MY UNDERSTANDING OF KARMA
E. Rohan Amerasekera
Third Edition 1970
"I dedicate this book to Aloma, my wife, who inspires and assists me in
A whole lifetime, nay, many lifetimes were packed into a few years of my
life in the Second World War. I volunteered for the Royal Air Force in
search of adventure and I had an abundance of it. I found myself in the
midst of death and destruction, in the thick of fun and gaiety. I
understood joy and sorrow, as I saw them then, amidst life and death. I had
friends today and they were gone tomorrow. I became callous and insensitive
to finer feelings. I began to live for the day. Money, friends, everything
was only for the day.
At the end of so much death and destruction and the release of pent up
feelings and nervous tensions within me, I began to wonder what this was all
about. Is there a meaning in life or are we like driftwood tossing
aimlessly on the ocean? Was there a purpose in the changes that took place
for me so fast and so furiously? Why were so many maimed, why did so many
die and I remain unscathed?
I spent hours delving into books, thinking and meditating. An understanding
of Karma now points to me the true significance and purpose of life. I
venture to communicate to you this understanding which guides my life.
E. R. A.
Royal Ceylon Air Force,
22nd January, 1965
Re-printed in 1968
MY UNDERSTANDING OF
K A R M A
THE LAW OF KARMA
The Law of Karma is based on the fact that every action has a reaction.
Actions and reactions produce experiences and experience is knowledge. Our
goal is Enlightenment. Enlightenment, as we know, is Full Knowledge. The
Law of Karma, then, provides experiences that lead to Enlightenment. Some
reactions bring pain, sadness and indescribable misery; others bring joy and
happiness. Whether they bring joy or sorrow these are all experiences
needed in our search for Knowledge.
How do we acquire Knowledge? Is it possible to acquire all from books or the
experiences of others? Strangely enough it is, and yet for all it is not.
We see on a bench a large sign "WET PAINT". It is written by someone who
knew that the paint is wet and wished to warn others. In spite of the
warning we touch it to learn for ourselves. We learn only from personal
experience. Is this mere curiosity or is it a need, a compulsion for each
one of us to learn for ourselves? We see the same thing happen throughout
our lives. We know that fire burns but none escapes burns as a result of
knowledge gained by others. The simple truth is that experience is essential
for knowledge. There is no substitute for experience. In Karma experiences
are recorded in vibrations and an understanding of the part played by
Vibrations will help.
VIBRATIONS AND KARMA
Every movement, however small, however imperceptible and every thought
however feeble, starts a ripple, a pulse, a vibration in the Universe just
as a pebble starts a ripple and a vibration in water Every joyous note,
every sad cry starts a vibration. Thoughts, good or bad start vibrations.
The whole Universe is a vibrational field.
Within this Infinite Vibrational Field exist smaller vibrational fields.
Everything in and around an object or person vibrates and creates a Personal
Vibrational Field within the infinite Field. The name of a person is
mentioned to attract his attention, and the repetition of the name has a
vibrational impact close to that person. Each Personal Field has its own
peculiar vibration, its own personality. It has the power to attract and
the power to repel. A person's thoughts good or bad have a similar impact
on his vibrational field. His actions good or bad have a similar impact.
Not only humans but also each animate and inanimate object has its own
vibrational field and a vibration peculiar to itself.
Good thoughts and good actions strengthen and purify a personal field. Bad
thoughts and bad actions weaken and make the field coarser. Good thoughts
and good actions produce strong vibrations, fine vibrations, while bad
thoughts and bad actions result in weak or coarse vibrations. The finer the
thought the finer the vibration. The coarser the thought the coarser the
vibration. Such are Karmic Vibrations.
GOOD AND BAD
Good and Bad are relative terms. What is bad in one religion, community or
country may have legal and moral sanction in another. Yet in a Universal
and spiritual sense something must be right and something else must be
wrong. This something may not have legal backing and yet is Karmically
acceptable. Let us see what it is.
