Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Saturday, June 6, 2015



What is KARMA and what is Grace?. A seeker of knowledge and truth always encounters this confusion in the beginning of his quest for the ABSOLUTE.

If everything is because of our Karma, then why pray GOD. IF everything is Grace, then why act? Two contrasting yet sensible questions!!! Let us try and understand the difference and try to see which is correct.

Our vedas have laid out rules and regulations for us to lead a happy and contented life. Each act that it prescribes fetches us punya (goodness) or papam (sin). If one acts according to the prescription of the vedas, it is dharmam. If not, we get papam. The choice is ours – To choose to follow or not follow the rules.

All of us carry a bag of karma on our backs. There are three kinds of karma. Sanchita karma, prarabda karma and aagamika karma. What we have accumulated in all our previous births or current birth is called sanchita karma. That karma for which we undergo happiness and sorrow in the current life is called prarabda karma. That karma which we accumulate in future is called aagamika karma.

For example, a student fails in his exams. The reason may be because of his previous karma of not studying. It could be that he studied and still failed. This may be because of his past karma in previous birth(s)(sanchita karma). The act of failing is called prarabda karma. The reaction to the failure fetches him aagamika karma. If he chooses to react in anger or frustration or any negative reaction, it fetches him some kind of karma. On the other hand, if he is equipoised in this failure, he gets a different kind of karma. So, all our karma is determined by how we react to situations. This shows that everything is in our hands. It is our decision and only our actions that fetches us good or bad. In other words, we are responsible for what we are.

Then what is GOD’s role?
GOD gives us knowledge and creates opportunities for us. It is up to us to act on it. In other words, he is only a witness to all our actions. If we get a knife in our hands, we can either cut a fruit or kill a person. We cannot kill a person and claim that it was GOD’s will. We see in our daily lives that some people are extremely successful. Many people flourish than many others. It may be that the less talented are less flourishing. It may seem that the less privileged are more happy. The reason for these differences is one’s own Karma.

Our shastras says that birth is anaadi i.e. there is no beginning or end to life. Yes, it is difficult to comprehend. That is because, our mind is not tuned to think such complex and high ideals. But that is the truth. SO, our bag of karma is always non-empty. All we have is the free will which we use to do good or bad. The mind plays an important role in deciding our actions. For every action, we accumulate the good karma or bad karma and our bag starts filling up. At the end of the birth, we go to heaven or hell and pay for the good or the bad we have done. So, if one has done only good actions, he will go indra loka or satya loka (where brahma resides) where he uses his good karma to enjoy the heavens. If he has done only papam, then he will be pushed into one of the seven hells, where he completes his bag of bad karma. But for all of us, ti will be a mix of good and bad in which case he spends part time in heaven and the other in hell. When he has exhausted his karma, he will be pushed to the earth for a re-birth. Only those whose karma bag is empty, does not take re-birth. So, when a person has exhausted his karma by going to hell and heaven his bag is empty, why then does he take birth. He still have the bag with desires. All that is desired in the previous life must be fulfilled. GOD is all merciful. He doesn’t disappoint anyone. If I aspire to become a doctor in this birth and I don’t become one , I may probably become one the next birth or 100 births later. Whatever small desires we have in any birth, will be undoubtedly fulfilled. So, when we take ibrth based on our desires too.

Then what is grace? If GOD does not have a role to play in our lives, why prayers and why temples and why offerings? Consider this situation. I am an expert driver. One day, I want to go to some place which is quite far.  My father offers to come along. So, the two of us set out. Father being an expirienceed person and more aware of the road topography, one-ways, short cuts and other details, he steps in to offer his suggestion of the route to be taken. But I consider myself to be an expert driver. I give  a damn care to what father says. I shut his mouth and set off. On the way, I come across many changes in the roads and get confused. My father again offers to help me out but I have my own ego to do things on my own. Finally I get lost and do not know what to do. I then look up to my father for help which he gladly does. He takes me to through the easiest and best path and helps me reach my destination. This is exactly what we are doing in our lives. GOD is ready to help us. But we think we are greater than him and set out to achieve things. We side line his presence and think we are the doers. But when we get problems , we turn to him hoping he will help us. Indeed, he does. If we would have surrendered to him completely, he WILL take care of us but we are not ready to do so.

Even when draupadi was dis-robed, she thought she would fight herself. She argued with all the elders in the sabha. It was only when she was totally helpless, she called out to Krishna and HE came. So, he won’t come unless called with an absolute sense of surrender. Many saints and acharyas have lived the life of total surrender. Purandara dasa, meera bai, adi shankara, ramanuja, tukaram – the list is endless.

Even in today's world, HE does help us but we fail to realise the same. Does that mean, if we totally surrender, we need not work at all. Absolutely right. You don’t have to move an inch if you have total surrender. But the surrender must be total – 100%. There are many stories which have shown that absolute surrender has worked wonders. For example, when hiranyakashipu tortured prahlada, the little child never cried or feared or asked any mortal for help. HE simply smiled and accepted what was given to him. Lord Narayan protected him. That is the kind of Bhakti we need to develop. Bhakti must mature into brahma gnana. It is only then that you fuse with the Lord and attain eternal bliss.    

How do we develop absolute surrender. Well, it is a long long journey of births before we get to that state. It all starts with karma yoga. Lord Kirshna has elaborated the essence of karma yoga very beautifully in the 2nd chapter
sukha dukhe same’ kritva |
labha labhou jaya jayou ||
tatho yuddhaya yujyasva |
naivam papam avapsyasi || (2.38)
Meaning: Having an equal mind in happiness-sorrow; gain-loss; victory-defeat; engage in battle and thereby you will not incur sin.

In essence, Karma Yoga refers to doing one’s prescribed karma without expecting a return. Karma yoga is a separate world that can be introspected more (maybe in my next post). The karma Yoga must mature into bhakti. Bhakti must enter jnana yoga and then into the state of eternal bliss.
So, in summary, what we are today is because of our actions alone. GOD is in no way responsible to our state. But if we totally surrender , than HE takes the full responsibility of our well-being. In that state, though the surrendered person seems to be suffering in the eyes of the world, the surrendered self will not feel the pain. As someone said, there will be pain but no suffering. That is the difference between KARMA and grace.

The discussion gets very interesting as we ponder and introspect more. More in my next post



  1. Good article and a nice read.

    But nowhere it says - that we have to stand up for our rights ?
    Sounds like we have to accept every thing that comes our way as our past karmas ?

    let's say some one jumps in front of us in a line , and buys the ticket and when my turn comes the closed the ticket counter > Do I just accept that its my fate.