Karma (by Swami Sivananda)

Karma

By Sri Swami Sivananda Saraswati

1. Law of Karma

Every man should have a comprehensive understanding of Nature’s laws, and their operations. Then he can pull on in this world smoothly and happily. He can utilise the helping forces to serve his ends in the best possible manner. He can neutralise the hostile forces to serve his ends in the best possible manner. He can neutralise the hostile or antagonistic currents. Just as the fish swims against the current, so also he will be able to go against the hostile currents by adjusting himself properly and safeguarding himself through suitable precautionary methods. Otherwise he becomes a slave. He is tossed about hither and thither helplessly by various currents. Various hostile forces drag him in different corners. He drifts like a wooden plank in a river. He is always very miserable and unhappy although he is wealthy and possesses everything that the world can offer.

The captain of a steamer who has a mariner’s compass, who has knowledge of the sea, the routes and the oceanic currents can sail smoothly. Otherwise his steamer will drift here and there helplessly and be wrecked by being dashed against some ice-bergs or rocks. Likewise, a wise sailor in the ocean of this life, who has a detailed knowledge of the laws of Karma and Nature can sail smoothly and reach the goal of life positively. Understanding the laws of Nature, you can mould or shape your character in any way you like. “As a man thinketh so he becometh” is one of the great laws of Nature. Think you are pure, pure you will become. Think you are noble, noble you will become. Think you are a man, man you will become. Think you are Brahman, Brahman you will become.

Become an embodiment of good nature. Do good actions always. Serve, love, give. Make others happy. Live to serve others. Then you will reap happiness. You will get favourable circumstances or opportunities and environments. If you hurt others, if you do scandal-mongering, mischief-mongering, backbiting, talebearing, if you exploit others, if you acquire the property of others by foul means, if you do any actions that can give pain to others, you will reap pain. You will get unfavourable circumstances, conditions and environments. This is the law of Nature. Just as you can build your good or bad character by sublime or base thinking, so also you can shape your favourable or unfavourable circumstances by doing good or bad actions. A man of discrimination is always careful, vigilant and circumspect. He always watches his thoughts carefully. He introspects. He knows exactly what is going on in his mental factory, what Vritti or Guna is prevailing at a particular time. He never allows any evil thought to the gates of his mental factory. He at once nips them in the bud.

When the mind raises its hood of Vritti, he takes the rod of Viveka and strikes at the hood. Just as the soldier kills his enemies one by one with his sword when they enter the fort, so also the man of discrimination kills the evil thought with his sword of Viveka when it tries to enter the fort of the mind. Thus he builds a noble character. He is careful in his speech. He speaks little. He speaks sweet loving words. He never utters any kind of harsh words that can affect the feelings of others. He practises Mauna (vow of silence). He develops patience, mercy and universal love. He speaks the truth. Thus he puts a check on the Vak Indriya and the impulses of speech. He uses measured words. He writes measured lines. This produces a deep and profound impression on the minds of the people. He practises Ahimsa and Brahmacharya in thought, word and deed. He practises Saucha and Arjava (straightforwardness). He tries to keep balance of mind and to be always happy and cheerful. He keeps up Suddha Bhava. He tries the three kinds of Tapas (physical, verbal and mental) and controls his actions. He cannot do any action that is evil.

He who spreads happiness will always get such favourable circumstances as can bring him happiness. He who spreads pain to others will, doubtless, get such unfavourable circumstances, according to the law of Nature as can bring him misery and pain. Therefore man creates his own character and circumstances. Bad character can be transmuted into good character by means of good thoughts, and unfavourable circumstances can be changed into favourable circumstances by doing good actions. O Ram! You must understand the laws of Nature and become wise and happy.

Your births and environments are determined according to the nature of your desires. Prarabdha places you in such suitable environments as are favourable for the gratification of your desires. The man is dragged to places where he can get his objects of desire. A man may be born in India as a poor Brahmin in one birth. If he desires to become a multi-millionaire, he may get his next birth in the United States of America. Suppose there is a poor intelligent boy in India. He has an intense desire to go to England for his I. C. S. examination. His desire to go in this birth cannot be fulfilled. Suppose also that there is a rich lady in England who has no son and has intense desire to get an intelligent one. The poor boy may get his next birth in London as the son of the rich lady according to the law of coincidence. He will thus have his old strong desire gratified now. God gives suitable surroundings according to the nature of the desire of the man for his growth and evolution.

