Destiny and Karma

(Interactive session on 18.5.2013)
Keynote address by Ms. Suryakanthi Tripathi
(Other participant speakers: Ms.Valsa Abraham, Dr. Kalyan Kr. Chakravarty, Mr. S.R. Das, P.C. Jha, Asim Banerjee, R.K. Gupta, Paritosh Bandopadhyay, A. K.Segupta, Dr. Santosh Ganguly & Dr. Suhas Majumdar.
Anchor & conclusive remarks: Asish K. Raha)
Introduction:

The term ‘Destiny’ going by its plain dictionary meaning implies fate that is pre-ordained, while the term ‘Karma’ (Sanskrit word) means ‘action’. The question is whether our action is partly, largely or wholly pre-destined or the other way round, i.e. that our Karma determines our destiny, and hence our karma is not pre-destined. Before we examine the above apparently conflicting propositions, let us understand what Karma is and what we mean by Destiny.

Doctrine of Karma:

The doctrine of Karma explains life in terms of the past, present and the future. Now the question is – does Karma deny freedom of will? Does it deny self-determination? Before we search for an answer to those questions, we must address the other core question whether the causes of action can be found within the narrow limits of a single life. The Karma doctrine postulates Samsara or the continued existence of the self in a succession of lives. Hence, transmigration of souls (with subtle or astral bodies) becomes a corollary to the doctrine of Karma.
Karma may be moral, immoral or amoral. The principle of causality governs every action as well as its result or effect. In other words, every action has some potency to ordain for a person joy or sorrow or neutral effect, according to the quality, intent and circumstances of the action, and adds to his or her bondage to mortal existence or destiny.
As our Karma or actions determine our destiny, can we be called the creators of our destiny, even while being subject to the destiny that we have created? To address this question, we have to appreciate the symbiotic interface between our Destiny and Karma. This is theorized as Prarabdh Karma in Sanskrit, meaning ‘earned by our past Karma’. There are two components of Prarabdh Karma – fixed and variable. The fixed component includes family, environment, body etc. of the transmigrated soul in his new mortal life, while the variable component is latent in the child in form of habits, qualities, aptitude, tendencies, abilities etc. called Samskara in Sanskrit, which can be positive or negative. The variable components can be further cultivated, nourished or overcome by free will. The Samskara is the baggage or residual impressions of past lives that largely determine/influence the character of the individual. It is a revolving chain.

Destiny written on forehead – the locus of Third Eye:

There is a widespread belief in India that at the moment of birth or on the 6th night after the birth, Lord Brahma (not Brahman), one of the Hindu Trinity, comes to write the destiny of the new-born on its forehead, on a bone chip in-between the eyebrows, where the Third Eye is believed to be located. This writing on the forehead, which is unchangeable, is called Phalalikhita in Sanskrit. It is also believed that the tiny, flat bone chip (called Asthi) on which the destiny is written/programmed on the new-born’s forehead remains un-scathed by fire while the whole body (except the navel) gets reduced into ashes after cremation. As per the prevailing custom among the Hindus, Asthi and navel are immersed in the holy river after the body is cremated. It is only when the Third Eye gets opened through deep meditation that the subject can access all the information stored therein, which includes his past lives, present circumstances and future events.

Analysis of Karma:

