Behind the Masks of Karma
Most of us have an idea of how the karmic system works. The ancient theory of karma is an integral part of Hinduism and an important part of India's cultural heritage. Over the centuries, this civilization developed a detailed story about the meaning of life. As a religion and cosmology, it explains the how and the why of it all. It answers such significant questions as Why is there suffering, What happens to us after we die, and Why is there good and bad fortune. Reincarnation is an integral part of the religion. For the system to work, we must live many lives.
Perhaps many Westerners have embraced this exotic cosmology because of its richness. The major Western religions pale beside the wealth of stories, possibilities, and color provided by a copious number of Hindu texts.
What we explore here may bring up more questions than answers, because many interpretations of this philosophy exist. Not only have the Hindus produced several different working models (there are hundreds of distinct sects), but as an import, the West has adapted some of these principles to its own philosophical perspective.
This article does not intend to criticize this respected esoteric tradition or to cover it in depth. It would take volumes to discuss the entire system. We will briefly examine a few interpretations of karma and look at the more discriminating practices that some sects have developed. Finally, we'll explore expansive alternatives that conform to probabilities that science has uncovered and extraterrestrial and other-dimensional sources have revealed.
Let's begin with traditional Indian versions. One view is that after we have cleared all of our karma, then we incarnate as a cow. We're on top. The catch is that once the cow dies, we must once again begin the reincarnation cycle. We do not jump off the wheel of karma. Starting at the bottom, we reincarnate into a body "lower than a worm in the stool." This cycle goes on forever.
The Jains consider karma "a form of matter which can contaminate a soul and postpone its attaining Nirvana." (Jainism originated, like Buddhism, in reaction to Hinduism.) To escape from the wheel of karma - the cycle of birth and death - a monk must go through 12 years of asceticism. A layman must pass through nine lifetimes as determined by karma.
The Viasnavas, worshipers of the Supreme God Krishna, believe that Krishna can absolve karma. When a devotee sincerely chants the Holy Name even once, "he is absolved of all karma for one hundred lifetimes, forward and back." What makes this possible is that God is absolute and He is non-different from His name. This aspect of absolution is similar to the Roman Catholic sacrament of Confession.
The most popular version states that for every bad action we make, we must receive a bad action in return. Similarly, for every good action, we must receive a good action. The universe must pay us for every act. Many Westerners misinterpret this view. They believe that by doing a good act, they cancel a bad act. They try to build up their karmic bank account with good karma. In the Eastern tradition, it doesn't work that way. Instead, we must pay back everything. Countless stories circulate in India about beings who must reincarnate to pay off their debt of good karma. No karma is good karma.
If you think about it, on earth, good karma is much harder to pay off than bad. Hindu scripture, however, explains that we can work off good karma on the heavenly planets. Likewise, we can work off bad karma on the hellish planets. When we are on these other planets, we cannot create karma, only repay it. Additionally, on Earth, we can repay bad karma while inhabiting (non-human) animal bodies, but we can't create any.
To complete the picture, extraterrestrials, angelics, and other-dimensional beings cannot create karma. Humans have a special dispensation. Only they can experience karma. This idea probably stems from the ancient idea that the universe revolves around the earth and mankind. As a race, we believe that we are God's most special creation.
Karma and Harm
Some believe that doing harm creates karma. The physical, mental, and emotional bodies do harm by their nature. The physical body needs to eat. Unless we eat only fruit and milk like some yogis do, we are responsible for harming other life forms. (To be completely harmless, the fruit has to fall from the tree. Picking it off the branch would hurt the tree.)
Say we ate a capsule of acidophilus (a bacteria culture found in yogurt). We are eating thousands of little creatures. In this eye-for-an-eye karmic structure, we now have a karmic debt of a million lives to repay. We've earned more karma than Hitler. The same goes with eating grains, vegetables, or meat. A "life-is-a-life" model doesn't discriminate between life forms. A big life form (say, a chicken) is equal to a small life form (say, a grain of rice).
Unless the karmic scribes assign different karmic values to different actions, we're better off eating a piece of chicken than a bowl of rice. For example, eating a half chicken might equal fifty bad-karma points, a quarter chicken, twenty-five. A lowly grain of rice might rate only one bad-karma point. (The members of a certain Hindu sect wear veils over their mouth. They don't want to create more karma by accidentally eating a flying insect.)
If we scratch ourselves, we kill living cells. When we breathe in, we destroy microbes. Our white blood cells kill invading life forms by the millions. Bathing lays waste to countless colonies of bacteria. When we walk, imagine how many creatures die. Keep off the grass! Technically, our bodies are animated, mass-murdering bio-machines.
Emotional bodies have their demands and complaints. Sure, we can keep their desires bottled up and develop appropriate diseases. Astral bodies can reflect destructive emotions, resulting in psychic attacks upon others.
