How can both karma and God coexist

Fate, Free Will, and the Law of Karma

Transcript

1 Fate, Free Will, and the Law of Karma Copyright Shyamasundara das, 1994 Translation from the American by Erlend Pettersson In the following section we will examine what the Sastras (scriptures) have to say about karma and how a devotee of God is under the influence of his past karma. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, there was disagreement between the fatalists on the one hand and the advocates of free will on the other. It would be inappropriate here to discuss their points of view, and so suffice it to say that this dispute was a clear indication of an imperfect understanding of the law of karma. Vedic astrology holds that life is an interplay of both fate and free will, in which fate arises in response to the previous exercise of free will. In everyday life, our surroundings often give us choices. We are free to choose between A and B; however, once the decision is made, we have to accept the response to it. The reaction may be instant or delayed for thousands of lives. In any case, it will catch up with us, be it pleasant or unpleasant, at the time determined by Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To speak to Chanakya Pandit - just as a calf finds its mother in a herd of cows, so too do your reactions. The reactions to the actions of our lives are inevitable for all but those who devote themselves to God in bhakti yoga. As a karmic response ripens and bears fruit, it creates a new situation, a backdrop that gives us more choices in the exercise of our free will. This is where the circle closes. So life is an interplay of fate and free will. Example Let me explain how this works using an example. For example, suppose someone was born into a poor family from a past life because of bad karma. This person grows up in a ghetto in which crime and poverty are rampant. Our candidate has two choices under these circumstances: he can either blame society for his bad luck and consequently try to get rich through theft and deceit. Or he can take responsibility for his current situation and seek to improve through education and honest effort, which can mean hard work and little fame. Let's say he chooses a criminal life and robs several institutions. Ultimately, he will end up in jail as a reaction to his offenses. But even in prison he has choices, albeit less so than a free citizen. He can be incorrigible or become a model inmate and return to the right path. Each of these decisions will have its outcome. So

2 - 2 - we can see that life is an intricate interplay of fate (karma) and free will. Definition of karma The word karma has its etymological origin in the Sanskrit root kri = to create, to make. Karma is both the action and the fruit or result of the action. The Bhagavad-gita, 8.3, gives a coherent definition of karma: the indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and its eternal nature is called adhyatma, the self. Activities related to the development of the material bodies of living beings are called karma, fruitful activities. We are all familiar with the classification into good karma, bad karma (vikarma) and inaction or devotional service (naiskarma or akarma). But the Vedic scriptures hold more details in store for us that most of us do not know. The following information about karma is given here from the Govinda Bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Classifications of Karma Karma can be divided into two categories: sancita karma (accumulated) and kriyamana karma (newly created); sancita karma forms two further categories, namely anarabdha karma (effects that have not yet occurred) and prarabdha karma (functional karma that is already working). The question arises whether these two kinds of karma (s) (sancita and kriyamana) are consumed or weakened by the sublimity of divine wisdom. The antithesis holds that knowledge can neither loosen up the kriyamana karma nor burn up the sancita karma, because: Even after hundreds of millions of world ages, karma can neither be exhausted nor weakened. It can only be exhausted by suffering its effects. Verily, one must suffer the consequences of one's actions, good or bad. - Source not given. The Vedanta Sutra contradicts this view: When one gains knowledge, the works in the present life cease to adhere and the works from the past life are consumed - for this is what the Upanisads explain. When a nirapeksa devotee (completely detached devotee at the highest level of realization) attains brahma vidya (God-realization), his newly created reactions cannot attach to him, for the Chandogya Upanisad says: As water slides off a lotus leaf, there is no sin attached to him Who knows Him as He is. "And the Chandogya Upanisad: As the tassel of the reed turns to ashes in the fire, so in fact all the sins of the one who, knowing the Lord, makes an offering by fire. This remains to be clarified whether only the sinful reactions are consumed, but not the pious ones, for the pious deeds are finally done in accordance with the scriptures. So it would not be right for a person to also mukti (salvation) with the attainment of vidya (spiritual knowledge) ), because if the good deeds are not yet rewarded, he must first go to the heavenly planets (svargaloka etc.).

