The scriptures say that the most serious impact on our lives is caused by the actions we commit against our parents and teachers. When we criticize, judge, or disrespect our parents or teachers (no matter what their characters are), we create very negative karma that is likely to manifest itself already in the current life and to the maximum extent. This is because it is our parents and teachers who are the souls with whom we have the greatest amount of karma. And therefore, the actions that we do in relation to these people will influence our movement along our spiritual path. In this article, I want to talk about family karmic connections, how they affect our lives, and how to pass these karmic lessons with our parents so that negative patterns don’t control our lives anymore.
But first, let’s take a look at a couple of famous examples of family karmic connections.
Family Karmic Connections in Buddha Shakyamuni’s Life
Let’s take a look at the example of how family karmic connections can manifest themselves. Let’s use Buddha Shakyamuni’s life as an example.
Prince Siddhartha (Buddha Shakyamuni) was a prince from the Shakya family, who lived in ancient India. He was born into the family of King Shuddhodana, who, being frightened by the prediction on his son’s birthday that he would become an ascetic, surrounded him with luxury and wealth so that he would not know suffering and would not embark on the path of spiritual self-discovery.
But not everyone in Prince Siddhartha’s family was supportive of him. For example, his cousin Devadatta envied him, realizing that Siddhartha was his direct competitor in the matter of succession to the throne, and constantly schemed against him. And so from an early age, the prince learned to show compassion not only to those who loved him, but also to those who hated him. And in this sense, Devadatta, without knowing it, was one of the first teachers of Siddhartha.
According to legend, the karmic connection of the Buddha with his cousin Devadatta originated long before their incarnation in the family of King Shuddhodana. Once these two souls incarnated in the body of a two-headed bird. And it was then that a confrontation arose between them. Devadatta (then, of course, he was not Devadatta but one part of the two-headed bird) hated the Siddhartha (that was another part of the two-headed bird) so much that he deliberately ate the poisoned fruit. He wanted revenge so much that he was even ready to destroy himself because, despite the fact that the bird had two heads, the body was one.
It is believed that this was the beginning of the long journey of Buddha Shakyamuni and Devadatta. Devadatta followed the lower path of development — he alternately incarnated in the world of people, then in the lower worlds. And the Buddha, on the contrary, incarnated in the world of gods, then in the world of people. The world of people was the only place they would meet again.
Once they both incarnated in the world of people, Devadatta was constantly creating obstacles to the Buddha. However, can we really say that Devadatta harmed the Buddha? On the contrary, difficulties allowed Buddha Shakyamuni to develop, because only by overcoming his limitations, could he become better and stronger. Therefore, paradoxical as it may sound, Buddha Shakyamuni needed Devadatta in the world of people, because he was in some sense Shakyamuni’s teacher. And this seemingly difficult karmic connection had an incredibly beneficial effect on the spiritual development of the Buddha himself.
Already in the last (or rather, the last known to us) incarnation of the Buddha, in which he became a Buddha, Devadatta also caused him a lot of difficulties. Once he set an elephant on Buddha, but Buddha was able to subdue him with the power of his compassion. Another time, Devadatta pushed a huge stone from a cliff onto Buddha. But due to good karma, the stone did not harm Buddha. However, a fragment broke off from the stone and injured the Buddha’s leg — it is believed that at this moment the last negative karma that he had was worked out. So, all the obstacles Devadatta was causing made the Buddha only stronger.
The most interesting thing is that from Sanskrit, the very name Devadatta means “given by God”.
Family Karmic Connections in Milarepa’s Life
Another example of an interesting family karmic connection is the karmic connection between Milarepa and his mother.
Milarepa’s life was quite difficult — he lost his father early, and he and his mother became completely dependent on unfriendly relatives. Despite the fact that Milarepa’s father was far from a poor man, his relatives actually appropriated all his father’s wealth and forced him and his mother to drag out a miserable existence. Unable to bear it, Milarepa’s mother demanded that he learn black magic and kill all the relatives who did wrong to them. At first Milarepa refused, but the mother was determined and began to threaten Milarepa with suicide if he did not fulfill her insistent request.
Milarepa was strongly attached to his mother, so he was forced to obey. He learned black magic and, when returned from training, he collapsed the roof of the building so that 35 of his relatives died.
