culture of bali

14 Mar Karma

As is true with all Sanskrit words, “KARMA” is a sound whose vibration radiates from and connotes a vibrant condition of being, that is, karma is a state of consciousness. The connotation of the sound, “KARMA”, is that of “action that binds”, irrespective of whether karma binds us to an experience we prefer to remember or whether karma binds us to an experience that continues for us to be “unfinished business”.

The literal, denotative, translation of “karma” simply is “action”. But let’s not become fundamental literalists. “Activity” that has no karmic, or binding effect on us, properly is voiced as “KRIYA”. Kriya is associated with activity that is life supporting, or evolutionary. Kriya does not bind; it flows without friction as an evolutionary force. We turn kriya into karma when we resist kriya or attempt to control it.

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These two words, karma and kriya, share a root sound, “kr”. Karma, caused by the binding effect of a deep impression made, attaches us to past experiences in a way that is distracting to present moment awareness. The present moment (the “Now”, as the brilliant Eckart Tolle refers to it), contains within it perceptible information and cues as to whether engaging in specific activity or disengaging in specific activity is called for by the inexorable evolutionary force.

When distracted by karma, Nature’s cues as to what is evolutionary behaviour, that is, our cue to engage in kriya, is missed. For example, it may have been evolutionary to act in a given moment, or it may have been evolutionary to omit action in a given moment, but our karma distracts us from these evolutionary cues by binding us, by stationing our awareness in the past. Then, drunk on the binding effect of past impressions, we miss our cues in the present. We act when action is not called for, and we omit to act when action is called for. Thus, our karma, by its binding effect, distracts us from Nature’s cues to perform evolutionary activities (kriya).

Having missed our cues repeatedly, and putting to sleep our instinct to be informed by Nature, karma forces us to be at the mercy solely of the human intellect in determining which activity to commence or which to let go of, in aid of evolution, in aid of progressive change. The human intellect, though aggrandized, actually is incapable of consistently computing the myriad influences that Nature accounts for in calculating ‘right action’. Left solely with the puny human intellect to guide us, it becomes rare to possess the timing, the cognitions, and the physical wherewithal to move or not to move. Nature’s progressive change agenda falls upon “ears” deafened by karma.

Then comes the vicious cycle: karma begets karma. Blinded by, and made deaf and made numb by impressions of the past, we blunder through days and nights, missing Nature’s cues and over-attaching to our past, trying with futility to preserve the now-irrelevant, while failing to preserve that which is still relevant, that which deserves preservation.

The Rishikas (female seers) and Rishis (male seers) of the Vedic tradition often are quoted as providing the solution to being bound by karma. It seems so simple: detachment, or more accurately, non-attachment (“VAIRAGYA”).

“To what?”, you may ask. “To action and its fruits”, resounds the reply. Can you actually practise “non-attachment” without becoming attached to its own fruit of transcending your karma? Paradoxical, right? Right. That is because non-attachment, vairagya, actually is not a practice, it is one result of a practice. The initial practice is transcendence itself; going regularly to That state of bliss and identifying with it repeatedly. In That state, one becomes so absorbed in the inner Absolute bliss consciousness (the Sat-Chit-Ananda), that the binding effect that karma once had on one’s inner identity begins to wear off.

Becoming non-attached, experiencing vairagya, is a result of the greater bliss of Being, bliss now overshadowing the binding effect of the past. Inner Being begins, gradually but definitely, to take over as one’s sense of Self, instead of past impressions causing karma to be the definer of one’s identity. Now, do not become smug, meditators; once the light is on in the formerly dark room, we should be discovering something we did not see in the dark: there is a mess that needs to cleaned up. Years and decades of faulty assumptions and non-rigourous approaches to determine one’s true deserving power.

If, instead of discovering and cleaning the mess, we become complacent because the lights are on now, then we become simply large-scale narcissists. Transcendence starts a process that demands attention to detail and a willingness not to resist a major effect that meditation brings; vairagya

Regular, twice daily meditation must become non-negotiable. In addition, a dedication to ridding oneself of old irrelevant consciousness-states must commence. However, even absolutely regular meditators frequently resist meditation’s daily reinstatement of a primary benefit: vairagya.

As your capability grows with twice-daily practice you must cultivate what naturally springs forth from your practice:

  1. You must continuously know, clarify, refine and favour your preferences for what progressive change looks like in your life. Non-attachment here means not setting your goals in cement but planting them in loose soil and water with attention. Favour the fulfillment of your desires and make clear plans and strategies for achieving what you want. Usually things will go that way…(note: not “my” way; “that way”),
  2. When things don’t go “that way”, practice letting go. First, let go of rigid attachment to specific timing – stay alert to better timing presenting itself, then,
  3. If things continue not to conform to your original vision, then, next, let go of rigid attachment to specific outcomes, specific results. Stay super-alert, practice consciously being in present moment awareness and allow Nature to inform you of new opportunities or new uses of existing opportunities
  4. Train your intellect to trust Nature, as expressed in your fine level of feeling. Charm toward action is Nature’s green light – train yourself to trust it. Aversion to action is Nature’s red light; something else is coming through an intersection; it becomes irrelevant behaviour to run red lights and collide.

These are just a few basic principals; that notwithstanding, you can begin practicing today and challenge all assumptions; embrace those assumptions that are assayed, and thus made worthy, after going through the fire of knowledge. Transcend your karma; then, transcend transcendence; allow kriya to flow through you and inform you.

All glory to Shri Guru Deva!

– by Thom Knowles