The book gives us the ultimate wisdom one needs to know: Life is neither suffering nor bliss. It is what you want it to be. The choice is always ours. And that is the power of karma.
Karma is defined as the action of a person. The book begins by dispelling our pre-conceived notions about Karma. It is not a system of reward and punishment, or some divine auditor taking furious notes of our actions. The concept of Karma makes one responsible for their actions and does not allow one to outsource this responsibility. Hence it only deals with cause and effect. This realization might be profound for many readers and the book is filled with instances in support of this. For instance, the author asks the readers if they feel the pangs similar anxieties or other physiological tendencies no matter how much life seems to be changed by acquiring a coveted job, wife, or the arrival of a new baby. And this internal struggle is determined by our inability to break through the cycle of repeating the same mistakes. How does one break the cycle?
One of the most powerful chapters in the book discusses the role of volition. The author says that Karma is volition. One’s intentions make all the difference in the world. If I say something that came out of the place of love, but the other person got hurt, then that is their karma, not mine. Similarly, if the other person said something out of hatred and it does not bother me, then that becomes their karma, not mine. Hence Karma is an accumulation of one’s intentions and not just the impact. In certain cases, the action might justify legal punishment, like imprisonment. But the book insists that regardless of what happens, the real punishment is the suffering that it will cause within the perpetrator as they become imprisoned themselves. This becomes the root cause of internal suffering. Hence Karma is all about the motive.
The book informs us that one cannot escape the consequences of our bad Karma. No one will partake in sharing such consequences as well. Whether one suffers it today, or ten years later, it is bound to happen. The internal struggle one feels is simply due to unresolved bad Karma, i.e. actions undertaken with the intention to hurt someone else. The only way to break the cycle of bad Karma is to reach a place where one can sincerely regret their actions, express that regret and free oneself from this cycle. The later the cycle breaks, the higher the suffering. Hence, taking control of our thoughts and actions as early as one can, is the best way to live a happy life.
So how can one do it? The author says that the readers who want control of their life will have to keep focusing on their intentions. In one of the exercises, he recommends looking at people as if one is their mother. No one is separate from us and we are all a part of one clan. Once one views everyone with kindness, one needn’t ascribe to the do and don’t in life. One will already know what the right thing is to do in every circumstance. This kindness brings forth love, forgiveness, and diminishes all ego.
The book also tries to answer the most troublesome questions that have plagued humankind. Why are some people disabled while others able-bodied? Why couldn’t everyone be born equally? The book does an excellent task of pointing out that the cause of human suffering is oneself. While this notion is hard to decipher, the author was patient to explain that there is a difference between pain and suffering. While it might not be our choice to be in pain, we can always choose not to suffer. So, our
Karma is not what is happening to us, but it is how we respond to what is happening to us. Hence, according to Karma the only way to protect ourselves from future suffering is to stop suffering today!
The book also holds us accountable to a concept called collective Karma. It would be our collective responsibility if a child devoid of basic malnutrition walks before us. We failed as a society to provide for the child. Even if the parents are responsible for the child’s health, the pain we feel every time we see the undernourished child, reflects the pangs of our Karma. We cannot escape it. And this is why Karma is so powerful. A collective realization that our volition has consequences could lead us to form better societies and work towards building a conscious planet. The author’s careful construction of helping the readers understand the profoundness of Karma was marvellous. It is as if he is nudging us to become better people, for ourselves and society, without really saying it.
There is also no escape from past bad Karma. Until this is resolved, the suffering will continue. Similarly, good Karma can alter one’s future by simply performing the right actions in the present. Hence, in the end, the readers will be left with one thought, i.e., one is fully capable of taking the reins of life in their hands. And just for this, the book is a must-read.
Payal Seth is a PhD Scholar at Bennett University