Chapter 8.7 from "Study Circles for Divinity"
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8.7  KARMA


"God does not compel a soul to do what is beyond its capacity: it gets what it has earned, and is responsible for what it deserves."    Mohammed

"The world becomes bound by action unless it be done for the sake of sacrifice. Therefore, O Son of Kunti, give up attachment, and do your work for the sake of the Lord."    Sri Krishna

"When he realises Me, the Self of all, the knots of his heart are loosened, all doubts cease and he is free from the bondage of karma."    Sri Krishna

"Do not forget the debt you owe to the past, yet discern the signs of the age you live in, and be in harmony with it. Let not unthinking and blind traditionalism retard and arrest your progress."    Zarathushtra

"You should guard yourself, both within and without, just as a town is protected on the inside as well as out. Those who go beyond the noble moment reach hell, and in sorrow are torn; therefore may you go beyond the noble moment which is the time when the Buddha was born."    Buddha

"The man who makes false statements, and the man who denies having done something - both would reach hell - being low and mean in their ways, they would be alike in the next world too, where they dwell."    Buddha

"His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parent's sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him."    Jesus Christ

"Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven. Courage, My daughter! Your faith has made you well."    Jesus Christ



Then Arjuna prayed that the third subject, karma, may be fully explained to him. Krishna was quite ready to oblige him. He began, "Arjuna! The limitation that is necessary for the creation, fostering and destruction of beings is what is called karma. The movable and the immovable, all are beings; why, the very act of the resolution for creation is karma, the very first, which still activates all everywhere - this entire universe and the movements and agitations and activities in it are the direct consequence of primal karma, My Divine will. And as long as My resolution lasts, the stream of karma will flow along. It can never go dry so long as I do not will it. All that you do is to get drawn into this flood; why, you are but currents in this rush, or ripples or waves. My will has prompted all karma and so karma done in consonance with My will becomes part of Me."

"Karma is of My Nature; I manifest Myself as Karma", said Krishna, to the great consternation of Arjuna. He made it clear that all Karma is Divine, of His Essence! "It is enough if you know that Brahmam, the Universal Absolute, the individual and Karma are all three in Me; knowledge of this will confer release. You need not worry about the rest", said Krishna, as if He wanted to avoid further discussion. Evidently, Krishna wanted to take the chariot into the ranks of the foes and start the conflict, for time was flying fast. (Geetha V 134)


There is a law of cause and effect; every karma has a consequence, whether you like it or not, whether you anticipate it or not. A good karma produces a good result; a bad one has to produce a bad result. Birth is the result of the karma done before death; if you are asked what happens to man after death, you can point to yourself and declare, "This is what happens"; they are born again. This is no religion of despair, it is a religion of hope, of assurance, of encouragement to lead an active, useful, beneficent life. For the future is in your hands; tomorrow can be shaped by today, though today has already been shaped by yesterday. That is the reason why the biggest section of the Vedas is called 'Karma Kanda' and deals with various types of karma, calculated to induce detachment, to canalise the desire towards eternal and universal ends, to transmute all acts into acts of worship, to offer adoration to the Divine entities who preside over every force of nature, every energy of man, every limb of his anatom. (151067)


"Not only this. Karma does not cease to affect the doer as soon as it is finished. In fact, it is never finished. Karma yields fruits; fruits of karma breed desire for them; that results in impulses for further karma; the impulses bring about further births. Thus, karma leads to the cycle of births and deaths; it is a vicious whirlpool, making you revolve round and round and finally dragging you down into the depths.

"Arjuna, listen well to another point also. Karma as such has no capacity to bind; it is the conceit 'I am the doer' that brings about the attachment and the bond; it is the desire to earn the fruit that produces the bondage. For example: The zero gets value only with the association of a digit. Karma is zero; agency or the feeling of 'doer' is associated with the karma; then it breeds bonds. So Arjuna, give up the sense of 'I' and the karma that you do will never harm you. Karma done without any desire for the fruits thereof will not produce impulses; that is to say, there will be no impulse for birth even. The aspirants of past ages performed karma with this high ideal in view. They never felt that they were the 'doers' or 'enjoyers of the fruits' of any act. The Lord did, the Lord gave the fruit, the Lord enjoyed the fruit... that was their conviction. This world has only a relative value; it has no absolute existence; that was their faith. Arjuna! You too should cultivate that faith and earn that convicton. Do so; then your mind will become clarified and pure.

