What is ‘Karma’? It is a Sanskrit word meaning, ‘action’. Ancient Hindu wisdom teachers studied human actions and how each action has consequences and how it leads to further actions or reactions. They came up with the ‘law of Karma’, which states that actions have consequences and that good actions will have good consequences and bad actions will have bad consequences.
I agree to the extent that whatever you do has effects for you and for others and, in fact, for the whole universe, which implies that we may want to be more cautious in our thinking and the actions which that thinking gives rise to. I do not, however, agree with the rest of the so-called law of karma. I am not sure about ‘good’ actions having ‘good’ consequences and vice versa for ‘bad’ actions. That involves many different philosophical questions and I don’t waste too much time on those. Philosophical questions are for philosophers and for those who have the time and the interest to take those questions up. I am here to propose constant observation of our own selves as a way of discovering who we are.
For me, Karma is this: if I have a cup of coffee at home, then, to have another cup of coffee, I will have to wash the same cup or buy a new one or drink in the unwashed one. These are the possible consequences.
Or, if I have been rude to someone, I will have to apologise or live with the guilt of it or I will become or remain a generally rude person.
So, I do agree that every thing we do brings consequences.
Physicists say, ‘to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’, also known as Newton’s Third Law of Motion.
The Chinese have their own philosophy of yin and yang, which states that seemingly opposite forces are complementary, interconnected and interrelated. The opposites / polarities create one another. Night means that soon it will be day. When a baby is born, it means that at some point in time in the future, there will be a death (no one lives indefinitely). If grass is growing and flowers are blooming, then in a few months, autumn will be there. These are examples of yin and yang, opposites creating each other.
Now, lets look at what is happening in our daily life:
If I have eaten too much, I will have to stop eating for a while.
If I have remained awake for a while, I will have to get some sleep.
If I have talked for a while, I will have to remain quiet for some time.
If I have been with other people for a few hours, then I need some alone time.
If I have been angry or agitated or happy and excited, then I will need to silence the mind for a while.
If I have been earning money today, then, today, I will naturally feel good if I can share my money or other possessions with others.
Similarly also in other things that make up our day. All these are examples of Karma too. And they also suggest that our everyday life demands a balance. A very fine balance. Not just balance for the sake of balance, but a balance that will actually bring sanity and a freshness to life. It is the balance which brings us back home. During the whole day, we take hundreds of actions, see thousands of images, speak many words, listen to many words, use our imagination about things, interact with people, eat, drink, converse with people, watch TV, listen to the radio or music or podcasts, read newspapers, journals, blogs, and take so many other actions. All that is information being downloaded into the brain, into the mind. All this information changes us. It becomes a part of us and, to whatever extent, we become this information. Every day, every minute, every second of our lives, we change the world and the world changes us.
The more information we absorb, the more we change. The more we change, the more we go away from our original self. It is as if our original self keeps getting covered over by layers and layers of information. And these layers hide our true nature. They come from the outside, from the world of images, from the world of perceptions. These perceptions are not the reality, they are a version of the reality which the limited human mind comes up with. This perception depends upon our biology, our heredity, our training and development from childhood, the so-called social programming that we undergo.
The problem is (and this is the whole crux of man’s spiritual problem and his spiritual struggle) that the more we change, the more we seek our original self. The more we go out into the world, the more we want to come back home. The more we forget ourself, the more we try to remember ourself. The search for God, the search for the right religion, all philosophical thought, all cosmological studies, all studies of man and all studies of the universe, all these are geared towards that one search, the search for our origins.
We come from a great silent, as yet unknowable, blissful nothingness and we become these small noisy, all too predictable, sad, confused individuals. And then we search for that nothingness.
What I am proposing here is that while we continue with our normal lives of going into the world and getting more and more information and becoming more and more different every day, we can also start a parallel process of taking a few steps back home each day. And that journey is not necessarily a long one. It can happen in an instant. If you can learn to use the right vehicle, it will take you less than a second to go back home. That vehicle is utter silence. If you can learn to harness that vehicle, it will transport you in a micro-instant to that land of blissful nothingness from where we all originated.
Going back home each day creates that balance in our life without which we become a bunch of confused, agitated, egoistic, insane individuals. Without it, we live in the world of the ego, images and attachment. Going back home each day will reduce and keep in check our insanity.
If we just keep an eye on ourselves every day, we will come to understand where exactly this balance is needed and what happens when we do not keep this balance.
