Param Para: Answers to Questions on the Spiritual Path
What are some of the ways we can avoid acquiring or accumulating undesirable karmas? What could be the practice in this sense?
The best practice is: do not create any new desires. That is dependent upon your will. That is you. I cannot do it for you. Desire is the motivating power of karma. You are the creator of your own desires, and once you desire something, it creates a karma. Free will has been given to you to desire or not desire. Even when you say you are helpless to give up a desire, it is within your will power to do so. You cannot have it both ways: to have and have not. If you do not want further karmas, do not desire further. Either renounce the desire or be pulled in the circling effect of karmas, one after another.
When we are finished with a desire that we have been trying to work through, do we simply cease to desire it ever again?
There is a sharp distinction here. I am repeating this because life on Earth should not be taken as impractical or illusory. What I mean is: then you become desireless, if I can use the term for the time being. Becoming desireless does not mean you do nothing. You still act, but not out of desire. You act and work selflessly. When you do this, you become a true karma yogi. What are the results of this? You become relaxed, peaceful, joyful and released. Ultimately, we do for the Divine. To be a conscious instrument of the Divine is the highest purpose. Karma yoga alone does not make you a divine instrument, but it can lead you to that. It makes you conscious so that you realize your link with the Divine, you achieve your goal.
Karma yoga helps you to curtail your desires so that you do not become selfish and ambitious. The Consciousness that we have lost is because of selfish mental desires. This does not mean we should not work. In the words of Krishna, even a prophet has to work when living on Earth. But there is a huge difference. They work according to the Divine plan, not desires.
When you become a conscious instrument of the Divine, the whole world and universe changes for you. Then you see through infinite space and time. You do not fight with having desires or not, with attachment or detachment, with possessiveness or renunciation. When you become a conscious instrument the three attributes of the Divine abide in you: Sat Chit Ananda—Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.
If being selfless is not letting money affect what I do, my customers always want to know how much money it will cost before I start a job. So how can I reconcile this?
We are not rejecting money, but your mind should not be on money as the purpose. Money is a means and is needed to live in this world. We are holding a retreat and, due to expenses, we need to charge a fee. But if we were holding a retreat just to make money, then we would be missing the goal. The difference is in your consciousness. Charge for your work according to your needs and do not be complacent about it. If you see that someone has limited income, you might reduce a little. But do not do work or live just to make money. Your goal must be something higher. The work you do is because of your temperament. Then it gives you income that you spend for your home and family. So, calculate your costs thoroughly when you produce a bill for a customer, but see that your mind is not on that. The goal is the Divine, God, Truth, Consciousness, Wisdom, Light. Keep that goal burning. If you do everything for the Divine, it is easy. If you do for yourself, it will be difficult. You cannot do for both.
How can I tell the difference?
The difference is that if you do for yourself, you are limiting your consciousness. You lose the joy, peace and wisdom that are your divine inheritance. You remain ignorant and miserable. Go by this criterion: work according to your temperament. What it brings to you, do not keep your eye on that. It is only a byproduct. Have it as a means, not as a goal. When you go on doing this, the time will come when you will aspire for what God wants rather than your free choice. This will be the major shift. The will of God is waiting at your door to penetrate and work through you.
The tendencies that we have to work off in karma, are they things that we are born with or habits that we pick up in life?
Both ways. Some you inherit from your previous births; others you create by desiring new things. There are three kinds of karma and each produces results. These are karmas that you desire directly, karmas that others desire but you endorse, and karmas that you do not desire or endorse but somehow are heaped upon you. All of these karmas produce results—with your wishes, against your wishes, or with the wishes of someone else. Desires based upon your own wishes you can understand. But suppose a spouse, friend, relative, or neighbor wishes for something that you do not, yet you succumb to it. There also you are producing karmas. The third way is when you do not desire and others who you know do not desire, yet you are in a situation where all of a sudden something happens like an earthquake or other tragedy. You are subject to that karma because of being in a certain proximity. We are all interrelated in nature. That you happened to be in that place at that time is due to your previous or latent karmas. You pick up karmas in your surroundings only when those tendencies are already in you, not otherwise. All three kinds of karmas are bondage, unless you give up desires. Then you are released. The same action that is bondage for you can release you.