Updated: Jan 1, 2021
The word Karma is strongly associated with Hinduism. It is a concept that is assigned to Hinduism with almost complete detachment from the rest of the universe. Humans believe that Karma only affects a set of people who believe in its existence. And we blissfully continue to do what we think is necessary or right and sometimes neither.
Strange as it may sound, the proof of Karma affecting every creature, whether living or dead is encapsulated in Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It states that if object A exerts force on Object B, then Object A will experience an equal and opposite force from Object B. When presented differently, it is said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The Law of Karma is based on this principle. Simply put – you reap what you sow.
For every action we perform, there is a reaction. Push a door and it opens or closes depending on the direction we push it in. Throw a ball against a wall and it will bounce back after hitting the wall. Karma is a combination of actions that our conscious (aware) mind and our sub-conscious (unaware) mind performs. Every deed is good or bad depending on the outcome for another living being. We tend to believe that in this universe, there is a mystical record keeper of all deeds. In Indian mythology, it is Chitragupta. But in my understanding, each action stores itself in our DNA and sub-conscious mind.
Coupled with the body is a life force called by different names; “the soul” being the most common one. What is clearly established is that the human body on its own is incapable of being ‘alive’. It requires an unknown entity termed life force to make it come alive. Science is yet to prove its existence or the lack of it.
In 1907, Dr Duncan MacDougall performed an unusual series of experiments by putting together a bed fitted with sensitive set of beam scales, weighing terminally ill patients during the final moments of their lives. Through a series of such experiments, he established that the mass of life-force of soul was 21 grams.
While this information is in the realm of hard science, what happens next moves into the realm of beliefs, either religious or otherwise. If we accept that Newton’s Third Law of Motion is real and helps define Karma, then it stands to reason that we humans, need to be accountable for our actions. So, what happens when this body dies? Rationally, the body and the life-force should carry an account of the good vs not so good actions. If we treated the Good as ‘+’ and the Not So Good as ‘-‘, then at the end of the body’s natural life, there should remain a ‘+’ or ‘-‘balance in the tabulations of deeds.
Some religions believe this theoretical ‘+’ or ‘-‘leads us to a Heaven or Hell. Others believe this leads us to another life, where the balance has to be ‘played out’. Atheists choose to believe that when the body dies, ‘it is all over’. But when one refers to science and accepts that energy cannot be created or destroyed, then truly when the body dies, the account of deeds in context to good or not so good cannot automatically cease to exist. Without going into any religion or religious beliefs, I would like to share my understanding of the Law of Karma.
It begun in my 30s, when I didn’t have a career and much to show for in life. I had already visited many ‘learned astrologers, gurujis, peers, fakirs’ but no one could help me understand my plight nor tell me how to get out of the misery. I was driving my grandfather’s beaten FIAT car in Mumbai one day, waiting at a traffic light near Ghatkopar. A leper on a makeshift cart, pushed by a much younger leper, approached my car begging for alms. I looked at them, then looked at my car. I looked at their plight, their torn clothes, their shrivelled hands, the loss of fingers and the bandages. It made me realize how blessed I was.
But it also made me ask a fundamental question – why am I in a car and why are they in their state of affairs? The question continued to haunt me every day. In Mumbai, my ancestral home was near a cremation ground and I saw dead bodies being taken for their last rites. Some processions had mourners, while others had bands playing joyous music. While there were scores of children born in Mumbai slums, there were others born in posh hospitals. The same question made wonder repeatedly – what is it that determines who will be born to rich parents and born to the poorest of the poor? If there are no accidents in nature, then why this seemingly random act of difference?
The more I read and researched, the more I understood that all religious beliefs tend to say the same thing. The Heaven above and the Hell below are actually in the same place. It’s the life we lead, the deeds we do that determine our life’s Heaven or Hell. Since I realized this, I became a different person. It has helped me understand that as long as I keep doing the right thing, there isn’t a force in this universe that will make me miserable. It isn’t about wealth or the lack of it, it is all about being able to live each day with a smile and keep the desire to infect atleast one human being every day with a smile.
2020 was a year for deep reflection for me. It was a time to hold time together, literally. From being sane to keeping our collective sanity, I had to undergo my moments of Heaven and Hell. Through this phase, my understanding of the law of karma only deepened. There is no forgiveness because no one really does anything wrong. The wrong is the consequence of the action and the wrong is accountable when the action is a product of the conscious mind. If one does right, how can any conscious wrong be done to it? If there is a wrong, then perhaps that is the fruit of a past wrongdoing somewhere. Sounds philosophical but on reflecting I found it to be the answer of all my questions.
As 2021 dawns, I hope you have 365 reasons to smile and 730 smiles that you give away. If you want a blessing to come your way, try giving one away and you might be pleasantly surprised. Do your best and only the best will come your way, sooner or later. And even when you feel that there isn’t any good happening, fall back on Newton’s Law or what I believe is the Law of Karma.
To those who are connected in some way to me, may you spread your wings and fly like you were born to. Whenever you are feeling down and out, I hope this note from me gives you hope to do something positive, making your life fulfilling, authentic and happy.