The Bhagavad Gita is about karma and reincarnation. Please see Pandit Dabral’s talk on the Gita.
The Law of Karma
The word karma comes from the Sanskrit verb root ‘kri’ which means ‘to do’. Anything that we perform physically or mentally becomes a karma, an action. The philosophy of karma says every action leaves an imprint.
Our goal or purpose is to realize the Self, to realize God within and free ourselves from the cycle of birth and rebirth. We are here because of our karma and to pay our debts. We are also here as a blessing from the Lord, as an opportunity to realize the true purpose of life.
A human being is bound to perform actions. We bind ourselves with those actions, with exactly the same kind of karma we have performed. Karmas are like a golden chain. We become deluded and bind ourselves by our actions. One day we see we have bound ourselves so tightly that it is very difficult now to get free.
Who are we really and why do we take birth and have relationships in the world? We have several relationships – son, father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband. We play many roles when we come to this world and each role demands its own obligations and its own conditions and creates more karma.
Arjuna was taught the philosophy of karma in the second chapter. Krishna says ‘you are performing your action because of your previous actions. The fruit you get here, it is because of the impressions you have created for yourself’. In the entire world, every problem from the environment to medical to relationships between countries, families or friends, all has to do with karma.
The law of karma operates on the levels of manasa, vaucha and karmana. Manasa means by your mind, vacha means through your speech and karmana is by your action. The moment a slight thought comes to your mind, you have performed a karma. Every karmais done through the mind first. A hand cannot be raised unless we first perform that very action in the mind. The law of karma, of action, means not only doing your duties in a right manner. It also involves the environment, society, culture, attitude, food, daily life and our schedule.
The law of karma is a very fascinating and complex theory that is not easy to understand. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is taught to perform his karma yet to know he is not the doer, he is not the one performing the karma.
Lord Krishna, explaining the law of karma, says “your duty alone is to perform your action with an awareness that you are surrendering each and every fruit of your own action unto me, O Arjuna.”
What happens when we have an expectation? Half of the mind is with the expectation so we actually perform our action with 50% of the mind. We aren’t there 100% because 50% of the mind is busy focusing on the fruit.
Kama means desire. The moment we have kama, we want to perform the action because we want the fruits. If our expectation is not fulfilled, we get angry with ourselves. We need to perform our obligations with pure love, trust and without expectations. This will never create any anger because we weren’t expecting anything. It will not create any sorrow because we weren’t looking for anything.
There are three kinds of karma. Prarabdha, sanchitta and kriyamana. Prarabdha karmas are the karmas that have already begun to bear fruit. Sanchitta karmas are the karmas that have been stored in the unconscious mind and kriyamana are the karmas that we are performing at present.
Lord Krishna says ‘whenever you perform any action, think of me. I am everywhere. I am omnipresent. If you have that in your mind, you will always do that which is good for you, good for your family, for your neighbor. I am the one who is doing, you are not the doer. You are the medium.’
Lord Krishna continues to tell Arjuna the secret of karma yoga, the path of selfless action. Performing your actions with a selfless attitude leads one to a deeper level of awareness and samatwa buddhi. This is a state of equanimity or equilibrium in the mind. The nature of one who has abandoned all desires and is free from ego and attachments is such that they receive peace and harmony. In verses 54 to 72 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna describes the qualities of sthita-prajna (one who remains in samadhi).
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