~by Gopalan Suresh Raj
Karma (कर्मा) is the cause of rebirth/reincarnation.
The Sanskrit word Karma has different meanings based on the context of discussion. Karma means the effect or fruits of actions. Karma also means actions. Karma also indicates detached action, which does not create reactions.
We are the various 'effects' rising from different 'causes'. Since these 'causes' are different, the 'effects' are also different. Each of our actions of the past has its own reaction, and each one of us must have a treasure-house of the entire-past-actions. This is called the Sanchita Karma (संचित कर्मा).
Sanchita Karma is thus the accumulating pot of karma. It is the cumulative deposit of all the karmas (both good and bad) that an individual soul (जीवात्मा) accumulates over eons (योनि) and eons of existence. We should all understand that at birth, the 'fruits' allotted for this lifetime are called Prarabdha Karma (प्रारब्ध कर्मा). Some refer to this as fate.
On departing this material body, each should take the next form according to the pattern ordained by each one's fructified Prarabdha Karma from our total Sanchita Karma mix. Out of that total Sanchitha Karma, the ripened ones/fructified Karmas are the Prarabhda Karma (both good and bad karmas) that an individual soul (जीवात्मा-Jeevathma) has to enjoy/exhaust in his current birth. The fructified Prarabhda not only determines how the individual is born (rich, poor, handsome, ugly, healthy, handicapped), but also determines his fate in this birth whose fruits have to be enjoyed/exhausted before the individual's inevitable death in this birth.
We can explain this by taking the example of planting of various seedlings and plants in a piece of land. In order to germinate, grow and yield fruit, each seed or seedling or plant would take its own time. Similarly, each of our actions has got its own reaction; certain actions give their reactions immediately, while others will provide their reactions only after an interval.
The cardinal Law of Karma is the Law of Cause and Effect, in accordance with the maxim 'you reap as you sow'. We cannot expect good crops by sowing sub-standard seeds.
People misunderstand the real meaning of Prarabdha Karma when they take the word to mean all the failure, impotence and weakness in them. If we are to be guided by this delusion, the Prarabdha, in every act of ours, there is no room for self-improvement through self-effort (पुरुषार्था-Purushartha). Attributing failures, sufferings etc. to one`s Prarabdha betrays the defeatist mentality of the person. Man, even though he has taken his body to live a fixed Prarabdha, can reach the Supreme Goal of life by living the freedom allowed to him from moment to moment. Just as roasted seeds do not germinate, karma done without a sense of ownership and in a spirit of detachment and dedication to the Divine will not produce suffering or enjoyment. One will have to reap for any karma not done in the above-mentioned fashion.
We have, no doubt, come here into this world to enjoy and suffer for certain of our past Karmas, through the circumstances determined by our Prarabdha. Each moment of our life, we are not only living the fruits of our past actions, but also creating new ones for tomorrow. Prarabdha is caused by actions done in the past. It is completely our very own self-effort of the past. So, if our Prarabdha is a sorrowful one now (in this birth), let us do such acts today so that we can now determine or order a happier life for us in the future. A happier tomorrow is built up only when we live today a Life of Divinity very true to the adage 'You control your Destiny'.
Until you exhaust all your Sanchita Karma (good or bad), you will have to keep wallowing in this continuous cycle of birth and death. Your cumulative account of good and bad karmas have to be zero to stop this cycle of birth and death. Samsara is so designed that it is very difficult to exhaust this ever accumulating pot of Karmas. Every moment you live you are accumulating more Karmas either good or bad which will take fruit as Prarabhdas in future lives. That is why Sandhya Vandanam where one asks pardon for sins committed in that period becomes very important. But that is a whole different discussion.
So where is God in all of this?
Contemplate this. Without gas, a motor car cannot move an inch. However, gas is not responsible for your good or bad driving. Very similarly, behind every deed the energy, and the prime power comes from Sriman Narayana, and nothing more or nothing less. Ultimately, it is the individual soul who controls his own destiny because Prarabhda Karmas are the fabric woven over eons by the individual soul!
In simple terms, Sanchita Karma stands for the Net-Balance of karmas (Good and Bad) of an individual soul as on any date. Prarabda Karmas are those out of Sanchita Kamas which are about to give results or have started fructifying. Scriptures hold that all Sanchita Karmas do not get exhausted in the same birth. One may have to take several incarnations in various yonis before all the accumulated karmas are exhausted, provided one does not earn fresh Karmas. Work done in a spirit of detachment and without expecting any results (Nishkamya) and in a spirit of offering to God (Isvara arpanam) could prevent accumulation of further Karmas.
Bhagavan Sri Krishna's whole intent of preaching the Bhagavad Gita was to tell us this message - called the Charma Sloka, and I quote literally from The Srimath Bhagavad Gita (chapter 18, verse 66):
सर्व दर्मान् परित्यज्य मां एकं शरणं व्रज अहं त्वा सर्व पापेभ्यो मोक्ष इष्यामि मासुचः ॥
Leaving aside (परित्यज्य) everything - all that I have called out in the Bhagavad Gita - Karma, Gnyana, or Bhakti dharmas - (सर्व दर्मान् परित्यज्य), surrender (शरणं व्रज) to Me and only to Me (मां एकं) - meaning not to anyone else - to Sriman Narayana alone - the stress मां एकं amplifies it. I (अहं) will ensure you (त्वा) are released from all sin (सर्व पापेभ्यो) and grant you Moksha (मोक्ष इष्यामि) - do not grieve (मासुचः).