Karma or Action has two components, a physical component and a mental component. Similarly action can be voluntary and non-voluntary. Certain actions are involuntary such as breathing, which is a need associated with all the living creatures. On the other hand a mental action is associated with all voluntary actions, which is known as the intention. In other words while mental actions involve mind alone, voluntary physical actions involve both the mind and the body. Physical actions being good or bad depends upon the fact whether they benefit others or hurt them. Good or bad intention depends upon the fact whether the intention is to help others or it is one’s self interest. Actions can, thus, be divided into four categories and the doers accordingly are known as angels, human beings, ignorant and devils respectively:
Where the intention and the action both are good,
Where the intention is good but the action is bad,
Where the intention is bad but the action is good, and
Where the intention and the action both are bad.
An example of good intention but bad action is forcing others to follow a particular religion and even killing in the name of religion. An example of bad intention but good deed is to do charity with ulterior motive.
Ego is often inseparable from action. Desires which arise from imperfection co-exist with ego. The bondage resulting from one’s actions prompted by desire can be broken only by shunning desire. The Srimadbhagwat Gita in chapter 3 states that one who outwardly restrains the organs of senses and action but dwells mentally on them is a pretender. On the other hand, one who exercises control over the organs of action and senses by the mind and engages oneself in the performance of duties without attachment is a superior being. Going a step further, the Gita clarifies that a self-contented person has no desire and, therefore, his/her action does not lead to bondage of soul.
Every human being has three layers of consciousness, namely, the gross or the physical whereby the being indentifies self by a name, surroundings and qualification, the subtle or the mental which is deathless and nameless and the causal which is supra-consciousness or God (refer chapter 15 of Gita). At the first level of consciousness, action is governed and prompted by ego, while at the second level, mind is able to discriminate good from evil, truth from untruth, and rises above self-interest. At the third and final level, the individual consciousness gets merged in Supra-consciousness or God.
The man alone has been given freedom of action; other creatures do not enjoy this freedom. They, rather, bear the reward or punishment of action. Even the higher creatures like angels do not have the freedom of action. Although they may enjoy the pleasures of the heaven, they cannot make further spiritual progress and have to take birth again as human beings after their Punya Karmas (the reward for good deeds) are exhausted. The man alone has the capability, through his actions, to acquire divinity or degrade to the level of beasts and other lower creatures. After going through the reward or punishment for the actions, it is open for the man to make effort again for liberation and attain the supreme goal of self-realization.
Every person has an aura around him and the impression of action is stored in the aura to be borne at an appropriate time. In fact it is the sum total of actions, desires and thoughts that is stored in the aura. The colours present in the aura around every person keep on changing constantly depending upon their actions. With the Satvik (pure) actions, the aura turns very bright and golden. Rajoguni actions (indulgence in fulfilling desires) turn it to red and with Tamoguni (deluded) actions the aura becomes black. The shades present in one’s aura keep on changing with different intensities of thoughts and desires. The colours present in the aura as a result of one’s deeds do not disappear till one bears the fruit of his action. After bearing the brunt of one’s deeds, one becomes purified and acquires capability of making spiritual progress, provided one does not indulge again in evil deeds. The aura not only indicates the fall or rise of the one to whom it belongs, but also influences others associated with him. The peace one experiences in the company of great persons and saints is mainly because of the influence of their aura that cleanses the mind of the visitors. The aura around saints is very bright and golden in colour, with that around head being more intense than the other parts of the body. With the spiritual progress, first the aura becomes light and as the ego and desires vanish, the aura intensifies, and gradually a bright light alone is left. Similarly, vicious people also have their influence on others.

Destiny or Prarabdh:

Outcome of actions is divided into three categories, i.e. the Sanchit Karma (accumulated deeds), Prarabdh (destiny) and Kriyaman (current actions). The Sanchit Karmas are the impressions of good or bad deeds, which are accompanying the soul from time immemorial. Prarabdh is that part of Sanchit Karmas which is to be borne in the present life. One has no control over Prarabdh and has necessarily to undergo the same, except that the realized saints or Spiritual Masters through their grace may lighten/reduce if not eliminate the effects of Prarabdh. Kriyaman Karmas are the current actions, performed in the present life; the fruit of some of which may be borne in this life itself and the balance are accumulated as Sanchit Karma to be borne in future at the appropriate time.
Apparent contradiction between Destiny and Karma:
There seems to be an apparent contradiction in the theory of action, as on the one hand it has been said that the man has freedom of action and on the other hand he is said to be bound by his past deeds or Prarabdh. This apparent contradiction, however, can be explained through an example of a running car. The running car acquires the momentum, which to some extent guides its direction and speed. The driver, however, has control over the accelerator, steering wheel and the brake. He can change the direction and speed of the car in a gradual manner, but if he applies the brakes or changes the direction suddenly, there are chances of accident and damage.
In the above example the momentum of the car is the Prarabdh, and the controls at the command of the driver are the current actions over which he enjoys freedom through his intellect and wisdom. By his current actions, therefore, one can gradually change the direction and the speed. Subject to this limitation, it is in his hands to choose his path. At times we come across examples of fast moving cars changing their direction by 180 degrees (i.e. complete reversal) on applying sudden brakes. These are the examples of people like Balmiki and Angulimal, who turned into great saints from an earlier life of heinous crimes, as a result of sudden realisation of the gravity of their misdeeds and taking a vow to be on the right path with firm determination.

Comparison with computer:

The human body can be compared to a computer, where the physical body is the hardware, the mind is the CPU and the ‘Indriyas’ (sense organs) is the operating system. Sanchit Karma and Prarabdh are the data stored in Asthi, or the computer chip, popularly known as the Third Eye, located in-between the eyebrows on the forehead. The password to access the data relating to the past, present and the future is stored in the depth of consciousness of every individual and the same can be retrieved through deep meditation only. Interestingly, this password is not unique but common to all individuals as it is believed that a person, who has retrieved this password, can read the destiny and the past of all others through his Third Eye. The actions are like new programs written by using the same operating system that get stored in the same chip, viz. the Third Eye.

