The threads of karma
Charles Shahar lucidly explains how relationships are founded on the bedrock of karma and its impact on our consciousness
What is karma? It can be described as the law of cause and effect. Your actions in past incarnations impact your current dispositions and conditions. This influence may be subtle or direct, depending on the intensity of your past life experiences. It is perhaps surprising for some people to know that much of our personality and the choices we make in life are influenced by karmic predispositions.
We have all reincarnated many times before. Before our human incarnations, we lived an earthly life as lower forms of consciousness, such as plants and animals. With each incarnation, our consciousness has evolved, and it is still evolving. Each lifetime brings new lessons and insights. In each lifetime, we have a special destiny to fulfil.
Karma is the basic thread that ties all our incarnations together. It is also what binds us to this world. It is possible to transcend one’s karma and therefore break free of the cycle of birth and death. This is not an easy task, but when we reach enlightened consciousness, it is no longer necessary for us to return. This state, known by the yogis as kaivalya, is the ultimate liberation from material existence. The soul has learned all the lessons it needs to from its earthly experiences, and finally, has dropped its identification with body, mind, and ego.
Our karmic connections
What is a karmic connection? It involves anyone with whom you have had shared experiences in a past life and who has had an impact on your consciousness. This impact may be positive or negative but is usually strong and deep, and forms seeds of memories that remain dormant until your next encounter with the person. The connection then usually resumes where you both left off.
Every significant person in your life represents a karmic connection. This is difficult for some people to accept. But you usually have a karmic link with your parents, children, significant relatives and friends, important teachers, and so on. You may also have it with a business partner or a next-door neighbour. Not only do you have a karmic link with them, but your connection continues to evolve. Thus, you may be perpetuating karmic trends started in a past life or perhaps starting new ones in this lifetime.
Sometimes you may even have a karmic link with someone whom you just meet for a couple of moments or even pass by on a busy street. You may just glance at one another for a brief time. I have had the experience of being profoundly affected by such an encounter, and I still think about it. The person and I weren’t meant to develop a relationship in this lifetime, but even such a brief encounter was memorable.
If you are sensitive to it, you will know when you have a karmic connection with someone. You may meet them while travelling on a plane or train and simply have a discussion on the way to your destination. Or you may meet them at a bar, club, or party, or they may be introduced by a friend. These are not chance or random encounters. You were destined to meet one another, and even if the encounter is brief, it is inevitable.
When you first meet someone, you will know there is karma between you and them because they will feel familiar. In some cases, you might feel that you had known or met this person before, or you might feel that you know them now, even though you had only spent a few minutes together. You may also feel deeply touched by them. The encounter might feel momentous, as if your life will somehow be changed by it.
Sometimes, a parent and child will seem particularly close. It is interesting that they may have been a married couple in a past life and decided to change their roles in order to learn new life lessons. Their closeness will have an added element of endearment to it (I am not implying an incestuous element). Before we incarnate, we choose who we will meet in our lifetime and our roles in relation to them, to maximize opportunities for growth.
What is the point of our karmic connections? We are all evolving together on this planet. The aim is to learn lessons that life has to offer. We are also all mirrors for one another. We reflect the best and worst aspects of each other. We grow through such reflections, or at least, they present us with opportunities for growth. It is up to us whether we want to expand our self-understanding or not. This is often a function of the level of awareness we have.
Karma and problematic relationships
We walk along this road of life with a certain group of people with whom we have experienced life before. People who present conflicts or difficulties in our current lifetime are often those with whom we have unfinished business to attend to. Unless we resolve our issues with them, we will likely meet them again in the next incarnation and have to try once more to achieve resolution.
What is a good resolution? Well, take the case of a married couple who have been bickering for years and finally decide they want to divorce. If there is lingering resentment between them, their connection will not be severed, and if anything, it will remain energetically strong.
To the subtle vision, the etheric filaments between them will appear tangled and convoluted, reflecting the complicated and distorted nature of the emotions they hold for one another. There are also scars or wounds in the aura that result from the conflict between them. Some of these wounds are embedded very deeply in their auric field.
The negative threads of connection keep their acrimony alive, making them think bitter thoughts about one another and keeping their anger simmering. It is also interesting that when one thinks badly about the other, the latter will also have bad thoughts at the same time. There is a constant transfer of negative energy. Sometimes, these filaments seem to glow red in the astral field, but I often see them as charcoal grey.
The important thing to know is that such connections will not necessarily sever when one or both of the partners leave their bodies. These threads continue to connect them between lives and after they reincarnate as well. These filaments will then draw them again to one another. No matter how far away they live from each other, their paths will eventually cross, as they are connected on an etheric level.
