In today’s blog, you are going to learn how to live your life in good karma, according to the Dalai Lama. I chose this topic today because I thought having a positive focus on the basic rules of how to live a good life was a great way to start this new year. One that we hope will be better than the last but also know will likely still come with it’s own hardships and difficulties.
For those of you who have never heard of him, the Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and traditionally has been responsible for the governing of Tibet, until the Chinese government took control in 1959. The current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso. According to a brief biography on his website at www.DalaiLama.com, his holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. I researched some of the Dalai Lama’s principle commitments and thought I’d share them here with you. I was interested to learn this information because I really didn’t know myself.
The website states that the Dalai Lama’s four principle commitments are:
“Firstly, as a human being, His Holiness is concerned with encouraging people to be happy; helping them understand that if their minds are upset mere physical comfort will not bring them peace, but if their minds are at peace even physical pain will not disturb their calm. He advocates the cultivation of warm-heartedness and human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. He says that as human beings we are all the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. Even people who have no religious belief can benefit if they incorporate these human values into their lives. His Holiness refers to such human values as secular ethics or universal values. He is committed to talking about the importance of such values and sharing them with everyone he meets.
Secondly, as a Buddhist monk, His Holiness is committed to encouraging harmony among the world’s religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences between them, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of their respective traditions. The idea that there is one truth and one religion is relevant to the individual practitioner. However, with regard to the wider community, he says, there is a need to recognize that human beings observe several religions and several aspects of the truth.
Thirdly, His Holiness is a Tibetan and as the ‘Dalai Lama’ is the focus of the Tibetan people’s hope and trust. Therefore, he is committed to preserving Tibetan language and culture, the heritage Tibetans received from the masters of India’s Nalanda University, while also speaking up for the protection of Tibet’s natural environment.
In addition, His Holiness has lately spoken of his commitment to reviving awareness of the value of ancient Indian knowledge among young Indians today. His Holiness is convinced that the rich ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions, as well as the techniques of mental training, such as meditation, developed by Indian traditions, are of great relevance today. Since India has a long history of logic and reasoning, he is confident that its ancient knowledge, viewed from a secular, academic perspective, can be combined with modern education. He considers that India is, in fact, specially placed to achieve this combination of ancient and modern modes of knowing in a fruitful way so that a more integrated and ethically grounded way of being in the world can be promoted within contemporary society.”
WOW! What a role in life to play, wouldn’t you agree? Helping people gain happiness, encouraging harmony amongst the worlds’ religions, bring his people hope and trust and reviving awareness of the value of ancient Indian knowledge. A life so committed to service is one we can all learn from.
Before we get in to the list of 19 ways we can all live our lives with good karma I’d like to define the word karma. According to Wikipedia, “Karma is essentially energy. One person throws out energy through thoughts, words and actions, and it comes back, in time, through other people. Karma is the best teacher, forcing people to face the consequences of their own actions and thus improve and refine their behaviour, or suffer if they do not. Even harsh karma, when faced in wisdom, can be the greatest spark for spiritual growth. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and unemotional response.”
And then there’s karma yoga. Karma yoga is the yoga of action. It’s about purifying your heart by learning to act selflessly in service of others. Karma yoga was first outlined in the Bhagavad Gita, the 700-verse Hindu scripture estimated to date back to somewhere between the 5th and 2nd centuries B.C.E. The Bhagavad Gita offers several approaches to liberation from suffering, self-realization and connection with the Divine, of which Karma yoga is arguably the most practical.The text highlights the importance of selfless action, in which service is offered from the heart, with full attention and awareness. Attachment to the outcome of one’s actions is said to bring suffering, particularly when something is expected in return. In order to truly practice Karma yoga, the practitioner must act with no expectations and serve others without thinking of the results.
As such, Karma yoga diminishes the ego and helps to dissolve any sense of separation between self and other. Acting in this way is believed to purify the mind, and it is considered the most virtuous approach to service. Although volunteering one’s time and effort is a common example of Karma yoga, the concept teaches that all actions, even the most mundane, can become part of one’s spiritual path. It is considered the attitude to the action, rather than the action itself, which makes something Karma yoga.
The essence of the practice is to act with the right motives, in the right way, to the best of one’s ability whilst surrendering attachment to the outcome.
To Karma yogis, selfless action is a form of prayer and connection with the Divine. Some teachings even suggest mantra chanting whilst engaging in Karma yoga, in order to purify the mind and develop a selfless mindset.
Practicing Karma yoga also involves fully accepting one’s dharma (duty in life) in order to let go of selfish desires.
Through karma yoga we learn kindness and compassion without an expectation of gain. The idea being that learning these lessons helps us to step away from our ego, freeing us to move one step further on the path to enlightenment. Whatever you choose to do, making service a regular part of your life is key to practicing karma yoga.
