I have to say, writing this piece has put me in a funk. I am prone to existential depression, though, so don’t get too worried about me. That being said, the concepts here are vitally important. I am sick to death of living in a self-centered culture that thinks it’s totally cool that some people sleep on cement and eat out of garbage cans and others are out buying $30,000 purses, aren’t you? I fear the results of people not paying attention to what happens when we lose our compassion.
I’m going to go read some Tao Te Ching now so I can feel better, remember to let the river carry me. Please enjoy this lovely little reminder on how imperative it is that we recognize the role karma is truly playing in our collective experience.
On Karma and Homelessness
There’s a tricky thing to understanding karma. Most people see it as an entirely individual thing. I see it in relation to time. I see it as an intricate part of a larger puzzle. If we each are so intimately connected by the fabric of our existence, one person’s karma can ultimately affect everyone else. Surely, if enlightenment were to be achieved by a man or woman in our lifetime, it would be a result of them having walked through all of karma’s portals and doorways, including that karma which affects us simply because we are a member of the human species.
Some people will still argue that karma is individual. When we acknowledge we are one both metaphorically and by the fact we make decisions as a group, we work together and take action on a problem as a group and face the effects of those decisions (though differently) simultaneously. We can use the lessons and insight that an accurate understanding of karma provides without having to agree on the individual versus collective aspects of karma.
We have created a system designed to circumvent karma, a pseudo karma that is proving to have disastrous effects on our collective consciousness. We are all reflections of each other, our lives, choices and actions are ripples and waves that are wholly connected.
Because we are so intimately affected by each other, we are also impacted by each other’s karma so whether or not it is an individual thing, it shows up collectively when many people are continuously creating bad karma. Therefore, we should agree on some strategies to bring the best course for the most people. We live in a society now that perpetuates bad karma, bad decision-making regarding the use of our time and attention, the result of which makes many of our actions devoid of rewarding and fulfilling ends.
The following is a description of each of the 12 Laws of karma with a brief commentary on these principles applied to homelessness specifically.
THE GREAT LAW – “As you sow, so shall you reap”. This is also known as the “Law of Cause and Effect”. – Whatever we put out in the Universe is what comes back to us. – If what we want is Happiness, Peace, Love, Friendship… Then we should BE Happy, Peaceful, Loving and a True Friend.
People use this one against homeless people all the time. Here’s where the error in judgment comes in: what exactly did the homeless person sow, that they deserve to reap social rejection in the form of a reduction in access to life sustaining necessities?
If this karma is a direct result of only their individual action, then the answer would be that they do not or have not, put their attention or time on resource gathering.
Here’s the problem: those resources are marketed and unattainable for many. There is not an equal access to resources based on the same degree of energy output. That my dears, is capitalism and misinformation about karma’s true nature has been perpetuated to support it.
Capitalism places a value on certain energetic outputs without paying any attention to this law of karma. Even for physically and mentally able individuals, the same amount of energy invested will not bring equal resources because we have valued certain types of activity to be better than others -to our detriment.
The CEO of a large corporation is valued more highly than the janitor when it could be argued that their energy output is equivalent in keeping the company running. Could a CEO put the same amount of energy into her work if there is not also someone cleaning and tending to the physical upkeep of the space she needs to do that work? No, but the CEO sees the janitor as an extension of the CEO’s goals, a means to their end rather than an individual seeking their own goals. This is bullshit. Think about it.
What about the people for whom the acquiring of resources is an impossible task given the limited ways in which there are to do this? You don’t just get access to food or money to buy food because you want to. A person must first fill out an application, look, dress and act the part to get the job, do the job steady for 20-60 hours a week and then take their paycheck to the store to buy the resources they need to stay alive. They may actually be expending more energy for less reward. In other words, what they should be reaping is not equal to what has been sown because our society isn’t built around karma it is built around economics. Don’t use karma as an excuse to ignore the issues of homelessness.
