A brief theory of Karma Yoga – Part One

All of us have heard the word karma from our family members. For, e.g. you will get the fruit of your karma or we get to live the life based on our karma. There are many books also written on Karma yoga, but the most profound reference can be seen in the Bhagwad Gita. There are so many things that we really do not understand that happens in life and most of the time we try to link it with the fruits of karma. We just utter the word like a parrot without understanding it. What is this Karma? what is its purpose and why it is important to grasp the concept of Karma yoga for the spiritual growth?

There are no written rules, but we can see the references from some ancient books on the meaning of Karma. Our intellectual level might not have the capacity to understand this concept completely. However, we can always attempt to get the glimpse of it and then use it as a thread to reach our destination. As per what I have read and what I have understood, Karma is anything that we do physically, verbally or mentally. Even our thoughts count. Basically, sum of everything that we do from the time of our birth till the time of our death. I have not come across any literature yet which talks about karma post death.

Is Karma associated with the body? There is no straightforward answer to this. As a spirit, we take many births and take up many bodies and we continue to build our karmas. (Those who do not believe in the re-birth, please assume its existence for the time being.) The fruits of some intense actions may come in the same life, but many times it can take many lifetimes. Otherwise, how would you explain that someone takes the birth in a rich family while other gets to live in poverty? Someone is a born Siddha (Spiritually awakened), while someone spends his or her life in doing evil acts.

Some people also call it the law of causation. Every action has a reaction. Whatever we do will come back to us like a boomerang. It can be in this life or in the next one. Many times we ask to God as why do bad things happen to good people. If we have to see it from the spectrum of Karma, then it is possible that a good human being’s suffering could be due to his or her past Karmas. It is difficult to reason it out or to measure it from the limitation of a human body and mind.

I have heard a story from someone very popular in spirituality. I am not sure about its authenticity, but it helps to understand what we are discussing. There were two friends living in the same village. Let’s assume their names were Ram and Shyam. Ram borrowed approx. Rs. 200,000 from Shyam during his emergency. Shyam somehow managed it as his friend was in a need. After few years, Shyam had an emergency and he went to collect his money, but Ram refused to return and insulted Shyam. Shyam was a very simple man and could not take the insult and the pressure of his emergency at the same time. This took a toll on Shyam’s health and he died soon.

Within few months, Ram’s wife gave birth to a son. However, his son faced several health issues from the birth. Ram spent lots of money on his child’s health for almost 4 years. One day, Ram was sobbing near his son’s bed as he was tired of the entire situation and was not able to see the pain of his only child. A few moments later, son got up and asked his father not to cry. Son started telling Ram that this is happening due to what he did in the past. Ram in the utter shock could not understand what his son was saying. Son continued, “In the past, you borrowed some money from me and you did not return when I was in a need. I have now recovered all that money through your expenses on my illness. The sum is exactly Rs. 200,000 that you borrowed from me. Now, I can leave this world peacefully.” After this conversation, son died in the arms of Ram.

Some people might get scared when they hear about the fruits of karma as deep down they know what all evil acts they have done. I am sure that none of us is pure enough who would not have gathered bad karmas. Instead of fearing the fruits or punishments, we should live our lives in the light of Karma. This is not a new concept, but we have ignored it for a long time. This ignorance is the reason that we have so much misery in the world today. We are performing actions without understanding its impact on others and on our own self. As per ancient books, as a human, if we perform good acts, then we get to live in heaven. However, once we realize the fruits of our good acts, we might have to take the birth as either human again or we might have to take birth as an animal to bear the fruits of our bad karmas.

We are stuck in the vicious circle in which we have to keep taking births in different forms to bear the fruits of our past karmas. And in this new birth, we again build more karmas. This is going on and on from millions of years and we have gone through many cycles of birth and death. We can escape this circle and can realize the freedom through Yoga and one of the ways is Karma Yoga. According to a true yogi, we all will have to bear the fruits until we stop building our Karma and that is the base of Karma Yoga which we will discuss in the next article.

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