Is an ant an enlightened one
All About Karma: From Rebirth to Enlightenment
Do you know who or what you were three lifetimes ago? And even more interesting: how decently you behaved back then? If not: don't panic. We explain to you why karma is a complicated philosophical concept, but it is not that difficult to get into karma-plus.
What does karma mean?
“Karma” is a Sanskrit term and initially only means a (physical or mental) “action” or “deed”. In other words: every action is connected with karma. That sounds harmless at first. So if I'm careful not to do anything really mean, I'm not creating bad karma, am I?
Unfortunately, no. Because every feeling in us, every thought - sometimes earlier, sometimes later, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes more consciously, sometimes more unconsciously - influence our actions. And this is how every smallest inner impulse causes karma:
“Pay attention to your thoughts because they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Pay attention to your actions because they become habit.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."
The ancient Indian Vedic scriptures also state that karma is the sum of our actions - both in the here and now and in "previous lives". So it can be that the bad deeds of our penultimate reincarnation ruin this life for us. Because whoever has accumulated bad karma will - so say the Indian religions Buddhism, Jainism and partial currents of Hinduism - life throw stones in the path again and again. Because in this way the bad karma can be reduced again.
A bad fate as punishment?
A popular misconception about karma is that people with a bad fate are punished for doing bad deeds in a past life. And that those who are materially and otherwise well were probably simply great benefactors in previous lives. In short, this misinterpretation of karma legitimizes the deeply reprehensible caste system in India.
Quite different in yoga: If someone suffers a severe blow of fate here, it is in a certain way an award. Because those who endure their difficult fate can reduce bad karma far more than someone who sits comfortably at home on the soft couch and enjoys life. And progresses so much faster on the path to enlightenment. This kind of thinking may seem cynical to some - but to rescue another from deepest despair and thus give meaning to almost unbearable suffering.
The karma, rebirth and samsara
The goal of all karma believers is therefore not to produce any new karma and to reduce all legacies. Because if your deeds accumulate karma (good or bad, that doesn't matter at first), then that means that you are still part of the perpetual cycle that sends your soul to earth again and again - again and again in a new shape, with a new fate. This eternal cycle of reincarnation is also called samsara.
Especially the Buddhists, for whom all human life is suffering, want to get out of samsara as soon as possible. Because whoever manages that, not only ends his earthly suffering, but also enters nirvana, we yogis would say: becomes enlightened (samadhi). The reason why Buddhists experience human existence as suffering is that we humans bind ourselves to earthly things - and that is transient. Every loved one dies at some point, all external beauty passes, all possessions can be lost. This is also the reason why Buddhists try to break away from their attachment to the earthly through meditation and other spiritual practices. Because whoever aligns his thoughts only to higher values through great inner discipline, gradually loosing his bond with the earthly, at some point no longer produces any new karma and through his spiritual practice also removes all old burdens - and thus creates (even without major Stroke of fate) the exit from samsara and the eternal karma cycle.
The three types of karma
You find all of this pretty confusing - good, bad, old, new karma? Perhaps this listing of the three official types of karma will help:
1. Agami Karma
Agami Karma is the karma that you are creating right now, good or bad, and the effects of which you will experience in one of your next lives.
2. Prarabdha Karma
Prarabdha Karma is often translated as fate, i.e. the Agami Karma from past lives that manifests itself in your current life. But it also means undertakings that you have started and will probably complete. According to the yoga scriptures, Prarabdha Karma can only be influenced to a limited extent. This karma is hotly debated, especially in terms of concepts such as free will and predestination.
3. Sanchita Karma
Sanchita Karma is a kind of karma store that contains all the karma that you have accumulated - but the effects of which you have not yet experienced. All life lessons are hidden here that will come to you in this and one of your next lives.
Karma: be nice and meditate!
But how can we on the one hand not produce new karma and at the same time reduce our accumulated karma? After all, very few of us meditate all day and would rather forego a terrible fate ...
It doesn't really matter whether you believe in karma or not - because the easiest and best way to avoid or reduce bad karma and build up good karma is also the easiest and best way to a good life:
- Make the most of what you have been and will be given - both in terms of your assets and resources, the events in your life and the circumstances in the world around you.
- Take full responsibility for all of your actions, at all levels, at all times.
- And, most importantly, try to be as loving and considerate of all beings in this world and nature as you can.
But how do you do it? Well, that closes the circle: Because the undisputed and proven best method to control the mind so that it remains calm and clear even under unfavorable conditions - tadadadaaaa - is meditation. Because meditation is really only about: taking the mind on the curb and not let it drag you around like a very strong, poorly trained giant puppy. And you will learn that if you meditate regularly for 10 minutes a day.
And don't worry: you don't have to feel bad about not being Mother Teresa. Just try to be a little nicer every day. Pick up someone's dropped shopping here, smile at someone there, or pay a little compliment to someone in a bad mood. Forgive someone who hasn't been nice to you, be lenient and understanding to those who are acting a little stupid right now. And be grateful for every little bit of luck, light, love that is given to you.
Because every step, even the smallest, in the right direction is in the end very big karma.
Katharina is a mother, yoga teacher and psychologist. At YogaEasy she is the heart of the editorial team and writes about yoga, true happiness and sustainability. Her articles are published in the Yoga Journal, Happy Way and GingerMag.
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