Each 'Choose-day' we will investigate the process by which we can reassess our activity and interaction with the world of plurality and become more congruent within our personality.
KINDLE LIFE. We continue exploring points raised by HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda-ji in the publication of this name. Remember, you can purchase, (very economically!), the book from Chinmaya Mission Publications or if you prefer, the Amazon Link. Thus you can read Gurudev's words directly and bring your own voice to the discussion.
Chapter Eleven comes to a subject which many think they know, but few actually properly understand. THE LAW OF KARMA.
In many respects it is as simple as 'what goes around comes around'. Accepting the fact that action executed, every decision taken, must undergo its consequences whether expected or not, is a little more difficult. Firstly we have to absorb the concept of vaasana-s. These are the 'programming' of our individual computers, if you will. For as long as we work on our vaasana instructions, so long we will be caught up in desires, agitations and the actions resulting from seeking to quell them. The actions will 'imprint' according to the result obtained, which in turn leads to affirming existing vaasana-s or creating new ones which will bring on further action.
It is the law of cause and effect which governs karma; as scientific as it gets! Let us look a little closer. Each person is who they are based upon the yield of past actions. From birth, through to end of life, if actions are of noble and pure intent that person might be said to be one of dignity or goodness. Equally, we see others who live with viciousness and immorality and we mark these down as 'bad eggs'. Everyone has a concept of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. What drives this is not only the circumstances around them (which can be seen and easily 'accused'), but also the very nature of each individual, the personality with which they are born. Hence we can find 'bad eggs' arising from otherwise agreeable roots and conversely we see giants of virtue coming out of the worst of circumstances.
Thus we can conclude that what drives a person's life is not so much the environment, but how they respond to it - and this is ascribed to karma. We can look at this and say, 'well that was their destiny' and leave it at that. How lacking in curiosity would that make us?!
Karma is not simply destiny (which has the sense of being written in stone and therefore nothing can be done about it). It is much more dynamic than this. To fully understand karma is essential in Vedanta, for it clarifies how it is we even have come to be reading the philosophy itself. The 'destiny' part of karmic law is that which is called प्रारब्ध/praarabdha. It is the the 'effect' of the causative past not just in current life but in all previous existences. It can be seen that balance has to be brought to bear, deeds answered for, and to this extent at least, we do have to live out destiny. However, along the way each jiva (the individualised soul is called this remember!) has the capacity to climb the spiritual ladder, cancelling out the karmic account and developing ever greater strength to correct the course of praarabdha. This self-effort is called as पुरुषार्थ/purushaartha (wealth of cosmic man) and this is the seed of the phrase "Lord helps those who help themselves". Thus it can be said that the present praarabdha is a result of past purushaartha. Equally, every action from this moment of understanding can have purushaartha behind it with the intention of ensuring an improved praarabdha as we go forward, leading to final liberation (moksha) from the whole cycle.
In short; what one meets in life is praarabdha...how one meets it is purushaartha.
We have the power of our future within ourselves. Through our purushaartha we really can make a difference to our soul's journey. Whether we choose between preyas or shreyas [this is where your little workbooks come in handy folks - remember these are the paths of pleasure or good…] may be written at birth according to praarabdha, but if we have earned enough karmic brownie points, we will come to understand that choices can be made to change or improve our paths. It is not that we can completely wipe praarabdha's slate, but it can be said that the future is a continuity of the past, modified with purushartha in the present.
Now the mix gets a little more complex. Yes we have freedom of choice between positive or negative actions in terms of our purushaartha; however, those choices are still, to a large extent, coloured by the depth of our praarabdha. Gurudev gives the excellent example of a boat on a river. Without an engine (no choice), it must only flow as the river flows; if we add an engine (purushaartha) we can certainly give the boat an independence of the river...but for as long as it remains on the river, despite being more steerable, it is still to some extent governed by the current already in place; thus if going down river the boat is actually going faster than it's engine is driving it, but if it is going upriver, it may be battling to maintain speed. This is what explains how, even when we have a basically good and well-planned life, we can hit heavy 'back-currents' and we wonder what we did to deserve the strife! We may never know the source of the eddy or the whirlpool. All we can do is seek to regain balance through purushaartha, titiksha, shraddha and so on.
We are, then, a product of our past, but have the ability to be producer for the future. Praarabdha (law of destiny) applies only to past action and makes of us victims. Karma (law of consequential action) though, ensures the ability to create, with a view to quelling praarabdha. The logic behind this is well seen in present life with things such as education (the more effort put the better the qualification) and such like; what can take a little more to absorb is that there are many, many, many lives which contributed to praarabdha and there may be many more to endure until purushaartha can yield the most positive result of all - the balancing of our karmic debt and we can sign off the cosmic account.
Further to the individual karma, there is community karma. We will only touch upon this here because the subject will arise in various forms throughout Vedantic study. It is important to note, though, that part of karma is that we are born wherever it is our praarabdha can best play out in present life… and this means that very often those with similar cosmic balances will be born in similar places. This is what gives character to culture and variance in etiquettes and so on. This is a big concept. Just take note of it for now.