Selections from THE ABSOLUTE LAW OF KARMA by PANDIT SHRIRAM SHARMA ACHARYA
Sudden happenings of good fortune and misfortune are part of life and there is no escape from them. Saint-poet Soordas has rightly stated that the effects of actions (Karmas) cannot be avoided even with the best of guidance from an enlightened and experienced person. In spite of having Maharshi Vashishtha as his Guru, Sri Ram had to undergo the agony of the death of his father, abduction of his wife, Sita, and subsequently her forced banishment to Rishi Valmiki’s Ashram. It would not be proper to assume that misfortunes are punishments given by an angry God to chastise an erring person. The Epic Ramayana says that each individual is himself personally responsible for his happiness and miseries
(“Kahu na kowoo dukha-sukhkar data| Nij nij karm bhog sab bhrata||”). All beings reap the fruits of their own karmas. They rejoice or wail, weep and suffer because of their own doings. With each living being, God has provided an unerring and intelligent mechanism, which determines fruits of his actions. Like a fish swimming in the water of a snake moving on sand, we leave behind footprints of our own karmas. These impressions are known as “samskars” in spiritual parlance. Evil deeds generate distressful samskars, which in course of time sprout as sufferings, like self-growing thorny bushes.
Now we shall discuss the three categories of karmas, their characteristics and consequences.
Happiness and peace is the natural state of mind. Man is instinctively inclined to act for welfare of self and others, which naturally results in peace and joy. He suffers only when he is mentally disturbed. He dreads mental turbulence, sorrow and grief. Hence it would be useful to discuss about the causes of unhappiness. As the medical science has two independent streams, one for promotion of health and another for treatment of diseases, there are two branches of spiritual effects – one for promoting happiness and the other for unhappiness. Righteous living is essential for inner peace and happiness just as nutritional food is for health. In therapy it is necessary to first have a diagnosis and then look for treatment. The same holds true for unhappiness. By discarding the karmas, which produce bad Samskars, we can get rid of the resultant suffering and pain.
Let us now discuss the three types of sufferings in detail. As mentioned earlier, misfortunes influence a person by creating three types of adverse reactions: (1) Mental suffering, (2) Physical pain and (3) Distress caused by natural disasters. In spiritual parlance these are known as “Daivik”, “Daihik” and “Bhautik”-Dukhas.
All types of sorrows, mental suffering, are results of ‘Mental Sins’. Worry, anxiety, anger, humiliation, animosity, separation from a beloved one, fear, grief, etc. are signs of divine justice for mental sins. Mental sins are those willful karmas (deliberate acts) of mind, which are carried out under the influence of strong negative emotional stimuli. We may call mental sins as corrupt functions of mind like jealousy, perfidy, deception, annoyance, cruelty, etc., which pollute the environment around the inner psyche. Mental sins do not provide any physical gratification. Like a smoke-filled room, an environment created by pollutants of mind suffocates the soul. The soul, being a portion of the omnipresent Divinity, is intrinsically pure. It does not permit accumulation of sinful thoughts around itself and is always eager to push out of pollutants in some way or the other, in the same manner, as the body expels the harmful food. The soul is meticulously careful about its purity. The moment it finds the mental sins polluting its environment, it feels uncomfortable and immediately reacts to discard the pollutants. Though our external conscious mind is hardly aware, the inner, subtle mind is always seeking the opportunities to throw off this burden. Sometime, somehow, from somewhere, it involves man in situations, which neutralize the samskars created by mental sins through such reactions as humiliation, failure, disrepute, etc.
Death of a beloved person, loss in business and property, public-defamation, poverty etc. are also mental agonies. Such situations bring out the inner pain to the surface and the aggrieved person weeps, wails and is reminded of the futility of worldly attachments and impermanency of material things. Situations creating acute unhappiness bring out a greater awareness of the need for righteous living. Man is motivated to refrain from committing sinful deeds in future and follow an upright path in life. While attending funerals, people are reminded of the urgency of living a purposeful life. When sufferingfrom financial loss man seeks God’s help. On being defeated and becoming unsuccessful, vanity is deflated. When the intoxication is over, the drunk begins to talk sense.
The only purpose of mental distress is to cleanse the mind of garbage of mental pollutants such as jealously, ingratitude, selfishness, cruelty, heartlessness cunning, hypocrisy and egoism. Through suffering, the intelligent divine mechanism ensures removal of samskars created by Prarabdha Karmas (discussed later). Pain and anguish spring forth to wash out the deleterious samskars generated by Prarabdha Karmas. Apparently, sins like theft, burglary, robbery, adultery, kidnapping and violence are committed physically, but since these are basically outer manifestation of mental stimuli such acts fall in the category of mental sins.
