Doctrine of Karma (Part II)

N Balasubramanian

How does this re-birth of beings take place is explained by another well-founded “doctrine of Karma” which is the cause and effect relationship. Cause & effect must be equal. Like the smallest pebble thrown into water causing a ripple effect, however short-lived, so also, all our thoughts, desires, emotions and actions must produce results  appropriate to cause i.e. thoughts, desires, actions etc. 

Cause cannot be expiated without production of their effects. Therefore, thoughts, desires and actions are imperishable until production of their results. That is to say that these can be expiated only by experiencing their results. This is perfectly in harmony with all laws of nature, laws of conservation of energy, laws of cause & effect relationship and laws of evolution viz  birth, growth, decay and dissolution.

Thoughts, desires and actions give effect  to one’s character formation. This is beautifully explained by the great Indian thinker Rajaji, thus: “Every motion of the mind deals a stroke with chisel and mallet whether one wants it or not, on one’s own character and its evolution is made better or worse thereby. If I think evil today, I think it more readily and persistently tomorrow and likewise is it with good thoughts. If I control or calm myself, it becomes more spontaneous, more easy next time; and this goes on progressively." Thus, when one dies and body cremated or buried, the essences of the elements constituting body and organs loaded with  “characteristics” (gunas) acquired during  life-time devolves into a subtle body enveloping Soul inside it. This subtle body with Soul inside evolves and gives birth to a new gross body in an environment suitable for its further growth from where it had left off the previous body. Thus, cycle of birth and death goes on endlessly. The individual soul loaded with gunas continues its journey of evolution from where it had left off when severing from the previous body. Karma Doctrine states that Re-birth takes place in an environment  appropriate to take forward  from where  desires, thoughts, emotions and actins of previous birth  has been evolved upto. In other words, you reap what you have sown and you will reap what you now sow. This is just and proper, in accordance with Laws of Nature. Evolution from subtle to a gross body is described thus in scriptures: Soul takes two paths viz  to the world of Manes and to the world of Gods, for expiation of fruits of action merited in the previous birth. After enjoying or suffering the fruits of action in the respective worlds, the Soul descends to earth by the same path it ascended. The descent of soul is described by Adi Sankara thus: Path of descent: Space, Air, Smoke, Vapor, Cloud, Rains, Food, Progenitor eating the food, womb of his partner. In this way, the enveloped soul which departed at the time of death, ascends and then descends to earth taking re-birth in such environment appropriate for experiencing its residual karmas (fruits of actions that can be experienced only on earth)

Stronger and intense thoughts, desires, experiences are, deeper is the impressions or characteristics (gunas) formed and greater is the need to expiate these by experiencing in repeated births. Therefore, the highest perfection, the fullest evolution of man is to be desire-less and ego-less, to be just living the present dispassionately so that there would not be need to expiate any kind of fruits of action, virtuous or evil. Desireless & egoless, layers of desires, thoughts, emotions and actions veiling the illumination of Pure consciousness, are un-covered and the Self-within is revealed un-exerted.

Karma Doctrine makes man accountable to his deeds and most importantly gives him his chance of redemption instead of abruptly condemning him to hell or suspending him in heaven for eternity. By putting  the onus of evolution on man by making man master of his destiny, all the in-equalities, injustice, suffering, and all sorts of contradictions we see and experience in the world become the work of man himself, thus also up-holding the God Principle, namely, a Just and a merciful God.

Is Karma doctrine justifying fatalism? If mind and intellect are considered as end in itself and confused for self, then inherited characteristics “Vasanas” will influence perception and actions. Whether or not to accept meekly the course of events to be determined by the inherited characteristics, resigning to fate, will depend upon your ability to make mind transparent and receptive to inner voice of pure consciousness instead of to the influenced thoughts and acquired characteristics of mind. Evolution of plant and animal kingdoms depend solely upon natural impulses, but not so for man who is gifted with mind and intellect to quicken his evolution by using his discriminating intellect, by either advancing his good tendencies or curbing the bad ones. Man is thus given freedom to work his destiny. To refute the charge of fatalism it is apt to cite what the lord of death said to Nachiketa in Katha Upanishad;

“All men have the choice of engaging in either Sreyah, i.e. the good and virtuous or Preya i.e. the pleasurable ones. Both these are different, rather opposed to each other in their goals. The bold and the intelligent ones choose the good and virtuous & the dull heads due to lack of discrimination choose the path of pleasurable. The former reach the good while the later come to grief.”

What is the difference between a Jnyani and an Avatara? In so far as the highest perfection is concerned, both are same – desireless and egoless. However, Jnyani has attained perfection through evolution but Avatara purusha has not gone through evolution. Secondly, while there is no reason required for a Jnyani to exist, an Avatara purusha has a purpose to serve, namely, the establishment of righteousness by vanquishing un-righteousness. Lastly, Avatara purusha is a divine manifestation in a physical form, even endowed with mystical powers for a definite predetermined purpose. Jnyani is an evolved human being with no mission or zeal for his existence.

It is important to understand the logic of how inherited gunas i.e. vasanas, i.e. our characteristics or impulses, affect our perception and actions. After receiving sensations of sense organs conveyed through the nerves, mind makes sense of these sensations by comparing and categorising and evaluating with its accumulated experiences and knowledge stored in memory and then perception, ideation, cognition etc takes place. All knowledge and experiences – past and present life - make impressions and are stored in memory for reference of mind and intellect as and when needed. Past experiences & knowledge remain stored in the sub-conscious mind in latent state and is drawn upon whenever needed by conscious mind and intellect. As proof of this, following facts are cited:

1.       Even a new born child exhibits joy, pain, anger.

2.       The suckling instinct of a new born child.

3.       Saints Gnanadev and Adi Sankara knew Vedas and Upanishads and Shastras in their early boyhood.

4.       Even a born blind, deaf & dumb person experience seeing, hearing & speaking in their dreams.

5.       Even a born blind, instinctly turns about to see you when you tap him from behind.

6.       So many boy geniuses called prodigies in all fields could not have acquired their expertise in this life time only

7.       The universal idea of immortality – No ideation without a basis of previous experience or knowledge.

How does a Jnyani benefit mankind? By living the life of love, compassion and enlightenment, Jnyani is a great source of inspiration for emulation by mankind and the seeds of love, compassion and enlightenment sown by him will grow to fruition and thus benefit mankind even after Jnyani’s lifetime.

N Balasubramanian is an old time honours graduate in economics and has vast experience and expertise in human relations and resources development. A devotee of Sage of Kanchi - Maha Swamigal, N Balasubramanian is living a quiet and meditative life based upon the Guru's teachings. An avid reader of philosophy in his younger years, he wholly devotes his energies presently, in discovering insights and practical wisdom from ancient Indian scriptures. Based upon his understanding of Acharya's discourses and writings on spirituality, N Balasubramanian shares these thoughts on to just provoke your thoughts and kindle your interest in spirituality and philosophy.

Comments powered by Disqus