An American Hindu Monk In Manhattan: Transcending Our Karma
How does an all-American boy end up a happy, healthy, and whole Hindu monk?
What the sages of the Hindu tradition tell us to do is to master the art of inaction, or akarma. Akarma means that we are still acting in this world, yet our actions do not produce any karmic seeds. We are transcending the very concept of karma itself.
How is this possible? The heart of the Hindu tradition is based on devotion to God (Krishna, or Visnu, in our tradition), and in this mood of a personal relationship with God, we find that He excuses any karmic seeds that may result from our actions. He does this provided they are done with the sincere attempt to be of selfless service to Him and to all the living beings we share this world with.
An example of this comes also comes from the Gita, as Krishna says:
If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. (Chapter 9, Verse 26)
We know that we have a fundamental need to eat, but how can we satisfy this essential bodily need without accruing karma? After all, even the most devout vegan has to engender some kind of violence on the plants and grains they consume. What Krishna tells us here is that if we offer our foodstuffs to Him with devotion, grown and cooked and offered for His pleasure first, He excuses any potential karmic reactions that may have come along the way.
Karma ultimately means to accept responsibility for who we are and what we do. We often rail at the ides of so-called cosmic injustice, blaming God for the problems that may befall us or society at large, but if we begin to properly understand the parameters of karma, we can take hold of our own lives and our whole spiritual destiny.
Chris Fici is a writer/teacher/monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition. He has been practicing at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram at the Bhakti Center in New York City since 2009. After receiving a degree in film studies at the University of Michigan, Chris began his exploration and study of the bhakti tradition. He currently teaches classes on the culture and art of vegetarian cooking, as well as the living philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, at New York University and Columbia University.