Karmic Considerations and Clarifications
“I guess it’s just my karma.” We’ve commonly heard such statements referencing karma. In the seminars, coaching and counseling that I conduct, people frequently allude to karma, often with a tone of predestination.
Based on my understanding of sources of ancient wisdom, the concept of karma is fully aligned with a worldview of 100% personal responsibility. In a very practical sense, we have created our present karma through our past actions. We are accountable for our actions, as well as our thoughts and feelings, and thus responsible for our karma- past, present and future. Even if you are not aligned with this perspective of full accountability, I ask that you at least consider it to determine whether such a stance might be valuable in some parts of your life.
Self-Determination is Alive
Though it may in a sense be true that our karma limits us, our self-determination remains quite alive, if we wish it to, within the constraints of the karma we’ve generated. Suppose I purchase a ticket for a flight from Tampa to London. By purchasing that ticket and boarding the plane, I have created my karma. Once the plane is in flight I am limited in certain ways, as a result of my karma, which comprises my previous choices and actions, such as buying the ticket and entering the plane. For example, If I wanted that evening to visit my favorite restaurant in Tampa, I would not be able to do so because I am limited by karma, by the fact that the plane is over the Atlantic Ocean.
Even though there are limiting conditions resulting from past choices, that doesn’t mean my life is fated. I continue to possess a multitude of choices and thereby an abundance of possibilities for creating future karma and opportunities. On the plane I could read a book and thereby enrich my spirit. Or I could make a productive business contact that produces abundance for years to come. Also on the plane I could commit a terrible crime, resulting in prison time after the flight.
Karma is Temporary
Other essential points about karma are that it is temporary, and we can transcend it. “Karma” is a way of referring to our past. Our past can explain a lot about the present, but it can’t take responsibility for it. Only we can do that. Bhagavad-gita, perhaps the prime book for understanding the principle of karma, explains that by cultivating consciousness, we step out of our past and change our karma.
William Hutchinson Murray said “…the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” We speak of the “law of karma”, and there is a mechanical aspect to the exercise of that law. Also though, there is a thoroughly personal element to our relationship with karma, invoked by cultivating conscious living and our relationship with the creator of the law. To the extent that we do this, our history, or karma, does not determine our destiny, and we are the transcendent, creative wellspring of our life.