KARMA AND DHARMAVedic Articles
Expansion and contraction are the process of nature. It itself is called as bondage and salvation or hell and heaven. This, too, is the function of the vibrations of Maya. That is why the jiva imprisoned in the body tries for liberation. One seeks to merge with the source from where one has originated. Freedom has only one form which is known as the truth. Bondage has many forms. Eight million and four lakhs yonis (exsitences) are the forms of the same bondage.
This is not the only bondage. We struggle against bondages throughout our life. Many times we are not even aware of the same. There is one sutra which exhorts us to live our life in a spirit of freedom. We try to bind it. Life becomes miserable when it is bound or restricted. It struggles to be free. Our bondage is indicated by many instances such as our concepts, rules and regulations which shackle our life, daily routine which is regulated rigorously by the ticking of a clock, the definition of right or wrong fixed for every sense organ, and the many resolutions like ‘I will do this’; ‘I will do that’ which the mind nurtures and the burden of right and wrong that our mind carries etc. The bondage limits the powers of an individual.
It is the individual egotism that gives rise to bondage. This strengthens the feeling that ‘I am the doer.’ The individual abandons the process of observing and knowing. He remains united with his karma. The feeling of attachment is associated with the fruit of action. It alone becomes the cause of both joy and sorrow.
A man has nothing in his hands except karma. This alone is the reflection of his religion and this alone is the maker of his destiny. We are never so serious about our karma as we should be. We shift the burden of those karmas which we do not like to others or blame our fortune for them. Fortune too is the result of our karmas. It is also a certificate of bondage.
The Gita contains so much of analysis of karma that it has become synonymous with it. Even then thinking about karma in our country is not commensurate with its practice. One aphorism is ‘karmanyewadhikaraste.’ One thing which is very clear in it is that only karma is in our hands. We have no control over its fruits. Whatever we offer to Ishwara in the temple is after all given by Ishwara himself. Here also we have only karma. If our karma is worth offering, it will be accepted. What is there in karma as such? All the four pursuits of life – dharma, artha, kama and moksha – are all based on karma. Even sanyas is not beyond karma. That means the basis of moksha is karma. The karma that we do should be such as may not create new shackles nor does it open the old ones. Even good karmas also cause bondage. They may take us to heaven but they can not liberate us. For it we will have to go back to the earth again and be born as human beings. There is only one yoni (existence) out of eight million and four lakh yonis i.e. that of human being that can make use of the karma in this way and can liberate us.
karmas have been basically divided into three categories – sat, raj and tam. All the three divisions are the forms of nature and all the three always remain together. Their steadfast form is known as nature. prakriti is also known as Maya. It causes bondage. To see it within oneself and understand it is important.
Every man is born with samskaras. He defines his karma and dharma in his own way. No two persons have the same dharma. The intellect and mind of all is covered by prakriti, but the proportion is different. All have different environments of living and exchanges are also different. Therefore personalities are also bound to be shaped differently. karma in itself is neither good nor bad. It changes its form due to differences of prakriti. Along with the individual prikriti it is also different according to the nature of a society or a country. This is known as a culture.
It will be proper if a person regards whatever he does as karma. The moment he tries to associate his concepts and feelings with his karma, it becomes his karma. The reaction of that karma begins to invade his intellect and mind. He starts feeling that he is the doer of the karma. He begins to think about the fruit and it is also possible that he gets worried.
It has been said in the Gita, “arambhe karmnam sanyase karm sangayo.’ karma will be initiated keeping the goal in the mind but attachment to the fruit should end with the ending of the karma. Its centre is the mind and the desire that arises in it. Desire is the root of all karmas. When it is joined by the sentiments of the mind and is evaluated by intellect, then it is decided whether the desire should be fulfilled or not. In this decision prakriti plays its role. If this is considered the role of prakriti, then the direction of the fulfillment of the desire can be changed. Along with the fulfillment of the desire one will also have to keep an eye on prakriti. Only then can we advance towards the satvik pravriti by exercising a control on the tamasik and rajsi pravritis. After some time our desires will automatically begin to take the form of satvik. Our karma will have sattva as a dominant component. It will also strengthen the way to the purification of emotions. It will create a new awareness about the future karmas.
The important thing in the area of karma is the feeling of the individual that he is the doer. Wherever the individual does his karma as the doer, as though he were the progenitor of all his doings, the results generated by prakriti also join and the karma becomes the cause of bondage. The task is difficult. One has to do a task and at the same time one has to remain free from the feeling of being a doer. It may appear to be easy, but it certainly is not easy. The reason is arrogance. It is the proof of our being and is also the progenitor of our intellect. It never leaves the way open for considering ourselves as the nimitta. The word ‘surrender’ does not exist there in his dictionary.