Life, especially human form, is attained after many many births, and its main plot is that it presents one with an opportunity to seek pardon for one's sins committed over eons, and surrender to Sriman Narayana (श्रीमान नारायणा) - something which is difficult to do for other life-forms.
As a kid you'd have heard the story of Gajendra moksha. As an adult you have to get its purport. Gajendra is us, the individual Jeevathma ensnared by the crocodile called Samsara. Surrender to Brahmam - The Paramathma, Sriman Narayana, and Sriman Narayana will ensure this cycle of Samsara is cut by getting rid of your Sanchitha Karmas at once. Once Sriman Narayana grants you Moksha at the end of this birth after you have exhausted all your Prarabhda Karmas, there are no re-births anymore. Vadakalai (வடகலை) Iyengars approach a qualified SriVaishnava Acharya and undergo a process called Bharanyasam (भरण्यासं) - i.e., Bhara Samarpanam - specifically saying they surrender totally, absolutely, and unconditionally to Sriman Narayana.
That's the plot of life. An opportunity to seek pardon for one's sins committed over eons, and surrender totally, absolutely, and unconditionally to Sriman Narayana. Once one misses this opportunity in this lifetime, it might take eons to get another opportunity - very similar to missing an exit on the freeway - especially in New York!!!
Who is Sriman Narayana? Its more than the idol you know of. It's Everything you see around you and don't see. That's a whole different discussion which may require me to explain about the multiverse, and the golden hued matter that all heavenly bodies are made of (including earth - हिरण्य वर्णां हरिणीं), and dark energy, dark matter (Narayana is Black), and entropy, and black holes, etc. Its all in the Srimath Bhagavatham and Vishnu Puranam - don't know if you have had a chance to read them.
The concept of Unconditional Surrender orPrapatthi (प्रपत्ति) or Saranagathi (शरणागथि) was preached in The Bhagavad Gita at the end and is the only sloka that one needs to understand. Saranagathi is the most important concept for all mankind.
So the next time you want to blame God for any of your misfortunes, blame yourself. Realize that you are just living the effects of your past actions (Prarabhdas) in previous lives and resolve to make amends in this birth to make your future a better one by living a life of divinity and service to all mankind.
Here is a quote from Sri Valmiki Ramayan's Aaranyaa Kaandam:
ननु सद्योऽविनीतस्य दृश्यते कर्मणः फलं।
कालोऽप्यङ्गीभवत्यत्र सस्यानामिव पक्तये॥
- श्रीमद्वाल्मीकिरामायणं आरण्यकान्डम् ४१--२७
nanu sadyo'vinītasya dṛśyate karmaṇaḥ phalaṁ|
kālo'pyaṅgībhavatyatra sasyānāmiva paktaye||
- Srimad Vaalmiki Raamaayanam Aaranyaa Kaandam 41--27
The evil effects of committing sinful acts do not manifest immediately. Like seed sowed in a field the effects of sin also take time to germinate and grow strong enough.
But there a huge difference. The sins committed take the gestation period to grow strong and hit back at us. But the seed grow(if the seeds are good) to give us the wealth of grain.
The slow and sure behaviour of Fate often lulls us into a state of false security. We commit unpardonable sins without any immediate backlash. So we get bolder under the notion that nothing will happen and we can get away with anything. But be sure, we will get it back with principal and penal interest.
Some pramanas on Surrender/Sharanagathi/Nyasam/Prapatthi from Vedanta:
#1 यो ब्रह्माणं ... मुमुक्षुर्वै शरणमहं प्रपद्ये ॥
First, Sriman Narayana created Brahma. He taught him the entire Vedas. He has given me the clear knowledge with reference to Him. I take refuge under Him desiring salvation says The Veda Purusha.
- from the Sweta Asvatara Upanishad
#2 तस्मात न्यास मेषं तपसां अत्रिक्थं आहुः ॥
Therefore this Nyasa namely Saranagathi excels all other penances
- from Taitriya Narayana - 50
#3न्यास इथ्यहुहु मनीषिणो ब्रह्माणं ॥
Wise men declare that Saranagathi is The Brahmam (Sriman Narayana) Himself.
- from Taitriya Narayana - 50
#4 निक्षेप अपरपर्ययो न्यासः पञ्चाङ्ग संयुथ संयासः स्त्यग इथ्युक्था शरणागथिर्थ्यापि ॥
Surrendering to God (nikshepa) has five accessories. The word "nikshepa" has several synonyms like Nyasa, Sanyasa, Thyaga and Saranagathi.
- from Lakshmi Tantram 17-74
அடியேன் ராமானுஜ தாசன் (Ramanuja's humble servant)
श्रीनिवास वरद शर्मा a.k.a. Suresh Raj Gopalan.
काश्यप आपत्सार नैद्र्व त्रयाक्षय प्रवरान्वितः नैद्र्व काश्यप गोथ्रः आपस्तम्भ सूत्रः यजुष शाकाध्यायि श्रीनिवास वरद शर्मा नाम अहं अस्मि भोः ॥
I am Srinivasa Varadha Sharma, of the Naidruva Kaashyapa gotra, a student of the Apastamba dharma sutras, from the Taittiriya shakha of the Krishna Yajur Veda, and of the three pravaras named Kaashyapa, Aapathsaara, and Naidruva.