Saturday, June 13, 2009

KARMA AND DESTINY - MY UNDERSTANDING

Life continues.... even after the most horrific tragedies, like the one we witnessed on 28th May 2009. The loss of a 22 year old son in a motorcycle accident was a very big blow to the parents, relatives and friends. I had written about this in my previous post, "Life, Astrology and Destiny". Many questioned the existence of God and the seeming injustice, when God is considered to be all merciful..... How can God take away a young son ahead of the older relatives and parents?, specially when the parents are God fearing and have never done any thing wrong or harmed any one in their lives.

These and many other similar doubts are expressed whenever such an incident occurs, and these kind of incidents happen with great regularity in this mortal world. The only sane answer under such circumstances is that it is God's will and that we mortals have no control over these incidents. It is also stated that it is all linked to individual 'karma'.

What is Karma? Most Indians intuitionally understand the 'karma' philosophy. However, it is difficult for people who are more intellectually inclined to translate this into understanding of life and living. Most of us educated people want a scientific explanation of this word, & the philosophy behind this potent word, and how it functions. I too fall under this category and have been/ continue to try to understand this philosophy. My understanding so far is based on my readings, discussions and my own thinking and I am sure I would benefit by inputs from more curious/ knowledgeable others.

As I understand, 'Karma is action'. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction, or thinking of it in another way - every action is a cause for a susequent effect, or reaction. The action could be in the form of thought, word or deed. Thus all my actions, knowingly or unknowingly, create a reaction. Unknowing actions also create karma - an analogy to understand this is taking poison unknowingly - poison will kill whether taken knowingly or unknowingly.

As we continue to live, we indulge in various actions, and each of these actions have a fruition period - from immediate to over a prolonged period. An analogy of poison would help one understand the import of this - immediate effect of poison, like taking cyanide; or a delayed effect of poison like effect of pollution, which takes its toll after many years. Every action thus has a different period after which it becomes ripe and ready for a reaction. We keep accumulating all these karmas over a lifetime; some give their effects during the same lifetime and others keep accumulating for effect in another life time (sanchit karmas). As per Hindu philosophy, the soul never dies; only the body dies. The soul cannot be destroyed and has to be reborn to live through the effects of the accumulated karmas, until it reaches a stage of nil karmas or a stage of zero debit/ credit balance, when it merges with God.

Karma philosophy and re-incarnation are thus inextricably linked. Hindus always believed in re-incarnation, based on the Gita. All other faiths which originated in this part of the planet believe in a very nearly similar philosophy. It is now being accepted by other faiths too that re-incarnation is a reality, as there have been many instances of kids who could re-collect their past lives, and these re-collections have proven to be true. Also, past life regression is a branch of science that is lending credence to the re-incarnation philosophy.

Birth and death are pre-destined, based on our previous karmas. How else would one explain the varying circumstances and attributes with which each one of us is born. God is all merciful and treats every one of us the same way. He would not put any of us in seemingly favourable/ unfavourable circumstances, based on His likes and dislikes. I believe, He has created a karmic system, which dictates our life. His Grace is the same for each one of us, but like the sun it affects us differently, based on our particular circumstances. The same sun affects the people in the plains, mountains and deserts, etc., differently.

We are ourselves responsible for our own karmas and our future lives. Some of us are born in a rich/ poor family, beautiful, handicapped, as Indian/ American/ African, etc., as we are under the effects of previously accumulated different karmas. Similarly, we die under different conditions and circumstances based on our previous karmas and these events are pre-destined, as per my understanding. After our death, our soul, with the entire record of our 'sanchit' karmas is liberated from this body. Due to attachment developed by the soul to this body, the various rituals, including consigning the body to the fire, are performed so that the soul could continue on its evolutionary process without attachments. Our (referring to the soul in this case - the body is like clothes - our soul keeps changing bodies, like our body does clothes) karmas lead us to different planes of existence, beyond earth, some better, some worse. The effect of good karmas lead us to lead a life in what is called heaven to enjoy the fruits of our good karmas and the effect of bad karmas are lived through in lower planes, or hell in common parlance.

Our 'sanchit' karmas are like fixed deposits of different terms. As and when they come to maturity, some of these are bunched together as 'prarabdha karma', for us to be reborn in a body to live through the effect of our karmas. The maturity terms after which these karmas effects are felt are fixed, and thus our birth and death are fixed, and pre-destined. During the lifetime, we live through the effects of our previous karmas. In life, like Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, "what you meet in life is destiny, how you meet it is self effort" (karma). So, in short karma is in our control and these karmas are what are going to decide our future destiny, if we continue to consider ourselves to be the Doers. This is one important point.

It is believed that in case one does all work as His, without any thought of the fruits thereof, then this kind of karma does not bind and does not create any further destiny.