By Suma Varughese December 2006 Karma, the supreme teacher, is the key to the mystery of life. Only knowledge of karma can unravel the purpose of life and how to live it. ‘When I met Bruno, I felt I was coming home, as if we were meant to be together.’-Meher Castelino‘If I choose wrong over right…how can I blame god?’-Dada Vaswani‘For a person who wants to transcend duality, good karma is as useless as bad.’-Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev A couple of years ago, my sister, also unmarried and living in a flat a few floors below mine in the same building, fell badly ill. Eventually, my mother and I moved her into our flat. I was struck by the play of events. I had stayed in my sister’s house for close to 10 years and she had nursed me through a dangerous illness. Now it was my turn to do the same. The law of karma had passed the verdict. Fashion writer Meher Castelino considers her marriage to her late husband Bruno to be the outcome of a profound karmic connection. Says she, ‘I had tons of boy friends, but whenever they suggested marriage, I used to run away. When I met Bruno, I felt I was coming home, as if we were meant to be together. There were no butterflies in my stomach, nor did I get cold feet. And we shared a rare empathy. He would just walk into the room and he could sense my mood.’ Writer Chitra Raghavan(name changed) shares an uncanny experience: ‘Years ago, a friend of mine and I were regular shopping companions. At some point, her mother wanted a particular decorative mask, but we could never find it. ‘Fifteen years later, by when we had drifted apart, I suddenly woke up with static in my head. I felt impelled to visit a shop that I had never gone to before. And there lying down demurely on a shelf, was the mask my friend’s mother wanted. I bought it and sent it to her. A few months later she sent me an amazing letter. She wrote to thank me for the mask and to say that she had been very ill and that the mask, which had been placed opposite her bed, had made her feel better. Her next sentence sent chills down my spine. She said she knew that I would give her the mask because I owed it to her from a past-life.’ The Key to LifeKarma is perhaps one of the most wonderful discoveries anyone who wishes to understand life can make. Until we come face to face with it, life can seem like an arbitrary, whimsical dispensation. Why are some people rich and some poor? Why are some lucky and others drowned in disasters? Why are some happy and others not? Why is life so unfair? A few years ago, all of Mumbai was aghast by a tragedy that was as inexplicable as it was total. A young girl from the North East, on a holiday to Mumbai, was loitering at the Gateway with a friend, when suddenly an unknown man (later discovered to be mentally unsound), charged at her with a knife and stabbed her to death. Her friend, when she rushed to help, was badly injured. How could this young girl ever have imagined this could have happened to her? What explanation can there be for this but karma? The newspapers are filled with similar improbable tragedies and the rare stroke of equally improbable good luck: rapes, murders, acid being thrown on a young girl’s face, people dying because help came too late, a sweeper winning a two-crore lottery, and so on. In every case, the cause is karma. Even as I write this, my mind is upon a tragedy that unfolded through today’s morning papers. An inebriated young man ploughed his way through a cluster of tenements in the small hours of the night and killed seven pavement dwellers, including a pregnant woman. Several others have been injured. Karma reaped a grim harvest last night. I shudder too, to think of this young man’s karma and how it will influence the future trajectory of his life. In his book, What you would like to know about karma, Dada Vaswani, the spiritual head of the Pune-based Sadhu Vaswani Mission, talks about a learned rabbi who wrote a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People, where he finally comes to the conclusion that God is not omnipotent and his powers are limited and defined. Dr. Annie Besant, the great Theosophist and freedom fighter, had a similar question on her mind when her little baby fell ill and developed convulsions soon after its birth. Traumatised by its suffering, she stopped believing in a god who could visit such cruelty upon a baby. However, one day, she read Madame Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, a work based on Hindu philosophy. Here, she encountered the concepts of karma and reincarnation and light dawned. The baby had lived before. Perhaps, thousands of times. The baby’s convulsions had their roots in some other lifetime, as indeed did her suffering on watching the child. It transformed her thinking and attitude and finally inspired her to settle down in India and join Madame Blavatsky’s The Theosophical Society of India. What is karma?Vedic scholar and spiritual teacher, Swami Veda Bharati, defines karma thus: ‘Karma is a comprehensive term for processes whereby impressions are formed and imprinted on the mind-field to bear certain fruits in a strict application of the law of cause and effect.’ Jesus Christ put it more pithily, ‘As you sow, so you reap.’ The law of karma says that every action, mental, verbal or physical, has a consequence. And this consequence is visited upon us. None of us, no matter how rich, powerful or influential we are on the world stage, can avoid facing these consequences. Our lives and destiny are created by the sum total of these consequences, both good and bad. The personality we have been born with, the way we look, the parents we were born to, the religion and country we belong to, our relationships, have all been created by consequences in some past life. Karma, therefore, goes hand-in hand with reincarnation. Our present has been created by our past and our future is taking shape through every moment that we live – through every thought, word and action. The Karmic ProcessKarma manifests through the accumulation of samskaras upon us. Every thought, word and deed creates a samskara or impression that alters us and eventually changes our destiny. Most of us know by now that our thoughts create our lives. Therefore karma begins with thoughts. Good thoughts generate good karma while angry or negative thoughts reap bad karma. Even more subtly, karma is determined by our motivation. The same act may generate good or bad karma depending on the reason why we are doing it. Giving a meal to a beggar out of compassion and because we want to get rid of some old food, will have different consequences. Says Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, ‘The word ‘karma’ literally means ‘action’, but the action is not what he does with his hands. Right now, someone picks up this stone. This is an action. It has no quality of its own, but in that person’s mind, he has the intention of taking it and throwing it at someone. He has not thrown it, but already the karma is done.’ We are completely responsible and completely accountable for our lives. We get away with nothing. What could be fairer, more just or ethically sound? We live in a moral universe, whose foundations are absolute justice and absolute responsibility. Rejoice, all ye who have grieved or raged at the world’s shoddy standards in these matters. Neither George Bush, Dawood Ibrahim, nor any venal politicians who has looted and destroyed this country, will get away with anything. They may be able to influence the rule of the law in this life but as sure as the sun rises in the East, their actions will bear fruit in due season. The scales of divine justice are absolutely balanced. Writes Dada Vaswani, ‘The impact of this law is inescapable and inexorable. Its effect, reaction and response are absolutely impartial. We could say that it is the law of karma that unholds dharma and maintains justice, equity, order and balance in the universe.’ Dr Jayalkashmi, a chest physician and follower of Sri Bhagavan, of the Oneness movement, tells a fascinating tale that bears it out. A patient of asthma went for a retreat conducted by the organisation and was asked to pray to Bhagavan to reveal the cause for her asthma. She saw a vivid image of a past life in which she was born in a farmer’s family and had ridden a bullock relentlessly for sport, whipping it cruelly until it had got breathless and panted. She had pursued this activity for five years. This karma manifested in severe asthma that caused her to get breathless. However, the insight did not heal her. On the contrary, she got worse. One of the guides then told her that her misdemeanour was too severe to be dispelled by mere awareness. She was told to do penance for six months, feeding grass to a cow, looking deeply into its eyes and asking it for forgiveness. After six months, the asthma vanished completely.’ The karma and reincarnation theory hold the key to the mystery of life. Without it, life remains a puzzle, a source of frustration and despair. I, for one, simply could not accept an unjust world. I could not respect a God who was unjust and fanciful, who visited suffering upon little children, who strewed our lives with accidents and disasters for no apparent cause. Karma makes everything clear. We recognise that everyone’s life has been created by themselves; there is no room for partiality on the Creator’s side. Karma also teaches us the grand purpose of life – to take successive births in order to increase in awareness and understanding, until we can intuit how to avoid karma altogether, at which point we will be free of the need for rebirth. Writes spiritual preceptor and author, Deepa Kodikal, in her book, Teachings of the Inner Light, ‘ Leela, to be a fitting sport for
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