By John Van Auken – Today, those of us seeking our own personal spirituality are especially aware of the influence of karma and grace. Let’s explore these two forces, and let’s begin at the very beginning.
In conceiving us, God gave us the gifts of individual consciousness and free will. With these we were to come to know ourselves to be ourselves, and yet choose to be one with the Whole (God, others, and ourselves). Only with independent consciousness and free will could we choose to be God’s companions and co-creators. Yet, these powers are often compared to a two-edged sword, because they can lead us towards heavenly oneness or towards hellish selfishness. Each of us has to learn how to bring our mind and will in closer harmony with God’s. But learning implies mistakes, and mistakes with the mind and will can be very harmful.
Therefore, before the two great gifts were given (consciousness and free will), God established a simple but universal law: whatever we do with our mind and will comes back to us, not as punishment or retribution but as education and enlightenment. The law is intended to help us appreciate the effects of our individual thoughts, words, and actions upon God, others, and even ourselves. We recognize this law when we say, “What goes around, comes around.” In the scriptures it is written: “As you sow, so shall you reap”; “With what measure you measure, so shall it be measured to you.” Even proof-oriented scientists observe that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the law of action and reaction, cause and effect, the law of karma.
The law is unavoidable and immutable. Jesus teaches that not one jot will be erased from it. How then can any of us recover from mistakes? How are we to learn, if every misuse or abuse brings reactions? Are we now trapped in a tangled web of karmic backlash to our past actions, words, and thoughts? Cayce’s readings teach that, “God has not left us without a way.” That way is grace.
Grace is that wonderful spirit that imbues every fiber of our being when we practice the fruits of the spirit: kindness, patience, understanding, forgiveness, love, gentleness, fellowship, and long-suffering. Cayce says that “against these there is no law.” But he says “doubt, fear, avarice, greed, selfishness, self-will; these are the fruits of the evil forces. Against such there is a law.” Obviously we want to choose grace over karma.
Jesus calls us to “learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The meaning is that a built-in grace already exists in this exacting law of karma. Here’s how it works: The law is absolute, right? Yes. Therefore, what we do or think comes back to us. Then, if we begin to understand mistakes by others, the law — always at work and never compromising — reacts with understanding toward our mistakes! If we begin to forgive others, the law reacts with forgiveness for us. And, best of all, if we forget the misuse or abuse by others, then ours is forgotten, too.
This is the deeper meaning behind Jesus’ words “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Few of us could sacrifice enough to make up for all our mistakes, but having mercy toward others who have misused their gifts brings mercy to us. The law is absolute. Therefore, jots of understanding, forgiveness, and forgetting come back upon us as we give them out to others. It is perfect. It is simple. What we give, we receive. The law is filled with latent grace waiting to be released.
Do we seek forgiveness? Then, we must give forgiveness. Seek understanding? Then, give understanding to another. If we want our sins forgotten in the Mind of the All-Knowing, then we need to forget what others have done to us. Let it go; release it. Stop holding onto little spites, hurts, and bitterness. They weigh us down, limiting our ability to grow closer to heavenly consciousness. Ancient Egyptians weighed the heart to see if it was light or heavy. A heavy heart caused the soul to sink into the underworld, but a light one allowed the soul to rise through the heavens. Cayce explains that the High Priest Ra Ta rejuvenated his body by “casting aside the years of toil and strife through which the body had passed,” 696-1. In other words, he let go of the things that had aged him. By letting go, we may release ourselves and others from the heavy burdens of regret, disappointment, self-doubt, and guilt. Just let them go! Shake them off, get up, and get going again. But for this to work, we must also do it for all those we meet — allowing them to be freed of their burdens and our judgments.
Most of our opportunities to grow in grace will not be with strangers, for the hardest to forgive are those closest to us: parents, siblings, spouses, children, coworkers, and friends. These relationships bring the greatest challenges and opportunities each day. And, we may also think that the greater opportunities for soul growth concern life and death issues, but they more often concern little everyday situations. The very next person that walks up to us brings potential grace. To release this grace, we simply have to use our God-given mind and will to choose to interact positively.
However, we can take this too far, allowing others to do whatever they wish despite their influence on themselves, others, and God. Tough love is as much as part of the journey as understanding. Sometimes, we help our loved ones, friends, and coworkers more with loving truth. Jesus did not ignore Peter’s errors, but called him to rise to a higher level.
Karma and grace go hand-in-hand, because the law is so perfectly crafted. Grace is the rosebud on the thorny stem of karma. The blooming of this bud is dependent on our present use of free will and mind. Cayce taught, “God is Law, and the Law is Love.” The disciple Peter wisely observed that “Love covers a multitude of sins.” The disciple John taught that “God is love; and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Cayce asked us all: “How can it be then that you do not understand God loves you?” Sensing our questioning reply, given that our lives are not always happy, he stated: “Why do you suffer? It is mercy, it is justice to your soul! For those things that are cares of the flesh and of the Earth cannot inherit eternal life. Hence life alters, life changes in the experiences of individuals through their sojourns in the Earth, and thus you learn your lessons, even as He; for though He were the Son, though you are His sons and daughters, yet must you learn obedience through the things that you suffer.” Karma is a teacher. Freedom comes with responsibility. And oneness is not achieved without cooperation. Obeying the law of love is required. Let’s live in grace by applying the fruits of the spirit each day.