As you sow,
so you reap
Movement of any machine is not called as ‘karma’ because any work to be called as ‘karma’ must be done by a living being.
Involuntary movements of millions of our body cells resulting in the functions such as blood circulation, food digestion, breathing etc are not called as ‘karmas’ because of the absence of ‘active I consciousness’.
Lord Krishna says in Gita – “Every action of a man is caused by five factors, namely the body, the active I consciousness, the sense-organs, the movement of vital air and the supernatural factor.
It is only the action that differentiates a man from a machine, a man from animal and a man from another man and it is the action only that elevates a man to a state of ‘actionlessness.
Every action of a man leaves two types of impressions in his mind. The first one is known as ‘karmasaya’, which means the desire to repeat the action. For example, when one tastes an ice cream for the first time in life, that ‘karma’ of tasting the ice cream sows the seeds of desire to have that experience once more. Supposing through intellectual analysis, the man has conquered the desire for having the ice cream once more still he must have the memory of his tasting the ice cream for the first time in life, though he may not hanker for that now. That memory of his past experience without any hankerings for having it again is called ‘vasanas’. .
It is only the desire caused by the karmasaya that binds one to sufferings and not mere memory of one’s past experiences known as vasanas. A person who has never tasted ice cream cannot have a desire for it; he can at best have only a curiosity for it.
The first action of tasting the ice cream is karma.
The fulfilment of the present desire to have it again will also be through karma.
The eradication of the desire also has to be achieved through karma only. It is said that through intellectual analysis, one can conquer the desires. But it is easier said than done. It is only through the performance of a fresh karma, the results of old karmas can be destroyed. The process is first to weaken our desires by doing some fresh karmas the results of which will strengthen our minds to overcome the pressure of our desires. When we start doing karmas to weaken our desires, we become ‘Karma Yogis’ and thus we make our beginnings in our spiritual life
Knowledge of “Law of Karma’ is a basic requirement to every spiritual aspirant.
Every action gives two types of results to the doer.
The first one is cosmic phala or fruit that comes back to the doer from outside. No one on earth can say in clear cut terms as to the type of effect of each action. Though each cause has its effect, the effect of each cause is not defined in the science of karma. Lord Krishna says in Gita that even the wise men are perplexed about the ways of action as it is beyond human understanding – gahana karmano gati. Supposing A abuses B, it is not sure that A will be abused in the same way by C. But it is cock sure that A has to get back some kind of retribution for his action of abusing B. We have ethical standards such as ‘maximum good to maximum number of people’, ‘good as per one’s own conscience’, ‘do to others as you would like to be done by others’ etc. that are used as yard sticks to evaluate an action as good or bad. These parameters are flexibly used and spiritual aspirant is left to himself with the task of evaluating his action.
The second type of result that accrues to the doer is karamasaya. Each desire prompted action produces seed of desire in the mental plane of the doer coupled with the memory of his past experience. The seed of desire is called ‘karma bija’. The sum total of all the seeds is called karmasaya. The memory of past experience is called ‘vasana’. We have learnt in our primary school botany lesson that seed will sprout only when it gains contact with water or earth. Similarly the karma bija also will sprout only when it gains contact with the will, which is the active aspect of our Self. Hence, seeds of desire as such do not harm the spiritual seeker but it does harm only when the will of the person is connected to it. So, the first and foremost duty of every aspirant is to learn the secret of detaching his will from the seed of desire. This is called attenuating the seed of desire. How to unravel this mystery? The will power of the man has to be diverted to gain contact with the seed of love for God. Though such seeds may not be present in our mental field, we have to begin collecting them by doing fresh karmas. Thus, once this connectivity is established then a big harvest is waiting for the aspirants. The bumper harvest is the spiritual illumination. This spiritual fire will burn away all the seeds of desires that are stored in our mental warehouse. Once all the seeds of worldly desires are burnt away, they loose their potentiality to sprout even when they gain contact with the earth and water in the form of the will power of the man. That was how Buddha, Jesus, Ramakrishna and other saints have gained mastery over their minds.
Now it is clear that the first result of cosmic phala can not be stopped by any one on the earth from coming back to the doer, whereas the second result of karma bija can be made ineffective. The first one is like the arrow that has left out of the hands. One has to accept it, whether joyful or painful but the second result of karma bija can be over come through spiritual efforts such as prayer, meditation, social service etc.
