Sunday, September 4, 2011

Karma, Harm and Harmlessness

The law of karma is inexorable and found in all traditions, and not just Hinduism and Buddhism, from which the notion of karma arose. The well-known saying, "As you sow, so shall you reap," which we read in the New Testament at Galatians 6:7, is clearly an expression of the universal law of karma.

"Every sin must be paid for, (and) all karmic debt must be paid," points out the late Unity minister, Eric Butterworth. "However," he notes, "the choice is ours whether we work it out in the cycle of retribution, through profound suffering in the 'furnace of affliction,' or whether our payment of debt is through the discipline of rising above the consciousness from which the act was committed into the freedom of spiritual understanding where we go forth and 'sin no more.'"
[Butterworth, "Discover the Power Within You:," p. 137.]

Addressing the corrosive effects of bad kharma (or action), the great sage, Patanjali observed:
"The obstacles to yoga - such as acts of violence and untruth - may be created or indirectly caused or approved, they may be motivated by greed, anger or self-interest, they may be small, moderate or great, but they never cease to result in pain and ignorance. One should overcome disturbing thoughts by remembering this." (Yoga Sutra II:34)
"Everything we do, say, or think, or even indirectly cause or passively sanction," writes Swami Prabhavananda, "Will inevitably produce consequences - good, bad, or composite - and these consequences will react in some measure upon ourselves."

"Our most secret ill-wishes towards others," he continues, "our remotest permission of evil done to others, can only end by hurting us, by increasing our own ignorance and pain. This is an absolute law of Nature. If we could remember it always, we should learn to control our tongues and our thoughts."

Again, Patanjali observes:
"When a man becomes steadfast in his abstention from harming others, then all living creatures will cease to feel enmity in his presence."
 Elaborating upon this concept of ahimsa (or, harmlessness), the inevitable corollary of karma, Swami Prabhavananda notes that we have become so used to using the word "harmless" in a deprecating and even "derogatory sense" that "it has become almost synonymous with ineffectual." "Yet," Prabhavananda points out, "the perfected harmlessness of the saint is by no means ineffectual, it is a positive psychological force of tremendous power."

"When a man has truly and entirely renounced violence in his own thoughts and in his dealings with others," Prabhavnanda remarks, "he begins to create an atmosphere around himself within which violence and enmity must cease to exist because they find no reciprocation."
[Prabhavananda and Isherwood, "How to Know God," pp. 146-148.]

Thus, what we sow with our thoughts and in our consciousness has the potential for either harm or good, and "as we sow, so shall we reap." It is not just what we say or do that brings about "bad karma," but rather who we are in our inner Being.

No comments:

Post a Comment