March 29, 2022 at 9:39 am #13861
Dear Rishiraj Prabhu,
Please accept my deep gratitude and respects for your contribution to the cause of our spiritual teachers.
Karma is a very completed topic in itself but even without getting into its intricacies we can understand that we have to overcome it. There are many ways discussed for that, Gita especially points out Knowledge (4.19), Bhakti (18.66). But on further analysis we know that karma exists in phases of its fructification, the last of which is Prarabdha, which is to a good extent predicted by Jyotisha. Now the question arises in understanding the impact of yoga, especially Bhakti on prarabdha, because as per few references(Padma Puran, Jiva Goswami, Bhakti Vinod Thakur, Vishvanath Chaktravarti, Srila Prabhupad) Bhakti does destroy Prarabdha. But talking to any astrologer makes everything complicated, their practical experience even of practicing yogis shows how their major events(reactions) rarely(if never) change.
How to understand this apparently contradictory situation?March 29, 2022 at 10:45 am #13864
The last stage of karma is Kriyamāna and not Prārabhda. Prārabhda is what is fixed at the time of birth, and Kriyamāna is what is fructifying now. Then there is Sañchita, which is for future life.
I have explained this many times that the body we get at the time of birth is actually a bag of bodies, out of which bodies are manifest one by one. BG 2.13 says: As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change. So, there is one “body” which is referred to as dehe or “in this body”, but it produces states of boyhood, youth, old age, etc.
The bag is fixed, but which bodies will be manifest out of this bag is not fixed. For example, some people drink alcohol, because there is a drunken body in the bag. Then, some of them quit alcohol, because there is a sober body in the bag too. But some people cannot quit, even if they try very hard, because that sober body is absent from the bag. Likewise, many people never take to drinking, because there is no drunken body in the bag of possible bodies. The bag limits the possibilities but does not fix the body. Due to this limitation, we can say what life will not be with certainty, but we cannot say what it will be with certainty. By our choices, many possibilities are accessible.
Then, these choices are constrained by karma, which manifests as our circumstances. Even if we are capable of doing something, and we want to do those things, doesn’t mean we will be able to do them. Why? Because we will not get the circumstances to do these things. For example, I might have the ability for drinking, and the desire for drinking but I may be so poor that I cannot buy any drink. Thereby, even if I’m capable, and I have the desire for a drink, circumstances limit them.
These circumstantial limitations are fixed by Prārabhda. Prārabhda also has an upper limit on happiness and a lower limit on suffering. You cannot get more than the upper limit of happiness, and lesser than the lower limit of suffering. However, by our bad choices, we can go lower than the upper limit of happiness, and higher than the lower limit of suffering. Basically, by our bad choices, we can reduce our happiness and increase our distress, beyond that which is mandated by Prārabhda. This means the circumstance presents you with options, and you choose the bad option, which reduces your happiness and increases your suffering. Choices can change the use of Prārabhda.
Then, the final question is: Can Prārabhda itself be changed? And the answer is yes. For example, if a convict is sentenced to prison for 10 years, based on good behavior, he can be paroled in 5 years. The system of karma is not impersonal. It is a personalized system governed by demigods, working under the supervision of Lord Vishnu. If they see that a prisoner is behaving well under bad situations, they can reduce the sentence which is like a prisoner getting paroled after shorter imprisonment.
However, if a prisoner is paroled due to good behavior, but he commits crimes again, then the next time there will be no parole. Or, at least, the chances of parole will be significantly reduced. This is because it has been observed in the past that the person becomes a criminal on being paroled. Then, Prārabhda becomes a fixed thing. For devotees, however, who have rectified all of these flaws, and are not likely to misuse their freedoms, the provision of parole is again reinstated.
Therefore, we can make several different statements, which are not contradictory:
- The body at birth restricts what is impossible, and what is possible.
- By choices, we can select from within what is possible.
- By Prārabhda, we are limited in the selection of what is possible.
- By choices, we can worsen the outcome based on a given Prārabhda.
- But based on good behavior, the Prārabhda can be changed.
- However, if we misbehave, then the Prārabhda remains unchanged.
- A history of good behavior must exist before Prārabhda can change.
