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The Theory of Karma and How it Relates to Vedic Astrology

Just about everybody has heard of karma, but what exactly is the philosophy behind it, and why is it important in Vedic astrology?

Here’s a little lowdown on the basics of what you need to know – as well as some my thoughts if you’re struggling with this concept.

The four types of karma

Karma refers to the idea that the actions of a person in their past lives have an effect on their current life, and that their actions in this life will have an effect on their future lives. 

However, the theory of karma is much more complex than just bragging about your good karma when things tend to go your way or your bad karma when they don’t. In fact, there are four different types of karma

  1. Samchita Karma: This is the accumulated karma from all of one’s past lives that is stored in the soul, and which determines one’s current circumstances and future potential. This karma is yet to be experienced and it is the sum total of all past actions. In other words, it’s the karma of every life you’ve lived, from those days when you were a single celled organism swimming in some primordial soup to now – with all the actions (both good and bad) from those many lives gathered into a pile
  2. Prārabdha Karma: This is a portion of the Sanchita Karma that is ready to be experienced in the current life. It determines the specific events and experiences that will happen in one’s life, including the conditions of one’s birth and the opportunities and challenges that one will face.
  3. Kriyamāna Karma: This is the karma that one is creating in their current life, through their thoughts, words, and actions. It is planting seeds that will determine the nature of future lives, both in positive and negative terms.
  4. Agami Karma: This is the karma we are creating with our desires. If you deeply desire something, it will show up in your life, either now or in the future.

An important point here is understanding that the karma affecting you in this life is not all the karma you’ve accumulated. 

For example, let’s say you were a dishonest business owner who took advantage of your employees and customers in one life and constantly cheated on your partner in another. Both actions definitely bring you bad karma, but working them through in one life would be too much. Therefore, the “cosmic accounting system” might give you one life where you have to take on the karma from one of these bad action, while the other will be saved and addressed in another life.

In other words, karma acts as a “you reap what you sow” principle, but one that is spread out over different lifetimes.

Fixed karma versus not so fixed karma

But karma isn’t just karma: it is also has different levels depending on its strength.

In Vedic astrology, when it comes to negative karma, we talk about three levels of how “fixed” that karma. These levels are Adrdha karma (slightly fixed karma), Drdha-Adrdha karma (fixed karma) and Drdha karma (very fixed karma).

To illustrate the difference, let’s say you are a woman who has some karma around getting pregnant (an example my teacher Freedom Cole has used in the past).

If the karma around getting pregnant was moderately fixed, getting pregnant would be difficult. It might take a long time or you might suffer several miscarriages. However, if you do something to clear the karma, you will be able to have a baby in the end without any problems.

If the karma around getting pregnant was fixed, you can still get pregnant, but it’s going to take a lot more work and help. For example, this might be someone who needs a procedure like IVF or an egg donor to get pregnant, because the karma is too stuck for the pregnancy to happen on its own.

If the karma around getting pregnant is very fixed, it won’t be possible to get pregnant at all. For example, this could be someone whose uterus is malformed to such a degree that it is not possible for them to carry a child. They can still have children (e.g., by adopting or using a surrogate mother if possible), but they will not be able to physically carry a child themselves.

The Vedic astrologer as a “karma doctor”

In many ways, karma is the stellar bread and butter of Vedic astrologers. When reading a chart, they are seeing all the Prarabdha karma you are dealing with in this lifetime, including your circumstances, gifts and challenges. 

By prescribing remedies (more on this in a later post), they help you make good on your bad karma (i.e., the areas of your life where you are suffering) and boost your good karma, therefore balancing and transforming your life for the better on both accounts.

Vedic astrologer are also trained to recognize how fixed a particular karma is in a client’s chart, which is crucial for giving effective remedies. If the karma is only slightly fixed, a simple and quick remedy might be enough to clear things up, while more fixed karma will require more work. If the karma is very fixed, remedies can also be prescribed that help a person be at peace and reach acceptance that this is the case.

Therefore, Vedic astrologers can understood as a kind of “karma doctor” who helps you better your current as well as future lives by burning off bad karma and avoiding actions that will create more of it, strengthening the good karma (i.e., gifts and blessing) you have and working on creating positive karma to make you a better person and the world a better place.

Thoughts on what to do if you struggle with the concept of karma

Struggle 1: The question of free will

In the West, many people struggle with the idea of karma for different reasons. The first, and perhaps most common, is the belief that it runs counter to free will. 

Particularly in the US, we’ve been taught that we can be anything we want and do anything we please if only we work hard and put our minds to it. As inspiring as this sounds, how true is it really? 

We don’t choose the family we’re born into, our socio-economic background, are privileges or our innate talents and gifts. How many times has a talented writer or singer who works their ass off been snubbed and ignored while a less gifted one (or one without even an ounce of talent) has become an overnight sensation who’s making millions without putting in much effort at all?

Whenever I see one of those clickbait types of articles like “I earn 5000 dollars a month in passive income writing online. Here’s how!” I find my thumb itching to make that click because I would love this too – what writer wouldn’t? 

But then I think about my chart and the state of my 5th house and realize there’s very little chance this is something that would ever happen for me. This person, if what they write is even true, has different karma than I do around gaining fans and passive income on steroids. That doesn’t mean I can’t have success, but it will be success on my own terms. 

Looking karma in the face and gaining an understanding of your potential and possibilities, yes, but also your limitations is more freeing and leads to greater satisfaction than believing you can have it all which, let’s be honest, is usually nothing more than a seductive delusion that causes as much unhappiness as it does desire.

Struggle 2: Are past lives real?

I’m writing this last section as much for myself as for any one else because I’m a deeply agnostic person who shies away from anything that requires unshakeable belief or faith. I definitely accept that there is some sort of higher power out there, but it takes on many faces and forms. Who am I to say which, if any, is the “right” one?

The same goes for the concept reincarnation, is a key belief that goes hand and hand with karma. 

I find reincarnation a poetic concept that makes sense in a lot of ways, and helps take the sting out of death. I do have some memories that seem to be from a former life – mostly they are unpleasant ones, which makes me think they’re more likely to be real than if I remembered something flattering about myself, like I was once Cleopatra or Joan of Arc. 

However, I don’t feel like I can say reincarnation and past lives are real any more than I can say they are not. 

That’s one of the things I love about the Vedic astrology tradition I’m learning: it doesn’t call for faith or absolutes. It only asks that you are open and not an outright denier or atheist, which makes sense to me. After all, saying god and/or past lives aren’t real is a belief unto itself.

Anyway, that’s my little spiel for any of you who might be natural born agnostic sceptics like I am. It’s fine to live with the ambiguity, but stay open. 

The karma concept, and the remedies offered by Vedic astrology, mean you have “free will” to choose to own your shit, ease your suffering, gain greater balance in the four pillars of life and embrace your talents and purpose for being in this world – and that’s an amazing gift no matter how many lives you may or may not have lived.

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