Have you been in a very difficult place in life, where nothing seems to be going in your favor? Where you felt you were at the bottom of your despair, only to find out the next day that you have fallen deeper? In times such as these, it is essential to try to find a deeper meaning to your suffering, its cause (or causes), and to try to find the means to end your pain, by eliminating the bad karma causing it.
The good news is that no matter how bad the karma you may be experiencing, the Universe has lovingly provided a way to handle it. The Grace of the Universe, or the Divine, is such that you will never be put in a situation that you cannot handle. To be able to gracefully and effectively process and manage bad karma, one needs to have a good understanding of what karma is.
What is Karma?
Karma is the cycle of actions and their consequences. It is a Sanskrit word and has many layers of meaning. Karma is also understood to mean what goes around comes around. The law of karma, in essence, is the law of cause and effect. Sometimes Karma is also referred to as fate or destiny.
Every action has a consequence. By action we do not mean it just in the physical sense; it encompasses thought, word, and deed. Every thought, every word, and every action has a consequence, whether we realize it or not. It is not just the action that has a consequence, but also the intention behind the action. It does not matter whether the action is performed consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly. For some actions, the consequences are immediate (instant karma!). For most actions, however, the effects do not manifest immediately. They may reveal much later, and potentially even in a different lifetime. The consequences will manifest at the right time and under the right circumstances. It is like a seed germinating in the ground, out of our sight. At the time it is supposed to, the seed will sprout forth.
The law of karma is the law of the Universe. It acts with perfect precision at all times and under all circumstances. The law of karma is immutable and is the sole knower of what we were, who we are and who we will be. It is said that even God has to submit to karma and is powerless against the law of karma.
Everything that we see around us, whether in our personal lives or world events at-large, is a result of the actions that preceded. Everything is a result of karma.
Where you are in life at this moment is because of the cumulative actions and consequences, or karma, in this lifetime and others.
Cause and effect are inseparable — they are two sides of the same coin. Every cause has an effect, and every effect has a cause. Nothing in this Universe is random, although it may seem that way sometimes because of the limitations of our senses.
It is also important to note that Karma is not necessarily a punishment for wrong-doing. Rather, it is a lesson for one’s soul, an opportunity to grow and evolve. Our souls have taken human form to learn and grow on this planet—to evolve on the path of Self-realization. The experiences that we have, even difficult ones that we must endure are opportunities for the growth and evolution of our spirit.
Types of Karma
According to Hindu Philosophy, there are three types of karma:
- Sanchita Karma is the sum total of past accumulated karmas. One lifetime is most often not enough to experience all the Sanchita Karma, and hence the soul reincarnates, or continues to come back to earth. However, it is possible for one to gain control and exhaust Sanchita Karma by clearing one’s karmic debt.
- Prarabdha Karma is that subset of the Sanchita Karma that is ripe and ready to be experienced in this lifetime. Prarabdha means something that has already started. It cannot be removed or controlled. It can only be experienced, there is no other way around it.
- Agami Karma is the karma that is being created and accumulated in the present to be experienced in the future.
Good Karma and Bad Karma
Karma by itself is indifferent. It does not distinguish between good karma and bad karma. It is indifferent towards the doer, that is, whether the doer is good or evil, whether what they are doing is in line with dharma (righteousness) or adharma (non-righteousness).
If Karma itself does not distinguish between good and evil, then what is good karma and what is bad karma? When a person has a good and comfortable life, if they are enjoying name, fame, and abundance, we say that he or she is enjoying good karma. If a person is going through bad times, when they experience scarcity and sorrow, we say that they are going through bad karma.
Whether we term something as good or bad solely depends on us, it is subjective.
The exact same action done by different persons does not attract the same karma. It does not attract the same consequences because the intent behind the action and the mindset of the doer plays a significant role. Take, for example, the act of one person killing another. A soldier may kill an enemy combatant and this may very well be in line with his Dharma. Conversely, someone may kill another person with the intent of robbing them. Or another person may cause someone to die in an accident. While the physical result is the same in each circumstance, they all attract different karmas.
