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,

Nayaswami Devi

Download a visual summary of this inspiration as a printable PDF.

karma and reincarnation yogananda teachings there is no bad karma how to overcome past wrong actions

Listen to Devi as she reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (9:44):

31 Comments

  1. Empowering and nourishing indeed to expand and merge into Divine Oneness 🙏🙏🙏

  2. Beautiful and convincing explanation..would like to know more about these life lessons.

  3. Thank you very much ! Just wonderful and just what and when I really needed !

  4. A lovely sentiment and I wholeheartedly agree, good & bad are such relative issues in general and in Karma so often misunderstood.
    It would be very helpful to understand the role of the guru with greater depth & have read that when one is ready the guru will find you. Does this imply that one should not seek out a guru?

  5. Beautiful, thank you. I especially enjoy the way karma is articulated here, with the mind. When “bad” karma comes into my awareness I like to strive to be in a state of non-judgment (“I do not know what is in my best good”). Blessings and thanks!

  6. Thank you! You really explained this beautifully.

    I am Sharing this on our local Tucson Arizona Facebook page.

  7. Great article came to me in right time. Very comforting, Thank You 🙏.

  8. Fabulous! Beautifully stated and imaged essential truths on the path.
    Inspiring, encouraging and thrilling to find truth shared like this
    🙏🕉

  9. Thank you dear soul. I am deeply grateful for yet another perfectly timed reminder of what I needed to hear. Blessings and Joy. Jai Guru!

  10. Why are you people who don’t know anything about Hinduism giving wrong advice. Read Shrimad Bhagavat Gita and then you will understand the concept of Karma. Don’t just parrot what your Guru has taught you. In fact your organization has distorted the principles of original Kriya Yoga as taught by Maha Avatar Baba and Lahiri Mahasaya.

    1. Divine friend, our guru gives us what we need as we are able to understand it. We are not to compare ourselves with others. Just as John the Baptist told his disciples to fast, and Jesus told his disciples not to fast. Our guru says what we need to hear, and yours says what you need to hear.

  11. This is so helpful and compassionate and inspiring. Thank you!

  12. mm

    Thank you for this deep and profoundly helpful message.

  13. Grazie!!!!! I really found those teachings very important for me and since I started focus on those more, I find it easyer to face burdens or challenges… thinking, what is it for me to learn from this experience and I become more gratefull even when challanges appear.. Thanks you

  14. Thank you dearest Devi Ji for this inspiring bog and for sharing the touching incident. Listening to you I loved how you said “working out our karma ultimately comes back to freeing our consciousness” and how we should more and more identify with our soul nature – our oneness with God. And the classic liner being “its thru the attunement to the Guru that, bit by bit over time, our self identity begins to shift.”
    Thank you Ji.

  15. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you very much for this blog. Very profound and meaningful.
    It’s encouraging and clarifies a lot of thoughts.

    Joy,
    Prem

  16. Thank you for this timely reminder! It is so helpful to bring these truths to the forefront and with such clarity.

  17. Thank you sister, how can I make my guru sh. Yogananda paramhansa. I meditate everyday . A question raise in my heart that Is my guru is shri yoganand? How can I realise or believe myself guru as shri yogananda.

  18. Pranam Devi ji
    Thanks for the explanation on karma
    Jai Guru 🙏🙏🙏🌹

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