Value Education and Spirituality 4 – The Spiritual Foundation of Values 2 – Karma shows the sense in life’s seeming senselessness

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 8, 2014

Lecture Podcast

Value Education and Spirituality 4 – The Spiritual Foundation of Values 2 – Karma shows the sense in life’s seeming senselessness

 The concept of the soul as something that continues to exist after death and the result of that belief or that understanding. The theme will focus on ________ related with soul and reincarnation is karma. So, karma helps us make sense of the senseless. So, we will discuss about first the logic of karma and how this logic is strengthened is substantiated is illumined by an understanding of the incarnation and how this in turn helps to give a sound foundation to values, to ethics. Now, one of the fundamental reasons for ethics is that it indicates reciprocal kindness. We discussed about the golden rule, do unto others as you want others to do unto you. Now, there may be people feel why should I do like this. If I have the power by which I can get others to serve me and why should I need to serve others. So, what is the logic for doing this. Now, there are people who will not be persuaded by this idea because they are self-centered. Otherwise, distorted in their thinking, they often see others as less than human beings and they think other exist just for mine pleasure and they have to gratify me, but I do not have to do anything for them. So, people think like this, then values become impossible, ethical level becomes impossible because those people who have power, then they keep exploiting others and then the whole this societies ethical foundation becomes weak and shaky. So, the principle of karma at its simplest level is the principle of cause and effect. So, we have Newton’s third law, it says “To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Now, this is true at not just the level of interaction of physical objects. It is true at that level no doubt, but it also signifies in some ways a broader cosmic truth, whatever goes around, comes around. So, the actions that we do are like a boomerang, we throw it at something. Boomerang is an object that goes and then afterwards it comes back to us, so like that our actions are going to boomerang and they will come back to us. So, if we do good, good will come to us. If you do bad, bad will come back to us. This is basic idea of karma. Now, karma is not just a philosophical or religious doctrine that is adhered to a certain group of people. It may seem to be like that, but the essential principle of karma is something that underlies and unifies the life experience or the world view of everyone. How is that? In all of us to some extent, we _______ the cause of a connection in the world, whether a person is an Indian or African or American or Australian, if that person sees a family member coming with a burn on the hand, it is like what happened. So, what it means is that we see the effect that there is a burn on the body, feeling like there is a cause and do not know what is the cause. If you put your hand in fire or how did this burn happen. So, basically the idea of the mixture between cause and effect is something which is universal and in the same way the point of karma is that there is a connection between cause and effect. Everyone cause will produce an effect and every effect has a cause behind it. So, how do we understand or indicate this through our daily experiences. Actually for that, we need to think of karma as not just action-reaction in terms of physics, say this action produces that reaction. It is true, but we also have to see it in terms of a seed-sowing activity. When I sow a seed, then the seed will eventually fructify, but the time duration between the sowing and the reaping will vary.   First of all, they will be a time involved and the time will vary. Grains if they are sown, they can be reaped in three to four months and sometimes two months also. Some plants, may be they fructify within five or six years, some may take 50 to 60 years. So in the same way, the actions that we do, the reactions will come at different time durations and this delay between the manifestation of the reaction after the action, the delay is largely due to the principles of the nature, that means the particular seed has a particular nature, it has a particular way of growing and accordingly it grows. So similarly different actions because of various other factors involved, because they will fructify after different time and this is not something which is only again religious dogma or doctrine. This is also something which we accept in our experience. If a person wakes up with a severe stomach upset, then and calls the doctor. The first thing the doctor will ask is likely to be what did you have food yesterday night, what does that mean. The question itself implies there is a cause and effect connection and the cause-effect is delayed. The effect may come after 6, 10, 15 hours after the cause, I overeat and then I go to sleep and then later maybe I have a stomach upset. So, now if somebody of similar age in the 40s or something like that and then person goes to the doctor and the doctor has x-ray done and some chest complications and the doctor says that you know you have lung cancer and then doctor may ask at what age do you start smoking and the person may say I started at the age of 15, so here the effect that is lung cancer is coming 25 years after the starting of the _________. So, the cause-effect there may be a delay and just as I put my hand in fire, the burning is instantaneous, overeating the burning is after few hours and smoking the effect may be after several years. So, the delay between action and reaction is something which we do see in our life normally also. So, when we see this delay in our normal life what the spirituality urges us is to recognize that his cause-effect connection will extend not only during this life’s duration, but it will also extend to before this life and also to beyond this life. So, if we have a time chart where T is equal TB is the time of birth and T=TD the time of death. So, normally we would except say the cause-effect connection to be within this lifetime. So, at 15 the person started smoking and T40 the person gets cancer, it is within that time duration, but once we understand that the end is not the end and the beginning is not the beginning, what that means is our birth, our life does not end with death. We as spiritual beings, as souls continue to exist even after the body is destroyed and we as souls are not exactly created at the time of birth. We have existed before and we continue to exist now and we continue to exist after the death