Philosophical texts on Karma & Destiny:

Upanishads make a clear distinction between Vidya (spiritual knowledge) and Avidya (non- spiritual knowledge), Sat or Ultimate Truth meaning God/Brahman and Asat or Maya meaning illusory/transitory existence. When one attains realization of the Ultimate Truth or God/Brahman then Karma (action) and Prarabdh (destiny) disappear and the person becomes liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Awareness of bondage is necessary to inspire one to make quest for freedom. Karma provides necessary means for instilling this awareness. When Arjun asked Sri Krishna whether a deluded person fallen from spiritual path would not get ruined for ever like a scattered cloud (ref. verse 38 of chapter 6 of the Gita), Sri Krishna replied that far from being ruined, such person would be re-born in the house of either a pious or a wealthy person, endowed with the wisdom of his previous life so that he could strive more than before for attaining liberation (refer verses 40 to 43 ibid). In chapter 9 of the Gita, while dwelling upon the Raja Yoga, Sri Krishna mentioned how a pleasure-seeking pious soul after enjoying the fruits of its Karma in celestial world returned to earth and thus went through the cycle of life and death (refer verse 21 of chapter 9).
The Buddhists while analyzing the effects of good (kusala) and evil (akusala) held that the former were more powerful than the latter (refer Milinda panha 3.7.7). The said text further states that the evil karma has limited potentiality and, therefore, it matures quickly and dies quickly. Consequently whereas good deeds may fructify in subsequent lives of an individual, evil deeds may fructify in this life itself (refer Milinda panha 4.8.24-29).

Conflicting views on re-incarnation, soul & God:

While Sri Krishna claimed to remember all his past lives (refer verse 5 of chapter 4 of the Gita), Gautam Buddha claimed to remember his 500 previous births. Jesus Christ mentioned that John the Baptist in his previous birth was St. Elijah who was initiated by Jesus in his previous incarnation. He further claimed that he was in existence even before Abraham. The Christians, however, do not subscribe to the theory of re-incarnation as they are not able to reconcile re-incarnation with the rising of all the dead souls with their respective bodies on the ‘Day of Judgment’ for determination by God whether they would be destined to heaven or hell perpetually. Only the concept of one-soul-one-body and not the same soul with multiple bodies fits into the postulate certainty of the Judgment Day.
Socrates and Plato believed in re-incarnation according to one’s Karma.
The Hindus and the Buddhists look upon life as an opportunity for attaining emancipation (Moksha or Nirvana) from the bondage of material longing or attachments. Even though Hindu concept of soul (referred to as Atman) may not be accepted by the Buddhists on the ground that Buddha himself did not mention anything to suggest its existence, the fact remains that the Buddhists accept the phenomenon of re-incarnation. The Charvaka School of materialistic thought among the Hindus, however, was the protagonists of ‘no soul, no re-birth, no God and one single life’. Hence the prescription of sage Charvaka was: “Jabojjibet sukham jibet, Rhinam kritva Ghritam Pibet” (Merrily live as long as you can; borrow money, if need be, to taste butter).
The weakness of the single life theory is that it does not distinguish physical from the mental, the body from the consciousness, simply holding that the mind dies with the body, and there is no existence of consciousness outside the body. The overwhelming evidence of Samskara with which a person is born is wholly overlooked or ignored. Spiritual experiences of the Yogis and the recorded versions of spiritual masters are also rejected by the Charvaka school for lack of direct evidence. Purely from a practical point of view, believer of a ‘single life & no soul’ would tend to be aggressively selfish, egoistic and corrupt, their motto in life being self-gratification at all costs. On the contrary, the theory of Prarabdh creates a sense of accountability in a person from the belief that for his or her wrong deeds he or she is bound to suffer, if not in this life, in the next life or in more than one life depending on the gravity of the action or the harm caused to others. Even those who do not believe in re-incarnation but believe in accountability of the soul to God on the Judgment Day creates a sense of moral compulsion on the individual to act ethically so as not to suffer incarceration in hell after death. Once we accept that one does not die with one’s physical death and that one reaps the fruit of one’s action, the single life theory fails to explain why a man without any past Karma or Prarabdha is born in a beggar’s family while another in a royal family. In other words, if we discard the theory of Prarabdha we have no reasonable explanation for apparent discrimination made by God in sending one to a royal/affluent/saintly parents and another to a poor/criminal/lecherous parents.

Theory of Everything:

The physicists like Stephen Hawking do not consider it necessary to look for a God to explain the mystery of the universe that includes Big Bang Theory, ‘M’ Theory, God Particles that have been largely explained as also other unresolved mysteries. Though it is true that the scientists at present are unable to explain all the phenomena, as they are still exploring the truth, they are confident that one day they would find out the Theory of Everything to unravel the entire mystery of creation not only of the numberless universes but also of the living beings. As of now, the ‘M’ theorists claim to have seen the shadow of the Lion, if the Lion is taken for ‘The Theory of Everything’.
According to Spiritual Masters like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, the Theory of Everything is embodied by God/Brahman. God has been likened by Swami Vivekananda to the core element in chemical science, after knowing which, nothing else is left to be known. Sri Aurobindo, on the other hand has described God as the Supramental or Super-mind. Once you know the Supramental, you have known everything. The approach of science is essentially inductive, as they proceed on the basis of experiments and empirical experiences from particular to general truth, while the approach of the spiritual seekers is deductive, as they strive to know God first and thereafter entire mystery of creativity unfolds itself to them. The Spiritual Masters of all religions, except Lord Buddha who did not dwell upon God, have depicted God/Brahman as the Supreme Consciousness (a combination of Sat, Chit & Anand called Sachchidanand). If the Theory of Everything as postulated by science is a source of our collective consciousness, there is no difficulty in taking it as synonymous with God/Brahman, and the theories of Karma & Destiny would fall in place as a logical corollary of a conscious, orderly and harmonious system.
According to oriental mystics, the key to all the mysteries of the universes and end to end information from the Creation to the Dissolution lies in the Third Eye. Does it contain the elusive inputs of the ‘Theory of Everyting’ that the scientists have been searching for?

