Karma - The Mechanism ► Preliminaries ► The Mystery

Posted: 28.07.2014

For a long time the West had no karma. Though the concept was introduced to Europe and America as early as the end of the 19th century, it was barely known for another 60 years. Only in the sixties, when a wave of interest in Eastern philosophies took hold, the idea of karma began to capture the people's imagination on a broad scale.

Yet though karma rapidly became a household word, it never assumed a clear-cut or well defined meaning. It was associated with a bizarre potpourri of unrelated themes: - revel in the bad luck of others, excuse for inadequate planning, influences beyond our control and the idea that any positive but unrecognized act of ours would hopefully find reward later. Karma was keenly used to suggest that any action, - especially those of others that irritated us but couldn't be retaliated - should hit its originators with at least the same negative intensity.

But over and above all it created a vague notion that anything 'negative' we ever did - no matter how successfully we hid it from others - would surely reach and punish us later - even 'in another lifetime'. It conveyed the feeling that all 'negative' deeds we supposedly accumulated in this and 'previous' lives might be 'stored' in some impartial data-system to confront us again in a - hopefully - far distant future.

And since all this sounds utterly absurd to our proud, enlightened Western scientific minds, we generally use the term only with an ironic undertone when talking to others - and always with the diligent implication of mockery that would surely distance us from this pariah word.

Yet though we certainly do not 'believe' in karma, it nevertheless affects our consciousness. Sure, - nobody would ever admit to it - but isn't there a lingering and very private apprehension that some part of this concept might just be horribly true? Some vague idea that all our 'negative' action would surely confront us again? And the uncomfortable suspicion that with much of our - egoistically motivated and self-centered - actions we might be skating on very thin ice for our future fate and comfort?

Our precious modern-day science does not do much to appease our mind in this regard. It even promotes the idea that nothing, - no energy - will ever be lost, only transformed, and that every cause would certainly have its effect. If this also applied to our individual intentions and actions, wouldn't we be heading for some highly embarrassing discomfort at a day of final reckoning - whenever or whatever that may be?

Fortunately none of these vague notions about karma hold up to thorough scrutiny.

Let's just for a moment playfully assume we really experienced a number of lives in our past. If these lives were in any way similar to our present one and with the many bad things we imagine we would have done in them, have we never wondered why we are not incarnated as a worm? - Or maybe a bacteria? - Or maybe, if we were really good - as mouse, certainly not bigger than a mouse?

If our present picture of karma were true, wouldn't we have accumulated such a huge mountain of bad deeds we'd never be able to dissolve? And how should we do this in the first place - as worms? - Eating it all up, physically? - And then these naughty worms can behave quite badly too, - what about their karma? - See, - this picture is going downhill all the way, no hope whatsoever for any kind of higher development.

But - as ridiculous as this may sound, this concept subtly drives us into a frame of mind that already ruined the life of billions.

Isn't karma-theory supposed to lead to freedom from all karma, - to liberate us from limiting influences? Doesn't karma-theory claim to identify the 'good' actions that would lighten our karmic load and the 'bad' ones that would make it heavier?

But if it were such a good theory, why aren't there reports of millions of people reaching enlightenment - ecstasy, freedom from restricting karma - through it? - There is a bizarre answer to this question: - Karma-theory - as it was understood for millennia in the East and as it is now widely accepted in the West - is not the cherished key to higher states of development, it is the origin of a huge disaster!

Let's just look at the vast number of people who - all over Asia - gave in to fatalism, - to the very belief that such immense mountain of bad deeds was looming above their heads that nothing they did could ever reduce. For millennia this erroneous conviction blocked them from any progress, blocked them from even conceiving that there may be a way out of their predicament. They believed they were not masters of their lives. - And with this, unfortunately, they were right! - Once we believe we can't control, we ARE unable to control. With this kind of belief we block ourselves completely, - kismet, - nothing moves, - we resign to any outside influence that blows our way.

Karma-theory was the origin of this huge catastrophe. It was and still is the highly successful propagation of total disability.

Why are we so attracted towards repeating this blunder, this misconception of such huge proportion? Why are we so eager to accept a theory at face value that already proved disastrous effects, that spoiled the lives of billions? Why do we naïvely use such theory as fashionable make-up to impress friends at parties - 'Do you believe in karma?' - without really understanding any of its mechanisms, without distanced analysis, without paying attention where it leads us in a highly sublime way?

We are playing a dangerous game! We have no real resistance, no valid alternative concept. And even if we think we only play with the idea, that we wouldn't be serious about it, this concept sneaks into our mind, into our sub-conscience and influences us.

What is it that attracts us to karma? What makes us playfully embrace a concept we officially ridicule and doggedly refuse to examine seriously? - Could it be our yearning for meaning? Could it be our craving that life should amount to something, that all our efforts, all our suffering, all our achievements should be more than just an irrelevant quiver of chemical elements as modern science wants us to believe? Is it not our discomfort with a faceless evolution theory that depicts life as mere accidental combinations of matter that will inevitably dissolve without much of a trace?

For thousands of years religion provided pre-fabricated, well-cushioned descriptions what life was all about. It defined what was 'good' and 'bad', it created criteria against which to measure the world we were confronted with, it offered the goals towards which life was supposed to move. The image of a benevolent and stern though often unfathomable God opened an umbrella of security many found shelter beneath.

Then the advent of science dismantled much of this comfortable cushion of faith on which to rest our deeper questions. 'Meaning' couldn't be proven physically or chemically and was degraded to an individual irrelevancy, to a petty psychological weakness of our biological frame.

