What Is Karma and How Does It Work?
What is Karma?
Sadhguru: What you call as “my life” is a certain amount of energy controlled by a certain amount of information. This information, in today’s terms, can be called software. A certain amount of life energy is charged with a certain amount of information. Together, this information technology is you. You become a certain kind of character because of the type of information that has gone into you.
From the moment you were born till this moment, the kind of family, home, friends, the things that you did and did not do – all these things are influencing you. Every thought, emotion and action comes only from past impressions that you have had within you. They decide who you are right now. The very way you think, feel and understand life is just the way you have assimilated inputs.
The past impressions of life go far beyond the moment you were born, but in your perception right now, at least from the moment you were born till today, what kind of parents, family, and education you had, what kind of religious and social background, what kind of cultural realities – all these impressions have gone in. Someone has become a different character simply because of the type of information that has gotten into him. This is what is karma. This information is traditionally called karma or karmic body or causal body – that which causes life.
Types Of Karma
This information is on many different levels. There are four dimensions of karma, two of which are not relevant right now. For understanding, we can talk about the other two.
One is sanchita karma. This is the warehouse of karma which goes right back to a single-celled animal and even inanimate substances from where life evolved. All the information is there. If you close your eyes, become aware enough and look into yourself, you will know the nature of the universe – not because you are looking at it through your head, but simply because this information is present in the making of the body. There is a warehouse of information going back into creation. That is your sanchita karma. But you cannot take your warehouse and do retail business. You need to have a shop to do retail. That “retail shop,” which is for this life, is called prarabdha.
Prarabdha karma is a certain amount of information allotted for this life. Depending upon the vibrancy of your life, life allots for itself how much information it can take on. The creation is very compassionate. If it gives you the whole lot of karma that you have, you will be dead. Right now, many people are tortured by the simple memories from the 30-40 years of this lifetime. If they are given a hundred times that memory, they would not survive it. Nature allots prarabdha, an allotted memory that you could handle.
Break Free from Karma!
Whatever kind of karma you have, it is a limited possibility and that is what makes you into a limited person. Depending on what kind of impressions you took in, whether it was hatred and anger, or love and joy, you accordingly have a certain kind of personality – usually every human being is a complex mixture of these things. Once you allow this karmic structure to build beyond a certain point, there is really no such thing as freedom. Everything that you do is conditioned by the past. If you want to move in the direction of liberation, one of the first things that you need to do is to loosen the grip and shackle of karma. Otherwise, no movement will happen.
…if you are genuinely on the spiritual path, nothing will be clear. Everything will be a blur.
How do you do that? One simple way is to break the karma physically. If your karma is to wake up at 8 o’clock in the morning, you set your alarm for 5 o’clock. Your body’s karma is that it will not want to get up. But you say, “No, I am going to get up.” Even if it gets up, your body will want to sip coffee. But you give it a cold shower. Now, you are just breaking the old karmic process by consciously doing something. What you like you can do it unconsciously, isn’t it? What you dislike, you have to do it consciously. This is not the only way, there are other subtler and more effective ways, I am just telling you the crudest possible way.
Spirituality and Karma
Once you enter the spiritual path, you are making a statement, “I am in a hurry to get to my ultimate destination.” You do not want to take one hundred lifetimes. And in the process of this one hundred lifetimes you may gather enough karma to last out for another thousand lifetimes. You want to hurry it up. Once a spiritual process begins, if initiations are done in a certain way, it opens up dimensions which would not have opened up otherwise. You would have lived a more peaceful life if you were not spiritual, but a more lifeless life too, closer to death than life. Without anything fundamental being shaken within you, maybe you just passed comfortably.
Does this mean that all negative things happen to you once you are on the spiritual path? That is not how it is. It is just that when life moves at a tremendous pace – a pace much faster than that of people around you – you think some tragedy is happening to you. No tragedy is happening to you. It is just that they are going at normal speed but your life is rolling on fast-forward.
Every seeker must always decide – does he want to just enjoy the road or does he want to get to the destination quick?
Many people have this wrong notion that once you enter a spiritual path, you will become peaceful and everything will be clear. If you take on a convenient belief system and become a single-track mind, then everything seems to be clear. But if you are genuinely on the spiritual path, nothing will be clear. Everything will be a blur. The faster you travel the more of a blur it becomes.
A few years ago, I happened to be in Germany and after we finished the program, I had to drive to France, which was about 440 km from where I was. Usually the journey takes five hours. I had no intention of staying on the road for five hours so I just pushed it and we were doing something like 200 kmph. The countryside was supposed to be beautiful in this region, and I thought I would look at it. I tried to roll my eyeballs but everything was a blur and I could not take my eyes off the road for a moment. It was snowing and we were driving crazy speeds.
The faster you go, everything becomes a blur and you cannot take your eyes off what you are doing for a moment. If you want to enjoy the countryside, you must go easy and slow. If you are in a hurry to reach your destination, you gas it. You see nothing. You are just going. The spiritual path is like this. If you are really on the spiritual path, everything is in turmoil all around you. But you are still going, so it is okay. Is this alright? If it is not alright, you can go at the evolutionary pace. Maybe it will take a million years and you will get there.
For those who are in a hurry, there is one kind of path. For those who are not in a hurry, there is another kind of path. You must be clear about what you want. If you get onto the fast track and try to go slow, you will be run over. If you are on the slow path and try to go fast, you will get a ticket. Every seeker must always decide – does he want to just enjoy the road or does he want to get to the destination quick?