Suppose a shepherd boy gave a tumbler of water to a rich man to drink when he was very thirsty and when he could not get any water in a thick jungle. This boy may get his next birth as the son of this rich man for this little good action that he had done. But he may be ignorant because he was a shepherd boy in his previous birth. According to the nature of desire the man gets environments. The desire drags him to such places where the desired objects can be obtained. This is the law of Nature. Entertain holy desires. You will be placed in holy surroundings as Uttarakashi, Himalayas and Benares, where you can perform Tapas, Sadhana and meditation amidst holy persons and can have Self-realisation. Entertain unholy desires—you will be placed in places like Paris and Hollywood where you can have cinemas, restaurants, ballrooms, etc. It is left to you to select the desires, either holy or unholy. If you want to move as a man-beast in the streets of Paris, select the unholy desire. If you want to shine in divine glory and move as a man-god, select the holy desire.

Dr. M. H. Syed, M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt. writes in the Hindu Mind: “There is nothing which has wrought so much havoc in the practical life of the Hindus as the misconception of the Law of Karma—the eternal law of cause and effect—that works with unerring precision in all the departments of human life. It is said that it is a gloomy doctrine and that it tends to paralyse human effort, and closes the spring of all right action. In popular language this doctrine means predestination, pure and simple. It is believed that a man is a creature of his past actions and that all his present life with its activities, joys, sorrows, pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, are predetermined by his past doings over which he has no control, and therefore he should be utterly resigned and waste no time in improving his or his neighbour’s lot.

“There is only an element of truth in this attitude. In other words, it is only half a truth that is understood and followed. Unless the whole truth is grasped with regard to this doctrine, it will always prove a source of confusion and cause a great deal of harm. If Indian people are to rise from their present state of degradation and shake off the fetters of their thraldom, it is time that they clearly tried to understand the true meaning and philosophy of actions and the reign of the Law of Karma, by which the whole human race has to evolve.

“It is true that a man’s present abilities are the direct outcome of his own thoughts and actions in the past: his cogitable endowments, his physical heredity, his moral and mental instincts and capacities are the results of his own thoughts and feelings of his previous births. A farmer reaps rich harvests only when he labours in his field for a long time. Unless he cares to till the ground, sow the seed, water and manure it, he would not be in a position to enjoy the fruit of his toil. What he sows today he will reap tomorrow. This is an immutable law and holds good in everything without exception. To say that one’s capacity for fresh effort and new lines of action is paralysed or doomed by one’s past doings is as futile and groundless as to say that because one sowed yesterday, one cannot sow fresh seeds in new grounds today. The fact of the matter is that free-will is never choked and stifled by any past action. The only thing is that a man cannot achieve what he wants all at once, and without delay. The good law pays every person according to his need and in due time. The law runs its own course. The results of past actions, thoughts and feelings appear to us as effects of causes we set up from our own free choice. Similarly, we are equally free and unfettered to choose a line of action which is sure to bring its fruit in due time. A man is bound by the past debts he incurred or contracts he made. As soon as he pays up his liabilities he is once more free to choose whether he should incur fresh debt or not. Over the inevitable he has no control and if the law is to be justified, he should have no reason to complain against it. It is always open to him to mould the Karma which is in the course of making, in any way he likes. Under the security of the changeless law of cause and effect a man can serenely proceed to achieve anything he desires to accomplish. Sooner or later he is sure to succeed in his well-directed efforts. In Nature nothing is lost. Again, as Bacon said: ‘Nature is conquered by obedience.’ By Nature he meant natural laws.

“If once we understand the law that guides our life and action, we shall be able to act in such a manner as to make this law our ally and helpmate rather than our adversary. So long as the conditions laid down by the law are meticulously fulfilled and observed, we have fullest certainty of our success in any direction.

