What Is Karma?

July 28, 2013

6 min read

Summary: Karma is not about good deeds or bad deeds. Karma is essentially the memory of life. Sadhguru says "The word karma evokes different types of understanding in people’s minds. Karma means action. Action is on many different levels. There is physical, mental, emotional and energy action which we can call karma. If the action sinks deeper than these four dimensions, then we call it kriya. So both karma and kriya mean action, but karma is that kind of action which leaves a residual imprint or impact upon the system."

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Karma – The Memory of Life

Sadhguru: The word karma evokes different types of understanding in people’s minds. Karma means action. Action is on many different levels. There is physical, mental, emotional and energy action which we can call karma. If the action sinks deeper than these four dimensions, then we call it kriya. So both karma and kriya mean action, but karma is that kind of action which leaves a residual imprint or impact upon the system. This means the memory and chemistry of that action remains. Kriya is a type of action which imprints itself on a completely different dimension and begins to dismantle the karmic residue that has accumulated in the system.

Karma is of many kinds, many different layers and many different dimensions. The actions that your father performed are working and kicking up within you in so many different ways, not just in your situation, but in every cell in your body. Many of you may have noticed that when you were eighteen or twenty, you rebelled completely against your father or mother, but by the time you were forty or forty-five, you began to behave just like them. You speak and act like them. That is a hopeless way to live because if life is going to repeat itself, if this generation is going to behave, act, live and experience life in the same way that the previous generation did, this is a wasted generation.

This generation should experience life in a way that the previous generation never even imagined. Not by doing something crazy, but the way you experience life should be taken to the next level.

Memory of Life

But karma is not just yours or your forefathers’. The first single-celled little piece of life, that bacteria or virus’ karma is also acting up within you today. In a normal-sized body you have approximately 10 trillion human cells. But in your body, there are over a hundred trillion bacteria – you are outnumbered one to ten! Just upon your facial skin, there are 18 billion bacteria. Aren’t you glad you’re not seeing them?

A significant percentage of you is actually bacteria. And the kind of bacteria that you have carries a certain behavioral pattern depending upon what kind of bacteria your forefathers had. The way the bacteria behave in your body and in some other body is very different and depends upon this memory.

So you inherit even the bacteria with a certain quality. They also carry a certain karmic content and behave and make the quality of your life in a certain way. So karma is not about something good or bad that you did. Karma is the memory of life. The very way the body is structured is because there is memory of life right from that single-celled animal to every other form. It is a medical fact that within your brain, there is a reptilian brain which is almost the size of a crocodile’s brain. Now do you understand why you go snapping at everybody?

All the grand ideas that you had about yourself are very false. This is why we told you, “It is all Maya,” because the way things are happening within you is such that almost everything that you do is controlled by past information.

“Does that mean to say I am hopelessly entangled?” Entangled for sure, but not hopelessly. From being a Pashupata – a composite expression of animal nature – from that single-celled animal to the highest one, there is a possibility of becoming a Pashupati – one can leave all this behind and transcend. Within the human system, the basic skeleton of the system – not the orthopedic skeleton, but the energy skeleton – or the basic blueprint of energy has 112 chakras or junction points where it is held together.

All these chakras function according to the influence of the karmic residue or the past memory within the system which makes this life process happen. But there are two other chakras outside the physical framework of the body which generally remain very minimal or almost dormant in most people. But if you do enough sadhana, they become active.

The 114th chakra pulsates in a certain way which has been described right from ancient times as the Ouroboros – the symbol of a snake swallowing its own tail. You can see this symbol in almost every ancient culture. In India you can see it all over the temples, you can see it in Greece, Egypt and in Mesopotamian temples – almost everywhere. You can see the Ouroboros in all ancient cultures which were focused more upon the beyond than what is here.

Today, modern mathematics uses the Ouroboros as the sign of infinity. So the 114th chakra pulsates in the form of the infinite. And if one’s energies touch this dimension within you, then every action, whatever you do is a process of liberation because action is not yours anymore, it is of infinite nature. If one’s energies are within the 112, every action that you do has a residue, so it is best that you do the right kind of action which leaves a pleasant residue upon you.

The Primal Scream

Whether activity entangles you or is a process of liberation depends essentially on one’s level of sadhana and also the attitude and the volition with which action is done. If people try to do sadhana without performing the needed activity in their lives, sadhana will be a great struggle.

If you try and sit for twelve hours a day and meditate, initially it will look like a great fortune, but within a month you will go nuts. If you cross that madness, you will cross everything, but most people give up when the madness arises within them, because it is not easy. This is a primal cry of your father, your grandfather, your forefathers and the goddamn bacteria. All of them will scream to find expression. They will not keep quiet. You can obliterate all of them, but it is a hard path which needs a lot of sadhana. Or you can distance yourself from them – let them scream but you are not bothered because you don’t hear. These are two different ways, but you cannot ignore them because they throb in every cell in your body.

To distance yourself from all that takes a lot of work, or it simply takes devotion. If you have to do it by yourself, it takes work. If you want to ride the grace, there is no work but you will not be in the driver’s seat. So you either learn to drive – which involves many risks – or an expert driver will drive and you can sit and doze off in the back seat. As long as you get there, what does it matter how?


Is Karma The Basis Of Your Physical Existence?

August 10, 2017

6 min read

Summary: Is Karma a wicked ploy to keep everything in suffering? Sadhguru tells us that there is nothing wicked about Karma. In fact Karma is the very basis of our physical existence. Karma is a wall we have built around us for our self-preservation. But this wall has also become our bondage. There is a part of you which is always wanting to expand and grow. For that, this same wall has become a wall of self-imprisonment. The most profound thing that Sadhguru tells us is, that 'no matter what kind of karma you have, this moment's karma is always in your hands'.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Karma on record

Q: Sadhguru, the other day when you were speaking about karma, you said that life has many back up processes for recording karma into a person; the mind, the body, and the energy also. Even if the mind is gone, it’s still engraved in the body and the energy. This sounds like a very elaborate and wicked ploy to keep everything in suffering. Why is this? 

Sadhguru: See, whenever I speak, you have got three recorders to record my karma, a wicked ploy to ensure that I can never go back on my word. In an unguarded moment if I make a promise, you have got three recordings to ensure that I cannot go back on it.

Now karma is not as you understand. There is nothing wicked about it. You are who you are only because of your karma. From the moment you were born until this moment, everything that you have done, thought, felt and experienced, that is your karma. That is what makes you who are right now. That is what has brought you to this place. So karma is not a wicked ploy. Yes, it is a bondage, but karma is also the protection. Karma is the very basis of your physical existence right now. If there is no karmic substance, there is no way to bind yourself to this body. Karma is the cement which has bound you to this body. If we take away all your karma, this moment you will shed your body, and we do not want that on our hands right now. So, the recordings are happening to ensure that, on the level of your body, your mind, your sensation, and your energy, nothing of you is ever lost.

The most basic instinct in you is self-preservation. To preserve yourself, you built a wall around yourself, and you enjoyed this wall and the protection it gave you for a certain period of time. But there is another part of you which is always longing to expand in an unlimited way. Now, that dimension of you suddenly starts telling you this wall is a prison. It wants to break the wall and go. But there is another part of you which is struggling for self-preservation which wants to strengthen the wall. It wants to make the wall thicker and thicker. If you look at a human being, even if we go by Charles Darwin, your history is animal nature; but there is something in you which is constantly longing for expansion. If you look at this longing, you will see it is not going to end at any point. It will not be satisfied unless it becomes unbounded.

The Karma Mansion

Your history is animal. Your future is divinity. Right now you are hanging like a pendulum, swinging between the two. One part of you, the strongest instinct in you, is self-preservation. Another part of you is longing to break all limitations. Karma is the wall of self-preservation. You built it at one point with great care, but now you feel self-imprisoned. Karma is a mansion of self-imprisonment. You cannot do with it; you cannot do without it. That is the problem. So now you try to expand the size of your prison, but suppose we lock you up in a 5 x 5 little cell. We kept you locked there completely, not by your choice – then you will be longing for freedom. Your idea of freedom will be the walls of the ashram, you know, the fence. If we let you out of it, it feels like enormous freedom, but within three days you will look at the mountains, look at the sky and look at the gate, and your idea of freedom will expand from the gate of the ashram to something else. We will say, okay you can go up to Thanikandi and come. That looks like wonderful freedom for some time, but then you want to go to Coimbatore. If you make sufficient trips to Coimbatore, then you feel Coimbatore is not enough. Some of you who are too influenced by traditional spirituality want to go to Himalayas. Otherwise, you want to go to a bigger city or something, you know. So your idea of imprisonment is constantly changing. Your idea of freedom also is constantly evolving.

Why spend a lifetime to understand life step by step and in the end die feeling like a fool? This is the time to look at it. Your idea of freedom is boundlessness. Your being will not settle for anything less than boundlessness. That is clear if you look at yourself. If you want to become unbounded, breaking physical barriers is not going to make you unbounded because the physical is never going to be unbounded. Only if you transcend the limitations of physical reality, if you go beyond the physical existence itself, there is a possibility of boundlessness.

