imageSwami Sivamurti - Yoga, Karma and Destiny

What is karma and does it determine one’s destiny?

Most people now have heard of the Sanskrit word karma. It is used quite freely.

Everywhere, people talk about their karma. Karma is the law of cause and effect.

Simply put it means that if you do good, good comes your way; if you do bad, bad comes your way. This understanding of karma teaches us to be responsible for our actions. When we really understand karma and when we really have the experience of the effect of karma in our lives, we can no longer say that we are not responsible for what is happening to us today. We learn to accept that whatever happens in our life now, we are responsible for. With the understanding of karma comes the understanding that reincarnation exists; the two go together. We come into this life to face a certain amount of karma; that is our destiny.

Whatever I am facing today is a result of my past actions; not as a punishment, not as a reward, but simply because of the direct effect following on from the cause. If I lean against the wall behind me it supports me, but if I charge into the wall head first, it is going to knock me unconscious. The wall is not punishing or rewarding me, it is my attitude towards the wall that is giving me the result of my action. This is what karma is like.

Our karma is guiding and directing us, and giving us the experiences that we need, to take the next evolutionary step. Through facing the experiences that our karma brings us, we learn, and keep on learning.

In our life certain things take place as a result of our karma. Do they have to take place or can we avoid them?

No you cannot avoid them. You cannot change the events and circumstances in your life that are coming to you through the collection of your own karmas. The only thing you can change or the only thing you have some control over, is your response, your reaction, how you handle that event, that circumstance. Are you going to face it with awareness, with a balanced mind? Are you going to react negatively to the circumstances you find yourself in? Are you going to turn what could be an awkward situation or an awkward event in your life into something positive? This is the area where you have some control over your reactions. If we did not have control over the way we respond to situations, people and events, what difference would there be between us and the animal kingdom? They sleep, they eat, procreate, and they react instinctively to circumstances they find themselves in.

Sri Swamiji said many times that the one thing that separates us from the animal kingdom, is awareness. Man knows he exists; even the dullest mind knows that it exists. It is a gift for being human. We know we exist and as we develop, as we evolve and as the mind evolves and our awareness expands, we become more and more aware of a higher existence within us. The more aware we are of this existence within us, the greater control we have over our responses and our reactions to people, events and situations. This is the way to move forward – by achieving mastery over one’s mind. It requires discipline, but it is absolutely necessary for our self-evolution and for us to succeed in any area of our lives.

If you cannot master your mind, your relationships, your personal and professional life will be affected. It is necessary to exert some measure of control in every aspect of our life and choose the way we respond to situations and events, and to learn from them. If we manage to handle them in the best possible way, we build a better karma for the future. So the way to improve our life in every respect is through learning how to master our own mind and to use whatever techniques are necessary to do just that. One who masters their mind acquires great power. One has great wisdom. And one has great love.

How much is karma and how much is free will?

How much free will we have, depends on the stage of our evolution and our level of awareness. It is very difficult to know how much is karmic in our life and how much is not. Free will is something we have earned, but the amount is not measurable. The amount of free will that we do have, allows us to handle situations in the present moment. For example, how we are going to react when someone shouts abuse at us. If we have developed a certain level of awareness, we can choose to react negatively or positively, appropriately or inappropriately. It is up to us. We have a choice; a little bit of free will that will determine our future karma. The more evolved we are, the more we awaken the chakras or psychic centres in the body.

These, in turn, awaken the respective centres in the brain that allow our innate intelligence and wisdom to be expressed more fully. Little by little, our free will expands and we have greater control over our destiny. It is only when our consciousness is centred in anahat chakra that we can exert our free will. As our awareness further expands, we begin to realise where our free will lies and where our karma lies, but when it is in the lower chakras, we remain completely dependent on our prarabdha karma.

So where our free will is and where our karma lies, and where our dharma, or duty, lies in a particular situation, is not so easy to ascertain. Many times, what comes in the guise of inner knowledge and truth is actually motivated by our ego with its laziness or arrogance. When we do not know the difference, the guru guides us accordingly.

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