Friday, August 22, 2014

The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Karma and Destiny
Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited and Preamble by David Godman

The theory of Karma is common to many oriental religions. In its most popular form it states that there is a universal accounting system in which each individual must experience the consequences of all his actions (Karmas); good actions bring good results and bad actions inevitably result in suffering to the one who does them. The theory also states that the consequences of actions (also known as Karmas) need not necessarily be experienced in the present life, they can be carried over into future lives. Because of this, several sub-divisions of Karma have been postulated. The following classification, which was used by Sri Ramana Maharshi, is common to many Hindu schools of thought.
Sanchita Karma. The store of Karmic debts accumulated from previous births.
Prarabdha Karma. That part of one’s Sanchita Karma which must be worked out in the present life. Because the law of Karma implies determinism in human activities, Prarabdha is often translated as destiny.
Agami Karma. New Karma accumulated in the present lifetime, which is carried forward into future lives.
Sri Ramana Maharshi accepted the validity of the laws of Karma but said that they were only applicable as long as a person imagined that he was separate from the Self. At this level (the level of the ajnani or the ignorant), he said that individuals will pass through a series of pre-ordained activities and experiences, all of which are the consequences of previous acts and thoughts. He occasionally even said that every act and experience in a person’s life is determined at birth and that the only freedom one has to realize that there is no one acting and no one experiencing. However, once one realizes the Self there is no one left to experience the consequences of actions and so the whole structure of Karmic laws then becomes redundant.
Sri Ramana regarded the law of Karma as a manifestation of God’s will. He said that prior to Self-realization there is a personal God, Iswara, who controls each person’s destiny. It is Iswara who has ordained that everyone must suffer the consequences of his actions and it is Iswara who selects the sequences of activities that each person must undergo in each lifetime. One cannot escape from Iswara’s jurisdiction while one still identifies with the activities of the body. The only way to become free of his authority is to transcend Karma completely by realizing the Self.
Question: Is it possible to overcome, even while the body exists, the Prarabdha Karma which is said to last till the end of the body?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes. If the agent, upon whom the Karma depends, namely the ego, which has come into existence between the body and the Self, merges in its source and loses its form, how can the Karma, which depends upon it, survive? When there is no ‘I’ there is no Karma.
Question: It is said that Prarabdha Karma is only a small fraction of the Karma accumulated from previous lives. Is this true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: A man might have performed many Karmas in his previous births. A few of these alone will be chosen for this birth and he will have to enjoy their fruits in this birth. It is something like a slide show where the projectionist picks a few slides to be exhibited at a performance; the remaining slides being reserved for another performance. All this Karma can be destroyed by acquiring knowledge of the Self. The different Karmas are the slides, Karmas being result of experiences, and the mind is the projector. The projector must be destroyed so that there will be no further reflection and no further births and no deaths.
Question: Who is the projectionist? What is the mechanism, which selects a small portion of the Sanchita Karma and then decides that it shall be experienced as Prarabdha Karma?
Sri Ramana Mahrshi: Individuals have to suffer their Karmas but Iswara manages to make the best of their Karmas for his purpose. God manipulates the fruits of Karma but he does not add or take away from it. The subconscious of man is a warehouse of good and bad Karma. Iswara chooses from this warehouse what he sees will best suit the spiritual evolution at the time of each man, whether pleasant or painful. Thus, there is nothing arbitrary.
Question: In ‘Upadesa Saram', you say that Karma bears fruit by the ordinance of God (Karta). Does this mean that we reap the consequences of Karma solely because God wills it?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: In this verse Karta (God) means Iswara. He is the one who distributes the fruits of actions to each person according to his Karma. That means that he is the manifest Brahman. The real Brahman is unmanifest and without motion. It is only the manifest Brahman that is named as Iswara. He gives the fruit to each person according to his actions (Karma). That means that Iswara is only an agent and that he gives wages according to the labour done. That is all. Without this Sakti (power) of Iswara, this Karma would not take place. That is why Karma is said to be on its own, inert.
[Note: Iswara: For explanations about Iswara, the manifest Brahman and the unmanifest real Brahman, see Page ‘Nature of Reality’]
Questioner: The present experiences are the result of past Karma. If we know the mistakes committed before, we can rectify them.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If one mistake is rectified there yet remains the whole Sanchita Karma from former births,which is going to give you innumerable births. So that is not the procedure. The more you prune a plant, the more vigorously it grows. The more you rectify your Karma, the more it accumulates. Find the root of Karma and cut it off.
