The old woman lay in bed critically ill and in great pain. For her daughter, who was providing loving care, seeing her mother’s physical suffering was hard to bear. Even more difficult, though, was seeing her mental anguish. She kept repeating: “I must have very bad karma to be in such pain. God must be very displeased with me.”
Seeking guidance, the daughter asked a friend of ours what she could say to comfort her mother. He wrote back: “Tell her there is no bad karma. There is only good karma, because everything comes to take us towards God.”
When she read the letter to her mother, the old woman said, “Is that so? Then it’s all okay. I’ll keep that in mind at all times.” Those few reassuring words made a huge difference for her. She was able to remain tranquil despite her suffering, and shortly afterwards, she peacefully left her body.
When adverse circumstances come, we may feel overwhelmed or even defeated by the thought that we’re being punished through our bad karma. Remember that there are two related principles that God has put into play to help us move towards freedom: Free Will and the Law of Karma.
With free will, everyone has the ability to make choices about their life: which actions to take, what values to express, or what goals for which to strive. Free will is God’s gift to help expand our awareness, but this gift is not without its price. The tuition we pay for making our own choices in the School of Life is governed by the law of karma.
Every action we take leaves an impression in our consciousness, which draws back to us exactly the kind of energy we’ve put forth. This reciprocal response of karma is not given in punishment or judgment, but is simply the mechanism through which we can continue our journey toward greater understanding.
In reality, there is no bad karma, but only the process of learning from our actions and adjusting them to bring greater happiness. This doesn’t mean that we can avoid suffering if we’ve lived out of attunement with God’s laws, but neither should we think of “bad” karma as a condemnation.
Think of it this way: If you’ve lived an unhealthy lifestyle with poor diet, no exercise, and self-indulgent habits, when you look in a mirror you may not be pleased with what you see. On the other hand, if you’ve followed principles of good health expressed through diet, exercise, and self-control, you will see a radiant person reflected back to you.
Neither of these reflections represents who you really are. They simply mirror past choices that you’ve made. You can change these choices, and their outcome (your karma), as you grow in your understanding of the laws that govern creation.
Here are five ways we can overcome the karma of past wrong actions, given by Paramhansa Yogananda.
Service to Others
Bad karmic tendencies can be overcome not by concentrating on them, but by developing their opposite good tendencies. This is why service is so important. By serving others, you automatically divert that energy which wants to take you in wrong, self-serving directions.
Use Your Will Power
“In India there has been too much emphasis on karma. ‘Karma! Karma!’ they cry. ‘It’s my karma. I can do nothing about it!’ Absurd! Karma is simply action. Whatever has been done can just as certainly be undone.”
Face Your Tests Courageously
In working out karma, as long as you are afraid of it, you won’t be completely free. Karma is best worked out by meeting every test that comes, and by courageously accepting any hardship.
Use Meditation to Work Out Karma
Every time you meditate, your karma decreases, for your energy then is focused in the brain and changes old karmic patterns. After every deep meditation, you will become freer inside.
The Help of the Guru
“Karma is greatly mitigated by the help of the guru. The guru sees your karma, and knows what you need to do to get out of it. He also assumes much of your karmic burden. . . . Such is the priceless value of the guru’s help. Without a guru, the spiritual path is like trying to walk in quicksand when there is a paved highway nearby going in the same direction.”
May you walk the highway that leads to freedom from all karma.
Towards that goal,
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