The cause of congenital deficiencies and genetic diseases is misutilisation of the corresponding organs in the previous life–cycles. After death, the soul discards the physical body but carries forward the astral body (Sookchma Shareer) to the next life. In the succeeding birth, the new body is shaped by this astral body. The astral body carries with it nuclei (seeds) of samskars of earlier physical existence to the next reincarnation. The corresponding components of physical organs, which are immorally used in the previous life, lose their vitality in the astral body but manifest as malfunctioning of those organs in the physical body of the next birth. Thus it is possible for a sexually indulgent person to be born with congenital impotence or with imperfections in sexual organs in the next life (Note that Roman Catholic Church defines indulgence as “a partial remission of the temporal punishment that is still due for sin after absolution). Giving exemplary punishment for over- indulgence in this manner, the divine justice also provides the being an excellent opportunity for self-upliftment.
The temporary period of non-function or malfunctions of the affected faculty serves the purpose of caution as well as rejuvenation for the next life. That is to say whichever organ of the body is recklessly misused for sense gratification is deemed to be engaged in a physical sin. In the next life that organ is either found missing or appears as a congenital defect. Thus congenital physical deformities or diseases are for remission of sins. (ref. Absolution –Roman Catholic Theory.) The compulsive rest rejuvenates the organ of the body and also relieves the burden of sin from the mind through repentance. When a mental sin is intermixed with a physical sin and it has not been neutralized in the present life by punishment by the state, society or by atonement, it is also carried over to the next life.
However, if the sin is basically physical with little or no input of mental sin (deliberate intention), the biological system immediately takes care of it. For instance man gets intoxicated and deranged on taking drugs, falls sick because of dietary irregularities or dies on consuming the poison. This is a physical punishment for a physical sin. The body cleans itself of the small physical sins speedily and these are neutralized in this very life. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, serious physical vices, which are also associated with mental stimuli, are carried over by the astral body for being worked out in the next life.
Of late, science has begun to appreciate the impact of lop-sided human activities on pervasive global life-sustaining elements of nature. Indiscriminate use of chloroflouro carbons by some developing countries is damaging the global atmosphere for entire humankind by producing the greenhouse effect. Reckless deforestation in certain parts of the world is creating worldwide ecological imbalances. Such examples illustrate that basic elements of nature are globally interdependent and local changes in them have universal implications. The following observations bring out this eternal truth.
“Pran”- the universal life force, is one of the vital elements of nature, which is an integral constituent of all animate beings. The entire human race is inter-connected with this all-pervasive element. Each spark of life in the individual animate being, which is known as “Atma” in spiritual parlance, is part of the omnipresence of THAT universal life force. The science of spirituality maintains that karmas and samskars of all living beings are mutually interactive. In social milieu these reactions are quite prominent. A criminal brings shame to his parents and family as well. The latter too suffer disgrace sincedisregarding their responsibilities by not performing the right karmas; they did not exert enough influence to make the person a good citizen. The responsibility for spiritual development of the child (a virtuous karma) lies with the parents and other adults of the family. Hence, though in the material world only the offender receives the punishment from the law enforcers and the society, the souls of the parents and other family members too have to suffer partially for this dereliction of duty, which the divine jurisprudence considers as a sin. When the neighbour’s house is on fire, you cannot remain a silent spectator, since soon you may also become a victim. If in spite of being capable of preventing, one looks on at acts of theft, burglary, rape, murder etc. indifferently, the society would look down upon such a person contemptuously and the law would also not spare him. The laws of divine justice too follow a similar norm.
Divine law expects man to abide by time-tested moral codes of conduct and also make maximum possible endeavor to prevent others from violating them. If some country or community or race does not make an effort to prevent or dissuade others from committing wrong deeds, in spite of being in a position to do so; or does not promote morality and ethics despite having the means to do so, the former too has to suffer its consequences. Such collective sins of inactivity or indifference invite combined punishment from divine justice.
Earthquakes, deluge, drought, famine, world wars are consequences of collective sins of humanity, in which karmas for vested interests were given priority and welfare of the rest of the humanity was ignored. Examples are -spread of AIDS, drug abuse and alcoholism, disintegration of families, juvenile delinquency, terrorism, environmental pollution etc. The developed countries are suffering consequences of their smug indifference towards the welfare of the underprivileged masses elsewhere.
PASSIVE ACQUIESCENCE BEFORE EVIL ACTS IS ALSO SINFUL
It is seen that in a society the affluent and powerful exploiters suffer much less from natural disasters than the submissive, under – privileged masses. The brunt of excessive rains or droughts is mainly borne by the poor farmers. The laws of divine justice regard tolerance of a sin as a greater offence than its committal. There is a saying that “the father of a tyrant is a coward”. Cowardice and timidity tend to invite suppression and oppression from some quarter or the other. Big powerful fish is always on the prowl for the timid small fish. The latter may manage to escape from one but some other big fish will devour it.
Laws of divine justice consider cowardice, weakness and ignorance as grave sins. It is not surprising that these invite harsher punishments. Natural disasters should be taken as stealthy acts of divine grace. These are frequently manifested by the invisible Supreme Justice for removal of corruption from the society. Natural calamities are not aberrations of nature. Instead, these are reactions of out-of-tune actions of living beings themselves. It is like the process of refining in the blast furnace. Through such loud warnings, God mercifully tells us again and again to work for eradicating sins from the society. In the next chapter we shall discuss how and when divine justice gives rewards and punishments for the various types of good and evil karmas.