Freedom from the Karma-Jāla or the Web of Karma

There are eighty four lakh kinds of creations – plants, animals etc. and out of all of these the human form is the most significant. There are also divine beings but the human body is still more precious than them. Even the divine beings yearn to attain the human body because only after coming into it, the being can attain that level and that state which is not possible to attain otherwise. It does not matter whether one has a female or a male body: both can attain that grand level. But what really makes the human birth so important and precious?

The pet-animals have a got a rope tied around their necks; theirs is a life of slavery. Animals cannot speak, think and understand, as the humans do. They eat when they are hungry, they sleep when they feel the need and attack when in danger. Their activities are limited to their bodies: An animal puts it mouth in a heap of hay. The master hits it from behind. The animal goes away. But then it returns again to the same heap. Similarly, at the butcher’s shop, the sheep stand in a line. Inside, they are being slaughtered and yet they are standing there, following behind each other. What is all this? This is what is called animal nature. The sheep go on running hither and thither and as one of them may fall into a pit the others follow too. What is this? These are the animal instincts or what is wittingly called as bheḍacāla.

But the same is not true of humans. And in fact, the one who does not has such tendencies, is alone fit to be termed as a human being. A human being has the ability to think, decide and act. If humans too were to limit their activities to merely eating, sleeping etc. then what would be the difference between them and animals. Thus, this is the uniqueness of humans: their ability to think, their gift of the brain or the intellect. A human being can think and direct the course of his actions with the understanding that a particular action would bring him a particular result. When we are to decide the course of our careers don’t we try to make full use of this gift, “Well, if I go into medical stream then I will end up there” and so on. Thus we see that human beings can actively direct their actions.

The next thing is to note is that “what we sow, so shall be reap”. It is not possible that we commit a wrong action and then get a positive result out of that. Though, it may not be as clear and straightforward to see this cycle of karma (action) and phala (fruits). After all, the scriptures themselves say, “The cycle of action-result is abstruse and very deep to understand.” We narrate the story from the time when Lord Rāma was exiled to the forests. Lakṣmaṇa is with him. Mother Sītā is with him. Rāma and Sītā are lying on the ground, in their little hut. Lakṣmaṇa is standing guard. Kevaṭa is also there and seeing the tough conditions that Prince Rāma is living in, his heart melts. Anger wells up within him and he starts to admonish Manthirā and Kaikeyī. Then Lakṣmaṇa Jī makes him understand that there is no one else who can give us misery or happiness. The tendency that makes us blame others for our misery and suffering originates from our own stone-headedness. As one commits ones actions, so are the fruits that one obtains. But having said that, to see which action has brought us which fruit, is not all that straightforward; because, karmas (actions) actually exist as a karma-jāla (the web of actions). The beginning thread of this web is the ego entered thought, ‘I do this’. Performing the actions thus, forgetting the Lord, one does something that leads him to something else and the chain extends until he gets tied up in the web of actions that he had created by himself. It is not very easy to get freed from this web. But one thing is sure that the web that I find myself in today was created by me only and no one else is to be blamed for my predicament.

The situation of our life’s path is akin to walking on a trail that has a huge steep mountain on one side and a deep gorge on the other. And the traveller, tired and afraid, wishes to find some other path that would be easier. But where can he go? He can’t go to the sides. He can’t revert back on the path for he has already seen that part of the course. His only option is to move ahead, howsoever difficult the path might become. This is what is called karma-jāla. The realm of work where we have once entered, we cannot flee from there without fulfilling it. Yes, it is a different matter if one can think and more aware before the first step has been raised. But once the entry is done, exit is only possible after fulfilling the work. And when the work is fulfilled, one comes to the crossroads. There he can decide, what should be do, where should he go? Where would a particular path take him? Having thus made use of his intellect and understanding, which is the natural part of being human, should be decide. But until then, one should know that it is he who has taken up the work, it is he who has to therefore carry it to fulfilment. Just like if there is a huge river that one wishes to cross. One only sees a poor, dilapidated bridge that can carry one across. And yet, one might insist on finding a better option to cross the river. One searches up and down the bank, but after all tries one arrives at the same old bridge. So one musters up all one’s courage, takes that dilapidated bridge and crosses the river. Same is true of real life as well. What we are afraid of today, the fears in our lives, we have to face and utilize that very troublesome path to advance further. If we can be courageous, and laughingly and happily cross the difficulties that we find ourselves in today, then we shall keep on getting the path that would lead us onwards and onwards to our evolutionary goal. So the first important thing to note is that the human body, the realm that we are in, is the realm of intellect. Do good actions, with understanding the pros and cons of each action.

Now, the next thing. In the human life there are two important things. One – experiencing the fruits of actions that we had already committed before. Second – performing new actions that are positive and good. And does it ever happen that we sow a seed and instantly get the fruits. It takes time, three months, six months etc. for the field to grow green and then ripen. Here, we are also dealing with actions that were performed in previous lives. We had performed such actions which filled certain saṃskāras in us and owing to them we get the environment that we find ourselves in today. Parents, relations, friends etc. are all meant for experiencing the fruits of actions which had been performed earlier. We are to accept the fruits of our actions with happiness and not to perform any bad actions in the present. This can only be done in the human body. With time and with repeated application of this, the ability to discern and discriminate would go on increasing. Finally, we would gain the ability to clearly understand those actions which would open for us the path to Supreme bliss and those that would lead us to misery. The human body is the realm wherein we increase our ability of discernment. This ability is neither present in the animals, and to our surprise, nor in the divine beings. This is the uniqueness of being a human.

