Thursday, 7 February 2013

How to Change your Destiny - Fortune Favors the Brave

For the last few days I have been worried about Karma. It all started when, someone much older than me asked, "Don't you set faith by astrology?" 

The debate had started over a quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

As usual the old Bard, my favorite philosopher of all times was bang on target.

So, I told the gentleman that I do not believe in the stars nor in destiny but in Karma. 

He promptly asked me what was the difference? 

Karma allows us to change our life state whereas believing in destiny makes us losers. 

We are all born with our Karma which is also commonly referred to as destiny or luck. It is an accumulated sum total of our mis/deeds, past and present.

Belief in destiny or luck makes us fatalistic. Strong belief in destiny makes us give up and suffer.

No distant star has the power to control our fate. We can do it ourselves. Fate can be changed by changing our Karma. Our only weapons in this fight against bad Karma are hard work and an unshaken faith in our own self. We can cleanse our Karma by practicing compassion and empathy and by doing our duty.

This world is an illusion. It is a manifestation of our choices and our Karma. I am in it because I am attached to my environment and I have picked and chosen my attachments - consciously or unknowingly. 

In Hinduism this is called Maya. Maya means illusion. Maya is the world around me, the one that I am attached to. It is an illusion created by my attachments and our life choices. It is pure emotion. 

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, Maya is the cause of all human sufferings and rightly so.

In Sikhism, Maya is explained simply as, "In the darkness of Maya I mistook a rope for a snake..." 

So, how does Maya fit into this discussion?

Simply, Karma and Maya work hand in hand to create hurdles for us. They rip through our lives causing losses and pains that shake us up and toss us around.

Star Trek junkies like me would remember the simulated games used by the crew to solve various problems or to pit themselves against a life-threatening issue. For example, if someone needed to practice diplomacy in a new  planet to change say, a law, they would choose the settings to simulate the planet's environment and populate it with simulated diplomats from that planet. They would then, enter the simulated world and discuss and debate the issue with the projections of the diplomats.

However, once inside it all became real. The person had to use every diplomatic skill and understanding of the planet's ethnic culture to win over the debate. Failure would mean, incarceration or death inside the simulated environment just as in real life. The only way out was to win. Many crew members used it for combat practice. A fight to finish fencing or wrestling match was often practiced in the simulated environment to ensure that no real person was hurt but, the threat to the player's own life was very real.

This world of our Maya, is no different. 

Often when stuck in a fight to finish we give in and lose. We attribute our loss to bad luck. This is because our faith in self is shaken. Because we believe in destiny and we forget that 'fortune favors the brave'.

Each one of us has at least met one person who is able turn around any bad situation in his/her favor. In our untrained eyes these are the fortunate few. Actually, they are not. They are just hardworking and positive thinking individuals. Many of them often come across as lacking in emotion because they plan till the end and are always positive in their outlook. But, most of them are great leaders because they are empathetic and with their strategy and compassion, they are easily able to overcome any difficulty.

In the battle of Mahabharata, Arjun shudders at the sight of his relatives, elders and teachers lined up on the opposite side of the battlefield. He lays down his weapons and is ready to walk-off saying, he'd rather lose than kill his own. Lord Krishna who is the driver of his chariot stops him from making the mistake of running away from the battlefield and be branded a coward in History. He then gives a discourse which is enshrined in The Bhagwat Gita, and explains to Arjun how it is his duty as a warrior to fight and win and how he should do it dispassionately and with honest effort and for greater good.

He says, "Do your Karma and leave the rest to me. The fruits of your labor will come to you automatically."

For those who think this is religious philosophy can leaf through the first book in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowlings, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,

"There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."

This is the core of The Gita. To fight is our destiny with all honest intent and purpose is our duty. We must only focus on that. Perform 200% and don't worry about the outcome. 

However, we need to always remember that Karma is a very hard and wily taskmaster. We need to control and balance our actions and practice empathy and compassion. We need to pitch our deeds for greater good. The moment our ego enters the equation, we are flogged. For example, there is no manager without a team. If you put your own glory over your team and undermine their efforts then, you will never be able to win.

Though Christianity does not directly speak about Karma but this often quoted verse from the Bible says it all,
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

Therefore please be careful of what you sow is my advice, if you sow the wind, you'll reap the whirlwind!  

The trick is to weigh your actions before performing. If Arjun went to war because he wanted self-glory he'd be eternally damned but, he fought the war against injustice and dishonesty and therefore, he is a hero. If Harry had killed Voldemort because the Dark Lord had murdered his parents then, he too would have been a murderer.  Instead, Harry was a very reluctant hero. He took up arms only because otherwise, practically no one would have survived - at least no one who was not evil and the world as we know it now would be lost.

To wrap up this rather long post, I would like to quote something a Muslim friend had shared recently:

'Striving against Evil desires of Lower Self (Nafs Al-Ammarah) is JIHAD. Let us do it.'
Meaning of above 'hadith':

Once a man passed in front of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Sahaba (Radiyallahu Anhum) saw that he was making great efforts and showing interest in earning his livelihood. They told the Prophet (peace be upon him), "O Rasulallah, If his efforts and interest were for the religion, it would have been better".

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "If he is putting this struggle to bring up his small children, his efforts shall be counted in the Path of Allah, and if he is putting efforts to serve his old parents then his efforts shall be counted in the path of Allah, and if he is putting efforts for himself with the intention that he doesn't have to ask from others, then his efforts shall be counted in the path of Allah, but if his efforts are with the intention of showing superiority to others by earning more money and showing off then all his efforts shall be counted in the path of Satan." 

~ {Reported in At-Tabrani}


  1. Udyamen hi sidhyanti, karyaani na manorathe
    Nahi suptasya singhasya, pravishanti mukhe mrigah'
    ... though this one means that not will alone can fulfill a wish, but was reminded of it while reading your blog, as I feel that karma is a given ... you cannot achieve anything without karma, but the result is influenced by destiny
    ... need to catch up with you

    1. Thanks Mona for that one. I remember it was a part of our syllabus in school! :)
      I think I overlooked a very important thing here which can be very confusing for many. The difference between the Hindu and the Buddhist interpretation of Karma. The interpretation I used here is Buddhist while in Hinduism, Karma simply means doing your duty or Karm. I'll try and work it out in another posting soon. Thanks :)


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