“The three aspects of the Law of Karma should be grasped clearly. The first is the Sanchita Karma, the sum total and storehouse of all our actions, good or bad, in the innumerable past lives that we have left behind or from the time we began to discriminate right from wrong and thus started acting on our own responsibility and with our own initiative. The whole of it is recorded and preserved: how could it be otherwise when we live under the reign of an immutable law? The second is Prarabdha—the inevitable Karma—that portion of our Karma which is assigned to us to be worked out in a single life in relation to men and things we met and experienced in previous lives. This is also called ripe Karma, because it is a debt which is overdue and it is time that it should be paid in the form of sorrow and suffering, gain and loss, to the uttermost farthing, whether we like it or not. The third form is that of Kriyamana, that Karma which is in the course of making. It is this which preserves our freewill with certain limitations and ensures our future success. Because man is made in God’s image and shares divine life, he is free to act in any way he likes. By virtue of the same principle, whatever he intensely desires he is sure to accomplish in the course of time.

“‘Perform thou right action, for action is superior to inaction and in inaction even the maintenance of thy body would be impossible.’ So says the Blessed Lord Sri Krishna.

“Whatever is true in the case of an individual is also true in the case of a nation, for individuals make a nation. ‘As in small, so in great,’ says ancient Hermes.

“The collective Karma of a race or a nation is as much a fact in Nature as an individual one. The same principles underlying the Karmic laws apply, without much wide difference, to national and collective Karma. Nations rise and fall, empires flourish and are dismembered on the same ground. The wise heads in a nation should not neglect the dominating sway of this law.

“In the midst of a national calamity it is well to remember that nothing can come to us which we have not deserved. We may not be able to see the immediate cause of the catastrophe, but it does not follow that it took place without sufficient cause.

“During the last thousand years and more many heart-rending and humiliating events occurred on the soil of Mother India, devastating the whole land, robbing her sons of their precious jewels and even more precious lives.

“The incidents of our own times are too fresh in our memories to need any repetition. Have these soul-scorching incidents and cataclysms taken place without any rhyme or reason? No: there is nothing that can happen to us beyond the scope of the good and utterly just laws. In our ignorance we may not be able to trace the immediate cause with certainty, definiteness and accuracy, but this much is certain beyond the least shadow of doubt, that nothing unmerited can happen to us or to our country.

“Our own apathy, indifference, lack of patriotism, communal and caste dissensions, mutual hatred, suspicion and strife, have been the main cause of our present and past degradation.

“As our collective Karma brought on us the wrath of divine justice and fit retribution closely followed in the wake of our evil deeds, and we deservedly suffered and paid for them heavily, so we can again exert our collective will in the right direction and learn to be wise and circumspect in the light of our past bitter experience and humiliation. In the course of time, we shall again see the eclipse of downfall, servitude and thraldom, and we shall once more be free and great as our forefathers were.”

2. Law of Causation

All the phenomena of Nature are governed by one important law, the universal law of causation, which is also known by the name, the Law of Karma. The law of causation is a universal law that keeps up the inner harmony and the logical order of the universe. Man’s deeds are as much subject to this law as the events and occurrences in this physical plane. Karma is a Sanskrit term that comes from the root ‘Kri’, meaning to act, and signifies action or deed. Any physical or mental action is Karma. Thought is also Karma. Reaction that follows an action is Karma. Karma is a broad term. Attraction, repulsion, gravitation, breathing, talking, walking, seeing, hearing, eating, feeling, willing, desiring, thinking—all the actions of the body, mind and senses are Karma. Karma includes both cause and effect.

All other laws of Nature are subordinate to this fundamental law. The sun shines, the fire burns, the river flows, the wind blows, the tree blossoms and bears fruit, the mind thinks, feels and wills, the brain and the various organs like the heart, lungs, spleen and kidneys work in harmony and in strict obedience to this grand law of cause and effect. This grand law operates everywhere on the physical and mental planes. No phenomenon can escape from the operation of this mighty law.

