Karma – part 2

Spiritually our lives are not lived in a vacuum; we are part of something much greater. We’re part of a whole that is beyond our comprehension, but I think many of us increasingly sense that we belong to a greater Life. That means that we are swept up in karmic patterns that are much greater than our own personal responsibility, but they kind of carry us along.

Robert: Welcome to Inner Sight. Our theme for today is karma, part 2. I like this thought that comes from Christmas Humphreys in his book Karma and Rebirth. I think this thought will give you some insight as to karma and what it’s about: “Karma is the expression of the law of equilibrium, and nature is always working to restore that equilibrium whenever through man’s acts it is disturbed. Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plans and creates causes, and karmic law adjusts the effects. Karma neither rewards nor punishes, it only restores lost harmony.” I think, Sarah and Dale, it’s really important to do a recap; we left off last time discussing group karma and I felt you had more to say. Could you comment further on that? 

Sarah: It’s based on the fact that spiritually our lives are not lived in a vacuum; we are part of something much greater. We’re part of a whole that is beyond our comprehension, but I think many of us increasingly sense that we belong to a greater Life. That means that we are swept up in karmic patterns that are much greater than our own personal responsibility, but they kind of carry us along. To put it on a scale that might be easy for people to envision, we can think of our family. Families have karma that brings back members of the family repeatedly, lifetime after lifetime, into relationship with each other for the purpose—as the opening quote said—of the rediscovering or restoring of equilibrium and balance. How wonderful it would be if we thought of our group relationships in terms of the search for a perfect equilibrium or balance! It might give us a new insight into why we have connections with various people. 

Dale: Right, and you can continue that theme of group karma also on the level of the nation, because every nation is made up of people, and people have karma. The nation itself incurs certain karma based on the judgments made by the leaders of this nation and the people who elect this leader—if they do. I’m thinking of one incident in the past history of the United States, which is not a pleasant bit of karma to talk about, and that has to do with slavery. At one time in the early history of the United States, slavery was an accepted practice, and that was a terrible sin of separateness, really, because we held one group of people separate from another and they were looked upon as inferior and they were treated very badly. This went on for a couple of hundred years and then we began to adjust this imbalance through the civil rights movement and we went through a very painful process, which is what happens with the working out of karma, but it’s a painful process of bringing back into balance a very unjust period. 

Sarah: And we can look at it in other nations in the world, for example; what’s happening in the former Yugoslavia is undoubtedly extremely karmic in its implications, and I think the people sense it, but perhaps not with a very complete comprehension. But they know that historically, wrongs go back four or five hundred years or more, which they still remember and want redress for. So far it seems, they’re swept up in an endless cycle of payback. And the same seems to be true in the Middle East. We talked last time about the fact that payback never really puts an end to karma. If you’re looking for the restoration of harmony and equilibrium you don’t achieve that by returning wrong action with more wrong action. 

Dale: That was all based on the law of the eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 

Sarah: That’s a very crude misunderstanding of karma, I think. 

Dale: Right. It might work for a while, but it does have its penalties. 

Sarah: Throughout the world you can see this group karma unfolding in international relationships. And it’s something that I think could be taught on the level of public opinion with very beneficial results. If people could begin to understand that they have a part in whatever situation they and their group are involved in—that there are ancient responsibilities that need to be brought to light and that everyone has a part to play in the correcting of the situation and the putting right of it, and not just pointing the finger at the other party and saying, “you have to change”–then I think something creative is brought in and a kind of a unity can emerge that might reveal a new approach that currently isn’t recognized. Usually, the correction of these wrongs comes through a new, previously untried path, rather than going down the same old road again and again in a cycle of endless retribution. 

Robert: But back to group karma; I just want to make sure I understand this correctly. I could go through several lifetimes leading the life of a saint or a Mother Teresa, only to in some lifetime—when perhaps I have earned a good karma—I get swept up in the nation’s or the group’s bad karma. Is that correct? 

Sarah: Yes, I would say so. There are layers and layers of karmic implication to this. There’s your personal karma, which as a saint would be very good, and then there is the karma of the group to which you belong, which might be more mixed. Would you think there’d be nuances, Dale? 

Dale: Sure. As you mentioned earlier, your family group through which you incarnate—that’s a choice of the soul—and the national group and the ethnic group, all of these different groups have certain limitations and they have karmic obligations that have to be brought into balance. And so, whatever you’re born into, yes, you’re part of it. 