Living by Choice

Karma is that which roots you in the physical. Without it, there is no way to be rooted. So nature is ensuring, or the creator is ensuring that you have a base to work with. Without holding to the body there is no seeking. A disembodied being cannot seek by choice. He can only seek by tendencies, never by choice, unless he is evolved to a certain point. But for an embodied being, every moment is choice, actually. If you are conscious in your life, every moment is by choice.

It does not matter what kind of karma you have – this moment’s karma is always in your hands.

Brahmacharya or sanyasa means that you are living by choice. Now to make this process of choice into a living reality, we have devised many things in yoga. In the morning, you like to roll in your bed. That is the natural tendency of the body, but now you do asanas in the morning. You can roll in the bed unconsciously, but you cannot do asana in the morning unconsciously. Naturally the whole process of body movement becomes conscious. You want to bring that aspect of conscious action into your life – conscious thought, conscious emotion, conscious way of existing here. The very life energy is becoming conscious because only if you become conscious, your life happens by choice. Otherwise your life will happen by compulsions. The difference between freedom and bondage right now is, either you are functioning compulsively or by choice.

Various types of karmas are there for human beings. The fruit of that is always there, but what you make out of it moment to moment is always yours – it is in your hands. It does not matter what kind of karma you have – this moment’s karma is always in your hands. In this moment, to be joyous or miserable is 100% by choice if you are willing to be conscious. So, karma being recorded, or you using three mechanisms to record me is not a problem because I am never going to go back on my words. So what is my problem? Use 300 recorders if you like. The same thing you will record. Nature is recording in a million ways. What is your problem? You can only go ahead. You cannot go back on it. So, let them record. Let the angels, the devils, and everybody record. Let the trees and the animals and insects record your karma. What is your problem?


What Is Collective Karma?

December 15, 2017

3 min read

Summary: Apart from individual karma, there is also 'collective' karma, or karmic memory. Karma is the memory of life. So, whatever actions are being done around you, will have an impact on you. You share your karmic memory with your family, community, nation. Lot of people may go through a lot of suffering and pain without in any way being associated with what is happening around them. Collective Karma may create certain consequences for you, but how you experience life within you, is entirely your making.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Collective Karma – How Does It Affect You?

Q: Pranam Sadhguru. Is every significant incident of life due to karma or something circumstantial?

Sadhguru: There is an individual karma and there is also a collective karma. As a family, as a community, as a nation, as humanity, we share karmic memory among ourselves. Maybe individually, we did not do anything. But our society is doing certain things. Because of that, there will be consequences. Do not understand karma as a reward and punishment system. It is not. It is just the basis of life. Without memory, there is no life. There is no possibility of either creating an amoeba or a human being without the material of memory. If life has to replicate itself, it needs memory. Karma is the memory of life. The very way the body is structured is because there is memory of life right from that single-celled animal to every other form.

Whatever actions that are being done around you will impact you.

Situations can happen to you because of social realities or the realities of the world. There are a million situations where people get killed every day for something that they have never done. A lot of people go through many levels of suffering and pain without being in any way associated with what is happening around them. But they are in that situation – that is their karma.

You are looking at karma as, “Is it my fault? I did not do this. Why did this happen to me?” That is not how karma is. Karma is just a memory system. Without this memory, there is no structure of any kind. All structures are built, and particularly the structures of life are repeatable only because there is a secure memory storage in every life. Let’s say something happened to me for which I have no memory. Well, the society around you has memory, those situations happen. The world has memory, those situations happen. And whatever actions that are being done around you will impact you.

Collective karma may create certain external consequences, but how you experience life is still determined by you right now.

Right now, there is pollution in New York City. I did not cause any, but I will also breathe poison. Right here, I am inhaling carbon dioxide – maybe monoxide. I did not do any karma. I planted so many trees. What to do? Once you have come to New York City, you have to inhale this. So, will there be a price? Of course, if I stay here long enough, there will be a price.

Whatever your individual karma, there is a collective karma. Your karma is essentially deciding how you experience the world, it is not deciding where you are in the world or what you are doing. You may be born in a palace but your karma may be such that you suffer. You may be born on the street but your karma may be such that you are a joyful human being. The past karma has created a certain external consequence or situation which you cannot change 100% instantly, it needs to be worked. A situation involves many things, not just you. But your karma can be changed instantly.

You can change your karma right now, which means you can change how you experience life right now. Only you are involved in this, so you can change this instantly if you are willing. But even if you and me are willing, the world may not be willing to change right now. So collective karma may create certain external consequences, but how you experience life is still determined by you right now.


How is Karma Created?

March 17, 2016

3 min read

Summary: Karma is essentially about the volition behind the action. Sadhguru says 'Karma is only in terms of your need to do something. When you have no need to do anything and you simply do what is needed, there is no karmic attachment to it.' When the volition is taken away, there will be no Karma. Acceptance, and unbounded responsibility means you will not have any volition about anything, and you will just do what is needed.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

The Source of Karma

Q: Sadhguru, you have told us many times that if we have bitter experiences in our life, it is because of our past doings. What type of activities should we do today to avoid future bitterness?

Sadhguru: The bitterness of any experience is not in what has happened, but in how you have received it. What is very bitter for one person could be a blessing for another person. Once, a grief-stricken man threw himself on a grave and cried bitterly, hitting his head against it, “My life! Oh! How senseless it is! How worthless this carcass of mine is because you are gone. If only you had lived! If only fate had not been so cruel as to take you from this world! How different everything would have been!” A clergyman nearby overheard him and said, “I assume this person lying beneath this mound of earth was someone of great importance to you.” “Importance? Yes, indeed,” wept the man, wailing even louder, “It was my wife’s first husband!” The bitterness is not in what is happening. It is in how you allow yourself to experience it. Similarly, past activity or karma is also not in terms of action, but in terms of the volition with which it is done.

Karma is only in terms of your need to do something. When you have no need to do anything and you simply do what is needed, there is no karmic attachment to it.

If you are a little open to me or to the teaching, the volition is taken away, so you just do what is needed. That is what awareness means; there is no volition. Where there is no volition, there is no karma. Acceptance means you are simply doing what is needed. Unbounded responsibility means you do not have any volition about anything. In every given situation, whatever you see as needed as per your awareness, you just do it according to your capability. The strength of your volition is what builds karma; whether it is good or bad, it does not matter.

People ask me the same question again and again, “What’s your mission?” When I tell them, “I have no mission, I am just fooling around,” they think I am being frivolous. They do not understand that this is the deepest statement I can make about living in the world, because there is no particular volition – just doing what is needed, that is all. In this, whatever you go through, there is no karma. Whatever you are doing is just happening as it is needed. Karma is only in terms of your need to do something. When you have no need to do anything and you simply do what is needed, there is no karmic attachment to it. It is neither good nor bad.


Are Habits & Karma Connected?

March 16, 2017

4 min read

Summary: Sadhguru tells us that we form habits, which are certain patterns, to bring a certain ease in our lives, and for the sake of survival. As people grow, those looking for excitement, will drop their habits easily, while those who are fearful and want to preserve themselves will hold onto their habits. Sadhguru says - "What we refer to as karma is also just this. Karma means you are unconsciously creating patterns for yourself, not only about your behavior, but about the way life happens to you."

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Breaking Your Habits – Living Consciously

Q: They say habits die hard. Do the qualities you develop in the cradle only die when you do?

Sadhguru: Let us look at this from a different perspective. A habit is formed essentially because it brings a certain ease to your life – it makes certain parts of your life automatic. You do not have to think or consider anything about it. You can do it just like that.

Naturally, as a part of a human being’s defense mechanism, he forms a few habits because unlike other animals, we have not come with many of our traits fixed. For other animals, most of their traits are fixed. You notice just a little bit of difference between one dog and the next, between one cat and the next. They have their individual personality, but most of their traits are fixed. For us, extremely little is fixed. Almost everything is wide open for a human being. Because of this, as a child, you try to form a defense pattern within yourself where you try to create your own patterns.

Shaking Off the Patterns

Every child creates certain habits for the sake of survival. That is survival instinct. With these patterns, he can function with some ease. It is very relevant for a child. But generally, children shake these patterns off as they grow, depending upon the level of exposure and awareness you create around them. Either by exposure or with education, people will change. People change so dramatically – they go out for three years and come back, and parents cannot recognize their children anymore. Everything about them has changed because of a different level of exposure.

If a person takes up a spiritual path, all his habits will drop because there is no such thing as a good and bad habit.

It is those who are fearful and constantly engrossed in self-preservation who cannot drop their old habits easily. Those who are looking for excitement, life, adventure – they will drop their habits very easily because they are always remodeling their lives whichever way it is needed for the situations in which they exist right now.

