Recently I received a most interesting letter from a spiritual seeker who had read one of my articles. She lamented that she is afraid to take certain actions to better her life, because she did not want to expose herself to possible karmic repercussions. She wanted to know how I felt about her situation.
"First of all, it’s none of my business how you choose to live your life," I explained. "But since you’ve invited me into your world, I must reveal to you that just getting out of bed in the morning has karmic implications."
Life is a karmic drama. It’s impossible to completely avoid karma on the physical plane. However, we can lessen "challenging" karmic exposure and experiences through the persistent practice of spiritual exercises, such as the HU mantra, and by declaring ourselves a vehicle for divine spirit in all we do – in other words, we perform every act in the name of divine spirit. Of course, we also have to make use of common sense and not deliberately jump into fire in the name of divine spirit. But to live a dull and frustrating life with the aim of avoiding karma is self-imposed incapacitation subsequent to spiritual ignorance. Lastly, we should remember that we usually don’t pay more than we have to in order to balance karma, unless, of course, we are attached to the idea of paying more.
The following is an ancient story that wonderfully illuminates this topic.
There was a famous judge in the city of Shanghai in China known as Ching-Ching. He was famous not necessarily for being a talented judge, but because he would listen to any case that anyone wished to bring to court, no matter how ridiculous the case happened to be. He would not only listen to what we would consider "nuisance cases," but he actually would contemplate for a long time over each case before passing a judgment.
In the same city, there was a 10-year-old boy name Huo, who had just moved to the city from one of the inland farming communities. He was from a peasant family and therefore quite poor. He came to Shanghai to acquire an education so that one day he would go back to his village and help in the economic rejuvenation of his family. He rented a small one-room apartment on the second floor of a commercial building. Huo’s diet consisted of only steamed rice, because that was all he could afford.
One day, his classmates paid him a courtesy visit, and during their conversation, the issue of Huo’s diet came up. His friends remarked that ever since they met him, all Huo ate was steamed rice. What surprised them most was that Huo always ate steamed rice with absolutely nothing on it – no stew, spices, vegetables or meat.
So they asked Huo, "How can you maintain such a tasteless diet for such a long time?"
Well, Huo said that he had a secret, but his friends had to promise not to divulge his secret to anyone. Then he explained that there is a great restaurant directly below his apartment, and that the aroma that comes from the restaurant is absolutely mouthwatering! He explained that he schedules his breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday to coincide with the time when the cook downstairs prepares meals for the restaurant’s customers. Then he would open all his windows to allow in the aroma. He would then take out his bowl of steamed rice, close his eyes, inhale the aroma and enjoy the most incredible meals.
Huo’s ingenuity marveled his friends, as well as energized their imagination. Unfortunately for Huo, however, his friends did not keep the secret. On their way home, they went and told Mr. Chang, the restaurant owner, that Huo had been using the smell of his food to eat his steamed rice, for the last six months.
"Thief! Thief!" screamed Mr. Chang. "How dare that little brat steal my smell!"
Without giving it a second thought, Mr. Chang took Huo to court for stealing the smell of his food. He estimated the accumulated past-due amount for the smell to be $50. Of course, the famous judge, Ching-Ching, was absolutely delighted to preside over the case. Many people in Shanghai came to court that day just to find out how the judge would handle the case.
The judge called upon Mr. Chang, the restaurant owner, to cite his case. "Unbeknown to me," Mr. Chang said, "Huo had been stealing the smell of my food from his upstairs apartment for the last six months, and I’m suing him for damages in the amount of $50."
Then the judge turned to Huo and asked if Mr. Chang’s statement was accurate. Struggling to hold back tears, Huo explained that he does not have much money and had to eat rice everyday – and that he was so fortunate to find an apartment that had a restaurant in close proximity, one that provided the aroma needed to enjoy his rice. He explained that he didn’t realize it was necessary to get permission to smell food. He admitted that he had, in fact, been using the smell of Mr. Chang’s food to eat his rice.
In a firm voice, the famous judge asked, "Do you have any money on you right now?"
Huo said yes, explaining that he was planning to use the few coins in his right pocket for rent. The judge ordered Huo to approach the bench immediately and bring out all the coins from his pocket. Trembling, Huo did as he was told. In the meantime, the large audience that had gathered in court were shocked that the judge was about to make a kid pay for a smell. The judge then ordered Huo to show his left hand, with palm facing up. Huo did as told.
Then the judge said, "Take the coins from your right hand and place them in your left hand. Then deposit the coins back into your left pocket." Huo complied. The judge paused for a while, as if in a deep meditative state. Finally he declared, "You are now free to go home, because you have paid your debt to Mr. Chang."
Overjoyed, the young boy ran out of the court, much to the delight of the court audience. The restaurant owner, Mr. Chang was confused.
"What the hell kind of judgment is that? The boy didn’t pay anything. He still has his money," protested the restaurant owner.
The famous judge gently replied, "The transfer of coins from one hand to another is the equivalent, proper and complete payment for stealing the smell of food. Get a life, Mr. Chang!" The End.
Don’t hold yourselves back unnecessarily, dear seekers, for fear of accumulating and paying too much for karma. Go out and live your lives fully and responsibly! May the Blessings Be!