Can the Destiny be changed?

There are instances suggesting that Spiritual Masters can change the destiny of individuals either by absorbing a part of their Prarabdh or by reducing the effects thereof to render the same bearable.
The other way to change the destiny is by absolute/total surrender to God in whatever form one conceives IT. In that event, the desire, ego and the self melt away and the Karma becomes selfless. The rope of desire & ego that binds a person slackens and the Prarabdh attached to such person slowly disentangles, setting him/her free. The path of total surrender, however, is an extremely difficult terrain and very rarely we hear of such persons who have completely conquered ego.

Is Karma pre-destined?

Nani Palkhivala, an eminent jurist of India, has narrated an anecdote (refer ‘Are we masters of our fate?’ by Nani Palkhivala, vide Rediff Special) that strengthened his belief in pre-destination. The anecdote was as follows:
After the Allahabad High Court decided to set aside the election of Indira Gandhi to parliament in June 1975, Palkhivala argued her appeal and application for interim relief in Supreme Court on 23rd June, 1975 and secured an interim order next day from Justice Krishna Iyer whereby she could continue to sit in the Lok Sabha and also continue to be the Prime Minister till the final disposal of her appeal. Same evening Palkhivala boarded Bombay flight when the passenger sitting next enquired how the arguments went in the court. When he briefly told him how it went, the said passenger cited an astrologer in Bangalore to tell him that Madam would lose the case and thereafter she would become the most powerful woman in the world. That power would last till March, 1977, and thereafter Madam would land in jail. All those predictions, incredible as it seemed at that time, eventually came to be true. With the declaration of Emergency on June 26, 1975, Indira Gandhi became the most powerful woman in the world, and her power lasted till March, 1977, and she was also imprisoned thereafter, as predicted by the astrologer. Incidentally, though Palkhivala argued the case of Ms. Gandhi in Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court, he opposed Emergency tooth and nail.
From the above anecdote, the question that arises for determination is whether the declaration of Emergency by Ms. Gandhi was pre-destined or it was her Karma for which she was accountable.
The following inferences drawn by Nani Palkhivala from his personal experiences including the above anecdote are pertinent in the above context:
“First, I believe that the basic pattern of an individual’s or a nation’s life is pre-determined.
Secondly, very few individuals have the gift of clairvoyance to foresee what is predetermined.
Thirdly, guidance is sometimes vouch-safed to receptive human beings by means for which there is no scientific explanation.
Fourthly, I do believe in the existence of free will but that again is within pre-ordained parameters. To my mind, the simplest analogy to the case we are talking about is that of a dog on a long leash — the dog has the freedom to move about as far as the leash permits, but not beyond.”
Going by the example of dog and its movement to the extent the leash permits, one may be led to conclude that Ms. Gandhi’s Declaration of Emergency on June 26, 1975 was pre-determined by Destiny with very little scope for flexibility or discretion. Therefore, her decision to declare Emergency was forced upon her by Destiny.
We find it difficult to accept the above proposition, even while accepting the anecdote as factually correct. If we accept the dog and leash analogy, it leaves very little discretion with an individual to do his/her Karma in any given circumstances, and, therefore, the liability incurred in terms of Prarabdh for one’s Karma itself becomes questionable in all conceivable situations. In the given anecdote, while we accept that Ms. Gandhi’s situation and circumstances were programmed by Destiny, the Declaration of Emergency was certainly not. It was surely her own decision and her Karma for which she was accountable.

