What Is Karma? And What Does Karma Have to Do With Coronavirus?

Coronavirus and Karma
May 27, 2020

Shambhavi responds to stories being told by spiritual teachers on social media that claim to explain the coronavirus pandemic in terms of karma. She talks about the real nature of karma and compassion in relationship to the pandemic and the quarantine or any difficult circumstances. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

Some days ago I heard a very well respected Rinpoche—a Rinpoche that I respect a lot—give a teaching on coronavirus on Facebook. He said that if we’re more realized—and I’m condensing what he said—we won’t get sick. If we have more bodhicitta, we won’t get sick. Or if we’re maybe somewhat more realized, we’ll only get a little sick. We won’t get very sick. He said this was because of our karma. Because we have negative karma, that’s why we get sick.

So again with all respect to this teacher, who’s a wonderful practitioner, this is a wrong teaching from my perspective. That’s from my perspective in my traditions, but also just my perspective from the fruit of my practice, from my direct experience. And I hope that today most of these teachings can come out of my experience. That’s what I’m sharing with you, and not teachings out of a book.

So the absolute teaching is that there is no karma. The word karma means bound activity. It means activity that has some kind of limitation, that repeats itself in linear time.

We also have another word which is kriya. Kriya means unbound or unconditioned activity. It means spontaneity. It means activity that is not conditioned by past, present, or future. It’s not conditioned by what happened before. It’s not conditioned by cause and effect. It’s not conditioned by concepts or ideas. It’s spontaneously arising in a call-and-response way to whatever the circumstance is that we find ourselves in.

So the trajectory of the spiritual practitioner from my perspective is that we start off with some bound activity—compulsive activities, fixations, repetitions, and habits of body, energy, and mind. And we do a lot of sadhana. We work with our teachers and our communities, and those patterns begin to resolve. Then we become more spontaneous and less conditioned in our self expression.

So what is the limitation that karma represents? This is the crux of the issue I think.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.