We know that every thought sends out a ripple, a vibration. Good and bad
depend upon ripples of actions that strengthen or weaken the personal
vibrational field. A good action is one, which invites a strengthening
reaction. A beggar who receives a meal sends out a ripple, a thought or
word of thankfulness which vibrates and strengthens the field of the giver.
(The thought or word of thanks also strengthens the vibrational field of the
person thanking, The giver as well as the receiver benefits). Any action
that brings joy and happiness in even the minutest way to another, be it
human, animal, bird, fish or jelly, returns a happy, thankful reaction that
enters this kind man's personal field. These vibrations from happy and
thankful receptions refine, strengthen and are meritorious.
Any action which creates pain, unhappiness, anger, sorrow and is in any way
the cause of a bad reaction, automatically invites a coarse vibration which
is absorbed into the vibrational field of the wrong doer, makes the field
weaker and coarser and is known as Sin.
There are actions that bring out reactions in many vibrational fields, and
bring out more than one ripple or vibration in return. For instance, if two
people in a dispute appear before a Judge, the Person, receiving the
favourable verdict will be happy and the other will be sad. As Justice was
done only the good ripples can reach the vibrational field of the Judge.
The vibration from the unhappy loser cannot reach him as there is nothing in
the Judge's personal field to attract it, nothing to recognize it, nothing
to respond to it for it is not in tune.
In the vibrational sphere, Intention decides what is good and bad. For
instance a hunter sets out to find his food. He has no ill will towards any
living creature, but it is his practice to eat flesh. In fact, because of
this practice he has a special interest in a herd of deer, and will do all
he can to protect it. He sets out to find food just as a leopard or other
flesh-eating animal would do. He kills a deer. The kill of this hunter is
harmless compared to the man who kills his neighbour's feelings. The hunter
and the butcher have no intention to hurt. They are expected and they do
supply flesh to those who are in need of it. Both the butcher and the hunter
perform a duty. There is no ill effect in this. Whatever we do, whatever
is our duty, we must do that well. On the other hand he who kills another's
feelings, in whatever manner, is guilty of a serious crime. There are many
ways of hurting feelings. Inconsiderate actions are a major source of sin.
Many who are crying for help today would not be doing so if, in their
previous births, they had shown more consideration. Consideration is only a
kind thought for others.
How often do we think if what we do will hurt others? How much thought do
we give to others? Very little indeed and that too by a very few. For
instance, quite unwittingly, the majority of motorists, pedestrians and
other road users are inconsiderate. Thoughtlessness is not an excuse when
it inconveniences and hurts others feelings directly or indirectly. Idleness
is another example where thoughtlessness hurts. Idleness under any pretext
is detestable. The man who does not do his fair share of work lives on the
sweat of another. The lazy man deceives himself with excuses. The work
offered is below social position or educational level so he prefers to lean
on parents, relations and the community rather than soil his hands. He
fancies a parasitic existence.
There is honour in any form of work. Any form of work is better than living
on money provided by parents or other relations. Living on such money is no
different to begging, no different to living on charity. Living on money
provided by the state is also in the form of charity. State receives its
income mainly from taxes, and but for a few idle rich, taxes are paid by
workers, with often the hardest workers earning most and paying most. He
who seeks state assistance for free meals, cheap rice, free this and free
that is in fact living on the sweat of workers. It is therefore a sin to
seek state assistance on a plea such as inability to nourish and upkeep
one's children. The responsibility to feed and clothe one's children is not
one's neighbours or of any one else. It is one's own. You must work, you
must cultivate. You must go out into the jungles, if necessary. Whatever
the hardships are you must work. This is your duty. There is always work
if we look for it. The work may not be to one's liking, nevertheless, it is
work. Begging or living on charity is a sin, unless due to old age, illness
or other disability a person is incapable of any work.
False values are also due to absence of kind thoughts or selfishness
resulting in the "someone else can do that dirty work" attitude. The
educated unemployed are a problem because they are full of false values.