Above all, if a person takes up a spiritual path, all his habits will drop because there is no such thing as a good and bad habit. All habits are bad. They may be instruments of survival at a certain stage in your life, but once you have grown up you should not have any habit, good or bad, because a habit means you are learning to conduct your life unconsciously. That may look safe, but it denies you life in so many different ways.

Habits and Karma

Spirituality is the fundamental tool to break all unconscious patterns that we have within ourselves. What we refer to as karma is also just this. Karma means you are unconsciously creating patterns for yourself, not only about your behavior, but about the way life happens to you. If people examine their lives, the very way situations happen, the way opportunities come, the way they meet people, all of it is in certain kinds of patterns. This is simply because of the kind of karmic patterns you have created.

Habit is a small manifestation of the karmic pattern. You take in a certain input and make a pattern out of it. That becomes your habit. A spiritual process means you do not want anything to happen within you unconsciously. Conducting your life unconsciously is not an intelligent way to live. Whether you picked up the habit in your cradle or in your mother’s womb or even before that, it does not matter. If you are seeking evolution, if you are seeking liberation or mukti, you have to break all your patterns – not good, not bad, but all. You do not have to wait until the grave. The grave does not break all patterns either.

Even if you go to the graveyard, even if your body is burned, your patterns will not break. That is what karma means. It goes beyond that because you do not break these patterns by losing your body. So it is extremely important that when you are alive and awake, you strive to go beyond these patterns.

Demolish the pattern and handle your life consciously. For example, I am speaking now – I can speak either habitually or consciously. That is the big difference. It does not matter if I just sit and gossip, still ten thousand people want to listen because every word is uttered consciously, not habitually. Nothing is habitual in this. Whatever may be the content of what I am saying, people still want to listen because every word is coming out consciously, and that has power. If you take every breath in and out consciously, suddenly your breath has a different kind of power. Every movement in your life, if you make it consciously, every single movement has tremendous power. If you want to know the power of life, you have to be conscious about it, otherwise it does not even exist for you.


Are Karma & Dreams Connected?

August 7, 2014

11 min read

Summary: In a way, dream and wakeful states are both reality. Both are interpretations of the mind. Sadhguru says, "Right now, how you are experiencing the creation is completely dreamy. It is not the way it is". Karma is accumulated because of volition, not action. Because there is no volition in a dream, you can not accumulate Karma while dreaming, it is a process of unwinding of Karma. So, yes, in many ways, your dreams are driven by your Karma. Sadhguru also shares how a simpleton is unwinding more karma than winding new; and how educated people are winding way more than they are unwinding, largely because of the current education system which establishes strong intentions in a person.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Dreams and Karma

Sadhguru: When an individual dreams, it is called a fantasy. When a group of people dream, it becomes a society. When the universal dreams, it generally passes off as reality. A dream is a certain reality, and reality is a certain dream. The best thing about a dream is, when you wake up, it’s over. So it is with the so-called reality – when you wake up, it’s over. Medically, if we check the parameters of your body in sleep, it is just in a slightly lower state – you could be meditating. So sleep is just a more relaxed state of wakefulness, or wakefulness is a more agitated state of sleep.

Is this some kind of play of words, some kind of entertainment that we can think, “Okay, dream and wakefulness are the same, reality and dream are the same?” It is not so. You know reality only the way your senses interpret it for you. You do not know it the way it is. So what you call “reality” is an interpretation of your mind, what you call “dream” is also an interpretation of your mind. Whatever happens in your mind is another kind of reality. We can call it “psychological reality.” For most people, their dream is far more powerful than their thought process. Unfortunately, they don’t remember most of it.

The unwinding of karma

The process of life can be interpreted as an unwinding of that which has already been done. When we say, “Your life is the way it is because that’s your karma,” it simply means, your life is an unwinding of that which has already been done. But life situations may not collaborate very well with the karmic substance that you have. If you are trying to do a dream with eyes open and seek the cooperation of the world to do your dream, it is a hopeless way to live because the world will not cooperate with your dream. They have their own stuff. In a dream, you are able to create a conducive atmosphere for the kind of winding that you have. Only if life has gone beyond the unconscious unwinding of karma and it has become a conscious process, then, wakefulness is more meaningful. If life is limited only to unwinding of that which has already been done, a dream is definitely a better space to do it.

Can you accumulate karma in a dream? The accumulation of karma is not in the activity that you perform. It is in the volition or the intention of one’s action.

In the yogic culture, Shiva, the Mahadeva, is described either as utter sleep or absolute wakefulness. This is the state of a fully conscious one: either he does not exist, or he is on. There is no in-between reality for him because if there is nothing to unwind, there will be only stillness and awakening. There will be no dream state. When I say “dream,” I’m not only talking about the scenery that happens when you are asleep, even when you have your eyes open, you are in a dream state. Right now, how you are experiencing the creation is completely dreamy. It is not the way it is.

The power of the dream and the flimsiness of the dream are simultaneously present. For one who is lost in the dream, it is a powerful thing. For one who is looking at it from a little distance it is such a flimsy thing. It just depends on how you have positioned yourself in relation to your dream.

So can you accumulate karma in a dream? The accumulation of karma is not in the activity that you perform. It is in the volition or the intention of one’s action. Are you capable of an intention in a dream? Can you decide, “Today, I am going to have this kind of dream?” No. There is no volition in a dream. So a dream is only a process of unwinding. Even during the day, most of the time you are only unwinding that which has already been done. Your anger, your ambition, your frustration, your love, your passion, your hatred, most of this is only unwinding of karma, not your doing. You will realize this only when you try to stop it. Let’s say you got very angry with someone yesterday, and today, you are determined, “I don’t want to get angry with this person.” But when you meet him you will see, once again you get angry. Obviously it is not your doing. Most of the time, you are only doing the reverse of what has already been done. Only when you try to transform yourself, you will realize this. This unwinding of the karmic process seems so real, seems like it is you who is doing this. When we say “karma,” we are saying, it is your doing. When one believes that whatever he is doing, he is doing out of his intentions, it is a very basic state of ignorance.

Losing self-interest

There is a chant that says, “It’s all you, Mahadeva, it’s all you. My evil is my mind’s doing, my actions are my body’s doing – where am I? I don’t even exist. It is all yours.” If a true devotee says this, then it is a very beautiful state of realization. If the mind says this, then it is a very gross level of cunning. Most human beings have learnt to pass the buck to someone else or something else whenever things that are happening are not to their liking. Only if you are willing to pass that which you like and that which you do not like, that which is failure and that which is success to someone else, it is okay. If your wellbeing and your distress both are being passed to someone, that’s okay. If you are only willing to pass your distress, not your wellbeing – you are trying to make a bad deal with someone. No one is going to buy this deal unless he is an absolute fool.

Even the dimmest person is very clever when it comes to his self-interest. Only when human beings get more and more intelligent, they are less and less concerned about their self-interest. The dimmer they are, the shrewder they are about their self-interest. Have you noticed this? Being interested in the limited self is a foolish thing. It’s a terrible loss that is happening to an individual human being and to humanity as a whole. When he could be interested and involved in the grandeur of the cosmos, he is interested in one little person who is not worth anything. When intelligence expands and starts looking at a variety of things, a human being is not so concerned about his self-interest. If one’s intelligence truly flowers, he has no self-interest.

Karma is many things. We talk about the same karma on different levels, according to one’s perception right now. Karma means action. Whose action? “My action.” The first thing is to realize, “This unwinding is happening only because the winding has been done by me.” The unwinding looks oh so automatic. “It doesn’t even take my involvement. It just happens. My anger just happens, my thoughts just happen, my emotions just happen.” It does not even take an intention or involvement to make this happen. It is simply happening. It almost looks like it is some other creature doing all this. If you stay in silence for a period of time, and you just observe the way the mind is going on, it is almost like you are possessed by something else. As if it is doing its own thing. But it is only undoing your doing.

Now, is life all doing, dream all undoing? No. Life is a mixture of doing and undoing. The more unconscious you are, the more undoing is happening. If you become partially conscious, you will end up doing a lot more. If you become fully conscious, then undoing will happen very rapidly, doing will be completely held back. A partial level of consciousness always does more doing than undoing. For example, a simple peasant is simply undoing his karma. He is not acquiring too many things. He gets up in the morning, plows his land, takes care of his animals, goes about simple things that he has to do and that’s it. He is not thinking there and working out how to conquer the world. So his life is largely undoing. It is not that he does not do at all, but his doing is so much less than undoing because the nature of his life does not allow too much doing; it’s mostly undoing, but once you become educated, your doing and undoing gets pretty well mixed up, you’re capable of undoing and doing at the same time.

The role of education

On one level, your thought and emotion are working themselves out in unconscious ways. On another level, you have intentions to fulfill. This is happening to people all the time. I don’t want to blame it all on education, but generally, the type of education you receive is the reason for this – it sets up strong intentions in you. Today’s education is not a process of knowing, it is not a process of realization, it is not a process of developing your body or your mind to its fullest capability. It sets up very strong desires and ambitions within you.

