Towards understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions Part Eleven : KARMA (Understanding the importance of thoughts)

( “Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”- Richard Bach, in ILLUSIONS )

Among the many factors that determine Karma, THOUGHTS are the most important. What kind of thoughts we have determine everything else in our life.

A popular Indian fable told and retold in different versions, illustrates the importance of thoughts : Two friends, shared a common journey. Along the way, there was a dispute as to where to spend the night. One wanted to spend the night in a temple, and the other wanted to spend the night with a prostitute. They parted ways to rejoin and resume their journey the next day. The one in the temple was having unkind thoughts about his friend, and the one with the prostitute was full of repentence, and was having very high thoughts about his friend who went to the temple. That very night, an earthquake occurred and both the friends died. In the other world, the friend who went to the temple was sent to hell, and the one who went to the prostitute was sent to heaven. The one who spent the night with the prostitute, protested, saying that he was the one who sinned, and the one who spent the night in the temple, should be sent to heaven. He was told the nature of thoughts of both of them – while with the prostitute, he was full of repentence and held very lofty thoughts of his friend, whereas, while in the temple, his friend held very low thoughts about his friend, and self righteous thoughts about himself –  about how right he was in staying back at the temple!

The story illustrates the power of one’s thought. Also, the one who thinks superior of himself or herself, and does not possess humility, somehow relinquishes the right to God’s Grace…. (the rivers of God’s Grace gather in the valley of humility…)

The law of karma helps the evolution of the soul – and each and every thought of ours gathers the powerful effect of good or bad karma which, accumulated over a period of time, becomes “destiny” and “fate” – Hence in essence, it is we who determine our destiny by our thoughts……Which is why, thoughts are held paramount for spiritual progress…..

(to be continued….)

Towards understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions Part Ten : KARMA (the inevitable death)

(There is an interesting Arab story of a servant in Baghdad who goes to the market and gets startled to find the messenger of death looking at him – He then rushes back to his master, and asks for a horse. When the master asks the reason, he tells that the messenger of death is there in the market, and he suspects that he is looking for him, and to avoid him, wants to borrow the master’s horse so that he could go to Samarah, another town, and thereby avoid the messenger of death, and his fate. So saying, he grabs the horse, and mounting it, gallops out of Baghdad to Samarah in full speed. The master then had to go to the market for the provisions himself. He too, saw the messenger of death at the market, and he enquired as to why did the messenger of death startle his servant in the morning. Says the messenger of death, “I was very surprised to see him here at Baghdad because I have an appointment with him at Samarah later today”)

In the Hindu mythology, there is a similar story of how Garuda, after he brings Lord Vishnu to Mount Kailash for a visit, is waiting for the return of Lord Vishnu when his eyes fall on a small bird sitting on the gate of Lord Shiva’s abode. Just as he was admiring the bird, in walks Lord Yama, the God of death – he looks intently at the bird, and goes inside. Garuda, instantly comes to know the reason for Lord Yama’s look – that the bird’s time is up – he then decides to save the bird from its  fateful destiny since Lord Yama had “marked” him by his look, and hence, taking the bird in his arms, flies many hundreds of miles and leaves it next to a pond, and comes back just in time to see Lord Yama come out of Lord Shiva’s abode. Unable to contain his curiosity, Garuda asks Lord Yama as to why he looked at the bird before he went in – Answers Lord Yama : I was surprised to see the bird here, as it’s destiny is to die near a forest pond, swallowed by a snake, hundreds of miles from here”

Both these stories illustrate the inevitability of fate, karma, or destiny.  The law of Karma operates mechanically, with mathematical precision – “justice be done, at any cost” is the theme of Karmic law. It is unrelenting in its pursuit of justice.

But the law of karma operates without fear or favour or prejudice, and is often misunderstood because of its rigidity. This very rigidity has often been adroitly exploited by wise men, saints, astrologers, and others who have learnt to circumvent the law of Karma by satisfying it – the relief one gets may be temporary or permanent, depending on various factors.

Case Study : Shri Z is a clerk in a govt office. He often goes late to office, and is never bothered about his late attendance.  One day, his son was injured in an accident, and he rushed his son to the local govt hospital, where, the doctor was not there. On enquiry, Shri Z learnt that the doctor always comes late. He suffers the late coming of the doctor in painful repentence of his own late coming – his very act of immediate repentence, sets the law of karma in action – the doctor arrives, and saves his son – but the lesson for him is to come to office in time – in future – but has he learnt his lesson? If he mends his ways of coming late to office, he may escape further karma – but if he gets back into the old habit of coming late, another incident may come up where his repentence may NOT work the magic it did earlier.

In this case study, even though the late coming alone of Shri Z seemed to attract the karma of the painful wait for the doctor, other factors such as past karma of Shri Z, his son, and the doctor, will also have a say, and has to be taken into account. It is precisely because of this complexity, that understanding of karma is very difficult and has to be seen always in context.

The law of karma has one basic purpose – to teach some valuable lessons to us. Once we learn the lesson, the effects of the law of karma may become less or sometimes, due to God’s Grace, altogether fades away….

( to be continued….)