Selections from THE ABSOLUTE LAW OF KARMA by PANDIT SHRIRAM SHARMA ACHARYA
Who Maintains the Record of Sins and Virtues?
A verse in the scriptures states that a suppressed conscience takes one to hell and an awakened conscience leads to heaven. This statement explains the enigma of Heaven and Hell i.e. an individual himself is responsible for creating heaven and hell in his life. Scriptures (Garura Purana) describes this phenomenon metaphorically. It is mentioned that in the astral world (Yamlok) there lives a deity named Chitragupta, who maintains the record of good and evil deeds of a sentient being. When a living being dies and its soul enters the astral world, this deity presents the record of its good and evil deeds and, based on this account, the soul is assigned to live in heaven or hell. Common sense would not accept existence of a deity like Chitragupta.
The number of human beings inhabiting this earth itself is in billions. If we take into account the other living beings of millions of non-human species, the total number would be beyond mathematical calculation. It would be an impossible task for an individual to work day and night without rest for millions of years maintaining records of each moment of life of innumerable beings of the cosmos. Impracticability of maintenance of such a stupendous record puts a question mark on the very existence of Chitragupta.
Modern science, however, substantiates the reality underlying the metaphorical descriptions given in the scriptures. Science has now established that all mental, verbal and physical activities carried out by an individual having a discriminative mind leave subtle impressions on the deeper levels of the psyche. In this way, like the compressed audio-visual recordings of events on a microchip of the computer or compact disc, all good and evil deeds are being recorded in the secret chambers of the sub-conscious mind.
This record, like a CD remains in storage till it is required to be played at a desired moment through an appropriate mechanism. Since time immemorial, enlightened persons in India have wondered about the role of fate in human life. Sanskrit and Hindi literature has abundant references to the “footprints of Karma” (Karma Rekha), which it is said, cannot be erased by any degree of intellectual endeavour.
In Indian spirituality, karma stands for any physical, verbal, mental or social activity. It means that each karma produces an imprint (Rekha), which cannot be erased before creating a reaction (Karmaphal). There is a belief that the Creator (Lord Brahma) inscribes the destiny on the forehead of a human being and this Divine Inscription cannot be erased by anyone (Vidhi ke likhe ko metanhara).
Let us examine this concept from a scientific point of view. Microscopic examination shows innumerable furrows in the grey matter all over the brain. Medical science has not so far come to know the biological implications of these indentations. Comparative microscopic research studies have shown that density of these crenulations in the grey matter of highly evolved persons and thinkers is much more, than in the case of common masses. It shows that these microscopic lines in the grey matter of the brain are nothing but compact subtle impressions created by external activities, which we take as imprints of mental, vocal and physical actions. This record of activities (good and evil deeds) on the neurons of grey matter proves the existence of an intelligent mechanism, which Hindu Mythology refers to as the deity Chitragupta. In Sanskrit language too, the word “Chitragupta” means “a hidden picture”. It shows that there exists in the human mind a hidden chamber, an inner sentient mechanism (Antaha Chetana) or a subtle state of consciousness (Sookshma Man). (We may compare it with a back-up file of executable programmes in computer parlance).
It is well known that the subtle body (Sookshma Sharir) coexisting with the physical human body has four components “Man” (pronounced as Mun)- the source of desires, longings and aspirations; “Buddhi”- the discriminative faculty which deliberates, takes decisions and determines a course of action; “Chitta”-which stores traits, habits inclinations and temperament and “Ahamkar”- the overall personal sense of selfhood (Ego). It is also established that “Chitta” carries forward its record of good and bad impressions after dissolution of the body. It appears the expression “Chittagupta” of scriptures came to be known as “Chitragupta” in course of time. Hence the internal mechanism of mind, which creates the compact subtle recordings of human activities, could be taken as the deity “Chitragupta” of human mythology. No doubt, this intelligent mechanism (Chitragupta) is continuously engaged in maintaining records of all living beings. Since each being has its own personal Chitragupta and, therefore, for the entire population of animate beings there is an equal number of Chitraguptas. Thus maintenance of records of innumerable beings does not seem to be an impossibility.
Human mind has an infinite capacity for storage of information. It is quite possible for the subtle sentient mechanism of subconscious mind to maintain a systematic record of activities of a living being. There is also no contradiction in the one Chitragupta of mythology being countless Chitraguptas in innumerable beings. Divine powers of God are omnipresent. The universal life-force-Prana is one, but it is individually present in each living being. Similarly, the subtle celestial elements designated as deities Indra, Varun, Agni, Shiva and Yama in mythology are also all-pervasive. Air, for instance, in spite of being identified as fresh air of a garden or polluted air of an industrial area, is an integral part of the same atmosphere enveloping the earth. Similarly, though inhabiting and operating in numerous bodies independently, the deity Chitragupta is a single universal celestial entity.
How Does Chitragupta Maintain the Record?
