On Karma (20 December 1999) Auroville - Session 1

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 a need for 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 issued 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 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!

Mother said that everyone's role is indispensable in this world; everyone has a place, which is indispensable. So even there one need not be worried. Your place in the world is indispensable; you have a work to do which is indispensable, which only you can do and nobody else. So you need not worry to compete with others, or be worried that before you can do it someone else will have already done it. Your own karma, that is to say your own manifestation of the role that you are to play, which manifests itself dynamically through you, that karma will make you different from others anyway, and will lead you to fulfill the role that you have to play.

This is my first answer to this question, what is karma? To repeat very precisely: The manifestation of the work and the role that each individual has to play in the totality, in the building up of the temple of the divine on the earth, is karma.

This karma is however not like what we call a sporadic action. It is not an action that can begin or end immediately or after some time, which most of our actions are in our present condition. It's a chain. What we have to do, the role that each one has to play is such a work! Normally we don't even imagine what the work we have to do is, and you have to spend years and years even to find out some kind of a linkage. Since this chain is a very long chain, we cannot expect it to be finished soon. There is a long procedure and a long voyage, a long journey. If this journey was simply to manifest your swabhava, your own becoming, it would be a very joyous movement, like an architect dreaming and casting his dreams into form, such would be the joyous movement of every one of us. But it is complicated by the fact that we have forgotten, – somehow we have allowed ourselves to forget the mandate that we have given to ourselves, the mandate that we have promised the Divine that we shall carry out.

Because of this forgetfulness, because of this oblivion, the process becomes somewhat very complicated. Otherwise it would be a very easy canter, a galloping actually, towards the goal that we have. It can even be fast.

This forgetting itself – you may ask how it has come about: Why did you forget? How did you forget? These questions are very difficult. It appears as if, it was an accident. In a certain context of thought, we may say that it was an accident that we forget. At least, it appears like an accident. If you are already in a state of luminosity, which we were in the beginning when we made the contract with the Divine, we knew very well, ourselves,we knew the Divine very well, the goal to be achieved, – there was complete luminosity. Sri Aurobindo has written a beautiful chapter in The Life Divine called ‘The Triple Status of the Supermind’. The Supermind has three statuses which obtain simultaneously, and we were all in the beginning in the Supermind, where knowledge is automatic, spontaneous. Now in that status it is impossible to forget, because it is full of luminosity. When you are fully awake, how can you forget? So in a certain sense, when we look at our present status of ignorance, it might seem that by chance we fell from it, there was a fall from it. That is why we forget ourselves. But if you look at it more deliberately, you can say that in the luminous state, if anything happens to you, it must be deliberate. It cannot be simply an accident, just like that; there must be some deliberate decision. You might say that there was a decision on the part of each one of us, as a collectivity – let us say that we were all together in the assembly of God, and then we decided that each one will have a role to play in building up the temple of the Divine on the earth – after having all decided together, as a collectivity we decided that we shall make our movement, this voyage, more enjoyable. Very often, when you want to play with children, you blindfold the child, and then you hide yourself and you say, ‘Find me out.’ It becomes a very joyful game. Similarly, we decided to have a more joyful game. There was a deliberate decision we took. ‘Having known all this, now let us forget it.’ And the moment we decided it, a process followed, and we forgot it. It is from that forgetfulness that gradually – we are now blindfolded as it were, or partially blindfolded, if not fully; at one stage we were more blindfolded than what we are now, and then we are just moving about in search of our friends, our colleagues, our masters, our superiors, our experts, our own friends – all kinds of things we have to recover, as it were. And then we have to find our tools of work, capacities of work, the design of work, the architectural perception, the dream – all that we have to recover, as it were. A very big work has to be done.

Therefore, when we speak of karma, there is a double movement in it. One is a movement which automatically issues from us, as it would issue because we were already in the state of luminosity. So there is a push in us which does not forget really the goal because it knows already. So there is something in us which knows the goal, and pushes us constantly in that direction. But there is also this forgetfulness, so there is a complication. You are pushed in the right direction, as it were, and yet you are not sure. Because of this forgetfulness you are asking, ‘Is it right?’ This push is coming – ‘Is it right? Is it wrong? Am I really going in the direction in which I should?’ And then you have to gradually recover it.

