Creating good karma is as easy as thinking good thoughts and performing good actions. In the post “An Introduction to Karma” I noted ways you might improve your karma. Today I’m offering more concrete suggestions.
Whether we’re living in a cave, a small town, or a big city, we must act. According to the laws of karma, all actions produce results. It follows that if we want to produce results that make us happy, we’d better act in ways that produce happiness. In fact, as yogis, we’re always on the alert to improve our lot. We try to live by the rules of happiness, like Patanjali’s yamas and niyamas. Yogis meditate every day because it’s the lifeblood of our practice and creates mental peace. Additionally, we take responsibility as citizens of our communities and the planet. This is a constant effort. It requires awareness and right action.
Most spiritual aspirants don’t have the means or character to live a solitary life, meditating in a distant cave. Our lives include families, friends, work, and play—along with our spiritual interests. We live a normal twenty-first-century life. Even if we did live in a cave, we’d have some responsibilities, although they’d be simpler and fewer. We’d need to tidy up the cave from time to time, go outside for some fresh air and exercise, and seek food and water.
Living in the World with Integrity
Spiritual seekers live in the world with integrity, according to our society’s customs. The Better World Handbook: Small Changes That Make A Big Difference (aff link) is a user’s manual for anyone who wishes to live higher principles. It gives advice that helps us make the world a better place. The book is especially helpful for those who don’t know where to start. Authors Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson are all sociology professors. They explain that people become cynical and apathetic about the world’s condition.
The authors say that we’ve fallen into a sort of stupor. We know that things have gone very badly but feel helpless to affect change. The chapter “The Ten Thought Traps” lists common excuses that we might try to hide behind. The focus, however, is about how we can change our outlook:
“Think about the world that you would like to live in. Let yourself imagine a world that you could be proud to leave for your children—a world where peace, justice, compassion, and tolerance prevail and where each person has more than enough food, shelter, meaningful work and close friends.”
The Seven Foundations of a Better World
Following “The Ten Thought Traps” the authors launch into “The Seven Foundations of a Better World,” which details major areas where we can contribute:
- Economic Fairness
- Comprehensive Peace
- Ecological Sustainability
- Deep Democracy
- Social Justice
- Simple Living
- Revitalized Community
Each of these foundations includes the authors’ research and statistics. Concrete goals and viable alternatives help us readers confront various challenges along the way.
The Better World Handbook is chock-full of inspiring real-life examples. Countless people and organizations are already working toward bettering the world. These examples help motivate and direct our own efforts. As I read the stories, I realized how easy it is to make small contributions in every one of the foundations. There’s hope for humanity and our planet!
The Opportunities Inherent in Small Actions
The authors’ advice is clear about how a big difference is made with small changes. The description of the seven foundations is the smallest part of this book. In just a few pages, it outlines many actions we can take—starting today. We can make the world better by how we use our money, what we eat, and how we spend time with family and friends. Reading this book is like opening the door to a world of good karmic opportunities. Each of the seven foundations lists a rich selection of references, some of them familiar and others new.
We can draw inspiration from this book for every area of our lives. The Better World Handbook convinced me of the power inherent in each dollar that I spend. I began by reading product labels with a new awareness. I learned to look for the company responsible for manufacturing each product, and then I asked myself whether I wanted to support that company. Sometimes, the answer was no, and I’d look for another option. When I make conscious decisions about my purchases I am already making the world a better place. This is true whenever I use products created by companies with a conscience. This is exciting—it’s so easy! And if it’s this easy, then surely I can do even better. Maybe with a little more effort and by joining others of a same mind, I can leave this world in better shape than I found it.
That’s the real value of this book. It helps us understand the power and influence of our everyday actions. And it gives guidance, showing us which actions are most effective.
Instant Karma from A Better World Handbook
We don’t stand apart from our global communities or environments. Everything affects everything else. No matter who you are, where you live, your age, or life circumstances, you can make a difference. The Better World Handbook (aff link) tells you how. When you make small changes to your actions and thoughts, you begin to feel a change within yourself. There’s a sense of satisfaction and gladness that affects every bit of your body and soul. You will smile more often and feel lighter knowing that the planet is just a little bit healthier—and so are you. It’s instant karma.
Chityānanda has been a disciple of Svāmī Gurupremānanda Sarasvatī since 1975. She teaches meditation and yoga as a spiritual path in Santa Cruz, California.
Yes, Tosh. And that “Oneness” is a power beyond the human mind’s ability to comprehend. As meditators, we can tap into that power and achieve the unimaginable. Namaste.
“Additionally, we take responsibility as citizens of our communities and the planet. This is a constant effort. It requires awareness and right action.” Some would say – ‘save yourself first’. Does this mean we can’t help society or local community until we’re realized??
