The Invincible Law of Karma
Every action has a reaction which creates a chain of follow up actions. What you sow is what you reap, though you sow one seed and it grows into a thousand new seeds, which further give rise to new seeds and new trees. This is the eternal law of karma. There is a cause for every effect and every effect has a cause. We may be able to see the cause, and it is equally possible that we may never be able to recall it. This is due to the inability of our mind; we are so restricted in the knowledge held by the brain! Our brain does not remember most of the actions of this life, what to say of knowing or recalling our past karmas.
No one can evade, mould or change this all-powerful ‘Law of Karma’. It is not easy to fully understand how it functions, but let us make an attempt to know how it works. Every action has a route which it follows. Our subconscious carries the sum total of all our desires, passions, good and bad experiences, which we carry with us from our numerous past lives. Our defeats, victories, pain, pleasures and all our animal instincts are embedded in it. At the top are innumerable unfulfilled desires and hopes which are waiting to raise their head.
Shaping of Karma
Now here is the process you need to understand: First the samskaras trigger the thought and then the thought matures into desire. This may happen with or without any outer stimulation. As this desire arises, it gets more attention or afflictions of our attachments, the deeper it gets. With time, it is further strengthened and then it changes into sankalpa (the conviction to achieve the object). When this conviction matures, it converts into action or karma.
This is the theory of how deep-rooted samskaras or impressions shape our thoughts, convert them into desire, and desire into conviction, till finally the action takes place. The whole process may happen in just a fraction of a second or even in lesser time! Do you have any idea how many trillions upon trillions of samskaras are lying in your subconscious? And consequently how many wishes and desires are lying unfulfilled in the deep recesses of your mind?
While strolling on the road, one sees scores of men, women, girls and boys. The mind registers all these faces and keeps making a non- stop commentary on them. Standing by the road and seeing the traffic pass by, how active your mind is! Seeing flashy cars, the desire to own one arises. A beautiful woman passes by and your heart aches with desire for her. Watching television has become a fixed ritual for modern men and women; seeing the glamorous lifestyles of actors and actresses on screen, how eager your mind gets to have it all. One wishes to go to all those wonderful places, have sex with that curvaceous woman seen on TV, get coveted acclaim & recognition. The name, fame, glory and glitter of the silver screen lures the mind in a myriad ways. People living in an ultra-modern society want to have it all, see it all, do it all.
Know this that samskaras have the ability to take the shape of thought leading to desire, leading to conviction, and finally leading to action. Whether that action will be good or bad, and what would be its consequence, is a different story.
Fruits of Karma
Upanishads say that every action will bear a fruit, which is of two types: one part is the happiness or pain experienced right there, in that moment; the second part remains hidden and gets added to the bank of other past karmas – it becomes a part of our ‘sanchit karma’ i.e. the accumulated karmas of innumerable past lives. We are not new on this earth – we have been born here many times, and in each life we made a home, had a family, had some kind of livelihood, had friends and enemies. We were never idle even in the past births – we were doing something (good or bad) and every action that we did is going to bear some fruit.
The law says that if you do an evil action, the fruit will be dukha or pain, and if you do a pious karma then the fruit is sukha or happiness. Well, no one wishes for dukha, yet we experience pain in our lives. The question is why? Yes, we do not wish dukha, yet we do get it. It is because of our lust, greed, ego, anger and attachments. We do so many actions, and though we justify our actions as valid, sometimes in reality they are not.
The police catch criminals and the courts punish them for their heinous crimes of theft, burglary, murder, rape, arson and loot. But has anyone ever been arrested for anger, lust, ego or greed? The answer is a big no! But aren’t these vices the very reasons for a person’s criminal act? Society punishes a person after the act has been committed and the person has been caught. But in the court of dharma, when you do an evil act, you are punished in two ways: one part of fruit is received on the spot in the form of the turmoil felt by the mind, the anguish, palpitation, rise in blood pressure, the agitation and frustration of the mind. And the other part of fruit gets deposited in the bank of past karmas, which in due course of time causes pain, dukha, diseases, losses or unfortunate situations in life.
Types of Karma
Vedas say that all actions are of two types: dharma and adharma. Actions that are endorsed by seers are dharma and those which are forbidden are adharma. Servitude, donation, charity, penance, japa, chanting, compassion and humility are all dharma. And all actions arising from lust, greed, anger, revenge and ego are adharma. Dharma will give you happiness and adharma will give you pain. This means that if one’s actions are of adharma, then it may be pleasurable at that moment, but later on the fruit will be of pain. And dharmic actions might seem unattractive but give purity, clarity and happiness in the end.