Now, we can join another sutra in this. The world is not merely all that we have see through the eyes and experience through the senses. We all are believers and therefore naturally believe that we existed before this body and will continue to exist after this body returns to dust. We will get a new body. What kind of a birth shall we get? We shall get a birth in the future as we are in the present, as we would be at the time of death. If by repeated application of the ability to discern our brains develop to an extent where we can distinguish the good from the bad, then right from the time of our next birth our brain would be highly developed, there would be strength in our decisions, we would not get caught in the web of actions and thereby advance straight on the right path. But all this is not under our control. The arrow once shot shall not return back. Mahārāja Jī often used to say that this birth that we have got now is for the living out of the accumulated karmas of the past and accumulating good karmas in the present. And along with this it should be clearly understood that all this karma-jāla is the result of my own doing. If we can really believe that my fate is my own doing, then nobody in the world would be able to make us suffer.

In real world we also come across cases when they say, ‘O even God is unhappy with me’. Now why should God be unhappy with his little children! Now and then people complain, ‘I did that because he said so.’ But, all these are self-deluding talks, because in reality, no one would drink poison because someone asked him to, no one would jump into a pit because someone asked him to. Also no one does good because someone else said so. Yes, one can be inspired by the other: say we had a thought in our minds and what the other said resonated with that thought so we agreed to do it. On the other hand if we were certain not to do a certain thing than though someone may urge us to do something, we would not do it. It would be a great achievement if we can accept our actions and their fruits as our own doing and take full responsibility for them. Our growth would be stunted if we keep on laying our burden upon others’ shoulders and blaming others.

Man by nature is a social being. We all are sitting here; there are children here, elders here. We are mingled into each other. We eat together, live beneath one shelter, and yet, despite all this, we are separate from each other. Who knows from where we had come, gotten together here for some time and shall separate from each other after a certain period together. We might have done some actions together, and yet all our actions belong to us separately; their fruits will be experienced by each of us individually. The misery that I am feeling is my own; it is not being experienced by anyone else, though, we might all be experiencing misery together. Similarly, the happiness experienced out of action that may have been performed together by individuals will also be different for each individual. This individuality implies that we solely are responsible for our actions, though we might perform our actions in unison with others.

Till now we have been saying about performing good actions and abstaining from the bad ones. But what is the identifying sign of good karmas? Any action performed for the happiness of someone, welfare of someone, progress of someone is good. But it is not that straightforward. Suppose a child says that he wants to watch T.V. You will not allow him to watch that simply because that would make him happy. Whatever we consider to be good is to be performed for the sake of other – that would be an action of Dharma (Truth). The definition of good karma is given by Vyasa Ji as follows:

ātmanāḥ pratikulāni parishām na smācare.

What I find negative for myself, I should never do it to others. Everything gets incorporated into this sutra. If we want that people should speak lovingly to us, then first we should speak lovingly to others. If we want that others should give us happiness, then we should have a desire and perform actions that bring happiness to others. This is dharma. The tendency – ‘I’ should get it – creates the entire problem. In the atheistic philosophy they ask, ‘What has he done for me?’ But in the Sanātana Dharma it is totally the opposite that is asked, ‘What have I done for him?’ The children ask, ‘What did the parents do for me?’ The husband asks, ‘What has my wife done for me?’ and vice-versa. In this way we are nothing but beggars. But the Sanātana Dharma asks, ‘What have you done for him?’ How much have you sacrificed for others? What service have you done? If you cannot bring good to others, at least do not bring harm to them’. What would be the result of all this way of life?


In this way, the mind would be drawn inwards. In the other case, the mind would keep on running outside. Thus, we now have a straightforward, simple definition of sin-virtue, dharmaadharma. The true path is not that simple. This is the path of sacrifice, austerity and dharma. If we will walk on it then we will go on advancing and advancing. The moment we think, ‘I did so much for him, what did he do for me?’ then and there we have begun to go wrong. There is an old tale that we often tell. The darbāra of emperor Akbar was on and the king asked his ministers to shorten the line that he has drawn on the floor without touching it, from afar. None was able to find a way to do that. But there came Bīrbala. He simply drew a bigger line along the original line and automatically the first line got shortened.

So, go on drawing a long line of dharma within oneself.  Suppose we are faced with adverse circumstances, people etc. Then instead of wrestling to change them, go on drawing the great grand line of dharma within oneself. Automatically, the troubling circumstances of the world would become ‘shortened’ in comparison. This is the path of sacrifice, bhakti – the path walking on which the ego is dissolved. In place of ego one obtains God – the kingdom of Infinite Bliss.

So the gist is to takes the responsibility of our actions, go on doing actions in accord with dharma and thereby fulfil the prime purpose of human birth – the attainment of Infinite Bliss.