The seed has its cause in the tree and itself becomes in turn the cause of a tree. The grown-up father procreates a son, and the son in turn becomes a father. The cause is found in the effect and the effect is found in the cause. The effect is similar to the cause. This is the universal chain of cause and effect which has no end. No link in the chain is necessary. This world runs on this fundamental, vital law. This law is inexorable and immutable.

Scientists are carefully observing the phenomena of Nature and are trying to find out the exact causes of all that take place in Nature. The astronomer sits in his observatory with his long, powerful telescope and watches the heavenly map, and studies the stars and planets very carefully. He tries to find out the exact causes that bring about the phenomena. The reflective philosopher sits in a contemplative mood and tries to find out the cause of this world, the cause of the pains and miseries of this Samsara and the cause of the phenomena of this birth and death.

No event can occur without having a positive, definite cause at the back of it. The breaking out of war, the rise of a comet, the occurrence of an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, thunder, lightning, floods, diseases of the body, fortune, misfortune—all have definite causes behind them.

If you develop a carbuncle or get a fracture of the leg or arm, this is obviously due to some bad Karma in your previous birth. The bad Karma was the cause and the carbuncle or fracture is the effect. If you get some fortune in this birth, the cause is some good action that you must have done in your previous birth.

There is no such thing as a chance or accident. The cause is hidden or unknown, if you are not able to trace out the cause for the particular accident. This law of cause and effect is quite mysterious. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says: Gahana karmano gatih—mysterious is the path of action. If your finite mind is not able to find out the cause in an accident or other incident, it does not mean that there is no cause behind such occurrences.

All the physical and mental forces in Nature obey this grand law of cause and effect. The law and the Law-giver are one. The law and God are one. Nature and her laws are one. The laws of gravitation, cohesion, adhesion, attraction and repulsion, the law of like and dislike on the physical plane, the laws of relativity and contiguity, the law of association on the mental plane, all operate in strict accordance with this law of cause and effect. From the vibration of an electron to the revolution of a mighty planet, from the falling of a mango to the ground to the powerful willing of a Yogi, from the motion of a runner in athletics to the movement of radio-waves in the subtle ether, from the transmitting of a telegraphic message to the telepathic communication of a Yogi in the thought-world—every event is the effect of some invisible force that works in happy concord and harmony with the law of cause and effect.

A close study of this law gives encouragement to the man who has lost hope, and to the desperate and ailing. Destiny is created by man’s thoughts, habits and character. There is every chance of his correction and improvement by changing his thoughts and his habits. The scoundrel can become a saint, the prostitute can become a chaste lady, a beggar can become a king. This mighty law provides for all this. The Law of Karma only can explain beautifully the inequalities of this world, such as why one man is rich while another is poor, why one is wicked while another is a saint, one is very dull while another is a genius or a versatile prodigy, one is born decrepit while another is strong and healthy, etc. How can you explain these inequalities? It is all Karma. God can never be unjust or partial.
This world is a relative plane. It contains good, evil, and a mixture of good and evil. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in the Gita:

Anishtamishtam misram cha trividham karmanah phalam.

“Good, evil and mixed—threefold is the fruit of action hereafter for the non-relinquisher.” Chapter: XVIII- 12.

There can be neither absolute good nor absolute evil in this world. That which gives you comfort and pleasure, that which is beneficial to you, to the world and your neighbour, is good. That which gives you discomfort, uneasiness, pain and misery, that which is not beneficial to the world and to your neighbour, is evil. That which gives misery and pain to some, and pleasure to others, is a mixture of good and evil.

Every action that you do produces a twofold effect. It produces an impression in your mind and when you die you carry the Samskara in the Karmashaya or receptacle of works in your subconscious mind. It produces an impression on the world or Akasic records. Any action is bound to react upon you with equal force and effect. If you hurt another man, you really hurt yourself. This wrong action is bound to react upon and injure you. It will bring misery and pain. If you do some good to another man, you are really helping yourself. You are really doing good to yourself because there is nothing but the Self. This virtuous action will react upon you with equal force and effect. It will bring you joy and happiness. That is the reason why sages and Rishis, prophets and moralists harp on the one note: “Love thy neighbour as thyself. Never hurt the feelings of others. Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah—noninjury is the highest virtue. Do good to all. Do as you would be done by.” He who has rightly understood this law, can never do any harm to anybody. He will become an embodiment of goodness.