So this is the movement of karma with a double–fold complication in it. One in which we are always; we prepare ourselves always in the right direction. That is why in education it is very important, we say, ‘Let the child decide in what way he wants to go.’ You have heard of the free progress system. We say to the children, ‘We present to you ten–twenty things, now you decide what you like to have.’ And each one will come forward and say, ‘I want to do this'. This inclination, there must be some truth in it. When you say, ‘I want to do this,’ you will find there was a truth in it. But there may not be entirely the complete truth, because you have forgotten, so there might also be hesitation, there might be effort, trial, error, all these elements also come into it. And all these movements also form a part of your ultimate, because in a certain sense there is nothing like error. Even the error that you make is actually a part of your game. Through the error you find out really what you want to do. So that is also a part of it, from a larger point of view there is no error. That is why in the free progress system it is said that a child should be allowed to make mistakes, because through mistakes the child will learn as to what is the right thing to do.

Now this whole world is actually a free progress system. The whole world, whether we like it or not, the entire world is, God has decided the world in a free progress system. We may follow in education or not, but if you look from above, it's a free progress system. There are so many alternatives presented to everybody, and we are all blindfolded and we are trying to find out what exactly we should do. Mother once told us what free progress is. Free progress is progress – guided and determined by the inner soul. Every action that we do in this world is, in a sense, guided and directed by the soul. But it's not entirely so because there is this coating of ignorance, of forgetfulness. A real free progress system is to become more and more luminous, to eliminate forgetfulness, and really to do what your inner soul tells you. And that is why the free progress system that we want to develop here in Auroville is to say, ‘Bring forth your soul.’ Your psychic being should be kept in the front, bring it in the front, and we've always said that the good education is one in which the inner soul does not get further blindfolded. You allow the soul to come in front, and then it will be the sunlit path. It will be a path lit up by sunlight, where you can move very freely, surely, steadily, straight to the goal.

From the point of view of God, the whole world is a school and we are all students, and we are all working out the goal that we want to contribute to by our karma.

Karma is something that issues from ourselves, so you cannot eliminate it. Karma is always with us. Whatever you put forth has its own consequences, and those consequences are tied up with what you have done in the past. Even the errors that you have committed have issued from you, and therefore they have consequences also. It is only when you reach the goal that we find that even the errors that you've committed were good; even the mistakes that I've committed were all part of my training but that you will see only at the end, when you have really developed yourself fully.

This movement of manifestation of individual action which we call karma, and which issues from swabhava, is seen like a law. You put forth an action, it has a consequence, an inevitable consequence, it must produce a certain result and therefore it is said that karma is inexorable. Once you put forth an action, the consequence will come and you cannot avoid that consequence. If you throw a stone from your upstairs window, once you have thrown it how will you take it back? It is thrown, it will go down, and if there is someone moving under your window the stone will hurt him. And there will be consequences there also: That person will receive the stone, will be hurt, and he might even be inspired to throw a stone at you in return, – it's a karma which has a consequence. He may not , but then you may feel, ‘Oh my Lord, what have I done!’

One of the terrible stories of karma is that of Othello. He suspects his wife, and in that stance of suspicion, he murders her. Afterwards he discovers that it was a mistaken suspicion, – just after he murders her, immediately afterwards, he finds that he has made a big mistake. He has wrongly suspected his wife, who was completely faithful to him. This is a karma, he cannot withdraw from it, it is a karma. He has done it and the consequence is that he commits suicide, because he cannot bear to see that he has done such a terrible injustice. This is a terrible karma: He murders somebody, then falls back upon himself and commits suicide. And then we say that the drama is over, but in reality the drama of karma is not over. After that, what happens? It is said therefore that karma sometimes becomes visible, but that most of it is invisible. In India we have a word, adrishta, "unseen". The law of karma is also called the law of adrishta in Indian philosophy, that which is unseen: Buddha said that if you emanate even one thought from your mind, it is a karma. The thought that proceeds from you, it need not be an action, just a thought. It may travel the whole world, but it will come back to you again, with its consequence. You cannot escape it. The thought you put forth makes no mistake, it knows exactly where it originated and it comes back and takes you exactly at the right moment, or at the wrong moment, according to your predilections. That's why Buddha said that when you put out even an ill will against somebody, be very careful, it will go around, it has its own consequences. It is ill in its own character, therefore it will come to you with illness. It will come back to you with a certain consequence, with which you will not be very happy. That is why he said, ‘Always have goodwill'. Because if you put out even a small ill will, it will come back with a consequence. And very often it comes to you at what you think is the wrong moment, when you're hardly ready for it. When you're not ready it comes to you and strikes you.

