Karma and our heart

As I sow, I reap. The karmic effect of things coming back to bite you is only too real. It can be as swift as the next moment. If we don’t wish to jeopardise our goal of self-realisation, then we’d better start living with more awareness and less foolishness. We learn to live from the heart.


The happiness we want in our daily lives is very much dependent on what we intend or set in motion by our action, thought and speech. This might sound very Buddhist but it is also very much a Vedanta philosophy. At every moment, if we would pause to reflect on how we might act more wisely, from the spiritual heart or ego, then that would be a great beginning to creating the paradise we want here on earth, right here, right now. It’s actually that simple so why don’t we do it more often? Because of our wilfulness. This is the bane of having been granted the power of free will. We often don’t choose what’s good for us spiritually but instead choose what the ego wants instead.

Ancient scriptures tell us that we create our own s*** thus we are solely responsible. No one to blame. For example, if someone is nasty towards us, we really cannot react in kind. The karmic law says we cannot because if we do then the effect is credited to us and not the other. Well, okay, the other person gets it too, because it takes two hands to clap. But the ball is now in your court, so you have the choice to either respond with wisdom or react with ignorant anger and retaliation.

What we will eventually discover through some very painful lessons is that if we can forgive and bless the other and also ask for forgiveness for our part in the whole rigmarole, then kerching! the karmic register rings in my favour. No kidding! Apparently, if we can also say, “It’s the right thing to do.”, then everything is now shifted in your favour. You have a credit and not a debit. Turning the other cheek is indeed the right thing to do, and if Jesus taught that, then you can’t go wrong with that, can you? That’s easier said than done. Which brings us to the whole point of incarnating as a human in this lifetime. Why? So that we work through our lessons through all these cheek-turning moments to grow a wise and compassionate heart that will take us closer to home.

Karma is energy and it’s sticky

Karma is the universal law of nature. Karma is created when every deed, intent or thought creates a groove in our mind and psyche that is called a samskara. It’s like our brain throwing out a synapse with each thought and it gets stronger as we reinforce that thought. Samskaras are the thought patterns that create parabdha karma – outstanding karmic debts that requires a virtuous action to resolve. If not this lifetime then some other in the future.

The good news is the fact that as you create so can you dissolve. Now that we know how samskaras are created, it means we can try living with more awareness of the moments when we are setting ourselves up. It requires humility as well as wisdom. It always takes two hands to clap so forgive and ask to be forgiven. Even if not said out loud to the other person, it still works. It’s the intent that counts.

There are many other tools we can use to reduce parabdha karma – a) consistent yogic practices like pranayama, b) cultivate good virtues with the yamas and niyamas as our yardsticks, c) give selflessly through karma yoga without expectations of reward or recognition, very important, d) cultivate mindfulness from henceforth, e) seriously refrain from negative or harmful thought forms from which all action and behaviour flows, and f) be kind and gracious always, in all our encounters.

The Buddha’s take on karma

I think the Buddha explained it best with his concept of The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. Karma IS the cause and effect that arise from our moment-to-moment experience of either pain or pleasure. Pain causes us to be averse and a desire for less while pleasure creates enticement and a desire for more. The Buddha is spot-on when he said aversions and desires are really the main sources of suffering. Every aversion or desire that is reinforced creates deeper grooves of samskaras. This becomes the pattern for our behaviour, the volitions behind how we act and isn’t it true? It’s behaviour that creates subsequent suffering.

Our thought patterns are almost always based on likes and dislikes and the effect they create such as fear, anxiety, worry, anger, hatred, murderous thoughts, revengefulness, cravings, gluttony, lust, cunning, and more. They deepen and grow in strength until they become the habitual way for us to think and act and create negative karma. In Sanskrit, the word karma simply means ‘action’ and so karma is essentially an action that started or ‘originated’ from our intent – ill or good. By itself, it’s neither good nor bad. It is just the effect that came from an originating cause.

The Buddha said, “You are your own master.” Hence we are back to individual free will – how do we want to choose? We decide how we want to fare on this endless wheel of samsara by virtue of how we control the cause and effect of each and every one of our actions, and prior to that, our emotions, and yet further back, our perceptions, and our thoughts, etc, etc. And if you go even further back, this will also include our beliefs, and values system that consciously and unconsciously shape how we live and who we are and therefore how we react or respond to each situation. And if you were to go even further, the Buddha would urge you to please guard your sense doors. They are the ones who first let the desire or aversion in.

Let’s get off the Wheel of Samsara, now.

The most important thing to understand is that we inevitably chain ourselves to the ever-spinning samsaric wheel simply through our ignorance of the universal law of nature and how it works. Both Advaita Vedanta and the Buddha teach us that we can get off this wheel forever. Like really forever where we don’t ever need to come back again because guess what? Some karma requires a non-human body to resolve and worse yet, there is absolutely no guarantee you will come back as a human in your next incarnation. So don’t you think it’s imperative to begin the work now?

We start with this very important premise: we are not our bodies, not our minds and not our feelings. Yet we often over-identify with these three through our faulty thinking and perception. We allow our less than glowing mind scripts to run our lives. Also, we live in a world that entices us to live by our senses. Think of all the shopping malls and yet more shopping malls that spring up like mushrooms everywhere. The eating, shopping and looking good. It boils down to a life lived very much by the externals. A life that can become very superficial indeed if you don’t wake up and take a good look at what’s really happening inside.

Start with awareness

The moment we change the inside is when we start the ball rolling. Let us start with cultivating awareness and paying attention to what we create and set in motion by our thoughts, actions and speech. Use a journal to help you keep track. Over time you will see a pattern emerge. Look hard at it. Be honest. Is it something you want to do more or less of? Meditation is another super important thing to add to your routine. You can’t know who you are and how you function if you don’t shut off the noisy world, quieten down, and get to know yourself.

Hence the importance of cultivation and sadhana, your spiritual practice of choice. These will support you in your endeavour to do better. The Law Of Karma is one of the most important universal spiritual laws that one must understand. What keeps us coming back. What keeps us all on the hamster wheel when we don’t choose wisely. What we want instead is to create a loving and kind inner and outer world. We owe that much to ourselves and our fellow human beings. So let’s all work hard at cultivating ourselves. To create a wise and compassionate heart from which all begin and end. Sri Ramana Maharshi said it best, self-realisation is all about the heart.

We are not our bodies, we are not our minds, we are not our feelings. We are our Heart where it matters most.