How to Break Karmic Patterns: The Law of Karma
We continue in our series of blogs that look in-depth at the philosophy and practical advice laid out in Deepak Chopra's book, Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. This edition is about the Third Law, The Law of Karma.
The word Karma has sometimes been understood in a way that scares a lot of people. Does Karma mean I will be punished for my "wrong" actions? I myself have thought: Do I have to think of all the consequences of my actions all the time so I don't experience the "wrath of Karma"?
Growing up in India, I heard the word Karma all the time. It was often referred to in casual talk and was as normal as talking about the weather. But in my experience it was not something we would go deep into, hence, the fear and misunderstandings around the whole concept. In the rest of the world, this misunderstanding and fear found a new dimension to it, even though the word itself has found itself a cozy spot in our English language lexicon. With the help of Deepak Chopra, I am going to share some ideas that will make the concept of Karma, a practical resource, something you and I can use in our lives to make our lives richer, happier and peaceful in every sense possible.
So let's dive in.
What is Karma?
Karma comes from the Sanskrit language which literally translates to "action". The Law of Karma as Deepak states in his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, is:
So that's it in a nutshell. Whatever action we take (cause), we will experience a result (effect) that corresponds to that action. So in that sense, karma is neutral to the person. There is no such thing as "the wrath of karma". It just is. Like rain. Like sunlight. It is a structural element of life and even though it comes from spiritual traditions, like sunshine, the phenomenon itself doesn't belong to a single school of thought.
So the question to ask ourselves is: What do I want to create in my life? If I want to create a peaceful life with harmony in my relationships, I must sow peaceful seeds. If I want to create a life of happiness, I must sow seeds of happiness.
Understanding how our choices influence karma
Deepak Chopra shares with us that the best way to understand and maximize the use of karmic law is to become aware, consciously aware of each and every choice we make. Our life is literally a series of choices; some conscious, some unconscious. The more awareness we can bring to our choices, the more conscious we become of how we decide and take action, the more we can influence the karmic law to create what we want in our lives. Then, we can make conscious choices that lead to the result we are looking for.
Choices are key because everything that is happening in your life right now is a result of a previous choice you made. The past choices take shape in your life as present circumstances and result in how you experience your body, your physical environment, how you perceive your relationships with others and how the world appears to you. Sometimes we are surprised at how the present looks and we feel we did not consciously choose this result.
We feel that way because those choices that caused the unpleasant present were unconscious choices, decisions we made under the influence of ego (automatic trigger-reactions to people and situations), pride, unawareness of your higher self, disconnection from nature and the cycle of life; being under the influence of toxic foods such as fried, overcooked, extremely sweet, excessive food, and non-sacred/ non-ethical consumption of meat, alcohol and other intoxicants. (My definition of non-sacred/non-ethical consumption of meat is eating other living beings without asking their permission, without asking for their forgiveness, eating abused and mistreated animals, wasting meat and a few other specific criteria. Being a Vegan practitioner myself, I think of how the native people around the world used to consume meat with sacred ritual, love and respect for the animal species as exemplary of ethical consumption of meat.) Many unconscious choices we make are without a thorough understanding of what we are doing and these unconscious choices result in alienation with family and friends, physical illness and emotional pain and sadness and a life that is without peace, harmony and joy.
Karma as a useful tool to break the cycle
This is where the law of karma becomes a tool, a useful resource to positively affect our life situation no matter how young or old we are, no matter how unconsciously we have led our life so far. Because karma is not restricted by time or space, you can influence your life path even on the last day of your life. This is the unlimited power of karma which we can use to completely transform our life and to transcend any karmic past stemming from unconscious actions. This is very encouraging - the sweet spot of the law of karma!
It all begins by becoming more conscious of our choices. So how do we go about doing that? This is what Deepak Chopra has to say:
Spontaneous Right Action that brings peace
Just by witnessing ourselves as we make a choice, we are changing the game. That's the first step. Then we need to ask ourselves two questions:
1. What are the consequences of this choice? and
2. Will this choice that I'm making now bring happiness to me and to those around me?
There is only one choice out of an infinite number of choices that will lead to happiness both for you and for the people in your life. And when this choice is made, it comes from what Deepak calls, Spontaneous Right Action, which is essentially the right action at the right time. I often have an experience of knowing the right action at the right time and my term for it is, Inspired Action. Basically, as Deepak says, "it's the action that nourishes you and everyone else who is influenced by that action."
Body Clues to Spontaneous Right Action
But how do we know what is the right action to take? Well, there is a mechanism that the Universe uses to help us make these spontaneous right actions. It is the sensation of comfort or discomfort in our body. So when you are consciously making a choice, pay close attention to what your body is feeling.
Find in your body a sensation that feels good or doesn't feel good. This sensation can be felt in the solar plexus (just above your belly button and under the rib cage) or you may feel it in your heart or center of your chest. Then consciously bring your attention to your heart and ask your heart what to do. Then, simply wait and listen to the response which you will get in the form of a sensation in the body.
The Simple Formula for using The Law of Karma
We can use the law of karma to manifest anything our heart desires: material abundance in the form of money and things, spiritual abundance in the form of inner-peace, harmony in our relationships and in our world and true inner-happiness.
The formula for using the law of karma is simple. First, you must become more and more conscious of your actions. You need to become aware that your future is a result of the choices you are making in every moment of your life. Just with this awareness, you will be shifting some energetic patterns in your life.