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

Srimadbhagwat Gita happens to address the following two core questions most logically:
1) Whether one has the discretion or right to Karma in any given situation or whether the Karma itself is pre-destined.
2) What are the causes of action?
As for the first question, the Gita answers:
“Karmanye adhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana” (verse 47, chapter2), meaning that you have the right for action alone, and not the result. By implication, the result of our action comes in form of destiny, which is a continuing process, resulting from our past and present Karma. In other words, destiny is not in our hands. Thus despite lots of efforts and endeavour, one may fail, while another person by a sheer stroke of luck may succeed. This apparently inexplicable phenomenon is often explained away by luck factor. The Upanishads and the Gita on the contrary explain that as Prarabdh (the fruit of past actions).
The ‘Adhikar’ used in relation to Karma in the above verse makes it amply clear that every individual has a right of action and a clear choice for it. His action is not pre-determined or pre-destined.
As for the second poser, the answer of the Gita is contained in verse 14 of chapter 18 wherein it is stated that for every action there may be following five causes: 1) the body (without which no action is possible), 2) the ego (which enthrones itself in the body), 3) the five sense organs and their powers (eyes for sight, ears for hearing, nose for smell, tongue for taste and skin for touch) together with 5 instruments of action viz. power of speech, hands, feet, rectal and genital organs with mind and intelligence as the guide , 4) various activities performed by individuals, and 5) Destiny which is self-created. Thus it will be seen that Destiny’s role as just one of the five causes of action or Karma is mathematically one-fifth. However, the result of action or Karma is entirely determined by Destiny or Prarabdh.

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18 Responses to Destiny and Karma

  1. RKGupta says:

    I would like to add a small clarification under the heading Comparison with computer:

    The ‘Indriyas’ (sense organs)are like channels which feed the mind, which acts like a great reservoir. In my opinion, these are not the operating system. The operating system is one which is a software responsible for the running of the CPU and this in my opinion is ‘Prarabdh’, i.e. the resultant of past deeds, which is to be borne in this life. The very cause of birth, in my opinion is this ‘Prarabdh’ which acts like the operating system and the present deeds to a certain extent guide and modify it.
    RKGupta

  2. akraha1948 says:

    Mr. Gupta, Prarabdh becomes the operating system only if we accept the proposition that our whole system is governed by Prarabdh without which we are unable to operate ourselves. Since we have concluded by citing Gita that we have the leeway or the right to do the Karma according to our discretion for which we ourselves are accountable while the result of our past & present actions is pre-determined in form of Prarabdh, is it correct to say that Prarabdh is our operating system? After all, operating system is the software that enables operation of the computer viz. the human body. To make it further clear, let’s take the case of the 1st living being born without Prarabdh as he had no past deeds. If Prarabdh is the operating system, and Prarabdh is non est, how that living being will operate? It would. stand to reason, therefore, to say that as a man operates through Indriyas, Indriyas are the operating system. Mind & intelligence merely use the Indriyas but enjoy full freedom to operate according to free will. Without Indriyas, it’s not possible for the human body to operate.
    Now the question is what role does Prarabdh play in our computer system, given the fact that Prarabdh as Destiny determines the fruit of our past and present actions. To my mind, Prarabdh sets the capacity/limits of the operation software. Say, a man is born blind, deaf or retarded, while another is born with extra-ordinary talent, strength or sensory perception. The configuration of an operating system may lead to frequent break-downs, while that of another may ensure trouble-free operation. In other words, the Prarabdh is a program in-built in operation software (Indriyas) to de-limit its capacity, and not the operation software itself.
    From the above point of view it may perhaps be in order to describe Prarabdh as the configuration of the operating system which would largely determine how the computer would eventually operate.within the limits set by the operating system.

    • RKGupta says:

      Let me put it like this that the inner-being of us consists of four components, viz. Man (the mind mainly concerned with emotions or feelings), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (the faculty where the thought originates, which is analysed by intellect) and Ahankar (the ego, which owns up every thing-all actions) collectively known as the Anta:karan. It is the mind, which carries the impressions of previous lives (the karmafal) and is programmed accordingly to behave and acquires an inherent nature accordingly. But he has the freedom to exercise discretion through intellect through which he can analyse and find the rationality of his actions. Since this karmafal or the Prarabdh governs the basic nature or character of man in this birth, I compared it with the operating system inscribed on the mind. The organs of senses are only the feeding channels to the mind through which it gathers impressions from the outer world and interprets them according to his basic nature. The same things are interpreted by different people differently. For example, a love song may arouse sensual feelings in ordinary beings but the same song may arouse devotional feelings in a spiritually evolved man. In my earlier comment, I meant only the first component i.e. man (the first component of Anta:karan) to be the operating system, which can be guided and evolved through intellect etc.
      Further, if we take the case of animals, they are programmed mostly to act in a predetermined manner. their inherent nature governs their behaviour through out their lives. Their level of intellect is not as high and, therefore, they do not enjoy the freedom of action, nor they earn any reward or punishment for their actions.
      As regards the first man to be born without any previous deeds, let me put it like this that we are not aware from when this creation has come into existence and prior to the present universe, how many times such universes have been created and destroyed. But in my opinion the Perfect One created the first man in his own image and with similar capabilities and attributes. His (the man’s) actions bound him only when he started owing up the actions, i.e. when he started taking pride in his actions and achievements. Before this the man enjoyed the same status as the Brahman. It consequently leads us to the theory of non-duality and also at the same time to the theory of duality, because of the relative position of the created world and the creation.