If you do a wrong action against an individual, it disturbs the whole atmosphere. If you entertain an evil thought it pollutes the whole thought-world. That is the reason why occultists say: “Cultivate good thoughts. Eradicate evil thoughts.” Every thought has a cause behind it. Every action, every thought, however trivial and insignificant it may be, affects the whole world directly or indirectly. That noble soul who always does good to the world and entertains sublime thoughts, is a blessing to the world at large. He purifies the whole world.

Suppose for a moment you write some sensational article in some newspaper. It arouses the emotions and sentiments of the readers. They begin to do something against the Government. A serious riot now ensues. Police forces are brought in. Many people are shot. Many new rules are framed to check and repress the riots. The parents of those who were killed suffer. This riot produces an effect on the minds of the people of other parts of the world also. In fact the whole world is affected by a single event. A single sensational article has wrought such disastrous results. One event may be both a cause and effect at the same time. The endless chain of cause and effect is kept up all throughout. You cannot say that this link is useless or unnecessary.

You have now a comprehensive understanding of this grand law of cause and effect. You can change your thoughts and habits and mould a new character. You can become a righteous man and a saint by doing virtuous actions and entertaining noble and divine thoughts. When you attain knowledge of Self, when you annihilate this little mind, when you transcend the three Gunas and the three Avasthas, you can rest in your own Svarup. You can become identical with the Law-giver and then the law of cause and effect will not operate on you. You can conquer Nature. May that invisible Law-giver, Brahman, guide you in the attainment of final beatitude of life!

3. Law of Action and Reaction

The grand law of causation includes the law of action and reaction, the law of compensation and the law of retribution. All these laws come under one general, all-embracing heading Doctrine of Karma. If there is an action, there must be a reaction. The reaction will be of equal force and of a similar nature. The recent Great War has brought out a strong reaction. There is depression in trade. There is no peace in the country. People are not happy. The money market is tight. Many lives have been lost. The death of a just king brings immediate, strong reaction. Every thought, desire, imagination and sentiment causes reaction. Virtue brings its own reward; vice brings its own punishment. This is the working of the law of reaction. If I radiate joy to others, if I relieve the sufferings of others, I will doubtless get joy. This is the law of reaction. If I hurt another man, if I cause misery and pain to another, I will in turn get misery and pain. God neither punishes the wicked nor rewards the virtuous. It is their own Karmas that bring reward and punishment. It is the law of action and reaction that brings the fruits. No one is to be blamed. The law operates everywhere with unceasing precision and scientific accuracy. The law of action and reaction operates both in the physical and mental planes.

A tennis ball strikes the ground and rises up with equal force. This is the law of action and reaction. If I strike against a pillow, the pillow is bound to react upon me with equal force. This is the law of action and reaction. If I speak sweet loving words to anyone, the man returns the feeling of love and speaks sweet words to me also. This is the law of action and reaction.

Why does a man behave in a rude manner? Why is another man courteous, civil and polite? Why does one man possess good moral character? Why does another possess evil character? Why does one man possess good health, strength and vitality? Why is another man sickly and miserable? Why is one joyful and cheerful while another is depressed and cheerless? These things can be easily explained by the law of action and reaction. Nobody is to be blamed. It is our own Karma that brings joy, misery, pleasure, pain, gain, loss, success and defeat. Every one of us is governed by the law of action and reaction. The character of an individual is subject to the law of action and reaction. Each character or personality is the total result or collective totality of previous mental action. Thoughts change, habits change, character also changes. Our present character is the outcome of our past, and our future will be shaped by our present acts. Man creates his own character and destiny. He can do and undo his thoughts, habits, character and destiny. The law of action and reaction operates everywhere.

He who thoroughly understands this grand law of action and reaction will never do any wrong action, because he knows that it will react upon him and bring misery and pain. He will always be doing virtuous actions as they will bring peace, joy, strength and unalloyed felicity. Dear friends! Understand this law. Never violate it. Act according to the law and rest in peace. May that silent Law-giver who is hiding Himself behind these names and forms guide you in all your thoughts, speech, and actions! Glory to the law and the Law-giver!

