The Many Layers of Karma

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Paul is going through some problems and there is some knowledge in the universe that can help him overcome that problem. Whether or not he gets that information and benefit from it will depend on his karma.

Photo by Teona Swift on

Firstly, he must meet a person who has that knowledge and shares it with him. This is an external factor and many causes and conditions must come together to make this happen. Paul must be at the right place and the right time to meet that person and their topic of discussion must somehow lead to that knowledge.

Secondly, Paul must have the intelligence to understand the knowledge passed to him. This is partly external and partly internal as his genetic makeup and education background are major contributing factors.

Finally, Paul must be flexible and open to that knowledge. If he clings on to his past knowledge, mental conditioning and beliefs, he may brush of that knowledge as pure nonsense.  On the other hand, he may somewhat accept those teachings but may not find the motivation or the will to apply them. This is as good as not getting that knowledge in the first place. These are internal factors that affect our karma.

Spiritual seekers change their destiny by working on the internal aspects of karma. Contemplative meditation involves contemplating spiritual teachings learnt and associating those teachings to One’s own experiences or observation. Doing so turns knowledge into experience like tasting a dish instead of just looking at a picture of that dish.

Spiritual teachers who understand this do not feel disappointed when the students are unable to absorb and apply their teachings because they understand the workings of karma. They also know that the world itself is the best teacher.

Key Skill and Ability Developed on the Spiritual Path

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Most of us on the spiritual path are fascinated by the mystical abilities and see them as key milestones. This fascination causes us to overlook the natural benefits that grow right in front of us and are truly more beneficial for our happiness. We fail to see that the most important skill that we harness from our spiritual practices is our observation skills. This is because the skill leads to the ability is to see reality or to see the world at it really is, rather than being deluded by the illusions which the world or Maya spurns.

The media nowadays promotes wealth and power. Imagine what will happen if we just show our children movies of teenagers enjoying drugs and alcohol and then prevent them from seeing the suffering the intoxicants causes after they high wears off. Drug pushers would want that. It would be disastrous.

Similarly, we often see the positive side of wealth and power but we often fail to see the pain and struggle that One must go through to obtain them. We do not see the stain they place on our consciousness. Many wealthy parents complain about their spoilt children but cannot see how their pursuit for wealth and power contribute to that predicament.

The Ying-Yang symbol of Taoism or the Tai Chi symbol illustrates the nature of the world very well. It teaches us to seek balance in our life. The black circle in the white part of the symbol shows that in everything that is good, there is some bad and similarly, in everything that is bad, there is some good. The invasion of Tibet by China is a catastrophe but it also caused Tibetan Buddhism to spread throughout the world.

Our desires cause us to see only the positive aspects of what we crave for. This is clearly delusional. The antidote or balancing factor is our observation skills. It is like playing chess. We cannot just think of the next move but we also need to see the results of that move, that is, how the opponent will react. The world can try to delude us but with observation skills, we can look pass those delusions and then the World eventually morphs into our teacher.

Look closely and we can see that everything we desire in this world of duality has some form of suffering attached. A price must be paid and we must consider if it is worth it. Everything that we fear can also bring some benefit. The Covid-19 pandemic has benefited the environment and also brought us more family time. It is a bad thing but not completely so. Ultimately, as we observe our mind and body, we slowly see that it is a prison that binds us to worldly suffering. It is not a depressing insight but rather, a liberating one because we will no longer fear death. It is merely putting down a baggage (this life) and picking up a lighter baggage (next life), if we have evolved spiritually. In this life, we just need to contribute to the world the best we can while slowly removing the stains we placed on our consciousness in the past. In doing so, our consciousness becomes lighter and brighter and will eventually merge into God consciousness.

Spiritual Progress

Spiritual Progress

By Desmond YSC

Sometimes we are able to see how others are unconsciously doing things or thinking in ways that serve only to hurt themselves. They do so without being aware of it. It is easy to observe others but observing ourselves is much more difficult. We accept all our thoughts as the truth without any doubt whatsoever. For example, a friend may walk pass us without greeting us and we may think that he is being arrogant when in actual fact, he may only be distracted with some troubling thoughts. However, our interpretation of the event that we take as the truth has a greater hold over our emotions than the true scenario.

The truth is, our thoughts or interpretation of the external world may not reflect reality and is subject to our past experiences and habitual thinking patterns. Not all our thoughts are true. If we wear glasses with red lenses, everything will appear red. A person who is raised to think that no one can be trusted will always look at others with suspicion, even those who are genuinely trying to help him.  Accepting that not all our thoughts are correct can be very liberating. We may face the same event at different times and interpret them differently merely because our moods were different at those time.

Some of us may hold the view that visions or the development of psychic abilities are marks of spiritual progress. Do these things really reduce our suffering? Why do we practice anyway? True seekers practice because they seek happiness and inner peace. Visions during our meditation may be exhilarating for a while but eventually, we will fall back to into our original state of mind. Psychic abilities merely add to One’s ego. We have read about many spiritual masters falling from grace because their ego got the better of them. Power corrupts, including psychic power.

True spiritual progress is measured by how aware we are of our thinking process, emotions and our physical state. The better we are at watching ourselves, the greater will be the peace that we bring into our life. Just pause a moment and consider if what I say is consistent with your experience.

But, we cannot just ‘decide’ to be more aware. This requires training and that is actually what our spiritual practices are all about. Many people complain that they are not progressing because they do not experience visions or develop psychic abilities. Many complain that they cannot meditate because they cannot silent their mind. These complains will continue until the end of time because they are not using the correct scales.

Our meditation practices are meant to increase our awareness of our body, mind and emotions in a controlled environment with minimal distractions so that we can eventually bring that level of awareness into our daily life. When we are learning to drive, it is better to train on a quiet road and develop our skill until we are good enough to drive in the rush hour traffic.

When we meditate, we learn to recognise tension in our body. We learn to truly feel our emotions and we see how different thoughts conditions different emotions.  When we catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts that cause negative emotions, we will see that we are only causing unnecessary suffering for ourselves. A wise person said that harbouring hatred in our heart is like drinking poison and hoping for the hated person to die. Only when we recognise that what we are drinking is actually poison, will we stop doing so. No one else can convince us otherwise. Sometimes we may also see how our moods trigger different thoughts.

We often think that our thoughts affect our emotions but sometimes, it goes the other way round. So we learn to watch our emotions. What does loneliness feel like? Does it really hurt? Where? Is it really that painful? Watch those emotions and recognise that the more we watch them, the less power they have over us. This is the secret of achieving emotional maturity.

As we continue to watch, over time, we may realise that all our thoughts and emotions are conditioned by external circumstances and the only shield we have to maintain our inner-peace is a strong state of awareness developed over years and years of spiritual practice. Eventually, we will develop the skill of maintaining our peace of mind irrespective of the external circumstances, merely by focusing our awareness on our mind, body and emotions. The true measure of spiritual progress is how much we understand ourselves.

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