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Karma and the Quality of Mercy

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

We’ve all heard that “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Or, “Ignorance is bliss.

But did you know that these pop sentiments are rooted in the real-life functioning of the law of cause and effect, aka karma?

Every activity of a realized being is what the Bhagavad Gita calls “actionless action.” It is kriya, or the spontaneous activity of unimpeded wisdom, as opposed to karma: activity limited by ignorance. The root ignorance is our sense of being separate from the totality of life. This root ignorance has myriad forms of expression.

Paradoxically, the capacity to generate limited forms and forms of consciousness is an expression of the freedom and vitality of life. So there is nothing to beat ourselves up about. Our limitations are expressions of the essential nature of Shiva consciousness. And so is our inevitable movement toward realization. Everything is that.

Until we are Self-realized, our experience is more or less governed by our ignorance of our true nature. We are subject to both “bad” and “good” karma.

You can’t wish this away, reason it away, or escape it with spiritual fantasy. Like it or not, until you are Self-realized, your life, your body, and your experience will be shaped to some degree by the inevitable karmic effects generated by your activity.

Good karma is a mode of limitation that makes it easier for us to Self-realize. Bad karma is a mode of limitation that makes it temporarily more difficult.

When we are mostly sleep-walking through our lives, severely limited by our small sense of self, we are unaware of the responsivity of the world to our actions. We cannot hear the world communicating to us. We are compulsive and reactive instead of naturally responsive.

Our ignorance at this point is also a kind of innocence. Although we are entangled in cause and effect, our lack of consciousness protects us to some degree. A misbehaving child may be punished, but most people recognize that children are often governed by impulse and cannot be held totally responsible for their actions.

Waking up, we begin to understand more about how Reality functions. We can better sense what is appropriate activity and what is not. We begin to consciously participate in the world conversation, and we are called to a higher level of responsibility for our part. As a result, when we misbehave, the response is more severe.

However, as we continue on the path, we inevitably become attuned to the more subtle nuances of the world communication. So, instead of behaving inappropriately and waking up lifetimes later as we are just beginning to work ourselves out from under some burdensome response to our activity, we can notice the response immediately and correct. Over time, gross corrections become refined. One day, there we are, directly embodying the world’s responsiveness. All attachment to correction and karma dissolves in instant presence.

At every level, no matter how badly we mess up, the quality of mercy of Self for Self pervades. And mercy reveals itself to us more fully each time we begin to follow our fixations, but then change course and follow wisdom instead.

Through this process, repeated over time, we learn directly that in any moment, the possibility to surrender our limitations, relax and realize is present. We are always forgiven; we were never damned. We are only guided and loved by a world Self that is our eternal home, our true Guru, and our compassionate Mother, all one and the same: Our Own Self.

In Ma’s love,
Shambhavi

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