"The movement of the chariot imposes on hill and tree the quality of movement; so too, the person unaware of the principles enunciated in the scriptures deludes himself into the belief that the atma is doing all the activities of the senses and the body. Which then is the genuine akarma... activity-less-ness? The experience of the atma is the perfect activity-less-ness; that is your real nature. It will not do if you simply desist from external acts. You should realise the Atmic fundamental, not merely renounce karma; for it is impossible to be completely activityless.

"Some people say that a person of knowledge must perforce suffer the consequences of existing karma; he cannot escape from it. This is a conclusion that other persons draw; not the experience of the wise person himself. To those who watch him, he might appear to be reaping the fruit of past karma, but he is absolutely unaffected. Whoever is dependent on objects for happiness, or pursues sensory pleasures; whoever is motivated by impulses and desires, is bound by karma. But those free from these cannot be affected by the temptations of sound, touch, form, taste, smell and other attractions of the senses. Such is the true renunciate. He is unmoved. The wise person is supremely happy by himself, without the need to be dependent on other things. He finds karma in akarma and akarma in karma. He may be engaged in karma but he is not affected in the least. He has no eye on the fruit of actions. (Geetha V 82)


The consequence of karma can be wiped out only through karma, as a thorn can be removed only by means of another. Do good karma to assuage the pain of the bad karma which you have done and from which you suffer now. The best and the simplest karma is the repetition of the Name of the Lord; be ever engaged in it. It will keep out evil tendencies and wicked thoughts. It will help you radiate love all round you  (260365)

In fact karma becomes Yoga when it is done without any attachment; a renunciate should not even remember whatever he does, he should not do any karma, anticipating any result. That is the nishkama ideal at its highest. The best karma is that which is done at the call of duty; because it has to be done, not because it is advantageous to do it. The renunciate should have no anger, anxiety, envy or greed; but your experience must be telling you that renunciates who are free from these are very rare today. Do not even cast your glance at a renunciate who is so false to his vow that he craves for name and fame or indulges in calumny or competition. Do not be led away by such persons into disbelieving the scriptures and the Vedas. He who is firmly fixed in the faith that this world is a mirage of the mind, he alone is the swami; the others are mere Ramaswamys or Krishnaswamys (just names), entitled to have the epithet swami at the end of the name, not at the beginning. (250358)

The most direct method of spiritual success is action without any attention or attachment to the fruit therefrom (nishkama karma) - action as duty, action as dedication, action as worship. But, action and the fruit thereof are not two separate entities, the fruit is the action itself, in its final stage, the climax, the conclusion. The flower is the fruit; the fruit is the flower; one is the beginning, the other is the legitimate end. The flower becomes the fruit. The actions becomes the consequence. One's duty is to act; act well, act in fear of God; act within the bounds of morality; act in love; continue acting; the consequences will naturally follow as the fruit follows the flower. One need not worry or exult. Act enthusiastically, with faith - success is yours. Arjuna acted so. He never lost heart, once the Gita was taught to him. He revived the drooping spirits of others. He engaged in battle, as dedicated in a sacrifice. But, Karna his great rival, had as charioteer a person called Salya. While the chrioteer of Arjuna filled him with the highest wisdom and the deepest peace, Salya filled Karna with despondency and doubt. Salya means 'dart, arrow'; his charioteer became a thorn in his side, a weapon of death for Karna. Have the Lord as your charioteer; you can win through. Never select a Salya as your guide and preceptor. (270368)


If you have an eye on the fruits of your actions, you are liable to be affected by worry, anxiety and restlessness. The question may arise: if the fruits have to be given up, how can one manage to live? But why this weakness of heart, this nervousness? He who has assured,"I shall bear the burden of your welfare here and hereafter", will certainly look after that. He will give the wherewithal and the means. All you have to consider is whether a happy life is important or is liberation from the cycle of life and death more important? Happy living is only of short duration; the joy of liberation is eternal, unshakeable.

