Karma. Most people have at least heard the term, whether or not they actually understand it. What is Karma? Simply put, karma is the law of cause and effect; the rule of consequence. It is the Universe’s way of keeping track of what you still need to learn.
Karma arises not so much as a result of an action. Rather, it is the result of the INTENTION behind an action. And karma actually comes in two forms: ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Here’s an example: My child comes to me and asks for $10,000 to go to university. My action is to give him/her the $10,000. My intention behind giving the $10,000 is what really matters. If I gave my child the money in order to be good to them, I would gain ‘Good’ karma. If I gave the money in order to have my child feel indebted to me however, I would gain ‘Bad’ karma. Same action, different Universal consequence. But here’s the real kicker… at the end of the day, you don’t actually want to gain any karma. Confused? I’ll explain.
Yoga explains the universe and the way it works this way: If the universe is shaped like a human being, our ‘soul’ would be like a hot-air balloon that hovers somewhere in the middle (around the belly). The lower portion of the universe (below the belly) represents more and more difficult circumstances or existences. The upper portion (above the belly) represents more pleasant circumstances or existences. The crown of the head represents Nirvana or liberation/enlightenment. That’s where the soul wants to get to. But here’s the thing, the soul (the hot-air balloon) is kept down by sandbags. These sandbags are made of karma.
At the end of a life, if one has gained mostly ‘good’ karma, one reincarnates back into possibly more pleasant circumstances (above the belly). If one has gain mostly ‘bad’ karma however, one still reincarnates, but into possibly less pleasant circumstances (below the belly). (A quick note to be made here is that reincarnation, whether into more or less pleasant circumstances is NOT a punishment. It is simply the Universe’s way of placing you into circumstances best suited to your chances of learning and progressing spiritually). So, it may sound great to gain lots of good karma and thus keep coming back into perhaps more pleasant circumstances. But here’s the catch… You keep coming back. So long as these karmic sandbags are attached to the soul, it is impossible to break the worldly cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation. It is impossible to get to Nirvana… to freedom and enlightenment.
So herein lies the real question… How does one get to Nirvana? Well, it’s all about the karma. First, one must stop gaining karma. Second, one must get rid of the karmic sandbags that one has already gained throughout one’s lifetimes. How do we do both? Find out in part Understanding Karma Part 2.