7 Ways to Handle Bad Karma
The karma you are experiencing is Prarabdha Karma. It is like an arrow that has been shot from the bow – no force can stop it from hitting its target. This karma has started bearing fruit. You have to experience this or “taste” the fruits of your past actions. If the karma is positive, it is called good karma and the fruit will be sweet and tasty. If the karma is negative, it is called bad karma and the fruit will be bitter or even toxic. With the exception of Divine Grace altering our paths, we cannot avoid the experience of our own karma. However, there are ways in which we can handle it better.
The first step towards healing yourself from bad karma is to take full and absolute responsibility for where you are in life. Yes, life may seem unfair at times, it may appear that forces beyond your control are dictating your life and that you are helpless in face of everything around you. Yet, despite this, you and only you are responsible for your life and your karma; not anyone or anything outside of you is responsible for it. Even if you do not understand the ways of the Universe, place your trust that it is doing the right thing. Acceptance alone sets into motion the healing process and puts you in a better position to deal with your karma. As you progress on the spiritual path towards Self-realization, you will recognize your ability to influence your own life events.
Know that you do not need to resign to your karma
Everything in your life is in accordance with the law of karma. Every action of the past has already created a result in the form of karma, and it is unfolding in your life right now. But even though the consequences have already been pre-determined in accordance with the causes, it does not mean that your life is pre-determined. Self-effort in dealing with karma plays a critical role in shaping your life. You can deal with the karmic cards you are dealt with more gracefully and even turn your apparent bad karma to your advantage.
Create a distance between your Self and the karma you are experiencing
When you identify yourself with the karma you are going through, when you are emotionally involved in what you are experiencing, perhaps due to emotion or attachment, you make it harder to handle the situation gracefully. Stand apart from the experience and unemotionally act as a witness to the experience of bad karma. That will allow you to see the whole picture with more clarity, and it will blunt the impact of the karma on your inner Self.
Stop accumulating new (negative) karma
If you find yourself in a deep hole which you want to get out of, you need to stop digging the hole deeper. As long as you are existing in the day-to-day realities of modern life, you cannot avoid performing actions. And your actions will have karmic consequences. Then, how is it possible for you to not accrue any further karma, good or bad? The only way you can do it is by detaching yourself from the desire for the action, from the action, and from the outcome or results of the action. Offer the deed that you do to the Supreme Lord, to the Universe, to your higher Self. Do what you need to, but don’t identify yourself as the doer, and with the doership. By consistently detaching yourself from your actions and their outcomes, you are setting yourself free from any further karma.
Strike at the root cause of bad karma
If you can take full responsibility for your karma, you will also realize that you are the creator of your own karma. The bad karma you may be experiencing has its roots deep inside of you, in your past conduct. These are the obstacles or enemies residing within you, that are creating negative karmas. If you can acknowledge this, you are already on your way to deal with negative karma. By willful intentions and actions, you can destroy your inner enemies.
Eliminate situations and relationships that sustain negative cycles
As you go about your life, you may find yourself in situations or relationships that are negative and cyclical. These cycles must be broken or they will continue to contribute to your life negatively. You may have hesitated to walk away from such situations or relationships because either you did not recognize them as such or you feel obligated to not walk away. Unemotionally and peacefully evaluate what is working for you and what is not, and after attempting to resolve the situation, you may need to walk away from what is not serving you. You need not have a conflict in your heart about this. Only when you are able to serve your Self can you help others, so take care of your Self.
Seek forgiveness and forgive others
Do you carry ill-will or anger towards anyone? Is that anger because you feel the other person has wronged you? As long as you harbor negative feelings towards anyone or anything, you continue to attract negative karma and energies in an endless loop. To break this cycle you must let go of your own anger and hatred, you will find yourself more at peace within yourself. You should come to a place of forgiving the other person even when they have wronged out of malice. This does not mean that you should must continue to associate with them. It only means that you are no longer willing to give them negative space within your mind and heart.
Sometimes, you may find that you hold anger towards yourself. It is even more important to be kind towards yourself, and forgive yourself, and treat yourself with love.
It is also possible that you may have wronged others knowingly or unknowingly in this lifetime or past ones. In your heart, seek forgiveness from those people and their souls. Sincerely and heartfully ask for forgiveness.
By seeking forgiveness and forgiving, you are cutting off the karmic shackles and freeing yourself from the bonds that tie you to the cycle of life and rebirth.
Maintain a positive attitude towards everything and everyone in your life. Do good and be good to yourself and others.