On this point many commentators have exercised their intelligence and written differently. Many have said that the giving up of the fruit is advised because there is no right or authority for the doer to desire for the fruit.

This is a great blunder. The Lord has said in the Gita, "refuse the fruit", that is to say: the deed yields results, but the doer should not desire the result, or do it with the result in view. If Krishna's intention was to say that the doer has no right for the fruit, He would have said, "It is fruitless". So if you desist from karma, you will be transgressing the Lord's command. That will be a serious mistake.

When man has a right for engaging in karma, he has a right also for the fruit; no one can deny this or refuse his right. But the doer can, out of his own free will and determination, refuse to be affected by the result, whether favourable or unfavourable. The Gita shows the way: "Do .... and deny the consequence." The desire for the result of your action is a sign of passionate character (rajoguna); the giving up of action since you cannot benefit by the fruit is a sign of dull character (thamoguna). To engage oneself in karma, to know that the result will follow; and yet not to be attached to it or getting concerned with it - that is the sign of pure character (sathwaguna). (Geetha V 38)

The law of karma is not an iron law; by dedication, by purification, which invites benediction, its effects can be modified, and its rigour mitigated. Do not despair; do not lose heart. When vices hold sway over your heart it becomes foul and sooty. The flames of desire, anger and greed char the heart. Grace is proved by the quenching of these flames. Grace confers bliss, which desire, anger and greed can never confer. (100465)


You might say that the karma of the previous birth has to be consumed in this birth and that no amount of Grace can save man from that. Evidently, someone has taught you to believe so. But I assure you, you need not suffer from karma like that. When a severe pain torments you, the doctor gives you a morphine injection and you do not feel the pain, though it is there in the body. Grace is like the morphine, the pain is not felt, though you go through it! Grace takes away the malignancy of the karma which you have to undergo. You know there are dated drugs, which are declared ineffective after a certain date; well, the effect of karma is rendered null, though the account is there and has to be rendered! Or, the Lord can save a man completely from the consequences, as was done by Me to the devotee whose paralytic stroke and heart attacks I took over some months ago, in the Gurupoornima week! It is wrong to say that what one has earned in previous births must be consumed in this birth and cannot be wiped out. Grce can countermand all that; nothing can stand in its way. It is the Grace of the Almighty, remember. (231164)


Man's destiny is determined by his actions. Through righteous actions, the mind is purified and a pure mind results in the awakening of wisdom. When you offer worship to God in the morning, you must offer your obeisance to whatever work you propose to do. You must pray to the presiding deity of karma: "Let me do today only pure, purposeful and helpful actions."

The circumstances of one's birth are the results of past actions. Action (karma), birth , righteousness and the mystery of life are all connected with the Universal Absolute. They are like the four walls of a building. The first wall is karma (action). One should not act as his fancies dictate. Before doing anything, one should consider whether it is proper or improper. Nothing should be done in haste on the impulse of the moment. Only then will one's actions be pure and free from passion and dull stains.

Very often people who experience troubles in life complain: "Why is the Lord subjecting me to trials like these?" The truth is the Lord neither punishes nor rewards anyone. The devotee has only to do his duty and leave the results to God. If the actions are good, the fruits will also be good. If the actions are bad, the results will be equally bad. Hence, without examining the nature of one's actions, there is no meaning in blaming God for what one experiences.

It is only when you recognise your own faults that you can begin to understand the ways of the Divine. What we witness today is the tendency to forget one's own faults and go about blaming God for one's sufferings. Every action, however small or trivial, has its reaction. Nothing happens without a cause. Every object has its reflection. The Lord awards fruits according to one's deserts. Good actions earn good returns; bad actions result in bad consequences. That is why the Lord is described as the dispenser of the fruits of karma (action). (030587)

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