A short story of Faith and Karma

25 cents

Synchronicity. The outer world will bring a meaningful experience to the inner Self when we learn to walk in awareness.

Last night, after five days of intensive workshops and semiotic walks in Canberra, we moved to a different apartment in Canberra. This time we were closer to the city.

As I stepped out, I noticed an Indian grocery shop. I had no intention to buy anything. But then I saw some beautiful idols in the shop. I bought a few idols of Ganesha and Shiva Linga and the shopkeeper, Rajesh, asked if I needed a bag to carry them all. I said yes, he accepted the card payment, but then he changed his mind.

He said, ‘I have a paper bag, you can use this, no need to pay for a bag. Here’s your 25 cents.’

I said, ‘keep the change’.

‘I can’t’, he replied.

I asked, ‘Why not?’

He insisted, ‘I can’t’.

The banality with which he refused to accept the money clearly showed that I had hit his bedrock assumptions.

And so, I became curious. After clearing two customers in the queue, we got into a conversation.

Rajesh asked me why I was in Canberra, and I told him I was here to meet my mentor and to learn from him.

At this point, he pulls out another Shiva Linga from his drawer and says, ‘Could you gift this to your mentor from my end?’

How can this man not accept 25 cents and expect me to take a Shiva Linga (worth $18.00) from the shop for free?

To add to my agonies, Rajesh was just closing the shop and heading for a cleaning job. He is very poorly, makes little money from the shop and has two small children and a family back in Nepal to support. I suddenly felt so poor and out of depth.

On giving away the idol, Rajesh says, ‘When you learn to give away it all comes back.’

He accepts his poorly state with grace and says, ‘I must have done something in my past life.’

Rajesh believes in Karma. But this is no ordinary understanding of karma.

Karma, in this instance, is not being a victim (self-pity) but the cause behind your own actions.

There is no one to blame, no one to project upon, and no one to be held accountable.

If I want to change my condition, I must turn inwards.

Rajesh’s myth gives him the courage to relate learning with inner change. This is the kind of learning that even the most highly paid, self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ and ‘world’s leaders’ cannot dare to imagine.

This kind of learning can never be found in books and theories. Such learning requires stepping into another person’s world, seeing things from their point of view and feeling their sufferings. In other words, ‘Walking Alongside’ (a wonderful book by Professor Bill Andersen).

If you are trying to make rational, logical sense of this experience, I would say just two words. Good luck!

Faith does not make sense, belief does not make sense, myth does not make sense, but here’s the paradox – our entire lives are lived in Faith, beliefs and myths.

Stop hammering root causes and bolting on corrective actions. Instead, pay attention to what people believe in, what are their myths, and what are the limits of their reasoning. You will learn something about culture (or, if you like, safety culture).

Five days of learning brought such a profound meaning to surface.

It is naïve to expect that systems, processes and technology can bring change.

At the heart of all human behaviour lies myths, beliefs, faith, symbols, rituals and culture.

We cannot change anything without understanding it. Can we?

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