Karma philosophy

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • October 2002

(Law Of Moral Causation)

The entire section on Jaina Philosophy is based on the book Jaina Darsana by Munisri Nyayavijayaji translated into English as Jaina Philosophy & Dharma by Shri Nagin Shah. As elsewhere the content is verbatim from the book with my comments, experiences thrown in. My comments would always start with the word Friends. If you have read FAQ Karma & Incarnation by Pandit Rajmani Tugnait of the Himalayan Institute you will find the basic concepts quite similar. This chapter is divided into fifteen parts as it appears in the book. Have grouped them into four chapters.

1. Law of Karma includes law of karma, equanimity, and restrictions, past karmas, destiny and rebirth.

2. Activity includes intention of activity, renunciation of activity, two meanings of karma, causes of bondage and about life span.

3. States of Karma.

4. Natural Law covers about rebirth, natural law & paraloka.

Law of Karma        

This chapter covers parts 1 to 6 i.e. law of karma, equanimity, restrictions, past karmas, destiny and rebirth.

One        Law of Karma  
‘As a man sows he reaps’. Our actions are the cause that produces proper effects at proper times. This is the eternal & universal law of karma. Each society is responsible for his or her own actions. But the whole society is responsible for its joint, corporate or collection actions. So the entire society has to experience the fruits of the joint actions, which the society as a whole might have performed. People of India were subject to foreign rule and faced innumerable hardships because of internal dissension and mutual fighting that our forefathers indulged in. Friends if only they were united Bharat’s history might well have been different.

Every man must keep this law in mind before performing any activity. If he does so he will not perform any bad actions and feel elated to perform good actions. However, if one performs bad actions, expresses regret after experiencing the fruits of earlier actions and resolves not to repeat such actions, then one would surely be benefited.

To say that the law of karma is right or true but to yet perform bad actions implies that we do not have faith in the law or that we prefer immediate material gain to the prevention of the future bitter results or consequences. At times when we are constrained to disregard the law of karma and forced to do evil actions against our will, we do bind Karmas as a result of which we have to experience their bitter fruits at the time of fruition, but the duration of such karmas is short and the bitterness of their fruits is less intense.

Two        Equanimity
It is wise to experience the fruits of karmas with equanimity, when the karmas give rise to their fruits. Karmas do not generate new karmas when their fruits are experienced with equanimity. If man enjoys the pleasant fruits with attachment & experiences the painful ones with evil contemplations, then this way of experiencing the fruits of our karmas cause new bondage. Thus man must experience the pleasant fruits of karmas without attachment & equanimity. Friends earlier when things went well I would drive fast, listen to loud music or have a drink at home. What would happen is that I started feeling low during the next couple of days. I was putting myself on a high from which I was bound to fall thereafter. Now I do not look for a reason to drive fast, in fact the days the fruits of my karmas are positive, feel good and just relax. Conversely one should experience the painful fruits of the risen karmas with courage, keeping the mind calm & unagitated, firm in the belief that this will also pass by. As a result of this the risen karmas get disassociated from the soul in such a way that they could not cause the bondage of the new karmas in their trail.

On account of its karmas, the objects of sense-pleasures are presented to the soul. Only those persons whose minds are not agitated or disturbed even in the presence of the causes of mental disturbances are really wise & steady. Objects of pleasure do not force a man to the enjoyment of sense-pleasures against his will. The decision to enjoy the fruits of his actions is only his decision. The only means of keeping one’s mind calm & composed even in the midst of sense-objects presented to one by the fruition of one’s karmas is the extermination of the longing for sense-pleasures by means of the fire of knowledge.

If a man is firm, steady & calm on the strength of his internal spiritual power the enjoyment of sense-pleasures will not attract him. Conversely if he looses patience, courage & self-confidence, he will surely slip into the deep valley of degeneration. It is thus, more reasonable to blame one’s own spiritual weakness than to blame one’s karma.

