On Karma (20 December 1999) Auroville - Karma 101

ON KARMA 20.12.1999

I shall read out these questions which are all similar to each other:

What is Karma?

What is the relationship between the pursuit of Dharma, and Karma?

How can one control one's Karma?

What is the difference between destiny and Karma?

When you die, is the soul bound to take a new body right away? Can a human being take an animal form after death?

Why do we do things even though something in us suggests – it is not necessary, yet we justify to ourselves that we all have to go through such things, what does this mean? We also sometimes say, "Anyway, l will go through what l have to go through.” Can 'will' intervene and change things?

Sometimes when you do something, you have a feeling you should not do it – how can you know whether this feeling comes from fear, or is it good advice?

How much of ‘who we are’ in this life can be carried on into the next? Mother speaks sometimes of her being partially placed in the life of different historical personalities – what does that mean?

These are all similar questions. Maybe that we shall be able to do only these questions this time, and other very important and very interesting questions have to be left for my next visit, which may happen quite soon.

First the question, what is Karma? This is the question which is raised by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. He says that this question has perplexed even the wisest people. It is the knottiest problem. Then He asks what is karma and then what is akarma and what is vikamra. There are three terms; roughly the translations of them are: karma means ‘action’; akarma means ‘absence of action’, and vikarma means "perverse action or wrong action".

This question is answered by Sri Krishna in a statement which is very often missed in the Bhagavad Gita. (It is such a long statement that sometimes some important statements are missed.) There is, first, dynamism. And since karma means action, we might say that all dynamism is karma. All movement, all manifestation, all drive of energy may be regarded as karma. But Sri Krishna makes a distinction between mere dynamism and karma. All dynamism is not karma. Karma is something that is specially connected with dynamism in the individual. Each one of us is an individual, and each one of us  has been a result of dynamism and has dynamism within himself or herself. So all dynamism that is not issuing from the individual can be distinguished as manifestation, anything that manifests is dynamism but karma is something that manifests through the individual. All karma is basically in context with an individual.

Last time I spoke to you of a contract between the Divine and ourselves. It's a kind of childish story I made out – but not entirely childish. There is something like a contract, an agreement that we have made with the Divine. Each one of us has promised the Divine, "I shall do this." As I told you, each of us is like an architect and a mason. The purpose of this world is to create a temple of the Divine on the earth, a physical temple on the earth. That is the purpose. We are all architects and builders of this great temple. We've made the Matrimandir here, and there was need of an architect, engineers and masons and so on – this is a symbolic temple. But basically we are here to build a huge temple on this earth: The entire life of humanity is to be like a life of a temple, and each one of us has a small portion to play in the building of this temple. Each one of us has promised, "I shall do this portion." As a result of this, each one of us will manifest dynamism with a particular formation, which is unique to himself. This unique formation issuing from each individual according to the role that he has to play in the totality – is karma. It manifests itself in action towards which we have an automatic leaning.

This karma is therefore supposed to be a manifestation of swabhava, ‘becoming of oneself’. What you are potentially, essentially, eternally, that you go on manifesting in an individual manner according to the plan of the whole and according to what you are especially going to contribute to the world – that is karma. What you manifest, you manifest because you are, as it were, filled with your own becoming, the specific becoming of yourself. That is why in this world no individual is like another. There are similarities because of our universality, and yet every individual is unique. Every individual is different from the other, because each one's function is specific to himself. You don't need to be different; you are different as far as your function is concerned. You are like others because you are at the same time a portion of universality – that gives you sameness as others.

If you know this relationship between sameness and uniqueness, many of your ignorant movements will change. How many individuals simply want to assert that they are different? They spend years and years only trying to prove their difference. But you need not spend so many years in proving that – it is automatic; whether you like it or not, you have a role which is unique to yourself. I had a friend in my boyhood who said, ‘I want to look different from others.’ I was very impressed at that time that he had an idea of becoming quite different. But whatever he did, he found that somebody else was already doing it! So ultimately he thought that if he could comb his hair in a particular way which nobody else did, then he would be quite different that was his way of expressing that he was quite different from others. And one day he came with a new hairstyle and asked me if I thought he was different from the others. And I had to agree with him!