THE LAW OF CREATION – Life doesn’t just HAPPEN, it requires our participation. – We are one with the Universe, both inside and out. – Whatever surrounds us gives us clues to our inner state. – BE yourself, and surround yourself with what you want to have present in your Life.
We have sown a whole bunch of rules about the gathering of resources that make it literally impossible for some to accomplish and then get angry when not everyone does it, thinking it their moral shortcoming. The guilt, shame or anger you feel walking by your fellow citizens sleeping on concrete may be your internal conscience keeper warning you there is something inherently wrong here.
If you are participating in a system that disenfranchises certain members by default to create competition, you are going to see the people on the losing end. The more egregious the system is in your area, the more homeless people you are going to see. They are the prime result of the state of our social policies, which we have created and actively participate in.
When I was living at the shelter, there was a woman, close to 75 -80 years of age who was finally receiving some medical care. She had her big toe amputated while living in the shelter due to complications with diabetes. This is not even close to the worst case in terms of physical and mental limitations the homeless are experiencing, but it is one that drives me crazy. None of our elderly, let alone a woman as ill as she was, should be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. What are we sowing that is reaping this absence of compassion? What have we agreed on and decided to believe is ok? What are these internal beliefs made up of that include the abandonment of the weak and needy?
THE LAW OF HUMILITY – What you refuse to accept, will continue for you. – If what we see is an enemy, or someone with a character trait that we find to be negative, then we ourselves are not focused on a higher level of existence.
I have witnessed so much hatred toward the poor, out right hatred. Not for their personality, their lack of humor, their bad dating choices but their existence, their lack of money and the consumeristic evidence of it: clothes, shoes, hairstyles, etc.
It is not possible to be focused on souls when we stop at the external and look no further. We take that same judgmental stance against ourselves, trying to feel good internally by what we are surrounded by externally or how we present ourselves externally through adorning our physical appearance. This is opposite of the reality of the human soul.
We have sown a society that does not value human life itself without conditions and what we are reaping is the evidence of what we do value: shallow and self-serving behavior. Right now what we value is the ability to be successful in a consumer driven and competitive economy which allows no room for the questioning of its morality.
THE LAW OF GROWTH – “Wherever you go, there you are”. – For us to GROW in Spirit, it is we who must change – and not the people, places or things around us. – The only given we have in our lives is OURSELVES and that is the only factor we have control over. – When we change who and what we are within our heart our life follows suit and changes too.
My journey has been one that I have been allowed into the private world and lives of many homeless people. I believe I have witnessed enough of a cross-section that I can feel comfortable and safe interacting with them. As in, I know who to avoid. The conclusions I now draw are based on these interactions. I no longer have to adhere to the false belief that they deserve their lot in life or desire their removal. My behavior then, stems from a place of compassion and wisdom. Once you know the stories, looked into the windows of their soul past the hangups or bad decisions, it is not hard to realize how easily and without just cause you could be also put in their position. Your interactions may influence their lives in a positive way, perhaps creating hope but certainly creating community.
THE LAW OF RESPONSIBILITY – Whenever there is something wrong in my life, there is something wrong in me. – We mirror what surrounds us – and what surrounds us mirrors us; this is a Universal Truth. – We must take responsibility for what is in our life.
We must take responsibility for the creation of a system of interaction that does not value human life in its essence. We cannot take the approach of willing this situation away without taking the necessary steps to address the root cause. When we support a system that allows some to have massive luxuries and power while others barely have enough food, water and access to hygiene and shelter, there is something wrong and a false belief is perpetuated that does not serve any one of us.
Put another way: you are your brothers keeper if you believe you yourself are worthy of being kept, should the need arise.
THE LAW OF CONNECTION – Even if something we do seems inconsequential, it is very important that it gets done as everything in the Universe is connected. – Each step leads to the next step, and so forth and so on. – Someone must do the initial work to get a job done. – Neither the first step nor the last are of greater significance, – As they were both needed to accomplish the task. – Past-Present-Future they are all connected…
Every choice we make affects the larger social context we live in and make these choices from. If we agree to start examining homelessness as a symptom of a socially created disease of dependency on external and material wealth, we can begin to address the false beliefs and lack of value we place on the essence of being human.