Because of this reason, many ideas of laws of karma have been built up in the history of the world. I shall not burden you with all kinds of ideas, but I shall tell you one which is very prominent: that if you do a good action, the consequence will be good, and if you do a wrong or evil action, the consequence will be an evil result. And then there is a corollary: if you do a good action the results will be good in terms of happiness; if you do an evil action the results will be evil in terms of suffering. So the law which has been formulated by many people is: a good action produces happiness, evil action unhappiness or suffering.

Sri Aurobindo points out that this is a wrong formulation, that a good action producing goodness is not equal to happiness. There is no definite connection between goodness and happiness. If I am a good man, I should not expect a big bank balance, which is supposed to be happiness. Sri Aurobindo points out that if you are a good man, then don't complain if you are poor, saying, ‘I am doing everything that is good and yet my coffer is empty.’ You should only ask, ‘Is my treasure full of goodness?’ If you are doing good actions the result will be good consequences. Have you increased in virtue, have you increased in goodness, have you been able to do good actions to others? Do you have more and more capacity for good works? That is the mark, not bank balance. We see, on the contrary, that many wicked people have got big bank balances. So Sri Aurobindo asks the question: Are we to imagine that this man with a big bank balance was a paragon of virtue in a past life, and though now that he has suddenly become a wicked man, still he enjoys the bank balance because of the past? Can that be the real law?

Sri Aurobindo says that such is not the law of karma. The law of karma simply says that the kind of energy that you put forth gives you a consequence in that line of energy. He says that if you want to participate in a competition of sprinting, then you have to put forth your energies, every morning get up early, go for a sprint, increase your capacity to run better and better, – so the law of karma will take care of it. You'll run better and better and it may be that ultimately you'll win the race. So the consequence of exercising every day will be your winning the race that will be the reward, as it were. Don't expect that when I am a good boy, I am a good student, I learn my lessons very well, therefore even in sprinting I'll get the first prize. If you are a good student, if you are reading very well, perhaps you will get the best marks in your essay, in the examination, but don't expect that in the sprint also you'll be helped because of your goodness, because of brilliance in studies you will also get first prize in sprinting. There is no connection. For every energy, the kind of energy that you put forth will give a consequence in that kind of energy. This is the real law of karma. If you do an evil action, then you will be increasing in the capacity to do evil actions. And that is what we see, once you start a wrong action, you find that individuals go on doing further wrong, and further wrong. You tell a lie now, to suppress it you tell another lie, and a bigger lie; and to suppress it you speak another lie, – it goes on increasing, that is the law. That is why Buddha said that if you do good actions, you will go on increasing in good actions. So always do good actions. Not necessarily you will get happiness.

The second thing that Sri Aurobindo points out, and it is very important, is: The law of karma is not the law of rewards and punishments. Normally people think that karma, a law, is a law of rewards and punishments. If you do an action, according to this law, that action's energy will be increased but not in terms of reward and punishment. Take for example, Sri Aurobindo himself gives this example, – you touch fire, and you feel a burning sensation, which is painful. In ordinary terms it is called a punishment. As it were, you touch fire, the fire punishes you, and you feel a burning sensation. But there is no punishment; it is the nature of fire to burn. It gives you experience. When you put your hand into the fire you now get an experience that when you put your hand into it, its nature is to burn. Not that fire wanted to punish you by giving you a burning sensation, it is the nature of it. So the law of karma is not the law of rewards and punishment, it is the law of experience.

This is a new formulation that Sri Aurobindo has given: law of karma is a law of experience. Whenever you do something there is a consequence; that consequence comes to you, not as a reward or punishment, but comes to you as an experience. What is important in this whole life is experience. As I told you, we are all blindfolded, and we are going on touching various objects, or we happen to touch sometimes something, sometimes it is all blank. When you touch something, it's an experience; you now know that here is a tree by touching. You're blindfolded, but you can now find out it is a tree. So it is an experience, you gain in knowledge.

As a result of this, gradually you become more and more luminous, until you recover the knowledge of yourself and knowledge of the world, in which you are to play a role. This is the goal. Through experience this is what we do. Now here the most important word is experience. What is experience, why experience? The entire law of karma is a law of experience. We are all here on the earth to regain the lost knowledge. So experience is a movement of identity of ourselves with the object. All experience is identity. It is when I touch this; I experience the smoothness of the skin. But that is done by identity. My fingers have the same kind of a texture as this skin, and when there is an identity meeting together, the experience emerges. All experience is kind of an ignition, giving out an experience of identity.

