual teacher, “Why do some people have better lives than others? Why are some people rich, others poor, some healthy, others unwell. Why also can some people deal with setbacks with grace and others not?”

Francis Lucille was to-the-point as usual. He said, “You are mixing up happiness with lots of sociological conditions. True happiness has nothing to do with sociological conditions.”

The questioner can be forgiven: we all tend to measure our happiness through conditions, because our minds are directed outward and we seek happiness through desiring conditions. Even surveys of happiness measure these according to economic and sociological factors. Indeed, when sociological factors are unfavourable, we notice more problems and more suffering.

More suffering. Is that true? Can we really say that to have wealth, health and favourable conditions in life gives you more happiness? And to lack these conditions allows less happiness? Can favourable conditions be a constant for anyone? A deep happiness may have nothing to do with good conditions, but outward conditions being unfavourable can afflict the mind in different ways: some suffer more than others. We may not know why we face the things we face, but we do know that some people handle their pain better than others. And that no one escapes some kind of pain, for pain propels the journey of human consciousness towards truth and the seeking of real happiness.

The mind has its patterns. The mind and body, with their patterns, may affect what happens in our experience, but this karmic web that influences how we think, feel, react and act has nothing to do with who we essentially are, the inner core which is the access point to truth. But the mind, so dominated by its patterns, needs to transcend its tendencies to reference the self in forms before it can transcend the forces of ‘karma’.

The apologies you never got…

Human relationships are strange in that we don’t know how something we said or did stacks up in the universe. We don’t know the history-future-karmic stuff that relates to each thing. We don’t know what a comment we made meant to someone, nor a gesture.

But there are times with hindsight, when we can see that something felt unfair to us. Or in other situations, we reacted unfairly to someone. Unknown knowledge becomes a little more known, better understood. For instance, our boasting about our kids or our lifestyle could make someone feel uncomfortable or competitive, or we could feel judged as inferior by another person bragging to us. ┬áIn situations where such emotions get aroused, or reactions are created, there is usually a karmic string attached…necessary for our own growth of consciousness. We can go about trying to ‘put things right’, by manipulating what appears as our external, objective world, not realising that the objects are a secondary appearance.

If there is immediate need, most would respond to a situation without calculation or mental commentary. But if we are pondering the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’, then the judgemental mind is further trapped into the karmic thread which created the situations in the first place. Often the thinking mind takes hold with strong force or habit, and there’s not much we can do. But the moment we realise this, is the moment of true ‘choice’, where we can become the observer of this play rather than the actor trapped in its template.

The work we do within is always forgiveness. Not as an excuse for harmful behaviour, but as a surrender and letting go, with the knowledge that we do not know the reasons. This is forgiveness towards the apologies we never got, and also the ones we did not utter.

Understanding karma

The concept of karma is a science, just like Newton’s law that ‘each action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Every spiritual system has some reference to karma – even the Bible says, ‘whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap’. Karma is often linked to reincarnation, but karma can exist with or without physical rebirth.

Karma cannot be wiped out by a statement or a ritual – it is the science of accountability. We are accountable for everything we have done, and there is no saviour for us except knowledge. Knowledge gives us the ability to deal with the effects of our karma. Quite simply, karma means that whatever I have done, whether I consider it good or bad is irrelevant, because whatever form of thought, words or actions I have given out into the world, that is the energy that will come back to me. It’s like an echo: whatever is given out will be received back from the world.

A lot of people are afraid of ‘bad’ karma. In some cases, the consequences of our actions can be changed, reduced or even wiped away if we make enough effort to instil the opposite action. The exact science of this is very diffcult to work out. Prayers and rituals cannot wipe away karma, but they can help create the consciousness to carry out actions that may help one resolve their past karmas. We can take the support of a Higher Source, but they are there to guide us, not to wipe the slate clean for us. God gave us free will so that we could create and understand ourselves, so we have to be accountable.

We come in innocent ignorance into the world, and through exposure to senses and desires, we create karmic relationships. This keeps the world play alive and is no bad thing until we let it overtake us. Then we realise that pain and pleasure are an inevitable consequence of having desires and attachments. We begin to feel that pain and pleasure are impermanent and don’t really satisfy us deep down. There comes a point where we want peace. That is when we start to make efforts to reduce our karma, turn into ourselves and towards God so that we can escape the world of action, pain, pleasure, attachment and restlessness. But avoiding the world totally disconnects us from the reality we have to live in, and it ironically makes us incapable of handling our karma.

We have to participate in the world, but with the right kind of consciousness. Through prayer, meditation and compassion we can create the consciousness for reducing our ‘negative’ karma yet still living peacefully in the world. If everyone does this, the consciousness of the world will change and the karma of the world will be uplifted. According to ancient religions, this turn from knowledge to ignorance and back again happens in a cycle continuously. Some say the whole point is to realise ourselves as souls, which we all do once physical things no longer make us happy. Others say it is just a creative exercise that God wants us to participate in in order to realise what exists beyond. Through this entire exercise, seemingly separate identities are acting together in what Confucious called ‘reciprocity’. That is the law of karma.