Karma Yarma Smarma
No, the title of this post is not Sanskrit for something particular or grand. It’s simply me being frustrated with myself for not fully understanding karma. I realized today (after pondering this topic the entire month of September & not posting a single thought about it) that maybe that’s the point of karma.
As with many of the yoga sutras & other yoga philosophy, they’re often easier to read about and get vs. live. Further try to apply them in full-blown action and whoa! life wakes you up. I think if the world was filled with yogic living beings (i.e. yogis and yoginis) maybe the yoga sutras and concepts such as karma might play themselves out in life smoothly. Unfortunately, life isn’t a bowl of strawberries (one of my favs), a box of chocolates or whatever it is you crave.
So here it is straight from Inside the Yoga Sutras (By Jaganath Carrera): “the womb of karmas (actions and reactions) has its root in these obstacles, and the karmas bring experiences in the seen (present) or the unseen (future) births.” sutra 2.12
“the karmas bear fruit of pleasure and pain caused by merit and demerit.” sutra 2.14
Or again sutra 2.12 from another translation I purchased at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC: ” a man’s latent tendencies have been created by his past thoughts and actions. These tendencies will bear fruit, in both this life and in lives to come.”
I get the obvious karma connections. For instance, if we eat too many cookies or chips today, we are likely to wake-up tomorrow feeling blah or weighing more on the scale. Or if we stay up too late watching a movie (or drinking), we feel very tired (or hungover) the next day. This is probably obvious to those of us who studied Newton’s law of motion in high school physics: “for every action there is a reaction.” I feel, and based on my continuous studies of The Yoga Sutras and The Bhagavad Gita this obvious karma is known as“present” karma.
I also get the more subtle karma concept such if we do something nice for someone today (with no expectation) then down the road someone will do something nice for us. The “kind” thing, thought or word may not be the same but there’s a connection and often we can’t connect the kind offering to what we previously gave/did. With subtle karma, it’s your intention and not about the expectation which leads to the phrase “what goes around comes around.” To me this is “future” karma.
And on a deeper karmic level I totally get what can happen if I violate Ahimsa. Ahimsa (well-known in yoga philosophy for thousands of years as non-violence to all beings anyplace, anytime) if violated can lead to unhappiness/violence/suffering at some time in this lifetime. Yet this is where I get “STUCK“, where I think karma SUCKS (sorry Mom!) and where I struggle with the concept of “present” karma.
Present karma doesn’t always make sense since it’s based on “past” karma. A common example that repeatedly happens for me: when I read/hear news about someone who has been a positive force in their community and they were violated in some way, I struggle. I really struggle with how something bad can happen to someone who has been doing good and been a positive influence. If this person lived such an exemplary life, why were they harmed? How can I think this person deserved this act of negativity when they are always producing acts for the good of others?
Sure if you are dedicated and fully understand the karma concept, you’d probably say they did something in the past (whether in this life or previous) to deserve what happened. To me this thinking/belief lacks compassion (a yogic violation in some sutra which I’ll find if you command). Plus, to think someone deserved something bad lacks sympathy and a basic appreciation for humanity.
Again, this is where I struggle with karma. Though I believe everything in life happens for a reason, I can’t quite get myself to a place where I think people always deserve what happens to them. As much as I read about karma and think I get the concept, I’m torn when life throws a curve ball of reality in my face. This is why I’m on the fence and chanting “karma yarma sharma.”