On Karma

I absolutely love this Van Gogh painting. It is called “Sower with Setting Sun”. It is simple but holds a very deep message. 

We reap what we sow.

Karma.

Every so often at an unintentional level of awareness; while walking, waking at night, or doing something else random; an explosive revelation of understanding takes me by complete surprise, and I consider something very deep that makes so much sense it overwhelms me with the “truth”. Soon after it is lost and quite difficult to conjure up again. It is like a sheet is pulled back, or the lights are turned on. However, it is gone in a flash. I’m only left with the memory of having a brief moment of understanding of a higher truth. 

One topic that came across a few times is the relationship between Grace and Karma. Since today is Veterans Day and most of us think of selfless service when we think about the Veteran population and what they have done for our country, I feel inspired to write about it. 

Afterall, acting in Grace really means acting in self-less service. It’s outside of the Karma wheel.

Whether or not you practice religion of any sort, most of us have heard the story of Adam and Eve, the apple, and original sin. 

“Original sin”

The Christian tradition teaches that we are born of sin and cannot escape it. We will always be sinners. Jesus died for our sins so we can be saved.

What in the WORLD does that mean? 

As a young girl in Catholic school this sounded incredibly daunting. The art and wall hangings at school and church looked dark and ominous. The music was heavy and full of what seemed like cryptic messages. I thought I would burn in hell for all eternity if I didn’t repent for fighting with my brothers. Jesus died for me to be here, wasn’t I grateful? How dare I sin?

These tenets are a lot for anyone to grasp. So many of us don’t and eventually either mentally or physically check out of the church. Those who do not check-out and spend their days on their knees with the rosary are likely not faring any better, however I think the idea is that they will go to heaven by suffering now. 

Heaven is everlasting peace. It is a way out of this world of suffering. But escaping Karma and the wheel of action that creates action is not about suffering. In fact, suffering keeps you trapped in the Karmic circle.

I am using the word “Suffering” for lack of a better word to include any unpleasant feeling that you would rather not have. Suffering is the word that the Hindu and Buddhist traditions use in their texts to describe this sentiment. A chief principle of these teachings is that suffering can be eliminated through non-attachment.   

Non-attachment is another term to pause at.

What is Non-Attachment?Non-attachment means moving through life without letting things, people, or places have such a hold on you that you make wrong choices. Don’t Let Things Own You. No one’s perfect

Non-suffering takes place when we become unattached to any outcome of our actions whether or not those expected outcomes are good or bad. Non-attachment is to accept that being here on earth, in the flesh, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying taste, sight, sound, and anything else our 5 senses can enjoy WILL including suffering, hurt, let down, mistakes – a big ol’ hot ugly mess! Non-attachment means to take it all in as it happens. Let it go when the moment passes. Be in the next moment as that one happens – and accept that one too. 

Unpleasant experiences are to be expected. Doing something to avoid any type of suffering will only cause more suffering because you are doing something with the expectation of feeling a certain way. This is the same (other side of the coin) as doing things to feel good, because doing something to feel good is an attachment to the outcome too and an attempt to not feel “bad”. 

Non-attachment allows feelings to pass. Accepting this and doing the right thing no matter what all of the time is Grace. 

Grace does not mean being a doormat. Grace does not mean putting forth effort where it is not received or is fruitless. 

 “Fruitless”

Fruitless as in a tree that is not bearing fruit. When there are other trees nearby to nurture and prune, it is literally fruitless to put forth pruning effort. It is not to say you should rip it out and kill it (unless it’s killing something else that is alive since you are the gardener). It is to say if you spend 4 hours pruning the fruitless tree and become too tired to tend to the fruit bearing ones, no good service was done. 

Being fruitful is to use our energy in ways that will move life around us positively, remembering what serves the purpose of greater good vs. what is a fruitless. 

To think about what you are doing and the effects of your action, without concern about how it will affect the way you feel. To always do the right thing. To live in Grace. 

The central tenet is to avoid being attached (by your own feelings) to the outcome, but use your energy in ways that do the greatest good.  

Sowing seeds in the spring to harvest later and live through the winter is important. It behooves us to do the best we can to keep the garden growing and prolific. The intention of gardening may be food to live, however; taking pride in the outcome is where we are toeing the line because we are [again] attaching to an outcome. Pride is one of the Seven deadly sins for a reason. It is not to be confused with self-respect. 

It is not a sin to feel good. It is a sin (or our own self-inflicted suffering) to be attached to the outcome of what we do. We cannot avoid being human and feeling good or bad about things that happen. But letting that pass is where we will begin to feel free and enjoy life. 