Suppose you are served delicious food which looks good to the eyes, smells good and tastes good too, but is laced with a slow poison. And on the other hand is the food which is nutritious but not as inviting to the senses. Which one would you prefer? Most of the time, a person who is a slave of the senses will prefer the first type without realizing that the end result would be pain.
The wise ones have said that karma is of three types - sanchit, kriyaman and agami. Sanchit karma are those which we did in the past, kriyaman are those which we are doing now in the present moment, and agami karma are those which we will do in the future. Man, driven by his weaknesses, mental afflictions and vices, performs karma without thinking about their consequences. And when pain and failure result, he blames God for his misfortunes without realizing that it is his own past karma punishing him in the present moment.
This is the story of all human beings – they wish for instant gratification of the senses and do not wish to think about the fruits of their actions. The wise ones think deeply and then make the right choices. Today it may not seem to be a thing of deep concern, but indeed it is. Actions of dharma and adharma are going to shape your mind and further desires, then these desires will propel actions leading to the fruits of action. What happens is that an uncontrolled mind gets motivated to act irresponsibly and then suffers from the ill-effects of its own actions.
All About Destiny
Your destiny is nothing but the sum total of your past actions. The past is gone but you have this moment in your hand. Every action you do now shapes your future. But what about the past karma that are going to reward or punish you? Can we do something about them today? The answer is no! Those fruits will come to you and you will have to accept them. No one can run away from his or her karma – no one! This seems really depressing, isn’t it? Do not feel sad for there is a ray of hope. Read on.
The present moment is in our hands, and by acting responsibly we can use it to bring about a total transformation in our lives. If one performs pious deeds, serves all, is compassionate and generous – in other words if we do pious deed, it will prove to be a great leveler and will slowly bring down the adverse effects of past karma.
The theory of karma says that doing pious deeds will slowly scale down the effects of negative karmas, bringing them at par and more in favor of dharma. As dharma begins to dominate a person’s life, new and positive developments begin to take place. One gets opportunities of being blessed by pious souls and sages. As the Ramayana says, when good karma fructifies, only then the chance of meeting a sage or rishi is possible. And the chance of meeting a sage means an opportunity to not only be blessed but also to receive wisdom and the tools of evolvement that enable one come out of the cycle of karma.
The Bhagavad Gita says that the power of good karma makes a person a deserving candidate for receiving higher knowledge, which will bring forth a whole new approach to living one’s life in dharma. Good and bad actions happen through the mind with a sense of ‘I’ being the doer. As long as the doer is there, one or another kind of karma will keep on happening. And every karma creates bondage – if bad karma is like an iron handcuff, then pious karma is a handcuff made of gold. Both bind you and keep you in the whirlpool of samsara. One has to understand the truth that mind- senses-body are entities totally different from the ‘self’ which is beyond these corporeal elements. Once you begin to understand who you really are and cultivate distance & discrimination, all actions will happen without binding you. When karma is performed with the sense of being a ‘non-doer’ while being on the righteous path, then the person transgresses the cycle of karma.
The real self is unknown and this self-ignorance binds man. Once we understand the real self then life is lived while witnessing it. The present moment is lived in the spirit of a non-doer and the past karmas or sanchit karma get burnt in the fire of gyana (true knowledge) and then what is left is kriyaman karma. Such a person with his new-found wisdom has great patience and tolerance, and accepts the fruits of his karma without discrimination.
Try to understand it like this: A person has some arrows in his basket, one arrow has been mounted on the bow and one has already been shot. This person can destroy the arrows in his basket, he can withdraw the arrow that has been mounted on the bow, but he can do nothing about the arrow that has been shot. The arrows in the basket are sanchit karma, the one on the bow is agami karma and the arrow that has been shot is kriyaman karma. The Bhagavad Gita says that we can destroy our sanchit karma with gyana and samadhi, the present actions can be performed as a non-doer, but the fruits of actions which are functional in the present moment cannot be wiped out. Remember that this statement is applicable only to a realized person. For an ignoramus, even sanchit karma work alongwith kriyaman karma!
We are responsible for our actions and the results of our actions. When one’s actions are motivated by ill, evil, negativity, one doesn’t even realize what one is doing. But when the fruits of karma fall in the lap, then the person either suffers meekly or is angry, dejected and agitated.
Impressions (samskaras) and unfulfilled desires are the root of all the wrongs in a man’s life. Only if the root i.e. agyana (ignorance) is eradicated with true knowledge, can one live a life filled with happiness and contentment.