Robert: And speaking of rebirth since we’re on that topic—what is the relationship between karma and rebirth? 

Sarah: I think they go together. I don’t think you can understand the one without the other. They’re both Eastern concepts. Rebirth is something that’s not recognized in Orthodox Christianity or, I believe, in Judaism or in Islam. But the esoteric traditions in the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism do teach the Law of Rebirth, which is that the soul comes back into physical form repeatedly again and again and again for the purposes of its own evolution and for service. Karma is the cumulative effects of the actions of repeated lifetimes because, as we said, karma means literally action and consequence. It’s the Law of Cause and Effect. 

Robert: Once again, just to make sure that I understand it correctly, it’s not necessarily punishment then. I did this in a prior lifetime or I hurt a neighbor in the early stage of my development and I’m going to be punished by karma later. That’s not the way it is then. 

Sarah: Well, no, I don’t personally believe that. There’s something in me that really rebels against that idea or that definition, because if we believe in a divine power that is at the hub of all things and overseeing all evolution, I cannot believe that divine creative source would wish any punishment upon anyone or anything. It simply wouldn’t tie in with the goodness of God and of the world. And I do believe the world is a good place and that all things happen for the best. And so, karma is not punishment. Its correction—we’re all in the process of correcting something. 

Dale: Yes, and in relation to rebirth, if we incur or create some kind of harm to a person in one lifetime, I think that correction can extend over to another lifetime with that same soul in another existence, and it can be carried on like that. If we don’t make these corrections and create these balances that are deemed right by nature, then we keep repeating these same problems, these same incorrect actions over and over again, and it could happen lifetime after lifetime. I believe also that we carry into the next life those problems that have not been addressed in this life, and if that involves another person or another group of people, then we are karmically linked with them and we have to come back and make that adjustment. 

Sarah: Maybe some of our listeners have heard that “character is destiny,” and to me that links reincarnation and rebirth with karma. Our essential fundamental composition as a human being determines what unfolds in our lifetime. And that puts the creative power right back on the individual—maybe not on the personality, which would choose only happiness and personal fulfillment—but on the soul, which knows in a very fine degree, exactly what needs to be restored, redressed, and put right. I think to the soul that would be pure joy! So rather than thinking of punishment, you might think that the situation you’re in now is your soul’s attempt to redress and rebalance something that had gone out of balance. To me, that definition is much more stimulating and inspiring. And there’s a kind of an acceptance that wells up within one that isn’t passive. It isn’t passivity because we have to take control of our lives and be the determiners of our destiny, but there’s an acceptance of how to work with the circumstances we find ourselves in, and to see something positive and constructive in them. 

Dale: Souls have the choice of which family to incarnate into and quite often there is a karmic tie and they come in for very specific purposes. Maybe to work out some imbalance that was created, or it may not have to do with that particular soul, but it has to do with the parents of that soul, because there is some karmic imbalance having to do with the parents. So, that’s another example of how karma and rebirth work out together. 

Sarah: There’s something from the Jewish Talmud that I think is interesting. It teaches that the unborn soul’s fate is shown to it before it comes into birth. It sees the fate which awaits it and the only thing that cannot be determined by that soul in terms of its future life is whether the person will be good or bad. That’s up to the individual. That’s always under our free will, always within our determination, whether we will be good or bad in our character. Regardless of what fate lies ahead of us, we have that within our control. 

Robert: People very often speak about a karmic tie. I think to some extent you’ve touched upon that already, but more in depth, what do they mean by karmic ties?  

Sarah: Well, I think they are trying to define or describe a link that they feel they have—a very deep spiritual link—with another person. We are not as accurate as we should be in recognizing the people, the souls, who are really our karmic ties, the people with whom we have a very deep relationship. Not necessarily a happy one, but one which is deep and instructive, one which teaches us a great deal. Sometimes we learn a great deal from relationships that are very painful. Those might be karmic ties. And then there’s the karma of love because love never ends from lifetime to lifetime; it continues. Why would love end just because someone dies? That carries over, and those are karmic ties that bring us back into relationship with people that we’ve loved deeply in the past. 

