REASON FOR REBIRTH
The mystery of reincarnation is one which has fascinated the human mind. But only the Hindu religion has made a scientific study of this phenomenon and shown us that it can be fully known only by understanding the Law of Karma. The Law of Karma is actually nothing but Newton’s third law of physics. Every action has its equal and opposite reaction. If we throw a ball at a wall it will bounce back to us with equal force. We all know the operation of this law in the physical world but very few of us realize that it also operates in the mental world. In fact in the human being, its operation in the mental world is what actually binds him to the wheel of karma.
Every thought of the human being is a mental action and has an equal and opposite reaction. Let us take an example. I hate someone and think in my mind. “I’d like to kill that man!” This thought goes to the person concerned and immediately bounces back to me. Now the person at whom the ball of hate is directed is unconscious of the whole thing but when it bounces back it does untold damage to me. Feelings of violence and hatred seep into my mind and I begin to feel very uneasy and unable to concentrate or rest. When many such thoughts are sent out, these vibrations which bounce back create a state of depression which might eventually result in mental aberrations or it might create more violent thoughts which culminate in an external act of violence. I end up beating my child or shouting at my secretary or wife depending on the degree of negativity which had been going out of my mind time and time again.
On the other hand the mind which is used to sending out streams of positive thoughts of love and cheer will also find that these vibrations bounce back and bring in its train an aura of peace and happiness. Actually both these types of feelings produce a karmic bond. The negative thoughts create negative and bad karma and the positive thoughts, good karma. For example I’m constantly sending out thoughts of love to my child. This creates a karmic bond between us which will be carried on to another birth. The thoughts of hate which I send to my enemy also create a karmic bond which will be carried on to another life if they are not neutralized in this life. Thus both love and hate create karmic bonds. There are many other such emotions which create such bonds. The emotions of fear, disgust, shame, pride, jealousy as well as love and hate all have karmic effects.
Now let us consider the mental situation of the person to whom these thoughts are directed. Though he does not consciously know about it, yet the fact is that these thoughts penetrate into his psyche and create a sense of uneasiness and fear or hate in him. There is a saying, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”, Naturally a king will have many enemies who are constantly plotting against him and all these negative thoughts are buffeting him from all sides. How will he ever know peace of mind and without peace of mind how will anyone be able to sleep? The ones who plot and have evil intentions don’t realize that they are creating a very strong karmic bond with the king and themselves. If they are not able to fulfill their wishes in this birth they will have to take repeated births along with the king in order to finish off these bonds.
In the Sat Charitra of Shirdi Sai Baba there is a very interesting story of how these feelings are carried on to another birth. Once Baba was sitting near a river with a devotee and they heard the piteous sound of a frog croaking. Baba asked the devotee to go and find out the cause. He came back and reported that a big black snake was trying to swallow a big frog and both were in agony. So Baba went to the river and commanded the snake to release the frog. “O Basappa,” he said, “have you not forgotten your enmity to this man? This is why you have both been born again. Release him and go your own way and be freed from this bond”. The snake immediately released the frog and both went off into the river. Apparently these two had been bitter enemies in two previous lives and since they couldn’t square up their load of karma they were forced to take birth in reptile wombs.
Actually karma means action but not all actions cause bondage. Actions like bathing and eating and so on don’t cause any karmic bond. Only those actions which are done in a conscious and deliberate fashion in order to get some results from them create a link in the chain of karma. The same applies to one who fears someone. His feelings of fear are constantly bouncing towards the fearsome object and thus creating strong bonds to that person which can only end in being born again and again along with that person until he gets rid of these fears. When we hear this naturally a fear grows in our mind. If this is the truth how can we ever get out of this cycle of births and deaths since these emotions are very common to all and in fact they are the basis of our human personality.