Now, this experience of identity is manifold. Everywhere ultimately you have to see yourself. I can know you better when I find, ‘Oh! You are me and I am you’, it is the identity that gives me the experience of you. I can understand you when I become one with you. Very often we say, ‘You put yourself in my position, and try to understand it, then you will really understand me.’ It is by identity that you experience. Although each individual has a unique role, and therefore each one is different from the other, yet there is a law of identity. The difference between myself from you is only marginal. Uniqueness is marginal, but basic experience is that of identity.

Now each one of us, although identical, is complex. Each one of us is actually the soul. This soul puts forth itself, and what it puts forth becomes what are called instruments. There are three basic instruments which the soul puts forth. One instrument is what we see in the form of the physical, the body – is one instrument. My dynamic will is second instrument, and my mental capacity to conceive, to think, is my third instrument. In our state of forgetfulness, we don't make a distinction between soul and body and life and mind. We don't make this distinction, because we have forgotten. Pell–mell we think, ‘All that we are now is myself.’ When I ask, ‘What is yourself?’ Everybody says, ‘I am myself. But when you examine you have to ask, ‘Is this body myself, is my emotion myself, is my thought myself, what am I?" There's a big confusion on this. It is by experience, you go on experiencing yourself with the body, experience yourself with the life, experience yourself with the mind, – after lots of experiences, this is the entire process of karma. You go on doing so many efforts, each effort is a karma, it gives a consequence.

Ultimately, these consequences are in the form of experiencing yourself and your instruments, yourself and the world, yourself and the Divine. These are three major experiences in the world: you experiencing your instruments, you experiencing the world, you experiencing the Divine. Experiencing is not only to know that you are a soul having instruments that is one experience; secondly you know that you are the observer of the world, you are an actor in the world, you are a witness in the world, you are a participant in the world, and to become aware of the whole universe, – this is another experience. The third is that you know that your origin is not in yourself, but in the Divine; and then you can meet the Divine, converse with him, you can embrace him, you can have all kinds of relationships with him.

The ultimate aim of all movements of karma is to give you experiences of these kinds, and not to allow you to escape from any one of these experiences, because you have agreed to come here with a contract. So you do not escape, that is why the law of karma is called inescapable. It's not entirely true, but it is true that until you come to these experiences, it is inevitable.

The basic experience that we have to gain in this world is the difference between body and life, life and mind, mind and soul, and more importantly, how the soul can dominate body, life and mind. This is a very important point. The true experience, when you come to maturity of experience is when you know how your soul can dominate body, life and mind. At present body, life and mind dominate you, your soul. A time must come because of these various kinds of movements, lots of karmas, the ultimate gain will be that you grow in the awareness that your soul is the sovereign master of body, life and mind. When you know that your soul is a sovereign master, it can now break the karma. It is now superior to body, life and mind. When you find that now you are superior, you become superior to karma. Karma is nothing but what proceeds from you. What should proceed from you, you will determine, once you are aware. It will not be imposed on you. What you must manifest is no more imposed on you. You will now decide freely what should come out of you. You will decide what should manifest from you. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that the law of karma does not explain the whole world and what we are. It is only a process, a mechanism, but of an inferior kind: More than law is freedom. More than law is the soul, which is not an instrument, which is not a machinery. So the law of karma is something that takes you in the field of ignorance. As long as you are oblivious of what you are, the law of karma becomes very powerful. It is inescapable. But the more and more you become aware of the soul from which all these movements have started, you become free. And then you can play with karma. If there is one karma which is hurting you, the consequences are still coming; you can put out an arrow from yourself, and cut it. That is how the law of karma can become weakened, and the karma of the past can be destroyed, can be burned, as it were. That is why it is said that Yogis can burn their karma. Yogi is nothing but one who has known that his soul is superior to the instruments, so one who knows he can throw a new arrow of action, and can destroy the past one.

Now I come to the question of destiny, which she has said. What is karma and what is destiny? Usually the word "destiny" is the goal which is inescapable, that is destiny, each one of us has a goal. As I said, when we made a contract, each one of us decided, ‘I will play this role in this world.’ Therefore, you might say that each one of us has a destiny, and surely this is what you will do, ultimately. You cannot escape it because you have already agreed with the Divine, ‘This is the role I am going to play in this world.’