Any sincere student of spiritual science will ask – “Can God not save us from the cosmic phala of our wrong action?” If one has to necessarily undergo the sufferings for his earlier action, then what is the role of God in the life of a devotee?
Indeed a very pertinent question.
H2 + O = Water
Who created this equation?
Every one will say it is a natural phenomenon. No body has created it, for every creation will meet its destruction.
The logic that governs the physical science holds well in the metaphysical science of karma also. Each action as a cause brings its own effect to the doer. God has no role to play and it is not rational to expect God to waive the doer from the effect of his own action. Then, shall one turn out to be an atheist? No. Rather, an atheist has to become a lover of God for the following reasons:
1. Faith in and love of God enables the devotee to bring out the energy hidden within himself to bear with the trying situations. A patient can undergo surgery either with or without anaesthesia. But, accepting anaesthesia will free him from the experience of pain during surgery. If he prefers not to have anaesthesia, he is allowed to remain as such. But, of course he has to feel the pain of surgery. The act of surgery is bound to take place in both the situations. Similar is the case with faith in and love of God. Prayer to God frees one from the feeling of pain only. Prayer does not stop the happening of painful act. This is what we learn from the lives of saints and seers. Ramakrishna had throat cancer and all His disciples had innumerable hardships but those were sufferings only for ordinary people like us. But, they did not have the word ‘suffering’ in their dictionary. Their mind was one with God and they felt ‘suffering’ only when their mind was separated from their beloved God.
2. The second advantage of seeking divine help is the protection that the devotee gains from committing the same type of action or any new action that will yield painful experience to him. There are innumerable occasions wherein even a wise man realises his mistake only after its commission. Hence, before effecting any action one needs to have a clear understanding of one’s do’s and don’ts. A devotee owns responsibility of his past actions and becomes fully conscious of his future plan. A mind that doesn’t see the outside imperfections will try to mend its own imperfections and thus it gains a perfect decision making power.
Every one is thus responsible for each of his thought, word and deed. A student of spiritual science with the shield of divine love lives happily and serves others also to live happily. He understands that true love is neither an emotion nor a desire. It is a unifying power inseparable from life. Man does not create love; rather it creates him. Man out of ignorance does not handle this divine power and meet with failures in expressing love to others. How can one manipulate love towards God and people around him successfully?
A very good question, indeed?
A true Karma-yogi is conscious of the source of all forms of love. He is aware that his own Self is the source of all love. He accepts and loves his self. His Self is of the nature of Sat-Chit-Ananda – ever existing, all knowing and ever blissful. He doesn’t seek love outside of him. He is love personified and seeks union with others. The self-union is the highest form of expression of love whereas sexual-union is the lowest form. An ordinary man who doesn’t have any idea of “karma and its effects” will refuse to accept himself and spends his time and energy to become somebody else in the name of unselfishness. It is not at all a true unselfishness but pseudo-unselfishness. People thrust service upon others against their wish so as to make others dependent upon them. Such type of service emanates out of self-hatred or fear. One can witness such type of unselfishness between husband and wife, parents and children, teacher and students, employers and employees etc. Since their so called love is artificial their life becomes mechanical without any creativity or life in it.
“Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself” – that was Jesus, the Christ. Lord asks us to love our self first and then love our neighbours also in the same way. Is it bad to love oneself? Is love for oneself contradictory to love for others? The way to truly love others is first to love one’s self. Why? It is because love is non-dual and is present within one. Every one is having fountain of love within oneself. When one becomes conscious of this fact and allows that fountain to flow towards others there the unifying power of love is established. That is the only way of loving our neighbour.
Once, a devotee by name Shambu Mallick told Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna about his plans of constructing hospital, laying roads and digging wells for the service of others. Sri Ramakrishna admonished him saying, “Don’t go out of your way to look for such works. Undertake only those works that present themselves to you and are of pressing necessity – and that also in a spirit of detachment. It is not good to become involved in many activities. That makes one forget God.”
Thus an aspirant’s thought, word and deed are to benefit himself and as well others. Loving one’s own self and others are complementary to each other and not contradictory.
Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama
Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India