Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Karma - what is it all about?

Thanks to Ramya for bringing up the topic of karma in her comment on the previous post.This is one topic greatly misunderstood and even hyped up.

Karma is commonly understood as "if you do good, you will be rewarded", "if you do bad, you will be punished". The main flaw in this kind of understanding is that "good" and "bad" are defined by society. But really, a prostitute thinking about God all the time is closer to God than a priest in a temple thinking about money. So this understanding of karma based on good and bad deeds is very shallow and interpreted by the "doing" rather than the "being".

Now, let us understand it in a way that we can directly relate to. This understanding of karma by Swami Nithyananda also gives us an insight into the relationship between karma and rebirth.

He puts it in simple words - karma are unfulfilled desires that drive us.

He explains this in great detail in many discourses and books. Here's an attempt to explain it in just one post :)

Firstly let us assume that there is something called rebirth. Now like Swami Nithyananda says, 'whether we accept it or not, believe it or not, understand it or not, this is the truth.' Enough scientific and psychological studies bear testimony to this fact.

Now let us analyze - Why have we taken this body? Our body is a mere tool for us to fulfill the unfulfilled desires. Now what are these unfulfilled desires and where do they come from?

In the process of rebirth, there is something that passes from one body to the other. Lets call it XYZ (some people also call it soul or spirit; some intellectuals don't like such words, so let me call it XYZ like in algebra).

This XYZ takes on a body because it was not able to realize its desires with its previous body. So XYZ takes a body with a certain set of desires. All that XYZ wants to do with this new body is to get the unfulfilled desires exhausted. After XYZ wants to be fulfilled, isn't it?

Now a twist in the journey of XYZ. There is a villain - the mind. Instead of exhausting the basket of desires by fulfilling them, the mind starts playing its games and starts to borrow desires from others in this world. Example, we might be rich but we want to be richer, then the richest. This is doing of the mind; the race to fulfill desires never ends. The basket initially had finite or fixed number of desires in it when XYZ took a new body but the mind added new desires by borrowing from others.

At the time of death, a big list of unfulfilled desires still exists because all that the person was doing was accumulating rather than dispensing. Can you see the play of mind through our greed and fear? We are greedy to get more and more and the list also keeps growing; we are afraid of losing what we have, so we accumulate desires or ways to keep what we have.

This baggage of unfulfilled desires is karma.

Now while dying, XYZ is burdened with an updated list of unfulfilled desires. So what will it do? It searches for a new body in a family that can help XYZ to get rid of karma.

Summarizing it in spiritual terminology, in Swami Nithyananda's brilliant explanation:
Referring to the case 1 in the figure, the circle binding the white space is the body, the white space inside the circle is Aatman (the Individual Consciousness or I) and the white space outside is Brahman (the Universal Consciousness or Energy etc. etc.) At the time of death, the circle or body disappears and Aatman would ideally want to merge with Brahman, i.e. white space into white space (See case 1 in the figure).

But what happens is due to the unfulfilled desires or karma, the white space no longer remains as white space at the time of death (See case 2). It gets a tinge. So in order to remove this tinge, Aatman takes up another body. This is how the cycle of birth and death continues.

Swami Nithyananda and many other enlightened masters say, 'the state when Aatman and Brahman merge is the state of enlightenment. The realization and experience of the realization that Aatman and Brahman are the same is enlightenment. And mind you! You don't have to wait till your death to realize it. You can experience it in this very lifetime.'

Now, the ball is in our court ...


anupsar said...

Nice post - Karma unleashed.

Please also write what will happen in the end, how to be aware of only those desire a person has come from.

ramya said...

Thank you both very much for the explanation - indeed, you make a much stronger case than other theories I have come across regarding the same, and I really appreciate it. Pardon me for being so skeptical, but there are two points that I would like to raise : 1) You said that human minds (maybe not all, but a sizeable number, say) tend to not be 'satisfied' at the end of a lifetime, with unfulfilled desires remaining, which causes rebirth, in order to facilitate satisfaction of those desires. But isn't this quality of the human mind probably one of the best qualities that it possesses (compared to the minds of other animals) - if it was not for our eternal desire to seek out more and more, it would have been impossible to achieve so much by way of science and architecture and music and literature and poetry and all the wonderful things the human race has created. We are fundamentally non-complacent, dissatisfied, and this is what drives us, is it not?
2) More importantly, I feel this very strongly-humans are generally emotionally weak - we are scared of dying - in the sense that after death, we will never come back to this planet, it is really the absolute end - nothing is special about you as an individual - you live, you die, just as trillions of other humans have done before you and will do so after you - no one will remember you, noone, no higher power, no supreme entity gives a damn about you - when you lived, what you did in life etc etc...and it is this morbid fear of life being so temporary that has driven us to create this concept of 'karma' as a way of assuring ourselves that even though we will die, we will in good probability come back to Earth in a next life - and this theory makes us feel safe and secure - this theory of a sort of immortality actually - after all, isn't that what we all desire deep down, though we may not want to admit it - immortality - and karma is a round-about concept that grants us immortality.

A philosophically confused Pepy :))

Sri Nithya Arpanananda said...

Hi Anu

Good question! How do we know of our true desires? Now that one is grown up, conditioned by layers and layers of societal and parental conditioning, it is upto us to see what our desires are just by flooding ourselves with awareness. Simple example - say you go out and see some dress. Our instinctive mind would immediately say - wow, its good; buy it. That is the samskara or our engraved conditioning that is talking. Once we flood awareness, we see that instinct is replaced by intuition. In an intuitive state, you are in tune with your Self. You know your needs and true wants. Try this next time. Your awareness itself will tell whether you want something or not.