The mental body thinks negative thoughts now and then. They ripple across the mental plane, causing disturbances to others. Verbal criticisms, arguments, sarcasms, guilt trips - some people do this to pass the time. Yet, it adds up: more bad karma.
We must receive payback for every action that our bodies make. This includes every thought and emotion. Does this sound obsessive? Are we responsible for the karmic wake that our earth bodies leave? Or are we responsible only for the actions that we can control? Who decides what we can control?
To have a complete picture of karmic carriers, we need to include the astral body. Sometimes mistaken for the soul, this aspect of our wholeness survives after the physical body dies. The astral body travels the fourth dimension (astral plane). Although not immortal, it surfs the timespace continuum, plunging into third dimensional earth forms. Is the astral body responsible for the karma created by the human body? Are we the astral body or a point of conscious Light?
Karma and Cause and Effect
Some view karma as cause and effect - as an absolute, universal principle. Everything is karma. We can see cause and effect in everyday life. Our minds cannot think in any other terms. The object of this system is not to make (cause) bad things happen (effect).
This picture of the universe conforms to the laws of Newtonian physics. It describes the universe as a big machine. One gear acts upon another, causing predictable results. This process continues throughout history, until one day the big machine runs out of gas. It sputters and grinds to a mechanical halt along the cosmic roadside.
With the development of chaos theory, we now understand that the universe works in a more organic and unpredictable way. A popular example is that the flight pattern of a butterfly in South America can affect weather patterns in North America. In addition, two notable exceptions to the cause and effect model exist. The first is scientific, the second, spiritual.
During this century, physicists, using sophisticated techniques and technologies, have penetrated the subatomic realm. These pioneering scientists discovered that quantum (subatomic) reality is the foundation of the universe. Quantum reality is non-causal. It does not conform to or operate by the laws of cause and effect. Non-causality, then, is at the root of everything. We think with brains made of non-causal, energetic/material patterns. We now understand that causality is an illusion, though we can measure the workings of the illusion using the laws of Newtonian physics.
Another example of non-causality is black holes - stars that have collapsed to the point of "nothingness." Once something enters a black hole (called a "singularity"), the laws of timespace shift. "[Upon entering a singularity,] quantum gravity then radically changes the character of timespace: . . . Time ceases to exist; no longer can we say that 'this thing happens before that one,' because without time, there is no concept of 'before' or 'after'." ["Black Holes and Time Warps," by Kip S. Thorne.] Perhaps singularities are doorways to the quantum realm. These two examples show that "cause and effect" karma is not absolute as we once believed.
From a spiritual viewpoint, cause and effect are not absolutes, either. One multidimensional model defines timespace as "a satin veil that covers the eyes of the gods so that they may sleep."
From an extraterrestrial perspective, action and reaction don't happen above the fourth dimension. Timespace does not exist there. Karmic experience is unavailable at this level. Because mental bodies think in linear terms, however, they cannot grasp non-causal existence.
Karma and Friction
Another view is that friction creates karma. This picture of reality assumes that friction is something we should avoid. Friction, however, is necessary in the third-dimension. Physically, without friction, we couldn't move. Intellectually, we couldn't discuss anything unless we agreed on everything. Life would stagnate.
Archetypes are sources of friction, too. Astrologically, a body stamped with, say, a fire sign archetype, will naturally cause friction with, say, an earth sign archetype. Genetic and religious archetypes act the same way. The friction is not personal, though. It results from the clashing of pre-programmed perceptual styles. Are we these archetypes, or are we points of conscious Light, inhabiting archetypal-shaped bodies?
Some say that karma is for learning. Yet, we learn simply by existing. Why should the universe punish the body? Could this be a third- and fourth- dimensional principle that enforces payback on animal-level existence?
Some say that karma is for spiritual evolution. Yet, as spirits, if we were to evolve even slightly, then the universe would leap back to the Source. The game would end. Therefore, it's not for spiritual evolution. Would karma, then, be for material evolution - the Spiritualization of Matter? When spirit shines its Light upon matter, matter automatically evolves. Why should the universe punish the body?
Some say that karma is for justice. It explains why evil people can apparently get away with crime in this life. ("They'll pay for it in the next life.") It acts as a moral whip, keeping the animal aspect civilized: be good or be punished. Karma also serves as a spiritual metaphor for why there is injustice. It shows that God cares and keeps track of wrongdoing. Western civilizations use heaven and hell for the same purposes.
We could, however, see suffering and injustice as a natural part of earth life. From this perspective, earth life is harsh. To get the most out of life, we must look out for Number One, grabbing as much as possible.
We are immortal beings, though. Another way exists.
Perhaps we can accept that we are on a primitive planet, and that we volunteered to incarnate here. We inhabit animal bodies that create karma and suffer. As Immortal Consciousnesses, we only suffer when we identify with the Mortal Consciousness. ("Immortal Consciousness" is the awareness that the spiritual body has. "Mortal Consciousness" is the awareness that the mortal body has.)
