Is There Progress in Karma?

Most people think of karma as a spiritual principle of cause and effect/punishment and reward. This view holds that the sum of a person’s previous and current actions determines their fate in the future. For example, if someone committed bad deeds in a previous life, they would be punished for those past misdeeds in this life. If you are a good person in this life, you would be rewarded in your next life.

From a non-punitive view, karma is what you have not experienced in the past, you will experience now. What you’ve finished with now, you will not need to revisit in the future.

Both of these views allow for the idea of “progress.” The first view holds that when you remain a good person, your karma continues to grow in good ways. The second view operates on the idea of completion of all experiences, rather than on traditional “good” vs “bad” results. Both of these are simplistic views that help to perpetuate dualistic thinking.

I share Nisargadatta’s view. From a deeper perspective, karma is only a repository of unspent energies of unfulfilled desires and fears that have not been understood and therefore could not be resolved and released. For someone who is unaware, there is a never-ending supply of new desires and fears that constantly replenish this repository. Without understanding, there is little chance for this cycle to end.

Once we can understand the root cause of our fears, desires, and how we’ve become separated from ourselves–once we awaken–karma will dissolve. Life goes on. The self is not affected. Only bodies grow and decay.

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