If we work too much without getting adequate rest, the body and the mind suffer. Our future performance and also our health will inevitably suffer.
If I stay awake all day and do not get adequate sleep, it will be disastrous for the mind and the body.
If we eat too much and keep eating, we will suffer all kinds of diseases and sickness.
If I focus on money alone and do not address other key factors in life, such as family, spirituality, inner peace, then all the money in the world will not be enough to bring peace and contentment to life.
If I keep talking and do not listen to others, all of my relationships, whether personal or professional or social, will start suffering.
That is the daily balance I am talking about.
Neitzsche, the mad philologist, philosopher and genius, hints at the need for this balance when talking about the virtues of good sleep in his book, ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. He said we need to deal with sleep with respect and modesty and that we should stay away from those who do not sleep well and who stay awake at night. According to him, when we do not create this balance, the mind tries to do so in dreams. It plays out scenes, as in a movie, which bring back this balance. But, of course, that balance is only imaginary, fake, unreal, only meant to show us what is missing in life. Most of us do not understand what the mind is doing, the hints it is giving us about what we are not doing. But we are too dumb to take those hints.
Ten times must thou reconcile with yourself again; for overcoming is bitterness and badly sleep the unreconciled.
Ten truths must thou find during the day; otherwise wilt thou seek truth during the night, and thy soul will have been hungry.
Ten times must thou laugh during the day and be cheerful; otherwise, thou stomach, the father of affliction, will disturb thee during the night.
(Neitzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra)
Neitzsche also famously declared in one of his books that ‘God is dead’. With utmost love and respect, I beg to differ from Neitzsche on this. But that is a topic for a separate post, which I am dying to do very soon.
So, for now, lets take a few moments every day (throughout the day and especially before going to bed) and see what we are doing, what the so-called Karmic-consequences will be and what we will need to bring back that balance in life.
Lets learn to master the use of that vehicle of utter silence to go back home every day. It is the same vehicle that was used by Jesus, by Mohammad, by Gautum Buddh, by Mahavira, by Lord Krishna, by Rumi, by Kabir, by Nanak and by many other luminaries of the spiritual world. We can learn to use it too. These great ones were like Prometheus (in Greek mythology) who stole fire from gods and brought it to humanity. Similarly, the great wisdom teachers, the prophets, the shamans found this art of attaining great silence and doing deep meditation to come to our original self, to see our original face, to go back home. Jesus called that home the Kingdom of Heaven. Buddha called it nirvana. Mahavira called it moksha. Mohammad called it tawhid. Lao Tzu called it the great tao. They have taught us over the centuries and most of us have not paid too much attention. And that is OK. As a specie, we have not yet reached that place where we collectively, in large numbers, start seeking sanity. We are still in the phase of going through, and coming to terms with, our insanity. Our greed, our attachments, our sounds, our images are too over-powering for us to really pay any attention to the other world, the world of silence. I think one day we will wake up in large numbers and that day will mark the real turning point for the human world. That waking up will be Karmic too.
Karl Marx thought that socialism will come on its own (and not by a CIA-sponsored rebellion) as an evolution of, and withering away of, capitalism. I feel that the great spiritual awakening of man will also come on its own. People like Jesus and Buddha and Lao Tzu and Krishna and others saw it and tried to tell people and we didn’t listen. But their words changed us and contributed to the great spiritual evolution of man. I feel that going back home (in the spiritual sense of the word) is our destiny. It is the great Karma that so many spiritual traditions have talked about. Some call it the ‘second coming of Christ’, some call it, the ‘final judgement’. There are different names for it. But if you look closely, the concept is similar. We can choose to ignore it for now, but not for too long. And, to be clear, I am not advocating any specific religious belief here. On the contrary, I am trying to go beyond all religions, to the place where there are no religions, there are no images, no words, no beliefs, no attachments, no sounds, just a great big nothingness and silence. And maybe not even that.
Lets just remember that whenever we want we can start paying a little more attention to our daily life and choose to take our lives into a wholly different dimension, a wholly different direction. If we want to!
If you eat every day, then fast a little every day. If you talk every day, then stay silent for a little while every day. If you work every day, then stay still a little while every day. If you earn money every day, then make it a practice to give some money away every day. Do these and other small balancing acts every day and you might discover a great confidence, a sense of control and an inner peace and bliss emerging somewhere inside.
And I can promise you one thing: you are not going to find a greater treasure anywhere in this world than that peace and bliss that you find inside!