Meditation is a means to be within ourselves. Meditation helps to improve awareness and dissolves these engrave memories. Life Bliss Program 1 and 2 do that. In fact in LBP2, there is one meditation where you can clearly see your true desires at the end.

The key is - even after we do a meditation, it is OUR conscious will to be aware of our desires continuously that keeps us free from building the set of unfulfilled desires.

Sri Arpanananda

Sri Nithya Arpanananda said...

Hi Ramya

Nice points! Let me answer one by one.

(1) You said - "But isn't this quality of the human mind ... it would have been impossible to achieve so much by way of science and architecture and music and literature and poetry ..."

Do you really think that the greatest of the scientists, poets, artists apply their mind when it comes to greatest discoveries? There are innumerable accounts of great scientists and artists and all of them have one thing in common - the mind is dead when the greatest discover, greatest painting, greatest song happens. Swami Nithyananda met Charles Townes, a Nobel Laureate who discovered LASERS/MASERS (you can see the photos on the website). Swamiji asked him, how did it happen? He said - "I don't know. I was sitting on a bench in a park and the answer just flashed. I didn't know the steps but I knew that it was correct."

This state is called the state of intuition when you are in a no-mind zone. We will dedicate a post on this. By the way, the greatest of singers and poets never sing from their mind; they sing from something deeper. Only then will you actually enjoy the song :)

Here we are not talking about ambitions and not driving yourself because you do not have the desire to do so. Have an ambition, a desire but let that desire be yours and not others. Let you deeply feel about it. Simple example - I do engineering because I like physics etc. That is my true desire. After engineering I start working in a technical position. I am happy, doing really good in that company. But I see my friends doing an MBA and a desire comes - hmm.. lets get an MBA.

This rat race continues. It goes on and on till the last moment. There are people who work till the age of 80 and when you ask them what have they done in their lives - just work and work because they wanted to prove a point to the world that they are the greatest. But what's the big deal, tomorrow you will die, some people will mourn for a few days and then they will forget. What was the point of the rat race?

(2) The whole point of karma theory to let you know that you are eternally free. Like you yourself said - we are emotionally weak. If you see we lead a pathetic life. It may sound strong but it is true. We all have some worry, some stress, some negativity or the other. Karma theory helps you get out of this cycle of birth and death. It is not something that is proposed to make us feel better and secure but to make us see beyond the life-death cycle.

Hope this helps :)
Sri Arpanananda said...

Apart from what Sri Arpana said, one more thing... If you have lived your life fully every moment, and don't have any fear of death (note: all fears result from fear of death, of losing the current identity), you need not have to understand the karma theory. Consider yourself a liberated being now itself.

ramya said...

Hi Prabhu,
Am I right in thinking that your comment is intended sarcastically? In either case, by saying 'If you have lived your life fully every moment, and don't have any fear of death , you need not have to understand the karma theory.', you have just supported what I said in my earlier comment - that Karma is a concept/theory constructed by humans who do have a fear of death. Therefore, it seems that you wholeheartedly agree with what I said earlier, rather than with Sri Arpana's reply!!! said...

Hi Ramya...
Nice to have this discussion...

No, it wasn't meant sarcastically...

And yes, you can live every moment fully, in bliss, and without worrying about the unknown (the death), that's what enlightened ones do, and we aspire to be in the same bracket.

Fear of death, or more correctly, the eventuality of death has resulted in people to think about a way to get out of the situation... mainly, how to conquer death! Those, who were materialistic, started outwards, finding ways to increase the life span... And remaining few, went deeper inside to find the ultimate solution.

If I may recommend, read this series posts.

ramya said...

Hi Prabhu,
Will do....Thanks!!!

I agree with what you said - bliss comes with a sort of 'don't care' attitude. Either that, or you do have the answers to everything or you are completely oblivious and don't even ask any questions at all to start with.....I wonder if things like worms or slugs (with very small brains)...or better still, bacteria etc are 'truly happy'. Seems like beings (all of humanity except a few enlightened ppl) with brains that are mid way between extremely intelligent and extremely un-intelligent spend their entire life asking un-answerable questions and making ourselves miserable about it :( said...


Bliss isn't something that happens due to an external cause. It's our inherent nature, and we shall know it once we start digging deeper into ourselves. And it surely isn't a resultant of any attitude, especially the 'don't care' one. Death is the ultimate test for people who are of the 'dont care' type. :)

Now you are tending to believe that "Ignorance is bliss!" Unfortunately, we have been given highly developed brains so that we can no more consider ourselves un-intelligent! The basic tendency of all beings, (and only humans can know and analyze further) is that:
1. We should know everything,
2. We should never cease to exist,
3. We should be always in bliss.

That's SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, which is our inherent nature, and can't come from outside. Currently, not just to you, even for me it's just theory, and we all are working towards realizing our inner potential!

And no human can stop pondering about it until s/he has realized it! It has nothing to do with few "lucky" ones who realized this ahead of us. Actually, in proximity to them, we can realize the ultimate goal sooner!

Ma Nithyananda Arpana said...

Hi Ramya,

You may want to check out a previous discussion about similar topics - sources of bliss etc:


Subu said...

I think you should also link your blog to the replies from the ashram