Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ask Asha: Taking the Karma of Others

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

Can Kriyabans take on the Karma of other Kriyabans?

From A.

Answer

Dear A:

The issue would not be who is or is not a Kriyaban. It would be a matter of spiritual advancement.

In Autobiography of a Yogi in the chapter, “We Visit Kashmir,” Master explains the high fever Sri Yukteswar experienced there as him taking on the karma of his disciples.

Master writes, “The metaphysical method of physical transfer of disease is known to highly advanced yogis.... A spiritual superman is able to minimize his disciples’ physical or mental burdens by sharing the karma of their past actions.”

In a footnote he says, “Many Christian saints, including Therese Neumann, are familiar with the metaphysical transfer of disease.”

It is worth noting that in this discussion of taking the karma of others, Master speaks of Sri Yukteswar, spiritual supermen, advanced yogis, Christian saints, and Therese Neumann. He is not exhorting us everyday devotees to go out and do likewise. Many times he does exhort us to do things we feel are way beyond our present abilities, but not in this case.

In the course of writing the book Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him, I asked Swamiji whether he takes on the karma of others. His medical condition is so unusual that seemed a likely explanation.

Even though he is usually quite forthcoming when I ask him questions, especially when I am writing about him, in this case he was not. He talked all around the issue and when I pressed him (inappropriately, I realized later) he said only, “I have prayed to Master to be able to help others in any way I can.” Then later added, “It is up to God. It is not for me to say.”

I remembered the story Swamiji tells about Master being asked in a casual way by a guest at a luncheon, “Dr. Lewis was your first disciple in this country, wasn’t he?”

Master’s response, Swamiji said, was “unexpectedly reserved.” Quietly Master replied, “That’s what they say.” Swamiji explained that “discipleship was too sacred a subject to be treated lightly even in casual conversation.”

A guru taking on the karma of his disciples seems a gift of such enormous magnitude that we cannot begin to fathom it. Among many other qualities of spiritual enlightenment, the guru must have the wisdom to know when the removal of an obstacle will advance a disciple rather than confuse him by taking away needed karmic lessons.

In our well-meaning, but too often blind compassion, if we had the power to remove karma, we could make terrible blunders. Many healers tell how, in the course of their practice, they have had to learn hard lessons about when to make a person well and when to leave the symptoms in place as a necessary learning for the one afflicted.

Perhaps, however, you are asking this question on a much different level. In my book about Swamiji there is a story where he, recovering in the hospital after major surgery, asked the devotee nurse caring for him to please do his Kriya’s for him, since he was too weak to do them himself.

And on his birthday, when a devotee gave him the gift of doing Kriyas on his behalf, Swamiji was deeply touched. And once when a devotee was hospitalized and couldn’t do Kriya herself, Swamiji said he would do them for her.

Obviously, it is possible to help one another spiritually, specifically through the practice of Kriya. This is a more subtle expression of the way we help each other all the time: lending money, lifting heavy boxes for weaker brothers and sisters, being present when challenging circumstances have to be faced. In this way we mitigate the effects of karma by adding our energy to the energy of our friends to help them deal with what comes to them.

However, taking on the karma of others -- more specifically, using one’s body to work out that karma -- seems beyond the reach of all but the most advanced of us. Still, it is a natural desire and just farther along on the same spectrum of what we do already.

Think how often a mother prays at the bedside of her sick or dying child, “Lord, take this suffering from my child and give it to me.” Then think how rarely, if ever, this prayer is answered.

Karma is too complex to be shifted about. Even when love inspires us to want to do so, God’s wisdom closes that door. Only the greatest among us are allowed to pass through it and help in this particular way.

Blessings,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

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