Dale: There is the idea of the soul mate… 

Sarah: That’s certainly abused and misused today. (laughter) 

Dale: Yes, I’m not sure that there is always really a karmic tie in soul mates, but it’s more wishful thinking, perhaps. But there is a real karmic tie in certain people that we work with, for example. You’re born into a certain family and perhaps you do have a karmic tie with family members, the parents, and the siblings, but also I think we have to look a little beyond that. Oftentimes the people we end up with in life and the people we feel such a great affinity to are perhaps those in our work life and or in some kind of service activity; particularly service because that’s where so many common types of people come together and they have a relationship in this particular service. Just speaking from personal experience, I feel a karmic tie with the people I work with—although what I set out to do in the beginning of my life had nothing to do with what I’m doing now, yet I feel more at home, at ease, and at balance. It gets back to this idea of balance and harmony; if you feel it with a certain group of people that you work with, then maybe there is a certain karmic tie there. 

Robert: That reminds me of a thought, “there are no enemies out there in the world, only great teachers.” Would a phrase like that relate to what you were saying about karma? 

Sarah: Absolutely, yes. Everyone can teach us something, and sometimes the people who seem to be opposed to our approach to life have the most to teach us, because if we view life as energy and force in action, in movement, the people whose energy and force sets up a resistance to ours can sometimes be great teachers. We mislabel them by calling them enemies. They aren’t necessarily so at all; they are sometimes our greatest teachers.  

Robert: That’s interesting. A lot of times we’re not happy with our lot in life and we wish it were different and we attribute it to karma. Can one eradicate the karma of another person? 

Sarah: That’s a question that I really don’t know how to answer. I can make a stab at it, but another person might answer it differently. The paradox or the confusing point lies in the fact that we are personally responsible as souls for the direction of our life and nobody else can rightfully assume control over our lives. But on the other hand, there are great individuals, great beings throughout human history who, I think, probably have taken on karma—if not for humanity, for a large group. For example, Abraham Lincoln, you might say, bore the national karma of the American people during the Civil War period. He suffered personally I think, a great deal, from a very deep, profound depression. His family suffered. It was a real burden that he bore, and he seemed to bear it on behalf of the national soul. Another example might be the Dalai Lama, who has this enormous responsibility for the Tibetan people. And perhaps another example would be someone like Martin Luther King who came in to serve not only his own interests, but the interests of all the African American people, and contributed so much to them. 

Dale: Yes, there are examples like that. But, showing another person how they can eradicate their own karma is also a consideration in that question though, I think. 

Sarah: Yes. Giving them an example that they can build upon. 

Dale: Right. 

Robert: I believe in karma; it feels right to me. And of course, there are so many invisible laws that we can’t see, touch, or feel, like the law of gravity. But, if karma is a law, what place does mercy play? 

Sarah: That’s another one of those questions that I don’t know the answer to, but just approaching it from my intuition, it seems to me that there is a place for mercy. I don’t believe that the universe is constructed in such a way that we have to pay, in a sense, for every transgression we’ve ever made in the past, if we can effect a transformation of our lives. I believe in the power of people to transform themselves and to put an end to the past. Otherwise, if we see life in terms of an endless cycle of payback, it just makes no sense. It seems very static to me. Maybe someone else will see this differently, but I think there is mercy. It’s probably the mercy of the soul’s power to transform the consciousness through love, through forgiveness; these are acts of mercy that then can undo karma. 

Robert: In general, I guess the only karma that we really want to bring to an end is negative karma. How can we bring karma to an end? 

Sarah: Well, one thought that occurs to me is through the power of love. Love can dissolve in its beneficence, great evil. And this is not just a Christian concept, although certainly Christ taught it, but many great spiritual figures have taught it. The Buddha taught the power of love. It’s said that his love was so immeasurable that it could not be exhausted by any hate or hostility, and that on the contrary, a hostile act would just bring to light further love. And he taught his disciples, however people speak concerning you, whether appropriately or inappropriately, courteously or rudely, wisely or foolishly, you must train yourselves to respond with kindness and love. So, we can all take that message and apply it in our approach to life. 

Robert: In closing, we invite you to ponder on this thought. Goodwill is the touchstone that will transform the world. Goodwill is love in action. It is the energy that draws us together in right relationship. There is a world prayer called the Great Invocation. It’s a call for light and love and goodwill to flow into the world and into our hearts. Let’s listen for a moment to these powerful words. 

Sarah: Closes the program by reciting the adapted version of the Great Invocation

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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