3 - 3 - The Vedanta Sutra rejects this view in the following sutra, verse: The same is true of the others (namely, the good deeds); the accumulated good deeds are wiped out, and the good done in the present life is not attached to the person. Indeed, when his prarabdha karma expires, he attains mukti. Baladeva comments that vidya (spiritual knowledge) also extinguishes responses to good deeds. Good deeds are undoubtedly carried out in accordance with the laws of the Vedas; but this in no way means that they do not come into conflict with vidya. They oppose vidya in that their result is said to produce heavenly joys and bliss, while vidya produces liberation. And since svarga (heaven) and mukti (liberation) cannot coexist, good deeds, although Vedic, are contrary to spiritual knowledge. Baladeva goes on to say that from the standpoint of Vedanta, even pious deeds are sin. Also in the Chandogya Upanisad, the word papa (sin) refers to both duskrtam (bad deeds) and sukrtam (good deeds): this self is a bridge (refuge) and support, and the two worlds remain in their intended place and do not collide. Neither day nor night can cross this bridge, nor old age, death, sorrow, nor the good or bad deeds (of people). No evil can approach Brahman, for it is free from all evil. It is the Brahman, the Great Refuge. The Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad says about this: Neither type of act can harm the one who really knows. He overcomes both good and evil, and neither what he has done nor what he has failed to do affects him. The Bhagavad-gita says that every action, good or bad, is destroyed when knowledge arises: As a blazing fire burns wood to ashes, O Arjuna, so the fire of knowledge burns down all reactions to material actions Ash. (Bhagavad-gita 4.37) The word sarvakarmani is a generic term and also refers to good deeds. This explains why both types of karma, punya (good deeds) and papa (bad deeds), are respectively extinguished or detached by vidya. And with the destruction of the prarabdha karma (functional karma which is already at work) man attains liberation. Therefore, we can make the meaningful statement that mukti (liberation) occurs as soon as vidya (knowledge) appears. Vidya Cancels Karma Now we come to an important point in the discussion of karma and its cancellation by the influence of vidya, divine wisdom. As vidya eliminates both kinds of sancita (accumulated) karma, both good and bad, consequently the body of the spiritual knowledge practitioner must die, for the body is nothing but the effect of karma. If so, anyone who attains divine knowledge would have to leave this world immediately, and therefore the transmission of spiritual knowledge by those who know Brahman would become impossible. As mentioned earlier, the sancita karma has two subdivisions: prarabdha and anarabdha; one type of karma which is already bearing fruit in this world and the other whose fruits are still awaiting manifestation. The Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad declares that both species are destroyed by vidya. The effect of the vidya is uniform.

4 - 4 - This contradicts the next verse of the Vedanta Sutra: But only the immature results of the last lives, namely those kinds of karma, the effects of which have not yet begun, are destroyed by knowledge. The wise man's life lasts as long as previous life results last. In the sruti (scripture) it is said that man continues to live even after he has acquired knowledge, even if his prarabdha karma is not exhausted. The Chandogya Upanisad says: For him, salvation is only delayed until he is free from his body. Srimad Bhagavatam affirms: When man realizes you, he no longer cares about happiness or suffering resulting from past pious or sinful deeds, because you alone control both happiness and suffering. The prarabdha karma continues This shows that it is the will of the Lord that the person who has gained divine wisdom continues to live in this body as long as his prarabdha karma is not exhausted.Vidya is extremely powerful and can destroy all karma, but out of respect for the will of Sri Krishna it does not destroy prarabdha karma; for we see that divinely enlightened sages, perfect masters of spiritual wisdom, live on this earth and their bodies do not disintegrate once they attain vidya. We also see that they teach others and are not idle; consequently, we must admit that it is the Lord's will that such people go on living to spread knowledge of Brahman. Let us note here that it may take more than one life to exhaust prarabdha karma, even in the case of a nirapeksa devotee. This is what verse of the Vedanta Sutra is about: The same applies to mukti (liberation). There are no immutable rules for its maturity because it depends on certain conditions. Moksa (salvation), the characteristic fruit of vidya, can very well be delayed until the next life if prarabdha karma still has to be done. But if this is not the case, mukti takes place in the same life. Mukti is a final state clearly defined by the sastras. Thus the Chandogya Upanisad states that one who finds a guru attains knowledge; but as long as his prarabdha karma is not exhausted, mukti is delayed: in the same way one gains knowledge who finds the guru. There is only delay for him as long as his prarabdha karma is not exhausted. Then he attains perfection. Mukti and the jivan mukta In a smrti sastra called Narayana Adhyatma, the above rule is affirmed. It says there that one who has attained vidya attains immortality. There is no doubt about that. As soon as his prarabdha karma is exhausted, he attains mukti; but if his karma is not exhausted, he must be born again many times; after all these reactions are exhausted, he then comes into the world of Hari. It is a fact that vidya wipes out all karma; however, the power of prarabdha karma is not exhausted and remains in effect because the Lord wills it. Then what is the state of consciousness of a mahabhagavata (pure

