Question: What is the real purpose of karma? Is it to hold jivas accountable and responsible for their actions? Or is it reform the jiva and help it return to the spiritual world?
Answer: The immediate purpose of karma is to make the jiva responsible for his/her actions. The ultimate purpose is to help the jiva transcend these things.
Karma also maintains balance and order in the universe. Whenever any action is performed, it brings a change, which keeps the world in balance. Just as Government laws to keep balance and order, the universe has laws. Without law there would be chaos.
Question: Is Justice delayed is justice denied?
Answer: That is a saying I’ve heard many times. I don’t know who coined it. Whether it is true or not, it begs a question: “What constitutes ‘delayed’ justice?” Five minutes? Five years? Five centuries?
It is inevitable that there will be some delay in justice. A person commits a crime, but it takes some time to catch and prosecute him. Then, even if he is found guilty, he can appeal to the High Court. Then still, he could appeal to the Supreme Court.
Is this “delayed justice” or is it as swift as possible? After all, it is not possible to punish a criminal immediately.
The same is true for karma. It is not possible to mete out the outcome of every karma immediately. It requires coordination of so many factors.
Question: Then why do many crimes seem to go unpunished? And if the delay spans many lifetimes the jiva has absolutely no idea why he/she is suffering and has no knowledge of how karma works. It just ends up in more sinful activity with further bondage.
Answer: It does not matter if we do remember the specific details of the deed we are being punished for. The important thing to know is that we are being punished because of some past forbidden act. So, if we are intelligent, our suffering will inspire us to avoid forbidden, immoral actions.
It is not crucial to remember exactly what caused our situation. What is crucial is proper education, so we know it is not meaningless – it must be related to a particular forbidden act we performed. Just as there is a penal code that explains which punishments are given for which crimes, there are dharma shastras that explain the specific outcomes of specific forbidden acts. Read them and you will know what you did to merit a particular suffering.
Even those who know this still tend to perform forbidden actions. This is just like the people who know that stealing is punishable, but do it anyway; sometimes even after being imprisoned for it. So there also needs to be some cause for inspiration to improve oneself and one’s life.
Question: “Justice should not only be done, but should be seen.” Is this statement of any value concerning karma?
Answer: Yes, but in the case of karma seeing is through the shastra-cakshu (the knowledge of scripture). It will require understanding and faith that forbidden action is the cause of suffering. Without that, one will not pay heed to the vision granted through shastra.
The ultimate factor here is proper education. Without the proper mindset and mental discipline we will refuse to see punishment as something just and deserved, and will be unable to desist from forbidden acts, just like criminals, who continue to commit crime even after being punished for it.
Question: Is karma supposed to undo that which was done or is it just punishment & reward and nothing more?
Answer: I don’t know what you mean by “undo.” Action brings reaction, and it is not possible to undo an act that has already been executed. Is someone has murdered someone else, no amount of karma will “undo” that and bring the murdered person back to life.
Question: I am particularly sad and disappointed to see cows being slaughtered, our temple being destroyed, Ayodhya and Vrindavan devotees being killed, harassed, and holy places desecrated and destroyed. The philosophy of karma seems to state that such actions should generate terrible consequences, but I don’t see anything such justice happening. Rather, those who commit such acts are not punished in any way. So, we have so much talk about karma and the consequences of sinful deeds, but we see no real justice meted out for such things.
Answer: I don’t know what you mean by temples being destroyed or devotees being killed. I live in Vrindavan and don’t know about such incidents.
Not everyone is always able to see and judge how karma works. We do not, for example, see continuity beyond death. If you will understand that life extends beyond death, you may reconsider your evaluation of the power of the law of karma.
You have a choice to be frustrated and disappointed with how you perceive the world, or to become enlightened about how the world really works in truth. Truth is meant to be understood and complied with. If we make sincere effort to do that, we will not be frustrated. For this we need help from shastra. Our brain is very limited and we cannot consider all the factors involved in the complex operations of the universe, related to laws like karma.
Question: A person performs all kind of sinful activities, harasses others and pushes them to the point of death, and then the perpetrator dies, and nobody saw any justice being carried out by material nature in perceivable ways for any of his sinful and unjust acts and in next life or whichever life, karma arranges both victim and suspect to settle their scores and both have absolutely no clue of what had happened in the past, just they get further implicated in the cycle of karma by settling their scores. How will anyone ever believe in karma if they can’t perceive it?
Answer: As I said previously, not everything can be perceived by an uneducated person. Furthermore, some things are not perceived except through their effect. Do you perceive gravity as a discrete entity? No. But you perceive it through its effect. Karma may also be like that.
Our uneducated perception cannot definitively limit reality. Perception depends on education. To improve our perception of things outside conventional experience, we can receive education from shastra. It is specifically meant for this ajnate-jnapakam shastram. If you want to know whether justice is being done, you should study shastra, because without that education your perception lacks the capacity to fully perceive reality, and the many ways in which justice may be done.
Shastra informs us that karma exists. The very same shastra informs us that it is just. To know about it in more detail, study about it from shastra in more detail.
If a seeker is looking for comfort that means they are not passionate about their goal. Remaining committed to the process will ultimately bring comfort.
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I agree that with little awareness of our actions we can easily understand why we are going through that particular suffering – may not of past lives but certainly possible for the small acts of this life itself.
But my concern is many times I know my thoughts are creating a karmic bondage but I am unable to clear it off. There comes a feeling of curse for the person who has hurt me. Knowing very well it is not right I cant stop it and the mind completly overpowers me and my awareness.
How to deal with it. Please guide.
Shri Krishna says that one should remain situated in a state of balance, samata. But to attain this state one needs to practice, abhyasa, and have a sense of detachment, vairagya. Without a concerted effort it is not possible to attain such a state of mind. To understand it theoretically is the first step and to have an experience of it is the second step.
If a devotee suffers injustices caused by evil people, is it possible to know if he is still “cursed” by his prārabdha-karma or blessed by Śyāma’s mercy (SB. 10.88.8)? Moreover, is it appropriate to observe the behavior of that devotee in the face of his punishments and try to evaluate whether he is a niṣṭhā-bhakta or āsakti-bhakta?
1. According to bhakti theology a devotee is free from prarabdha karma. Thus, whatever good or bad situation a devotee faces is understood to be the grace of his Ista-devata.
2. It depends upon you. That means, your state of consciousness.
A bhakta who has not committed any crime in past lives suffers because of evil society around him. When he inquires about his suffering and questions the society, he has asked to remain “peaceful” and to think his suffering is removing ‘bad’ karma. Yet, he knows he is ‘just’ person and he has not sinned. He has no greed and stands for truth. Thus, the society, which is corrupt can use ‘Karma’ as a tool to exploit others. Ofcourse, society and evil people are creating new bad “karma” and he doesn’t want any revenge. What he is worried is that he has been made ‘sinner’ without any evidence because of this Karma philosophy.
Thus, such a person has a complete right to reject “Karma” as philosophy and continue on his path of righteousness ,which is his “Dharma”..
If someone tells you that you are suffering from fever when you know that you are not, then why do you have to accept this person’s opinion? Or will you reject the fever as a disease in general, i.e. that the disease called fever does not exist, and continue following your life?
Your reaction to other’s opinion seems to be similar to that.
In the west there is this saying “Instant Karma” and it is used for anyone who immediately gets a reaction for doing some bad behavior,for example- running a red light and cutting someone off in traffic and then getting pulled over by the police a few moments later for some other traffic violation. So sometimes the reaction comes immediately because the authority is there to witness the continued bad behavior of a person. So best to correct ones actions before the ultimate authority catches up with you.