Karma, means an action, is a term in yogic spirituality for explaining the soul’s evolution from life to life. Karma is generally portrayed as the effect of our individual actions, extending from past lives to present and future lives. It is often regarded as a force of determination, like fate or destiny. We speak of a person’s karma catching up with them, ‘what goes around comes around’ or ‘as you sow so shall you reap’, indicating this inescapable result of what we have done.
Yet if we look deeper, we see that karma reflects the fact that we create our own reality. We fashion both ourselves and our environment according to all that we do in life. Karma, therefore, means that we are universal creators, not simply the helpless products of external forces. Karma is the underlying process of the ‘self-creating universe’. It indicates that the universe creates itself according to its own inner intentionality. Through the power of karma, we are self-creating beings in a self-creating existence. Even the forces of nature, like time or gravity, which appear beyond our control, are manifestations of an intelligent reality in which we are active participants.
The karmic code requires a vehicle to contain it and to carry it from birth to birth. For this we also have a ‘subtle’ or ‘soul’ body, an inner flame that serves as a receptacle for our karma’s. We could call this our ‘inner fire body’ as opposed to our ‘outer material body’, or we could simply call it our ‘karmic fire body’. This subtle body, serving as the vessel for the soul, enters the physical body like a flame, taking up its station in the heart and warming the entire organism. Like a flame, it leaves the material shell of the body at death taking its karmic capacities along with it.
Advanced yogis can perceive this inner flame and observe its movements. They know how to enter into it and work directly with it, using it to travel to various planes or lokas, higher realms beyond this material universe. At death they merge into it and consciously leave this world, having no fear of death. Their inner flame is no metaphor but more real to them than their own flesh.
The soul, therefore, is nature’s evolutionary intelligence. Its code or record is karma, which is the inner DNA of the evolutionary process. On a general level, the soul carries the karmic code of nature, like the abilities to breathe or to perceive that we share with related creatures. On a more specific level, the soul carries the karmic code of the individual and his or her particular tendencies, urges and desires. The individual soul is the primary vehicle that nature has developed for purpose of conscious evolution. The individual provides a focus that allows consciousness to grow through various bodies and gradually manifest itself in ever more intelligent living forms.
Behind the unfoldment of karma is not a mere deterministic judgment of good or bad actions, but a conscious force for the growth of intelligence. Karma compels us to develop our awareness, not simply internally but in the field of action where it really counts. It makes us cognisant of our dynamic interrelationship with all of life.
The law of karma shows that our individual action is linked to the fate of the entire world. As we act, so our world becomes. As we act, so the world reacts and shapes us in turn. Karma represents the self-harmonising power of cosmic intelligence that keeps the evolutionary movement aligned with its greatest good. As the planet is a single organism, our individual actions affect the entire web of life, which works to return us to harmony when our actions become harmful. While we might experience this harmonising action as pain, it is only meant to awaken us to our deeper connection to life and the need to act for the greater happiness of all beings.
If you really want to avoid pain and suffering, not only in this life but in the continued existence of your soul, you should strive at every moment to act with an awareness of the law of karma and its consequences.
By Ruby Bansal