Everyone knows that desires also create strong karmic bonds leading to re-birth. Now let us see how this happens. Now supposing I nurture some deep desires in my mind. I want to possess some things, I want to become like a certain type of person. I wish that in every life I would have the same partner or I would like to attain liberation and somehow I did not attain it in this life. Now these deep rooted desires are what actually shape our character now and our life in the future. The law of karma sees to it that every desire is fulfilled. If it’s not fulfilled in this life it has to be fulfilled in another life. No desire or thought can go waste. If it does not fructify now, then like an arrow shot into the air, it has to come to rest at some other point in time and space.
Another interesting fact is that an action which is not prompted by desire does not bind us. In fact the desire has more power to bind us than the action. The action itself is innocent. There is an interesting story about this. Two Buddhist monks were walking along a road. Soon they came to a river which was quite deep. There was no boat but since the monks were big fellows, they found that the water just came up to their waist so they girded up their robes and started to cross. Just then they saw a young girl who was most distressed since she wanted to cross and had no idea how to go about it. She was quite small and the current would have swept her away. She asked the monks to help her. One of them immediately picked her up, slung her across his shoulders like a sack of potatoes and dumped her on the other side. The monks carried on with their journey but the second monk became more and more morose and at last he burst out. “Brother how could you do such a thing? We are monks. We are not supposed to even look at a woman, let alone carry her”! The first one replied, “Brother”. He said, “It’s true that I carried her but I put her down on the other side but I’m afraid that you are still carrying her!!” This man was simply performing an action. He had no desire in him. Once the action was over he had no thoughts about it at all and therefore no karmic bond. The other one however, though he did not perform the action, had deep desire inside him and was constantly thinking of the woman and thus we can be sure that he had formed a karmic bond with her. We gain liberation only when our mind stops desiring. In fact the word, “moksha” or liberation actually can be cut down to “moha kshaya” or the end of desire.
Thus it is that our Puranas say that we have to be very careful about the type of desires we might nurture in our minds. So we see that in the human being it is our mind which is the cause of both bondage and liberation. “Mana eva manushyanaam, kaaranam bandha mokshayoho” It is our thoughts which create both bondage and liberation in us. We create bonds both with those whom we love as well as those whom we hate. These bonds are carried from birth to birth. Nature sees to it that our every wish comes to pass and that we live to enjoy or be punished for every thought and action done with desire. This is called the Law of Karma. Hindu scriptures give a name to the person who keeps such a strict vigilance over all our thoughts and actions. He is called Chitragupta. The actual meaning of this word, is the “secret picture”. It is only recently that we have hidden cameras and secret films of important people in order to discover what they are up to. But Chitragupta is the master of this. The Indian mind had thought about such things long, long before the advent of such modern gadgets.
It is said that all ancient scriptures do agree that reincarnation does exist. The bible is supposed to have contained it but it was apparently removed at the 2nd ecclesiastical conference of Constantinople. They removed it because it was thought that people would not strive to perfect themselves in this life if they thought that they would have another life. This is because they did not connect reincarnation with the Law of Karma as Hinduism did. How else can we account for the vast discrepancies that exist in the natures and fate of different people? Why are some born blind and lame and suffering innumerable miseries while others seem to have a wonderful life? Can all these things be put on the head of God? Is he some monster to condemn some children to a hell on earth and others to lives of luxury? Even a human father will not do this. Then how can God, who is pictured as the ocean of compassion, be guilty of such cruelty? We and we alone are to be blamed or praised for whatever happens to us.
Hinduism insists that acceptance of the law of Karma will make us very careful of our behavior every minute of our days. As we can see from the above discourse, not only our actions but every one of our thoughts are being monitored every second. These are things which create a future birth for us and also decide for us what type of birth it would be. It also sets the pattern of our life in the immediate future. This being so, no one can blame God or fate or his parents for what happened to him or what is going to happen to him. Everybody has to take full responsibility for their own lives. We are the makers of our own destiny. Everyone gets exactly what they deserve - nothing more and nothing less. If we want to have a happy and fulfilled life we have to change the pattern of our behavior both mentally and physically now, this minute. We cannot blame God for what is happening to us. If we eat bad food today and get sick tomorrow are we to blame God? This applies to the bigger things of life also. God is only the witness of man’s actions. Now the question may be asked as to how we can get out of this situation which we are making for ourselves. Of course we can try to improve our thoughts and actions but what about the negativity which is being hurled at us? How is that to be avoided?
