Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | October 25, 2010

Working Out the Karma

A wonderful tool for self examination, something we should engage in in the spiritual life without becoming too self reprimanding(I always forget the catholic word, is it concupiscence?), is accepting the concept of karma, and taking a good hard look at how it is playing itself out in your life. Karma is the universal law of cause and effect. The things going on in your life are the result of all the causes that have come before, and it’s not just the things you’ve done, but a complex web of causes, coming from you, even your previous lives(accept reincarnation for the exercise), and the things everyone else has done that in some way affects you. When you start to meditate on this complex set of forces acting on your life, you can almost become defeatest and ask how can one person counteract this onslaught of causality, or in better terms, transcend it?

As a catholic, we go to confession after a period of self reflection and examination and unload our consciences and resolve to do better, to break ourselves of bad habits and sins. We realize that in the loving kindness of the Father, that we are going to fall and get up, fall and get up, and if we are sincere, we will be forgiven.

So, it is revealing to look at your life in this light. Why am I working in a shoe store, why do I smoke, why do I engage in various behaviors, why am I surrounded by the different people in my life at different times? What were the causes that have led me to this point, and in what ways am I just allowing the karmic wheel to work my life out for me instead of me trying to transcend the repetitive result. Where are the patterns in my life? Do I keep doing the same thing, year in and year out, lifetime after lifetime? Why the tai chi? Is it a way for me in this life to work out some past karma, to help me in the transcending? I’ve made many lists, curriculum vitae, lists of friends over the years, lists of enemies, places, events, looking at my life like a jigsaw puzzle, looking for the future piece that will make it all make sense.

This exercise is like jungian analysis in a way; you reflect on these things and come up with an explanation that makes sense to you. And then you think about ways to transcend it, to not be victim to the workings of things, to not let it just run you over and turn you into a puppet for yet another lifetime.

You know, it’s interesting how some people are very successful in this life, great careers, great families, they have worked hard and have found the way to do well ithin the game. And it’s a good life. But I wonder if it would be fair to say maybe they just miss the spiritual boat altogether; did they just go along with the program, play the game well, and didn’t give a second thought about self awareness, about spiritual evolution, about living the higher life?

From the taoist perspective, we approach the laws of cause and effect with softness. We don’t react with the ego to the onslaught of causes. We take it into the circle and allow the universe to arrange itself–a very zen concept. When one embarks on the spiritual path of tai chi, the seated meditation, the contemplative life, the form practice, the doing of tai chi and chi kung, one removes oneself from the path of the onslaught. It is a path of transcending the karmic hell. With a smile on our face, we watch as the world arranges itself, and with a “brush knee twist step” or a “fair maiden works the shuttle,” we deflect the samsara and move up a notch on the spiritual education.

It’s very easy, as we live our lives in the secular world, to let the days, months and years pass us by, and let the karmic effect do it’s thing, and the next thing you know, you’re sitting on a sofa with a friend wondering where your life went. We get seduced and distracted by the every day necessities of making a living and raising a family, and the next thing you know…

We do not have to be enslaved by our karma. We can break free, we can overcome, we can atone for past deeds, we can move up and on.

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Responses

  1. “Why am I working in a shoe store, why do I smoke, why do I engage in various behaviors, why am I surrounded by the different people in my life at different times? What were the causes that have led me to this point, and in what ways am I just allowing the karmic wheel to work my life out for me instead of me trying to transcend the repetitive result. Where are the patterns in my life? Do I keep doing the same thing, year in and year out, lifetime after lifetime? Why the tai chi? Is it a way for me in this life to work out some past karma, to help me in the transcending?”

    It is said that the unexamined life is not worth living. It seems to me that the examination at some point must turn outward, otherwise, what’s the world here for?

    Of course, Bhuddists would say that the world is just illusion anyway, and so in that case, examination really is best directed inward. Christianity’s teaching is fundamentally different; not only is the world real, but it has fallen, and there is serious work for us to do. This directs examination outward. At some point, there are no more answers to be found within ourselves, the remaining answers are out there in the world.

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/6127

    Which one we are going to choose to believe makes a big difference. There are various books in the stores these days telling us that Christianity and Bhuddism (and other religions) teach essentially the same thing. But this business about the reality of the external world pretty thoroughly destroys that thesis, I think. Christianity recognizes hope as a virtue, and hope is a special trust we put in our own efforts that those efforts will make a positive difference in the world. Bhuddism would consider such a trust as a profound example of being lost in maya, the illusion of the world. Such illusory beliefs are about as big a sin as Bhuddism has. On the other hand, if we withdraw from the world, then we have, as a Christian would see it, surrendered to despair. Despair, over time, turns into an active turning away from God, which, again, is about as sinful as one can get.

    So our choice comes down to either maya or despair, either hope or nirvana. Personally, I’ve decided to throw in with the hope crowd. This requires that I grapple with the world, but that I do it in an examined, spiritually aware kind of way. To do this, my actions have to be guided by justice, fortitude, temperance, prudence, love, and faith.


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