At the start of every new year, many people take the time to reflect on what changes are needed to improve their lives. Some folks call these changes “resolutions,” while others spend time considering their “karma” and what is within their power to modify. As a Vedic astrologist, I do a lot of work with the latter, evaluating people’s karma, which is a common word that is often misused and misunderstood.
While karma may be difficult to digest for those who do not believe in incarnation—or the idea that the soul comes to the current body from another living thing that has passed away—this is the basis of the concept. What many people don’t realize is how their karma affects their ability to reach their goals, whether they’re resolving to get healthier, make more time for family, or accomplish a major professional milestone.
Before you can factor in your karma, you must understand it. You’ll hear people refer to “good” or “bad” karma, but this is not how it works. There are three kinds of karma. One is called Prarabdh, which forms your destiny. This is the karma that affects the course and outcome of your life. Then there is Sanchit, which is your accumulated karma. This is the karma you are born with that has been accumulated over all of your soul’s past lives. Lastly, there is Kriyasheel, your current or active karma. This karma is whatever we are doing on an everyday basis. This is where your choice to accomplish certain goals comes because it is where we have the fleeting choice to create a chain reaction that can affect change. Most other times when you read about karma, you will not find that it’s based on reactions, but this is my basic philosophy.
Furthermore, there are two parts of karma: doing and happening. When we think we are doing something, we are bound by the consequences of it, as our ego (the concept of “I”) is involved in the process. Happening, in contrast, is the bigger picture—the greater happening of the universe. The ego is not involved in this kind of karma because it’s around us all the time and requires no effort. It will occur regardless of what action we try to take. The happening part of karma is like breathing: You don’t try to breathe, you just inhale and exhale. The breathing process is in fact a karma happening. Additionally, the whole planet has continuous karma happening. Seasons are coming, plants are growing, animals are living their lives. There’s not even a single second of your life when there is no karma. In every moment, you are either part of the happening or part of the doing, and that is where you have a bit of a choice.
Related: A Meditation to Clear Your Karma
Your Prarabdh karma is what you will live out your destiny in your lifetime. This is predetermined, and you cannot change it. On the other hand, from a young age you are told that you are the creator of your own “self.” When you are born, you have no identity, but you learn from others who you will become. There are 7 billion of people on the planet and thus many different perceptions of who you are, and whichever ones you pick up and believe in make up who you become. Those perceptions become a part of you and you react from that part.
The reaction you have in any given moment to any particular situation becomes your karma because you believe you are doing it—that you “own” the decisions you make or reactions you have. In this way, every choice is a reaction based on who you believe you are. In every reaction, you have a choice in a fraction of seconds whether to turn it into another action or just let it go. The moment you turn your reaction into another action, it becomes a chain reaction.
In order to take advantage of this fleeting moment of choice that you have to decide how you will behave, you must learn to surrender. After all, the universe is moving effortlessly. We, as humans, are the only ones who are constantly making tremendous effort. I’m not saying people shouldn’t make an effort at all. My advice to you is to make an effort to the best of your ability and afterward surrender to the universal happening—the effortlessness. When you successfully do this, there is incredible power in it because you create a gap for a third party to come in and actually allow your effort to have some influence. If you don’t create that space between your effort and the universe, then your effort is limited. In a sense, trying too hard will actually limit your possibilities.
Of course, you have to put some effort into things. You probably have a job, relationships and daily tasks that undoubtedly require it. But if you try to be a perfectionist, the result of your effort will have an element of perfection in it, but only to your own limit of perfection. Conversely, if you do your best and then let the universe handle the rest, your work is no longer limited by your own level of ability.
For example, you eat food because you need it to live. Your body digests it without conscious effort on your part. You don’t say, “Okay, now I’m going to go into my esophagus and stomach and intestines and digest this.” You simply eat your food and after that, it’s your body’s job to take care of the rest. All the digestive processes are happening in your body, and you don’t “own” anything in these processes. Furthermore, while you may think you are “doing” all of this, you have no control of doing anything inside your body. It’s happening in effortlessness and through a power of consciousness inside. Your own energy is working phenomenally on an automatic system with utter perfection—just as the universe does. It’s a misconception that we can own anything about these processes.
Similarly, when we want to accomplish a goal, like a New Year’s resolution, we must understand which changes you can affect, and which you cannot. My point is that while we should make an attempt to create positive changes in our lives, there are some things that are simply not up to us. Pursuing perfection limits the heights we can reach. After all, the universe is already working flawlessly. I say make your best effort towards whatever goal you want to accomplish, and then leave yourself that space where a karmic reaction can be allowed to happen. Surrender your effort to the universe, and you’ll shed the limits of your ability.