Karma is the Buddhist notion of moral causation, the idea that we all get what we deserve in this lifetime based on what we’ve done in previous lifetimes. It’s an interesting thought—and one that explains the discrepancies in fortune along the human spectrum, i.e. why some of us suffer and others don’t.
Whenever I ponder karma, I think of Newton’s third law of physics: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I don’t know why—I’m not much of a scientist, but that’s what comes to mind. Also, the law of the conservation of mass—that mass is neither created nor destroyed but remains constant over time. If science can have these sorts of intractable laws, why not the human condition?
Last summer I had an encounter with a spiritual advisor of sorts—a seer, a psychic, someone who purported to see into my past lifetimes. Her instructions before our meeting were that I should come with seven questions about my life. To be honest, the timing wasn’t very good. Immediately after our session I had an appointment at the lawyer’s office to sign my final divorce papers.
Anyway, I asked her about my writing and she waxed on for a bit, but didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know, or anything I wanted to hear, as in nothing about my memoir writing itself and making the NYT bestseller list. So, I waved her off and asked my next question: What is up with the pain in my body?
I’d been experiencing a strange array of symptoms in my shoulder, liver, back, arms, and feet. But it was the weird sensation in my shoulder that caused me the most grief and discomfort. I expected an alien to pop out at any time. My physical therapist determined it was nerve pain, an assertion backed up by MRIs. Various massage therapists told me I needed to breathe more deeply or explained that I had steel cables running down my spine instead of the expected flat ribbons of muscle. The psychic consulted my Akashic records. Initially she reported that she couldn’t see anything—my records were blank, or, perhaps, closed.
Why would my records be closed, I asked, having absolutely no idea what an Akashic record even was, but imagining a very large filing cabinet in the sky. She replied that I might not be ready to see them, that whatever information they held might prove to be too much for me. Well, ask again, I admonished. I’ll be fine. So she asked again—and this time, after a few minutes with her eyes closed, told me a story.
“Do you have much experience with betrayal?” she asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Let me count the ways,” I said. “More than my fair share.”
She nodded. “The pain you feel in your back is the pain of betrayal, of your heart being broken. Of being stabbed in the back, metaphorically speaking.” And she went on to tell me a story.
Evidently, many, many, many lifetimes ago, I was a gay man with a devoted lover. We were very close, very respected in our community. We worked together as builders and architects. I thought we were happy and committed, but then I found out my lover was having an affair. My world crumbled then, and I never recovered. Three thousand years and many lifetimes later, she told me, I am still searching for that kind of love, trying to recreate that relationship.
Her words rang true. I’d never before heard of Akashic records. I’d never given much credence to past lives, though I tried to keep an open mind about such things. I felt the pain in my back more acutely at that moment and pushed away from the table, looking at my watch.
“I’ve gotta go,” I said. “Got an appointment.”
I thanked her and stumbled out into the sunshine and made my way to the lawyer’s office nearby. As I walked through the bright and warm summer day, I replayed in my mind every betrayal I had experienced in my 52 years. The ache behind my shoulder thrummed more intensely as each one sprung to mind. Had I really been trying to recreate this perfect relationship from millennia ago? Would I ever be rid of the pain? Did I even believe in Akashic records? Did it matter?
What I know is that her words rang true. What she said made sense to me on some deep, previously unexplored level. There’s so much we don’t know, so much we can’t see, so much happening beneath and beyond consciousness. Is karma real? I don’t know, but it feels like it might be.