The Law of Karma has been often misunderstood as the Law of Destiny. There is indeed a lot of difference between the Law of Karma and the Law of Destiny. Had our Law of Karma been equal to the Law of Destiny, the Hindu civilization would have been long ago ended like the Roman or the Egyptian civilization. The Law of Destiny has a corroding effect upon the human heart and in a short time it renders its followers to be more in-effectual lotus-eaters. If a nation depends entirely upon the Law of Destiny to guide it, it shall fall and become a country of narrow-minded, inactive animals.
On the other hand, a people believing in the Law of Karma and who live up to it become a generation of spiritual giants and dynamic citizens. The Law of Karma is based upon the final conclusion that this life is not an end in itself but is just one of the little incidents in the Eternal Existence of each of us. Among us, each one is a type and has a life different from the other. The destiny of one is obviously different from that of the other. Had this been the very first and the last of our births; we should have had a more uniformity of experience in life.
Let us suppose that we have just ‘fallen’ from Truth or Reality into this momentous and calamitous misunderstanding, then we should not have such a dissimilar scheme, of each Ego living its own life of special joys and woes. When we enquire, with the causes of great differences among human beings we are driven to the conclusion that, having risen from different ’causes.’ each of us should manifest as a different ‘effect.’ Effects depend upon their causes. This life in which we are living is only one of our incar-nations. We have had many incarnations in the past, and probably, many more shall come to our lot. From birth to death and from death to birth, the whirl goes on, but we do not appreciate it or understand it because we are viewing life from a very circumscribed point of view.
We think that fife means the period spent by us between our birth and our death. and what we see and experience around during this interval is life. Supposing there hangs a picture painted on a canvas. In order to see the entire picture painted on it, we have to step back to some distance, and only then can we see the entire view, the rhythm of the colours, the beauty of the curves, etc. Similarly, when Life is viewed, in its nearer perspective, we find that it is illogical, unrhythmic, etc. In detachment we will have to move away from our present Life to view the whole Life and understand it as such.
Some of us blame the Creator for our unfortunate lives, and despair by saying ‘it is all our FATE.’ You should understand that there is a Rhythm in the Universe, in that the planets ‘move’ regularly, the stars ‘ride their appointed paths, etc. Everywhere there is the Law of Rhythm, and everything conforms to that Law. Only when we come to the subject of Life, we say “there is no Rhythm and there is no logic or system in it.”
It is not so. We are the various ‘effects’ rising from different ’causes.’ The ’causes’ being different, the ‘effects’ are different. Thus, each of our actions of the past has its own reactions, and each of us must have a treasure-house of the entire-past-actions. This is called the Sancita Karma. We all should understand that at the end of living the ‘fruits’ allotted for the life are called Prarabdha; on departing, each should take the next form ac-cording to the pattern ordained by the ripened ones in our total Sancita Karma
Let me explain it more clearly. Suppose I have a piece of land divided into plots. In one, I plant coconut seedlings, in the second seeds of lady’s-finger and in the third mango seeds. In order to germinate, grow and yield fruit, each seed would take its own time. This is very well known to us. Similarly, each of our action has got its own time limit for its fruition. Every action has got its own reaction; certain actions give their reactions immediately, while others will provide their reactions only after an inter-val.
To enjoy and suffer the reactions of the past actions, each of us need certain joys and sorrows, and in order to bring forth these required experiences, each must have a definite ‘field’ of his own experiences. The word Loka does merely indicate its generally accepted meaning: the world. Loka means the special world in which I live my own inner experiences, the external world-of-objects remaining almost the same for all. Loka etymologically means a field of experience.
Again, people misunderstand the real meaning of Prarabdha when they take the word to mean all the failure, impotence and weakness in them. If we are to be guided by this delusion, the Prarabdha, in every act of ours, there is no room for self-improvement through self-effort. There are some who console themselves by saying that, ‘I have no faith or love in God, and it is my ‘Prarabdha.’ This is a defeatist mentality. So far as we entertain and live in a defeatist mentality we cannot expect any progress. Without a personal morale we cannot work for our progress.