Thank you, James. I’m assuming that you’re commenting on saints’ directive to prioritize the activities of your life by putting spiritual practices first. If this is what you’re saying, then I agree. However, one can only meditate and do other spiritual practices for part of the day. The body and mind could not endure practices for twenty-four hours a day. What, then, are we to do with the rest of the time? Scriptures tell us to conform to the responsibilities of our time and place. That means it’s our duty to serve our families and communities. And, when we realize that there’s really no difference between spiritual and worldly, then every action and every moment is a part of our spiritual practice. Let me know if this makes sense or you have any other questions. Namaste.
Hello Svami Chityananda. Thank You for your thoughts and perspective… I have contemplated my relationship with my fellow humans—our mutual obligagtions. In the last few years, our community successfully fought off grave peril to our water supplies—an ill advised attempt to frack local oil. I got involved and helped out, but other than that I find the noise and fury of politics rivals the good it accomplishes.
What motivates me, transforms me, and makes my time on earth worthwhile is spiritual practice. In my experience, every step I take every day into deeper peace and contentment returns great value to me and my family. It certainly is a better vibe to spread around in my community…and who knows? Perhaps the world is a little better off for my spiritual effort.
Thank you, Rob. You are very wise. Sometimes there are circumstances that require our involvement. But when we put our spiritual practice first, then we have the wisdom to see whether or not we should get involved. I wholeheartedly agree that by dedication to my spiritual path, I affect others in ways that I can’t see or imagine. Yes, the world is better off for your spiritual effort, even if it appears from the outside to be a selfish act. Keep up the good work! Namaste.
Thank you for introducing the book which helps us to live in the world with integrity.
It provided examples of living simply with total awareness.
Health plans nowadays use preventative measures to keep us in company with good, organic foods and nutrition .
We can support good companies that adhere to moral principles, not abusive child or “slave labor”. You can find them online.
We can do our part to help the environment. And…
It takes a few sincere words, a genuine smile and a kind deed to make the world a better place.
I take a closer look at how I live – what is in my thoughts, words and actions.
Thank you, Sue, and your concrete examples and suggestions. It’s always helpful to see how others are practicing good works. Namaste.
Yes, we as individuals have the power to influence change, after all, we are all ONE.
Hello, Tosh. Thank you for reminding us that we have all the power we need to affect positive change. It comes from within, and it’s the same for all. Namaste.
Thank you for the book review. I need something positive about the world with all the news of shootings, conflicts, etc. I think I’ll order it today. Good thoughts make me feel like a saved starfish.
And, thanks for the starfish story Roxie. It was very good.
Thank you for your comment, Modesto. Sometimes is difficult to avoid negative news. Even the most well-intentioned friends will keep you informed if they know you avoid the media. Our first defense is to turn off the television and radio and unsubscribe to Internet news. However, since we can’t live in a bubble, the best thing we can do is counteract the negative input with something positive. For every negative story, look for the positive side. Keep your thoughts cheerful, in spite of it all, and keep meditating. Namaste.
Each and everyone of us can do a better job at this by spending a little of our time on it. That means me.
Thank you, Gary. I agree that we must each take more responsibility. It doesn’t need to consume our lives, but if each person does a little bit more, then a big difference is made. Namaste.
Where to start: The book says that the first step in breaking the cycle of cynicism is taking personal responsibility for being a good person.
How to escape Thought Trap #4: I can’t make enough of a difference to matter. Tell yourself The Starfish Story.
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.
The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”
Great story, Roxie! This is a fine example of how taking a tiny step makes ripples. I’d imagine that the old man walking on the beach started helping the boy throw starfish back into the sea. Onlookers did the same, and lives were changed in the process. Namaste.
It’s the middle of May, and a heavy overcast blankets San Jose CA. Not even up to 60 degrees yet. The consequences of climate change we are already experiencing; instant karma. Science models predict that the wetter parts of the planet will get wetter, and the drier parts drier. The glaciers are melting and the coral reefs dying. SO, as you point out, we can change our life styles to contribute to a more stable climate to the benefit of all species. AND this does not have to take us away from our spiritual practices. Thank you for these good thoughts!
I appreciate your comment about climate change, Richard. It amazes me that some people still don’t believe in the human factor. Namaste.
This is such a powerful post because gives anyone–Yogi or not–a glimpse into Reality: That everything is the Self. “It’s ME (or my world) that I am giving to, when I give fairness, economy and justice.” Thank you.
Thank you for your insight, Elizabeth. Most of us think that we’re separate beings–separate from other people, our communities, our planet, and so on. But the greatest truth is that we’re not separate at all. We’re all a part of the One (as Plotinus referred to). I like to remind myself that everything affects everything else. All actions have ripples, like a pebble in a calm lake. And I find that if I’m conscious (and conscientious) in my actions, I’m a happier person in general. I’m sure you agree! SCS