5 - 5 - devotees), and how does he experience prarabdha karma differently from us? In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna describes spiritual immersion as follows: At the level of perfection called trance or samadhi, the mind is completely detached from all mental activities through the practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by the ability to see the self through the pure mind and to enjoy joy and contentment in oneself. In this joyful state one experiences limitless transcendental happiness that is perceived through transcendental senses. Anchored in this way, one never deviates from the truth, and when one has reached that stage one is convinced that there is no greater gain. In such a position one never wavers, not even in the midst of the greatest difficulties. This is, in fact, real freedom from all suffering that arises from contact with matter. Here we recognize the state of jivanmukta, a person who is already liberated in this body. Although imprisoned in the gross and subtle body, the product and enjoyer of prarabdha karma, he still does not suffer because he experiences spiritual ecstasy. He is free. Only the gross and subtle body suffers and enjoys karma, but not itself. The scriptures give many examples of great devotees who transcended the body and lived in another dimension. Sri Chaitanya repeatedly fell into a divine rapture that carried him to Vraja, where he took part in the Gopis game with Krishna. Meanwhile, His companions in the outer world were doing their best to bring him back; when they succeeded, he was often dissatisfied. In the life of Syamananda we have another vivid example. When his Guru Hrdaya-Chaitanya confronted him about his name change from Duhkhi Krishna to Syamananda and about his new tilak, Syamananda sank into meditation and turned to Srimati Radharani in his siddhasvarupa (very spiritual form) to solve his problem. Another example is the Haridas Thakurs who received physical blows; but since he was not on the physical plane, he was unaffected by it. Our Srila Prabhupada was also on this plane. Once his servant noticed that Srila Prabhupada's lower jaw was swollen from a toothache; however, he did not complain. A few days later, he received Srila Prabhupada's tooth from a drawer and saw a huge hole in it. Anyone else with such a rotten tooth would have tormented themselves; However, Srila Prabhupada lived in a different world. Conclusion on Karma What is the mechanism that allows a mahabhagavata to be locked into a body and yet not be aware of it? This is explained in Srimad Bhagavatam: By following this method, the yogi gradually develops pure love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari. As he progresses in devotional service, the hair on his body straightens with exuberant joy, and he is constantly bathed in a torrent of tears evoked by strong love. Gradually, even the spirit, which he used as a means of attracting the Lord, just as one attracts a fish with a hook, withdraws from material activity. If

6 - 6 - the mind is thus completely freed from all material pollution and detached from material goals, it is like the flame of a lamp. Then the spirit is actually connected with that of the Supreme Lord and is experienced as one with Him, since it is freed from the mutual flow of material properties. Thus anchored on the highest transcendental level, the mind ceases any material response and becomes anchored in its own glory, transcendental to all material ideas of happiness and suffering. At this time, the yogi realizes the truth of his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He discovers that both joy and suffering, and their interaction, which he attributed to his own self, are actually due to the false ego that is a product of ignorance. Because the fully realized soul has attained its real identity, it does not notice how the material body moves or acts, just as an intoxicated person cannot understand whether he is wearing clothes or not. The body of such a liberated yogi, along with the senses, is taken under your care by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the body functions until its fateful activities come to an end. The liberated devotee, who has become aware of his essential position and who is thus anchored in samadhi, the highest level of perfection in yoga, does not consider the by-products of the material body to be his own. Thus, he regards his physical activities as the activities of a body in a dream. Because of great affection for family and wealth, one may think of a son and some money as his own, and because of affection for his material body, one may think it is his own. But just as one can understand that his family and wealth are different from him, the liberated soul can understand that in reality she and her body are not the same. In the eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatam we find two similar verses: just as a drunk does not notice whether he is wearing a shirt or a coat, neither does someone who has reached the perfection of self-realization do not notice whether his temporary body is sitting or standing. Indeed, the self-realized man does not perceive when the body dies by God's will or when he receives a new body by God's will, just as a drunk man does not perceive the state of his outer clothing. The material body is certainly controlled by fate and must therefore act under the influence of the senses and the air of life as long as the karma is working. The self-realized person, however, who has awakened to absolute reality and has therefore perfected yoga to the highest degree, will never again expose himself to the material body and its multiple manifestations, since he knows that it is like a dream body. (SB) The perfected soul is not aware of its body So ​​here we learn that the perfected, God-intoxicated yogi is not aware of whether he is in a body or not, just as an intoxicated person does not know whether he is wears clothes at all. In such a detached attitude to life, Krishna takes responsibility for the bodily functions until the predetermined actions come to an end and as long as the karma is still having an effect. These statements confirm what the Vedanta Sutra says about prarabdha karma.