They do not understand the dignity of labour; They know not that a good
worker of any description has a great dignity. In any community the hardest
worker enters the highest social circle while the idler, living on the work
and sweat of others, becomes the outcast.
He who makes use of caste, colour, race, community, religion and creates
disadvantages for another, or gains a selfish end sins against humanity. He,
is the enemy of humanity. He makes himself loathsome but it is not for us to
despise him for, he too is following a route, there are many routes and this
is his route. His route is long, it is tedious, it is full of sorrow and
misery for himself and others but we cannot help him. No one can help him.
He has to help himself. He has to purify himself. That is the Law of
ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST
Enlightened self-interest dictates kindness, consideration and compassion
not only to increase merit but also to ensure for ourselves, even in a
worldly sense, greater happiness than we would have if these qualities are
not used to the best advantage. Take for example a depressed class of
people, a people in what we now believe to be of a lower caste. They are
unhappy, these people in the depressed classes are unhappy because they are
treated with contempt by those who call themselves superior. Think for
yourself the advantage of lifting these unfortunate people out of the
unhappy state into which they were born under an ignominious caste system;
think for yourself the advantage of placing them where they receive equal
opportunities in life. Think of them as our equals and what happens. We,
by our efforts, remove from existence one unhappy state into which we can be
reborn in the future. Improve the lot of the poor, improve the lot of the
homeless, the aged, improve the lot of those that are harassed as a result
of the community or religion into which they are born and what do we
achieve? We achieve an improved
position for ourselves when it is our turn to fill the berth vacated by the
present holders. We improve our own lot materially and spiritually.
Consideration and compassion for others is the greatest of all virtues.
BROTHERHOOD OF MAN
The whole Universe is a vibrational field within which smaller vibrational
fields form. The latter are the personal fields which occupy our material
bodies at birth. The personal vibrational field is a part and parcel of the
Infinite Vibrational field and will eventually return to the parent just as
a wave loses its form and is one with the rest of the ocean. Our source is
the same, our beginning is the same, our end is the same.
Then why are there happy and unhappy people? Why are there the rich and the
poor? The truth is that everything is relative. Happiness and sorrow are
relative. Some sort of happiness in the scale of values created by man is
obtained by those with wealth and position. Those without possessions or
the "have nots" crave for them and think the others are fortunate, while the
"haves" envy the natural, relaxed, free life enjoyed by those without the
responsibilities attached to wealth and position. Each one inwardly wishes
to exchange places with the other. We cannot all be kings, nor can all be
beggars at the same time. Neither can all belong to the same caste, colour
creed, class, race nor all be rich nor poor at the same time. Nevertheless,
as long as differences exist we will experience each of them for our
development. The popular belief that we have evolved from poverty to
wealth, from low rank to high, from lower caste to the highest, from the
despised to the respected, is false.
Our material position in this birth, our short and temporary material
position in this birth, is no indication of the more permanent spiritual
development in which true relationships exist. A very highly developed
individual may be paying off or experiencing life as a menial in this birth.
He may be in another social circle, another religion, he may be the citizen
of another country, yet for all he remains very highly developed and holds a
respected and revered position in that higher state. A highly developed
person may Karmically be born a menial but is recognisable by his serenity,
humility, kindness, consideration and compassion for others, whereas these
finer qualities are absent in another of lesser Spiritual development
however highly placed or powerful.
In Karma the king today and the beggar tomorrow process is through action
and reaction. We believe that we are reborn in our next birth according to
the way in which we live our present life. This belief is only partly true.
For this to be absolutely true, a body has to be created according to the
way each lives his life but no such special bodies are made. Each new body
takes the form and life that will match the vibrations of its parents.
