As humans, unless we have cultivated our spiritual roots or learned divination arts, we can frequently cast judgements over what happens in life. We see others and we cannot understand why they do the things they do. We may feel disapproval or even condemn them based upon how we view things. Yet reality is far more interesting than first meets the eye.
I’d like to share a story to illustrate this. One guru I love dearly for his frequent explanations of karma is Mohanji. This tale comes from him:
In Bengal, in early 1900s lived a Yogi called Liladhar. He was quite introverted and unassuming. He used to give lectures on Bhagawad Gita and other scriptures to the villagers. He used to teach students and thus earn his livelihood. He led a very humble life. He cooked his own food, washed his own clothes, cleaned the house himself, and he shared his food with anyone who came hungry while he prepared his food. His needs were very limited. He lived in a single room near the river. People revered him and respected him. Thus, he lived a quiet life, till about 40 years of age.
There was a brothel about 500 meters away from his house, in the same street where he lived, which used to be visited by many people from the village as well as from the neighbouring villages. One day, people saw, with great surprise, Liladhar visiting this brothel. All were surprised as well as shocked. Yet, nobody dared to ask him anything. They were even more shocked when they saw him visiting the brothel again, the next day, after sun set. This went on, day after day – every night he visited the brothel and spent the whole night there, with one particular young woman, who had just been brought into this brothel. This seeming weakness of his, steadily tarnished his image. He fell in the eyes of the villagers. They stopped attending his classes. They refused to send their children to him. He became jobless and penniless. For a few days, he did some odd jobs in the locality. Soon, people stopped giving him any job. He went around begging, and somehow, everyday, he made just enough money to spend the night at the brothel with this woman. Even if he could not buy food, he religiously visited this woman. He did not forfeit his habit at any cost. Finally, when nobody even gave him alms in his village, he went to the neighbouring town every morning, earned his money through odd jobs or begging in the streets, and came back in the evening to visit this particular woman at the brothel. Some youngsters even beat him, destroyed his one-room house, and even threatened to kill him, because they decided that he was not doing something that befitted a spiritual man. They decided that he was violating the moral consciousness of the society. Some people of the village tried to expel him from the village by force. But, it was effectively aborted by some elderly villagers who explained to them that “his karma will take care of him”.
Some others who used to frequent this brothel became curious about this woman. Nobody ever saw her, because Liladhar used to occupy her room, before others arrive. They even bribed the woman who was running the brothel and offered her much higher pay, for one night with this mystery woman. Each time someone tried this, the brothel woman blackmailed Liladhar and extracted higher pay for the prescribed night with this woman. He toiled more and more for this extra money which the owner woman increasingly extorted day by day.
Still, he did not change his ways and this practice went on for about five or six years until one day, the woman whom he used to visit fell sick, vomited blood, and was hospitalised. On the same evening, she passed away. There was no one to claim her body. No one wanted to claim the body of a prostitute. The wise, morality conscious society was very clear about that!!! Liladhar received her body, found enough money and arranged a proper funeral for her.
After the funeral, on the same night, he prepared to leave the place. He gave his house, even though partially damaged by the morality conscious society, to an old woman who was homeless, abandoned and lonely. Any shelter was better than no shelter for that old woman. She was well pleased. She blessed him for his kindness. While he was leaving, the old woman asked:
“My son, you are a kind man, but you have suffered a lot in silence – without complaining, because of your weakness for one woman. She is dead now. Tell me, what made a balanced person like you, to undergo so much pain and trouble for the sake of a prostitute?”
Liladhar smiled and said:
“That was my wife from my last life. She craved for physical relationship with many men in her last life, and she became a prostitute in this life. But, she never wanted to prostitute in this life. She was forcefully sold to this brothel by her relatives, because her destiny was such. She wanted to escape from there, but was quite helpless. Since she did not have enough money to buy freedom, nor did I have sufficient money to rescue her, I gave her company every night till she died. The whole night, I taught her various scriptures and words from the divine Masters. We never slept. She slept in the morning while I worked to earn money, to meet her in the evening. Day by day, she became spiritually evolved and attained liberation at death. I sacrificed my sleep and reputation for a noble cause. It was more important to serve a helpless woman than a thankless society reeling in inhibitions and non-understanding. I never even touched her once. This helped her to remain chaste and get liberation in this life. Because she served me sincerely in her last life as my wife, I returned the service and thus equalised the karmic debt. This will help my liberation too. Now, I have nothing more to do here. So, I am leaving for Himalayas. The time for my final liberation is at hands reach.”
He walked away, without looking back. After he left, this story started spreading from mouth to mouth and the villagers started feeling guilty for torturing a noble man. Some even went searching for him in the neighbouring places to bring him back. It was too late. He never left any address behind for anybody to find him.
Life is not what we see or understand through our social eyes. It is much beyond. We cannot judge anyone’s actions using our limited intellect or levels of understanding, especially if the subject is a true liberated saint. We have the history of torturing and killing all the liberated saints, especially if they become rich or popular. Gross cannot understand subtle. Subtle can understand gross, but usually never interferes, just like our soul does not interfere in our waking life, except aiding it. The subtler we become, the more connected we will be to our soul. Our life may not be in line with social norms anymore. It will become more in line with the larger dharma which will be intangible and incomprehensible to the average general consciousness
Life has a funny way of arranging people around us so that certain karmas can play out. It could be our boss, our parents, our children or even a stranger. Even your pets do not come to be in your care without a cause and many people find their pets teach them a thing or two about life!
Sometimes, we may wish to know what was our relationship to those people in a previous life. It’s often asked, why don’t we know? Why don’t we just recognise the face?
Simple. You’re not ready. You couldn’t deal with it at your current level of spiritual evolution.
If you knew who the person was, if you knew straight away what it is you have done to that person in a past life, the relationship would not be able to continue. Think about it. If your boss is constantly making you sweat for a pittance, what type of a karma is trying to resolve itself? Who do you think was the ox pulling the plough in the last life and who do you think had the whip?
The Taoist divination arts, especially Ba Zi, can help us very quickly see the nature of our karmic relationships. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that we should immediately try to avoid all the negative ones but it’s the nature of karma to increase in intensity until it is paid off. For this reason I try to remind my clients to see their challenging relationships not as good or bad but as opportunities for them to open up their heart. I don’t mean be blind to when people are abusive, rather that we must always try to come back to a place of forgiveness. Why? Because if we don’t, and we cling on to the pain, our attachment to it makes a karmic impression on us and in a future life we’ll need to come back to inflict it back upon them! The whole cycle of back and forth can go on and on, creating suffering for both parties till the end of time. Therefore my teaching is say relationships are not good or bad, rather they are places where we learn to manifest gratitude or forgiveness. If you can do this, not only will it not hurt you so much in this life, often things will change in the relationship. The karma is paid back and like magic, the other party just starts to act differently.