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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्

Is it correct that whatever joys and sorrows we experience in our life are the fruits or results of our own actions or deeds?

Is it correct that whatever joys and sorrows we experience in our life are the fruits or results of our own actions or deeds?
- Bhavesh Merja

It would be better to have some prior understanding about the following terms and points frequently used and addressed in this article:

1. Soul- The free agent or doer: He who can act independently or has the means to do a deed absolutely at his disposal is called a doer. Great seer Pānini says in one of his sutras on grammar that the doer is he who is a free agent. Soul(s) and Ishwar (God) are two conscious entities and both are doers. They perform some actions, so doers. God performs His actions, while the soul acts freely within his limitations. His actions are different than God’s. God always performs nishkām (desireless or selfless) karmas, but the quality of actions performed by the soul is different – They can be sakām (with selfish desire) or nishkām, good or bad. The soul is free in doing actions, or in performing its duties but dependent on God’s government for the fruits of its actions.
2. An action or Karma: An action is the special effort, physical, sensory or mental, put in by an individual. The action may be good, bad or mixed in nature.
3. Definition of Justice: As per the commentary of Vatsyāyana on the Nyāya Sutras, Nyāya (justice) is that which is established as truth after testing it by all proofs such as observation etc, or impartial and just treatment. The nature of God is Nyāyakāri, as it is His nature to do justice, or impartial treatment.
4. God’s omniscience: Whatever the individual soul does is instantaneously known by Almighty God. Nothing is hidden from His omnipresent eye. What the soul does through freedom that God knows through His Omniscience. For easy understanding, we may say that the process of God’s knowing of the action performed by the individual soul runs simultaneously with the performance of the action by the soul. God perfectly knows all our actions.

Normally, it is understood that whatever joys and sorrows we experience in our life are the fruits or results of our own actions or deeds. But this is an erroneous belief. The reality is that there are certain joys and sorrows experienced by us, which are not the outcomes or fruits of our own actions, but they are caused or given to us by others. They are not caused by or the results of our own actions. Let us try to understand this:

An action or a deed done by a soul is termed as ‘Karma’ in Sanskrit. Maharshi Dayānanda Saraswati, a great spiritual personality and an eminent scholar of the Vedas defines ‘Karma’ as – Whatever a soul does intentionally by mind, speech and body is called ‘Karma’ or action. For example: to perform fire-ritual (agnihotra), to donate some thing for others welfare, to speak truth, or untruth, to steal someone’s possession, to beat someone, etc. are various forms of actions or karmas we do every day, every moment. These actions are done intentionally, thoughtfully by us. So, we the souls are the doers or actors.

Three Ps:
Now we have to go in to depth, and develop the true understanding about three things, usually considered in this subject:
1. (Parinām) = Consequence of the action
2. (Prabhāv) = Impact of the action
3. (Phal) = Fruit of the action

Unless we have a very clear understanding of the above three, we cannot have a better understanding of the Law of justice or the Law of Karma. Without true conceptions of these, many other associated philosophical and ethical issues cannot be properly understood.

1. Consequence of the action (Parinām): Let us first take - Consequence or Paninām of the action. It can be defined as – the nearest reaction of any deed or action. The parinām is produced only on that person or object on which the action is done. Let us take an example: A thief has stolen money and golden ornaments from the house of a merchant. This deed or action done by the thief would be analyzed here.

A thief is an actor or doer (kartā) of this action.
The action (karma) is the theft done by the thief from the merchant’s house.

Now, let us see what is called the parinām or consequence in this example. The parinām is that whatever objects have been stolen by the thief are now not available in the merchant’s house. They are now in the possession of that thief. Because of this, the merchant would be unhappy. So that is also considered as parinām or consequence of that action. Moreover, it is also to be understood that this parinām or consequence always happens only on the outer - material objects, and not on the non-physical conscious soul. Yes, through the material objects, the parinām or consequence is felt or experienced by the individual soul, as the nearest reaction of the action.

2. Impact of the action (Prabhāv): After knowing the action (karma), parinām (consequence) and phal (fruit) of the action, whatever mental joy or sorrow or fear etc. is experienced or some lesson is learnt thereby, is called the inpact or prabhāv of the action. Let us see what is the impact or prabhāv in the above cited example.