The "No-Karma-Is-Good-Karma" Zone
Can we live and not create friction or harm? Can we avoid triggering cause and effect? Yes, we can - by not identifying ourselves as Mortal Consciousnesses. This does not mean that we simply deny that we are in human form. We are in human form. Instead, we identify with our true selves - our Immortal Consciousness. We don't just *say,* "I am an Immortal Consciousness"; we *know* we are and act as such.
Acting from this perspective, we create no friction, because we do not push. Basing our actions on love and service, we do no harm. Because we do not move, we do not experience cause and effect. Our lives unfold in the eternal moment. There is nowhere to go and nothing to do, except collect experience in the now.
Debt Repayment Plans
Because there are so many versions of karma, one would think that alternate ways to settle karmic debt exist. If we equate karma with fate, however, then we don't need to explore other payback opportunities. With a fated view, we see ourselves confined to a third- and fourth-dimensional existence. We learn, we suffer, we try to do well, until one day, we hit the "I'm-out-of-here" ascension jackpot. Let's assume, however, that we live in a miraculous universe, and consider some creative alternatives.
To resolve a debt of bad karma, we could reincarnate, inhabiting a hundred thousand ant bodies at once. We could live in ant colonies built on a volcano about to erupt. Note that traditional karmic systems do not consider the likelihood of simultaneous, multidimensional, non-linear existence.
Earth isn't the only place where we can finish karma. We could choose a doomed planet, one on a collision course with destiny. Then, we incarnate into billions of bacteria, just before an enormous meteor smashes into the planet. If we must suffer intensely to pay off the debt, then we make the bacteria extra sensitive to pain. We could go back in time and do this, completing our karma before we created it.
In the 1970s, John Lennon presented the term "instant karma" in a song by that name. Although no one developed a system of thought around the concept, now is an appropriate time to do so. In this model, we call the karma that the mortal body creates, "body karma." When the physical body dies, the mental and emotional bodies die with it. Logically, the physical body completes its body karma when it dies; death is penalty enough. Because instant karma is a pay-as-you-go system, it applies specifically to the mortal body that creates it. The karma does not transfer to other lives.
Taoists believe that if we create no karma, we will live forever. Theoretically, this is true. The planetary consciousness, however, has apparently designed physical bodies to be mortal. Besides, what's the point of clinging to a physical body when you can pick up a new one for practically nothing?
Instant karma is body karma. Instant karma causes the physical, emotional, and mental bodies to suffer. We create it whenever we leave our integrity. ("Being in integrity" means that we act on the basis of our inner truth.)
For example, say you lie to someone. The mental body goes on the defensive. It becomes agitated. The emotional body scans the other person's aura for subtle shifts in energy, trying to detect suspicion. It experiences separation. The physical body becomes tense. Its blood pressure rises; its muscles harden. Breathing becomes shallow and erratic, reducing the intake of life-giving oxygen (and prana) to the entire system. Although body karma pays for itself immediately, it has long term effects, as well. These punishments accumulate over the years, causing the physical, mental, and emotional bodies to decline in health, balance, and well being. Today, many humans are living in hell.
Instant karma is a practical model for observing (not ego judging) ourselves and others. We see the human body as an animal body. Animal bodies possess Mortal Consciousness. In each body lives a spirit - an Immortal Consciousness. (In some instances, multiple consciousnesses can occupy a body.) We perform every action from the perspective of either Mortal Consciousness or Immortal Consciousness.
This mixture of consciousness is the result of a co-creative venture. When a spirit wants to incarnate into a form, it asks permission from a planetary consciousness. (A planetary consciousness, being a ninth-dimensional consciousness, never withholds permission.) These two creative forces fuse, creating a physical life. Spirit is the Immortal Consciousness, the planetary consciousness provides the form with Mortal Consciousness (which is an aspect of the planetary consciousness).
Instant karma caters to the multidimensional live style. We can simultaneously incarnate into many bodies, on any number of dimensions, at many points in time. Exploring a planetary karmic system is, at worst, an option - something we agree to - rather than fate.
And we all shine on.
The universe is not eternal, but will be around awhile. How long? Time is a relative experience. If a tenth-dimensional being declines to incarnate into form, the universe will pass in the twinkling of an eye. This is an experience. For spirits who spend countless lifetimes in form, billions of years must pass.
When we do take form, we collect experience. We put many labels on the process of "collecting experience" - "learning," "evolving," "serving," "healing," "co-creating heaven on earth," "paying off karma," or "saving someone or something." Whatever we think that we're doing at the time, in the end, we have collected experience. Or dreamed.
As we collect experience on earth, the way that we experience our identity determines the degree of our suffering. Are we karmicly-bound beings, or are we spirits in karmicly-bound bodies? Is it a matter of choice, or a matter of fact, or both?