Friday, April 01, 2005

Dharma and Karma:The Deeper Questions Stirred by the Life and Death of Terri Schiavo

It is neither my place nor my intention to judge any individual who has played a role in that which has come to be called “The Terri Schiavo Story.”

I watched, like many in the world watched, the events unfold. I saw the expression of intense emotions, diverse opinions, and clashing points of view.

I saw the “questions” expressed and engaged on moral, political, legislative, and religious levels.

I learned that a feeding tube has been removed by court order and that no petition to have it reinserted was granted.

I counted the days until Terri Schiavo died from lack of food and water.

My personal opinion is that in spite of any appearances, there were and are no victims and there were and are no victimizers in this story. All were caught in the inexorable wheel of Karma and all acted in the light of truth perceived by their individual Dharmas.

It was God’s Will that everything should happen exactly as it did. God is infinitely merciful and infinitely compassionate, but God’s mercy and compassion are not man’s mercy and compassion, and it is man’s own ignorance that makes us unable to see the truth.

Dharma and Karma are Eastern concepts. Fundamentally, the doctrine of Karma suggests that one’s life takes the form of the result of past actions. That one is male or female, poor or rich, white, black, or yellow, warrior or priest, is all the result of one’s individual karma. One’s friends, enemies, teachers, lovers, spouse, and children are all determined by one’s karma. How one lives and how one dies is determined by karma.

Dharma means truth. It also means duty. Throughout one’s lifetime, one attempts to understand one’s own dharma and strives to act accordingly. But one can only act on the basis of what they perceive is their dharma and this perception is often flawed and distorted. Only a true master of dharma can know dharma perfectly and therefore would be capable of unraveling the mystery and the real truth the Terri Schiavo story. But it is the world’s present condition i.e. the Kali Yuga, that such a master of dharma is not universally recognized.

(To be continued.)

There is an interesting relationship that exists between dharma and karma. It is similar, though not exactly the same as the relationship between freewill and predestination.
Karma is the hand we are dealt at birth. Dharma affects are ability to play that hand.
Dharma doesn’t immediately alter karma, but does ultimately impact it.
Karma doesn’t ultimately alter dharma, but does immediately impact it.
Karma is what we appear to be, but dharma is, in fact, our destiny.
Dharma trumps karma but karma shapes the expression of dharma.
Dharma is learned; karma is acquired.
It is impossible for the average person to understand another’s dharma or karma, but is possible for the average person to understand one’s own dharma and karma.
Other’s karma appears more explicit while their dharma appears more implicit.
The expression of karma is always the expression of the past, while the expression of dharma is always the promise of the future.

Another question raised by the Terri Schiavo story is the very nature of consciousness and awareness. Meher Baba, in his book God Speaks explains that creation exists in three “worlds.” He names these worlds the gross, subtle, and mental worlds and suggests that individuals possess the potentiality of gross, subtle or mental consciousness.
The average individual (soul) experiences the gross world through their gross consciousness, but as the soul progresses through the stages of involution, that soul acquire subtle consciousness and therefore consciousness of the subtle world. Further involution yields mental consciousness and with it consciousness of the mental world.
It seems likely, that Terri Schiavo was not gross conscious, but was she conscious in a different plane? The fact that she appeared to not be not conscious of the gross world does not mean that she was not conscious The truth here is obviously beyond my ability to see, but I cannot discount the possibility that Terri may have been experiencing the most exquisite subtle heaven or possibly, may God have mercy on us all, the most horrific subtle hell.

(To be continued.)

Meher Baba explains that when an individual is conscious of one world he is not conscious of the other worlds. For example, an individual who is subtly conscious is not aware of the gross or mental worlds at all. The individual still retains a gross body and is seen to perform various functions like eating, breathing, and moving, etc. but, in fact, is not at all conscious of his gross body or gross activities.
To really understand the truth of “The Terri Schiavo Story” one would need to be a master of Karma and Dharma; to really know the truth regarding Terri Schiavo’s consciousness and experience, one would need to possess perfect consciousness i.e. objective consciousness, the consciousness of a perfect master or Avatar.
This is the nature of life in this Kali Yuga; we experience things, observe things within us and around us and never really understand. Is there not often a vague sense of dissatisfaction with all our opinions and so-called “truths”?
We are bound in the intractable jaws of cause and effect, but a cause and its effect may be separated by lifetimes, even hundreds, perhaps even thousands of forgotten lifetimes. Things are not what they often appear to be. Who really are our enemies, our friends, our spouses, and children? Why are we so quick to judge, to say I know?
Yet act we must, but how and from what within?
Kabir, a famous poet once said, “Because you have forgotten the Friend; that is why in every thing you do there is a sense of strange failure?”
The great teachings that have found expression through the ages have consistently reiterated, “Act in a way that you believe will be pleasing to God. Try to listen to and follow your own dharma. Do not be concerned with the fruits of your actions i.e. there successes or failures.”
Two of Meher Baba’s disciples were arguing about something. The argument was getting quite heated and they were shouting at each other. Meher Baba somehow appeared and asked them why they were shouting.
“Because Baba he was supposed to do this and….”
“Yes,” Baba said, “but why are you shouting?”
“Because Baba he didn’t do this and…”
“Yes,” Baba kept repeating, “but why are you shouting at each other?”
After awhile the two disciples calmed down because they realized that they didn’t
understand what Baba was asking them.
Baba then explained. “You are having an argument, you disagree. That is o.k. But why are you shouting? Lovers speak in whispers because their hearts are close, but when the hearts get far apart, one needs to shout across the distance. You can have your different points of view, but never let them distance your hearts. Your hearts should remain close.”

© Michael Kovitz 2005


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