When the news of the above theft is heard by or reached to the relatives and friends of the merchant, they would be sad or mentally disturbed at various degrees. On the other hand, the very same news will cause rivals and enemies of the merchant happy and glad to some extent. Even the merchant himself will think that in future he should have to take more precautionary measures to avoid such theft. Besides, when the thief will get lawfully punished for this offense, and his hands would be chopped off, the people may come to know of this punishment, and think themselves that no one should do theft, otherwise the law will punish like this. So, such an impact created in the minds of the people who come to know about the punishment (fruit or phal) given to the thief, is also considered as an impact or prabhāv of the action. Here we have to understand that the prabhāv of the action is produced in form of mental sorrow, fear, etc and also in form of some lesson also. And this impact remains restricted to only those who happen to hear or get the news and details about the parinām and / or the fruits of the action. Those who are not aware of such things would not have any such impact on them. When they get the information, they would be influenced likewise. One more thing is to be mentioned here: This prabhāv is created only on conscious entities, and not on any inert – physical objects. Nowadays, the news about the punishment done to the offenders and criminals are shown on TV, and published in the print media. The motto behind this is nothing but to generate prabhāv – impact on the mind of the people, so that the society as large can be made more law-abiding and well protected.

3. Fruit (phal) of the action: Now let us see what is called the fruit or phal of the action. As mentioned earlier, the individual human soul is a free agent to do a good or a bad action. This is his choice. When a soul does something, good or bad, out of his volition, he is bound to receive the reward or the punishment (joy or sorrow, pleasure or pain) in accordance with the intention, quality and extent of his action. There exists no exception to this Divine provision. Every action of the human being is always weighed by the scale of the Divine justice. It is perfectly supervised by the Divine eye. God being omnipresent and all-knowing always administers perfect justice – without fear or favor. His system of justice is as perfect and flawless as He Himself is. To give perfect justice, it is obligatory on the part of the administrator of the justice that he knows the action of the doer very well.

Fundamental principles of justice or Karma-Phal:
There are certain fundamental principles which are to be followed to guarantee the perfect justice:
1. Good reward (pleasure or joy) for the good action.
2. Bad reward (pain or sorrow) for the bad action.
3. If action is not done, there should not be any fruit or reward.
4. The reward or punishment should be commensurate to the extent of the action – no more, no less.
5. The reward or punishment should be given to the doer of the action only, and not to any other soul.
6. Action first, fruit (Phal) comes subsequently.
7. If action is done, it must be judged and rewarded. No action should go unwatched, unattended and unrewarded.
8. The reward or punishment should be given based on the exact knowledge of the action done. For example, no judge will give verdict (reward or punishment) without proper hearing of the case in the court of law.
9. The reward or punishment must be given by the authority only. Common public or unauthorized persons are not entitled to do justice, or to punish the offender or criminal. Yes, public or a citizen can give information to the concerned authority or act as a witness in the court of law.
10. Fruit (phal) is given only to the free doer of the action, not to one who is not free. Gun is a weapon. But it doesn’t work independently. So gun is never punished. It is mere an instrument used by its conscious holder. So the justice is always done to the holder or user of the gun, not to the gun itself.

Only he who administers justice complying all above major guidelines is rightly called the just authority. God operates the most perfect justice mechanism for eternity. He is justice personified. He follows all above principles of the justice and gives rewards and punishments to the souls accordingly.
So, now let us see what is called the fruit (phal – reward or punishment) of the action.

When the doer of the good or bad action is rewarded or punished as per the above basic rules of justice, by the appointed authority and/or God, it is called the fruit (phal) of the action. In the example given above, if the thief is caught by the police and his offense is properly established in the court of law, and it is finally decided by the jury that let his hands be cut off as a punishment of his act, it is called the fruit or phal of the action. In Arab nations, such punishments are given even these days. The fruit (phal) of the action (karma) is always given to the doer of the action; it is not given to others. In other words, it is always taken by the doer of the action, not by the others. Yes, the parinām (consequence) and prabhāv (impact) of the action can influence others too as explained above.

Now let us examine the question we raised in the very title of the article. We have seen that whatever pain or pleasure the doer gets in accordance with the basic tenets of the justice, it is called the fruit or phal of the action; and whatever pleasure or pain one gets not as per the said laws of justice, or in other words gets pleasure or pain in the unjust manner, then it is not to be considered as the fruit (phal) of the action done by us. It can be the consequence or the impact of the action, etc.

Whenever we get pleasure or pain in accordance with our action and as per the fundamental laws of justice mentioned above, it is to be taken as the fruit (phal) of the action. But whenever the position is found different, means any of basic laws of justice is found violated, it should not be taken as the fruit (phal) of the action. It should be considered as injustice (or favor) done to us by others, or the consequence of the actions done by us and / or others, or the impact of the actions done by others.