Yet science never really replaced meaning as religion had defined it. It only labeled the question as unnecessary, it never really answered it. After proclaiming the universe as fundamentally indifferent to humans - and to anything else for that matter, - science left it to the individual to find his or her own meaning without providing any orientation where to search for.

We now are one of the first generations who needs to find our very own meaning, our very individual purpose of life. Since our survival (food, shelter, clothing, security, comfort) is basically assured, we now need to find our very own reason why we are here and why we need to go on living in the first place.

This longing for orientation, this desire for meaning beyond all our material comforts is one of the main reasons why the idea of karma attracts us.

Karma - however vague it might appear - delivers. It offers us the conviction that our life is not meaningless. It presents us with a range of goals: our liberation from life's restricting influences, the promise of higher - ecstatic - states of consciousness, a self-deter­mined way to improve our conditions if we only choose a 'positive' path, and finally the idea that all our action is relevant, is even noted down, recognized, though we couldn't exactly pinpoint where and how and why. And last not least, karma comes from the mysterious East, - it maintains a healthy distance to the established Western religions which many feel have failed to 'prove' their claims.

All this appeals to us so much, all this provides answers in such a vacuum of meaning, that we eagerly accept its shortcomings, - like the looming mountain of past deeds that is growing rather than diminishing, - like the indistinct, disabling feeling that we accumulate more bad than good deeds, - like an almost endless succession of incarnations before us (which on the other hand also soothes our subconscious yearning that life might not be over after death, that we would get another chance), - like the idea - but also the hope - that it might take almost a miracle to resolve all this complex, entangled load.

Yet interestingly enough - none of our vague notions what karma is all about corresponds to reality. All our ideas about karma are so heavily flawed that we might well discard them altogether.

The fact that this word has been misunderstood and misused in the West - and in the East - takes nothing away from the validity, clarity and impact of the original concept of karma as the ancient Indian scripture of the Tattvartha­sutra describes it.

This ancient Indian concept has no intention whatsoever to chain us to events of former incarnations as our vague Western understanding falsely assumes. And - in refreshing contrast to the 'enigmatic and rather inaccessible sub-conscience of psychology' - none of the karmic mechanisms contain any mystery or secrets.

The best key to the original concept of karma provides the word itself. 'Karma' means 'action' - and nothing other than 'action happening in the present'.

Yet by action - karma - the Tattvarthasutra means not only the movement of living beings or matter, but also some kind of 'interactive field' that all action creates inside and around living beings. This 'interactive field' is shaped by our intentions, motives, desires and the emotional content and 'drive' with which we conduct our individual actions.

The Tattvarthasutra explains how our activities influence this peculiar field and how in return this field influences us. It offers mechanisms how to control it and how to use it for our benefit.

The focus of karma on the actual present emphasizes that any 'karmic' effect our actions produce will not manifest in some fictitious, far-away future. The focus on the present means that each of our actions instantly and automatically 'updates' our individual karmic field so that we experience the karmic effects right in the immediate present and right along with our activities. This process can e.g. be felt as the opening or closing of potential paths. It offers or blocks alternatives we either perceive physically or sense intuitively on a subtle, yet recognizable level.

The Tattvarthasutra clarifies that our present interactive 'karmic field' always holds the entire actualized status of all our 'karma'. And it also states that the character and inclination of all our karma can be changed at any given moment and entirely at our own discretion. There just doesn't exist a shadowy 'mountain of karma' which supposedly stores all our past actions.

True, the contents of our interactive karmic field were shaped by (previous) activities - as all our life is, - but this does not mean that it contains memories of all the details of (previous) actions. The field only holds the directions in which we actively move (our desires and motives) and the intensity and the emotional thrust with which we endow our actions to reach objectives.

Karma is everything but a negative load on our life. The striving for fulfillment (manifestation, realization) of values and ideas originating deep within us is one of the core characteristics of our existence. We want our actions to bear fruits, we want to experience these fruits and we usually have quite real ideas what these fruits should look like. The emotional power with which we pursue our ideas and desires acts like a magnet that attracts all components necessary for the fulfillment of these ideas. Karma is nothing other than the mechanism that makes us thoroughly experience the themes of our life until we gained optimal knowledge from them and until our emotional attachment to these themes falls off.

It is entirely unnecessary to interpret this mechanism - the continued presentation of our life's uncompleted themes - in a negative way. What we experience is basically a neutral growth-process. The better we understand how this process works, the less we feel victimized by it. The more we control its mechanisms and the faster we achieve desired results, the less we will interpret it as obstructive.

The Tattvarthasutra gives us the actual key to this mechanism.

But this is only the very first part of the story. As the ancient manuscript continues, it describes fourteen dimensions of consciousness dormant within us that offer far more fascinating and effective ways to realize our ideals and dreams than the rather limited dimension we experience at present. Though we mostly seem unaware of these higher dimensions, we often experience them as flashes of insights during everyday life. We usually discard these sudden sensations as irrelevant quirks of our perception because we lack any idea what to make of them.

The ancient manuscript values these sudden insights far higher. It informs us that they give us a taste how higher dimensions feel like. It supplies precise descriptions of their characteristics and features. And it reveals a practical way how to stabilize our access to them, - access to unimaginably greater comprehension, intensity and immediacy of life; - and to supreme fulfillment that surpasses anything we ever felt before.

However brief these flashes of insight may appear to us initially - they prove vividly that we are capable of experiencing these higher dimensions.

Exploring uncharted dimensions hidden deep within an unknown part of our consciousness is the most fascinating venture of our life. To those adventurous enough to take this challenge they open a entirely new range of exceptional activities, expanding comprehension and a radically broader bandwidth of life.

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