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12-The Mind and Karm

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Kathopanishad-Page 12
p 151-160

The Mind and Karm

[151] So until the chain between thoughts is broken, everything we think, say or do leaves a residue of conditioning in the mind. The smallest thought has its consequences and so also smallest act. Over the years, it is the sum of all these consequences that shape our lives.

In Hinduism and Buddhism this concept is called of Law of Karm. Here author refers to Norman Cousins about this - "A human being fashions his consequences as surely as he fashions his goods or his dwelling. Nothing that he says, thinks, or does is without consequences. Just as there is no loss of basic energy in the Universe, so no thought or action is without its effects, present or ultimate, seen or unseen, felt or unfelt." Jesus says, "As you sow, so you shall reap. With whatever measure you give, with the same measure it shall be given to you."

Literally Karm means something that is done. An action is Karm and its consequences. If A hits B it is a bad Karm (with all its consequences), and if B or somebody else hits back A, this is repaid. An act, says Buddha, is like an arrow, once it is shot it cannot be stopped until it strikes its target. But it is not only visible actions which are called Karm; but, in fact, every action contains consequences. For example, before nobody knew about the ill effects of smoking, but today normally everybody knows, still the sale of tobacco is increasing in spite of a warning appearing on the label of all products. But some people are still continuing to sell it. Whoever is contributing to its sale, will have to share its results - not only its profits but also its consequences. This is also Karm.

Furthermore, Karm is not only a physical action, but words also come under Karm. A wound made by hitting can be treated, but the wound made by cruel words cannot be treated, sometimes even for the lifetime. Thoughts cause Karm, and thoughts are heavier than things for they are thoughts, not things, that make up our experience. Thoughts are very source of Karm, for from our thoughts flow everything - words, actions, desires, decisions, destiny.

When this is understood, it becomes clear that Karm is not imposed by some Cosmic Lawgiver outside us. Everything is right within us. When we feel lonely, depressed, hostile, or sad, it means that we are bearing the fruits of our Karm. For example, anger itself is a Karm, because after a series of anger attacks, you may have a heart attack. Even if it is not expressed outwardly, the mental state of anger produces Karm in thinking process. Over the period, anger becomes a Sanskaar and then it starts affecting our speech and behavior. Over the period of time this becomes more pronounced, people start expecting that kind of behavior from us; and since this behavior is disagreeable to people they always try to avoid us. People treat us as we treat them.

A subtler example is of selfish desires. Every selfish desire generates unfavorable Karm in the thinking process itself. When we dwell on a desire, we are making a little wall around ourselves. Thus when we lock ourselves inside, at the same time we lock others outside the wall. After some time that wall can become a prison. That is its Karm who doesn't think about others' feelings, their later years are full of loneliness.

There is a positive side too of all this. When we refrain from acting on a negative emotion or selfish desire, that too generates Karm, but it is good Karm. Although we don't get any reward for it, but it heals our mind. We do not get shaken so easily by ups and downs. Thus Sanskaar sows the seed and Sanskaar reaps the harvest.

Now see, how Karm works. A woman gives cigarettes free to passerby. People come there and take cigarettes from her. Some ask for two - that is greed. After some time, this woman comes to know about the hazards of smoking, but she still continues her job just to earn a little extra money in the easiest way. A few years later she gets a full time job at some big city with lots of smoke and pollution. Although she doesn't want to move there because of its environment, still she moves there because of more money, and works well for many years. She herself did not smoke even a single cigarette for her whole life; but there is no wonder if 30-40 years later she gets lung cancer.

She has forgotten selling cigarettes, but according to law of Karm, Karm connection is there. Her illness is due the smoggy environment and stress in the new city. Besides, she distributed the cigarettes free to people, that compelled her to live in smoggy area and work under considerable stress for a little money. Now just think, if she would have said "No" to her Sanskaar (running after money) she would have saved herself from all kinds of troubles.

In Karm, tragically, the Effect becomes the Cause. We not only do Karm for ourselves, but also we pass it on to others. So we are involved through the web of Karm. Everything we do, affect others, even everything we think affects others. That is why it is stressful to learn to break the chain of cause and effects.

The Still Mind

[157] So ultimately Karm is generated by the thinking process itself. Whatever our thoughts are, as long as they flow, words and actions have to follow them automatically. The machinery runs as long as the power is there, when there is no power machine does not work; in the same way no thoughts, no words and no actions. This is how it is with Karm. The source of all Karm is Self-will - the deep driving desire for personal satisfaction, if necessary, at the expense of others.

A long as the Self-will is present, selfish desires will flow. Desire means a flow of thoughts towards a particular goal - maybe we want some person, or a thing, or to get things done in our own way. When this flow is hindered, all kinds of old negative responses are produced - irritation, hostility, resentment, anger. Similarly, as long as the desire lasts, thoughts about the future are there - worry, apprehension, hope, expectation, insecurity, the fear of loss or failure.

Geetaa reduces all these kinds of thoughts to three - anger, fear and selfish desires - all flowing from Self-will. And from these are generated all Karm and all sufferings. Buddha says when Self-will falls, all kinds of afflictions (alienation, delusion, illness, death etc) fall; and when Self-will rises all those afflictions also rise. Thus all these afflictions are attached to Self-will. When the Ego is silent, everything unpleasant disappears. At that moment the mind is completely still and we start experiencing bliss (Shaanti in Sanskrit) - the peace that passes understanding.

This is not an unconscious state - it is fully wakeful. In this state only Self-will is absent. We can still think when we choose to. Most thoughts are not at all useful. Resentment, anxiety dwelling in the past or future - what purpose do they serve? When our mind is still, we are not subjected to time, we are lifted above that (of course our body is still subjected to the passage of time). Time simply stops for us - or more accurately we simply live in present. Past and future all exist only in the mind, when mind stops, there is no past or future.

Whatever we are today, is the result of what we have thought, spoken or done in the past (in its present moments), and what we will be tomorrow, will be the result of what we think, speak, or do today. That is the real implication of the law of Karm and we are responsible for our present and future.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11