Second, as you become more and more aware of your choices, you will make more and more spontaneously right actions which will bring peace and happiness to you and to those around you. The more you do this, the more you will reap the benefits of the Karmic Law.
How to Resolve the Debt of Past Karma?
So, now you are focused on creating a better future by paying close attention to your present. But what about the results that are yet to come because of the past karmic actions which were potentially unconscious? Do not be afraid of past karma. Because Deepak shows us how we can diffuse the effects of old unconscious, negative actions.
When we do nothing about our past karma, it results in the form of karmic debt that needs to be repaid. When we are unconscious or unaware of how karma works, karmic law still works and we pay back for our actions sometimes in the form of great suffering. It essentially is a form of an energetic exchange.
But, there are two powerful things we can do about past karma.
Breaking the cycle by seeing the seed of opportunity
First, you can transmute or transform your karma to a more desirable experience. In other words, let us say you are experiencing something negative or unpleasant in your life. Somehow, either consciously or unconsciously, you caused this experience into your life. The past actions are done and now you are in karmic debt repayment phase. It is causing you mental anguish, emotional pain, physical illness or some other form of discomfort or suffering. This is how you are paying back the debt of your past actions. But this does not mean you are breaking out of it. You may do the same actions again unconsciously because you do not know which actions are causing these unwanted results; and not realize that you are sowing seeds for future suffering. So you need to break this karmic pattern.
To do that, while you are going through a difficult time in your life, Deepak suggests you ask yourself:
1. What can I learn from this experience?
2. Why is this happening and what is the message that the universe is giving to me?
3. How can I make this experience useful to my fellow human beings?
By doing this, essentially, you are looking for the opportunity in that situation. And then you tie this opportunity with your Life Purpose or dharma. (More on the Law of Dharma in this post). So what was a painful episode in your life now becomes the source of something positive that helps you and other people because of your very experience of that painful episode. You need to find a way that your life experience can in some way inspire or help other people. This doesn't get rid of your karma, but you do create a new positive karma out of it.
An example he gives is of somebody breaking their leg while playing sports. They can then ask the three questions above to learn from it. The message they might need is to, perhaps, slow down and be more mindful. Or they need to write about their experiences and help others play sports safely. This way, they take what happened to them and transform it to help somebody else and create a benefit for humanity.
Transcending Old Karmic Patterns
The second way to deal with karma is to transcend it using practices of meditation. By doing this, by transcending karma, we become independent of karma and break its hold on us. By quieting our mind and experiencing the silence between thoughts, we can clear out old karmic patterns.
I would like to add to this discussion another way of cleaning the influence of old karma that comes from Buddhist philosophy. Geshe Michael Roach, in his book The Karma of Love, writes about cleaning the affect of old karma. He describes it in these steps:
1. We need to understand the concept of seeds. That everything is a result of seeds or actions we have taken.
2. We need to make the intention and the decision to stop the action that caused this karma. One way of doing this is to decide to not do the action that causes this situation for the next 24 hours. It is important to not break this decision because breaking promises to ourselves sows more bad seeds and creates negative Karma.
3. We need to take some positive action, sow positive seed as payment for the karma.
To learn more details, check out his book, The Karma of Love, which is written like a novel and is really fun to read, very practical and you can really use the information and apply it right away in your life.
So, in conclusion, all actions are karmic episodes, meaning every action generate karma. By becoming conscious of your actions, you consciously influence your reality.
The Three Commitments
As in each chapter, Deepak Chopra offers us three commitments we can choose to make in order to put the law into effect. Here are the three commitments for The Law of Karma:
1. Today, I will witness the choices I make in each moment. And in the mere witnessing of these choices, I will bring them to my conscious awareness. I will know that the best way to prepare for any moment in the future is to be fully conscious in the present.
2. Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: "What are the consequences of this choice that I'm making?" and "Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affect by this choice?"
3. I will then ask my heart for guidance and be guided by its message of comfort of discomfort. If the choice feels comfortable, I will plunge ahead with abandon. If the choice feels uncomfortable, I will pause and see the consequences of my action with my inner vision. This guidance will enable me to make spontaneously correct choices for myself and for all those around me.
I hope that this presentation of the Law of Karma according to Deepak Chopra's book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, was useful to you. What I take most from this law is the simplicity of it. We can make it complicated if we want to but the simple message for me is that the more conscious I become of my actions, the better I can act, and the more conscious actions I take, the more flourishing and abundant my life situation will be. So all I need to do is to become conscious and aware in the moment. It is not that scary after all. And no, I do not need to fear the "wrath of Karma", as there is no such thing. There is karmic debt which can be painful but it needn't become a suffering. Pain and suffering are two very different things and suffering is entirely up to us. Even a karmic debt can be a source of something positive and useful for our fellow humans and animals and our planet. We can break free from old unconscious actions by helping others and by meditating. The Law of Karma really is a very practical tool in our every day life for creating peace, abundance and harmony.
Do share in the comments: how has Deepak's presentation of the Law of Karma now changed how you view karma?
Wishing you lots of love, peace and Karmic freedom,
PS: I do not have a video version for you as I am working on a project that is taking my complete focus - a project which you will hear and learn about soon if you are on our Happiness Lovers Family Email List. (Exciting!) If you would like to join the HL Family and receive free emails along with the exciting new announcement, click here. I am happy to have you join us!!