      • akraha1948 says:

        My poser in response to the proposition that Prarabdh is the operating system of the human body was that how a man born without Prarabdh would operate. Such person could be the soul’s 1st incarnation as man or men/ women, or any other living beings who are also subject to Prarabdh. The clarification that the Perfect One created the 1st man in his own image with similar capabilities & attributes, taken apparently from the Old Testament, does not answer my poser. Besides, Prarabdh, concomitant with re-incarnation, is essentially a Hindu concept that does not conform to Jewish or Christian theologies. The Vedanta does not accept any such postulation that the man has been created in the image of the Perfect One with similar capabilities and attributes inasmuch as The Vedanta describes the Perfect One (Brahman) as without image or form & Nirguna (without attributes) and also that the Brahman evolves and involves & does not create or destroy.

        Now reverting to my poser, it is said in Gita that a person who has conquered ego does not acquire Prarabdh with his/her action. Such persons, called liberated souls, may be re-born at their will for the good of human beings. We may call them Avatars, Messiah or God’s messengers. The question is how would they operate sans Prarabdh if the same is to be taken as the operating system.

        In Hindu texts Indriyas are taken for the operating system for Karma. Indriyas are Karmendriya and Gyanendriya. The Indriyas with their attributes are behind our Karma without directly engaging in the Karma. How a Karma is performed has been dwelt upon in verse 14, chapter 18 of the Gita, explaining the role of the Indriyas, mind, intelligence and also destiny or Prarabdh. Destiny which sets the limits of the operating system in every human being is programmed in the 3rd eye in-between the eyebrows.

        It’s difficult to find an appropriate name for Prarabdh in our simile with computer. The nearest simile for Prarabdh is found in the de-limited capacity of the operating system. But then capacity is concomitant with the operating system unless it’s unlimited & no operating system has unlimited capacity. That said, it would fail to satisfactorily answer my poser with reference to a liberated soul born without Prarabdh (or any pre-determined capacity of the operating system). In the absence of a suitable simile for Prarabdh in our computer system, we may either continue our search operation or keep it in limbo.

  3. RKGupta says:

    Just a short comment, Sir: The liberated souls act as per the will of the God. SMB-Geeta also says that those who have attained that state, they neither indulge nor refrain from Karma, but they act as per the will of the God.
    Secondly what is referred to as evolution or involution in the Vedanta is the creation/destruction referred elsewhere. It is only different way of expressing the same thing. If the Brahman has not created or does not destroy, who creates or destroys? I wonder if the Brahman Itself expresses as the universe then is it not creation in His own image?
    In fact this is the mystery or the question which has given rise to all the theories and then theories are theories only. I agree that none of the theories can satisfactorily explain the Truth. We try to explain and understand things from our perspective and, therefore, certain amount of gap would always remain, there always would be a relative position.

  4. akraha1948 says:

    Mr. Gupta, in response to your comment that the liberated souls act as per the will of the God, you may like to refer to verse 14 of chapter 5 of the Gita which says: “The Self (Brahman) does not create agent-ship or any objects (of desire) for anyone; nor association with the results of actions. But it is Nature that acts.”

    As for your poser: ‘If the Brahman has not created or does not destroy, who creates or destroys?’ and ‘if the Brahman Itself expresses as the universe then is it not creation in His own image?’ There is no simple answer. As you are aware, the interpretation of Sankaracharya of Uttar Minansha or Brahma Sutras regarding origin/creation of the universe is not accepted by Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhasya. Chandogya Upanisad says that “From the Self sprang forth the Prana” and the rest of the things, and that the Self is the cause of everything – “He thought that ‘I shall be many’ ” (refer Chandogya, VI.i.3). The word ‘creation’ has also been simultaneously used by the Upanisads such as “The Lord, the Mayin, creates through Maya this world and the souls are bound in it by this Maya” ( refer Svetasvatara. IV.9). And again: “The Lord became many by His Maya” (Brhadaranyaka Upanisad); “My Maya is hard to cross” (Gita, VII. 14).

    You have very correctly observed that we try to explain and understand things from our perspective and, therefore, certain amount of gap would always remain. As for instance, the concept of ‘one God and no second’ is understood by Semitic religions as meaning that there is only one God (that they worship) and no other entity can be that God. The Hindu monists on the other hand interpret those very same words as suggesting that only the God (Brahman) exists and nothing else that exists can be called other than the God. This concept is best described in the Upanisads as “Tat Tvam Asi” (Thou Art That).

  5. Kanthi says:

    It was a very interesting discussion that we had on Karma and Destiny last week. Thank you for organising it and for asking me to speak at the gathering. And congratulations on the excellent summing up you have done in these pages.

    Just wanted to make one point. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains do have elaborate definitions relating to several aspects of karma and karma-phala. Nevertheless, the emphasis in all their important texts is not so much on karma but more on the wisdom and action needed to overcome the seemingly unending bondage of karma. That is seen as the obvious goal, since no one is helpless and every person has the incentive and the freedom to adopt and adhere to the required mental and spiritual discipline that leads to liberation. We are in control.