So now let us find out how the enlightened man reacts to these types of thoughts which are being directed at him. Even a saint will have people who are jealous of him and can't bear to see his popularity. We’ll go back to the example of the ball to show what happens in such a case. Supposing you throw a ball into a pool of water instead of at a wall? The ball is submerged into the water and doesn’t bounce back. This is similar to the case of the saint at whom these negative balls are hurled. If he is a true saint he is the very epitome of love – in fact an ocean of love and these negative thoughts are simply digested by him or dissolved in him. He has infinite compassion and infinite ability to forgive so even the Law of Karma is helpless against such a person. They refuse to retaliate and in fact pull even their adversaries into their vortex of love. Look at Mahatma Gandhi. When his assassin stood before him and shot him, he refused to retaliate. He folded his palms in an attitude of worship and bowed before him and said, “Ram, Ram”!
There is a famous story of the sage Agastya who is supposed to have had enormous powers of digestion. An asura called Vatapi had a boon that he could come alive even though he was killed, provided his brother called to him. So the two brothers devised a method by which they could get a good meal every day. They would invite a weary traveler to their house and the elder brother would kill Vatapi and serve him as a delicious dish. After the unwary guest had finished his food, the brother would call out, “Vatapi come out”. Immediately Vatapi would tear open the entrails of the person and jump out and the two brothers would have a wonderful meal. However one day the great sage Agastya was their guest. After Agastya had finished his food, the elder brother called out repeatedly to Vatapi to come out. At last Agastya told him calmly that he had already digested Vatapi! This is only a story to show his power to digest and assimilate the power of hatred. The one who came to kill him was digested by him. He simply absorbed his killer into himself so that he attained moksha or liberation. Thus a person who has attained enlightenment has no problems with evil thoughts. They are simply absorbed into him. Not only does it not harm him but he also gives liberation to the person who sent out the thoughts. This is the greatness of the saints. Now all of us may not be able to become saints. What is the next best thing we can do?
All religions give some method by which we can get rid of our sins. Christianity offers what is known as confession by which you can go to a priest and confess all the sins you have committed and the priest is authorized to absolve you from them. The paucity of this method can be seen by anyone. Unless the priest is a saint, this will not work. The priest himself is probably struggling to control his negative passions and how can such a person ever absolve someone else from his sins? This is only a method by which the priest class could control their congregation. Even in Hinduism there is something called prayaschitham by which the sin you have committed can be absolved by the performance of some rites or pujas by the priest. This again is only an attempt to enrich the priest. If one knows how the Law of Karma works we would not believe in any of these. This is a scientific law and knows no remission. Its simply a “blow for a blow, hug for a hug, slap for a slap and so on. Once the blow has been given it has to come back to you in some form or other. As Omar Khayyam wrote, “The moving finger writes and having writ moves on and not all your piety or tears can lure it to return and cancel half a line”. Of course your feeling of contrition and the pujas you do, may no doubt help you to stop yourself from committing such a crime again but what has already been committed has to be paid for in the same coin some time or other, in this life or the next.
Is there no way then of getting out of this dilemma? The fact is that for those actions which have already been committed there is indeed no way out. You have to enjoy or be punished as the case may be. But what about the future is the question. Our minds are strong and our wills weak, how are we to see that we don’t commit these negative actions again and again and again as we seem to be doing now? Our scriptures offer quite a few solutions. First of all we have to protect ourselves against negativity both from outside as well from inside by the repetition of mantras. These mantras are powerful words charged with the energy of the divine. By constantly repeating them we will create an aura or energy field around us which cannot be penetrated by any form of negativity either from inside or outside.
Another unique method is given in the 10th book of the Bhagavad Purana. Lord Krishna tells us to direct our negative feelings to him for he can assimilate anything. Thus you find that the 10th book of the Krishnavatara is known as Nirodha which means obstruction. Krishna obstructs the negative qualities which obstruct our spiritual path. He absorbs them into himself. He says, “In whatsoever a way a person approaches me, in that same way do I go to him and grant him liberation”.