4. Law of Compensation

The law of compensation operates everywhere in Nature’s phenomena. The seed breaks and a big tree appears from the seed. The tree comes out in accordance with the law of compensation. Fuel burns and is destroyed. But there is heat in accordance with the law of compensation. Many articles are cooked in the fire on account of the heat. If there is extreme heat in Bezwada, there is extreme cold in Mt. Kailas or Uttarakasi in the Himalayas. This is the law of compensation. If there are ten scoundrels in a place, there are two Sattvic souls to bring compensation. If there is flood-tide at Puri, there is an ebb-tide at Waltair. This is the law of compensation. If there is day in India there is night in America. Peace follows a war and vice versa. Water becomes steam and the steam makes the engine move. The sulphuric acid in a jar of a battery is consumed but there is electricity produced in the bulb. You get light. This is the law of compensation. The law of compensation operates in the mental plane also.

Every effect has a cause. Every consequence has an antecedent. There must be perfect balance between the cause and effect, between the antecedent and consequence. The law of compensation keeps up the balance, and establishes peace, concord, equilibrium, harmony and justice in Nature. Think deeply. Reflect and cogitate. You will notice that this law of compensation is operating beautifully everywhere in the phenomena of Nature. It is inexorable and relentless. No one can defy this immutable and irresistible law. If you do an evil act, you will reap a bad fruit in compensation.

Sometimes a man complains: “God is unjust. I have always been a truthful man. I never do any wrong to anybody. I am always serving humanity. Yet I have this terrible disease, asthma.” This is incorrect and unreasonable. You will have to connect the effect with the cause always. Whatever you suffer from may appear to be unjust. You may think that you do not deserve it at all. But if you try to find out the cause of this suffering, you will doubtless find that it is perfectly right and a just compensation. Then you will have satisfaction. Just try in a few cases. Then you will have no room for complaint or lamentation. You will understand the beautiful working of the law of compensation. The affairs of our lives are so very intricate and complicated that we find it difficult to trace the cause of the present suffering. Though we are not able to trace the cause, though we are not able to understand the working of the law, yet the cause is there. Our intellect is so feeble that it is not able to grasp the antecedent or cause of a suffering or event.

A man may reap the fruit of compensation for his action either in this life or in the next. If we deny pre-existence and rebirth and take into consideration that life begins with this birth only and ends completely with the death of the body and there is nothing more, then it will be no compensation for the virtuous man who has done noble actions and for the wicked man who has done crimes. The chain of cause and effect, antecedent and consequence, will be broken abruptly. There will be terrible injustice everywhere. This cannot be. If you connect your present life with the past and the future lives, and then judge the present life from the standpoint of eternal life, then there will be perfect justice. Then there will be perfect compensation.

Your present life has direct connection with the past and the future. There is perfect continuity of life all throughout, though you take several bodies. There is one common thread that runs through the whole soul-life of countless births. The life of the individual soul (Jivatma) consists of countless earthly lives. There is intimate connection between the past, present and future and the law of compensation operates with perfect justice and harmony. The physical body may change but the events and the law of compensation continue all throughout. Just as the daily life of a man has connection with the life of yesterday and the life of tomorrow, so also one period of earthly life has intimate bearing with the previous and future lives. Then only will there be perfect justice and compensation.

If you take an individual life as an isolated event that begins with the birth of the physical body and terminates with its death, you cannot find any correct explanation or solution for the affairs of life. You will be groping in darkness and despair. If the virtuous man who has not done any evil act in this birth suffers, this is due to some wrong act that he may have committed in his previous birth. He will have his compensation in his next birth. If the wicked man who daily does many evil actions apparently enjoys in this birth, this is due to some good Karma he must have done in his previous birth. He will have compensation in his next birth. He will reap the fruits of his evil actions in his next birth. He will suffer in the next birth. The law of compensation is inexorable and relentless.

