KARMA – Towards Understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions…..Part NINE (Karma – Cause and effect)

(The great physicist Sir Isaac Newton discovered that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” – This third law of Newton is best explained by a rifle firing a shot and the rifle recoiling – however, the recoil is not so huge as the firing of the bullet since the mass of the rifle bears down upon the recoiling acceleration. Even though various forces such as mass, density, volume, gravity, etc act and influence on the physical nature of a substance when it is subjected to the laws of physics, the fact that there is a reaction for every action, could never be ignored…..)

The third law of Sir Isaac Newton, when applied in the world of metaphysics and life, becomes, the LAW OF KARMA. Boy George’s song of two decades back, titled, “Karma Chameleon” is a good definition of Karma’s effect on individuals, since Karma “changes” the personality of a person according to the weight and intensity of the karma, good, bad or neutral.

The Hindu way of thinking is deeply entrenched in the belief of Karma. “What one sows, one reaps” is the central thought of such belief. Among the various definitions of Karma and the theories of Karma, the simplest understanding of Karma is conveyed well by the law of Cause and effect.

Karma is nothing but the law of Cause and effect acting on our lives. We reap what we sow. But such simple definitions are able to give us only the basic understanding of Karma. Even though the concept of Karma is simple, its functioning is very complex. And understanding Karma in its fullest sense is very difficult for any of us since our ego does not easily permit understanding and knowledge to blossom from suffering. But then, to overcome the ego and understand Karma is to unlock the mystery of life, and living itself.

Karma is of many types. Sanchita Karma is the stockpile of karma from many lives – Prarabdha Karma is the karma that we have undertaken to undergo in this life. An apt analogy would be : A bank Account. Just as we have a bank account, and we take small amounts of the bank account in daily doses, and when we don’t exhaust the entire amount withdrawn for a day, put it back in the account, similarly, the Sanchita Karma of an individual lies in the Karma Account of that individual – and for each life, he/she withdraws a particular amount of Karma for spending in that life – according to the will of the person, the karma gets expended – if the Prarabdha Karma is exhausted much before one’s lifetime, one can even withdraw from the larger Sanchita Karma Account and spend it in this life or, if by that person’s will, the karma does not get expended much, at the end of that life, that person puts it back into the Sanchita Karma account, as the case may be.

Even though the analogy is simple, the working is not. In this diverse world, the complex interlinking of the karma of various individuals is done at various levels, that if one looks at the overall picture, one understands that NOTHING happens by chance.

Case studies can help the understanding of the complex concept of karma, better.  A certain individual, used to steal pen/pencil/papers/ etc from the tables of his colleagues in office. Many a time, the colleagues will suffer the tension of having lost something like a pen or pencil because of the activities of this individual. But nobody suspected that he was the cause of this problem, and he himself guarded this truth safely from others. But every time someone lost something, he used to secretly feel happy and he derived a sadistic pleasure out of it. This went on for years, and one day, suddenly, he had kept a bag containing a few lakhs on the table, and somebody had stolen it! Karma, had caught up with him. Like that, in quick succession, he lost a number of things – he kept lamenting, and when he confronted his own self one day, he was distraught with what was happening. And yet, he could never understand that he was the victim of his own Karma when he used to filch small things like pens and pencils. But, the question arises, whether the loss of a pen or a pencil and the loss of a few lakhs of rupees be the same? On the face of it, it appears that a losing a pencil and losing a few lakhs are two different things. But if we take into account the pain that is caused when one loses the pencil or money, it is the same. So, the pain is the same even though the physical value of each, differs. The law of Karma would not be bothered about how big or small the value is – it only sees that the pain of losing a few lakhs of rupees equals the pain of losing a pen/pencil – for if the person loses a pencil or a pen, he may not feel the intensity of pain that was originally felt by the person who lost the pen/pencil – thus, the law of Karma has to be understood in its entirety and by the amount of pain/pleasure caused, and not by physical or material value.