Let us now discuss the working of Chitragupta. Why and how this deity evaluates the deeds of a person and what are the yardsticks of this evaluation? We shall also find out how after physical death, the lines of fate drawn by Chitragupta determine a soul’s new incarnation in conditions of hell or heaven. In the foregoing discussion, the reader has been introduced to the concept that our sub-conscious mind, itself operates as the deity Chitragupta. It keeps a continuous micro-record of our good and evil deeds in a condensed form, like the recordings on a small compact disc, the details of our virtuous and sinful deeds registered microscopically and subtly on certain neurons on the inner chambers of mind. In this way the writings of Chitragupta could be regarded as shorthand notes taken by the divine stenographer, Chitragupta, for presentation as testimony for objective evaluation of the total span of our life.
We are aware that human mind works on two levels- one external and the other internal. The outer mind is analytical. It analyses the pros and cons, accepts and discards, takes decisions and changes resolutions. The inner mind, on the other hand, is like an innocent but resolute child. It neither accepts nor discards anything, but as the true faithful representative of the Divine, functions impartially toward divine justice. The external mind may think of escaping punishment by suppressing or overlooking the recordings of the lines of evil deeds and highlight only the virtuous deeds for reward. The inner mind (conscience is one of its constituents), on the other hand, works differently. It takes decisions like an unbiased judge of highest integrity, who cannot be influenced by allurement, fear or vested interest. It is said that in each human being there co-exist a saint and a devil. You may consider the secret inner mind as a representative of divinity and the external mind, which is ever engaged in reasoning, rationalizing, deliberating, conspiring and hypocrisy, as a tool of the devil. The external mind may deceive the soul by justifying each and every action of a person. The inner-mind, on the contrary, is the flame of the soul and a projection of the Absolute Truth. It is, therefore, incapable of conceit and deceit and is innately calm and detached. That is why God has entrusted it with such crucial responsibility. For the common man, it is the deity Chitragupta. Being absolutely impartial, this deity has been given the high seat of Divine Judge. Like a secret service agent, this deity is all the time vigilantly shadowing a person and recording his action in its secret diary.
In human society, there are two departments for punishing the violators of law-namely the police and the court of justice. The police arrest the accused, collect the evidence and present these in the court of law. Thereafter the process of justice takes over.
The judge delivers the judgment after considering all aspects of the offence and related circumstances. Depending on the circumstantial evidence, individuals are handed down varied sentences for the same type of offence. Let us consider an example. Three persons are accused of killing a person. Because of different circumstances associated with the crime, one is set free, the second person is sentenced to five years of imprisonment and the third is sent to the electric chair. The person, who was released, was a mason. While working at an elevated label, he had accidentally dropped a brick, which killed a passerby. The presiding judge found that the brick was dropped accidentally and unintentionally, without an ulterior motive. Hence the accused was released without punishment. The second accused was a farmer. Finding a thief stealing his crop, he had given him a fatal blow, killing the offender. Taking the circumstances, which prompted the offence, the judge considered that though it was natural for the farmer to show his anger on finding someone stealing his property, nevertheless, since he had over-reacted to a small offence, a sentence of five years imprisonment was given. The third person was a notorious robber who had robbed a rich man and intentionally killed him in the process. In this way the worldly court of justice pronounces judgment after minutely examining all circumstantial evidence.
In the inner-mind the secret recordings of Chitragupta discharge the dual responsibility of the police and court of justice. In the material world, if the prosecutor presents inadequate or false evidence, the judgment of the court is likely to be unfair, but in the inner occult world there is absolutely no possibility of such miscarriage of justice.
The inmost mind, being the direct and transparent witness to all physical as well as mental activities of a person, is holistically aware of the intentions, motives and circumstances of each and every action. Being holistically informed, the secret mind does not require the testimony of the external mind to arrive at a conclusion. In Divine Justice the gravity of a sin (vice) or merit of a virtue is decided on the basis of the motive and degree of emotional involvement with the deed. Whereas in the material world objects are measured materially on the basis of their mundane worth, this measure is irrelevant for dispensing Divine Justice. The material world may ignore a poor donor of ten cents and admire a person donating ten thousand dollars, but in Divine Jurisprudence the worth of such acts of altruism will not be assessed on this gross physical basis.
Let us take an example. In a remote, undeveloped tribal area, one may barter a kilogram of food grains for sugar, but in a developed country one has to pay in hard currency. In the material world, people do earn fame and name by making large contributions to charity, helping in popular welfare activities, joining religious or charitable institutions, delivering or listening to sermons and participating in pilgrimages; but the “Domain of Chitragupta” does not accept this currency. The ledgers of this domain record only debits and credits of motives and emotional involvements in the performance of deeds and convert these into virtues and sins accordingly.