This is a powerful tool for creating karma: intention. It is the volition which causes karma, not the action.

Educated people are suffering with limitless wants. They cannot eat a full stomach and happily sit and sleep. No. When they are eating, they are talking business. It is not because they have taken up the cause of the world, to create something, to build something, to make their lives or everyone’s lives wonderful. No. They simply want to do more of the nonsense that they are doing because very strong intentions have been set up, without any particular purpose. This is a powerful tool for creating karma: intention. It is the volition which causes karma, not the action.

In the karmic process, the unwinding is happening because of activity. The winding is happening because of strong intentions. The more you think of yourself, the stronger your intentions become. When I say intentions, I’m not talking about great intentions – I’m talking about strong intentions. When you are in anger, you could be unwinding, but you could also be winding. You may just burst into anger and cool down. Or you can burst into anger and then create an intention: “You know what I want to do to her?” Now you will be winding in a big way. Anger is just an explosion. Anger is just an unwinding of something that has happened within you. Anger may breed hatred. Hatred is an intention. Hatred is anger which has taken on an intention. Jealousy may be an unwinding, we can say envy is an intention – it is jealousy that has taken on an intention. Now, with a certain coolness, even if you are angry, if you become hateful, you don’t show your anger or hatefulness anymore. You put on a cool face and do the hot things, isn’t it? Lust for example is an unwinding. Passion is winding because it is an intention.

The so-called sophisticated

If you find expression to all the thoughts and emotions that happen within you, you would come out almost brutish. To polish that, you create an intention – that’s winding. This so-called sophistication is suicide because you constantly wind faster than you unwind, because the mind becomes two-faced. On one level, it is unwinding, on another level, it has its own intentions. You will see the so-called sophisticated people – when I say “sophisticated,” I mean socially sophisticated people not truly sophisticated people – they always suffer much more than simple folk. Simple people’s anger, hatred, and prejudice find open expression. They may look crude but in terms of cunning, they are many points below the so-called sophisticated people. The more sophisticated people, initially they learn to deceive others. After some time, they become experts and they can even deceive themselves. Their intentions are not even revealed to themselves.

Education enhances that capability because of the variety of exposure it gives you without proper understanding of how the human mind functions, how it evolves, what can make it flower, what can make it turn dirty – these things are not being looked at with any profoundness. Information is simply dished out in all kinds of forms to all kinds of people. So generally, people unfortunately are making use of education to wind themselves up. In terms of the world around them, in terms of information, they may know more, but in terms of life process, educated people are generally more ignorant than the illiterate. If you go to a simple illiterate peasant’s house in India, his sense of life, his sense of his body, his sense of his physical comfort, his sense of what works with somebody and what doesn’t is so much more clear-cut and sensible than that of most of the educated communities in the world. Because he doesn’t have so much confusing thought in his mind. He is not loose in his head, which has happened to a large segment of educated people. It is not that education itself is the culprit, it is because there is no guideline as to how to make use of it for one’s wellbeing. So unfortunately, education which should have been empowerment, education which should have been clarity, has brought more confusion about the life process itself.

So wakefulness and dream – it is best that you do not distinguish between the two. I want you to see either both these states as dream, or both these states as different levels of wakefulness. This is one kind of dream, that is a deeper dream. Or this is one kind of reality, that is another kind of reality. If you see it this way, you can make both into a process of unwinding rather than winding.


How Can I Get Free of My Karma?

April 29, 2019

3 min read

Summary: If your energies move upwards, but your thoughts move downwards, then they will collide and create certain friction and struggle within you. There is a distinction between thoughts and thinking. Though, how you think is strongly influenced by your karma, but if you are willing, your intellect can think beyond it. When you do any sadhana, it is very important that you create the necessary psychological ambiance within yourself to reap the full benefits of the practices. Sadhguru gives a simple 20 second 'crash course' to become more receptive and distance yourself from your karmic structure.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Becoming Free from Karmic Structure

Q: If our thoughts reflect our karmic structure, can changing our thought pattern impact our karmic structure? And how can we become free from it?

Sadhguru: There is a difference between thought and thinking. Thoughts are simply floating away, depending upon the content of your mind. Thinking means you consciously think about something. How you think may be strongly influenced by the content of your mind, but still your intellect has some discretion to think beyond that if you are willing. In the Inner Engineering and Isha Yoga programs, we spend over thirty hours with you to transmit a twenty-one-minute practice. What we are doing in this time is helping you to consciously think beyond your karmic limitations. When you do a certain kriya or sadhana of any kind and your thought does not facilitate this, energy may burst upwards, but your thought may go downwards. If thought and energy collide, it will create a certain amount of friction and struggle.

This is what is happening to a lot of people. You sat in the program and suddenly realized, “Yes! It’s really me who is doing all this. I always thought it was someone else who is doing something to me, but it’s actually me!” That was true for you for the first three months after the program. It was like a dream – everything transformed. But slowly, people fall back into the same old patterns. You again start to blame others for what is happening in your life. That means you are re-establishing your ignorance. Then there is no ambience for your sadhana to flower. If you do the practice without setting the necessary psychological ambience, it will only create health benefits, no transformation.

If you do the Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya (from the Inner Engineering program) without setting the psychological ambience, the energy will go up, but your mind will pull it down.

This is not because the practice wears out. This is not because your sadhana has become ineffective. This is simply because you are not setting the psychological ambience that is necessary for the practice to succeed. If you do the Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya (from the Inner Engineering program) without setting the psychological ambience, the energy will go up, but your mind will pull it down. That is why those of you who have done the program should give yourself a three-minute crash course in Inner Engineering every day before you do your Shambhavi.

If you do not create that psychological ambience, the content of the mind will catch up with you. What we offer you in the Inner Engineering program is a fool-proof way to fix that. There will be no room for you to get stuck to anything. If you fix that every day and do your practice, transformation will be a continuous process. As long as you live, the transformation will go deeper and deeper. Just one practice is enough. You do not have to keep doing different things. If you give yourself to this one thing, it will take you all the way.

To become free from your karmic structure does not mean to forget about it. Forgetfulness is not freedom. It is important to know it but not be stuck with it. Being ignorant of something is not freedom. Knowing it and being untouched by it is the important thing. If you set this ambience, it will take you beyond your karmic structure.


How to Get Rid of my Karma?

October 18, 2019

4 min read

Summary: Sadhguru says, that we should learn to be happy with our compulsions! Only when we are joyful, transformation is possible. Joyfulness brings flexibility; and only flexibility opens the possibility to go beyond our compulsions. If we bury, our karma deep, then it will grow manifold. "Karma, is not the problem; how you carry it is the only problem".

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Unhappy With Compulsions?

Question: Sadhguru, I am not happy with the fact that compulsions have been popping up as I am doing my sadhana.

Sadhguru: You must learn to be happy with your compulsions. Anyway you have the compulsion. If you are not happy with it, now you have two problems – compulsion and unhappiness! Already you have one problem, don’t create the next one. At least if you have one problem, it is easier to deal with it.

Unhappiness is unpleasantness. Why we are always talking about joy and love is to keep your mind and emotions pleasant. When these are pleasant, you are flexible and we can do many things with you. When your mind and your emotions are unpleasant, you become rigid; nothing can be done about you. If you are in a state of pleasantness, you are willing to be molded into a different shape. When you are in a state of unpleasantness, you are not even willing to be touched.

Look At Your Compulsions Joyfully

Unhappiness is a bigger problem than whatever compulsions you have. It is a far bigger problem because now you cannot be touched, molded or helped. Whatever nonsense you are, the first thing is to learn to be joyful and loving. You have your compulsions – just learn to look at them joyfully. Then it will be easy to work with you, help you, reach out to you – to do things with you beyond your likes and dislikes. Your likes and dislikes are the most basic compulsions; if we have to help you out of these, you have to be in a pleasant state. If you are in an unpleasant state, we cannot make you do something that you do not like; you will do only what you like. The more unhappy people are, the more they will insist, “I will do only this. This is how I am!” Joyful people are flexible – you can make them dance, you can make them cry, you can make them jump, you can make them do funny things, you can ask them to crawl around; they will do everything when they are happy. They are flexible.

Don’t lose your flexibility. That is most important. Flexibility is not possible when you are in any state of unpleasantness, either in the mind or in the emotion. Being joyful, loving and peaceful is important only for this reason – because you have many compulsions.

Karma Potatoes

If you are smart, you must always remember every unpleasant experience you have had – without resentment or anger – so that you never ever get into the same situations again.

Karma is like a sack of potatoes. The deeper you bury these compulsions, the more they will grow. Sadhana is to pull them out and dry them in such a way that they cannot grow again. If you put yourself through a period of intense sadhana, you will see that when you go out in the world, so many of your simple compulsions are gone. But still there are a lot of potatoes to pull out. Every day you need to pull them out and dry them to such a point where they cannot sprout again.