What if the garden fails after all that work? It could. This is where expecting bad events as a part of life fits in. What if a hurricane blew through, or some crazy invasive bug species descended upon the crops?

If the garden tending included pride, the destruction would be a set up for disappointment (suffering). If the garden tending was done with grace, self-respect and included non-attachment… you get the point.

It does not mean that since it could happen that you give only a small hoot all year and go fishing every afternoon.

It also doesn’t mean that going above and beyond is a great act of heroism either. Taking out every single last weed or being obsessive about testing the soil or water when there is no evidence it needs it would be a waste of energy. You will deplete yourself.

Knowing the sweet spot of where to quit for the day and revitalize the body with activities that fill you with joy (maybe that is fishing) is the way to feel satisfied and full of life in this karmic dimension. 

Filling your own tank so you can fill the idiomatic tank of the realm around you is where the beautiful balance lies. Right in the middle. A little bit of effort, a little bit of ease. Just enough to yield the best results. 

Karma means action and action motivated by compassion is good. To complain that what happens to you is just the result of your karma is lazy. Instead, confidently recalling the advice that, “You are your own master,” you can change what happens by taking action. Dalai Lama.

I’m going to switch lanes here, but not the direction. The Lord’s Prayer in the Christian sector has recently come to mind while contemplating the relationship between Grace and Karma. Particularly the line Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

Consider that line…

On a surface level it means saying “sorry” and the other person saying “I forgive you”. But when you consider this automatic response that we are taught as kids and take Karma into consideration, this line from is incredibly powerful and takes on a much deeper, spiritual meaning. 

I forgive but don’t forget

A popular saying. What does it mean to you? 

If you have a sound mind and memory, forgetting is not possible. 

Consider whether or not ‘forgetting’ is with good intention. Meaning that all ill feeling or suffering you have felt prior to forgiveness is completely gone. Your heart is truly light and empty. When a situation conjures up the memory of what you ‘forgave’, is there a lack of reaction in the body and mind? If there is no reaction, that means you have really forgiven. Grace is present. 

Forgiving but not forgetting could also mean that you will not make the same mistake twice. That would be toeing the line as well. If any feelings come up (positive or negative), whether or not you are aware of it; you are stuck in the karmic circle. Grace is not present. 

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Think about that again if you have never really considered it deeply before.

If you have not truly let go by forgiving someone, your body or mind will react with an unpleasant feeling. If you haven’t really let go, YOU (not the other person) will suffer. 

You will be free and forgiven (hence, not suffer from the pain of sin) when you forgive and let go. No one can do that for you. 

That is Karma. The only way to travel outside of it is to act with Grace. With self-less service. 

In the beginning of this blog I wrote about original sin and the Christian teaching that Jesus saved us by dying on the cross. 

If we strip away all the religion, artifacts, dark art and music; and consider the message – I can see Grace and self-less service in it all. 

From the article The Distance Between Grace and Karma with regard to the teachings of Jesus: 

In calling His followers to a new approach that extended beyond the rule-keeping of the Law, He later said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (5:43–44 NKJV). In other words, Jesus was saying, “You don’t have to respond to evil with more evil. Instead you can respond with good.” Karma would dictate that we should always reward evil with evil, and only reward good with good. But the law of grace demands a new approach, one that directly opposes karma.

You do not have to be a Christian to agree that a spiritual man who we now call Jesus was on this earth about 2000 years ago. This man preached kinder ways. This man was content living as an example of not being attached to an outcome and consistently doing the right thing. 

This man did not put forth extra effort where it would not be understood (he did not mingle with the rich and powerful). He took time for himself to fill his own cup when it was needed. And most importantly, He ultimately showed us that it is possible to not suffer through accepting whatever life threw at him with Grace. He did this on the cross. It was his ultimate sacrifice. 

This was the ultimate self-less service. It is not because Jesus was special, au contraire; He taught us that we all have this amazing power to do the same. And we do! That is how he saved us. 

Beautifully enough, not so dissimilar to how our nations Veterans saved us. Through. Self-less service. Grace. 

Karma vs. Grace: A Psycho Spiritual Analysis

Grace offers us a way out of our ego’s grasp. With grace, we do not have to earn our salvation. In fact the effort to earn it is precisely what we most want to avoid. Instead, we surrender to the will of the One who knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to give us something beyond our imagination. Grace sets us free from spiritual anxiety that everything we say and do might determine our final destiny.

Namaste! 

