Transcending Karmic Disadvantages


Most of the people we read about who have reached self-realization or are far advanced on the spiritual path seem to have been born into loving, stable environments, due, of course, to their good karma.

For those people who had more difficult childhoods (alcohol or neurotic parent, for ex.) but are firmly rooted in the spiritual path, is it possible to reach self-realization in this lifetime or is the bad karma as evidenced by their difficult childhoods too heavy to overcome in one lifetime?

—Joan Atkinson, Canada


Dear Joan,

Your observation is a keen one, though if one were to methodically review the lives of the saints I am sure you would find many who transcended great personal disadvantages.

Still you make an interesting point. Because human nature and karma are so complex, I would never view such challenges as anything more than great opportunities and incentives to grow towards perfect freedom.

Even in a psychological sense, there are some who remain untouched by their abusive or traumatic experiences, and others who are emotionally crippled. A combination of karma, right attitude, will power, inner strength and grace make the difference between being crushed or rising like a phoenix.

Though there weren’t many, there were, nonetheless, some who walked out of the concentration camps of Germany as living saints. Others, while they may have died there, died as saints, choosing to love rather than to hate; to help others, rather than fend only for themselves.

In all cases, however, what can we do but act right here in the NOW? To paraphrase Sri Yukteswar, “the past lives of all are dark with shame. Forget the past. What you do today can change you forever.”

We must live somehow. Why not live in best way we know? The big tests often come for those who are already strong. If we respond with energy, love, and inspiration, who knows what test or karma we have shaken off? Never think that what we call a “bad thing” happening to us is necessarily the result of something we did “bad” in the past.

God, through our karma, may simply be testing us, and if we can pass the test we can be free of that karma forever.

We must begin to rise above feeling a victim and identifying with the past as having happened to us. It simply happened. We can choose to say, “I am not this body, this gender, this personality. I am free. I am a child of God.”

Yes, it happened but it doesn’t have to imprint my mind as anything but a fleeting experience. An abuser, too, is not forever an evil person. For a time, he may have assumed that role but only out ignorance and error.

These things are easier said than done, I grant you. But we have only the present moment to live, and to transcend with inner joy and freedom.

Meditate on offering into the fires of wisdom and devotion all that is of the past, and all that holds your heart hostage in hurts. Give it all back to God with joy, gratitude and freedom.