top of page
  • Writer's pictureS A

The Law of Karma!

In the previous blog, I delved into the different kinds of actions and where they stem from. Now lets look into how it is connected to the Law of Karma.

The law of karma deals with causality. Before we get into this common interpretation of the law of karma, we need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes as a ‘LAW’. Laws touches us day in day out on some level, it governs what we can and cannot do and play a central role in social, political and economic life. It is something that is recognized and widely accepted. So for something to qualify as a law, the set of rules needs to be acknowledged, agreed upon and the cause and effect needs to be observed and should not be broken.

However most laws are more of a moral code of conduct rather than a law in the strict sense of the word. Unlike law of gravity, which cannot be broken; most laws are merely rules established and enforced to bring about order in societies. These can be for governance or moral reasons. Laws related to governance is taken care off by the governments and anything to do with morality is mostly dealt with religion.

So now that’s out of the way, lets look into what the Law of Karma is and if it really qualifies as a law!

Law of Karma states that every action leads to a reaction. A bit like Newton’s third law,

only centuries ahead where our ancient sages/monks were grappling with the idea of cause

and effect. So if cause and effect cannot be observed, then is Karma really a law?

Karma supposedly has 3 Effects:

Immediate Effect

Lets say I see a homeless person who is starving and I decide to buy her some food. The effect of it is pretty much experienced straight away if she chooses to eat what I bought her. So this is an immediate effect. My actions leads to instant results.

Psychological Effect

The act of helping someone, although it is for my own selfish reasons (obviously we won’t do it if it makes us miserable) feels good every time I think about it and it may even lead to me repeating the action over and over again. This effect can last hours/days or maybe even months and the repeated action can lead to an immediate effect as well.

Cosmic Effect

This is a tricky one. According to commonly held belief in most Indian religions (I am basing mine on Bhagvad Gita), every action of ours leads to merit and demerit.

  • Dharma - Good Karma/Actions leads to Punya (more brownie points) therefore gives you Happiness/Sukha

  • Adharma - Bad Karma/Actions leads to Paapa (take away those brownie points) therefore leads to Unhappiness/Dhukha.

So saying its his/her Karma pretty much means what we do now might yield a result sometime in the future. If it is a good deed, then it will lead to a good result and if it is bad well lets just say you will be born as a dog or a cat :-) Jokes aside, the 1st two karmic effects can be comprehended and observed but how do we connect our actions to its results in a different life? This is the tricky part about this kind of karma, which is the carry forward. It states there is an accumulation of merits and demerits which gets carried forward across lives. So where exactly are these stored and what is this invisible factor that carries these forward? Even more challenging is the claim that once these karmas are exhausted then we attain moksha and break the cycle of rebirth.

My issue with this approach is, If something needs to be exhausted, then it is clearly implied that there is an end point. If there is an end point then there has to be a beginning. Even more important is, what qualifies as an end point? Who/What gets to decide it and why? Lets assume there is really no such thing as an end point and once we realize we are Athman/God/Consciousness then the cycle automatically stops because we transcend this garb and we attain moksha. If that is the case then it is not really about exhausting anything, it is a matter of realizing what life is all about or simply what really matters in life or purpose of life is.

In respect to rebirths and karma, how are we supposed to pay for an action which we have no awareness or recollection of? More importantly why should we even pay for something we are not cognizant of and how will that help us right the wrongs. Even institutions (Law) created by mere mortals like us human beings will not punish a mentally disabled person from getting punished for their actions regardless how serious they are, then why would a supposedly loving, caring and a just God punish us for something we did in a previous life, which we have no awareness of now?

Add to this conundrum, what about collective karma? Clearly we are social beings and do not live in a bubble of our own. Everyday our lives are intermingled with countless other people. All we need to do is look at our current predicament with the Covid-19 situation. One person in Whuan, China decided to go to a wet market, contracts the virus and it started a domino effect which had such a profound impact on billions of people that it set off a cascade of events that changed the course of how we think, behave and act. Each one of us influencing the other, creating a ripple effect and changing the conditions that will eventually influence our own actions thereby adding to both individual and the collective karma pot. So how can we even exhaust this karma of ours when it is so intrinsically entwined with the rest.

Also what about other life forms? Does Karma apply to them as well considering there is no conscious thought involved in their actions?

These I have no answers to nor do I care much for but the other facets of the cosmic effect, I believe I can make a case for because that is in our control to a huge extent and we can do something about it. If we go back to my previous blogs about memory and actions, actions stem from our thoughts which are derived from our personality (Swadharma). Personality is shaped by nature, nurture and everything in between. All of these are stored in form of memories and therefore past actions can only exist in the form of memories. So what really gets accumulated are these memories (all kinds) and stored in our DNA (maybe there are other places but this is the only thing which makes sense to me as of now). The only thing that gets carried forward across lives is our DNA, biologically speaking that is.

So what connects karma to its results as far as cosmic effect is concerned is our DNA.

This DNA is the starting point and the base program for the life ahead of every living being. It carries a lot of information from our parents, their parents and so on. The way we conduct ourselves, think, feel, emote, behave, act – react/respond are all stored and transferred to some extent to our future generations, which will have a profound impact on their personality on some level and this is how Karma produces results to my understanding. So the actions of our ancestors are manifesting through us on some level (Maybe that is where the 7 generations thingy comes from). Also I believe this is where luck and bad luck come into play as well. Because a lot of our behaviour is influenced by what’s stored in our DNA and manifests itself through our actions (mostly reactions) which stems from our unconscious mind and we mistakenly attribute all the good that comes out of it as good luck and the negative aspects as bad luck! Because end of the day its our very own doing. We create our own luck and bad luck. Interestingly enough the term ‘Adrushta’ was coined to explain the invisible factor that carries karma across lives.

So how do we break the karmic trap? I’m not sure about rebirths and all, maybe there is such a thing, maybe there is an invisible force that keeps tabs and carries forward karma but none of this really helps the 'me' now. What I do know for sure is, there is a clear need for modulating our actions and everything leading up to it because it not only has an effect on us, both immediately and epigenetically but can also influence our future generations through our genes and who knows maybe even help us get closer to attaining 'moksha', whatever that really means.

Then the question comes down to what qualifies as good and bad karma. If morality is about acting selflessly and is what leads to good karma then is there really such a thing as a selfless act? That’s coming up!

P.S: A lot of the information here is heavily inspired by the lectures of Swami Sarvapriyananda!! 

27 views0 comments


bottom of page