also, then we understand that actually this causal link can move forwards, so the person is essentially the same. The Bhagavad Gita explains that the body is external to us, it is like a dress, so because the body is like a dress, this says when I change my dress okay the external changes, but I remain the same person. Similarly, we remain the same, the same persons when we change our bodily dress, so if a person does some good activity, say a doctor does some surgery and saves the person’s life and after that the doctor is fully paid, so now when the transaction of the payment happens, it is not necessary that the transaction has to happen when the doctor is in the same surgical kit, the doctor may be in some other dress and still the patient or the patient’s representatives will recognize that this is the person and this person will be paid. So, the dress may be different, the person is the same and that person who has done that action, so that person will get the reaction. So, here of course we are talking about something positive that the person has done something good and the person will get the due for doing that good. In the same way, now if a person breaks the traffic rules and goes through a red signal and the traffic _______ in pursuit and this person is going to be fined, may be even arrested and the person races off high speed, enters into the house and as soon as enters into the house changes the dress and comes out in a casual wear and the police says this is the fine for you, this is your punishment, that person says I have changed my dress, so how does that make a difference, the dress did not commit the crime, the dress did not break the law, you did, so you have to bear it. So in the same way, the soul remains the same irrespective of which body it is and therefore the action-reaction sequence continues from before this birth and also continues beyond death. So, sometimes some things may happen to us, for which there seems to be no cause that means we may feel okay I am living in a good way and suddenly I got this problem why is that. So, the reason for that is some action which we have done in the previous life. Now the question may come up, does this may sense. Do I really believe in something which I do not even remember which I have done in my previous life. Okay let us analyze this from the point of view of the fact that all of us have to live in this world and while living in this world we have to observe the world and try to understand how it can help us to best make sense of the world and even if somebody says I am not interested in philosophy, but still that person has some world view, which is _________ to some kind of philosophy. The person’s philosophy may well be that okay I have to enjoy in this life and I want to become famous, I want to become popular, I want to become wealthy and through that I will get happiness. So if that is the philosophy of a person, then it is not necessarily, we are not discussing the rightness or wrongness ____________ even if somebody says I have no interest in philosophy that person does have a philosophy. So, the question comes up what kind of fundamental world view will help us to view the world the best, it will help us to make best sense of the world. Now, we can compare in terms of life and living that different peoples start with different starting conditions, some people are extremely wealthy, some people are born with mediocre level of wealth and some people are born in terrible poverty. So, now why they differ. We can compare the situation to understand in a more stunning way. We may think this is just the way life is, this is how life is and we just have to accept it, but to understand the unacceptability of this explanation or at least the unsustainability, the unsoundness of this explanation, let us consider the point that there is say match going on, say cricket match going on and the cricket there are teams. So, normally all teams start with a score of a 0 and then whichever team performs the best, scores the maximum runs that team becomes the winner. So, now if the goal is to win the match and say two teams are participating in a match and one team starts with a score of 0 and the other team starts with a score of 100 this is unfair, why should this team be given such a major advantage right at the beginning and why should this team which is going to start from 0 will not be given that advantage, this match is fixed and it is unfair that is the first thing you will say how can you _______ such a thing. In the same way, if whatever is required for success in life some people have it apparently and some people do not have it or some people have a phenomenal memory by which they can remember many many things and others have very poor memory by which remembering even basic things becomes difficult. So, why this difference, what can be done about it. So, it is a fact of life, but is there some reason for such facts of life. So, now if we see going back to the match metaphor. If we see that one team has been given a starting score of 100, another team has been given score of 0, so we may say that oh why is it like this. It is because the score board is crazy, the scoreboard is malfunctioning, actually it should be zero, but the scoreboard behaves in a very unpredictable way, the program is messed up and that is way one team has got hundred and the other team has got zero. Similarly, why the scoreboard messed up, it is by chance, it could be __________ this team could have got hundred and this could have zero, but it is just the way it is. So now in the same way, some people may say that actually okay why is this person born wealthy, why is this person born poor, it is just because that is how it is, it is just by chance, it is just by chance some people are born, there is no explanation for it and the whole life in the universe is like the cosmic lottery and if you are among the winners great. If you are among the losers, it is rotten luck, what can you do. This idea that everything happens by chance it is doctrine of helplessness and discouragement and frustration, why. Because, if life is just like the cosmic lottery, then what is the point of striving. We all to some extent, we all believe that if I work hard, if I work diligently, then I will succeed. In fact, the whole foundation of ethics it is thoroughly undercut and destroyed if there is no principle some connection between cause and effect, everything is random by chance, then even if I will go according to principles, what will I gain by living according to principles. Now, think because things happen by chance. Now, a person living by principles may sudden or failure and a person living without principles may succeed or fail. So, it just makes no