Is karma real?

by Chaitanya CharanOctober 13, 2020

Answer Podcast


Transcription :

Transcriber: Suresh Gupta

Question: Is karma real?

Answer: How do we know whether something is true? There are different ways of proving different things. For example, if someone asks me what the time is, my reply would be – ten thirty-four. When asked how I know, my reply would be, “I have a watch”. When questioned how I know my watch is right, I can say, “We may look up in Google and confirm”. When we talk about facts, we can have objective measurements. However, if I ask whether your mother loves you, you may reply, “Of course, she does”. But when asked about the proof, can we put a love-o-meter in our mother’s head and measure her love for us? To prove our point, we can give examples like – when I was sick, my mother stayed up all night and took care of me, when I was hospitalised, my mother sold her ornaments just to get treatment for me. Similarly, we can think of hundreds of incidents by which we can infer that our mother loves us. However, it is an inference and not a mathematically provable thing. The point is that for different realities, there are different ways of proving. Similarly, with respect to karma, the way of proving is basically through inference.

When we look at our present life, we see that we accept the principle of cause and effect. For example, if a child comes back home to parents and shows them a report card with ‘F’, the parents will immediately ask the reason for such low grade. If the child replies, “It happened by chance”, it cannot be accepted as a reasonable answer. The parents would ask – did you not study, did you forget the answers, or were you sick. Whenever there is an effect, we assume there is a cause. Causality or “cause and effect” co-relation is the basic presumption in all human beings. It is true even in science, for example, Newton saw the effect – fruit falling and questioned the cause. In day-to-day existence, we presume cause-effect connections and the more knowledge we have, the bigger is the framework within which we can see the cause of connections. For example, if somebody is trembling, one cause of connection could be that they are not wearing the sweater, and if they put on the sweater, then they will not tremble. Here, the effect is trembling, and the cause is, the person is not wearing the sweater. But if somebody wears a sweater and still trembles, then he may have to go to a doctor where he may come to know that he is suffering from malaria. Ordinary people might define it as sick, but sick is a very general term whereas malaria is a more specific term. Therefore, the more knowledge we have, the same effect can be put in different causal box.

The cause for someone trembling can be put in multiple causal boxes and the more knowledge we have, the more causal boxes we can put something in and ultimately – what the right causal box is, will depend. Similarly, whenever anything happens in life, we presume cause-effect. The principle of karma basically takes this cause-effect correlation and expands the framework to if we do some action, there are results for it. Some results come immediately whereas some results come gradually. Therefore, karma is like sowing a seed. When we are sowing seeds for grass, they may grow in few days, but seeds of crops will take weeks to grow. Similarly, it will take years for a mango tree to grow. The idea of karma is that our actions have results and whatever we are experiencing are a result of some action. Different actions have different results experienced over different time durations and which can be explained through different frameworks.

Another aspect of karma is that immediate cause is not necessary because the immediate cause may not be the complete cause. For example, in a car accident, one person may get severely injured and the other person may get saved. Is this simply due to chance? No. It is important to note that chance is not an explanation. Chance is not a cause that makes things happen, it is basically a description of what happens. This difference needs to be understood. When something has already happened, the probability of that happening is talked in terms of chance. Therefore, the principle of karma tells us that we can infer about the different causal boxes. Why is that somebody is born poor and somebody is born wealthy? Is it arbitrary or are there some factors from previous life? If life is arbitrary then, is life a combination of arbitrary and the orderly? Even if someone says that the starting point of our life is arbitrary (being born in a poor family) but afterwards we can work hard, earn money and become wealthy. So, if there is an order in the world then why is there discrimination in the orders? Could it be that there is a subtler order or bigger order that we are not aware of?

Therefore, we should take responsibility in whatever situation we are in. The essence of principle of karma is – take responsibility for our actions. Our actions have consequences and to the extent we take responsibility, we extend our role in creating a better future for ourselves. Karma is essentially just an extension of the cause-effect principle that we all accept implicitly and there is a logical reason for extending the principle because we do see that the same effect can be explained by multiple causes and karma simply extends it, beyond the immediate causes to bigger causes. These causes may come from previous lives or may extend to future lives.

End of transcription.

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Chaitanya Charan

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