On Karma (20 December 1999) Auroville - Karma 107

Only one question remains about dharma: the relationship between karma and dharma. I spoke of karma as a movement issuing from the individual in accordance with ultimate goal, ultimate role that he has to play in the world, – this is how I defined the karma. The movement which will proceed from you, if you examine very properly and very carefully you will find, will have a certain rhythm. This is a speciality in all movements in the world; everyone of us is acting in a certain rhythm. You might say that each one of us is a poem of God and every poem has a rhythm.

Last time I said that this whole world is a dance of Shiva, therefore we are also part of that dance, and every dance has a rhythm in it. Such is this world. World is a beautiful design. From outside it may look like a chaos, things happening pell-mell without any reason or rhyme, but when you look into the world very carefully, even so called miseries, sufferings are a kind of a music that contribute to the totality of music. It's a part of the rhythm. If you examine the way in which you are manifesting your movement, your karma, you'll find there is a rhythm. If you discover the rhythm, then your movement of action will become much more harmonious. Every rhythm is, as it were, a repetition. In poetry you have repetitions of various kinds, the repetitions happening according to space and time gives you the sense of rhythm, repetitions according to time and space, which may be different. In some cases the repetitions occur frequently, in some cases repetitions occur at different timings, not so frequently; in certain cases repetitions occur exactly at the same place, in some other cases repetitions occur when you change the place, – these are all different. These differences of rhythms in space and time are called swadharma.

Dharma is a law of rhythms. Each individual has his own different rhythms, and therefore it is called swadharma. If you examine your life you will find, if you are an individual, at every fourteen years a change takes place in your life, – it's a rhythm in your life. In some cases you will find every two years a change occurs, in some other cases every five years a change occurs, in other cases every twelve years a change occurs. Every individual, if you examine your life you will find there are rhythms of different kinds. It would be very helpful to us to know for each individual, what is his rhythm. The law of the rhythm that you follow in your life is swadharma, is your own dharma. It is that which holds you on. Dharma, as I told you last time, one time ago, dharma is that which holds you. And each one is held up by a rhythm. That rhythm which is specific to you is Swadharma. So karma and dharma are related. Karma is a movement which is rhythmic, therefore governed by dharma. It is further governed individually, specifically in his own unique way; therefore each individual karma is determined ultimately by swadharma.

One question is about rebirth. Law of karma, law of dharma, law of swadharma has a great connection with rebirth, which is very simple. As I said, karma is a chain, you put forth an energy, it has consequence; this movement and its consequence is a big chain, on and on and on and on. If you are luminous, then you can hold on the chain luminously, but if you are not luminous, then you cannot hold the chain victoriously, in your hands. And since there's a long, long process, and since we are ignorant, we are blindfolded, we are extremely weak, our weakness comes because of blindfoldedness. Because of this weakness our capacity to hold on to this movement is snapped. Inevitably, you cannot help it; as long as you remain ignorant it is snapped. Last time I told you, why it must be snapped. When you need to change the circumstances to hold on this movement of karma, and you cannot change the circumstances, then death intervenes, so that by the intervention of death you are given a new circumstance, which you needed, but which you were not able to gain in the same case of the body, the same circumstances. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says, death is not a process of the denial of life, death is a process of life. It is not to stop life movement; it is just to increase your capacity to live in new circumstances. Therefore, death intervenes. But since it simply a part of the chain of movement, rebirth is inevitable. That is why, when a question asked, ‘Is rebirth inevitable?’ The answer is, – yes. Because actually the idea is to have your movement on and on and on, until the goal is reached, if in the meantime there's a snapping there has got to be a rebirth, because the chain is still continuing. This continuation of the chain necessitates rebirth. That's why it is said if your law of karma is supreme. It determines your rebirth. So karma and rebirth are very often joined together: law of karma, therefore rebirth. And Buddha saw it very clearly, and he said, ‘All life is karma and rebirth.’ In a larger sense you might say that rebirth is a continuation of your past but in new circumstances.

A question was asked, ‘Does rebirth take place immediately after death? Another question was, how does one carry the past of the birth, of past karma, into your new birth? Both are very interesting questions.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, who have made a tremendous study of this problem, and when you have time I would request you to read Sri Aurobindo's letters on rebirth. Most illuminating, one answer which is very generally to be given is there is no definite answer to the question that you have raised, – Does one take birth immediately after death? In some cases yes, in most of the cases, no. Sri Aurobindo has said that, normally, after death it takes three years for reincarnation – generally. The reason is that when you come out of the physical, your inner being, which is a composition of your subtle physical, your vital, your mental and your soul, all these leaves the body, and then there is a journey. And in this journey the subtle physical gets exhausted and is dissolved, just as out body is dissolved here. Similarly subtle physical also gets dissolved, vital also gets dissolved, the mental also gets dissolved, and then the soul goes back to its own abode.

Sri Aurobindo has spoken of the realm of the souls, where it takes repose for some time. And then according to the experience that has to be gained and I told you what is experience. If for example in the past birth you found that I was a glutton, I used to eat a lot and I could never control my gluttony in my life, and I have then found out the result of my gluttony, I have learnt my lesson, therefore in my new birth I will decide to take a body which will not have that much of gluttony in it, as an impulse, as it were. If I have learned the lesson, if I have not, I'll again go back into the same kind of a body. It's a past karma but if I have learned the lesson, if I have experienced. Experience is always of this, basic experience is to know that your soul is superior and sovereign of the body, life and mind. And because my soul was not sovereign over my gluttony, therefore now, if I have learned the lesson in my past life and when you have wished very much, ‘Let not this gluttony be anymore with me’, – when you have learned this, then in the next birth you will have circumstance in which gluttony will not invade you, or will invade you, but in a very lighter way, a manner, not so much forcefully. I'm only giving one example how karma pursues you, and how you got free from karma depending on how much experience you've gained in the past.