Friends as long as I was a non-vegetarian good food really excited me, was attached to it. Ever since my trip to Kailash Mansrovar in 1998 I became a vegetarian. It has resulted in my being less attached to food, no over-eating how ever tasty the food may be. I seem to enjoy my meals better. This has indirectly helped me control my thoughts too.

Three        Restrictions 
Each & every member of the society should be free to strive for the attainment of the material, mental & spiritual good. But at the same time, he should accept the restrictions imposed by the rules of social ethics & justice. Observance of these rules in necessary for the stability & order of the society. Arising out of ignorance, there are other customs, which are harmful to society - might have been relevant during their time of origination but are irrelevant today; their removal would increase happiness in society.

If the society sticks to such harmful customs out of ignorance its members will have to suffer miseries. To tell such sufferers that their miseries are not due to bad customs but due to their past karmas is like giving opium to a person to deprive him of his consciousness. Those who spread & nourish harmful customs should be held responsible for the miseries. Those who suffer must agitate against such customs. This will certainly destroy the power of the weapon of customs & superstitions – the weapon wielded by the past karma. What applies to harmful customs applies equally to capitalism that exploits the poor and imperialism that makes weak nations slave and sucks their blood.

Four        Past Karmas 
Behind every event-taking place in the life of a mundane soul, there is certainly a force of its past karma. Thus, when a natural, bodily or financial calamity befalls a person that force is working behind it. However, if a person intentionally invites the calamity, he cannot escape from the crime of inviting it. The worldly laws may or may not punish him but the Law of Nature (karma) surely would. Now when a man is murdered or robbed his past karmas is one of the causal conditions for being robbed. But a person who kills him cannot take protection on the premise that the person he killed was destined to die based on his karmas. Killing another person shall be punished by the Law of nature (karma).

At this juncture, let us notes that all crimes are not equal. When we are the victims of the crimes that are ordinary or than cannot be properly countered or against which there is no effective remedy, then it is of no use to harbor rancor in the mind and entertain vain revengefulness. So, on such occasions it is proper for us to use our intellect and reflect on the inexplorable law of karma. Such reflections keep one’s mind calm & cool and help to establish it in equanimity. Friends let me share a recent experience. I had placed an order for making Juttis (simply called shoes). When I saw the finished product I realized that the design was different from what I had ordered. For a minute was hopping mad since I had driven ten kms to collect the shoes. Regained composure to tell the shop owner politely that what he has given me is not what I had ordered so could he return the advance paid. To my surprise, the shop owner happily agreed and I left the shop ASAP. Now suppose I had lost my temper and shouted at the shop owner it would have generated negative vibrations, increased my blood pressure and the shop owner would have refused to return advance paid. Moral of the story, when you are angry – upset – confused just stay cool, do not overreact.

However, if somebody attacks you and you counter the attack, nobody will say that you entertain enmity towards him. According to the rule of dharma or religious law, there is nothing wrong if one properly opposes, confronts or counteracts a thief, rascal, in fact it is rightful (we call it Dharma) and fair. And even the science of moral causation (Karmasastra) concedes the scope and role of proper human effort in hastening or weakening the fructification of karma. Human effort has an important place in life.

Lord Ram’s attack on Ravana was just as rightful. If a robber robs you of your possessions and you, though inwardly burning with rage, meekly & impotently gaze at him, it is an act of cowardice. Surely not all acts of violence are right. One must weigh the situation before taking a step.

Five        Destiny  
Destiny is incomprehensible. Man is, therefore, free to make efforts. If we dig the ground, we shall get water, provided it is there. Similarly, if the good fortune is in store for man, it is manifested through efforts only. Human efforts accompanied with pure light of right knowledge destroy man’s present miserable state and opens up of doors of happiness, as also strongly counters the future onslaughts of inauspicious karmas. That is to say that neither is the law of karma fatalistic nor does it mean man should become lazy, depressed. It means that man should become brave and industrious, taking into account the supreme importance of spiritual power.