difference and therefore the whole purpose of ethical living, of having some values becomes valueless. Now, other alternative going back to the match metaphor is that say this team is going to score 100 and this team is going to score 0, maybe the match organizer is biased, the match organizer likes this team and that is why this team has been given the score of 100 and this team has been given the score of 0. So, now if life is a match, who is the match organizer, that is the person who is in-charge, that is God. So, now, first idea is atheistic, that there is no God and everything happens by chance and therefore whatever happens will just accept it, it is like a lottery. The second idea is that whatever happens is by the arbitrary will of God, so God has decided like some people and God dislike some people. So, here it is still like a lottery only, but the difference is that instead of lottery deciding the winner or the loser, it is God’s arbitrary will, it is divine capricious that decides who gets and who does not get. So, who gets the great deal and who gets a pathetic deal. This idea is actually very emotionally agitating and intolerable. If God is good, it is supposed to be supremely and if God is to be the object of our devotional love as many other world’s theistic tradition say as, then how can we be expected to even believe in the goodness of God who is so arbitrary and capricious. Who just by his will decides practically without considering any other factors that this person be wealthy, let this person be poor, let this person be like this, let this person be like that, why does he decide like this and this idea actually makes devotion to God very difficult and the kind of adherence to belief in God is almost impossible, so many intelligent and cultured people often feel that atheism is a far preferable choice rather than believing in God who discriminates like this, better to believe in chance as a supreme arbitrary, at least we do not have to devote ourselves to chance. We do not expect to surrender and pray and offer our heart to chance. How can I offer my heart like this. When people think that these are the only two alternatives I have for making sense of the World, that either I accept that things are happening by chance or things are happening by divine _____, then often this atheism seems more sensible alternative, but actually these two are not the only options we have, there is a third option and the third option is that if you go back to the match metaphor one team is starting with a score of 0 and the other team is starting score of 100, why the difference because this is the second innings of the match, as in the earlier in which the two teams performed and the second team has got a lead of 100, so they may have both had some scores, but from this innings point of view this team has got a lead of 100 as compared to the other, so comparatively ________ scores 0 and 100. So similarly why are different people having different starting points, why is one person wealthy and one person poorer because they are both having previous innings and in their innings they have scored differently. Some has scored more, some has scored less and what is the score referred to, it refers to not the runs scored, it refers to our karmic score. What kind of karma have we done. Some people have done better karma, some people have poorer karma and depending on the kind of karma they have got, then they have got accordingly the results. So, this understanding of life has a multi-inning helps us to reconcise seeming injustice of life with the understanding of a _______ and it helps us to make sense of life in a way it is sensible and empowering. Sensible because the other alternative is something happens by chances. It just does not make sense because we do __________ life on the understanding that things do not happen entirely by chance. Students study because they understand by studying I will get good marks, so when within this life we do consider cause-effect connection, suddenly how would abandon cause and effect connection and just believe the things are happening by chance it is difficult and on the other hand to believe that while God has made the cause and connection in this life and suddenly we want this life, God acts everything capriciously that also is difficult to believe, we may understand there is one consistent system which is of course under God’s permission, but it is a consistent system, the scoreboard is not malfunctioning, nor is the organizer biased, whatever the teams have scored accordingly it is reflected in the scoreboard, this helps us to make sense of life. So, the principle of karma is essentially the same principle. When we see others who are better than us, we do not have to feel deprived or discriminated against, they may be better than us presently, but if we keep performing. If we keep doing good karma, we will also improve and our karmic prospects in future will be better. So, it is intellectually sensible and it is also responsible in terms of it helps to become responsible, it helps us to recognize that no matter how bleak my present, I have the capacity to create a brighter to myself this is not really an _________ chance and divine ________ alternatives. No matter how I act, now things are not determined by what I am acting, they are determined by chance or by __________. So this way, karma helps us to make sense of the apparent senselessness of life and one of the fundamental reasons for following values is to recognize that such a value-based living is for productive, so if we do good to others, that good will indeed come back to us. If you live according integrity, we will be rewarded. It may be because our actions are like seeds, so the results may come later, they may not come immediately as the action is done, but the results will become. This understanding is very encouraging and empowering. Encouraging in terms of becoming free from the feeling of feeling that life is unjust and empowering in terms of recognizing that we have the power to create a better future for ourselves by making intelligent choice now and the values that we learn those values help us to determine what are those intelligent choices. So, karma essentially means the values that we have will shape us and even if we see some people living unethically and still live flourishing, enjoying we simply understand actually it is a matter of time and if ____________ results will come. So, the whole principle of understanding cause-effect connection in conjunction with karma helps us to bring a solid as an intellectual spiritual foundation of living according to values.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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