Let us take the previous example of the theft. The thief was arrested by the police and in court the jury gave verdict that he must be punished by way of imprisonment. This imprisonment is the fruit (phal) of the thief’s action, because it is derived as per the fundamental laws of justice listed above at sr. no. 2, 5, 9, etc. But because of this theft, the merchant got pains or sorrows. This is not the fruit (phal) of any action done previously by the merchant. It is nothing but the injustice done by that thief towards the merchant or the consequence of the theft done by the thief. If it is taken as the fruit (phal) of a certain action (deed) of the merchant done in his previous life, it would go against the principles listed above at sr. no. 8 and 9; because neither that thief knows that action supposedly done by the merchant of which he is giving the fruit (phal), nor he is authorized or empowered to give the fruit (phal) of that action done by the merchant in his previous life. If it is said that, agreed, the thief doesn’t know of which action done by the merchant he is giving the fruit, but God knows that very well; so through the medium of this thief God gives the fruit of the action to the merchant by this theft. If this logic is accepted, we cannot think of giving any punishment to that thief, because when God has given that fruit (phal) to that merchant for the action he did previously, it follows that the thief is not independent doer or a free agent in case of this theft. The thief is dependent or in bondage, so he is simply obeying the commandment of God in doing theft. This means that the thief is simply following what is ordained to him by God. He is not a free doer. Now, if the thief is still punished by the court, it would be tantamount to clear violation of the 10th rule of the justice mentioned above. The said rule says that those who are free – independent doers, only they are entitled to get the fruits of their actions – whether good or bad. For example: when a nominated official butcher hangs some criminal in the jail as per the court’s verdict, he is not at all punished for this act. On the contrary, that butcher is rewarded for this action by way of salary or other type of remuneration. Same way, if that theft is taken as the fruit of some previous action done by the merchant, the thief should also not be punished, because he has simply obeyed the order of God. On the contrary, the thief should be given some sort of reward or remuneration for this theft like that butcher! But we all very well know that the world cannot run for a day with such a senseless arrangement that the thief should not be punished, but he should be rewarded for the theft. Such kind of arrangement is not acceptable anywhere in the practical life. Therefore, it is always proper to punish the thief for the theft he committed, and it is the justice in the true sense. So as per the rule listed above at sr. no. 10, it is proved that the thief is an independent doer. So he is to be punished. God has not given the fruit to that merchant of his any action previously done, through that thief.
According to the basic laws of justice listed above, only two positions can be supposed: (i) the thief gives the merchant the fruit of some action done by the merchant previously, or (ii) God gives the same to the merchant through the medium of that thief. But as seen above, none of the above two positions can be proved as Karma-phal (the fruit of the action). As per the laws mentioned above, no third proposition could be envisaged in which the theft done by the thief can be proved as the fruit of the merchant’s previous deed.

It follows therefore that the theft done by the thief is not the fruit of any action previously done by the merchant, but it is the consequence of the injustice done to him independently by that thief.

The same thing can be applied to positive cases also. For example, a boy is going on foot to his school. Some pious gentleman offers him lift in his car up to school. This makes the boy happy. In this case, we should understand that the pleasure enjoyed by the boy here is not the fruit (phal) of his any previous good action, but it is caused by the generosity extended by that person. It was a good action done by that person, which resulted in to the pleasure to that boy, as a consequence (parinām) of that action. Yes, the gentleman’s action would be rewarded as per the rules of justice.

In brief, if we receive pain or pleasure as per the laws of justice against the actions done exclusively by ourselves, it is to be taken as karma-phal (fruits); but if we experience pain or pleasure otherwise, may be because of someone’s independent actions, good or bad, not as per the rules of justice, it should be taken as the consequence or the impact of the actions.
Therefore, our objective should be:

1. To minimize the effects of such consequence and impact on our mind with the help of true knowledge, true actions and true worship (meditation) of God; so that we may have peaceful and tranquil life.
2. Moreover, we should also act in such a way that because of our actions, others are not getting pain or sorrow because of the consequence and impact generated on them by our actions.
3. Instead, we should strive to ensure that our actions should be such that their consequence and impact are pleasure-giving to the surrounding world.
4. And in case we are in a position to offer justice to others, or entitled to give the fruit (phal) to others for their deeds, we should ensure that we do justice strictly following the basic rules of justice enumerated above. If we fail to do perfect justice to others, God will punish us for our dereliction.

The issues related to this subject of karma are very difficult to fully understand. However, effort has been made here to explain them in simple style with the hope that learned and intelligent readers would make this topic enriched further with their valuable contents and suggestions.

In preparing this article, I have taken support of a Hindi book ‘Tattva-Gyān’ authored by Swāmi Vivekānanda Parivrājak (Darshan Yog Mahāvidyālaya – Rojad, Gujarat, India).

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very fine

very fine article....thanking you!
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Vinay Arya