I am not going to be overly technical or philosophical here. It is a big subject, karma. It is at the heart of yoga and meditation practice, whether we know it or not. It is very central to the practice of Vedic Astrology, this is more clear. For some reason, it’s on my mind lately, so I’ll attempt it.
There are of course various teachings on karma that are similar and different. What I will say here will be my own interpretation and contemplation of what I have learned over time.
My yoga teacher Rama often uses an image of a tree. I thought it was a common image, but after looking for it elsewhere have come to discover that it is not. She draws (a pun!) this interpretation partly out of her study of the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali- a seminal text of the Yoga Philosophy.
At the base of the tree, the ground and roots, are 2 types of karma referred to as Sanchita and Prarabdha. Sanchita is the sum total of karma- what we have accumulated. Prarabdha literally means undertaken, and is the portion of karma we are living out. These karmas are understood to be “fixed” in that they are happening, in process, for reasons we will never be able to totally rationalize or alter.
This brings up the issue of “fate” which can upset people- but suffice it to say that we all have to admit that there are many things that do fall into this category. I’ll use myself as an example. I am white, a woman, born in the USA. This is unalterable and I did not make a rational decision about it.
The body of the tree depicts the 2 other types of karma, Kriyamana and Agama. Kriya means action and refers to our capacity to act and create. Agama refers to the new actions you contemplate, your ideas or vision for the future. These are the karmas that are more malleable, that we can affect through our free will.
The tree is what we see, what is most obvious. The roots and the soil are invisible unless we dig. Yet they are one and the same. The tree comes from the roots, the roots require the soil. To get more specific:
Sanchitta Karma is the soil and represents the deep past, the mysterious depth.
Pradabdha Karma is the roots and affects the form and function of the tree, our spiritual DNA
Kriyamana Karma is how we relate to our internal and external circumstances, how we are able to use our free will.
Agama Karma is the vision and intention we hold for future action, the unconscious and conscious seeds that we plant.
I told you I wouldn’t be too technical or philosophical so I want to wrap up on a practical note: We don’t really know what we are doing here, we don’t know why we have the circumstances that we have- it’s interesting and uniquely human to consider it all and I truly appreciate karmic theory. This theory says that there are reasons for our present circumstances and we do have the ability to work with the present and affect the future. What you sow NOW through your thoughts, words, and actions is what truly matters. As my mom’s guru Goswami Kriyananda says with a little laugh and smile “Attitude is Everything.”
Natasha Korshak is a long-time teacher and trainer of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and MBSR, and has been working in the field of integrative health and wellness her entire professional career. She is a graduate of the Interfaith Theological Seminary and an ordained Interfaith Minister specializing in contemplative practice, grief processing, and spiritual direction. Her study and training of mind/body/spirit methods is extensive and she has learned from many of the pioneers in their discipline. As the founder and director of the Sol Center she is well regarded for her depth, warmth, authenticity, and the smile in her voice.