Not appropriately valuing human life is a form of self-hatred. This self-hatred perpetuates a system that causes us to engage in actions that do not lead to enlightenment, but to transient external rewards. It does nothing to evolve or develop our consciousness whose benefits we have yet to experience. We are taking a path, step by step by step, that is currently aimed at our own destruction.
THE LAW OF FOCUS – You can not think of two things at the same time. – When our focus is on Spiritual Values, it is impossible for us to have lower thoughts such as greed or anger.
When we focus on the inherent gift that each human life brings to our developing conscious awareness, we can see opportunity to improve our ability to love and work together. A team approach to life in a social creature should be intuitive. That we place emphasis on competition and judgment, necessarily leads us to hate the parts of our own selves that do not meet these standards.
This has the effect of separating us and dividing us internally. Our internal struggle has the augmenting result of villifying people who are less physically or mentally able to meet the demands we place on them. The focus becomes hatred and scorn rather than an opportunity for enlightenment and compassion. Compassion itself is seen as a weakness in a competitively driven social matrix.
THE LAW OF GIVING AND HOSPITALITY – If you believe something to be true, then sometime in your life you will be called upon to demonstrate that particular truth. – Here is where we put what we CLAIM that we have learned, into actual PRACTICE.
A man who works at the same place my boyfriend does, was recently fired. A couple weeks ago he chastised my boyfriend for buying a homeless man a burger saying save your money, they don’t deserve it. He is now homeless. But last week he was employed and housed. So, to my understanding he has now been given the opportunity to understand the importance of the kindness of strangers from the perspective of receiving, since it was not a belief or conclusion (a CLAIM) he was able to practice from the giving end.
THE LAW OF HERE AND NOW – Looking backward to examine what was, prevents us from being totally in the HERE AND NOW. – Old thoughts, old patterns of behavior, old dreams… – Prevent us from having new ones.
Looking at anecdotal evidence of when and how the system has served people well can be a very limiting and socially devastating practice. With this, we stop examining and thoroughly experimenting with new ways of living as a society that does not exclude and terminate our weak and/or vulnerable cohorts.
We are living as others have lived before without taking our ability to create tomorrow with the choices we make today, into account. We do not need to wait to create a reality that actually benefits conscious evolution and supports and values human life at the individual level to create a kind and cooperative social level experience for us all.
THE LAW OF CHANGE – History repeats itself until we learn the lessons that we need to change our path.
The influence of greed and external reward for the individual in a system designed to support a group of people is a self-perpetuating failure. We don’t feel good and in balance when we are contributing to a group when we hold a secret desire for personal reward. It can’t be both. This dualistic approach is the cause of every instance of decline or defeat of a civilization.
THE LAW OF PATIENCE AND REWARD – All Rewards require initial toil. – Rewards of lasting value require patient and persistent toil. – True joy follows doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and waiting for the reward to come in on its own time.
Our system is designed to circumvent karma. We believe that the rewards of our work come in the form of material possession. We are slowly beginning to wake up to the fact that external rewards do not and cannot replace the reward of peace of mind and lightness of our being.
In order to receive the benefits of love and joy which we can only truly experience while interacting with others, we must do the work to support a social system that inspires and values love and joy as rewards, NOT attention or esteem that gives us the pretense of power over others. Power over others is not actually possible and offers no reward beyond the mirror.
THE LAW OF SIGNIFICANCE AND INSPIRATION – You get back from something whatever YOU have put into it. – The true value of something is a direct result of the energy and intent that is put into it. – Every personal contribution is also a contribution to the Whole. – Lack luster contributions have no impact on the Whole, nor do they work to diminish it. – Loving contributions bring life to, and inspires, the Whole.
That one should be pretty self-explanatory.
12 laws of karma found here: http://www.social-consciousness.com/2013/09/12-little-known-laws-of-karma-that-will-change-your-life.html
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