    Hence:
    My action is my refuge.
    My character is my destiny.

    • akraha1948 says:

      Kanthi, I want to add only one point. As there is no Karma in the astral world, the soul for its elevation till it’s liberated, has to come back to the mortal world for karma, inasmuch as through Karma alone, it can attain elevation in the astral world.

  6. Manimala Das says:

    Human life is not a bed of roses…it is beleaguered by troubles and problems which result from our own thoughtless instincts, misdeeds and blunders and of course external circumstances which we are unable to control. When we suffer with no apparent fault of ours, we tend to give up and resign ourselves to inaction and apathy and seek solace from some external source, be it an astrologer or the divine deity in the temple. We forget that we are the ” Amritasya Putra ” who have that divine spark in ourselves to illumine our whole life. We worship Durga and kali, the embodiment of strength, power and tremendous good will, but have we ever tried to imbibe the same in ourselves? If we did, we never bothered about our destiny or fate and would have plunged headlong to overcome all our adversities! But it is easier said than done. In this regard, Buddhism gives us the best solution. It says that past karma indeed cause us to suffer, but if we realise our own Buddha nature, the immense power within us,then we will be able to surmount all our difficult situations. Buddha nature is nothing but our inherent wisdom, courage and compassion that lie dormant within us as we stay enchanted by the superficial attractions and attachments of life. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism upholds that we will be aware of our Buddha nature and reach that high life state by chanting Nam Myoho Renge kyo , i.e. the title of the Lotus Sutra preached by Gautam Buddha in the last eight years of his life. Here Buddha expounded that everyone has the potential of attaining Buddha’s life state in his/her lifetime. Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th century Japanese Buddhist said that by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo we shake off our negative emotions and thus regain control over what we might “heretofore have been resigned to as fate.” Charged with vitality, hope and confidence we get ready to meet the challenges of life. We wake up to our own boundless potential to make ourselves as well as others happy. Gautam Buddha said, “Be light unto yourself. Hold fast to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself.”
    Now and then the simile of the phoenix bird comes to my mind. This mythological bird ignites itself and is reduced to ashes and from the ashes the bird is reborn..A human being can also set alight his/her deluded self and emerge enlightened and victorious in his or her lifetime only.

    – Manimala Das

    • akraha1948 says:

      Ms. Das, thanks for your valued observation that each person is a potential Buddha. This is akin to Vedantic messages of Sohaham (I am He) & Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That), or the saying of Jesus: ” I & my Father are One” as also the declaration of Anal Haq (I am the Truth) by Mansoor Al-Hallaj, the Sufi saint of the 9th-10th century (who was done to death for his said declaration). The only difference is in Buddhism there is no God concept, even though Buddha is worshipped like God, while the Hindus believe that every man is a potential God. Your simile of phoenix bird who rises from ashes is quite apt. Truly, liberation/nirvana is to be attained through Karma in human birth only.

      • RKGupta says:

        The best example of the state of Anal-Haq is the iron rod lying in fire. It is then red hot and fire itself. Any thing which would come in contact of that rod would be burnt. Immersed in fire the iron rod is fire but on taking out of the fire it is the same cold iron rod with all its angularities. Similarly, those who realise the Truth, attain the state of Truth personified. From this point of view, there is no difference in the essential message of Buddhism, Jainism or Hindu philosophy. By whatever name called, Truth is Truth.

  7. akraha1948 says:

    Mr. Gupta, your example of Anal-Haq (I am the Truth) is excellent. Only the one who knows the cold iron rod knows the fiery iron rod (manifested as self) as Anal Haq. To him there is no difference between the cold & red-hot iron rods as their core element is the same while the external appearances differ. However, Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Art That) is a step forward where the realized soul finds the cold iron rod all over in different forms and makes no difference between God in static form (in the state of involution) and God in kinetic form (in evolved form of multifarious entities).