When astrologers talk about a fixed Prārabhda, they are referring to the normal scenario under which, if the criminal is sent to jail, he tries to escape. He doesn’t accept the suffering humbly as a result of his past actions. Due to his attempts to escape the suffering, he doesn’t get parole. Then, in rare situations, if the criminal accepts his crimes and follows good behavior, the moment he is released on good behavior, he commits the same types of crimes again. Nature has a record of all these attempts to escape jail, commit crimes after parole, and being sent to jail again. Due to this history of bad behavior, for most people (especially in this age), there is no parole. That absence of forgiveness of karma by Nature due to our history is considered the fixity of Prārabhda.
So, Prārabhda is fixed for some people, and it is not fixed for everyone. That is based on their behavior. The general guideline is that if someone is given a punishment, then they should accept it humbly as a result of their own deeds. Don’t complain, retaliate, try to escape the punishment, or try to shift the blame. Those things will worsen the problem. That acceptance of suffering as a consequence of our deeds is the definition of good behavior–you are not trying to break jail. Then, when the suffering goes away, remain humble and don’t commit misdeeds again, because if you do that, then you won’t get parole again. The change in Prārabhda is due to the personalization of nature under the control of demigods and Lord Vishnu. It is not an impersonal system. But it is a rare thing because most criminals try to break jail and commit crimes once released.
The pure devotees are freed from these faults–(a) they humbly accept the punishment as God’s kindness, (b) they don’t commit new mistakes. For them, Prārabhda is totally eliminated.
However, there are also scenarios, where God punishes not due to a person’s past crimes but for spiritual reasons. For example, punishment is sent to accelerate spiritual progress, because when we suffer, we remember God more than otherwise. Then, sometimes, punishment is sent just to glorify the devotees, so that others can see how the devotee is patient under hardship. While these two might seemingly be due to Prārabhda, they are interventions by Lord Vishnu. The symptom of that intervention is that the suffering can be more than Prārabhda or less than Prārabhda.
The bottom line is that you cannot judge the cause based on observation of the effect. However, if you know the cause, then you know the effect. Only a spiritually advanced person can judge what the true cause is. For everyone else, it can look like Prārabhda, although it might not be so.March 29, 2022 at 11:19 am #13865
Thank you so much, its is just amazing that you gave such a thoughtful and detailed reply so quick.
I just had further clarifications
1. Isn’t Kriyamana karma our current choices and acts, rather than the reactions?
2. I have read earlier too ‘the bag of bodies’ can you put it in a Vedic perspective, so that it can be helpful to understand.
3. By ‘trying to escape’ karma what all is covered, do the remedies we seek via modern medicines etc part of this.
The details you have provided are so solacing with respect to the personal nature of karma and bhakti as well.March 29, 2022 at 11:32 am #13867March 30, 2022 at 10:16 am #13871
Thank you it makes more sense now, with regards to 2. the ‘bag of bodies’ you had written
“The bag is fixed, but which bodies will be manifest out of this bag is not fixed. For example, some people drink alcohol, because there is a drunken body in the bag. Then, some of them quit alcohol, because there is a sober body in the bag too. But some people cannot quit, even if they try very hard, because that sober body is absent from the bag. Likewise, many people never take to drinking, because there is no drunken body in the bag of possible bodies. The bag limits the possibilities but does not fix the body. Due to this limitation, we can say what life with certainty, but we cannot say what it will be ”
I have watched the video, there the bag of bodies seems to be just the states in terms of boyhood etc, but in the passage quoted above you’ve included ‘sober state’ and ‘drunken state’ also in this, I still cannot understand what does it mean that the possibilities are limited by the deha, because usually drukenness of a person or the soberness depends on the prarabdha, which includes the mental states we manifest with time(this can be seen by jyotisha too)
March 30, 2022 at 10:57 am #13873
- This reply was modified 8 months ago by Sri Vasudeva Das.
I’ve given up trying to explain the explanation. It doesn’t get better by explaining it more. Try to think about it, and maybe it will become clear. If not, it doesn’t matter.March 30, 2022 at 11:04 am #13875
ok Prabhuji, it is quite clear already, just was working on the detail. Thanks for the explanation again.
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