This destiny is expressed at two levels: one in the state of knowledge, another state of ignorance. As long as I'm ignorant, the actions that I produce in my ignorance, they carry their consequences, and these consequences, as it were, become my destiny. It is not my true destiny. My true destiny may be quite different but as long as I'm ignorant, the consequences of my actions in ignorance determine the goal in that ignorant world, in my field of ignorance, and that is my destiny for the moment. Very often you cannot escape it. It was said of Napoleon that he believed in destiny, and he was called a man of destiny. One who becomes slightly aware of the fact that in this world certain consequences are inescapable, then he can walk more steadfast in this world, he's not afraid, because he knows so many actions have been done, the consequences are inevitable. It is said of Julius Caesar that once there was a big storm, and he had to cross a river which was in tempest, and he hailed the boatman and said, ‘Take me through.’ The boatman said, ‘There's a tempest, how can I take you through?’ He said, ‘Don't worry; the boat will go through safely, because it carries the head of Julius Caesar.’ It carries the head of Julius Caesar; therefore this boat will go through. You are sure of the destiny that I must reach there. It will happen inevitably. So he told the boatman, ‘Don't worry, the boat will not sink, because I will be there present, and I have got to cross the river, therefore it will cross the river.’

So some people who have become quite conscious, but not fully conscious, not that Napoleon was very conscious, not that Julius Caesar was very conscious, but they are somewhat more conscious than most of the people, and since they know that if there are certain things to be done, there's so much of will power in it, lot of karma in it, and knowledge that the karma will have its consequence, it must have its consequence, inescapably, – this gives you the sense of destiny.

At another level, one can become aware of alternative destinies, not only one destiny, alternative destinies. That is because one becomes more aware of various kinds of actions that he has put forth. This is like a student who is also brilliant in his studies, brilliant in sprinting, brilliant in relationships, in debating society, in organizing programs; brilliant in many things. So he has many destinies. He can ultimately decide to become a champion of sports; he can decide it. He can put more energy only in that and ultimately he may come out to be champion in the world. That is one destiny, because already he has got so many energies in that field. Or he might decide to become a great, brilliant philosopher, because he already has a great capacity in that direction; or ultimately he may become all that is how we find some individuals having all–around capacities. You can even decide for yourself. That is why it is said, ‘Destiny determines you or you determine destiny.’ This is very often the question asked, ‘Do you determine destiny, or destiny determines you?’ The final answer is – you determine. The immediate answer would be that since you have put forth so many energies already, certain results are inescapable, so they will determine you, so destiny determines you, – it's an intermediate answer. The ultimate answer is you determine, because you have the capacity to put forth new energies, and by putting forth new energies even the past destinies can be destroyed.

Sometimes Mother has explained in the Agenda, first volume, supposing somebody has a destiny of becoming a president of the world, all his actions will be so determined that they will take him to the presidency. But life is not long enough. In the meantime many forces may come in the middle, and one dies without fulfilling that destiny of becoming president. In the next birth, when he takes a new birth, that karma continues with him. Maybe that will become president in the next birth, it's quite possible. So there are alternate destinies, some destinies which are going to be fulfilled because they are so inexorable, the karma is so powerful that you cannot change it. In Sanskrit it's called utkuttah karma, the karma which is utkuttah, so powerful, so inexorable; you can't change it at all. It is like throwing the stone already from the window, you can't take it back, – its utkuttah karma. Its consequence is inevitable. It has got to be accepted; you can't change it. But you can change it also; a Yogi can do it, even with utkuttah karma. Supposing he has put a stone, he knows on the third floor somebody is there, and he shouts from there, ‘Look, a stone has passed from my hand, you put out your hand in the middle so that it may not fall on the ground.’ So that is possible, he can change this much consequence. The stone has gone out, but he can shout to a man on the third floor, and before it reaches the third floor the man puts out his hand, it falls upon his hand and not upon the man who is walking in the street. That can be changed. That is how Yogis, they can prevent certain consequences which are about to happen, and yet they may not happen, because he puts forth many other energies which may counteract what is going to happen.

But all these destinies are intermediate. Ultimate destiny of each one is – what you have agreed to do in the final orchestra, what role you will play. That is going to happen, and that is not imposed upon you, you have freely chosen. And when you come to that final orchestra, you will freely participate, you'll be full of joy and you'll fulfill your goal.