Egotism is also the cause of pramad (remissness). It swallows the present of the individual by ensnaring it in the web of memory and imagination. If the present has passed without any karma, the future will also be similar. Our fortune will also not be different which we will curse. As a matter of fact we ourselves are the cause. The karma has to be carried out whether a man is rich or poor or great or small. It is the karma that makes us rich or poor. One cannot renounce karma. Even if a sanyasi binds himself with a karma, how can he be liberated? dharma itself becomes the cause of bondage, if we bond with it. If we consider it a way, it will disappear the moment we reach the goal. But if dharma itself becomes the goal, bondage is certain. Today a new feeling of attachment is being created for religions. It is like inviting fanaticism. dharma should merely be a way so that a human being can live like a human being. Only then can a religion be fruitful. In bondage there is nothing but restlessness. Therefore it is imperative that we assess our bonds and become light by shedding them one by one.
The many definitions of dharma that we have been listening to are all doctrinaire. The practical form of dharma is so extensive that it can not be bound by a single aphorism or definition. An ordinary person will never be able to understand it. Every individual’s dharma is dependent on time, space and situations. From this poit of view no two persons can be the same, hence, the religion of every individual will certainly be a personal ethic. Broadly speaking, dharma is a relationship between an individual and his God. His philosophy of life is determined on the basis of his outlook on the institution of God. The entire sequence of devotion and worship will change according to whether I consider God my father, mother, friend or lover. An atheist also has faith in his atheism. For him that is his dharma. raj dharma, grahasth dharma, and desh dharma are the social forms of dharma. They will also have to be woven with the individual’s definition of dharma. A man indulges in suppression, anti-social behavior and corruption thinking that they are also acts of dharma. This is the dharma of the demonic pranas of the individual. Without them eternal dharma has no importance.
Even otherwise dharma is a matter of conduct. It’s a man’s behavior that constitutes the reflection of dharma. dharma occupies the first place even among the four pursuits (purusharth chatushthaya). Then come artha, karma and moksha. It means that these three pursuits must be based on dharma. dharma is the first requirement of every individual. Today if we look at society, we will not find this concept reflected in the lifestyle of people. It is our responsibility that we establish it again.
The form of religion that we see today doesn’t appear to be practical. Either it is bound with scriptures or it is entangled in the web of narrow-mindedness. In some sects narrowness of mind is turning into fundamentalism. The negative form of religion is also an example of the same. If we look at sadhus and sanyasis, they too appear to be tethered to their sects. They are bound by a number of restrictions. Instead of liberating people religion seems to cause bondages. Should we call it religion? One can hardly find an individual who treats religion as the way to be left at the end of the journey.
What is being called religion today is, in fact, the voice of some or other great man. He may be Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohemmed or Lord Mahavira. If we endorse their views, we are theists, if not, we are atheists. Even these people might not have imagined the distortion of religion to this extent. Why should there be any compulsion to associate ourselves with a particular thought? If we follow the same old track, how will new stations appear on my way? My natural life consists in living with the samskara with which I was born, in the same form that God has created me. I may try my utmost but I cannot become a great man like them. The Gita describes jnana yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga and buddhi yoga. But nowhere dharma yoga has been mentioned. karma itself has been called dharma.
Multitudes of religions have been created by clothing karma in different garbs. The whole world is engrossed in a struggle for self-assertion. Politics too has made its way into it. Religion began to play its role from behind the stage. It got mixed with the power of wealth. The environment of publicity and expansion has got so deep that man has become secondary. Large number of trusts have sprung up. Either religious teachers or their institutions have survived. That alone emerges as the religion of the country and people follow it blindly. No one wants to listen to the praise of other religions. This is the beginning of fundamentalism. All Gurus have landed in the realm of doers. God is in their pockets. The Gurus have become so proud that none of them appears to be a saint. They are worse than an ordinary family man.
The varna too has assumed the form of religion. The son of a Jain is Jain, that of a Muslim is Muslim. How can that be possible? Religions and sects are part of human civilization. It is not a gift of nature. There the social organization is governed by a system of varnas. In that too the son of a Brahmin can not be a Brahmin. Before beginning the education of the child, his varna is tested. Education is imparted accordingly. If he belongs to a kshatriya varna, he will find it difficult to concentrate his mind on scriptures. We have forgotten that every individual is born with his unique samskaras and karma-bound destiny. The parents are only the nimitta (instruments). They are not vested with any authority. The off-spring creates his own way. He determines his own religion.
Then, religion is only a way, not the destination. After reaching the destination, one has to abandon the way. But today instead of being a means the religion is becoming an end in itself. How can an individual, who remains glued to it till his death, liberate himself? This is nothing but a feeling of attachment. But I need a religion which can liberate me. Which is that religion? How can then an atheist be irreligious. If atheism is his strong will, then that alone is his religion. He lives in the light of his soul.