From where does this Purusartha come in if Prarabdha orders every action? That we have been given by the Divine Being a limited freedom is the truth. For example, we cannot bend a piece of rail as it is, but supposing this rail-piece is beaten out and made into a chain, the rail-matter be-comes very easily pliable. Similarly, when a cow is tied to a rope in the centre of a pasture land, she is not free to graze the entire field but she can move freely within that circle drawn by that rope. • Similarly, man, though he has taken his body to live a fixed Prarabdha, can reach the Supreme Goal of life by living the freedom allowed to him from moment to moment.
No doubt, we have come here into this world to enjoy and suffer for certain of our past Karrnas, through the circumstances ordered by our Prarabdha. And there is provision for us to discriminate and act rightly. For example, is there not a certain amount of freedom in choosing whether we should go to a cinema or a Satsang? Every moment in our life there is a challenge posed by these lines: ‘Shall I do this or shall I do that.’ There are two ways to deal with each challenge. Two distinct paths are open to us – the Path of the Good and the Path of the Pleasant. We find ourselves from moment to moment standing at the junction of these two paths. Often we are at a loss to decide which path to pursue. There is a tussle between Satan and God in us at such a moment of trial. By adopting the Path of the Pleasant, man cannot get, in the long run, his full satisfaction. This is the experience of all. One who has adopted the path of the Good gains peace of mind. Slowly, the former, under the impact of repeated disappointments, comes to think that he should go through the Path of the Good.
The mind is made up of a soft matter, as it were. As each thought passes through it, an ‘impression’ is left, on the mind-stuff like a scratch and when similar thoughts are repeated, it deepens into a canal. Every subsequent thought wave has got a tendency to flow through that ready-made thought-canal. Thus, if the impression or the canal made is of good thought-waves, then a good character is maintained and strengthened by the subsequent thought-waves flowing irresistibly in that direction.
Let us take an example and examine the working of the mind. If you have got a tendency to get angry and want to nut out that tendency you should first of all feel sorrowful or repentant about it. Then you will have already suppressed the anger to some extent. Of course, pent-up anger will burst forth at a later date if you merely suppress ti. But, if you be intelligent, you should divert that anger-energy into some other profitable direction. You should not succumb to the anger-weakness, meekly saying, “It is my Prarabdha.”
Carve out a new canal in your mind with repeated good thought-waves. Repeat to yourself, ‘I love all,’ I am very very tolerant.’ Go on repeating the self-suggestive thoughts, ‘I am kind,’ I will never get angry,’ I am tolerant,’ etc., and in a very short time, you will observe that you have no anger at all in your mental make-up. First of all, you should cognize things. Be aware of your weakness. Be fully aware of them. Man is his mind. He is the very composition of his mind. When one performs some actions, repeatedly, one’s mind gets fixed with certain impressions. It is in a world of reactions related to the outer world-of-objects that we live. The quality of one’s experiences depends upon the quality of the mind which one brings up to undergo the experience. The mind, being what it is, is ordered and set by the various impressions, it has gathered in its different transactions in Life. Thus, when we control and chasten the motives and thoughts in the mind, we purify it. Each moment of our life, we are not only living the fruits of the past actions, but also creating those for tomorrow. Each moment we are pre-paring ourselves for the lives yet to come. Prarabdha is caused by the actions done in the past It is only the very self-effort of the past. So, if our Prarabdha be a sorrowful one now, let us do such acts today so that we can now determine or order a happier life for us in the future.
