In The End of Karma: 40 Days to Perfect Peace, Tranquility and Joy, Tucson physician Dharma Singh Khalsa writes that karma is not what many people think it is. Khalsa tells us that karma is a very real cosmic phenomenon and the root of most human difficulties, but, contrary to popular opinion, it's not really about paying off debts from past lifetimes. Instead, he says, it's more about our actions and their consequences in this life.
Khalsa, a Sikh and an anesthesiologist who says he has gone from putting people to sleep to trying to wake them up and "heal in their body, mind and soul," declares that it doesn't take countless lifetimes to eradicate karma. It will dissolve, he contends, almost instantly when we get in touch with a reservoir of divine energy that exists inside everyone. Khalsa, who is also the president/medical director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation International and an expert in the treatment and prevention of memory loss, affirms that simply meditating on this book will open the floodgates to extraordinary power.
The book revolves around a collection of 40 poems written by Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion (Sikhism, appearing in India in the 16th century, is a mixture of devotional Hinduism and Sufism, teaching that God is the only reality). Each poem is accompanied by Khalsa's brief but penetrating reflections. Nanak's pithy hymns embody the same rhapsodic, devotional tone manifested by Rumi and other mystic poets. They expound on the power and vastness of the Creator and the benefits of awakening to divine presence.
Khalsa contends that Nanak's verses alone have the ability to transform our lives. "These words," he writes, "have magical power, and reading and contemplating them will deliver you to your soul and the God within yourself."
Nanak's songs of praise certainly help center attention on transcendental ideas, but it is Khalsa's lucid, insight-inducing commentary that will likely forge the strongest link to the heart. This book could easily be read in an afternoon, but Khalsa suggests a much slower pace, as many as 40 days per chapter. The best time, he says, to read and meditate is at dawn.
"The world is still and quiet early in the morning," he writes, "and the static of life has yet to interfere with your ability to touch your soul."
Khalsa notes that the ego, the human tendency to feel isolated from the wholeness of life, is a significant stumbling block to self-realization. "The limitless soul is restricted by ego," he says, "and its outlook becomes narrow. You then can't see reality clearly, because a barrier is created between you and God."
Khalsa explains that the product of this limited vision is karma, the revolving door of self-serving and often self-defeating behavior we frequently get stuck in that also creates a form of reincarnation in this life. "You wander from one error or misdeed to another," he writes. "The result is that you have to be reborn and perhaps reborn again--not necessarily in another life, but in this one until you get on the right track."
Opening up to our deeper nature (a process that Khalsa refers to as "dharma") produces, he writes, intuitive knowledge that will help guide us out of dysfunctional ruts.
"Dharma eats up Karma," he states, "simply because dharma is a higher plane of existence. It's spiritual living in action."
This book is a journey to the spiritual heart of Sikhism (there's little mention of some of the more legalistic elements of the faith involving matters of attire, grooming and personal accouterments), and its universal tone and non-dogmatic approach will likely resonate with a wide range of spiritual searchers.
Khalsa is the ideal spiritual mentor, earnest, optimistic and supportive, but never preachy. He encourages us to let go of our underlying assumptions about reality, especially the concept of sin, telling us that enlightenment is open to all. "It doesn't matter if you're successful, or if you're a criminal, a drug addict, or the lowest of the low in your mind."
Interestingly, Khalsa asserts that, of themselves, "good" actions don't hasten spiritual growth. In fact, he tells us, too much emphasis on behavior can actually hinder development.
This book, full of fresh perspectives and beautiful thoughts, urges us to be in the world but not of it. "It's your true mission in life," he counsels, "to let your spirit shine and your soul glow."
The End of Karma: 40 Days to Perfect Peace, Tranquility, and Joy
BY DHARMA SINGH KHALSA, M.D.
HAY HOUSE, INC.
248 PAGES, $17.95