When it comes to karma yoga, it is important that the service comes from a selfless place. It is about giving to those in need, sharing love, and spreading light. Some ways to encourage this mindset are to practice keeping a mental mantra. Something that reminds you the purpose of your service and keeps you grounded outside of the ego. Another useful practice is to get to know the people you are serving. Rather than thinking of service in the abstract, get on the ground and communicate with those you serve.
Let yourself be humbled by their knowledge and experience. Forge meaningful connections and let yourself be touched by their lives and stories. In this way, karma yoga can become more than just a practice. It can become a way of life.
Let’s move on now to the 19 ways the Dalai Lama suggests we can live our life in good Karma. I will take you through each one of these suggestions and add some thoughts of my own that may help further your understanding of the suggestion.
The 19 ways the Dalai Lama suggests how to live a life in good karma:
1) Great love and great achievements involve great risk. Let’s talk about love. Have you ever taken a leap of faith and jumped in head first into a new relationship. Even though you knew you might get hurt? Sometimes we need to do that, take those leaps of faith to experience something great. What about great achievements? There’s a quote out there that I love and it says, “well-behaved women rarely make history.” This quote pretty much says it all. How many women, or people in general have taken great risk to make a difference in the world? Some people have even risked, or even sacrificed their life to accomplish great things. I guess the question here is what are you willing to risk to have great love and accomplish great things in your life?
2) When you lose don’t lose the lesson. Any successful person, whether its success in business, sports or just life in general, will tell you that they had to fail many times before they reached their level of success. Ellen DeGeneres said, “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” The key here is to make sure to learn from your success and failures. Losing is not a bad thing, it’s actually after losing, or failing, that people people are catapulted towards real success. Yet there are so many people who are afraid to fail so they just don’t bother doing anything. I was like that for a very long time. Thinking what was the point of doing anything if it wasn’t perfect or I wasn’t going to be guaranteed success. Now, as much as I can, my daily practice is to consciously get out of my comfort zone and do things that may cause me to fail. Ask yourself now, when was the last time you didn’t do something because you were afraid to fail? Now ask, what could you do that would cause you to fail so you can learn the lessons that come with it?
3) Follow the three R’s: 1) respect for self, 2) respect for others and 3) responsibility for your actions. Let’s review each one on it’s own. Respect for self is a lesson many of us need to learn and be reminded of. Too often we are more concerned about the well-being or happiness of others that we completely disregard our own well-being and happiness. Respecting the self means to love, cherish and have compassion for yourself as a human and sentient being; treating your body, your mind and soul as the great gifts they are. This actually leads to the second R: resect for others. When you treat yourself with respect, you are able to treat others with respect. This includes all sentient beings. Treating others with respect, in my opinion, is the most basic thing we can do to be a good human being. If more people followed this one simple action, the world would be a better place. Finally, take responsibility for your actions. Wow, how hard is this one for many of us? When we act poorly, feel angry or sad we often don’t want to take responsibility for our own actions or the part we played in the situation. However, if integrity is on your personal list of values, then you know how important it is to take responsibility for your actions.
4) Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. What great advice. How often have you begged God (or the Universe, whatever you want to call it), to bring something or someone into your life only to not get it, or have things turn out in a complete different way than you could have ever imagined? Maybe you really wanted this new job you’ve had your eye on for awhile and you didn’t get it, but shortly after a better job came along. Not getting what you want to usually a good sign. It just means that something better is yet to come.
5) Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly. As I was researching into the meaning of this suggestion for karmic living, I came across a blog that had an interesting perspective on this. The author, Jonathan Thompson says that, “Perhaps the key is to find a balance, a willingness to respect a rule when we encounter it, but also a healthy curiosity as to its continuing purpose and an examination of its greater aim. We should seek to learn what the rule has to teach us, and having obtained that insight, we can follow the rule more confidently, or bend or break it at appropriate times, or (if the rule is now rotten or no longer useful) abandon it entirely. But essential to any of these options is an understanding of both the rule’s original intent and its current application; in comparing these two aspects, we can proceed with genuine wisdom. As Richard Rohr says, “People who know how to creatively break the rules also know why the rules were there in the first place. They are not mere iconoclasts or rebels.” So to “learn the rules” means not just a rote memorization or a surface-level understanding, but a deeper comprehension with regards to intent and effects. Once we attain that kind of insight, we are in a place to confidently break the rules when necessary.”
Think about what’s happening in our world right now with all the extra restrictions that are in place in many countries and communities around the world that are supposed to help control the COVID-19 outbreak. Although I do understand that this virus has effected and taken many lives, I believe it’s important for us to always we be asking questions when the government makes decisions that so significantly impact people lives physically and economically. Asking questions is not a bad thing. It’s how we all get to really understand the truth of what is going on. The problem now days if you happen to even ask a question to gain clarity on a situation, that goes against the opinion of someone else, you run the risk of being called a conspiracy theorist or having other negative comments and behaviours thrown your way. What happened to just asking questions. If you look back in history, there were many bad people and governments who lead people to their deaths because people were not brave enough to ask questions or learn how to break the rules. Just food for thought.
6) Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship. Have you ever had this happen to you? The stupidest little argument turned into a huge thing that potentially caused you to lose a relationship with a family member, friend or romantic partner? I’m sure we all have. I find that the issue here is often lack of communication and, reflecting back to earlier points, a person having a lack of respect for the self, others and not wanting to take responsibility for one’s actions. Now, if this is a relationship you have with someone you truly care about, you might finally come to your senses, talk it out and make up. However, if this is a relationship with someone who uses and abuses you repeatedly, you might find it best to remember the R’s, have some respect for yourself and let them go with love and light. I had to do this not too long ago with a long-time friend of mine. She got mad at me over something silly, like she has many times before. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand my role in the situation and take responsibility for my own actions. However, I’ve also realized that it’s probably best to just let her go with love and light. We have grown apart over the years, have nothing in common and it’s probably just time to move on. Although you want to make sure little disputes don’t injure great relationships, you also want to make sure you’re not hanging on to something, or someone, that is no longer serving you in a positive way. Think now to relationships you would like to heal or those that you may be ready to let go of.
7) When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. I feel this one goes right back to take responsibility to ones own actions. If you make a mistake don’t try to place blame on anyone else, admit responsibility for your actions, fix it and move on. It will cause you a lot less grief in the long run… don’t you agree? Is there anything in your life right now you need to fix?
8) Spend some time alone every day. Spending time alone is something that many people don’t like to do. Spending time alone often means having to look at yourself, your feelings, your actions and sometimes even your demons that you may not want to face. I’ve personally never had a problem spending time alone. Actually, most times I prefer it. Spending quality time alone with yourself in silent meditation or contemplation is physically, emotionally and spiritually healing and is the key to any transformation.
9) Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. I think that before you can be open to change you must be clear on your values, or the things that are non-negotiable for you and how you want to live your life. When you are clear on your values, and collect all the facts, be open to new possibilities that may come along. For example, I choose to live a vegan lifestyle for various reasons, my health, the animal welfare and to help reduce negative impact on the world. There is no way anything will change my mind. However, when I first because vegan I thought that to be a good vegan I had to make sure to also eat a very clean diet. Then, vegan baking, fast food and other convenient foods came out. I had to ask myself, does eating a vegan burger from a fast food restaurant, that isn’t fully vegan, make me a bad person? No! Is it ok to eat vegan junk food every once in awhile? Yes! I know this is a simple example but I think it proves the point. As long as you are staying true to your core values, be open to things that may come along that potentially make your life easier or improve the way you’re doing things now. Ask yourself now, is there anything that I’m being rigid about that I could be open to changing?
10) Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. We live in a busy, go, go, go world that seems to never stop. But have you ever just for amount stopped, closed your eyes, sat in silence and noticed what happened? This silence, even if for a brief moment, allows us to get into a state of calm which allows us to have more clarity in life. Experts say the best communicators are the ones who stay quiet and actively listen to the other person speak. Do you do this? Active listening is a great time to learn about the person standing in front of you. Ask yourself, are there times when I can just choose to be silent? What would happen if I was silent and just took a moment to listen?
11) Live a good honourable life. Then when you look back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time. I love this one. It’s a good reminder for us all to stop and think about how we want to live our lives. I encourage you to take a look at how your’ living your life right now. Are you doing what you want to do for work? Do you surround yourself with the kinds of people who support, love and respect you? Do you live your life in integrity and in alignment with your values. If you died tomorrow and you looked back on how you’ve lived your life so far, would you be happy to re-live it? If you’re not answering yes to these questions, I encourage you to switch things up this year. Start making simple shifts that will allow you to live the life you desire.
12) A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life. I find it extremely heartbreaking to think about how many people are living in traumatic and unloving homes right now. My wish for you, and anyone who’s listening right now, is that if you are not in a loving home that you find the courage and strength to either leave that situation or find ways to transform it. If you are in a loving home now, I hope you cherish it and find the blessing in it each day.
13) In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past. None of us can do anything about what’s happened in the past so why do so many people feel the need to bring it up? We see this happening in politics all the time. So-in-so did something 25 years ago so that means he’s a bad person. Jeez, I certainly wouldn’t want people judging the person I am now based on my actions in the past. I am completely different person than I was even five years ago let along 10, 20, or even 30 years ago! I encourage you now that if you get into an argument with someone just deal with the here and now. Eckhart Tolle teaches that it’s important to live in the present moment… the NOW, as it is the only moment that truly matters. If you haven’t read his book, The Power Of Now, I suggest you put that on your to-do list this year.