If the same potato grows into a million, that is an exaggerated potato. Let us say you have five minutes of intense experience – of pain, fear, some torturous experience or something which was abhorrent to you. In these five minutes of potatoes, they will multiply and multiply and rule your whole life. Wherever you go, that is what you will talk about, what you think about. You buried them and they are multiplying. They will become millions of potatoes of the same abhorrent kind. Now if you dry this potato and keep it there, it is a good experience. Even if you went through a really bad experience, it is a good experience because what you learn through unpleasant moments in your life is invaluable. Only a fool will try to forget. If you are smart, you must always remember every unpleasant experience you have had – without resentment or anger – so that you never ever get into the same situations again.

So, karma is not the problem; how you carry it is the only problem.

We don’t want to get rid of the potatoes; we just want to pull out the potatoes and dry them in such a way that they cannot sprout. We want to preserve the potatoes; otherwise we will again be ignorant fools who do the same things all over again. The value of life’s experience cannot be thrown away. But if you let it grow into you, then it just poisons your whole life. Karma, or the memory of experience, is the only thing which can bring wisdom to you, but it is also the only thing which can bind you – can so heavily poison your life that it can destroy you. So, karma is not the problem; how you carry it is the only problem.


What Can I Do About My Past Karma?

November 2, 2018

3 min read

Summary: What is Karma? How does one end up building a Karmic mountain? And once one has build an enormous Karmic mountain, how does one dismantle it? In this article, Sadhguru simplifies this extremely complex aspect of life. It is the journey of inclusion with absolute involvement which is liberating. Read on to find more...

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Deal with the Karmic Mountain Around You

Sadhguru: Shankaran Pillai boarded a local bus. Suddenly, he covered his face with a shawl and doubled up. A puzzled co-passenger asked him, “Sir, are you all right?” Shankaran Pillai assured him that he was all right, and said, “It’s just that if I see that old lady there, I would have to offer her my seat. I’m crouching to avoid seeing her.”

Shankaran Pillai’s choice was either to stand and offer his seat, or continue sitting. But most people try to avoid involvement of various kinds, never realising that avoidance is big karma. The moment you try to shun involvement, karma multiplies. And the calculation – “Should I give up my seat or not” – is an even bigger karma.

How does one escape this entanglement-avoidance trap? This question confuses many. In a state of confusion, everything around you sticks to you! It is like you are covered by a super-glue coating, and every speck of dust adheres. Acquiring karma has nothing to do with performing good or bad deeds. You simply build karma within yourself with confused intentions and limited desires. After some time, you have such a mountain of karma around you that it becomes difficult to breathe.

Human desire can be limited or boundless. If you choose boundless desire, that is the end of karma.

How can one ever dismantle this enormous karmic mountain? The answer is simple: you don’t try to dismantle it. You just wash off the glue. The entire mountain will fall apart in an instant. How is this adhesive removed? Not through avoidance, but through conscious involvement. With conscious involvement, there is no possibility of ever getting stuck again.

Human desire can be limited or boundless. If you choose boundless desire, that is the end of karma. Alternatively, if you rise above your likes and dislikes, your narrow ideas of “mine” and “not mine”, that is the end of karma. Make your desire inclusive, make everything yours, become a mother to the world, and the possibility of being stuck vanishes forever.

The whole system of yoga is to cultivate a profound sense of involvement without any specific intention or motive.

The ultimate aim of the spiritual path is dispassionate involvement and unwavering focus. It does not matter what you are involved with or focused on: God, a rock, a man or a woman. The object of focus is unimportant. The Akashi mudra practice in the yogic tradition entails focussing on nothing at all; it is simply an unwavering focus on empty space. The premise is that liberation does not depend on the object of your focus, but the focus itself.

The whole system of yoga is to cultivate a profound sense of involvement without any specific intention or motive. Over time, this was misunderstood to mean aloofness: people confused involvement with entanglement and dispassion with indifference. What they forgot – and as Shankaran Pillai found out on that bus – is that ignoring someone also needs a lot of involvement!

It is the journey of inclusion that liberates you, not the destination. In exclusion, you become trapped. In inclusion, you are liberated.

Since life itself is a process without purpose, it is only in absolute involvement in the process that the juice of life can be tasted. Process is the purpose; the goal just a consequence. And it was to simplify things that so many ancient traditions spoke of “devotion”.

There is nothing sentimental about devotion. If the fire of genuine devotion burns within you, it will burn up everything. It will ensure you are absolutely committed to the process without worrying about what the goal is. It is the journey of inclusion that liberates you, not the destination. In exclusion, you become trapped. In inclusion, you are liberated.


How To Dissolve My Karma?

November 9, 2015

11 min read

Summary: The process of life itself dissolves your Karma. But you are building up new Karma through your thoughts and emotions. For many people building more Karma outpaces the dissolution! Karma is the illusion of many. This is the foundation of Karma. Sadhguru says 'if you confuse yourself, “Which is me and which is not me?” suddenly karma loses its foundation'. Kriyas and Pranayam are a process to strengthen the energy body and bring a certain distance from your Karma.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Shut Down Your Karma Factory

Sadhguru: Every moment of your life, whatever you do or don’t do, your karma is dissolving. The very life process is dissolution of karma. You have a certain amount of allotted karma, which we refer to as prarabdha. The prarabdha is working itself out. But the problem is the production factory is working overtime – new karma is being piled up so rapidly. Dissolution can only happen at a certain pace, but people can be very efficient with production! For example, during a standard day in your life, from the moment of waking till you go to sleep, if you compare how much activity you actually do by simply working, and how much you think up things, what you are thinking up could be fifty times more than what you do. I am being very conservative when I say fifty. You are producing fifty times more karma than you can work out. It is just like calories. You are burning 600 calories but eating 6000 calories – it has to pile up somewhere.

Shut Down Your Karma Factory

Let’s say you don’t do any karma – nishkarma – you simply sat. This means karma is still working out now at the same pace but you are not producing anything. This is the reason why spiritual atmospheres are made in such a way that you don’t decide when to eat. There is a bell, and you go and eat. You don’t decide what to eat. You joyfully eat what is served. You don’t choose. We are not against enjoying food, it is just that for the simple act of eating you produce so much karma by desiring, thinking and multiplying all this. After all, you can only eat so much. If the food is good and you like it very much maybe you eat 5% extra. If you go beyond 10% you are in trouble. For this simple act of eating, how much is going on in people’s head! I enjoy food as much as anyone, but you must do the food on your tongue or your stomach. Or if you like to cook you must do it in the pan. I like to cook so I do it in the pan. If I like the food I do it on the tongue or in the stomach. You are doing it in the head – that’s not the place for food. Head and food don’t go together – you are creating karma.

Please look at every aspect like this in your life. You are creating fifty or hundred times more karma than you are working out on a daily basis. When you cook food, or when you joyfully eat, digest it and make it a part of yourself, you are working out karma. The simple process of life itself will work out karma.

A spiritual path means we want to set your karmic process on fast-forward. We want to take a bigger load of karma than the allotted load because we don’t want to come back and do the same thing again and again. We want to finish it off right now. This is a conscious choice one has to make – do you want to slowly work it out or do you want all the nonsense to be over as quick as possible.

If you enter an active spiritual process, suddenly you may find everything is moving at a bewildering pace. You will see, you are in more trouble than ever before. Earlier, troubles used to come to you once in six months. Now, every six hours you are in deep trouble because your karmic process is on fast-forward. Only fools who have sanitized themselves from life believe that spirituality means being peaceful. No. To be spiritual means to be on fire – inside, outside, everywhere. Peace will happen when you rest in peace. This is the time for exuberant life! If you were ecstatic or very blissful and joyful, would you even think of being peaceful? Such a thought wouldn’t even occur to you.

The Karmic Spring

Unfortunately, nowadays, humanity is not looking at how to intensify life, we are always looking to elongate life. Because of this, a number of people lose their memory and mental faculties beyond a certain point, and a karmic factor is very much there in these ailments.

Today, without taking care of the karmic fiber we are just trying to elongate the physical life of a human being because we have a certain amount of mastery over biochemistry.

Karma means a certain kind of software that you unconsciously created. Before you were born, somewhere between 40 to 48 days after conception, this karmic fiber was tightening itself like a spring coil. Depending upon past information, the strength of your body, the nature of your parent, the type of conception and various factors, it chooses a certain amount of information to be tightened into a spring. It is like a coiled spring. If you simply sit, it will slowly unwind itself. The more still you sit, the faster it will unwind itself but because you are in activity and you are also piling up new things, it unwinds itself at a certain pace. If I look at the tension in the karmic fiber when someone is born, I can easily tell you how many years approximately that child will live – if some drunken driver doesn’t smash the child down, or if he doesn’t come in touch with any spiritual master! If he just lives a standard life, we can say how long he will live. We know the coil will work itself out at a certain pace.

