"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Karma: The Law of Cause and Effect

Karma, or the law of cause and effect, in common terms is what occurs (or will occur later) as the result of our actions now. We cut off a driver on the road, and our passenger may point out, "That's bad karma." Or, we ease up on the gas and let another driver struggling to make a lane change go in front of us. Our passenger may say, "That's good karma." On a more subtle level, however, karma has little or nothing to to do with our actions, and everything to do with the thoughts and emotional states that give rise to our actions.

In "As a Man Thinketh," a small but essential guide to spiritual awakening, James Allen writes:
"The soul attracts that which it harbours, that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires - and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own."

"Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit; bad thoughts bad fruit."

"The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are factors which make for the ultimate good of the individual. As the reaper of his own harvest, man learns both by suffering and bliss."
And at the most subtle level, that of our very essence, it is karma that obscures or reveals the nature of our divine being. Says Allen:
"The 'divinity that shapes our end' is in ourselves; it is our very self. Only himself manacles man: thought and action are the gaolers of Fate - they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom - they liberate, being noble. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions."
"In the light of this truth," Allen asks, "what then is the meaning of "fighting against circumstance?""

In the Tao Te Ching we read, in part:
"Understanding others is knowledge.
Understanding oneself is enlightenment:
Conquering others is power,
Conquering oneself is strength;
Contentment is wealth,
Forceful conduct is willfulness;
Not losing one's rightful place is to endure,
To die but not be forgotten is to endure."

Thus, at the most subtle level, we shape our own being, revealing or concealing what we are. The cloth that we either draw off or throw over our essence is the karma of our thoughts and actions, and it is this that the world sees and judges us by.

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