Question: Does the Karma theory mean that the world is the result of action and reaction? If so, action and reaction of what?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Until realization there will be Karma, that is action and reaction. After realization there will be no Karma, and no world.
Question: If I am not the body why am I responsible for the consequences of my good and bad actions?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If you are not the body and do not have the idea ‘I am the doer’, the consequences of your good or bad actions will not affect you. Why do you say about the actions the body performs ‘I do this’ or ‘I did that’? As long as you identify yourself with the body like that you are affected by the consequences of the actions, that is to say, while you identify with the body you accumulate good and bad Karma.
Questioner: But since I am not the body I am not really responsible for the consequences of good or bad actions.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If you are not, why do you bother about the question?
Questioner: In some places it is stated that human effort is the source of all strength and that it can even transcend Karma. In others,it is said that it is all divine grace. It is not clear which of them is correct.
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Yes, some schools of philosophy say that there is no God other than Karma of the previous birth, that is Karma done in the present birth in accordance with the scriptures is known as Purushkara (human effort), that the previous and present Karmas meet for a head-on fight like rams and that's the one that is weaker gets eliminated. That is why these people say that one should strengthen Purushkara. If you ask such people what the origin of Karma is, they say that such a question is not to be raised as it is like the eternal question, ‘Which is earlier, the seed or the tree?’
Debates such as this are mere arguments, which can never arrive at the final truth. That is why I say first find out who you are. If one asks, ‘Who am I? How did I get this Dosha (fault) of life?’, the ‘I’ will subside and one will realize the Self. If one does this properly the idea of Dosha will be eliminated and peace will be obtained. Why even obtained? The Self remains as it is.
The essence of Karma is to know the truth of oneself by enquiring ‘Who am I, the doer, who begins to do Karmas?’ Unless the doer of Karmas, the ego, is annihilated through enquiry, the perfect peace of supreme bliss, which is the result of Karma Yoga, cannot be achieved.
Question: Can people wipe out the consequences of their bad actions by doing Mantras or Japa (repeating God’s name) or will they necessarily have to experience them?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: If the feeling ‘I am doing Japa’ is not there, the bad actions committed by a man will not stick to him. If the feeling ‘I am doing the Japa’ is there, the consequences of bad actions will persist.
Question: Does the Punya (merit accumulated from virtuous acts) extinguish Papa (demerit accumulated from sinful acts)?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: So long as the feeling ‘I am doing’ is there, one must experience the result of one’s acts, whether they are good or bad. How is it possible to wipe out one act with another? When the feeling that ‘I am doing’ is lost, nothing affects a man. Unless one realizes the Self, the feeling ‘I am doing’ will never vanish. For one who realizes the Self where is the need for Japa? Where is the need for Tapas (austerity)? Owing to the force of Prarabdha life goes on, but he who has realized the Self does not wish for anything.
Prarabdha Karma is of three categories, Ichha, Anichha and Parechha (personally desired, without desire and due to others' desire). For the one who has realized the Self, there is no Ichha-Prarabdha but the two others, Anichha and Parechha, remain. Whatever a Jnani (Self-realized) does is for others only. If there are things to be done by him for others, he does them,but the results do not affect him. Whatever be the actions that such people do, there is no Punya and no Papa attached to them. But they do only what is proper according to the accepted standard of the world – nothing else.
Those who know that what is to be experienced by them in this life is only what is already destined in their Prarabdha will never feel perturbed about what is to be experienced. Know that all one’s experiences will be thrust upon one whether one wills them or not.
Question: The realized man has no further Karma. He is not bound by his Karma. Why should he still remain within his body?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Who asks this question? Is it the realized man or the Ajnani (ignorant)? Why should you bother what the Jnani (Self-realized) does or why he does anything? Look after yourself. You are now under the impression you are the body and so you think that the Jnani also has a body. Does the Jnani say he has a body? He may look to you as if he has a body and he may appear to be doing things with the body, as others do, but he himself knows that he is bodiless. The burnt rope still looks like a rope, but it can’t serve as a rope if you try to bind anything with it. A Jnani is like that – he may look like other people, but this is only an outer appearance. So long as one identifies oneself with the body, all this is difficult to understand.
That is why it is sometimes said in reply to such questions, ‘The body of the Jnani will continue till the force of Prarabdha works itself out, and after the Prarabdha is exhausted it will drop off’. An illustration made use of in this connection is that of an arrow already discharged which will continue to advance and strike its target. But the truth is the Jnani has transcended all Karmas, including the Prarabdha Karma, and he is not bound by the body or its Karmas.