In the end a question arises as to what is the utility of religion? It has only one utility, that of the yoga. The union of the self with the self. Since our mind and intellect are always covered with the veils of prakrati (sat, raj and tam), we are not able to see the original mind (the soul). If with the help of some karmas I am able to see my real face, then that is my religion. All these activities belong to the inner world. I am not related to the external world. Everything is within me. To know it, develop it and reach the ultimate end is the goal of my life. The way which takes me to that destination is my sect. That alone is my religion.
Since nature has made everyone different, the goal of each one is also different. Therefore, religions will also be different. They all permeate the individual. With every desire vibrations occur in intellect. Before advancing further one should be able to understand the direction and purpose of a desire here itself. One should be able to understand whether the arousal of the desire has been the result of external stimulation or that of the rise of karmas of the destiny or from my own future goals. All the desires originate in the mind. That which gives a direction to those desires alone is called religion. Accordingly a man does his karma. Accordingly the same feeling joins karma and that kind of future is shaped. The same religion creates an ambience in the mind. In accordance with it new desires are born. The same function is carried out by the body. They alone become a person’s language and conduct and establish him in society. They hold him high.
The inherent nature of the soul is to perceive and know. These attributes of the soul also go a long way in developing a person’s character. Character alone is the ultimate result of religion. Religion is just one way, a way followed by a particular individual. It can never be a path for the entire society. No religious head can take a congregation to the depths of religion. He will have to evaluate the samskaras and varnas of each individual and accordingly devise a path for him according to his requirements and equip that individual with the competence to follow that path. The path is very difficult and the Guru has to undergo austerities along with his disciple. It is then we find that the individual is completely transformed in the due course of time and he is elevated to the same heights that his guru possesses.
An act committed in the way of the religion never becomes the cause of the bondage of good or bad karma. On completion of the karma the individual forgets it because there is no desire for a reward. ‘sanyase karm sangyo.’ One need not cling to karma or the fruit of the karma. Our scriptures and the Gita emphasize the same thing that one should see akarma in karma and karma in akarma. It is Maya that is known as karma and its absence is Brahm. Acharya Mahapragya has coined a word for the same ‘vitaragata’ which is one and the same thing.
There are many who understand these things and they may also explain it to others. Even then religion is not flourishing with the passage of time. There might be an increase in the number of followers. Today no one is willing to recognize and respect the religion of others whether it be a husband or a wife. After all where is the root of all this conflict?
The root of religion lies in the soul. All others are merely the means which keep on changing. The soul does not change. Only the coverings of the soul change. The bodies formed out of the five elements change, names and form change. Three powers work as major forces in these changes –rishis, pittar and devpran. We, too, have to liberate ourselves from these three debts. The veils can be removed only through an understanding of these three. They alone lead to the birth of the institutions called Adhyatmik, Adhibhautik and Adhidaivik. The individual spends his life in their midst. The function of dharma is to make a journey up to the soul with the help of the body. It takes one first through the subtle body and then to the casual body. As soon as dharma reaches there, it becomes one with the soul. The path itself becomes the destination.
Adhidev acts as a bridge between Adhibhut and Adhyatm. In the western philosophy there is no such concept as Adhidev. That is why there is perennial conflict between philosophies at the level of language. The spiritual level is expressed in the body through the subtle body (pranas). The subtle body carries the knowledge acquired by the senses to the mind. Therefore, effective role of dharma can be understood through the medium of pranayam and meditation. In dhyana though emotions may be predominant, the activity is completed by only pranas.
Feelings give directions to desire. Desires generate karmas. Actions bring about the fruit and they last till the fruit is achieved. If a person wants to be free from attachment to the fruit then this feeling has to be linked with the desire before the activity is undertaken. Why is he doing a deed? Does he long for the fruit or his attention is not riveted on the fruit. He has to fill it with the feelings of public welfare, whether he has done a deed taking it to be a form of puja. Even after having done it, it should be dedicated to Ishwara. That makes the feeling of doing also an act of Ishwara. Again it is Ishwara who gets the result. Whatever we get will only be prasada, without any expectation. It may be in the form of a flower or a thorn, after all prasad is prasad. We have to accept it with joy. In this way we will neither have new bondage of karma nor our actions will generate karmas. When a person thinks that it is prasad he will not incur the karmas of destiny in reactions in the form of indebtedness. We will undergo their consequences and will thus neutralize them. Thus our past karmas will ripen. nimittas will no longer be able to overpower us and drive us to this course. If new karmas are not generated, the account will be cleared. We will stay only as nimitts. It is the form of dharma and its goal. It alone is liberation, freedom, peace and ananda in peace.