Karma can also be interpreted in terms of astrology, and astrology is often  used to manipulate/deviate/regulate/lessen/escape from Karma. But such use of astrology without understanding and unlocking the actual reason as to why the Karma is there in the first place, actually increases the overall karmic burden of an individual, even if it is lessened by astrological tools in this life…..

                                                                Even animals have Karma…..

(To be continued….)

Mass Karma – the thread that links different lives

Some years back, I was traveling in Train No.6602 Mangalore – Chennai Mail when the train plunged into the Kadalundi river near Calicut, killing 52 persons. Even though I miraculously escaped, I could never sleep in peace for months/years thereafter. Many times I woke up with nightmares of the scenes I had witnessed during the accident. Even though I had no time to think while helping the many passengers in the heavy rain at that time, I also happened to witness many a heart wrenching scene. There was this young couple whose one and a half year old child had drowned. Then there was this Gulf returned youth who was visiting his parents after many years in the gulf – His relatives were asking as to why they had to wait for so many years to receive him at the airport just some hours back, only to see him die in that accident. Then there was this colleague of mine, Shri Gangadaran, who gave lunch to me that very afternoon – and in the evening, he was dead. Like this, there were many stories which I found very moving and touching.

I often wondered – Why should persons who have no connection at all with someone else, die together in a tragedy? I also heard of a story where some passenger, who was booked to travel by this train, was delayed heavily by some strange events at a temple – he was cursing his fate that he was wasting his hard earned money by not boarding the train and the next day, he saw the news and was relieved that he lost only money and not his life.

But all this, had set me thinking on the lines of Karma – I could understand individual karma where something happens to a person because of his past karma. But it took me quite some time to understand that the individual karma of many persons can combine to produce mass karma – and similar individual karmas somehow get together.

It was then, that I realized that almost everything in this world can be explained through the Law of Karma. Even a person who “heads” an organization carries the load of organizational Karma – and he/she also transmits his/her Karma to the organization, and vice versa.

The good and bad karma need not necessarily reflect the present personality – for example, a very evil person may experience a lot of good things even after doing evil because he/she may have a very good Karma from the past – and a very good person may suffer a lot because of previous bad karma – so the present personality is rendered irrelevant unless a person reaches a point in his/her life where the good karma equals bad – I believe such points are achieved by every individual – and such points in one’s life are some of the best periods – for marriage, new job, death of a relative, for a new venture, for remolding life, for a transfer, etc.

Karma guides various individuals in various time/space spheres – and at some place, one’s individual karma may overlap another – when this happens, mass karma is attracted. A group of individuals, who otherwise would have never traveled by Mangalore – Chennai mail, came together by the power of Karma – they traveled together by the power of Karma – their collective mass karma acted upon the various factor and the tragedy took place when the mass karma assumed the right proportion – Perhaps the place also has karma – the accident could have happened anywhere – why Kadalundi? – The answer lies in the karma that the place carries. (It is said that there is a small circle, with a diameter of about a feet, in a temple in Cannanore, Kerala, that has never seen death – this was a King’s wish which was granted by the Lord ) The combination of an individual’s karma with that of the place, jointly decide the person’s fate. In an accident, a person may die just out of shock, and another, may not die even after terrible physical injuries – according to their individual karma.

Since Mass Karma attracts individual karma of similar individuals, not only tragedies, prevention also can be attributed to mass karma. We have come across many averted disasters where the mass karma must have been very strong in preventing a disaster.

When 9/11 took place, even though it was a terrorist attack, there were reports of people who were saved by a second in the 9/11 disaster – again, perhaps, karma at work.

But such karma can only be explained by rebirth and theories of rebirth and reincarnation. It is believed that Napoleon, who vowed that he would destroy England, did exactly that when he was reborn as Churchill – it was during Churchill’s regime that the sun set over the British Empire when many English colonies gained freedom. Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda has said that Judas, who betrayed Lord Jesus, was reborn many times before he became a great saint many centuries after the advent of Jesus Christ.

Theories of Karma and Re-incarnation give hope to a suffering world – we can seek solace in such hopes that our next life on this earth will be better, by living righteously in this life, and that our karma will one day, save us….