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18 December, 2010

Law of Karma

Law of Destiny

       The law of destiny defines the status of a person at any moment of his life with reference to his past from that moment.

Law of Karma

       Whereas the law of karma is an extension of the law of destiny into the future. Both the laws are based on the principle of cause and effect.

      The law of destiny states that you are at present the product of your past. The law of karma reaches further to state that you are not only the product of your past but the producer of your future as well. Destiny covers only the past and present while karma cover the past, present and future. With reference to your past you are a product, a master. You are the son of your father, as well as the father of your son. You are a son-father, product-producer at the same time. Looking back into your past you develop pessimism. Looking ahead into your future you gain optimism. With the knowledge of the law of karma you begin to realise that your shortcomings and difficulties are the creation of your past unintelligent activities. And that you have now the opportunity to create a better future for yourself. That you are the master of your destiny.

       A human being therefore is bound by his own past while he is free to act as he wills. Freedom and bondage seem to coexist in one person. Thus you are a product of your past. You also possess a free will to act as you please. There are two forces operating in your life. The one from the past that has shaped your destiny, known as prarabdha. The other which gives you the freedom to choose your action, purushartha. Your purushartha chooses your course of action. And the actions executed already by your purushartha self-efforts result in your prarabdha destiny. Your destiny is thus the cumulative effect of all your past self-efforts. Whatever has been the nature and quality of your effort in the past, the same will be reflected in your present destiny. If your physical, mental and intellectual activities have been positive you meet with a positive destiny. If negative, you meet a negative destiny. If partly positive and partly negative, your destiny takes the same proportion.

       Destiny is similar to your bank balance. And self-effort to your capacity to earn or lose money, to credit or debit your account. Your bank balance at any point of time is the aggregate of all your credits and debits prior to that moment. Regardless of your balance showing credit or debit, your capacity to earn or lose remains independent of it. You could earn more and increase your balance. Or withdraw more and decrease it. Likewise, regardless of your present status you could put in positive effort and evolve spiritually. Or indulge in negative effort and devolve. The law of karma goes on.

      Hence it is your effort that makes the difference to your destiny. Few understand this law. They meekly attribute their success or failure to God. Not realising that God is merely the substratum of activity. And has nothing to do with the nature or quality of activity. God is like the sun above. The sun is the source of activity. Sinner or saint draws his vitality from the sun. The sun provides them both the energy to act. The sinner in a vicious way. The saint in a virtuous way. Thus beings act according to their independent nature. You cannot commend or condemn the sun for their particular deeds. The sun stands clear from vice and virtue of the world. So does God though supporting everything remain immaculate, free from the happenings in the world.

      Your destiny at present is the effect of all your past self-efforts. For example, if you had exercised your free will in the past in merely gratifying your senses and leading a sensual life, then you would be a sensual person at present. That is your destiny. 

       Instead, had you chosen to live a disciplined life and practised the higher values you would now be a spiritually evolved person. Moreover, regardless of what state you are in at present you tend to continue the same way. A sensual person pursues his sensual activities. A spiritual person continues to be spiritual. Which gives the impression that your present choice of action is influenced by your past. If that be so, how can self-effort be free? Where does free will fit into the law of karma?

       An alcoholic is addicted to alcohol because of his heavy drinking in the past. If the past were to influence his present action he will continue as an alcoholic. How then can he claim to have the freedom to choose to drink or not to drink? Likewise a person is benevolent, noble because of the virtuous life he has led. Here again, if the past influences his present action he will continue to be virtuous. Thus if it is accepted that one’s past completely influences one’s present, then the good will continue to be good and the bad will continue to be bad. But this is not so in practical life. People are subject to change. The good are known to have turned bad, so have the bad turned good. What then is the relationship between prarabdha destiny and purushartha self-effort? A question that has been disturbing the spiritual lobbies for long. The exact relationship between the two is earlier understood with the following two illustrations.

       The first comparison is a motorboat. The speed of the motorboat is 16 kilometres per hour in still waters. The boat is in a river moving downstream. The water in the river flows at a speed of 2 kilometres per hour. The speed of the boat downstream will then be 18 (16 +2) km/hour. While moving upstream the speed of the boat will reduce the 14 (16-2) km/hour. Thus the speed of the boat varies from 18 to 14 km/hour depending upon its movement down or up. But all along, the actual speed of the boat is independent of the speed of water. Yet when it moves in the river it becomes 18 downstream and 14 upstream.

      Now, compare the original speed of the boat to your purushartha self-effort. And the speed of water to your prarabdha destiny. Your self-effort is ever free. Your destiny cannot alter your self-effort. Just as the speed of the water cannot change the original, independent speed of motor. Nevertheless, in effect the boat gains 2 km/hour downward and loses 2 upward. Similarly, even though your self-effort is independent, it is in effect altered by your destiny. When you apply your self-effort in the background of your destiny, the effect produced is different. Your self-effort makes its free choice in the background of your destiny. The combination of your effort and destiny produces a different effect.

Source: Vedanta Treatise - Swamy Parthasarathy

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