But the story didn’t end there. Realizing what he had done, Milarepa began to look for a teacher who could give him a method to get rid of the negative karma that he had accumulated. There were many years of searching and various difficulties. Finally, Milarepa met Marpa, his karmic teacher, from whom he was destined to learn.
So, what can we see from this story? The immoral (at first glance) act of the mother, in fact, pushed Milarepa on the path of spiritual development. Yes, the method was quite cruel, but, apparently, there was no other way.
Of course, it may look like a cruel act to sacrifice 35 people for the sake of somebody’s spiritual development. But, in this case, all those people already had such karma — to be killed by black magic. Apparently, in the past they also practiced back magic or did other evil so that they created the karma that was in resonance with the death from black magic.
Some teachers believe that Milarepa’s mother was a Bodhisattva who incarnated in the form of his mother to create the situation thanks to which Milarepa began to look for a teacher, found him, and achieved spiritual self-realization. And, perhaps, if not for his mother’s act, he would never have embarked on this path. Or his path to spiritual quest would have been much longer. This is another example of how family karmic connections helped speed up somebody’s spiritual evolution.
Your Family Members are the Best Spiritual Teachers You Can Find
As you can see, it is the karmic connections in the family that have the greatest impact on our spiritual development. And even if it seems like some of our family members cause us suffering and seem to “interfere” with our development, in fact, as a result, all this leads to our spiritual evolution.
Another thing we should remember is that a very highly developed being can incarnate in our family just to create difficulties for us so that we can learn to overcome our own limitations. Therefore, to condemn your loved ones for misunderstanding or allegedly opposing our spiritual development is a very short-sighted view.
You cannot know for sure whether your mother, father, siblings, or other family members is the Bodhisattva or not. However, you should remember that a Bodhisattva has a deeper vision of reality and karmic intricacies. And therefore his/her behavior may not always be understandable, and sometimes it may seem cruel and immoral. But a Bodhisattva’s soul always knows what he/she is doing and acts solely out of compassion.
Therefore, when one of our family members has a disturbing behavior, judges us, criticizes us, or even betrays us, perhaps, we need this lesson in order to learn how to be patient, loving, and compassionate no matter who is standing in front of us.
Family karmic relationships are the best opportunity to work out our limitations and weaknesses.
Are Our Loved Ones Our Enemies From Past Lives?
Some spiritual teachers say that in Kali Yuga, enemies from past lives incarnate in the same families. Moreover, for example, the killer and his victim can be incarnated in the same family.
Why is it necessary? As always, it’s not so that we just suffer. Again, this is necessary for our spiritual evolution. Because with such close interaction, we will simply have to learn how to build a harmonious relationship with a person with whom there were conflicts in past lives.
According to yoga teachings, if we hate someone, we concentrate on this person and thereby sow the seed in our subconscious and form a karmic connection. What’s interesting is that sometimes hatred can form an even stronger karmic connection than love. That is why in the future incarnation the strongest karmic connection will be with those whom we loved or hated in past lives. Often the people around us are divided into those with whom it is easy, simple, and pleasant for us to communicate, and those whom we cannot accept.
Our family members are the people with who we have the strongest karmic connection. This karmic bond can be negative or positive. Both, negative and positive karmic connections, are beneficial for our spiritual development. No connection is accidental and has its purpose. However, looking at the examples, we can conclude that often negative karmic connections has more positive impact on our spiritual development than any others. Moreover, some of our family members could be incarnated Bodhisattvas who came into our lives to teach us to overcome our egos and be more patient, accepting, loving and compassionate.
In any case, it is important to understand that it is impossible to escape from the manifestations of our karma. The only way out is through. Until we learn our karmic lessons, we’ll be repeating them again and again. You can stop talking to your parents or siblings, divorce your husband or wife, abandon your children, but this does not solve the problem. Whatever karmic lesson you need to learn, you will have to learn sooner or later. Yes, it is possible that we will not meet this or that person again in this life, but if we have not passed the karmic lesson, have not worked out some problem, have not untied the karmic knot, then the situation will manifest itself again and and again until the lesson is learned.
Therefore, be grateful for every soul you meet on your path. Pay close attention to those who project negativity towards you and think about what kind of lesson they’re trying to teach you.