Q: Pranam Sadhguru. Is every significant incident of life due to karma or something circumstantial?
Sadhguru: There is an individual karma and there is also a collective karma. As a family, as a community, as a nation, as humanity, we share karmic memory among ourselves. Maybe individually, we did not do anything. But our society is doing certain things. Because of that, there will be consequences. Do not understand karma as a reward and punishment system. It is not. It is just the basis of life. Without memory, there is no life. There is no possibility of either creating an amoeba or a human being without the material of memory. If life has to replicate itself, it needs memory. Karma is the memory of life. The very way the body is structured is because there is memory of life right from that single-celled animal to every other form.
Situations can happen to you because of social realities or the realities of the world. There are a million situations where people get killed every day for something that they have never done. A lot of people go through many levels of suffering and pain without being in any way associated with what is happening around them. But they are in that situation – that is their karma.
You are looking at karma as, “Is it my fault? I did not do this. Why did this happen to me?” That is not how karma is. Karma is just a memory system. Without this memory, there is no structure of any kind. All structures are built, and particularly the structures of life are repeatable only because there is a secure memory storage in every life. Let’s say something happened to me for which I have no memory. Well, the society around you has memory, those situations happen. The world has memory, those situations happen. And whatever actions that are being done around you will impact you.
Right now, there is pollution in New York City. I did not cause any, but I will also breathe poison. Right here, I am inhaling carbon dioxide – maybe monoxide. I did not do any karma. I planted so many trees. What to do? Once you have come to New York City, you have to inhale this. So, will there be a price? Of course, if I stay here long enough, there will be a price.
Whatever your individual karma, there is a collective karma. Your karma is essentially deciding how you experience the world, it is not deciding where you are in the world or what you are doing. You may be born in a palace but your karma may be such that you suffer. You may be born on the street but your karma may be such that you are a joyful human being. The past karma has created a certain external consequence or situation which you cannot change 100% instantly, it needs to be worked. A situation involves many things, not just you. But your karma can be changed instantly.
You can change your karma right now, which means you can change how you experience life right now. Only you are involved in this, so you can change this instantly if you are willing. But even if you and me are willing, the world may not be willing to change right now. So collective karma may create certain external consequences, but how you experience life is still determined by you right now.