  8. Sarada Ranjan Das says:

    Thank you for conducting the discussion on a very important topic. Many good points and revelations came out there. However, after understanding these points, one looks for a way forward. Some of the thoughts that came to my mind in this regard are given below.
    It is true that one (soul or shukshma sareer that is Atman engulfed with Maya) is under Birth/Death cycle as long as the balance of Prarabdhha is remaining. It is important to note that the prarabdhha is outcome of those actions which taken under the influence of Maya, in other words action taken in selfish attitude. Generally one is insensitive to this due the Maya itself.
    The prime nature of Atman is Sat-Chit-Ananda. The various stages from Meditation to Samahdi is always Blissful (Anandmoy) because here one is in a plane with the Atman. Here maya layer is very thin. This state is achieved through a continual yoga (yoga=connection), i.e. always trying to get connected with the Paramatma, the God. The recommended practice is Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga or Bhakti Yoga. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed the simple method of chanting the name of God mindfully. This prescription holds good for everybody independent of cast, creed, position, status and so on.
    Now under the influence of Maya, one seeks Ananda only through body/mind and senses ( six ripus namely passion, anger, greed, obsession, vanity, envy.. etc). Unfortunately these are unable to bring Ananda (this is referred as illation), so search continues, actions keep happening and prarabdhha keeps getting accumulated. Perhaps at a certain stage (may be after millions of birth) one tends to search for a solution towards salvation (mumukshya). This happens with having sadhu sangha or by reading spiritual books, thinking and pondering over the lives of spiritual leaders, and trying to follow their path.
    What is the way out?
    Perhaps God’s compassion (Kripa) is the only way out. This cannot be earned by any means. Only one can, at the most, beg or seek for God’s grace which is generally referred to as Sadhana (Yoga). It is absolutely God’s will as to whom and when grace should be granted (a game of Mahamaya, beyond our thinking & conception). It is again important to note that with God’s grace the existing Prarabdhha is reduced or made less effective. At this stage, mind is at the feet of the God and selfless and non desirous to this worldly life (nirshakta) so there is no further generation or accumulation of Prarabdha. The existing prarabdhha (may be in a reduced form) is circumvented easily as mind is attached to the God. Thus one get freedom (Mukti ) from Birth/Death cycle.
    (Sri Ramkrishna Kathamrita is the main source of above thinking)
    Sarada Ranjan Das

    • akraha1948 says:

      Mr. Das, thanks for your deep reflection. When you say that God’s compassion/grace through Sadhana/Yoga is the only way to conquer destiny and to attain liberation from the life-cycle, your emphasis is obviously on Bhakti or devotion which is epitomized by the surrender of fruits of one’s work to God. The Gita dwells on this concept in verse 27, chapter 9, and again in verse 12 of chapter 12. In former verse, Krishna tells Arjun: “Whatever you do, eat, or offer as a sacrifice or give, and whatever austerities you undertake, all those you offer to Me (In order to become free from.bondage)”. In the latter verse, Krishna says: “Knowledge is superior to practice, meditation surpasses knowledge, and renunciation of the results of work excel meditation.” The instances of Sri Chaitanya and Sri Ramakrishna cited by you were both followers of the above path and both were liberated/self-realized souls.

      However, a monist or a Gyan yogi may not agree with your suggestion, as he does not subscribe to dualism that distinguishes God (Brahman) from the devotee. That distinction to him is Maya or illusory as God is all-encompassing and all pervasive. In the face of the above-said proposition, which is postulated as the ultimate & absolute truth by a monist, he/she does not seek compassion of God to get over the life-cycle. He strives, on the contrary, through meditation/yoga to see God in every living being. Liberation can be attained by various means. Bhakti (devotion & surrender of results of action to God) being one of the options. Liberation can be attained also by meditation (with the help of internal organs), by pursuing Samkhya Yoga or path of wisdom (Gyan Marg), or through Karma Yoga or even by hearing (and following) spiritual messages of the great masters (refer verses 24 & 25 of chapter 13 of the Gita. Thus there are many paths or options for a seeker. This is what was spoken of in the Gita and was established by Sri Ramakrishna through his experiments/experiences.

      • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

        Gyan Yaga, Bhakti Yoga are mere path to get dissolve into the God, from whom only one got separated. Every individual is having his own identity as long as he feels himself separated from the God.One he gets saturated with this self identity and understand that happiness (ananda) is only in Him, he start perusing for God taking one of the ways (Yoga).This realization itself is due to the grace of the God. A true yogi will follow its path never comment on other path as he has not experienced it. The very fact that he is perusing the God realization path, means he is blessed, and I am sure yogi also feels so. I am yet to hear a yogi saying I have realized God all by myself. .

        Swami Vivekananda, while explaining the importance of Guru, mentioned:
        “Every soul is destined to be perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain the state of perfection. Whatever we are now is the result of our acts and thoughts in the past; and whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think end do now. But this, the shaping of our own destinies, does not preclude our receiving help from outside; nay, in the vast majority of cases such help is absolutely necessary. When it comes, the higher powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, spiritual life is awakened, growth is animated, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end.”

  9. RKGupta says:

    Sir, in my opinion, the way out is a serious and sincere desire to find a way. One who craves for it does definitely find it or to say he is led to the path. It is the word of the scriptures that one does not find a Master (Guru), rather a Master finds and helps the disciple. In fact it is the duty assigned to the Masters. As soon as any one sincerely takes a step His Mercy starts flowing, but then this sincere desire has to be there and Satsang helps in arousing this sincere desire and to keep the fire burning.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Sadhu Sadhu
      Perfectly said.
      The grace of the God (Nirakar Nirgun Bhramhan or in some personal form) is a must, When and how it would flow no body can predict, we have to just wait and watch
      This itself is Sadhana….unconditional

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