Similar blogs of mine: 

On Grace

It’s Through the Heart

You are the MOST important person on your gift list

On Halloween and Our Shadow Side

On Giving Gifts that heal this holiday season

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On Grace

I am inspired by a yoga teacher training today that I was part of. During a conversation about mantra, the topic of Grace came up. On my way home I listened to U2’s song “Grace” and couldn’t help but walk in the door to my computer and write.

 

The topic of Grace was only a small part of an amazing day and didn’t last long. But it did leave an impression on me. We were reading the book “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand and discussing the topic of karma. On page 39, someone read a paragraph that I have read before but never quite understood.

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One of my teachers that was leading that section stopped a bit to talk about a few things. The one of which that sticks out most is the equation of Effort + Grace = Results.

 

Hmmmm….. interesting.

 

One of my classmates asked her to repeat it so she could write it down.

 

Either before or after the equation, my teacher (Shelley) was talking about how escaping karma means leaving little to no ‘wake’. The same classmate asked her to define wake. Wake was meant in the context of how a boat makes a wake in the water.

Hmmm… Did it make sense? Yes, to me; but in some way I wasn’t sure and noted it was something to sort out mentally later.

 

Then another classmate shared how she understands what Grace is, but would struggle to define it. The question was left open to the floor. Lots of ideas circulated. As the group talked, U2’s song “Grace” played in my head. Particularly the part where Bono sings: “She travels outside of karma”.

 

That line is stimulating, and along the lines of the text in our book. I mentioned the U2 song. Then someone else mentioned the song “Amazing Grace” and precisely the line “How sweet the sound”. Earlier in the day we had an Ayurvedic lesson and looked at a chart of the journey of consciousness in conjunction with an extensive conversation about how the material world and the non-material trickle into our own selves. It’s the concept of prakriti and purusha mixed with some prana. But not to bore anyone to tears with this yogic speak, one of the basics that may or may not have been in that particular conversation but is scientifically proven is that we are all but a vibration. One of my teachers pointed that out.

How sweet the sound”.

 

That is deep but we took it a breath deeper to discuss that the old testament many of us are familiar with, is that one of the first lines is In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

A classmate makes a little sound of an exploding head. Yes, this is a head exploding part. But the Word was God. Sound over light as the classmate who brought it up expressed it. Vibration itself as possibly a higher vibration that light?

 

Wow, where did the question of “Grace” go? And what did it have to do with this conversation.

 

Another classmate took it down a few notches to say that her concept is of Grace is the following:

  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You yell.
  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You tell them you understand and it’s ok.

The latter is Grace.

 

Suddenly the Jesus analogy made sense. There is something you aren’t proud of, and someone else takes it on and forgives you. I said this during class. My other teacher said, yes – it’s as if they take the shame.

 

Great conversation, but we had to wrap it up and straighten up because a community mantra class about going to start soon. Mantra conversation to be continued at a further time.

 

Fast forward about two hours later and I’m driving home listening to music. I’m inspired and excited, but what I’m listening to is sort of dragging me down. I ask Siri to play U2’s song “Grace”. The earlier conversation started to take a lot more shape for me and inspired me to write.

 

I don’t think I can fully grasp the depth of this beautiful word, but I feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” [me shamelessly stealing another song title from U2].

 

If I had to describe my understanding of Grace at this moment, I would explain that it’s a person’s ability to realize that we are just a piece of all consciousness experiencing itself through a pointed view of ourselves. Or in simpler terms, a soul watching events unfold. Nothing matters.

When you get this from a core/soul level you do realize that nothing matters in the end. If you take on the shame or sins of others and free them from their suffering, you can release it from yourself because you understand that what happens ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s the highest form of vibration. It’s the stillness between the good and bad.

We are here to learn and it is all welcome. Once you can take the hurt away from others, onto yourself and release it – you move past the karma cycle. It’s the famous Christ analogy I never understood nor could anyone in my Catholic upbringing explain it to me. I still don’t propose to know it, but I do feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” 

Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.

Namaste,

Esterina

Grace

U2

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name 

Christ analogy

Grace
It’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that
Changed the world

And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings (sound/vibration)
Grace finds goodness
In everything 

Grace
She’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

Once you master this and do it, you understand how both good & bad are both part of the physical world and welcome. You can move past the circle of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear her strings the vibration again
Grace finds beauty
In everything

Everything is beautiful because it’s a part of life so it belongs

Grace
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips

She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

Grace takes that shame without strings. Just removes it and leaves no wake. Not a good or bad wake. Just working through life and bringing things back into balance where everything is as it has always been – in perfect condition. 

Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty
In everything

Grace finds goodness in everything

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