The Law of Destiny does not ex plain to us how, even while we live the preordained and Prarabdha-controlled pattern of circumstances, we can have in the immediate moments a freedom to create afresh. This idea is not explained in the Law of Destiny. So it shatters our morale and a soul-killing defeatist mentality comes to choke us. It takes away the fire, the enthusiasm, the grit in Man and makes him a dull inactive individual, a mere dumb animal
A happier morrow is built up only when we live today a Life Divine. Religion has been asking us to entertain and live such values of life so that while living them we shall be creating an ordered life of fuller joys for the morrow. Not only in this life but also in the next life we shall be able to enjoy the fruits of our Divine actions. Use the main righteous path; avoid the by-lanes, the narrow, thorny, unrighteous path. We must start and constantly keep on to the right path, to reach the Supreme, our Goal. If our course be in the right direction, then we shall certainly reach in time, our destination, the Supreme.
Yet another way of looking at it and coming to the same conclusion is by reviewing life in the light of Time-flow, wherein the future, through the present, is ever becoming the past. Anything that is now in the future must in time arrive to become the present—and erelong should pass on to be the past.
We have already said that human intellect cannot rest without seeking the cause of things. This causation-hunting-urge in us is not generally investigated into seriously and thoroughly, by the students. If we do so, we shall discover certain facts in it which shall reveal to us the inner meaning and the deeper significances of the Law of Karma.
From the seed the tree comes: the seed is the cause, and the tree is the effect. From cotton the cloth is made: cotton is the cause, and cloth is the effect. Now, in all conceivable examples the cause is, like the father of a child, anterior, and the effect, like the child born, posterior, with reference to time: father was in existence before the son was born. Cause is thus that which was, and the effect is that which is. The past causes the present; the present will, therefore, cause the future!
In short, it is, therefore, said that the future is not a mystery—an un-known miracle that man must wait for its stunning revelations. The past modified in the present alone is the future. The things to come are not ordered by a mere continuity of the past it can never be. This freedom to modify the past, and thereby create a future, for the better or for the worse, is Purusartha: self-effort.
To illustrate: if down a river, running at 2 miles an hour, a log is floating, then it will also move at the same weed at which the river flows. But supposing, the log is fitted with a motor and manned by an intelligent driver; the log will have an independent movement of itself—no doubt, conditioned by the flow of the river. When the speedometer shows 10 miles an hour, the log will move 12 miles in an hour down the river, and only 8 miles an hour, if it is moving up stream. The flow of the river will always be there; but due to the machine and the intelligence of the driver, the log has developed a limited freedom’ of movement now.
Similarly, the plant and the animal kingdoms, like the log that floats down, irresistibly in the flood of the past, move, directed and guided by their natural instincts and mere impulses. But on reaching the human level, man acquires his reasoning capacity and is a captain in his discriminative faculty. Using these two, he can steer the ship of his life safely to his destination—the Goal, the Ideal.
Viewed carefully the present in itself has no existence; it is a mingling of the past and the future…the passage of the future to the past is the present. The living present is at once the tomb of the past and the womb of the future. This tomb-womb present has roots going deep into the past and branches spreading around everywhere into the future.
To consider, therefore, that the present is but a product of the past (Prarabdha) is undignified; to recognise then that the future is but a product of the present (Purusartha) is unintelligent. There is no slavery; nor is there full freedom. There is a limited freedom, which, if intelligently used, can redeem us from all entanglements.
Thus, the Law of Karma when correctly understood is the greatest force of vitality in Indian philosophy. It makes us the architects of our own future. We are not helpless pawns in the hands of a mighty tyrant—God, who, it is believed, has created us so weak and tearful to lead our lives of limitations and pains. If we are weak or sorrowful it is all because of our own wilful actions. In our ignorance, we in the past had pursued certain negative values of life, and like a Frankenstein, their fruits have come up now to give us the pattern of circumstances we are living today.
Never mind. Take heart. By living rightly today, the Divine values of love, kindness, tolerance, mercy, etc., we shall order a nobler pattern for our future. By careful self-policing, detect the wrong tendencies in us. Eliminate them through constant and wilful effort. Develop Positivity and thus come to be the God of your own future life. Be a GOD!