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Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Comes Around...

Growing up in the Deep South in what can only be described as an isolated WASP environment, I was an adult before I gave much thought to the concept of Karma, though in the Bible we studied every Sunday in the Methodist Church when I was a child, there is a reference in The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, that goes like this,  "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," which, to me, comes pretty damned close to the idea of Karma.  
It was 17 and a participant in a program here in Georgia called The Governor’s Honors Program during the summer between eleventh and twelfth grades when I became acquainted with the concept of Karma.  All the students in attendance were required to take a course called “Basic Issues of Man,” which launched me on a road to self-examination and curiosity about “The Nature of Man,” the title of the first volume.
I still have my six-volume boxed set of the “Issues” we studied.  Bear in mind that a college campus filled with 16 and 17 year old kids offered many diversions, and I am proud to say that, while leafing through the volumes today, I actually found highlighted and underscored sentences.
It’s not clear to me why, but recently, I have had Karma on my mind.  Maybe it is fueled by my regular practice of yoga.  I have been practicing my own self-tailored program for years, but I admit not so much as a spiritual practice as an exercise in fitness and flexibility.  I routinely close letters and e-mails with the word “Namaste,” and I truly mean it in it’s traditional context - that of honoring the God in the person to whom it is uttered or written.  
Now, to Karma.  It is a much discussed and bantered about concept, which, in essence, says that what goes around, comes around.  Timothy Burgin, writing in Yoga Basics in 2004, described it this way:  “Central to the philosophy of yoga is the universal spiritual concept of reaping what you sow:  the law of Karma.”
I believe the average thinking person today would agree with Burgin’s definition.  Believers in Karma live by the notion that, in a nutshell, our current and past behaviors (in past or future lives) create or lead to what happens to us in the future.  
If you live a life of evil and selfishness or even complacency, you create negative Karma, and your future will be colored by those actions, opening you up  similar (or worse) actions being visited upon you.
On the other side of that coin is the notion that, just as we can create negative Karma, we can choose to live ego-free lives of selflessness and generosity (insert your own positive noun), then we can look forward to a future in which life is good to us.
Bad Karma is bad.
Good Karma is good.
But to believe in Karma, one must embrace the notion that this is not all there is.  One must believe in past lives and future ones.  That is a conundrum for me.  
On some level, I do believe we contribute to the creation of our own heavens or hells, but I also believe that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, and there is no way of making sense of it.  


Dazee Dreamer said...

I believe that we can believe in karma and not believe in past or present lives. Because, we don't know about the universe and what happens. but I whole heartedly belief what goes around comes around.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

I do believe in the reaping what you sow. I have seen Karma and I do believe in it! Great thoughts.

Katie Gates said...

Provocative post, cj! I agree that there is a conundrum within the definition. Maybe, rather than a principle, it is an ideal?

Sue said...

Here's my take on it:

Sometimes we do reap what we sow in life; sometimes not.

But it all catches up to us eventually.


Martha Mawson said...

When I attended a Buddhist meditation group, we spoke of issues we had in our lives and we were told that no one ever deserves our anger and that if we become angry, we are the ones who are met with the negativity. I couldn't accept that. Perhaps, as Katie says, it is an ideal and not a principle. Karma works, I've seen it work. But trying to live a life without anger can be difficult in today's unjust world. I guess we just keep trying.