Surely some of man’s karmas would result in pain & misery, he should learn to experience it with peace & equanimity, which evinces true understanding & heroic spirit. In such times the karma theory gives him the required strength to keep the mind cool, composed & unagitated. Every man has to experience the fruits of his karmas however great he may be.

By accepting the fruits of actions – sufferings bravely without negativity one does not bind any new misery – causing karmas to the soul thereby making life more blissful and more spiritually bright. The karma theory enunciates that the practice of immorality, injustice, and treachery causes the bondage of inauspicious karmas, while the practice of virtues like truthfulness, self-control and service causes the bondage of auspicious karmas. Actions performed in the previous birth give their fruits in the current birth, and even the actions performed in the present birth give their fruits in this very birth. This is stated in the Bhagavatisutra. In this way, the law of karma encourages man to become virtuous & righteous and thereby elevates the whole society.

Friends some personal experiences. The last four to five years have been tough on most fronts. At times I got so cheesed off that I nearly gave up and used to crib a lot i.e. negative vibrations. After a few days of such behavior I realized that brooding is not going to make things happen but selfless action is. I also got to understand the importance of positive karmas or actions. Can you believe that www.esamskriti.com was conceptualized & given birth to during these trying times? Two lessons learnt. One keep on making efforts continuously, things will happen when they have to. Two keep on adding Value to yourself and to others. It will give you the spiritual power to take the rough with the smooth.

Six        Rebirth 
When man is afflicted with a disease or incur’s losses, he blames his karma. Now, if the situation or condition were the direct result of his past karma, it would be proper to do so. But even in such a case he must make proper efforts to remove such misery. If his efforts fail, he must face the fruits of his actions bravely. It is not wise for him to remain idle & inactive and blame only one’s past karmas for his miseries. Blame our past karmas for our current state yes but we must reflect on our past actions, link them with our current state to see what wrong did we do and then resolve that we would not repeat such inauspicious karmas again.

The working of karma is well concealed & beyond our comprehension & understanding. So it is only human effort with discretion and thought that is left in the hands of man. This effort is aimed at removing the calamity befallen on one’s own self or on others. But when man achieves the desired fruits he must not feel elated, so also if he fails to achieve his goal, he must not feel dejected. In making efforts, it is not that we transgress the law of karma but on the contrary respecting the law we desire to achieve progress and to remove calamity. Human effort does not contradict the law of karma. The fact that every effort bears its fruit is the foundation of the law of karma.

When some helpless person is suffering from miseries we should not blame it on his past karma but should rush at once to help – it is our duty. It is a sin or I would say inauspicious karma to leave the miserable person to his destiny and not attempt to help him. This entire humanity is like one family, and its happiness & peace, upliftment & progress depend on mutual cooperation / affection / amicable living. It is a crime in the regime of spirituality to be selfish; to remain clung to one’s possessions with strong attachment and to neglect other’s interests.

Doctrine of Rebirth / karma does not encourage idleness instead it inspires man to make proper efforts & undertake good efforts so that he may destroy negative karmas, advance on the path of liberation to ultimately attain moksh / liberation. It is the function of the doctrine of karma to connect the present birth with the past / future births in the cause-effect chain. Man’s future is entirely in his own hands thus the doctrine of karma is not in any sense the doctrine of fatalism. Friend’s words like fatalism/ idol worship were I think introduced by the Brits to criticize followers of Indian religions, demoralize them.

We should bear in mind that by its own activities the soul binds karmas and can also dissociate the bound karmas from it by its own activities. All karmas are not alterable. Many of them are such as can be altered by spiritual efforts. Upadhyaya Yasovijayaji says that nikacita or unalterable karmas can be destroyed by tapas (austerity).  But by tapas is not meant external austerities, but only those highly spiritual & yogic practices that characterize the far advanced stage of spiritual development.

When after continuous effort things do not happen then one must consider the concerned karma to be of the unalterable (nikacita) type, should keep the mind cool and wait for time to change. If without using one’s intellect (ability to discriminate between what is right & wrong) we perform acts blindly it will not produce the desired effect. In such a situation we have none to blame but ourselves.

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