(or: karma can be a friend. Part 2)
Remember Melvin the mouse? The one we forcefully and woefully evicted? (Refresh yourself on what Melvin taught me about karma in the previous blog post published last week.)
Today, as promised, we are going to look at another aspect of karma: the idea of a universal piggy bank.
Melvin’s story was an example of our typical understanding of ‘bad karma.’ But the full understanding of karma in the yoga philosophy is more nuanced than that. According to the Yoga Sutras actions can be good, bad or neutral. Each type of action creates a karmic residue that sticks in your memory and your heart-mind (citta is explained in this post).
Each time you take a karma action that is selfless, compassionate, kind or forgiving the residue of that action stays with you. You create, in effect, a repository of kindness. Yoga scholar Nicolai Bachman calls it a ‘karmic bank account.’ He explains, “Each time you perform a positive action is like depositing money into your karmic bank account. Each time you do something hurtful or negative, it is like writing a check from that back account.”
And here’s the thing: we all share a bank account. All however-billion-humans are on this little planet share this account. When I married my Ironman last fall, we talked endlessly about the pros and cons of having a shared bank account. When it comes to karma, I think a shared bank account is absolutely wonderfully amazingly uplifting. It means that every single time I do something kind, I’m depositing more kindness into the world. And it’s not selfish—I’m not giving you my preferred parking spot at the Plaza Library because I myself want to benefit. I’m actively adding kindness currency into the universal piggy bank and anyone can access it! It’s like I’m giving you a debit card (not a chip card—those things are more trouble than they’re worth) so that when your funds of compassion are low, you can bank with me.
This is true because like attracts like. Kindness attracts kindness.
Every time I consciously choose to be generous with a friend, I end up on the receiving end of generosity the next day. Even when I feel like being stingy with my money, I try ardently to avoid the pitfall of ego (and the delusion of scarcity) because I know my generosity will multiply. And it doesn’t have to be money: simply offering five minutes of listening or giving someone a ride home on a snowy day turns out to be a huge deposit in our shared karmic bank account.
Compassionate actions are said to be motivated by selflessness. Your job as a yogi is to understand how every thought, word, action and deed can positively impact the world around you and hold yourself to the highest standard of ethical and compassionate behavior. Real-talk: even if you are in a terrible mood, don’t take it out on the first person you see. It truly doesn’t matter how much you hate your job or are annoyed by your manager, choosing kindness (no matter what) makes a deposit of kindness into the universal piggy bank. You don’t have to pretend to be happy—pretending doesn’t get you anywhere—but you put a deposit in your karmic piggy bank by choosing kind thoughts, words and actions so that all of us can benefit.
While this requires constant vigilance and mindfulness, it is absolutely worth the effort. Positive attracts positive, clean kitchens stay mouse-free, and communities are uplifted when individuals consciously choose kindness for all other living beings. With this in mind, karma can be a pretty good friend.