Not even an iota of Prarabdha exists for those who uninterruptedly attend to space of consciousness, which always shines as ‘I am’, which is not confined in the vast physical space, and which pervades everywhere without limitations. Such alone is the meaning of the ancient saying, ‘There is no fate for those who reach or experience the heavens’
Question: If a thing comes to me without any planning or working for it and I enjoy it, will there be no bad consequences from it?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: It is not so. Every act must have its consequences. If anything comes your way by reason of Prarabdha, you can’t help it. If you take what comes, without any special attachment, and without any desire for more of it or for a repetition of it, it will not harm you by leading to further births. On the other hand, if you enjoy it with great attachment and naturally desire for more of it, it is bound to lead to more and more births.
Question: According to the astrological science, predictions are made about coming events taking into account the influence of the stars. Is that true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: So long as you have the feeling of egotism all that is true. When the egotism is destroyed, even if they appear to see they do not really see.
Destiny is the result of past action. It concerns the body. Let the body act as may suit it. Why are you concerned with it? Why do you pay attention to it? Should anything happen, it happens as the result of one’s past actions, of divine will and of other factors.
Question: The present is said to be due to past Karma. Can we transcend the past Karma by our free will now?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: See what the present is. If you do this you will understand what is affected by or has a past or a future, what is ever-present and always free and what remains unaffected by the past or future or by any past Karma.
Question: Is there such a thing as free will?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Whose will is it? So long as there is the sense of doership, there is the sense of enjoyment and of individual will. But if this sense is lost through the practice of Vichara (self-enquiry), the divine will will act and guide the course of events. Fate is overcome by Jnana, Self-knowledge, which is beyond the will and fate.
Question: I can understand that the outstanding events in a man’s life, such as his country, nationality, family, career or profession, marriage, death, etc., are all predestined by his Karma, but can it be that all the details of his life, down to the minutest, have already been determined? Now, for instance, I put this fan that is in my hand down on the floor here. Can it be that it was already decided that on such and such a day, at such and such an hour, I should move the fan like this and put it down here?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Certainly. Whatever this body is to do and whatever experiences it is to pass through was already decided when it came into existence.
Question: What becomes then of man’s freedom and responsibility for his actions?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: The only freed man has is to strive for and acquire the Jnana (knowledge) which will enable him not to identify himself with the body. The body will go through the actions rendered inevitable by Prarabdha and a man is free either to identify himself with the body and be attached to the fruits of its actions are to be detached from it and be a mere witness of its activities.
Question: So free will is a myth?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Free will hold the field in association with individuality. As long as individuality lasts there is free will. All the scriptures are based on this fact and they advise directing the free will in the right channel.
Find out to whom free will or destiny matters. Find out where they come from, and abide in their source. If you do this, both of them are transcended. That is the only purpose of discussing these questions. To whom do these questions arise? Find out and be at peace.
Question: If what is destined to happen will happen, is there any use in prayer or effort or should we just remain idle?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self, and that the ego is non-existent. The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one’s helplessness and saying all the time, ‘Not I but Thou, O Lord’, giving up all sense of "I" and ‘mine’ and leaving it to the Lord to do what He likes with you. Surrender can never be regarded as complete so long as the devotee wants this or that from the Lord. True surrender is the love of God for the sake of love and nothing else, not even for the sake of liberation. In other words, complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through self-enquiry or through Bhakti Marga (path of devotion).

As the blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, O Arjuna,
So does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes.

-Gita, Ch.4, Verse 37.
Verily, there is no purifier in this world like knowledge.
-Gita, Ch.4, Verse 38.
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give, whatever you practice as austerity, O Arjuna, do it as an offering unto Me.
-Gita, Ch.9, Verse 27.
Thus shall you be freed from the bonds of actions, yielding good and evil fruits; with the mind steadfast in the Yoga of renunciation, and liberated, you shall come unto Me.
-Gita, Ch. 9, Verse 28

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