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Karma – Part II
Karma = Predeterminism + Presence
As illustrated in the example of the archer, it is best to see karma as a flow rather than as a “thing”.
Karma is the law, which includes predeterminism and presence.
Unfortunately, too often when people use the word “karma” they mean “bad karma.” It is a term used to denote the painful effects of life we are trying to overcome. This pits us against our past, introduces enormous duality and is not helpful.
Karma is a “law” that operates on two poles:
Predeterminism and presence.
Predeterminism is just the arrow of the past hitting the target in the present, based on our past actions.
Presence is what you do in that circumstance.
The astrology chart shows the inner tendencies shaping our actions.
Your karma, right now, is the container of your life, what is limiting you, or what you believe that to be. Then you take action (karma) in the present, based on those inner and outer limitations/perceptions.
For example, In the Bhagavad Gita, we pick up Arjuna’s karma as the warrior on a battlefield, conflicted over having to kill, his limited mindset about it, etc. Whatever actions he takes based on this circumstance will ripple out into the future and frame that future.
Most of our karma is predetermined and much of it is common to all beings. For instance, we have the karma to have a body on Earth, to be a human (shared with other humans, which implies the need to eat, sleep, breathe, etc.). We have the karma of our gender (also shared with many). Also, we have the karma of our race, our culture, our family, our general health, our talents, our temperament, and on and on.
These were predetermined (because we did not “choose” them in the moment). They are deep connections to our soul’s past. They are our innate tendencies, the results of our samskaras.
For example, In the Gita, Arjuna’s connections, family history, culture, skills as an archer, health, luck to have Lord Krishna as his charioteer are all predetermined and the result of many lifetimes – as well as his tendency to see things and respond in a certain way.
Within this predetermined structure, the moments of our life arrive in the form of freewill, where we bring presence into our circumstances. Every action we take in the present moment (both inner and outer) is an expression of freewill. We always have a choice, at least an inner one. From this place of freedom, all is possible. The actions in the present are what determine the structure of our life in the future. Predeterminism does not mean it was determined by a force outside of us. We determined the present, based on our past choices.
But we do not usually see endless possibilities because of our preconditioning. Instead, we tend to make the same choices over and over, for both positive and negative.
For example, Arjuna learning yoga, trying to find a better solution to deal with his dilemma and what he actually chooses is a function of his freewill.
Our present choices (freewill) create our future conditions (karma). Predeterminism can be seen as the likely expression of a person’s freewill. However, regardless of what we do, have done or will do, there is a part of us that is absolutely free of it all. The soul (Param Atman) is untouched by the karma of the individual (jivatman).
It is from this place that Lord Krishna told Arjuna to fight and kill. Those actions (karmas), however dramatic they may be, have no inherent residue on the soul, just like clouds moving through the sky have no effect on the sky.
Through repeated births the soul can experience the fruits of its actions and learn from them. Our actions set in motion forces that attract similar energies to us, which then result in the similar circumstances that follow. If we act violently, for example, we will attract violent people to us, who will act upon us in a similarly violent manner, allowing us to reap as we have sown.
The pain of our wrong action teaches us. It is in this way that we learn to do the right things, or the things that uplift us and take us closer to truth. At the end of each life we will take with us the essence of our actions and the underlying will and energy that has caused them, which becomes the basis of our next life.
Karma, Freewill and Astrology
“Paramatma who is unborn has had many avataras. Janardana, in the Form of the Grahas, gives the fruits of karma of the living beings. To destroy the strength of the Daityas [demons], to increase the strength of the Devas, aiming to establish dharma. Janardana (Vishnu) from grahas took many auspicious births successively.”
~Brihat Parashara Hora Sastra
Wouldn’t it be nice to know your karma? Astrology is the Vedic science of looking into a person’s karma. According to the Vedic scriptures, it is the planets who are the keepers of our karma. When the planets line up synchronous to our karmic energy, at that time we are brought into the world.
This pattern can be seen by the planets’ positions at the time of our birth. There are certain things that are or were destined to happen, such as our upbringing and early life environment, our parents and siblings.
These early events molded us into the person we are today, the person who must face the situations that await us, and deal with them as we are conditioned to. At that time, as our karmas ripen, our freewill comes into play – in each moment.
It is as if the arrows have been shot from our previous lifetimes and our upbringing, and then it is up to us. We shoot the arrows and either hit or miss the mark. Astrology can be a very valuable tool in helping us to see through the forest of maya.
to be continued,..