Action and Reaction — Cause and Effect
Karma is of great importance in the Indie tradition. It has significance in many things like work, duty, action, obligation and fate. If we accept the law of karma, we can come to appreciate that most problems are results of actions done in this life and in past lives.
Karma literally means “deed” or “act” and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction that governs all life. Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will creating his own destiny. If we sow goodness, we reap goodness; if we sow evil, we reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their consequential reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. The challenge lies in intelligent action and dispassionate response. The law of karma acts in the same way as Newton’s third law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Karma has three levels. The first, called Sanchita Karma, is the level of past actions that are waiting to produce a reaction. The second, called Prarabdha Karma, is the level of past actions whose reactions are fully manifesting, being responsible for our present life and creating its circumstances. The third level, Agami Karma, is of actions triggered in the future by our present actions. A person cannot be free from the cycle of birth and death unless the stock of Sanchita Karma is exhausted.
In the Gita, Krishna explains Karma Yoga to Arjuna on the battlefield in Kurukshetra. He advises him to accept the fruits of deeds of past lives. Krishna, Mahavishnu incarnate, who advises Arjuna, has also experienced the workings of karmic law.
As Rama (another Vishnu incarnate), while searching for Sita, he encountered the Vanara king of Kishkindha, Sugri va, who was deposed by his brother Vali – who had also taken his wife Roma from him. Rama agreed to defeat Vali if Sugriva would assist in his search for Sita. The agreement made, Sugriva challenged Vali to a duel. While the duel was in progress, Rama who was behind a tree shot an arrow at Vali and killed him. Though it was dharma for a king to help another king in distress, Rama tells Vali that in his incarnation as Krishna, Vali would be the hunter Jara who would’ shoot an arrow at him and end his avatar.
In Srimad Bhagavatam, we find Krishna in his four-armed form seated beneath a Pipal tree placing his left foot upon his right thigh. Jara, a hunter, watching from the shore of the ocean at Prabhasa,mistakes the Lord’s foot to be the face of a deer and shoots an arrow, ending his incarnation. The law of karma was in action.
That does not mean, however, that to do good karma we should have an eye on the fruits that would emerge from it. Krishna says: “To do is your duty, fruit is not thy concern’. Once it so happened that Krishna, while cutting a fruit accidentally nicks his finger and bleeds. Seeing this Draupadi tears off her sari-end and drapes it round the finger to stop the bleeding. For this unintentional act she was rewarded – when in the court of Dhritharashtra, Dushasan tried to disrobe her and couldn’t, as the sari seem to be of infinite length, thanks to Krishna’s grace.
Bondage is attachment to action. This identification carries over to our performance and results preoccupy our minds and bring in their wake emotions of various kinds.