Your present life is nothing when compared with the whole soul-life. It is momentary. It is a mere fragment. Whenever you want to find out the cause or antecedent for anything, you will have to go deep into the affairs of the eternal soul-life. Then alone will there be perfect balance between the cause and the effect, between the antecedent and consequence. You will have to judge from a broad view of the eternal soul-life. The law of compensation embraces a wide range of the whole soul-life. Life does not end with the disintegration of this physical body alone. There is reincarnation. There have been countless previous lives also. You will have to take into consideration the widest view of the life of the soul. Then the line is quite clear. Then you will find a perfect, satisfactory solution for all the intricate and complicated affairs of life. Then there will be no room for grumbling or lamentation or misapprehension.

5. Law of Retribution

Every wrong action or crime brings its own punishment, in accordance with the law of retribution. The law of causation, the law of action and reaction, the law of compensation and the law of retribution—all these operate together. He who robs another man robs himself. He who hurts another man hurts himself first. He who cheats another cheats himself first. Every wrong action causes punishment first in the inner nature or soul and externally in circumstances in the form of pain, misery, loss, failure, misfortune, disease, etc.

Man is ignorant. He is swayed by impulses, wrath, passion, attachment, pride and repulsion. He does various sorts of wicked actions. His intellect becomes perverted. He loses his memory. His understanding gets clouded by selfishness and greed. He does not know what he is exactly doing. Later on he repents. Discipline of the Indriyas is necessary. He should remember the law of causation, the law of action and reaction, and the law of retribution at every step, at every moment of his daily life. He should control his emotions and impulses through the practice of Pranayama and meditation. Then only will he not do any wrong action.

Remember that God is neither partial nor unjust. You suffer on account of your own wicked actions. Sow the seeds which will bring pleasant fruits and which will make you happy herein and hereafter. Do not sow the seeds which will bring unpleasant fruits and which will make you miserable and unhappy in this life or hereafter. Be cautious in doing your daily duties. Watch every thought, word and action. Go to the root and purify the thoughts first. Prayer, Japa, meditation, study of philosophical books, pure food, Vichara and Satsanga will purify your mind and eradicate ignoble and wicked thoughts. Observe the vow of silence, you will then be able to control your speech. Practise Yama and Niyama, Ahimsa, Satyam, Asteyam, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. Develop Sattvic qualities. Slowly eradicate negative qualities. By these practices you will not be able to do any wrong action. The force of Sattvic habits will goad you on to do virtuous actions only.

Orthodox Christians and theologians believe that God settles and fixes the destiny of a man before his birth. This is not logical and tenable. The hypothesis falls to the ground on account of its unsound nature. Man becomes like a piece of straw that is tossed about hither and thither in the wind. He has no independence and freedom. This makes God partial, unjust and whimsical. The moral responsibility and liberty of a man are destroyed. The man becomes like a prisoner whose hands and legs are tied with chains. Why should God make one happy and another unhappy? Is He so whimsical and eccentric? Why should one get His Grace before he is born? Is he so biased? If God is all-merciful why can He not make all equally noble, virtuous, happy, good, moral and spiritual? Why is one born blind? Why should a sinner be responsible for his actions? Is he pre-ordained to sin? Why should he suffer owing to the whim of such a Creator? Questions like these remain a puzzle if you accept the theory of ‘pre-ordination and Grace’. The doctrine of Karma alone will give satisfaction. It is sound. It appeals to reason. It throws a flood of dear light. Everyone reaps the fruits of his own actions. Man can do and undo his destiny by his own thoughts and character. He is a free agent. He may be a bad man in this birth, but he can change his thoughts, habits, tendencies and character and can become a good man or a saint in the next birth. He has free will. He can choose between two alternatives at every step. The theory of ‘preordination and Grace’ cannot be accepted. It falls to the ground as it is unsound and untenable.

