Karma: ‘Whatever choices I make will always meet me–sooner or later’
But ‘we are not condemned by the past, we learn from mistakes,’ says Italian-Australian writer and lecturer Anthony StranoBy Marge C. Enriquez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
If somebody misused your trust, will you feel cursed?
If you’re a gentle person and you work with a bossy colleague who keeps you on pins and needles, will you tolerate it until you’ve reached the boiling point?
“It’s my choice to feel that I’m a victim, a student or a master,” said Italian-Australian writer and lecturer Anthony Strano of the spiritual house Brahma Kumaris, who has authored books on spirituality and writes a blog for the Huffington Post.
In truth, the perceived antagonist is just a teacher. The meek soul must learn to be assertive by being peaceful and focused. The person whose trust was abused has to learn independence, said Strano.
“This is what the law of karma says: It’s up to me. Do you see it as a curse or a blessing? Do you see that someone as a teacher who’s imparting a lesson to you or as an enemy? Do you see the past as predetermined or view the present as to create new opportunities? To create good karma, I have to understand: What can I learn from this?”
Law of action-response
Karma is often misunderstood as a blight or a punishment. In truth, it is a law of action and response to that action. Likewise, it is the result of one’s responsibility or irresponsibility.
For Strano, it is an energy or a mechanism that works automatically. Human consciousness is like a computer microchip that contains a record of every thought and action. That record determines one’s future.
For instance, if you steal, that action leaves an imprint in the mind.
“The police may never catch me, but still I have to pay it back in one way or another. It’s a justice that is created. A person who cheats is never at peace. All actions are recorded,” said Strano.
Contrary to popular notion that karma is an act of God, it is actually the result of one’s doing. “One principle of karma is: We are creators of our hell. But we blame others, not ourselves. Let me take responsibility for my life, and that will give me the freedom because without taking responsibility, I’ll never be free. Karma is not a curse from God. In a way, maybe a person has cursed himself. But we still have to help. Love, respect, kindness, forgiveness, patience are the things that make life work. These will bring success.”
Justice and forgiveness
Strano pointed out that karma is often associated with justice and punishment. “Real justice has to do with forgiveness and getting the right balance again. The cycle of violence actually stops when someone has the power to forgive and to let go.”
Karma operates on the principles of freedom, choice, consequence and responsibility. Strano gives the example of being stuck with a person or a situation that makes you miserable that you complain, “Oh, it’s my karma!” Instead of avoiding or trying to change the person or situation, you can adopt a more constructive attitude.
“We help the oppressor as much as the victim. Otherwise, if there’s a constant condemnation and a rejection of the ones who oppress, they don’t change. They get worse.
Strano, an educator, shared his experience of isolating an unruly pupil so that he could keep his students under control. However, by alienating the errant pupil, his behavior worsened.
“If you are in a position of authority, fear to intimidate and control are not the solution. It’s bad karma. Whenever you misuse a position, it creates a negative result,” he said.
On the other hand, to open up the minds of difficult or close-minded people and make them understand things in a different way is the challenge of creating good karma.
“Spirituality means doing things that other people think are not possible,” said Strano. He gave the example of Jesus who imparted the principle of loving one’s neighbors in a culture of vendetta.
“In revenge, you get nowhere. You just plant the seed for future violence. The point is: Whatever choices I make will always meet me—sooner or later. But I do have to make shifts in attitude that allow me to have a better quality of life.”
Sometimes human choices are not always right. Instead of feeling guilty, Strano said one should just move on.
“Life offers us everyday opportunity. We are not condemned by the past. We learn from mistakes. If we are open to the present and take responsibility, then nothing is a curse. With humility, courage and faith, I can change things. I may have to be patient.”
On how and why negative things happen, Strano explained that past actions based on ego, anger, attachment, greed and lust reap damaging consequences. Actions propelled by ego and anger result in isolation or illness. Expecting people to behave according to our desires and being forceful about it will not inspire them to change for the better.
Instead, they will move away from us. Getting upset with people for one incident while forgetting the many good things they’ve done is called convenient amnesia. “This does not make us forgiving,” said Strano.
Then again, attachment, dependence on position, roles, money and achievement can make us vulnerable to the ups and downs of life.
“If I desire to get a bigger house or for a person and get very possessive, even if I claim that thing, it will not give me the happiness I have wished for. Real positive thinking is not about focusing on acquiring but on improving the quality of my life. I may not have so much, but I improve the quality of my inner being.”
Positive thinking, on the other hand, “is keeping my optimism and having faith in solutions. I may not know the solutions now, but that there is some bridge I have to build.”
“When I become more spiritually aware, I have more equanimity. I appreciate the success, but it does not go to my head. If I make mistakes, I learn and won’t repeat them. When people get attached, even to their weaknesses or to their past, they feel so guilty. In guilt, there is no solution. There is only solution when there is realization.”
Dependence on external support such as praise or desiring acknowledgement can create insecurity. In the long run, this attachment breeds fear, jealousy, competition and comparison with others.
“Live and let live. If I know who I am, and I use what I have in an honest and sincere way, I will never falter. Honesty means you will never lose what you are in the eyes of others or in your eyes. What you are in God’s eyes is most important.”
Relationships, on the other hand, can be a source of happiness or sorrow. Relations turn sour when there is dependence or lack of appreciation.
“It’s very important not to be parasitical, where I live through others. I have to have my own spiritual identity. But at the same time, appreciate everyone and have a very deep respect.”
Misusing nature, time, money and other material things result in scarcity. However, you can get them back by creating good karma.
“That’s the resilience in human beings. If they can return to the right principles, it’s not written ‘The End,’” said Strano. “If things go wrong, step back with the power of silence. Trust in God, the self and others. Things will get better. Faith removes a lot of negative karma.”
The Brahma Kumaris offers free courses on meditation. Contact 8907960 (Makati); 4149421 (Quezon City); 5212015 (Manila); (046) 4133246 (Tagaytay)