This Is My Karma

The Peace Pagoda, Pokhara, Nepal. Photo by Mike Hansen

We traveled to Nepal and Bhutan last month. We were on a guided tour with 9 people. This tour emphasized the cultural and historic sites and experiences of Buddhism, as well as highlights of Nepalese and Bhutanese history and culture.

It was a deeply rich experience.

Our Nepalese guide, Sanjay shared his lifelong journey in Buddhism, generously including some of his “dark night of the soul” experiences, and the ongoing seeking to deepen his understanding and be led by inspiration. Through it all, there were echoes of the Mormon experience – my own and that of so many others have shared with me.

When I removed my shoes to enter the various Buddhist temples, I thought of the sacred spaces in my Mormon experience. I thought of the way these are set apart, and how I prepare and set myself apart from regular life by changing clothing that is only for this separate space of ritual.

Each time I knelt before a Buddhist monk to receive his blessing, I would bow my head so he could put a khada scarf around my neck. This scarf is a symbol of the blessing ritual, and it can be an object that can vicariously carry the blessing to loved ones for whom I pray – loved ones who are carrying heavy loads, who are in need of healing. With each experience of blessing ritual, I thought of a lifetime of practicing vicarious work. Each time I think of, pray for, or carry a name of someone through ritual, I have a glimpse of Christ’s loving act of At-one-ment. An act of compassion so consuming, he became one with each of us, experiencing all things with us from a place of love. The highest level of vicarious work is his final call to us – “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me”. Connection to all beings, beyond the limits of time and distance, is a shared teaching in both the gospel of Christ and Dharma.

And, the constant call to create good Karma inspires me just as the call to powerfully own and create my path continues to inspire me.

Early in our journey, we were in Pokhara.

Before sunrise, some of our group hiked up to the Peace Pagoda.

Rising Sun touches the peaks of the Annapurna Range in the Himalayas. Photo by Mike Hansen.

We watched the Annapurna Mountain Range gradually appear as the clouds shifted, and as the rising sun lit the peaks, beginning with the tallest – over 8,000 meters high.

Then we climbed to the pagoda. As we approached the sacred ground, I removed my shoes. I slowly walked up to the highest level, then circled it clockwise, thinking of and praying for a beloved friend who is in great need.

Sanjay walked barefoot on this path, chanting his mantra. He paused before each of the four depictions of events from the life of Buddha, telling each story.

I stopped at the last depiction, that of the death of Buddha. He is reclining at the end of mortal life. A person who did not like him had hosted him in her home, and intentionally fed him spoiled meat, knowing it could hurt or even kill him.

As Buddha was dying, she asked him if he had known the meat was spoiled? He said he did know.

She asked him why he had then eaten it?

He said, “That is my Karma.”

Even then, he owned his journey. Even as he acknowledged the journey, the karma of others.

I walked the holy ground, my bare feet on the smooth stones, seeking strength and healing for my dear friend.

I leaned forward and laid my forehead on the platform.

All the illness. The burden. The betrayal. The fear, the hate, the stones thrown, the rejection, the killing.

Forgive them.

This is my karma.

Unto the least of these.

I am with you…I am you.

The god in me sees the god in you.

I am here for my friend.

I am here for my foe.

I am here for me.

The path is steep.

My sleeve is wet with tears.

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3 Responses

  1. Katie Ludlow Rich says:

    What an incredible trip, Jody. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences and wisdom.

  2. I do love being able to be included in the beliefs of others. It’s a chance to learn more, no matter what you believe. Thank you for including us on your journey.

  3. A Poor Wayfaring Stranger says:

    I’ve been fascinated by how others worship ever since I attended my 1st grade teacher’s wedding in a Lutheran church. This piqued my curiosity about religion and was the beginning of my path to better understand what other people believed and how they worshipped. My constant companion throughout much of grade school was “The World’s Great Religions” which I pored over for hours. Being a Mormon girl from Utah who wanted to know about world religions worried my mother. What did she think that I was going to do-apostatize at age 8 or 9 and bring shame to our family?

    As a teen, every chance I got I went to visit other churches and the synagogue in Salt Lake City. Sometimes I went with friends of those faiths who’d invited me and other times I went on my own. Later on, as a professional musician I’ve attended even more worship services to perform as part the service. The opportunity to travel throughout the world has also afforded me many opportunities to worship with those of other faiths.

    What I discovered at every single place was that there was a sense of reverence and of the Divine being present. Being taught that ours was the only capital T true church since infancy didn’t jibe with what I was feeling and experiencing. Whether it’s been attending a meditation service at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan, going to worship at Hari Krishna and Hindu temples, going to mass at St. Peter’s in Rome, attending synagogue, and visiting a variety of Protestant faiths have taught me that our Heavenly Parents speak to their children through many different ways and beliefs. I no longer believe that our church has the monopoly on truth and goodness. (Sometimes we are seriously lacking when compared to our brothers and sisters outside of the church!). Members of our church who’ve never worshipped anywhere outside of the church would be so surprised by the many beliefs that we share with other religions. That’s one of the lessons that we need to learn as a church along with a massive dose of humility.

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