With these words, “As you sow, so shall you reap,” Jesus is teaching his listeners that their actions have moral consequences. Good actions lead to good results, bad actions to bad results: That is the most common understanding of Karma. But in a broader sense, Jesus is making a point about life on the spiritual path. The world is a mirror of the self. The reason that good actions lead to good results isn’t that God listens in, makes a judgment, and then rewards you with a good result. Instead, action and result occur simultaneously.
There is a constant, instantaneous calculus taking place with your every thought, word, and action. Most people don’t notice good or bad results unless these are dramatic, but the world functions as a mirror down to the minutest detail. The mechanics of consciousness are set up so that inner and outer dimensions match perfectly. Why does it take Jesus or another enlightened master to point this out? Because the mind is so complex and human nature so multilayered that we are easily conditioned to overlook the links between inner and outer. Separation is based on our own willingness to ignore certain images, some of them upsetting and disturbing, that the world reflects back to us. On the spiritual path, you become more willing to see what is right before your eyes—if not the eyes of the body, then the eyes of the soul.
This is an exercise to teach you how to look into the mirror. You are going to see yourself in two people, someone you greatly admire and someone you intensely dislike. Begin with the person you admire. Make a list of his or her most admirable traits. Try to be as personal as possible. There are many strong, courageous role models, so, for example, why did you chose Nehru in particular, or Mother Teresa, or Martin Luther King Jr.?
The answer is that your own aspirations match your hero’s achievement. Some quality in you seeks to emerge. It may be the seed of compassion that is drawn upward by Mother Teresa or the seed of altruism drawn upward by Albert Schweitzer. If you pick Jesus, a figure so immense that he belongs to the whole world, look at your own desire to expand in all dimensions; perhaps the seed of freedom wants to grow.
Now reverse the exercise and pick someone you intensely dislike. Write down that person’s worst qualities (this part usually isn’t very hard) and then consider how you also embody those qualities without being able to see them in yourself. We project onto others what we cannot face in ourselves. Try to avoid picking someone universally hated like Adolf Hitler, because the enormity of his actions may drive you further from seeing yourself. It’s better to choose someone closer to your own life.
This exercise becomes truly valuable when you carry out both parts. The world is not just a mirror but a teaching mirror. Learning to look into the world as a mirror helps to heal separation, as you see that you are included in creation, not living in some private exile outside of it.
Adapted from The Third Jesus, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2008).