The examples given in the Bhagavad Purana include all the type of negative emotions which are most common to the human being – love, hate, fear, anger and jealousy. Krishna’s parents, the gopalas and the gopis approached him with love and he reciprocated their love and gave them liberation. The gopis actually had sensual love but even this was accepted and they also dissolved into the divine. His uncle, Kamsa had hate and fear towards him and thought of him constantly with dread. Krishna approached him with feigned anger and gave him liberation. His cousin, Shishupala had anger and jealousy towards him and to him also Krishna gave liberation. In these examples the scripture tries to show that even if we have some negative emotion, instead of directing it to the human object of our hate, direct it towards him who will be capable of absorbing it and giving us final liberation. This phenomenon stems from the fact that negative emotions like hate, fear and jealousy have the same ability to enable our mind to focus itself on the object of our hatred just as much as love has. Since these are all the waves or “vikaras” of the mind, they are all accepted by the Lord and if they are directed towards him, HE has the power to dissolve them and absolve the person from all sin! This is an amazing psychological fact which Lord Krishna tells us. In this way even the haters and evil doers are given a chance to save themselves if they can only be brought to shift their focus of attention from the human object of their hatred to a divine object. If you have a grudge against someone, don’t harbor ill feelings to that person, shift your focus of attention to God and curse and revile him as much as you like. Since your mind is focused on a divine object, he will see to it that it is slowly cleansed of its negativity and attains liberation. Of course this is not an easy thing to do. But the next time you have some ill feelings towards someone try to do this and if you make a habit of it, such feelings will slowly go out of your mind. God himself will take you in hand and see that you become perfect. Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas, in the Mahabharatha, cursed Krishna as being the cause of the death of her sons and not Bhima who had actually been the cause. Krishna merely laughed and accepted her curse and blessed her. Thus the life of Krishna gives us many clues how we can overcome the evil effects of karma and evade the bond of the wheel of karma.
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna gives us another method. He says that this natural law will apply only as long as we consider ourselves to be the doer of the action. If we claim the action as ours we have to take the responsibility for the consequences. Suppose we see a big parcel in the unclaimed baggage section of the airport and go and claim it since no one else seems to want it. When we get back to our house we carefully try to open it but just at that moment the whole thing blows up in our face! Who can we blame? We have consciously claimed the bundle as being ours and so we have to accept the bomb when it bursts! We are accountable for any action which we claim as ours but the moment we realize that we are not the doer and hand over the responsibility to the Divine and accept the role of an instrument as Lord Krishna advised Arjuna, then we are no longer liable for the consequences. The knife in the hand of the housewife is not to be blamed for cutting the vegetables or for applying the butter. Praise and blame belong to the hand that wields the knife. The moment we hand over the responsibility of our life to a higher power, God Himself will take over our lives and guide us as he did the Pandavas. Until this total surrender is there, we are accountable and have to take full responsibility for everything that we do and everything that happens to us as a consequence. The Pandavas had totally surrendered to Krishna and that is why he became the charioteer of Arjuna and guided his chariot through the many pitfalls and intricacies of the battle. In fact we will notice that he actually made the Pandavas commit some adharmic acts for he knew that they would not be punished for them since he had taken full responsibility.
“Sarvadharman parityejya mamekam sharam vraja,
Aham twa sarvapapebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucha”.
Surrender all your responsibilities to Me and be free of worry,
I will see to it that you are freed from all sins and given final liberation”.
This is the final word of the Gita to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita and it is an open invitation to all of us. Having been frightened out of our wits by the fearful consequences of Karma we are given this consoling message by God. The inexorable law of Karma can only be overcome by total surrender to the Supreme power. His love alone can save us. As long as we want to grab the fruits of our actions for our personal benefit, the law will see to it that we get our just deserts. The only way to escape is through complete surrender. The love of God can overcome even a natural law and to those who have surrendered their all, He gives His all.
Hari Aum Tat Sat