Your Karma Ate My Dogma…Part 3

dalai-lama-addressSometime during the mid-90s, at a workshop at Omega, situated in Rhinebeck, upstate New York, I asked Bob Thurman, ex-Buddhist monk and father of the lovely Hollywood star, Uma Thurman, to explain the laws of karma. Bob shrugged and said he didn’t know of any. Much later, when I moved to Dharamsala from Manhattan, I realized how many versions of karmic theory there are—and not just in the Hindu world, but reflected in the four different schools of Tibetan Buddhism.Just for the record, the laws of karma according to my Gelupa Buddhist guru are as follows:

  • that karma is definite–meaning that acts that cause pleasure result in pleasure, that acts causing pain bring pain back, while neutral acts have no apparent effect;
  • that karmic energy increases exponentially–which means that if you steal one measly rupee, at least four rupees will be stolen from you;
  • that one cannot become enlightened by locking oneself in a bedroom and watching cable television. First you have to clean your heart by relentlessly looking into yourself and making amends for all wrongdoing; then you must focus whole-heartedly on growing mountains of positive karma.
  • that karma cannot be destroyed, except by deliberate purification.

I often mull over the irony of forcing our Indian children to mug up irrelevant stuff—such as when, rather than why, the Magna Carta was signed, or the logistics of the frigging Battle of Hastings. For god’s sake! A little of the time that goes into drumming into them the distant history of a foreign country could be spent in sharing with them these simple laws of karma, along with other wisdom that can help them evolve into humans of great value to the planet, rather than into the baffled nerds the system seems to presently churn out.

That said, if you are one of those precious few who truly wish to attain the state of moksha (permanent and blissful freedom from desire and fear accompanied by special perks of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence), you will have to make sure you are not creating what my guru termed “dirty good karma”.

So what’s the difference between pure and dirty good karma? One thing and one thing alone: the insidious ego. If one performs amazing good deeds, but with the notion that “I, so and so, am performing this generous act”, rewards will manifest only in the realm of samsara, the relative world; they will not help you to progress on your path to moksha.

boss-screamingKarma Tip: Let’s say something bad happens—your boss fires you unfairly; the woman you adore spurns you; your pants spontaneously combust as you’re delivering your spiel to the chairman of the board, or, on a more deadly note, you are tortured for a crime you did not commit. Now, if, as the event is happening, you can train yourself to accept that this result is only the flowering of your own past karma, and if this realization is clear enough to stop you from pushing the karmic pendulum forward by reacting in an egotistical way, it will not then be able to swing back with even greater force and really knock you down.

Which does not in the least imply that one must endure abuse passively. On the contrary! A spiritual warrior is advised to fight back against all odds—a la Lord Krishna’s advice to Prince Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita—while being constantly aware that the evil one is battling is the result of seeds sown by oneself—even if that sowing was done in some forgotten past lifetime.

Since this practice simultaneously addresses both Absolute and Relative spheres of reality, pure wisdom begins to illuminate our dynamic interactions with the transient world, even as billions of karmic seeds are rendered infertile. (I love the Tibetan Buddhist word for a karmic seed: bakchak!) Do this each time the shit hits the fan, and as the sages promise, increasing serenity and joy will be your well-deserved reward.

And speaking of sages, check out Ramana Maharshi, who loved all beings equally, and whom all beings—from maharajas to untouchables, to birds, squirrels, dogs and monkeys—spontaneously adored. The Maharshi is the only true sage I have personally encountered in close to four decades of spiritual questing; rather, the only sage whose profound teaching of Self-Investigation (Vichara) has begun to unfold the invisible petals of my spiritual heart. (Please note that unlike Manu, and though he too was born into a strict Brahmin tradition, Bhagavan had little use for caste.)

The Maharshi lived a simple, pure and ascetic life and radiated peace and constant joy. Gently, he led the seeker to the ancient practice of Self-Investigation or Vichara, the Direct Path, to knowing oneself to be immortal and blissful. Though his physical form dissolved back into the elements in 1950, his mighty presence continues to pervade the home he chose as his own, under the shadow of the sacred hill Arunachala in south India.

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7 thoughts on “Your Karma Ate My Dogma…Part 3

  1. Lord Ramanna blessed us all with his radically simple, direct and straight-forward teachings…the path of vichara is one of self=experimentation, discovery and experience. Salutations to this greatest of gurus, who shines like a sun in the Heart!

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Mira Prabhu, residing at Arunachala in South India, explains the nature of karma in her characteristic straightforward way that everyone can understand.

  3. Great article thank you. Your style of writing is charming…I like your humour as well ! Certainly Ramana is the gold standard of wisdom, matched byI believe, that of his spiritual brother Nisargdatta Maharaj. As long as one takes oneself to be a “person” …we are condemned to pay the piper so to speak….thanks for the reminder that we are really free of all that.

    • You just mentioned my two satgurus, Brian, RM and NM. Intellectually/spiritually I accept that we are not mini-me, but emotionally is another story – but working on it, love and thanks, M

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