This was a common thing when a child was born in India: the first thing the family would do is invite a yogi or sage to the house, or they would take the child to him because they want him to feel the child. It is still there today but generally birthday parties have replaced these things. Otherwise, this was the most significant thing. You want to take your child to a certain person who can see if there is any over-tightening of the spring, and do something to fix that to ensure the child’s wellbeing. But still, a drunken driver can knock him down. Or some master can come and either unwind him fast or load up many lifetimes of karma onto his present load. So, karma works itself out in a certain way unless something happens and it gets all wound up once again or gets released too fast. These things may happen because of certain issues.

Today, without taking care of the karmic fiber we are just trying to elongate the physical life of a human being because we have a certain amount of mastery over biochemistry. We are trying to stretch life using medicine and surgery. This could be one of the major reasons for the number of people losing their memory and mental faculties beyond a certain point because it is a “dumb computer” – do what you want, it just stares at you because though the software is over, the hardware is still kept going with a replaced heart or kidney.

If they had also strived to enhance the other dimension of their life and done a little bit of spiritual work – something beyond the physicality – then even if you live for a thousand years you can generate the necessary software because there is a lot of stuff elsewhere. There is a warehouse of karma which has not been opened up right now which is called sanchita. Or, you could have programmed yourself such that when your software is going away you also have the freedom to shed your hardware.

Karma is essentially the maya of many. “Maya” is usually translated as “illusion” though that word doesn’t convey everything. But let’s say maya means illusion. The illusion of the many is the foundation of karmic substance. As long as you are established in, “This is me, that is you,” karma is a well-established reality. It is like a solid, real, steel structure.

However, if you confuse yourself, “Which is me and which is not me?” suddenly karma loses its foundation. If you look around and you don’t know which is you and which is not you, in this mix up the karmic foundation cannot stand anymore and just crumbles. In one moment of confusion, suddenly, whole structures of karma just collapse. Have you noticed, if you ever fell in love with someone, your likes and dislikes, who you are, what you like, what you don’t like, everything got mixed up a little bit – at least for a few days, after which it might have come back to you again! You started doing what you thought you cannot do because who you are was a little confused. The maya of the many was confused because a little bit of oneness came between two people, and suddenly the karma lost its foundation and crumbled.

The Problem of Many

It happened like this – during 1944, eight Hitler doubles were kept in a safe house. Of all the people, these were the best fed, best kept people and they didn’t have to do anything except once in a while. They were trained to be like Hitler. They dressed like him, they ate like him – they had to do whatever he did because when they had to play the act, they had to do it in such a way that nobody would know. So, these guys were really having a good time.

Then Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s trusted aides came. It was part of the routine that whenever anyone came, they had to salute the doubles just the way they would salute Hitler because they had to get used to it. So, Himmler came and said “Hail Hitler!” Then he said, “I have good news and bad news.”

All of them said together, “Good news first.”

“Our Fuhrer is alive and well.”

“Bad news…?”

“Unfortunately, he lost his left eye,” and he pulled out a cork screw.

Karma is like that. It is the problem of the many. So, the first thing is to stop creating – life works itself out. Or if you want to drop all your karma at once, that can also be done. But you need to understand, karma is not only a bondage, it is also a protection. It is a cement that binds you with the body. If all karma is dissolved, you will not be able to hold on to your body – you will drop it. If you are not aware of this, for most beings, the moment of enlightenment and the moment of leaving the body are the same. Only those who are on the path of kriya, who know the mechanics and the nuts and bolts of the body hold on to it.

Exercising the Etheric Body

In yoga, we look at a human being as five sheaths or layers of body. Three – the physical, the mental and the energy body – are physical realities; maybe subtle but still physical. The other two – the etheric body and the bliss body – are in a different realm. The etheric body is a transition from physical to non-physical. The bliss body is purely non-physical. The physical body, the mental body and the energy body carry karma. But the etheric body and the bliss body do not have any karmic substance because they are non-physical. The physical dimension of existence happens between cause and effect. But what is beyond the physical does not happen between cause and effect. So, the moment you begin to taste the divine, suddenly, it doesn’t matter how many heaps of karma you have, it has no impact on you because you are beginning to step into the realm of the non-physical where there is no karmic substance.

Karma is the problem of the many. So, the first thing is to stop creating – life works itself out.

When you do any kind of conscious breathing processes like kriyas and pranayams, you are trying to exercise the etheric body – that dimension of you which has a physical element in it but is not physical. You are trying to strengthen that because you want that to become a passage, not a barrier to the non-physical dimension of who you are. There are various other aspects to it in terms of physiological and psychological benefits, and the spiritual dimension, but one simple aspect is, if this dimension, which is the link between the physical body and the non-physical dimension that is the very source of creation, becomes a strong force by itself, then the physicality of who you are, the psychological structure that you call as “myself,” and that dimension which is the source of all this will naturally be connected all the time. The idea is that Divine is not an idea or belief in your life, Divine is a living presence in your life. That is the basis of sadhana, that these three are well integrated and connected on a moment-to-moment basis. We are not looking for highs or a once-in-a-way experience, we are looking for constant contact with that dimension. Only then it finds expression in the way you live, in the way you exist, in the way you can do things – in everything.


How is Karma Connected To Liberation (Moksha)?

June 9, 2016

4 min read

Summary: Karma means action. Action is performed at four levels, at the level of body, mind, emotion and energy. Most of the actions you perform are unconscious, but their residual memory builds within you. Though Karma is being projected as 'reward and punishment', it is not that. Karma means, building up memory. It means, life is entirely your making. In the Indian culture, God is not the goal, the ultimate goal is always liberation. Mukti or liberation means to wipe out the Karmic information that you have gathered.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

From Karma to Moksha

Question: Sadhguru, can you throw some light on the theory of karma and how one can attain moksha, and be liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth?

Sadhguru: Karma means action. As you sit here, you are performing four types of actions. Your body is doing something – otherwise, you would not be alive. Similarly, your mind, emotions, and life energies are also performing some action. These four are happening every moment of your life – in wakefulness and in sleep. More than 99% of your karma, your actions, are unconscious. But the residual memory of these actions builds up within you.

The human system is a phenomenal machine. It does not miss anything. Whether you are conscious of it or not, it grasps and records everything, all the time.

For example, as you walk from one place to another, there may be 10 different kinds of smells, but you may not really notice them unless something is acute. But all the 10 different smells that entered your nostrils are recorded within you. The human system is a phenomenal machine. It does not miss anything. Whether you are conscious of it or not, it grasps and records everything, all the time. Based on this memory, you develop certain tendencies. The traditional word for these tendencies is vasana.

Depending upon the type of vasana you have, you tend to move towards certain kinds of life situations. We say “It’s your karma” – that means “It’s your doing.” Unfortunately, karma is being projected as punishment or reward for something. Karma is neither punishment nor reward. It means you are building up memory; you are unconsciously writing a “software”, every moment of your life. Whatever your software turns out to be, accordingly you behave, function and experience your life.

Karma means life is entirely your making. Whether you create it consciously or unconsciously is the question. No one up in heaven is operating your life. Karma means you create your life. Once you understand that you are largely creating your life unconsciously, is it not natural for your intelligence to try to become as conscious as possible? Consciousness is like the voltage of a light bulb. If you crank up the voltage, it shows you everything. If you lower the voltage, it only shows you a little. There is no point trying to be conscious. If you make your life energies very intense, consciousness will burn within you. If there is no intensity, if you are only talking and reading about consciousness, it will not happen.

Wiping Out Karma

We must understand, in Indian culture, God is not our goal. God is one more tool. The ultimate goal and highest value for us is liberation, freedom, mukti or moksha. Right now, heaven may look like a great place, but if you go there, you will be bored after some time. But anyway, do you have proof that you are not already in heaven? You are already in heaven and making a mess out of it! If you are willing, the presence of the Divine is as much here as anywhere else.

Karma is like a software. It is all the same life energy, but with a different software. So, it behaves entirely differently.

Mukti means to break the cycle. Why would you want to break the cycle? People think if you are miserable, you will want to break the cycle. Not at all. A miserable person will want to come back richer, better, healthier, taller, more beautiful, more whatever else. Only a person who has seen life in all its facets will want to go beyond this. Mukti means we want to wear off the karmic information that we have gathered, which is trapping life in it and building a body around itself. If you dismantle this karmic information, the life within will not be you or me – it will be just life. This is a living cosmos. To give an analogy – if you blow a soap bubble, the bubble is real. But if the bubble breaks, only a drop of water will fall down. The rest of the bubble will be gone. The air that was in the bubble will merge with the air around.

Life is not only in you, it is outside of you too. That is why you are breathing in and breathing out. You cannot exist without that. You may call it oxygen or something else, but that does not matter. Essentially, what you call life is all-pervading. It behaves according to whatever kind of information it gets trapped with. That is what we refer to as karma. Karma is like a software. It is all the same life energy, but with a different software. So, it behaves entirely differently. If you dismantle the karmic software completely, where will life go? Nowhere – it is just there. Only the individual identity will be lost. In fact, the life within you never has individual identity. It is only your software which is individual. If you write it unconsciously, it will assume all kinds of forms – some you may like, others you may not. If you write the karmic software consciously, you will create what you want.