14) Share your knowledge. It’s the way to achieve immortality. So many people are looking for the next best anti-aging solution or ways to live forever but we all know this is impossible. That’s why I loved this karma living suggestion. Look back to the great teachers and scholars of the past. The people and disciples who shared their great wisdom that have been turned into scriptures that world religions today still follow. Or people like Albert Einstein, and his great contributions to science and quotes such as my favourite, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Or Tony Robbins who has completely changed the industry of self-development because of his experiences and teachings. These are people and teachings many generations will remember and learn from. You can do the same. You may not end of being a great inventor or a world-renowned teacher like Tony Robbins but you have knowledge to share! We live in a world of social media where this has become easier than ever. If you have a message and knowledge that will help people in a positive way, share it! One of my mentors said, “you aren’t helping anyone by playing small and keeping your knowledge to yourself.” Isn’t that the truth?!
15) Be gentle with the earth. I sure wish this one was on the top of people’s list of karmic living. Human beings , unfortunately, are a cancer to this planet. In David Attenborough’s latest documentary, A Life On Our Plant, gives a grim look at what we have done to our beautiful planet. In less that 100 years we have destroyed over 70% of the natural world! That’s absolutely insane to me! It really makes me wonder how intelligent beings, as we profess to be, have allowed this to happen? There are ways we can change this that are well known, such as eliminating animal products from our diet, or even reducing our intake, stop cutting down the rainforests and destroying the wild animal population and embrace more biodiversity and learn to live within nature’s means again. You can make simple changes to be gently with the earth today, even if it’s simply picking up after yourself and not littering.
16) Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before. When’s the last time you jumped in the car and just drove? Maybe you knew your destination, maybe not, but drive, see the countryside and experience new things along the way. This is one of my favourite things to do each summer. I have not made travelling to exotic locations a priory in my life and although you may love to see numerous places around the world, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to see new places and experience new things. Last summer, my family and I decided to go camping in Nelson, BC. When we got to the campground, we realized it was small, cramped and hot as hell (it was 40 degrees Celsius all that weekend). So, we made a last minute booking at a motel in Trail, British Columbia, which was the closest place we could find and went for it. Trail is definitely not someone we would have chosen to book when we were planning our trip bit the little motel we found was great! Huge rooms at a great rate, a fitness centre and two pools! It was also within driving distance to the Nancy Greene National park where we had a lovely BBQ, hike and swim in the lake and we found this great little creek where we took pictures to commemorate our trip. Although not what we had planned, we went with the flow, were open to change and ended up having a great time. I challenge you to do that this year. Go somewhere you’ve never been, take lots of pictures stay in the moment and allow it to be an experience you’ll never forget.
17) Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. Too many people are living in co-dependant relationships and are not experiencing life and relationships to the fullest. Many years ago I saw a councillor to work through relationship issues I was having and she had me read a book, I can’t remember the name of it right now, but it made me realize that the relationships I had always been in were co-dependent. According to an article in Medical News Today, a person who is codependent will plan their entire life around pleasing the other person, or the enabler. In its simplest terms, a codependent relationship is when one partner needs the other partner, who in turn, needs to be needed. This circular relationship is the basis of what experts refer to when they describe the “cycle” of codependency. This type of relationship is not healthy and doesn’t allow either person to be their best self. Choose relationships with people who you can love and still keep the love and respect you have for yourself.
18) Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. When I first read this statement, I thought it meant that you know you’re successful when you have made sacrifices to get there. Of course there are always some sacrifices you’ll need to make when working towards any goal you have for your life. However, after contemplating this statement again, I realize it provokes a question: is your success worth what you had to give up to get it? Meaning, if you had to sacrifice the love of your life or completely sabotage your health to become successful, does that really mean you accomplished success in your life? Although I’ve always been someone who desires success and have accomplished many great things in my life, I am also not someone who’s willing to step on people to get ahead, sacrifice my health or relationships with people I love to get success. Think about your success in life. When you look back on your life will you still feel successful with the choices you made?
19) Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon. If we look at this statement contextually, love and cooking are associated with bliss and purity. Both allow you to unleash parts of yourself you never imagined seeing or knowing. Whether you’re loving someone or are cooking, it means you are throwing everything you can into such an act without considering consequences.
Well, there you have it. Rules for karmic living from the Dalai Lama. I encourage you to visit the show notes page for this Rockin’ Wellness Podcast episode at www.rjowellness.com/podcast/episode-34, where you can listen to the audio version.
What to do now? Well, I suggest that you go back and review each of the 19 karmic living suggestions and begin to plan your life accordingly.
Until next time my friends,
Keep rockin’ your wellness!
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Wellness & Spiritual Life Coach