Thinking about Karma

As I am preparing for my upcoming Rim of Africa hike in October, I have a lot of time to think on my daily walks. As I was passing people yesterday who were on their way home, I started to wonder about their lives. Unlike me, they walk out of necessity. To catch taxis and busses on their way home. And where is home? Are they looking forward to getting home at the end of a long day? Is it a comfortable space to be in? Do they share it with loved ones who are happy to see them? Do they have the ability to cook and share a delicious meal with those loved ones? How do they view their future? Is it filled with hope, dreams and desires? Do they feel optimistic and grateful about their life? And so the questions kept tumbling into my mind and heart. ‘How lucky I am’, I thought…

I am walking, not because I have to, but because I want to. Because I am going on a special adventure that will get me to walk through pristine wilderness areas that not many people get to see or experience. Home to me is spacious and comfortable. It is a place where I feel safe. My garden is a green haven where birds come to sing, eat and nest. A space where my soul is peaceful and content. My future is an exciting adventure I am soon embarking on by moving overseas for a while. It is filled with hope and possibility, and I trust that all my dreams, both imagined and not yet conceived will be realised. And although I cannot share meals with my loved ones at the moment, I have the ability to have long Skype conversations with them, and know that I am loved.

So how come I have all these wonderful things and so many people seem to encounter endless hardships and struggles? Is it pure luck? Nope, I guess not. It is karma in action. The Buddha said: “What you are is what you have done, what you will be is what you are doing now.” This is also reflected in the following Tibetan saying: “If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.”

Yoga philosophy states that there are always four different types of karma that we are working on, namely sanchita karma, prarabdha karma, agami karma and kriyamana karma. Sanchita karma is basically the sum total of our karmic debt that we have accumulated over the many lifetimes we have lived. Prarabdha karma is that specific portion of our sanchita karma that we are working on in this lifetime. Agami karma refers to our current actions that either helps us to “pay off” part of our karmic debt, or simply add to it. Kriyamana karma can be seen as ‘instant’ karma, as the results of our actions become immediately visible in our daily existence.

Karma often feels like punishment, but it really is simply the package that contains the lessons we need to learn, and in learning these lessons we grow in our capacity to love, be tolerant of others and to experience joy and compassion.


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