The Theory of Karma
Attaining Equanimity through our Actions - Steps towards Mindfulness
The theory of Karma (Action) is a powerful concept in Vedic Philosophy. In the ancient book of knowledge and wisdom, Bhagavad Gita, there is a detailed description about Karma theory. Some essential principles related to Karma theory mentioned in Gita are:
• When an action becomes personalized, it becomes Karma.
• We cannot live for a single moment without doing Karma, as Karma refers to both physical and mental activity.
• For every Karma, there will be a fruit (outcome) to that action
• We, as human beings, have no control over the fruit of our action
• The fruits of the action will fructify based on the current actions
The ancient wisdom talks about how to make our Karmas like those of a Sun. If we observe the sun, it is the provider of the heat and light. It continues to do its duty of providing those irrespective of the external conditions. Also, it is only concerned about its responsibilities and not attached to what other actions are taking place in its light. Similarly, we as humans need to do all our actions in a detached manner without getting immersed in the results.
Gita also clarifies that renouncing the world and leaving the society does not absolve us from our Karmas. It is our mental actions that also bear the fruits. Hence, the only way to attain salvation is not by running away from Karma, instead of by doing them so that they don’t become personalized. Such state is possible when all the actions are done without Me/Mine or For Me’s feeling. The moment we can direct the flow of our actions away from ourselves, and towards nature, we will attain salvation. The scriptures go beyond a step and state that we can destroy our past karmas in the fire of our detached actions. Gita categorically states:
gata-saṅgasya muktasya jñānāvasthita-chetasaḥ
yajñāyācharataḥ karma samagraṁ pravilīyate – BG Ch4:27
“They are released from the bondage of material attachments, and their intellect is established in divine knowledge. Since they perform all actions as a sacrifice (to God), they are freed from all karmic reactions.”
The biggest challenge in being detached from our actions is the anticipation of results. Despite knowing fully well that we do not have any control over the result, our mind is continuously thinking about it. Such attachment leads to desires. In case the desires are not fulfilled, it leads to anger. At the same time, fulfilled desires lead to lust and new desires. So either way, Desires are the biggest obstacle in attaining a state of serenity, which is essential for salvation.
kāma eṣha krodha eṣha rajo-guṇa-samudbhavaḥ
mahāśhano mahā-pāpmā viddhyenam iha vairiṇam – BG Ch3: 37
“The Supreme Lord said: It is lust alone, which is born of contact with the mode of passion, and later transformed into anger. Know this as the sinful, all-devouring enemy in the world.”
So as per the Theory of Karma, what is the way to attain oneness with the supreme Lord that actually resides in each one of us? Gita provides the answer in the following two verses:
yoga-yukto viśhuddhātmā vijitātmā jitendriyaḥ
sarva-bhūtātma-bhūtātmā kurvann api na lipyate – BG Ch 5:7
“The Karma yogis, who are of purified intellect, and who control the mind and senses, see the Soul of all souls in every living being. Though performing all kinds of actions, they are never entangled.”
ihaiva tair jitaḥ sargo yeṣhāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ
nirdoṣhaṁ hi samaṁ brahma tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ – BG Ch 5:19
“Those whose minds are established in equality of vision conquer the cycle of birth and death in this very life. They possess the flawless qualities of God, and are therefore seated in the Absolute Truth.”