Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Karma, Cause and Effect

A friend asked me today a question that kept me worried for most of the day. She asked, ‘how can we justify the Buddha abandoning his family, his wife and infant child to seek Nirvana?’ She said that many of us would also like to get away from our daily lives and perform services for greater good but, most of us will not be able to, because of our sense of duty towards those who love us and depend upon us.

I wondered, ‘what a solid question and how can one actually defend that?’ Especially, when it concerns a father and a prince whose duties were clearly cut out. I kept it in my head the entire day while I went about performing my duties till it came to me in a flash. It was something I had read recently about the law of give and take in the universe by the mythologist and management guru, Dr Devdutt Pattaik. He had said, 

"Ramayan is about the cost of rule-upholding, and Mahabharat is about the cost of rule-breaking. This way or that, there is always a cost. Dharma does not come free. Neither does Adharma. Everything has a cost. That is the law of Karma. No such thing as return without investment in the Cosmos. Dharma, or nobility, is an option; not Karma." 

As Prince Siddhartha, he had everything going for him, a royal palace, abundance of wealth, a beautiful and dutiful wife and a son and heir. His father doted on him and the subjects adored him. He was well-shielded from all external worries and had no clue to human suffering.

He lacked nothing and was worried about nothing. To give up such a life and roam the wilds in search of the answer to the ultimate question that would bring relief to the suffering multitudes sounds like a madman’s decision. This is especially true when you think how he reached that decision based on what he saw and perceived as the three ultimate truths of human life which he had glimpsed at by chance, illness, old age and death.

I thought hard and ran through a list of everyone I knew starting with myself and ending with the spiritual Gurus and Babas of our times but, could not come across many who would really give up riches on a whim and take to the wilds looking for answers like the young Prince Siddhartha did. 

How many other human beings have that strength or wisdom? I wondered. Perhaps, only a handful through history and yet, not many could find and successfully propagate what only Prince Siddhartha could.

Think. There were no personal losses, no bloody wars no broken heart in this young man's life, no bitterness, only three signs of human suffering and a sage.

But, it is the law of the universe that Karma will extract its pound of flesh and so, in our minds we see his young wife, Yashodhara and infant child, Rahul and an old father, Sudhdhodhan left behind bereft and crying. But, was that the only reality?

Whether it is Rama, Krishna or the Buddha each one of their lives as a great Master is also a story of extreme pain and suffering with their Karma dodging their path at every step throwing obstacles that would send any normal human being running for cover. When I think of the life of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad or Guru Nanak I see shades of the same story painted in different hues. These are the great Masters of the human race who had to walk through fire and ice to bring solace to humanity. And perhaps that was the only way they could reverse their Karma and bring to us the great teachings that can change ours.

In my life and times there can be no greater teacher than the frail and feminine Mother Teresa. Since this is not a strictly religious discussion I will not touch upon her faith at all. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the fact that she lived and worked in the same world as I did while growing up. She lived in extreme poverty and shared everything she owned with lepers and destitute. Yet, many fingers have been pointed at her.

Fingers have also been raised at the Dalai Lama who apart from being a titular head and a religious leader who has the world’s who’s who among his fan list has tirelessly fought for a group of people who lost their land in a tragic situation (again, this is not a political discussion, so no further).

What humbles me the most however is that we are all a chip off of the same old block. Meaning, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed we are all a part of the same dust that created this world millions of millennia ago. This thought had stuck me a while  back and I had put it up on my Facebook Wall because I was overwhelmed by my own finding. I had explained it thus, 

"E = mc2 says mass cannot be either created or destroyed only changed into energy. In that case, I am a part of the same mass that started off the universe and so are you. Which means you and I are interchangeable with the billions of others (known and unknown, living or non-living) who are a part of the universe. Which means all of us contain the same atoms that was once a part of the Gods and messiahs who roamed Earth. Which means I have the same power that built the universe. Then, why does this knowledge make me feel humble not proud?"

To answer my friend who had set me thinking today, we all have the capability to become Bodhisattvas but since each one of us is tied to our Karma (past and present) and are enslaved to it, we need to take matters in our own hands and change it.

Renouncing the world for greater good is the job of a true Master and if I feel that it is not in me to do it then I should try and change my Karma by making the world around me a better and comfortable place for those who are in my immediate environment.

At work I should put in my 100%, at home and family, I should strive to be the soother, the caregiver, among friends, I must be the one who is always there to support and protect. It works in every sphere of my life.

When I stretch, bend and break my back to bring happiness all around me, my Karma automatically changes and I gain peace and happiness. And that, my friend is my personal path to Nirvana and perhaps also yours.


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  2. :) you must be wondering why am i starting with a smile. Well, my friend, these are all questions i have thought about too and i am sure, so have a lot of other people.

    You have touched upon a lot of interesting things in this piece.
    One suggestion, if you have't read "One" by Richard Bach then pl try to catch hold of it and read... i had read it years back and this concept of all of us being part of the "One" got ingrained into me. We are all part "one", but as every point has infinite directions, so too our paths separate due to our choices that we make every moment. Why would that knowledge make you humble and not proud? ... well you know you are the buddha, but you are the rapist and the murderer too; you are the tiger and the vulture and the earthworm too; you are the banyan tree and the grass too. That raises another question ... why should you not simply accept a murderer too... You should, but you should not accept the wrong choices. If we believe in the karma theory, then that higher power also puts us to the grind to learn from our mistakes, so who are we, to not take a stand on what is not acceptable. There is a argument which can be given that possibly, the murderer is doling out the justice of a previous life ... but to that we have to remember, that what is being done has to teach this person a lesson too.

    When we feel part of one, you cannot feel patriotic, as you feel one with the other as well. So, yes, you would not give up what is your right, but you cannot revel in the misery of the other also

    Okay ... i think i will keep going on :)

    another quick thing ... when we don't want to do something, we find excuses... that is true for all of us. We don't have the single minded desire of buddha, and we want to define ourselves as more committed to families
    catch up with you

    1. :) Answering the awesome smile with another. I have read Bach's One - long time ago and like the idea of living several lives in one through our choices. I agree with most of what you say and for an answer to your posers, wait for another post. Sad that I missed your call the other night. Let us meet up soon. :)


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