A while ago, I took up a course at the Tushita Meditation Centre in Mcleodganj, India. The course is called ‘introduction to Buddhism’. This, after Parmarth Ashram, was the next stepping-stone in my spiritual journey. I had wanted to do this course for a very long time and had registered for it twice before, but due to various reasons had to cancel it. This was my third try and since 2015 is dedicated only to growing spiritually, there was nothing stopping me from coming here.
This course is a 10-day silent retreat where you have meditation and Buddhism classes the whole day long starting from 6:30 in the morning. There is a one-hour group discussion every afternoon, which is the only time you can talk. It’s a beautiful course designed perfectly to keep you occupied every minute of the day, such that you are exhausted by the time you hit your bed at night. You are not allowed mobile phones or any other contact with the world outside during the entire duration of the course. The first day that you arrive, everyone is assigned one karma yoga job that may include anything from waking up all the students in the morning, to cleaning the toilets. These jobs are to be performed everyday for the next 10-days in complete silence and usually everyone does them without any complaints- that’s the spirit of the place. Oh and the food is yum!! It’s a beautiful blend of Indian and western flavours; I was literally over eating every single day! And believe me it is easier to over eat when you don’t have to talk to people and worry about common courtesies.
The classes include basic teachings on Buddhism, as the course name suggests. At no point do the teachers suggest you convert your religion or that Buddhism is the best religion out there; the classes are taken keeping in mind everyone’s sensitivities and include topics that apart from giving you insight into what Buddhism really is, help you with day to day life. The day begins and ends with guided meditation sessions.
My most memorable day at this place was the day when we studied about karma; a topic really close to my heart and something that causes a lot of confusion about what it really is. Apparently, everyone has confusions about this topic because the authorities at Tushita decided it deserves an entire one day slot in the duration of the course.
So today, I’m going to talk about my understanding of the principles of ‘karma’. i have studied karma from the buddhist as well as the hindu perspective, and barring a few details, the basic concept remains the same. This is completely open to debate and I don’t intend to influence anyone. It is such a beautiful process of action and its results that all of us should have our own interpretations on how it helps us become better human beings.
In the literal sense, ‘karma’ in Hindi or Sanskrit means ‘action’. The principle is simple – every action generates a consequence. How this whole process works, that though, is not that simple.
Our actions have an imprint on our mind. The mind that I’m talking about here is not the brain, its your subtle body, something very similar to the brain. This imprint may manifest into a result anytime in the future in this lifetime or the next. Also, every action has an immediate result which should not be mistaken for the consequence of the action. E.g. if u steal you might get caught and go to jail, that’s not your karma paying back. That’s only an immediate result of your action. The consequence might happen at any point later in life in some form similar or very different from your original action of stealing.
Buddhists and Hindus alike, also believe that when we are born, we do not start afresh from scratch. We bring imprints or seeds of habit from our previous life. So this life bears an influence on your next.
As per the Hindu vedas (religious scriptures), there are 3 types of karma:
Sancita karma – This is our box of karma. All actions done in our past lives are stored here.
Prarabdha karma – these are the karma that are ripe for results. our current life, our basic nature and qualities are a result of our prarabdha karma.
Agami karma – our current actions that define our future lives make the agama karma. Our past actions have filled our box of sancta karma and the same past actions have defined the prarabdha karma. The only karma that we have any control over is agama that will ultimately define our future.
That said, even a bad thought without any action generates an imprint that can later on manifest into a result. If we keep repeating an action (good or bad), the result will be bigger. Every action leaves an imprint; no action disappears in thin air.
At any moment, there are two things going on – our experience based on a previous action and our response to that action, generating a new karma. People suffering around us may be bearing the results of their karma, but our karma at that moment is how we react to seeing them suffer.
Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, it’s always good to know your actions have a bearing on your life. No harm in having a conscience and being good human beings =)
There is a whole school of thought in the Indian philosophy that doesn’t believe in karma. It is called the Charvaka school of thought. Charvaka school of Hinduism does not believe in karma, rebirth or an afterlife. The Charvaka position is as follows,
There is no other world other than this;
There is no heaven and no hell;
The realm of Shiva and like regions,
are invented by stupid imposters.
This is the belief that is held today by many people in our modern society. Like I said before, I don’t intend to influence anyone and everything that I have said here is open to debate. All I can urge is that any action of yours that may harm or cause distress to another living being cannot be justified, and it would be wise and considerate to always reflect upon such an action, whether you believe in the process of karma or not.
Now, if you are wondering whether a
good deed done with the intention that it will bring good results to you, is in reality a good deed or not, then I would just say that a good action done with whatever intention is always better than no action. Having said that, I would also like to state that I am no authority on good actions and I make my share of mistakes on a day-to-day basis. I am just using this platform to share what I’ve learnt and what I believe in.
Do you agree or disagree with what is written in this article? We would love to hear about your views on the topic in the comments below and discuss further.