As we look for meaning in our lives, each passing year gives us more opportunity to understand the clues from the past. From the broader perspective of age, we gain the advantage of reminiscence over the many events, dreams, and stories that have decorated our journey. Kierkegaard’s famous saying that life can only be lived forward, but it must be understood looking backward––and Socrates’ admonition that “The unexamined life is not worth living”–– inspired me to examine my past from the perspective of my present age. The synchronicities and patterns I discovered led me to research karma. . .and I found something completely different from what I expected!
In Part One, I discussed what karma means, what it does, and how the energy of thought patterns is believed to influence events in the outer world.
Here in Part Two, I will list the types and the 12 laws of karma, and then summarize the key lessons of karma.
Part Two: Types of Karma, the Twelve Laws of Karma, and Summary
As I recalled different experiences of change, I discovered in retrospect that karma had appeared over the years in many different forms. I identified five different ways of experiencing karma:
- Foreshadowing karma refers to events that seem to foretell the future.
- Changing karma means creating a different reality for yourself
- Progressive karma describes taking a straight line into the future, the experience of a new present for each action taken
- Couple’s karma is the resulting interaction between two overlapping but distinct lives
- And finally, there is past lives karma.
Exploring the role of karma in my life, I was guided by what are generally recognized as the twelve universal laws of karma. They are the following:
- The great law, also known as the law of cause and effect. I’ve already mentioned this one; it’s from Galatians. In brief, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” How you act, what you do to others, is reflected back to you. If you want love, you should show love.
- The law of creation: “Life doesn’t just happen. It requires your participation.” You must work to attain the kind of life you desire. Your intentions determine what you create. Whatever surrounds you gives you a clue to your inner state.
- The law of humility: ”What you refuse to accept will continue for you.” You cannot change the people, places, or things around you. One of the happiest moments in life is when you let go of what you cannot change. I repeat, one of the happiest moments in life is when you let go of what you cannot change.
- The law of growth: “Wherever you go, there you are.” The only factor under your control is you yourself. When you change your thinking or your situation, changes in your life will follow. For you to grow in spirit, it is you who must change––not the people, places, or things around you. “Be the change you wish to see,” Gandhi reportedly said.
- The law of responsibility: “You must take responsibility for what is in your life.” If something is wrong in your life, something is wrong in you too. You mirror what surrounds you and what surrounds you mirrors you. If you don’t take responsibility, you’ll live like a coward. Responsibilities, like good habits, make the person.
- The law of connection: “Everything in the universe is connected,” both large and small. Everything that happens, past, present, and future, affects everything else. Even if something seems inconsequential, it must be completed. Each step leads to the next one, and neither the first nor the last step is more important. Both are needed to accomplish a task.
- The law of focus: “You cannot think in two different ways at the same time.” You can’t grow spiritually when you have negative thoughts. It is impossible to also have thoughts of greed or anger when you are thinking of higher values.
- The law of giving and hospitality: “What you claim you have learned must be put into actual practice.” You are called upon to show what you believe is true and to demonstrate selflessness. What you give comes back to you.
- The law of here and now. “Old thoughts, old patterns of behavior, old dreams, all prevent you from having new ones.” The present is all you have. Looking backward prevents you from being totally in the here and now. So does looking forward with longing––this sends a message of need. The now moment is the only time when we can make a change.
- The law of change: “History repeats itself until you learn the lessons that you need to change your path.” If you continue to replay the past without processing the events that happened, you cannot grow, move forward, or create new healthy patterns.
- The law of patience and reward: “Nothing of value is created without a patient mind-set.” Lasting rewards and true joy require the patience and persistent effort that come from doing what’s necessary.
- The law of significance and inspiration: “You get back from life whatever you have put into it.” The true value of anything is the direct result of the energy and intent you have exerted.
You have probably noticed that these laws of karma are all phrased as positive guidance, not as sins to avoid. I think of them as a type of conscience that tells us when we need to change, a way of paying attention to our thoughts and intentions. They help us to be aware and to develop mindfulness.
You also may have noticed from these twelve laws that each one of us is intricately connected with others. We don’t live in bubbles; we are constantly called upon to interact interpersonally. One of the key lessons of karma is that there are no accidents, no chance meetings. Some people may come into our lives for a moment, others for a lifetime. We are all inexorably drawn to certain people for a reason; they make up the two teams playing with us in our individual game of life. On the one side are the more difficult ones who will hold us back; they there to challenge us: they force us out of our comfort zones and teach us to confront our own faults, too. On the other side are those who are there to teach us, heal us, or empower us. They will move us forward and help us to change and develop. The key players are those who inspire us to grow and bring out the best in us. In any case, these karmic connections will help us to understand the purpose of our life experiences.
In conclusion, I’d like to quote from the last chapter of my book, Karma in Action: Finding Meaning, Making Choices.
Life doesn’t just happen to you. You create it, day by day. Stitch by stitch, you can make a beautiful quilt that will comfort you and warm your heart, or a tapestry of tragedy that will remind you of your pain. You decide. Life isn’t what happens to you. It’s what you make happen. . . .Karma brings life situations that are an opportunity for growth, for adapting your own behavior and way of thinking. No matter how old you are, karma will continue. Life is a process of unknown changes. There will be more lessons and more calls to action as long as you breathe. The only factor you have under your control is yourself, and adaptation is the ground rule of survival.
Karma does not pre-determine the events in our lives. We determine them. Karma is a powerful tool we can all use to create the life we want now–because life reflects our thoughts and energy.