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 the ultimate goal, the 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 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, 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 his rhythm is. 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 a 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 is simply a part of the chain of movement, rebirth is inevitable. That is why, when a question is 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 body gets exhausted and is dissolved, just as our body is dissolved here. Similarly the 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 it. 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 of how karma pursues you, and how you got free from karma depending on how much experience you've gained in the past.

In some cases for example, an individual may have lived like a scientist or a philosopher, and ultimately the greatest philosophers find that the highest system of philosophy that he builds up is a cobweb. It is a web of ideas, and he finds out that in the web of ideas I can never experience. The more ideative I am, the more abstract I am. In abstraction I cannot experience, experience requires a different kind of quality. Mere ideativeness is not experience. So if at the end of my life of a philosopher I have really realized that I could not come out of the cobweb, and I want to come out of the cobweb, and I assert my soul's freedom and say, ‘Next time I must not have cobweb’, – in my next life therefore, I won't be a philosopher. I will not enter into the cobweb. This is another example to show how your experience makes you mature and gives you the new turn in your experience, in your chain of experience, and your reincarnation will have a different personality. You may be a king in this life, in the next life, you might have seen that, oh! king has everything readily available, and you feel, what is there in readily getting everything that you want? I want to make a big labor; I want to make an effort to get everything. In the next life you may be born in a very ordinary family, where a lot of effort is required, and you learn the experience of labor. This is how what you gain in the past life is carried in the next life, but in a different way.

And then you go forward. When you are taking a repose in your soul world, after exhausting your subtle physical, your vital, your mental, when you are watching from above, as it were, there is a perception that in this particular circumstance I have gained what I have decided to gain in my next life. And therefore your birth takes place. If you have decided in your past life, "I must become supramental", very likely you will be born in Auroville. If your soul has decided, ‘I must be supramental’, because you find that here is a circumstance, although not a very smooth circumstance, a kind of a battle which is going on, but a battle for the supermind. So very likely you'll be born here, or, even if you are born elsewhere, you'll find such a circumstance where the parents will be obliged to come to Auroville, sooner or later. So you are born there. It all depends upon the decision that your soul has taken. It is one truth in your life, if you have come here; it's quite possible that you have greatly aspired for the supermind in your past life. Therefore, you are here. It's quite possible. Many others also make mischances also; by chance we have got to come here for a short time, and then your destiny may be elsewhere, but it's quite likely. When you are seeking, put this in your itinerary, in your journey. Very likely you have come here because you have a destiny to discover the supermind and to become supramental, and therefore you have to prepare yourself for that. If you know this, your preparation also becomes much easier. All this takes, according to Sri Aurobindo's writing, normally three years, before you can come back into the new body.

Another question which was asked was, is it possible that a human being in the next birth becomes a bull, animal? Is it possible?

Sri Aurobindo's answer is that once you have crossed the human threshold, normally a human being becomes a human being in the next birth. But there may be tendencies in you, in the past birth, which are satisfiable only through the experience of bull. There may be some tendencies. In which case, when you are shedding off your subtle physical and vital and mental, some of your vital being, only that portion takes birth as a bull. It can happen. Not that you, your soul is not taking birth in a particular bull, your soul is moving upwards. But the tendencies which were there in the vital, they can take incarnation in a bull and satisfy themselves and then get exhausted. That is possible.

This answer, also answers another question that you have put: Can a being be at the same time in many personalities? Answer is that there can be certain states of consciousness. I had once spoken about states of consciousness as distinguished from information and ordinary knowledge, intellectual knowledge, and states of consciousness. At a certain stage of maturity of a being we become very concerned with the states of consciousness; serenity, kindness, forgiveness, love, generosity – these are all states of consciousness. If you nurture the states of consciousness then they begin to mature so much they become permanent, as it were. They cannot die. And since you have put forth, whenever you are born, they are always available to you. This is the law of karma because you put forth they are easily available to you. So certain states of consciousness, you are master of. And you can even put forth that state of consciousness into somebody that is how you see some saint or a great spiritual being, and you'll find that after meeting that person a great change comes into you. The Yogi has been able to put a state of consciousness in you. It can even seem, as it were, sometimes this state of consciousness coming out of that Yogi, can also become permanent in you. You can also feel that that portion is not you, that portion is Yogi's portion himself. Yogi himself is living there. And in that personality that Yogi lives in you. So although Yogi is living in this body he can also live in Anandamai's body, in Juan's body, in Fanny's body, at the same time. That is quite possible; it is through states of consciousness and states of being. This is a very fascinating subject, one can go on talking a lot, but we must honor the law of karma.