by Manuraj - Maynard Speece
One of my favorite episodes of “Star Trek the Next Generation” had the crew of the Enterprise confronted by the Borg, a mechanistic race of overwhelming power that was on its way to destroy earth. The heroic crew contrived every defense they could think of to save our planet and avert the final outcome. As the story reached its peak one of the Borg landed on the bridge of the Enterprise and announced to Captain Picard, “Resistance is futile.” That also pretty much sums up the dynamics of karma—resistance is futile.
Swami Rama taught in his book Freedom from Karma: “The heavy cord of action, and the finer cord of thoughts are bound together. But our actions do not determine our thoughts; rather actions are governed by the thinking process which in turn is regulated by the cord of desire which lies beneath thoughts. Below desire is the most subtle and strongest cord of all; the cord of impressions or samskaras. These cords make up the rope of karma.” On another occasion he said, “Karma is the expression of the rule of perfect justice within us. Karma is what happens to us; it is the fulfillment of what we have done in the past. What is to be in the future will be the result of our present actions.”
Bengali Baba says in his book The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: “The gratification after enjoyment of objects is pleasure. It is not possible to achieve enjoyment/pleasure through the senses because the practice of enjoyment increases attachment and the sensibilities of the senses, increases and strengthens desire, the pleasure is never enough, or it doesn’t last long enough, and pleasurable experiences constantly repeated become monotonous. We pretend or set aside our knowledge born of experience that we know all this beforehand when we seek to repeat the pleasure. Further longing for the means of pleasure moves with the body, speech and mind favoring some and injuring others. The constant changing of the gunas, causes the mind to change constantly and quickly (being composed of nothing but the gunas) so we are destined to be disappointed in our pursuit of mundane pleasures.”
Bhisma taught the following in the Mahabharata: “As the young calf is able to recognize its mother from among a thousand cows, so do the previous acts of a man pursue him (in all his different transformations). As the flower and fruits of a tree urged by invisible influences never miss their proper season, so does karma done in a previous existence bring about its fruits in proper time. With age, one’s hair grows grey, one’s teeth become loose; one’s eyes and ears too become dim in action; but the only thing that does not abate is one’s desire for enjoyments.”
Because of our attachments we pursue mundane pleasures attempting to fulfill our desires of enjoyment. These selfish acts are what bind us in the rope of karma. According to yoga science, each thought, word and action of ours becomes a samskara, a latent impression deep in the lake of our mind. When appropriate external stimuli present themselves the samskaras rise to the surface of the lake of mind in the form of desires because of our attachments. The desires become articulated in thoughts and words and finally actions, creating stronger samskaras increasing the likelihood of an unconscious habitual response in a never-ending feedback loop. This loop is the “wheel of samsara” or the endless cycle of birth and death.
Karma is not fatalism or a doctrine of predetermination. Pain is karmic but suffering is up to us. We always have a choice in the present moment to ignore the momentum that urges us to act out of habit. If we develop the spiritually crucial talent of self observation we can consult our conscience and act in accord with its dictates, creating new positive samskaras. Swami Rama emphasized many times the importance of seeking advice from this higher source within us. Our conscience will never mislead us and the more we obey the stronger it becomes.
In his commentary on verse twelve in chapter four of the Bhagavad Gita, Swamiji wrote: “Everyone reaps the fruits of their actions according to the universal law: as you sow, so shall you reap. Instead of realizing that one receives according to one’s actions and thus paying attention to and doing their duties skillfully, many people believe that God is capriciously rewarding them or punishing them. They praise God when they are successful and blame God when they fail. Such people want to enjoy the fruits of their actions but do not want to take responsibility for discharging their duties. As a result they do not receive the fruits they want. The law of karma is inevitable. Therefore one should perform their duties skillfully with a one-pointed and tranquil mind.”
Ramana Maharishi said: “A man might have performed many karmas in his previous births. A few of these alone will be chosen for this birth and he will have to enjoy their fruits in this birth. It is something like a slide show where the projectionist picks a few slides to be exhibited at a performance; the remaining slides being reserved for another performance. All this karma can be destroyed by acquiring knowledge of the Self. The different karmas are the slides, karmas being the result of past experiences, and the mind is the projector. The projector must be destroyed so that there will be no further reflection and no further births and no deaths. Every act must have its consequences. If anything comes your way, you can’t help it. If you take what comes, without any special attachment, and without any desire for more of it or for a repetition of it, it will not harm you by leading to further births. On the other hand, if you enjoy it with great attachment and naturally desire for more of it, it is bound to lead to more and more births.”
There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self, and that the ego is non-existent. The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one’s helplessness and saying all the time, “Not I but Thou, O Lord,” giving up all sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and leaving it to the Lord to do what He likes with you. Surrender can never be regarded as complete so long as the devotee wants this or that from the Lord. True surrender is love of God for the sake of love and nothing else, not even for the sake of liberation. When you no longer feel that you are the doer, nothing affects you.
In the Bhagavad Gita chapter nine, verse twenty-seven it says “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you practice as austerity, O Arjuna, do it as an offering unto Me.”
So the way out of karmic entanglement is to act in a sequence of checking with your conscience before you act. Asking yourself “Will this take me closer to my goal or will it create problems for me?” Undertaking the actions that bring you closer to your goal is to act skillfully. Acting out of duty for its own sake, with each act surrendered to the Lord of Life, serving others without thought to reward or appreciation is to act selflessly. To act skillfully and selflessly is the method of breaking the bonds of karma.
In the Yoga Vasistha, Vasistha tells Rama that whatever is gained in this world is gained by self effort. As is the effort so is the fruit. The wise seeker knows that the fruit of one’s endeavors will be commensurate with the intensity of my self effort.
Here is a story I read online that speaks to all of us. A Grandfather of the Cherokee Nation was talking with his grandson. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves. One wolf is ugly. He is anger, envy, fear, greed, self-pity, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, selfishness and arrogance. The other wolf is beautiful and good. He is friendly, joyful, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, justice, fairness, empathy, generosity, gratitude, and deep vision. This fight is going on inside you too, and inside every other human as well.”
The grandson paused in deep reflection because of what his grandfather had just said. Then he finally cried out, “Oyee! Grandfather, which wolf will win?”