Can My Karma Make Me Sick?

February 19, 2016

7 min read

Summary: Disease can be because of chaotic energy in the system. It can also be because of strong karmic reasons. Prarabhda, is the karma allotted for this lifetime. It is written at the level of the energy. So, everyone's energy, prana, behaves a certain way because of this karmic bondage. Simplistically, portions of the energy are allocated for action, emotion, thought process and for your experiential dimension. In contemporary society, the energy allotted for emotion is no finding expression, leading to deviations and all kinds of mental health issues. The physical activity has also drastically reduced. This unused energy can also cause disease.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Can Karma Cause Disease?

Q: Sadhguru, every day I see so much disease and suffering around me. Many times, it has deeply bothered me as to why a human being should suffer like this at all. It seems so unreasonable that one human being enjoys good health and another one suffers. Can you tell us why disease? What is it, and where does it come from?

Sadhguru: There are many aspects to disease. “Dis-ease” essentially means you are not at ease. When your body does not know how to rest, the energies become chaotic. For example, when people with asthma attend the Isha Yoga programs, once they start meditating and doing the kriya, the asthma disappears for many. This is because their energies become more organized within a few days of practicing the kriya. For some others, the asthma may go partially. This is because the asthma is only partly due to chaotic energy. Another part has deeper karmic reasons. For a few, there is no change. This is because there are very strong karmic reasons for the disease. There might also be external situations that have not changed.

“Dis-ease” essentially means you are not at ease. When your body does not know how to rest, the energies become chaotic.

How can karma cause disease? There is something called prarabdha, the allotted karma for this lifetime. Prarabdha karma is written into your mind, body and sensations, but its deepest recording is in the energy. How can information be recorded on the energy? This is a living experience within me. I am not sure if it is being explored scientifically, but I know that someday, science will find a way to do this. At one time, we had to write whatever we wanted to record on stone tablets. From there, we moved onto books, and now we have moved to discs and chips. What could be written on a thousand tablets can be written in a single book. What could be written in a thousand books can be recorded on a compact disk. What could be put onto a thousand compact disks, we can now store on a small chip. Someday, what we now store in a million chips will be recorded on a little bit of energy. I know it is possible because it is happening within me all the time, and it is happening within everyone. The energy itself functions in a certain way. Everyone’s energy, or prana, does not behave the same way. It behaves according to their karmic bondage. The deepest recording is in the energy. This is like karmic backups. If you lose your mind, it is still in the body. If you lose your body, it is still in the energy.

Using up the Energy’s Allotments

The energy has allotments. There are many complexities to this but to put it very simply, there is a certain amount of energy dedicated to action, another amount to your emotion, another to your thought process, and yet another for the experiential dimensions within you. The way people are living today, their emotions are not finding full expression. That part of the energy, the unexpressed emotion, cannot become something else. It either has to find an emotional expression or it will turn inward and do funny things within you. That’s why there are so many mental problems in Western countries.

The modern mind is going through a unique kind of neurosis that was not there in the past because man has stopped using his body to a large extent.

It is said that one out of every three Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. One of the major factors for this is that there is no room for emotional expression in those cultures. Anything emotional is looked upon as a weakness, so it is suppressed. Ninety percent – or even more – of the people in the world, never find full expression for their emotions. They are afraid of their love, their grief, their joys – they are afraid of everything. To laugh loudly is a problem, to cry loudly is a problem – everything is a problem. They call this “modern culture”. I would say this is a restrictive culture, which causes you to behave in a certain way. If your emotions never find full expression, that energy can turn around and do a lot of damage to you.

Another aspect is that activity levels in modern life have come down dramatically. People are not using their body the way human beings used to. But the physical body is the major aspect in you, even today, so the maximum amount of prarabdha karma is allotted for activity. This proportion may vary from person to person, but it is usually like this. If this unused energy stays there, it could easily cause disease. The modern mind is going through a unique kind of neurosis that was not there in the past because man has stopped using his body to a large extent. When you involve yourself intensely in physical activity, a lot of your neuroses are worked out because your nervous energy is used. But modern man has become more inactive and neurotic than ever before. It has become a common phenomenon in society that everyone is in some level of neurosis simply because the energy allotted for physical activity is not worked out. It is trapped because physical activity is so low. You will find that people involved in high levels of activity – for example in the form of a sport like mountain climbing – are in a different level of balance and peace because of the full utilization of physical activity. You will not find such a person so entangled in sexuality and other physical drives because one aspect has found full expression.

One result of this inactivity is disease; and above all, the lack of activity and trapped energy cause restlessness. This agitation in the body may become a physiological disease in some people. In others, it may not become disease but they are anyway agitated and in “dis-ease”. Their energies are always struggling within. They cannot even sit quietly. If you observe people, the very way they sit and stand shows they are not at ease. They have only brought practiced gracefulness to themselves – how to walk, how to stand and how to sit. But if you take away the unease in your movements in this way, it will build into your energy because it is unable to find expression. It shifts to yet another dimension where it is easy to find expression, so disease happens because the energy turns inward.

This is one reason why our brahmacharis are into so much activity. Anyone who sees the level of their activity would wonder why someone who has come to pursue their spiritual practice is working twenty hours a day. In people’s minds, spirituality means someone half-dozing under a tree. This is not so. Their work is part of their spiritual growth. The reason for this is, I want them to finish all the allotted energy in their prarabdha karma, let us say, in five years’ time. If they expend this karma, then there will be no need for action. The action will be by choice, not out of compulsion. Now if you ask him to just sit, he will simply sit. There will be no struggle.

From Activity to Meditation

That is what we are doing in the higher level programs like Bhava Spandana and Samyama. Through immense, body-breaking activity, you use up the energy allotted for activity faster than you would in normal life. This gives you a space to sit unmoving. Then, meditation will come naturally to you. When there is still unused energy allocated for activity, you cannot sit because the energy is trying to do more.

It is extremely important that body, mind, emotion and energy are properly exercised and made use of.

There are also other aspects to disease. There are karmic reasons why your energy functions in a certain way and causes disease. If people are diseased for karmic reasons, that is different, but many people in the world need not have disease. Today, medical science is more advanced than ever before, yet people have not become free of disease. Both the physical and emotional energies, though they are large allotments, are not being used. The only thing being used is mental energy – what is allotted for thought. For example, let us say there is money allotted in your country’s budget: so much for education, so much for development, so much for industry, and so much for energy. The major allotment goes toward energy and if it is not used, your economy suffers. That is all that is happening in the body. It is extremely important that body, mind, emotion and energy are properly exercised and made use of. Only then life stands on firm ground in all levels and will happen in a balanced harmonious way.


Step Over Someone – Get Their Karma

April 21, 2015

7 min read

Summary: Yes, it is possible! If you step over someone, especially when they are sitting or lying down with eyes closed, you could be walking into their energy body, because in these states their energy body expands. In Yoga, there are three physical dimensions to you - physical, mental and energy. Once you are conscious you do not want to walk into someone else's mental or energy bodies, because that can have an impact on you.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Don’t Step into Other People’s Karma

In Indian culture, one is not supposed to step over anyone sitting or lying down. Is this just a custom, or is there a science behind it? Sadhguru answers.

Sadhguru: This actually applies not only to human beings but to all creatures. In India, people would not even step over a sleeping dog.

When your experience of life is limited to physicality, you think the boundary of a human being is the skin. If you expand the way you experience life a little more, you will see the boundary of a human being goes beyond the skin – to what extent depends upon who he or she is. The more you close your eyes and sit, the “fatter” you get – not in terms of fat as a substance – you get bigger. The less thinking you do, the larger your presence becomes.

The more you close your eyes and sit, the “fatter” you get – not in terms of fat as a substance – you get bigger.

Most people experience some semblance of peace and balance within them only when they are sleeping. Sleep is the most profound state that they know in their life. This is a most unfortunate way to live. When they are fast asleep, they are reasonably peaceful and balanced. When they are awake, they are all over the place.

So, when they lie down they are a little bigger. Especially if you are lying down on something hard, because there is no room for it to find expression on the side that you lie on, naturally it goes up to where there is space. Instead of your energies being all around you, it will be above you by about 50% to 100%.

The extended energy body

Let us say hypothetically speaking, your energy body is one foot beyond your skin. If you lie down, it could be approximately one-and-a-half or two feet. Without you knowing, some amount of clearing up or expanding of the energy body naturally happens. At those times, people will keep more distance from you – not out of respect but simply because of the size of your energy body at that moment. This is the way it should be – as it is required for that moment. If you have a certain sensitivity, you will naturally know these things. You may say this is some special endowment – I do not entirely deny that. But at the same time, people do not have this kind of sensitivity largely because they cannot pay attention to anything. They cannot pay attention to anything because they are dismissive about life around them.

your energy body is one foot beyond your skin. If you lie down, it could be approximately one-and-a-half or two feet.

