When you use the phrase “Hukum Karma” in Indonesian, it generally implies punishment. The Indonesian word “hukum,” derived from Arabic, has a twofold meaning. It means “law” as well as “punishment.”
This is not so in the Balinese language. Karma is not “hukum” or “law of punishment.” Karma is “activity” or “deed.” Anything that you and I do is karma. It is “law” in the sense that it is inescapable. No one can possibly escape it. It is like the law of gravity, or any other law of physics. So the Law of Karma is actually the Law of Action.
The Law of Karma binds us all. Whatever we do becomes a “cause,” and each “cause” is followed by an “effect.” So our suffering in the present is as much the result of some cause in the past, as our happiness is. At the same time, what we do today becomes a cause for tomorrow’s joys and sorrows.
This law of cause and effect keeps the world revolving. The law produces duality of pain and pleasure, grief and joy, ups and downs, the low moments as well as the highs.
If you are happy this moment, then be prepared to be sad in the next moment. For neither happiness nor sadness is permanent. Things are changing their course. Life is inconsistent and so are our actions. Our actions are not always right. We do make mistakes. We cannot expect things to go right for us at all times.
If you love roses, then you must also accept thorns. Night and day are inseparable. Meeting and parting follow each other. The Law of Karma, as I said earlier, is inescapable. So how do we deal with it? How do we make the best of it? How do we perform as best we can at all times, to guarantee the best outcome?
About 5,000 years ago, Krishna told his warrior friend Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra: “Forget the outcome. Focus on your performance!” If you respond by saying: “But that’s difficult,” then you are not alone. Arjuna responded by saying: “There has to be some motivation.”
“No,” said Krishna. “Those who are motivated by something or someone to act are weaklings. They lack inner strength. They are mediocre. Be a warrior, not a mediocre. Perform your duties in a selfless manner, without thinking of the result, the outcome. Focus on what you do, and not on the result.”
I am not a golf player. I am also against golf courses in Bali. Having golf courses here is not intelligent. The game started in Scotland, where the climate, the landscape and the overall terrain are conducive to the game. Bali has a totally different climate, landscape, terrain and natural beauty. Turning Bali into Scotland is certainly not intelligent. Having said that, let me use the game of golf to explain “Nishkama Karma,” or “working without any expectation, any hope for the result or any motivation.”
When you are hitting a golf ball, you must focus all your attention on the process of hitting, and not on the result. If you focus on the result or the outcome, if you focus on the hole, you will most probably miss it.
Focus on what you do, and do your best. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by thoughts of the result. Put all your energies into what you are doing. In doing so, you will be performing to the best of your capacity and capability.
This is Nishkama Karma, or acting selflessly without an eye on the result. For the Balinese of old, this was not a concept, but a principle to live by. A Balinese painter would paint something not with an eye on monetary gain, but to enjoy the process of painting. Similarly, a Balinese sculptor of yesteryear would carve for the sake of carving. And these artists turned out some outstanding pieces of beauty – some real marvels, some of which are now in museums abroad.
Things have changed. Dollars, pounds, euro and yen motivate today’s painters and sculptors to “produce.” Creativity is replaced by productivity. Art is reduced to produce. Artists have become workers and coolies of the trade. Now, they are doomed to compete with other workers and coolies of the trade. They are condemned to work with and for greedy traders.
Bali has to refocus on her potentials, inner strength and performance. In this way Bali can regain her uniqueness that has been missing for years.
Nishkama Karma must once again become the spirit of Bali and the beautiful people of the island. Let Bali work selflessly and perform to the best of her capability, without being distracted or lured by immediate but temporary material gain.
You can harm nature and the ecosystem in a short time by turning a vast expanse of fertile land into a golf course. But to reverse it, you may need dozens of years. It may take one whole generation to repair the damage you do today.
It is therefore very bad karma when you build or develop something that is not inline with nature and your potential. And the reverse is true: When you build or develop something that is inline with nature and potential, you are bound to succeed, for you have done good karma.
Beautify Bali – beautify the place you live in; kiss the soil that nourishes you with vegetation and other nutrients. Be grateful to Mother Nature for all the blessings bestowed upon you. Work and perform your duties with this spirit, and you shall not err. You shall accumulate good karma.
Last but not least, what is most important is to change your old paradigm. Work selflessly. Focus all your energies on the work you are performing, on the task at hand – and you shall not go wrong. “Success shall kiss your feet,” as they say in the archipelago.
Working selflessly is working for the benefit of many. Working selflessly is working for the betterment of society, nation and this world – the only place we have to live in.
You may be white or yellow, brown or black – the law of Nishkama Karma is for all of us, for you and for me. Try it and see for yourself how much happier you become, how much more joyful you become. Nishkama Karma is the way to celebrate life!
Anand Krishna is a spiritual activist and author. For more, go to www.anandkrishna.org and www.aumkar.org or call Aryana or Debbie on 0361 7801595 or 8477490.
By Anand Krishna
For The Bali Times