The Law of Karma tells us that certain behaviours are rewarded while others are punished. I would like to know how karma fits into the ideas of the work.
Well, you must know by now my attitude towards trying to get one set of ideas to fit with another. But there is something useful in what you have said that we could explore together.
The concept of karma is a great way to rationalize the value of ‘good’ behaviour, explain future events and impose order on the universe. As such it runs counter to the work.
Karma is supposed to explain a fortunate rebirth or an unlucky one based on the karmic consequences of what you did in past lives. And in this life too, it is supposed to account for the truth of ‘what goes around comes around’ or the natural justice of ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’.
Does karma explain much of what actually happens in life? Pre-judging actions based on whether or not they are supposed to have good or bad karmic consequences is ridiculously simplistic. Do we not observe that good things happen to bad people and the other way around? Do we really think this injustice is somehow put right in a future life? Whose life?
Do we know what actions deserve merit? Is anger always bad and generosity always good? Can the same moral judgments be applied equally to all beings everywhere? Is what is good for me also good for you? Similar-looking actions may be very different, depending on context and intention.
Karma is clearly a mental construct intended to give us a comforting sense of justice. As such, karma supports sleep. It places exclusive importance on horizontal time…moving from the past to the future…at the expense of the present, the temporal dimension of being.
Karma paints the picture of a very small and uninteresting universe that obeys our ideas of fairness and proper reward…a universe forced to conform to our image rather than a mysterious and magical world that is ours to explore.
The work begins when judgment stops and observation begins.
Rumi wrote that all of our tendencies and traits come from one Treasury. Whether love and generosity or envy and ire, all impulses arise from the same divine source, he says. We want to make rules when we should be concerned about conscience…the intimate, direct, immediate knowing of the correct action for me to take in the moment when it is possible for me to take it.
Perhaps you remember the Sufi stories about Moses travelling with Khidr. Every action taken by Khidr is immediately judged by Moses who is then shown to have failed because he did not account for the inner intention behind each of Khidr’s actions. Moses relies on the law. Khidr relies on perception.
Conscience consists of perceiving one’s own heart and what is acceptable to it, or not acceptable. To do what is not suitable stirs up inner turmoil which cuts me off from all that I value most. The consequence is immediately observable, not necessarily in the realm of ordinary life but certainly in the inner worlds of presence and feeling. We exclude ourselves from Paradise and it does not take a lifetime.
Karma is, in my opinion, a gross distortion of a very great observation about the nature of reality that has definite work potential.
What observation is that?
The observation that things continue. The original meaning of karma is ‘action’. Throughout the universe, an action once begun tends to continue. If you act out of anger, it is likely to happen again. If it does happen again, it becomes a virtual certainty to re-occur. Once you take an action, you are likely to repeat it. Do not take an action and this inaction is likely to repeat. This is not the law of cause and effect or the law of karma but rather the law of inertia. Do you see this law at work in your life? Can you observe the tendency to continue to do what you have always done, or not done? Observe this impartially. There is no need to judge it. Judgment is one of the traps that inertia uses to continue. Only slaves think they always get what they deserve.
When you have seen karma in your life, without judgment, without explanation or rationalization, you will be ready for change. You will see that you are worthy of more. Conscience awakens when it is trusted and concepts of fairness are abandoned.
Being is able to overthrow karma and begin again. Its guide is con-science…literally, ‘with knowing’…which enables me to feel my way into a relationship with the Treasury and its infinite riches. But do not be surprised to find that this is also a path of exquisite suffering. Conscience comes at a cost. As it awakens, all one’s past is laid bare. Fortunately, the path of conscience includes mercy and redemption.