When I was a five, six-year-old boy, I used to sit in the house, staring at something or sometimes at nothing. Much later, I realized in yoga, there is a mudra where you simply stare at nothing. Nothing is high, nothing is low. Something and nothing are the same to you – you are simply looking. Suddenly, my mother would pass by. Initially, I would see her, but the next time she would pass by, she would be all blurred and somewhat bigger. When she would pass by again, she would be almost transparent and even bigger.

Then my father would come. I would look at him with an empty stare. He would gesticulate in front of my eyes. Obviously, he was saying, “Why are you not studying?” or something like that. I did not hear the words, I just looked, and saw all kinds of things. Depending upon what kind of forms I saw, I knew what he was saying. He was worried that this boy was losing his mind, the way he was staring. If you paid enough attention, you would experience this yourself.

What’s hanging around you?

In the yogic physiology, there are three physical dimensions of your existence – the physical body, the mental body, and the energy body – annamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, pranamaya kosha. The physical body is made of physical material that we take from the planet in the form of food. The mental body is also made of material from the world around you, but this material is much subtler. We build the mental body with information, reverberation, sounds, and impressions.

People who are conscious do not want to trip over or walk into someone else’s karma. By stepping over someone, you are kind of walking into their karma.

Since the physical body is made of physical substance, it takes a reasonably proper form. Most people’s mental body does not have a clear-cut form. They are not even conscious of what they have gathered. For most human beings, not even 1% of the content is conscious. Because 99% is gathered unconsciously, the mental structure is scattered. It is quite a mess. If you can create a conscious structure to your mental form, and you are able to change the structure as per the requirement of the situation, your mind will be a magical instrument.

Your energy body too carries information. What form it takes depends upon what type of information is there within you. The information on the level of the physical body is called genetics. Likewise, there is information on the mental structure, and there is information on the energy structure.

People who are conscious do not want to trip over your mental body or your energy body. We do not know what kind of karma someone is carrying, but when they are sleeping or they are just about to fall asleep, the unconscious play of the karmic structure is at its highest. Because you do not perform any conscious activity, the unconscious activity is full-scale. People who are conscious do not want to trip over or walk into someone else’s karma. By stepping over someone, you are kind of walking into their karma.

Handling your “stuff”

It is wise not to pick up other people’s stuff because handling your own stuff is challenging enough. This is why once you are on spiritual sadhana, as a brahmachari, you do not hug anyone – doing “Namaskaram” is enough. We do not want to trip over your karma. Whether it is good or bad, we do not want to take it away from you. When your Guru has evolved a strategy for your specific karma, you should not mix it up with all kinds of people. Otherwise, it becomes unnecessarily complicated.

Do not step over anyone. You can go around them. It is also a mark of respect.

If you take in too much input from everywhere, the karmic process becomes very complicated. And the strategy evolved for your karma will not work if you keep mixing it up with someone else’s all the time. Why some who are in serious sadhana withdraw into a solitary cave or the like is because they do not want to complicate things. They understood the complexity of their own karma and do not want to complicate it anymore.

That is why you do not step over anyone. You can go around them. It is also a mark of respect. And apart from that, it would disturb that person if you step over them. If you disturb their energy body, they may not immediately wake up, but internally, it disturbs them.

All this comes from a fundamental understanding about life. No matter what you were doing – you were running a business, you were married, bearing and raising children, fighting a battle – for anyone who was born in this land, there was only one goal – ultimate liberation. Mukti was the only goal. The whole culture was structured around this. Many strategies were evolved so that you do not trip over someone else’s karma. You do not want to acquire anything new because you know the complexity of what you already have. If you undo your own puzzle, it is good enough. You do not want to complicate it.


Does My Family’s Karma Impact Me?

July 4, 2016

3 min read

Summary: Whenever you think about Karma, you should always be referring to yourself! Someone else's karma is not your business. Your life is your responsibility. If you refer to someone else's Karma, you will become a negative force. So, do not worry about your family's Karma. Sadhguru tells us 'you need to realize, whatever happens in your life, it is you'.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Whose Karma is it Anyway?

Questioner: Are people who are close to me contributing to my karma? If yes, how do I deal with this?

Sadhguru: Don’t think it is your family that needs to be cleaned up! Who knows who is suffering whose karma. Maybe they would say something else! If you feel your family is bad – they may have become like that, but they may not stay that way. They have phases like the moon. They have pleasant faces and unpleasant ones. This happens because there is a lot of proximity in a family.

Your Life, Your Responsibility

Whatever happens in your life is your responsibility. That means it is your karma, your doing. When you are on the spiritual path and you utter the word “karma,” it should always refer to yourself. It is a completely wrong approach to judge someone who is going through something nasty and think it is his or her karma. You will lose your fundamental humanity. Someone else’s karma is never ever your business. It is your karma that you have to witness something unpleasant happening to another human being.

No matter what happens, it is you. It happens in your life, so it is your karma. Whether you are suffering or enjoying people around you, it is your karma.

The moment you refer to someone else’s karma, you will become an evil force. Evil does not always mean by intent. Evil means you are such that no matter what you do, it will turn out negatively for people around you. The moment you start thinking about someone else’s karma, you are moving in that direction.

This is what we are trying to fix in spirituality, that you realize that no matter what happens, it is you. It happens in your life, so it is your karma. Whether you are suffering or enjoying people around you, it is your karma.

So do not worry about karma that comes from your family – there is no such thing. “Family” is only in your mind. The idea of who is your family and who is not, who is dear to you and who is not, is entirely manufactured in your mind. If you did not have a mind, the concept of family would not exist for you. That means they are your doing, your karma. You need to realize that whatever happens in your life, it is you. Once you are aware of that, you become an individual. Otherwise, you remain scattered. Because people are so scattered, so identified with so many things around them, it takes them a long time to gather themselves into one organic whole. Once that happens, what you are seeking can be yours in an instant.


Is There A Conflict Between Karma And Inclusiveness?

September 8, 2018

3 min read

Summary: There is no conflict between these two. Karma means residual memory - physical memory, psychological memory, emotional memory and energy memory. By the very nature, memory will always have a boundary. Because there is a boundary, if you want to expand, it becomes a limitation. So, you must loosen it up and bring inclusiveness into your system. Nature is anyway inclusive, so you just become aware of that.

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article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org

Does Karma Conflict with Inclusiveness?

Kangana Ranaut: Sadhguru, you say that we must try and break karma bondages, but at the same time you urge people to be inclusive and involved in everything that they do. How can these two things exist together?

Sadhguru: Namaskaram, Kangana. How do you see some contradiction in these two things? Karma means the residual memory of all the things that we do – physically, mentally, emotionally, and energy-wise. In other words, it is a certain unconscious software that you create. It is a certain amount of memory which rules your life on various levels.

There is physical memory, psychological memory, emotional memory and energy levels of memory, and all these things put together can rule your life if you allow them. Memory, however much it is, is limited. It is a limited boundary.

Karma is a limited boundary, but within those limited boundaries, karma is very useful.

So karma is a limited boundary, but within those limited boundaries, karma is very useful. It facilitates many things. It makes you pretty automatic, so that you can respond effortlessly to a lot of things.

However, when you want to expand, a boundary is a problem. For example, if you just draw a boundary around your home, when you want to expand, it is very easy – you just have to move out. But suppose there were certain threats to your existence and your survival, and you built a thick fortress around you.

Inclusiveness is not an idea of being friendly with everyone. The nature of the existence is inclusiveness.

You will feel safe when there are threats. But if there is no threat to your life in any way, then you naturally want to expand. When you to want to expand, moving this huge wall and expanding your boundary will become very difficult. Most likely, you will not expand simply because of the wall.

Similarly, karmic memory is a certain wall that you set up. You must loosen it up and bring inclusiveness into your system. Inclusiveness is not an idea of being friendly with everyone. The nature of the existence is inclusiveness.

The nature of the existence is inclusiveness – you just have to become conscious of it. Karma is the nature of your individual existence. You have to become conscious of the limitations of your karmic boundaries.

As you exist here, what the tree is exhaling, you are inhaling. What you are exhaling, the tree is inhaling. But most human beings are unaware that this transaction is going on. If you are conscious of this transaction, the experience of just sitting here and breathing would be absolutely fantastic and ecstatic. If you are unconscious, you are still being nourished by the oxygen that the tree is letting out, but you are missing the experience.

Inclusiveness does not mean you have to do something different. You just became conscious about the nature of the existence. What happens to the tree and the soil happens to you. What you think of as “myself” is actually just the soil that you are walking upon. So inclusiveness is not something that you have to do. The nature of the existence is inclusiveness – you just have to become conscious of it. Karma is the nature of your individual existence. You have to become conscious of the limitations of your karmic boundaries. If this awareness comes, the rest is handled by life itself.


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