A friend of mine has been having major issues with her daughter. Any of us who are parents can sympathize. This young woman (the daughter, not my friend who, unfortunately, is as middle aged as I am!) has set her sights on marrying a man who really sounds like a train wreck. In spite of my friend’s many rants, raves and tears, this marriage looks like it is going to happen. My friend, who is a Catholic, has finally thrown her hands up in defeat. She told me today that she lit a candle in her altar and basically told God that the ball was in His court now.
While consoling my friend, I couldn’t help but think back to when I learned about about the different kinds of karma. Karma, in this context, refers to the fruits of our actions; in our past, in our future, and of course, in our present.
Many Hindus believe that there are three kinds of karma.
First, there are those that are already coming to fruition. These karmas are in motion in our lives. No matter what we do, these actions, good or bad, are coming home to roost.
Second, there are the karmas that are stored up from the past. They are not active yet and some of them can be avoided via prayer, meditation and/or good works.
And finally, there are those karmas that are still waiting to happen. They will occur as a result of our current actions and deeds. These are probably the easiest to change since they depend on the way we behave from here on out.
But what about the first two kinds of karma? How do we tell them apart?
The truth is that we never know which of the two we are dealing with at any moment. Are they the karmas that are going to come to fruition no matter what we do? Or, are they karmas that we can prevent with our present actions? That is the million dollar question.
This reminds me of a popular western prayer which is often referred to as the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)
Unfortunately however, the wisdom to be able to know which of our past karmas are already playing out, and which are still waiting to become active, is a wisdom that very few of us have mastered.
Instead, we need to pray for the strength to treat all our karmas as if we can change them. Every bad situation has to be attacked with our full force. It’s only when there is absolutely no doubt that the karma is in motion that we must have the wisdom to stop fighting.
So what about my friend? Personally, I think she is still fighting the good fight. After all, her daughter isn’t married yet. So instinctively she knows that this karma has not come to fruition yet. And, knowing her, she has the wisdom to know the difference.