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Karma and the Memory connection!

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Karma! sounds a bit philosophical and even spiritual but before we get to Karma lets talk about memory first. What is memory? Not just the memory that reminds us the grocery list, someone's name or our childhood crush, you know, the kind of memory we commonly associate with. We are a silo of memory, so much so that each and every cell is drenched in memory. Lets look into the different kinds of memory which we possess.

First and foremost the most important and critical memory which we possess and hardly heed to is the Genetic Memory or inherited memory. We all are born with it and is programmed into every cell of our body in the form of DNA. How else does our heart know how to beat, stomach and intestines know how to digest, take the food we eat and convert into energy amongst other things, lungs know how to breathe. It is all inbuilt and we hardly ever stop and think about this layer of memory. So this kind of memory is an accumulated past.

Past actions can only exist in the form of memory!

If past actions can only exist in the form of memory, isn’t it imperative that we condition

ourself well to shape our thoughts from which our conscious actions stem from?

Next is the Epigenetic memory. Epigenetics, which means “in addition to changes in genetic sequence” or simply put what gets added onto the existing genes and leads to its modification. The memory which we get after we are born and becomes part of the genetic memory. The Environment we are born into, nature, nurture, culture etc all contributes to our epigenetic memory. Imagine our DNA as a switch with an inbuilt program but what turns these switches on and off is heavily influenced by epigenetics. 

Research on rats showed that licking, grooming, and nursing methods that mother rats use with their pups can affect the long-term behavior of their offspring. Maternal solicitude changes the structure of DNA, triggering an uptick in the recycling of the neurotransmitter serotonin and the up-regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor. These changes have a profound impact on the offspring's ability to deal with stress. It enables them to sense and tamp down the production of stress hormones in response to an external event a lot quicker if the mother's stress hormones were fairly stable during pregnancy. The opposite is sadly true as well!

Thanks to the epigenetic changes in the hippocampus, a brain region that helps

transform emotional information into memory, epigenetics play a

significant role in our memory formation.

The final layer is the one which we commonly associate our memory with and the one which we are primarily aware of. Memory based on knowledge and the information we gather (consciously or subconsciously). Knowledge/Information acquired through schooling, observing, listening, understanding, watching; all of which are accumulated with and through our sensory organs. Information gathered through our sense organs, gets assimilated in our mind and gets stored in our memory and available for retrieval as knowledge. Stronger the experience, stronger the memory. Stronger the memory, stronger is the retrieval of knowledge associated with a certain memory.

Each memory has an emotion associated with it and emotions are the end product of past experiences dug up from all three layers of memory. Put all of these memories together and add a dash of intelligence and we get what we call personality or in other words prakriti. Which tells us what is right, what is wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral, how to conduct ourselves. From this personality we form likes and dislikes; raaga, dveshas. We like this, we do not like that. We like him/her but we do not like him/her and hence to some extent attachments. Attachment to something or someone. This leads to Shreya and Preya. What we would like to do but what we rather (want) do. We would like to wake up early and go for a run or do yoga but the bed is so cozy we rather snuggle up and sleep.

We generate thoughts or Vrithis based on the memories discussed thus far which developed our personality. These thoughts over the course of time give rise to a certain feeling, feelings lead to a certain emotion, emotions leads to behaviour, and all of these manifest into an ACTION or simply put KARMA. So, for me personally, Karma is nothing but the accumulation of these three layers of memory or rather result of these memories!

What makes a person behave/act in a certain way is dependent on what happens in the brain/body, seconds (Neurotransmitters), minutes (Hormones), days, years or even what influence does generations worth of culture, nature, nurture and evolution have on an individual's thoughts, behaviour and finally their actions and all of this is pre and re-programmed into us in form of memories. So be it genetic, epigenetic or acquired through our senses.

So Memory has a profound impact on karma. Now lets look into what exactly constitutes as an action for this karma to manifest? That's coming up!

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