7 - 7 - In his commentary on verse, Baladeva Vidyabhusana gives us a deeper insight into the life of a sage who has attained vidya but no mukti. He says vidya has the power to burn all karma to ashes and yet allow the enlightened sage who lives in harmony with the will of the Supreme Lord, the prarabdha-karma, to continue to show its effects in order to accomplish the will of the Lord do and spread his fame all over the world. The sage allows vidya to scorch prarapbdha-karma, but not to reduce it to ashes. The prarabdha-karma of such a wise man is like a half-burnt cloth that retains its structure and looks like a cloth, but crumbles at the slightest touch. The wise man is enveloped in such prarabdha-karma and performs the actions that produce such karma. Baladeva goes on to say about the nirapeksa (pure devotee) and the difference between his life before the development of vidya and afterwards: Before vidya shows itself, the devotee feels the good and bad effects of his karma; after that, however, he directs his awareness to the Lord and is so absorbed that he never feels the effects of such karmas. For the sake of completeness I would like to briefly mention another aspect of prarabdha karma as discussed in the wonderful Vedanta Sutra commentary, the Govinda Bhasya. This is the subject of delegated atonement. Apparently, various shakhas (commentaries) on the Vedas, namely the Kausitakins and Satyayanins, mention that this type of atonement occurs with particularly intense lovers of Sri Krishna.The prarabdha karmas of the nirapeksas are then divided into papa (impious) and punya (pious results), and the sinful karma, i.e. suffering, is left to the enemy, while the good karma is given to the friends who are allowed to enjoy it. So the prarabdha-karma is still being worked through, albeit vicariously, and the body of the nirapeksa falls apart and it goes back to God. But what about the less advanced devotees? Sometimes we hear that Sri Krishna reduces our karma: instead of having one hand cut off, we just cut ourselves a small cut. But this is only the devotee's humble attitude; he knows that he has committed many sins and that appropriate punishment awaits him. However, because the devotee sees all of Krishna's actions as mercy, he finds that he is not punished as severely as he deserves. We read an example of this in the story of the Avanti Brahmana (SB 11.23), who endured his prarabdha-karma as Krishna's mercy. Brahma himself, the creator of the universe, sums up this attitude as follows: My dear Lord, who is seriously waiting for you to show him your gratuitous mercy and meanwhile patiently suffer the reactions of his past misdeeds and you with heart, word and body offering his obeisances certainly qualifies for liberation, for it is his rightful claim. Srimad Bhagavatam From our discussions here it emerges that the more we are able to immerse ourselves in the process of devotional service, especially the chanting of the Maha, the better we can live on the spiritual plane and forget the effects of our prarabdha karma Mantra. This is the reason that certain scriptures like the Harinama-cintamani or the Nrsimha-

8 - 8 - mention kavaca, namabhasa or a shadow of the holy name repels evil planetary influences, demons etc. Conclusion Ultimately, all sastras (scriptures) state that even the perfect mahabhagavata devotee must experience his karma until the body falls apart, let alone the less advanced devotee. However, since the mahabhagavatas do not act on the physical level, they ultimately remain unaffected. Others are influenced more or less depending on their degree of realization. That is why it is said in the eleventh Canto that in this material world the perfected sadhus and the fools are the only happy people; everyone else is suffering. Objections One could raise the objection that Srila Prabhupada said that clapping hands in front of the altar figures would change the lines of the hands, which means that a devotee is immune to astrology, hand reading, etc. After careful study of the scriptures, we must assume that the lines of the hands actually change when clapping in front of the altar figures. This change indicates a new future for the devotee, because through worshiping the Lord, all kinds of karma except prarabhdha-karma, as mentioned above, are erased. There is another similar objection: devotees are immune to astrology because astrology is only related to karma, and since devotees are immune to karma, they are also immune to astrology. This objection contains three errors: The first assumption is that astrology is a causal trigger against which one can gain immunity. This view was refuted in the article Vedic Astrology and Its Practice. The second misconception is that astrology deals only with karma. This view was also refuted in the same article. Astrology as a language can describe any phenomenon, including divinity. The view that devotees are immune to karma has been discussed in great detail above. Addendum Brahma vidya is a technical term used by Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Literally it means spiritual knowledge, full understanding of one's true spiritual nature. At initiation all anarabdha-karma (effects that have not yet occurred) are given up because the Guru takes it over and passes it on to Krishna, who destroys it. However, depending on the strength of the sadhana and the practitioner's desire, kriyamana-karma (newly created karma) may be produced again and lead to new sancita-karma (accumulated karma). As for experiencing present prarabdha karma, it will depend on being able to take refuge in Krishna and sink the mind into Krishna consciousness. As an example of how this works, I strongly recommend reading Srimad Bhagavatam, the Brahmana chant from Avanti. There it is clearly described how the Brahmana is capable of doing

9 - 9 - was to overcome the last traces (prarabdha) of one's karma and not to get entangled again. This chapter is very inspiring and helps control the mind.