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What is Karam?
Living Sikhi - Lesson Twenty Two






Lesson Objectives:

1  To learn the meaning of Karam

2  To learn the meaning of transmigration and reincarnation.

3  To reinforce the transforming power of shabad energy and the Sadh Sangat.


Teachers, ask the students to say the Sikh greeting with you; then fold hands and do simran with the students.


Homework Review: How well were you able to concentrate during the singing of the shabads? (Pause for answers from several students - no judgements, please.) For most of us this takes practice. Don't be discouraged. Pull your mind gently back to God's love when you find it wandering. Does it help to have the English translation? If it does, then ask your teacher to provide translations for the shabads - or you may retrieve them from yourself. Or, if your gurudwara does not have a screen hooked up to a projector, maybe your class may do some fundraisers to buy them.

God has created this world with many laws. Some are fairly easy to see. If you throw a ball into the air, what happens? (Pause) What law does this illustrate? (Pause)

The interesting thing is that this law works whether we know the name of it or not. The law always works under the same circumstances. What if you throw the ball into space? What has changed? Right! The distance from Earth. It seems that in another dimension - in space - the Law of Gravity does not apply in the same way as on Earth. It is much weaker, almost as if it does not exist.

Karam works in a similar way. A simple way of stating it is: Whatever you do comes back to you.

If you do good things, you will have good things happen to you. If you have done bad things, bad things will happen to you. Guru Nanak says in Japji Sahib "Aapay Bheej aapay hai khaho" -  What you sow, so shall you eat!

Or in other words, what you sow determines what you'll reap. The reaction may happen quickly - you clean up your room and you enjoy a good feeling and your mother is pleased as well. Or you make a mess with your paints on the table and your mother has a different reaction!

What are some effects of our actions that we may not see right away, but accumulate or grow with time? (Pause for answers) Bad habits, good habits each will bring their own reaction. It's the law of nature.

Sometimes the circumstances of one lifetime are not enough to reap all the karam that has been building up. What if you saved someone from a burning building and then died yourself? Or what if you cheated a widow out of her life savings and made her live her old age in deep poverty? What then? (Pause for discussion.)

The gurus taught that we will have as many lives as it requires to fulfill all our karam, both bad and good. This is called re-incarnation - coming into a new body and new circumstances. The circumstances for each of us are special; they can and will help us to get closer to God if we understand their purpose. We are going to meet those circumstances in life that are the result of our bad or good habits in other lifetimes. This means our habitual thoughts as well as actions.

The moment of death is very important. The gurus taught that if we think about our riches as we die, we will be like a snake in our next life. If we are preoccupied with our children, and not God, we may come back in a life like a pig's. Going into another body in the next life is called transmigration, not re-incarnation. We are very lucky to be in a human body in this life. This is our opportunity to come closer to God. We are even luckier to be hearing about our true home, Sach Khand. It is God's great mercy because we have made so many mistakes in the past.

Do you remember what happened to the ball when it was dropped in space? (Pause for answers.) Right. The law of gravity did not apply the same way it did on Earth; the ball could float. That's because it was in another dimension. Do you remember what happened to Sajjan the Robber? (Pause.) He listened to the shabads sung by Guru Nanak and Mardana. Because their minds and hearts were in a different dimension, Sach Khand, Sajjan opened his heart and was transported there too. In this state, this dimension, he was no longer tormented by his attachment to gold and to his cleverness. He was free to be the good person he was pretending to be! He was free to be attached only to God who is everything he would need. Sajjan was content and happy. He had totally changed.

God has made us to be content and happy. By separating ourselves from God over many lifetimes, we have become restless, needy and confused. We think we know what will make us happy - gold, fame, cleverness, etc. But when we realize that our love for or need for these things separate us from the love of God, we have taken a major step in becoming detached from them and more attached to God. Only being centered in God will bring us true, lasting happiness.

Karam becomes our friend until then. How does it do that? Why can we say that? Right! If we do something bad, eventually we will learn that it causes us pain and suffering. We learn, through karam what is good and bad for us. The more we sincerely try to be good and learn about God, the better chance we have of finding Sach Khand, the Realm of Truth, where we become one with God.  In that dimension, karam does not operate the same way because we are no longer separated from God and the special plan for us (His hukam).

God is not punishing us, nor is he rewarding us with the law of Karam. God is teaching us, if only we would listen. Guru Nanak tells us about karam and how to become free of it, in the 20th pauri of Japji Sahib:

Bhariya hath pair tan deh

Paani dhotai utras kheh.

When your hands, feet and body are covered with dirt, you wash them off with water.

Moot paleeti kupparr hoi

Day saabun laiyyeh oh dhoi.

When your clothes are soiled with urine, soap cleans them.

Bhariye mut paapaa(n) kay sung, oh dhopay navaih kay rung.

When your mind is filled with sins, it is washed with the Naam (simran).

Pooni paapi aakhan nahe

Kar kar karna likh lai jae.

Just saying that a person is good or bad does not make it so. But by repeating good or bad actions, a person can be read like a book (by God).

Aapay beej apay he khaah

Nanak hukami aaveh jaah.

What you sow, so shall you reap, that is what you will eat. Nanak says you will come and go (live and die) according to the plan made just for you (according to your karam).


What is another way of saying whatever seed you plant, that will determine what you will eat? (Pause for answers) Right! This is how karam can work for our benefit.

Homework: Memorize the 20th pauri of Japji Sahib and say it with love and devotion. If something bad or uncomfortable happens this week to you, try not to get angry or discouraged. Try to remember what might be the cause.


Shabad: Thakar tum sarnaa-ee aaya



September 29, 2010

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Living Sikhi - Lesson Twenty Two"

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