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Karma - The Mechanism: Tattvarthasutra 6.12

Published: 06.08.2014

Bhutavratyanukampa dana saragasamyamadiyogah kshantih shauchamiti sadvedyasya (12)

  • Compassion for all living beings
  • compassion for all who actively realize the Five Freedoms
  • charity based on compassion
  • self-control, even if it is not yet perfect
  • equanimity at the activation of positive and negative karmas
  • spiritual efforts, even if based on ineffective know­ledge
  • meditation and intelligent behavior while we strive for freedom from all karmic limits
  • forgiving (our own and others' mistakes)
  • equanimity and
  • freedom from greed (freedom from the compulsion to accumulate more and more possessions)

attracts karma that produces a positive (happy) feeling of life. (12)

How do we achieve equanimity, compassion, self-control, forgiveness, freedom from greed etc. in a world that often propagates the exact opposite?

Only desiring peace of mind does not produce equanimity. How often in our past did we sincerely wish for more self-control, but did not have it when we needed it most. If we only remember how we feel after an outburst of anger, when the energy of our initial flare-up is spent and we begin to see how deeply we hurt others. Then we utterly regret that we succumbed to this strong negative emotion and promise ourselves that next time we will react less violently - only to fall into the same trap when similar conditions trigger our rage again. This very common experience shows that merely 'desiring' equanimity etc. is unable to bring it about.

Certainly, - the sincere wish for a new orientation of life is vital, but to firmly establish a new behavior-pattern we need a second component beyond mere yearning. This second component is our behavior at the particular time when we feel the impulse for any of the actions mentioned in the sutra. When we follow this impulse once it arises, we bring about genuine change within us.

Karma fluctuates in the intensity of its manifestations. We periodically encounter periods when less karma is active and when we consequently are less mesmerized by our activities and our material environment. These periods are experienced as times of peace, calmness, serenity and reflection and are in stark contrast to the more active cycles.

Active periods normally absorb all our attention and energy. Their intensity overshadows our consciousness. They limit our ability to fully control the flow of action and usually also prevent all unattached, distant reflection. The shift from one of these - distinctly differing - periods to the other is one of the basic experiences of human life.

Impulses for compassion, charity, forgiveness, spiritual efforts etc. usually occur in periods of less intense karmic manifestations. Each time we feel e.g. an impulse for compassion - an urge to help others - we are offered a way out of the almost impenetrable, hypnotic veil our emotions and activities weave around us. At this point in time all karma that previously prevented us from acting on the impulse is temporarily inactive. It is now our responsibility to catch this opportunity.

Many impulses of this kind last only seconds. If we decide to follow an impulse later or postpone this decision, this almost always prevents the inspired action. Most karmic gateways to new activities close fast. Remembering afterwards how we missed the impulse usually leaves a sense of deep regret. Yet when we act spontaneous on the impulse, this always regales us with deeply satisfying feelings of elation, harmony and happiness.

The sutra alerts us to ten action-patterns - ten areas of life where impulses for new behavior can occur. Following these impulses always produces a positive feeling and offers us the opportunity for growth.[19] Once we become aware of the areas where these special action-patterns occur, we can systematically employ this mechanism to steer our life into a new direction.

The ten action-patterns focus our energy and attention on three main mechanisms of expansion:

  1. Basic orientation - Self-control and equanimity distance us from the hectic of today's world. They enable us to recognize our way to freedom from karmic limitations without being distracted by the thousand irrelevancies of daily life.

  2. Dynamic growth - Active efforts to change our attitude or direction of life, investigating the mechanisms that unfold consciousness, meditation etc. stimulate growth. Our intelligent and engaged performance of these actions attracts the desired positive karma.

    Yet this excludes e.g. the mere mechanical repetition of prayers or mantras, the formal performance of religious ceremonies without inner engagement, and visiting churches, temples or congregations for purely social or financial reasons.[20]

  3. Expansion - Inspiring others with our drive towards inner expansion accelerates our growth. This stimulates the 'rest of our world' with growth-impulses that will come back in an amplified form to support us. We bind the respective positive karma -  by practicing compassion to all living beings.

At first sight it seems impossible to feel kindness towards all people. In our daily life there always seems to be some person we thoroughly dislike. To offer him or her genuine affection appears entirely beyond our power.

Yet let's try a more extensive perspective: We naturally feel compassion towards our fellow companions who strive for ultimate freedom as well. Whatever the differences in opinions, bearing, attitude and appearance, they all fade in face of the common expansive quest.

If we use this same angle to consider all those without orientation, all those who still see themselves as victims of a seemingly unfathomable fate, we can also feel only profound compassion for their predicament.

From this widened perspective compassion towards all beings becomes natural. We express this by fundamentally respecting the life of all other beings, by helping them to unfold their vitality and abilities, by protecting them etc.

  • by charity that originates in our heart. This excludes e.g. donations given for social or financial reasons.19
  • by controlling our desire for acquiring more and more possessions
  • by forgiving mistakes to ourselves and others
  • by feeling compassion for all those who actively realize the Five Freedoms. This mechanism of expansion is mentioned separately to emphasize its potential for accelerating our own progress.

Those striving to dissolve all their karma sometimes cannot avoid being at odds with social norms. The surrounding society tends to regard their goals and way of life as threatening, ridiculous or asocial and easily reacts negatively and with rejection. The more we understand the paths and goals of those actively expanding their scope of life and the more we become able express our affection, compassion and desire for protecting them, the more we can take this an indication that we ourselves already are well advanced on our own path to the ultimate freedom.

These actions, intentions and feelings still attract (positive) karma. Yet once this (positive) karma manifests, it gives us the sure insight how to arrange our life in such a way that we attach no further karmic matter. At what time this happens and how deep this insight will be depends exclusively on how much energy and sincerity we invest into these lines of action (see sutra 2).


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Title: Karma - The Mechanism

Publisher: Crosswind Publishing

Edition: 2000

HN4U Edition: 2014

'The purpose of souls is to assist each other.'
TATTVARTHASUTRA - Chapter 5, Sutra 21

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Consciousness
  3. Dana
  4. Environment
  5. Equanimity
  6. Greed
  7. Karma
  8. Karmas
  9. Karmic matter
  10. Meditation
  11. Space
  12. Sutra
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