Upon being exhorted by his Divine Teacher Krishna, Arjun got millions killed in the war of Mahabharata. This great confrontation, during which the entire battlefield became littered with corpses, took place because Arjun agreed to take part in the war. In this way, Arjun could have been considered as a great sinner, but Chitragupta gave credit to his motive for waging the Mahabharata war. Arjun’s intentions were pious. He had fought only to re-establish the ‘Moral Order’ (Dharma Sthapana). Chitragupta’s ledger did not take into account the slain bodies of the dead soldiers. Physical objects have no relevance in the invisible realm. Chitragupta simply ignored the number of toys of flesh and bones destroyed during the war. Does a king bother about the number of toys broken or the number of grains spilled? In this world billionaires are held in high regard but in the realm of Chitragupta they are paupers and non-entities. On the other hand a poor man of this world, if he is kindhearted, could be counted in the realm of Chitragupta amongst the king of kings. Whatever a man does, only his motives-good or bad are recorded in the corresponding account of Chitragupta. A public executioner, who, in course of duty, hangs a person condemned to death without any malice, could be considered a virtuous person by Chitragupta, whereas a priest, who meticulously follows the rituals, but is secretly engaged in corrupt practices, will be labeled as a sinner.
In the realm of God of Divine Law (Dharmaraj), the decorations of the exterior world have no values. There only the interior worth is evaluated. It hardly matters whether externally an action of a person appears good or bad. The determining factor is the interior or emotional input. The roots of vice and virtue unquestionably lie in the motives and intensity of emotions and not in the external deeds. In the foregoing paragraphs we have discussed how the deity Chitragupta living intimately associated with our inner lives (Pranas), impartially records our good and bad deeds on the submicroscopic elements of our inner conscience and that this subtle recording is popularly known as the “Lines of Fate” (Karma Rekha). We have also understood that the process of divine justice does not regard an act as sinful or virtuous by the external appearance of the activity but on the basis of the quality of the motive of the doer. The intensity of motive is directly proportional to the gravity or greatness of the sin or virtue respectively. Take the case of two individuals nursing a sick person. Apparently both are engaged in the same service, but whereas one is doing it indifferently, the other serves with tenderness, sympathy, large-heartedness and love. Here, in spite of apparently identical service, the measure of virtue will depend on the quality of emotional involvement and love. Similarly, amongst two thieves, one of which is compelled to steal because of starvation and the other steals for acquiring drugs, the sin will undoubtedly be considered greater in the latter case.
In Divine Jurisprudence, there is significant clause for treating each individual independently according to the state of purity of the soul. The laws of spirituality hold that each soul is perpetually in the process of progressive evaluation i.e. purification through the course of successive cycles of birth and death. That is, at each successive stage the soul acquires greater purity and is given a body in the species of higher consciousness (wisdom). The birth as a human being is believed to be the highest phase of conscious evolution on earth before liberation from the cycles of birth and death. The rewards and punishments of heaven and hell depend on the state of consciousness i.e. wisdom of the being. If accused of bribery, a peon, a clerk and a juror will receive three different types of punishment. The peon may be acquitted after a serious reprimand, the clerk may be temporarily suspended from the service; but having been entrusted with a great responsibility, the juror cannot escape dismissal. Take one more example. A primitive tribesman hunts and kills animals for his daily meal. On the other hand, a priest preaching virtues of non-violence secretly consumes non-vegetarian food. In Divine Jurisprudence, the priest will add greater sin to his account than the tribesman. Here the states of awareness and morality are being considered for evaluation of the merit or demerit of the deed. As the soul becomes more evolved with acquisition of greater wisdom and morality, the inner conscience (Antaha Chetna) becomes more and more awakened and refined.
A sinful act leaves an indelible dark spot on the conscience of a relatively more virtuous individual. In other words, the gravity of sin is considered lesser in the case of an illiterate, ignorant, uncivilized person. With the increase in wisdom a person acquires a greater capability to discriminate between right and wrong, proper and improper. The conscience becomes aware of the consequences of proper and improper actions. The “Voice of Conscience”, therefore, becomes more assertive. It becomes more responsible. None blames an infant for dirtying its undergarments. Nor does the child feel embarrassed for it. On the other hand, if a grown-up person behaves in such a manner, the society considers it disgraceful and the individual too feels embarrassed and humiliated. With self-evolution, the soul also has to share additional responsibility for higher level of morality and ethics. A soldier will probably be discharged after a minor punishment an account of disobedience, but an officer will have to face court martial for a similar misconduct. When wise, intelligent and empathic persons indulge in corrupts practices, Chitragupta records these in the category of grave sins.
Mythology tells us that king Nripa had to face hell for a minor offence. When an ignorant person commits a crime, it is not taken seriously, but if a person made responsible for upholding standards of morality for the masses (a Brahmin) deviates from his course of duty, in the court of divine justice he/she deserves a stern punishment. A social reformer has the status of a leader in society. Being a leader has its own advantages, but the leader also has the highest responsibility. Knowledgeable persons have the formidable responsibility of adhering to upright conduct and unimpeachable character, failing which; divine justice will make them suffer the agony of falling from a mountaintop to the depths of a valley.