Eckhart Tolle ~ Karma

Eckhart Tolle | Newsletter
August 2011

Q:  You talk about Presence and Being as the keys to enjoying form, and creating positive circumstances, or softening circumstances. How does karma fit into all of that?

ET:  Everybody is born into a certain external environment. Also, everyone is born with certain predispositions – they may be partly genetic, they may be other things. A person is born with certain patterns, in other words. We don’t need to examine where they come from, but the fact is that a human being is born into a certain environment. It may be violent, or it may be relatively peaceful. A person is born with inner patterns that you inherit. Even painbody is partly inherited.

There’s a whole set of conditioning that happens when you come into an environment. The environment conditions you further, and there’s no choice involved – it’s just influences. You find yourself in this world with certain unconscious patterns that have become the conditioning of who the person is. Karma, as I see it, is the unconscious conditioning that runs your life. Karma is partly collective, and partly personal. You can only understand karma not as an abstract subject external to yourself, you can only understand it by observing yourself, and then you know many other things. If you want to understand karma, you need to look at yourself.

I began to understand what karma is when something arose that was not part of karma at all. Here is the key – the arising of consciousness, or Presence, or spiritual awakening, is not part of karma. It is another dimension that breaks into the karmic realm. You do not become awakened by accumulating, as they sometimes say in the East, “good karma”. That’s fine on this level, you can make the walls or furniture in your prison a little more comfortable, but there’s something totally from beyond karma, that can come into your life at any point.

Re-birth is of course part of karma. The deeper meaning of re-birth is identification with form. We don’t need to even believe in transmigration, or whatever, you can look at re-birth in your own life. Every time you identify with a thought that arises, which is form, you are born into that thought. Your identity, your sense of self is in it. That’s karma. Your karma is the unconscious identification with these patterns that you have inherited – the conditioned. It is complete identification of consciousness with the conditioned patterns. Consciousness is dreaming, one could say. That is why we use the word “awakening” in many spiritual traditions. Consciousness is awakening, consciousness is in a dream-like state, when you are identified with the unconscious patterns. Many times a day, you are re-born into an emotional or mental reaction, into thoughts that arise.

Karma creates, in the external, confirmation that it is correct. So if you think the world is full of evil people, you will meet many evil people – in other words, unconscious people. Even people who are halfway between being conscious and unconscious, your belief will pull them into unconsciousness. Karma is the complete absence of conscious Presence. It is automatic. It plays itself out.

Time does not free you of karma. That is a misperception, that if you only spend enough time, eventually you can become free of karma. Karma renews itself and repeats itself. The only thing that can free you of karma is the arising of Presence. At any point in the wheel of karma, Presence can come in. It can happen to a criminal in prison, condemned to death. It can happen to somebody who’s never heard of anything spiritual. It can happen to somebody who’s been meditating for thirty years.

Presence frees you from karma. Not all at once. Karma has an enormous momentum. The thought patterns, the emotional patterns, the reactive patterns. As Presence arises, gradually karma diminishes and you will experience a fading out of those patterns. Not that it matters that much anymore, because once you are present, those thought patterns may still arise, but it is no longer problematic. They no longer cause the suffering that they would have caused before, because they are seen in the light of awareness. In the light of awareness, the patterns no longer dominate your life.

Painbody is part of karma, which may be strong in some and not so in others. As Presence arises, you are freed from karma. Then you have another completely different factor coming into your life. For example, for a person to become free of collective karma, you need a considerable amount of Presence for that to come in. It then will remove you, either internally or you may find yourself somewhere else.

For a person who is born into vast collective karma, it requires considerable Presence for one not to be drawn into that. When Hitler came into power, not many people were able to remove themselves. Some were, and they left. They could see what was happening and they were strong enough not to be identified with the collective. To take yourself out of that collective karma requires considerable Presence – and some people had it. It is our destiny, then, to go beyond karma by being the receptacles for Presence.

Everyone who is awakening will find that sooner or later that they become a kind of teacher to others. What a spiritual teacher does is point out the possibility of awakening out of identification with unconscious patterns. The spiritual teacher teaches you to go beyond karma. That is your function, and will become increasingly so, whether you become a formal teacher, or an informal teacher.

Spiritual awakening and stepping out of karma are the same thing. Many people will be drawn to you. Anybody who is going through the awakening process is already a teacher. Teaching means you find yourself listening from spaciousness, when somebody speaks or asks a question, or tells you about their problems. You may find that the answer comes out from that Stillness in which you listen. You don’t have a sense that “I’m going to teach this person now”. You will find that teaching is spontaneous. You will help people to step out of identification with unconsciousness, which means going beyond karma. This applies to everybody who is awakening.

As you teach, Consciousness is becoming aligned with your mind. Your mind is able to tune in to the deeper Consciousness and can be used as an instrument. Then the words come out of your mouth. There is ultimately really only one teacher, the awakened Consciousness is the teacher. It can only teach those in whom there is a degree of readiness. The teaching needs to be received. If there is only a density of mind, the teaching won’t happen.

You will be amazed when people are drawn to you – people who are ready – and you find yourself saying something that you didn’t even know yourself. It’s only when the question was asked, that the Consciousness responded. As you teach, you learn. Realizations come. Teaching and learning is the same process. A deepening happens, as you teach. You are here to help people go beyond karma.

The important thing to know is that time does not free you of karma. The egoic mind says “I need more time to become free”. The only thing that people may need more time for is that they need time to realize that they do not need time”. It may be another twenty years of suffering for them to realize that they do not need time. They may need to suffer a bit more before they realize the power of the timeless. The timeless is of course the end of karma.

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