Karma: For Ones and For All

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Almost everyone has heard of karma and has some idea of what it’s about. We say, “what goes around comes around,” “you reap what you sow,” or “whatever you do comes back to you.” How many of us today, however, actually believe that?

I believe that if the principle of karma were to be widely accepted, this alone would solve nearly all of our problems. I believe I have a very simple way of explaining karma, one that makes the concept a simple matter to embrace.

If we really are just individuals living out a single lifetime, or even a series of lifetimes, karma can seem like a childish, outdated, wishful notion. Thankfully, in my view, the truth is just the opposite. The question is not whether karma — or God, for that matter — exists, but whether we do.

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As I see it, nearly all our problems stem from one thing: rampant individualism. Our competitive culture teaches us to always be “looking out for #1.”

The foundation of this individualism is the belief that you are separate from others: that you can hurt someone at no cost to yourself. If that is so, then you had better “get it while you can” because “it’s kill or be killed.”

It is this cultural assumption that has led to the progressive disintegration of society. Individualism is based, I believe, on a simple fallacy, one that’s not too hard to describe.

The “Law of Karma” paints a very different picture. It says that we’re all connected. If so, karma spells the end of the individual. You can’t believe in both: they are mutually exclusive.

To embrace the idea of karma is to be fundamentally religious, for the foundation of religion is contained in its very definition. The word religion literally means “to bind together again.” To bind together what? In my view, rejoin everyone and everything. To be religious, then, means to act from the understanding that “We are One.”

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So far I’ve said nothing new. So how does karma really work?

The Law of Karma has been compared to Newton's Third Law of Motion. The law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. After all, “action” is what the word karma means.

I don’t profess to understand physics, but I can tell you how I understand karma. I believe that the popular conception of karma, along with comparing it to Newton's Third Law, is misleading.

In my view, karma is nothing weird or special. Nothing needs to “come back to you.” There is no “reaction.” Karma, as I understand it, is quite straightforward, but it’s nothing like most people think.

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As I see it, karma simply describes our basic unity. Think of the human body. If I’m slicing vegetables and one hand cuts the other, the whole body bleeds. Both hands, along with the rest of my body, experience that bleeding at the same time.

In life, we don’t necessarily experience someone else’s pain. We don’t always feel the effects our actions have on others. They do, however, which means that across time and space, so do we: the whole body suffers.

If you believe you are just an individual, you may not care about anyone else, much less everyone else. You do care about yourself, however. And you surely believe that everyone else’s actions, including people and things in the past, affect you. To believe otherwise would be simply short-sighted.

The whole point of karma is to realize that you don’t just live this one lifetime. You are The One living every lifetime.

Karma says that if I shoot someone, I also experience being shot: as the other person. If I give you a present, I experience receiving the present: as you. This is what means to say that you experience the effects of your actions in “another lifetime." That other lifetime is precisely that of the person you shot. You walk that mile in their shoes. And they walk in yours. You are both just part of one “Being’s” experience.

It’s no wonder, then, that the word person comes from the Greek persona, which means “mask.” There are many — innumerable — masks in the world, across all time and space, and one Being wearing them all.

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The challenge of recognizing karma can be seen as the problem of overspecialization. A classic example is The Manhattan Project. Each person’s work was so compartmentalized that very few people had any idea what they were working on. Not seeing the big picture, the truth remained a secret, with "devastating" results.

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People with near death experiences often say that their entire life flashed before them. This has come to be known as a life review. In a life review, not only do you experience your whole life but also the effect your life had on others. And you experience this effect as them: as if you were in their shoes. People come back saying, “I was the very people that I hurt. I was the very people I helped.”

It’s not that unusual to think of seeing your whole life, and even that of others, “in a flash.” Think of the birds-eye view you get from a great height. What happens during a near death experience, as I see it, is simply that we gain this “birds-eye view.” You gain this when you move from the basically two-dimensional surface of the earth up to three dimensions: when you get on a plane. In a life review, you simply move from four to five dimensions, gaining a birds-eye view of your life — from a more universal perspective.

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Here is another way of putting it: our lives are like dreams. You have a dream one night and another the next. We rarely remember one dream during the other — or even in between. Yet we are one being, one “soul” having many dreams.

This is also a way of understanding reincarnation. Let’s say each lifetime is a dream. They say there is a time between lives when we “wake up.” This is when you can review one life and even plan the next!

The key point is that it's not the individual that is reincarnated. There is One soul having all our lives. That soul, that Being, is what I call God.

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This all may be hard to picture, but is it that hard to conceive? If so, it’s not karma that’s hard to understand; it’s who we really are. We are pieces of the whole, most of which have forgotten that we’re not just pieces. If and when we remember that, we just might solve our problems — for ones and for all.