Karma refers to the law of cause and effect. All actions performed on the material
platform bring corresponding effects. Although the law of karma is described in detail in the Vedic scriptures, references are also made elsewhere, for instance:
- Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”
- Plato: “God is blameless: man has chosen his own fate, and this by his actions.”
- The Bible: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
The Vedic literature states that if one performs good actions, that person will reap good reactions in the future. Similarly, if a person performs bad actions, that person will have to suffer in the future for such actions. The Vedic literature views one’s karma from a point of view of eternity. Thus, today’s favorable situation or suffering may be due to actions carried out in past lives. This explains why some babies are born rich while others are born on the street, some are born athletic champions while others as handicaps, etc.
The Vedic literature explains that one’s next body is determined by the nature of one’s thought at the time of death. There are 8,400,000 species of life in the material world and one is awarded a particular type of body according to one’s thoughts at the last moment of one’s life.
yam yam vapi smaran bhavam
tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail. (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8 Text 6)
Question: Why does a person suffer for something that was committed in a previous life of which one does not even remember now?
Answer: The Vedic literature mentions that all living entities were once living in the spiritual world and due to some desire to be an enjoyer and controller has been transferred to the material world. Thus the material creation is compared to a prison in which the conditioned souls have been sent to realize one’s real position as an eternal servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Lord is the enjoyer and the living entities are the enjoyed. With such a relationship the soul will feel real bliss whereas if the soul tries to enjoy separately, the soul will suffer. The Lord is very concerned about the suffering of the conditioned soul and He sends the scriptures to teach people about the process to return back to the Spiritual World. He also sends His representatives to come to the material world to reclaim the conditioned souls and sometimes He Himself personally comes to assist such souls.
The process to return to the Spiritual world is through devotional service. This may be completed in one lifetime or it can take millions of lifetimes depending on the extent of surrender by the conditioned souls.
Life after life one learns from experiences and such realizations are taken over to the next life. Thus, although one does not remember one’s fault for a karmic reaction, one is meant to learn lessons from such a situation. This realization will accompany that soul to the next life. Thus when one is subject to karmic reactions, such reactions are meant for the conditioned souls to promote to a higher level of consciousness. If somehow or other one comes in contact with a pure devotee, physically or his book or lecture, one can receive the mercy to start one’s path back to Godhead.
Question: What is vikarma and akarma?
Answer: There are various terms used in the Bhagavad Gita, such as, vikarma and akarma. Vikarma refers to acts forbidden by the scriptures. Some of the actions which are considered as vikarma and should be avoided are:
i. eating of meat, fish and eggs;
iii. taking of intoxicants, such, as drugs,, cigarette, etc
iv. illicit sex
If one performs vikarma, one will be subject to a chain of reactions and will have to take non-stop repeated births. Even one does not perform any vikarma but instead onlypositive karma, that is, material pious activities, one has to take birth again to benefit from the results of such pious activities. Taking birth again implies the miseries of birth, old age, disease and death amongst others.
On the other hand, akarma refers to an action which does not cause any reaction either good or bad. Only activities considered which followed in accordance of the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead do not carry any bad or good karma. Rather it helps one progress in the spiritual ladder and upon attaining perfection, one will return back to the spiritual world.
ye me matam idam nityam
mucyante te ‘pi karmabhih
Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive actions. (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 3 Text 31)
Devotional practices include chanting the holy name of the Lord, worshipping of the Lord and other practices as detailed in our Practice page.
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