Put simply the law of karma can be translated into the law of cause and effect. This law implies that each action evokes a result that is in accord with the inherent quality of the original action. In the Buddhist teaching, the law of karma is associated with the belief in reincarnation and the wheel of life and death. In this article we allow ourselves to have an unprejudiced look at the actuality of the law of karma in our daily lives. In doing so, the question arises: is it possible for a human being to transcend this law and to enter into a wholly different kind of order?
To begin with, the law of cause and effect is most apparent in its expressions in nature. Any force arising in nature has an irrevocable effect in accord with the laws of nature. In the sober observation of the mechanisms of the law of cause and effect in nature, one cannot distinguish in it a good and a bad part. What is seen is only the actual unfoldment of the interplay of the forces of construction and destruction. These forces act from the planetary realm of the macrocosm to the cellular realm of, for example, the human body. Apart from these two forces, an attentive observer might be able to perceive a third force in nature, which could be referred to as divine harmony or order. This all-encompassing divine order is what allows life as we know it to express itself in ever more complex and subtle forms.
The law of cause and effect is anchored in the logic of our thinking
Apart from its expression in nature, the principle of the law of cause and effect is anchored also in the logic of human thinking. One could say that the apparent external order referred to as cause and effect has deeply shaped our way of thinking. Everybody will be able to confirm for themself that ordinary human thinking is moving along the linear lines of this principle. One can therefore say that it is unconsciously deeply planted into the activity of our mind as the conception of the past moving through the present into the future.
Outwardly we as human beings are constantly presented with new situations to which we must respond. And we react to these challenges in accord with our acquired knowledge and experiences, which could also be termed as the accumulated past. This reaction out of one’s own past informs the action in the present and consequently forms the future. Therefore, naturally this future is directly related to one’s past and is in accord with the quality of one’s own accumulated experiences and one’s state of being. The described process of dealing with external challenges, which on the practical level is unquestionably good and necessary, is usually also applied by ourselves to our inner life – the life of the soul. We apply a principle of the realm of time-space to a potentially timeless being.
That is, we meet the internal challenges and forces arising in us – like emotions, desires, fears and so on – with our accumulated knowledge and experiences, with our own little past. Building on that foundation of the past we try to overcome, manipulate or direct these aspects of the so-called inner. By doing so we bind ourselves to time and the law of karma and keep on weaving its thread into what we are.
It is fairly simple to observe that we act upon our inner world by means of the accumulated past. What might be not so obvious is that the basis from which we act in this process does not undergo any significant change. The accumulated knowledge might increase, the acquired experience in the form of memory might expand slightly, but still, the actual nature of our action remains the same. It remains the same movement of accumulation, of piecemeal, of confusion, of conscious and unconscious intentions that carries itself over into the future and tries to exert an influence upon itself.
That what is described here as the past is in essence what we are and out of what we live. It is finally what we call “I” and “my”. That includes my memories, my experiences, my beliefs, my conceptions, my path, my wishes, my problems, my pleasure, my sorrow, my property, my achievements. It is this movement of the self – of the past – which underlies the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Karma.
Is it possible to meet the present unbiased by the past?
If we gain insight into this fact – through pure observation – it becomes clear that the end of karma lies in the end of the self, the ego. The end of human Karma lies in a relation with the present, which is not the product of the past, but which is free from the past. Out of this understanding arises immediately a simple question: Is it possible to meet the present unbiased by the past? Free from assumptions, concepts, conclusions, judgments and comparison? Is it possible to be aware of the present moment without wanting to give it a certain direction? Because any self-projected direction is part of the past, is part of the conditioning of the self. This state of choiceless awareness is in essence nothing but the door to self-knowing.
In self-knowing all intentions, all fears, all desires must be revealed in the human consciousness as “what is” by pure perception. Allowing the human condition to be revealed in this way is the wordless confession of “what is” to God. Although in truth the human condition is not hidden, one must see the simple truth of “what is” together with God, for the fundamental separation between God and the human to end. Jakob Böhme put it this way: “Where you are silent, you are that which God was before he was nature and creature, out of which he created your nature and creature. So you see and hear with that with which God heard and saw before your own hearing, seeing and wanting began.” In this process of self-knowing there is support by individuals or groups that, due to their inner state, are capable of helping.
The mind of unprejudiced inquiry of this kind is always free from the past. In its inquiry, it does not refer internally to what was. But it is attentive and asks and is therefore susceptible to insight in the present. Only in this process of constant dying to the past – with love and insight – can there come into being something entirely new in the human head and heart from which springs a new action.
The human being is in essence a divine field of creation. However, we live usually in a state in which the ego, the self, is acting as a creator in this field of creation. In this way the self continuously recreates its own limited being which is the past, which is of time. It is the will of the self that brings about this form of creation. This described process in the human consciousness is the cause for the human’s fundamental bondage to the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Karma.
Through insight in simple awareness a space of silence is opening up, a space of susceptibility for the all-encompassing order of divine creation. When the human mind and heart is opening up in this way, uncrowded by the movement of the past, divine order, divine will, can shine ever more deeply into our head sanctuary, and penetrates from there in a continuous process into our whole system and our whole living sphere.
The described process is comparable to the flowering of a rose at a place of silence, of “not-being”. Creation is unfolding, free from time and space of our nature order and a new consciousness can arise, free from good and evil, free from the self. The divine order then touches ever more deep aspects of the human being; aspects which they themselves held closed before. Due to the described fundamental change in the human, we begin to live out of this field of divine order and partake in the movement of divine creation. Consequently, in the same way, we step out of the old order of Karma. The bondages of Karma are being dissolved in this ongoing process of transformation.