So, people do not need to be living in physical proximity to be connected ‘etherically’ to one another—they don’t even need to be living in this world at the same time. This fact has great implications. It means that you establish a binding connection with anyone whom you have intensely negative karma with—usually people whom you have hurt or who have hurt you.
When you both incarnate again together, often, the acrimony will persist. For example, you have a child and your relationship with her is very difficult, full of conflict and mistrust. You both may have been coupled in a previous lifetime and spent your adult lives arguing and hurting one another. The cycle is thus repeated, albeit in a different context and with different roles.
How to stop the cycle of negative karma with others? This is a tricky question. The best way is to let go of your anger and rancour. I always tell people who divorce to try and make it as amicable as possible. It is not easy to disentangle feelings and even harder to disengage from them. A separation which ends amicably will result in positive karma for a relationship, which, if it is to continue in the next lifetime, will start off on a much better footing.
My parents never got along. They were continuously arguing about every aspect of their life together. I did not have positive role models regarding marriage while I was growing up. When I was older and more aware, I told them that if they did not work out their differences, they would have to try again in a future life. I think they found the very thought of such an eventuality so intolerable that it actually changed their attitudes about their marriage. There was a measurable improvement in their reactions to one another after my warning to them.
What if one person lets go and the other person cannot? Chances are that the next life encounter will be much less problematic for the one who does not hold on. These two people may meet again, but their relationship will be different because the one who let go will not be as bound, vulnerable, or reactive in their dealings with the other person. If the latter still presents problems, it will be mostly one-sided, because the decision had been made (on the soul level) by the more aware person to move beyond the acrimony of their connection.
Problematic relationships are presented to us so that we can expand our understanding of ourselves. When we make that huge leap of letting go, we become free of the dispositions and relationships that bind us in suffering. The strength and awareness required to unload our pettiness and anger are what will take us to another level of understanding. Otherwise, the law of karma dictates that we must repeat a similar set of experiences all over again, often with the same people.
What about positive karma? The truth is that any form of attachment will create conditions that bind us. If we keep wanting to meet and engage with a specific person whenever we re-enter the corporeal world because we have strong affections for them, this too may hinder our spiritual progress. In a way, this type of karma is more insidious than a negative one, because we want to get caught up and experience the pleasures of such a relationship. Ultimately, the goal is to break free of all attachments and desires.
Sometimes, people meet one another to repay a debt that they have incurred in a past life. For instance, they may have taken the life of another or caused them great hardship, and their soul knows that this wrong must be righted. They will usually figure in a future lifetime of their victim and have a chance to redress past wrongs. Interestingly, the debt can also be repaid by helping an unrelated person, who was not previously the target of harm. The point is to contribute love and awareness to this world. If one person benefits from an act of kindness or compassion, the whole of humanity benefits as well.
Thus, there is no separation between individuals on the level of higher consciousness. The truth is that the universe, and beyond, is one great whole, and our inter-connection is such that any act of goodness as well as that of violence and ignorance is felt by everyone. At the deepest level, it is all One Being, One Consciousness!
Although religions speak of a judgment day, in which our past wrongs are evaluated and addressed by an outside agency, there is really no such reckoning. We are not punished for misdeeds. In a way, we punish ourselves because these deeds will attract negative circumstances to ourselves, and we will somehow have to make up for them in future lifetimes. If we are ignorant enough to do harm, it is only because we are suffering beings far removed from the source of our existence.
What about someone who causes great harm to a multitude of people in a lifetime? For instance, how can a murderous dictator possibly address all of his karmic debts in future lifetimes? Obviously, that is not possible. One must again look at it from the perspective of the whole. The people who suffered under such tyranny had a certain karma to live through. They experienced great misery, and many likely lost their lives. However, it was not the end of the road for them; it was simply a part of their evolution as incarnating souls.
Would such a ruthless dictator actually go to hell? Only people who live a hellish consciousness exist in a hellish place in the afterlife. Dictators, and others like them, have certain lessons to learn, and their evolution will continue when they are born again. Their life may even appear mundane the next time around. The issue of punishment is not relevant, since they, as part of the whole, fulfilled their destiny. In fact, they were a vehicle or tool for the fate of many people to unfold in the way it was meant to. I am not minimising the suffering of the latter people by any means. In fact, I give thanks that my karma was such as to not reincarnate in a country where people are horribly oppressed and abused.
So why is there suffering in this world? As I mentioned above, one cannot blame people such as dictators because it is not one person or many people who are responsible for human suffering. It is ignorance. We are here to lift our own ignorance and, in the process, raise the vibration of humanity as a whole. Ignorance will not be eliminated by punishing the ignorant. Rather, it will be removed only when the light of consciousness illuminates the soul. We incarnate on this earth, and each time we come, more and more light shines through.
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