Therefore, "that which is reborn" merely uses it to gain another experience
for which it has the need. We may compare the discarding of a body at death
to the discarding of an old suit and say that there are no suits made to
measure but "that which is reborn" takes a ready made suit. Past Karma may
entitle one to a life of varying material comforts and discomforts, but all
of it may not find accommodation in the now body. The remainder must follow
the owner for turnover at a subsequent birth. A king in this birth may work
off the remainder of his Karma in his next or a subsequent birth as a
beggar, a man in a so called low caste, a low position, despised community,
Men of other religions, other social circles, other countries, are our
brothers. We all have absolute free will to do good or bad but if you wish
to progress do no harm to others, never take advantage of a brother's
weakness. If you do, it is because you lack knowledge. If you humiliate,
if you harm, retribution comes to you. Retribution is not a punishment, it
is a teacher, a Great Teacher. Retribution gives you a rebirth in each of
the classes you humiliate in order that you may learn first hand that none
of us are different. Retribution is the Principal of the Karmic School of
Enlightenment is our aim. Enlightenment is full knowledge, full knowledge
of the Universe and all that is in it. Millions and Billions of experiences
make up this full knowledge. This is the magnitude of our task. After
countless centuries we continue to chase shadows at the expense of spiritual
progress. Two thousand five hundred years after Lord Buddha, not one has
understood his teaching, for since Lord Buddha not one has reached
To a man striving to be good, right-mindedness and right action must be all
that matters. Quibbling over words and phrases of Great Teachers, perhaps
on subjects of topical interest to audiences two thousand years ago, is
futile and similar to a thirsty man debating whether to lift his glass of
water with the left hand or the right. To argue what religion is best is
equally futile. To do good and be good is all that is necessary. Men of
all religions are after the same truth. Our search takes us hither and
thither but ultimately we will meet in the same place. In our search for
knowledge some worship stones, others trees, and yet others talk philosophy.
If stone worship helps a man to act correctly for even one hour it should
be encouraged. For him it has done more than philosophy in which we
dissipate our energies in talk and more talk without pursuing right action.
Let the man keep his stone for that is what he needs in his present stage of
development. He can find a more sophisticated object later. If you wish,
encourage the man to worship the stone not once but three times a day, but
please do not take bit stone away.
Now please stop chasing the shadow and look for the substance for "none are
so blind as those who do not wish to see". Most of us, suffering from
self-imposed blindness, console ourselves with self-satisfying arguments.
This also is futile. It is far better for each and every one of us to look
over one's past with a view to improve and strengthen one's Vibrational
Field. Look at others not to revel in anything they have done wrong but for
good qualities that can be used to improve one's self. Self-Deception is
the greatest obstacle on the Path to Enlightenment. To seek consolation in
Self Deception is not only useless but is also obviously harmful: Vibrations
inexorably record thoughts and actions in strict accord with the Karmic Law.
None can deceive Karma.
THAT WHICH IS REBORN
The whole Universe is a vibrational field. Every sound, movement, thought
and action starts a secondary vibration within the Universal or Infinite
Vibrational Field. The mention of one's name causes a vibration.
Similarly, everything in and around an individual vibrates causing
vibrations within vibrations. Thus Personal Vibrational Fields come into
being within the Infinite Field. Each individual field has its own peculiar
vibration, its own personality. It has the power to attract and the power
One's thoughts and actions begin other vibrations that have a good or bad
effect on that field. Then the Law of Karma, with its intricate pattern of
Vibrations, conditions in each vibrational field a rebirth according to
experiences necessary for Enlightenment. For this purpose each vibrational
field enters, penetrates, permeates, and envelops a new body at birth. A new
life comes into being. When this vibrational field purifies itself, through
elimination of ignorance, and is once again in tune with the Infinite
Vibration it loses its individuality, ceases to vibrate as a separate entity
and is one with the Infinite. The Karmic Law justified, the personal
vibration and associated sorrows end. The cycle of Births and Deaths cease.
The Hindu philosophy refers to that which is reborn as Atman. It is also
called a Soul. Each Soul is a part of the Infinite Soul from which it comes
into being and to which it returns. Just as a wave loses its identity in
the ocean, each soul ultimately merges with and is one with the infinite