The doctrine of Karma only can explain the mysterious problem of good and evil in this world. The doctrine of Karma only can bring solace, contentment and strength to the afflicted and the desperate. It solves our difficulties and problems of life. It gives encouragement to the hopeless and the forlorn. It pushes a man to right thinking, right speech and right action. It brings a brilliant future for that man who lives according to this universal law. If all people understand this law correctly and discharge their daily duties carefully they would rise to sublime heights in the ladder of spirituality. They will be moral and virtuous and have a happy, peaceful and contented life. They can bear the burden of Samsara with patience, endurance and strength of mind. There will not be any room for complaint when they see inequalities in birth, fortune, intelligence and capacities. There will be heaven on earth. All will rejoice even in suffering. Greed, jealousy, hatred, anger and passion will vanish. Virtue will reign supreme everywhere. We will have a glorious Satyayuga now with peace and plenty everywhere. Blessed is the man who understands and lives in the law, for he will soon attain God-consciousness and become one with the Law-giver. Then the law will no longer operate on him.

6. Law of Resistance

If you eat a mango, if you do any kind of work, it produces an impression in the subconscious mind or Chitta. This impression is called Samskara or tendency. Whatever you see, hear, feel, smell or taste causes Samskaras. The acts of breathing, thinking, feeling, and willing produce impressions. These impressions are indestructible. They can only be fried in toto by Asamprajnata Samadhi. Man is a bundle of Samskaras. Mind is a bundle of impressions. It is these Samskaras that bring a man again and again to this physical plane. They are the cause for rebirths. These Samskaras assume the form of very big waves through memory, internal or external stimulus. The sum-total of these impressions constitutes the character of a man. If you do virtuous actions, the Chitta will contain good impressions and you will possess a good character. If you do evil deeds there will be evil impressions in the subconscious mind, and you will have a bad character. Good Samskaras force a man to do good actions and vice versa. If you have a great asset of good Samskaras, you will not do any evil action at all. You will have an established good character. Mara or Satan can have no influence upon you.

Actions produce Samskaras or impressions or potencies. The impressions coalesce together through repetition and form habits. Tendencies develop into habits and character. The sum-total of the tendencies of a man is his character. Karmas manufacture character and character manufactures will. If the character is pure and strong, the will also will be pure and strong, and vice versa.

It is said that habit is second nature. I always say that habit is all nature. Control of habits is control of nature. Old, evil habits can be changed into healthy and desirable habits through the force of the pure irresistible will. A weak, impotent man is a slave of habits. He always imagines that habits are innate and that they cannot be changed in one’s lifetime. This is a mistake. If you want to change the old, morbid evil habits and establish new, healthy and good habits, you will have to struggle hard. The old habits will try to return, resist, persist and recur. Internal fight will go on between the old and new Samskaras, between old and new habits. You will have to be very vigilant, careful and circumspect. You will have to be on the alert like a soldier who is on patrol duty at a magazine in a military cantonment. The old habit asserts itself and says: “O friend! You gave me a seat in your body and mind for twenty long years. You enjoyed several things through me. Why do you try to drive me off now? You are very cruel. I have every right and privilege from Nature, my kind mother, to remain here. Maya works through me only. The entire world runs through habits only. Man clings to tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, smoking, cinema, novels, gambling and playing cards through the force of habits. The whole world will dwindle into airy nothing but for me. The Lila of the Lord will stop had it not been for my presence in your system. I will not leave my seat in your body.” This is the law of resistance. If the man who is attempting to eradicate an evil habit is careless, the old habit will recur again. In the beginning it may recur less frequently and last for a long time. Or it may recur less frequently and last for a short time. But you will gain strength and gradually it will perish altogether and the new good habits will gain supremacy eventually.

If a new healthy habit is introduced even once and if you make even a single attempt in planting a new good habit, the good habit will grow gradually. It will also assert itself to gain a seat in the body and mind. It will work itself till it gets perfect success and defeats the old, morbid habit. This is also another law of Nature. There is always a double life in Nature, the Asuric and Daivic. The fight between the Asuras and the Devas is always going on in the body and the mind. If you struggle very hard, the new good habits will establish themselves quickly. You will have rapid progress in the spiritual path. The pure, strong, irresistible will is bound to succeed ultimately. It can do anything. Its powers are ineffable and wonderful.

(extracted from the book “Practice of Karma Yoga”)

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