WHY KARMAS AND REBIRTHS?
Director, Centre for Environmental Studies,
GITAM Engineering College,Visakhapatnam-530 045
Wise people depend upon philosophy and God not only to get rid of the fear of disease, old age, death and other evils of the world but also to be free , independent, fearless, honest truthful and have faith and self confidence(will power) such traits enable people be good citizens and to do benevolent acts to serve fellow human beings and other forms of life.
In the field of science Nature’s truths are found by the scientists who make certain assumptions, conduct experiments and obtain results which are reproducible and thereby establish the cause and effect relationships. In philosophy similar procedures were adopted including the experiences as a result of the prescribed spiritual exercises followed in seeking the Truth.
According to Indian thought, the Upanishads (book of Divine knowledge or wisdom that leads to annihilation of transmigratory existence or samsaara) dispel the ignorance of man about his real nature and lead him to reach the God, the Absolute or Brahman. They advocate the ultimate victory of the spirit over a matter and of man over nature. However the sages debated about Brahman, Atma and the world.
At the global level, Brahman is found is the basic cause of the universe and it is known as Atman, Sat, Akshara, Aakaasa and Bhuma. The world has come from Him, is supported by Him and gets dissolved back into Him. Like salt in the seawater, He is the inmost Self of all. He is the Lord as well as the sub-stratum of the whole creation. To make it convenient for people to meditate on Him, we call Him as Purusha (Divine Being in human form).
At the Individual level, when the sages enquired as to what survives when a person dies, they found “atman, the Soul or the Self, as the abiding Spirit behind the body and mind of every living being”. This Atma is neither borne, nor dead along with the birth and death of an individuals body and is eternal and ever free. All the organs and senses are enlivened by this Atma, made to work by him and for him. Experience shows that atman is encased and bound in our corporeal frame without much freedom and known as Jivatman (Jiva). It is said that Karma (the inexorable consequences of one’s past actions) is responsible for this state of Jivataman. For the questions on how and when Karma initiated this chain of bondage, there is no answer. But some sages say that it is due to the will of God. Liberation (Moksha) from this bondage of transmigratory existence (Samsaara) is the primary goal of ones life and it can be obtained by Jnana (knowledge), Bhakti (devotion), Dhyana(meditation, upasana) and KarmaYoga (selfless detached work or actions) as prescribed in the scriptures.
Karma is a kind of cosmic balance sheet listing our personal accounts, payable ones, as bad deeds and receivable ones, as good deeds. The Higher Self handles the repayment by some method for you to balance your debt. When a person dies the Higher Self looks into your life with love and considers your karmic debts. If your good deeds are more than your bad actions you can get some of your karma cancelled. The Soul then decides what kinds of experiences will be necessary for you to complete the pay back in your subsequent birth. It means that if you harm somebody in one life, he or she gets to reciprocate in another rebirth. What you do to others in one birth gets done to you in another rebirth. It means that people who rape and torture others get abused and reprimanded by their former victims in a subsequent rebirth. Hence a person should not hurt another person and that is why all religions preach that love of fellowmen is love of God and Service to fellowmen is Service to God.
Even though Brahman is the permanent substratum of this world while atman is our essential nature since our struggle for liberation or enlightenment (Moksha) have to be made only in this world it is necessary to know about the creation. Since the world has emnated form Brahman it is also regarded as Brahman. Another view denies the world as an existence of its own and hence asserts that Brahman alone exists.
Jivatma and Paramatma (Supreme Self, Brahman as the indwelling spirit) are two birds sitting on a tree (the body). The bird representing Jivatma eats the fruits of the tree (results of the Karma) which represent the sweet pleasures and bitter pains. But the Paramatma bird is sitting calmly without touching the fruits. When Jivatma realizes the greatness of Paramatam he becomes free from all sufferings and attains LIBERATION. Why and how the ever-free atma has become Jivatma is unknown. But some sages say that it is due to the Will of God). But the Upanishads present many spiritual exercises by which the Jivatma can again get back to the original state of atma. One should turn his mind from outside towards his heart, the seat of the atman and meditate on it and do good acts and it will result in REALISATION. From then onwards that person feels the power of Atman, the Pure Consciousness and experiences joy and bliss. Even when he looks at the world he sees the same spirit, the Atman.
While dying, the physical body of Jivanmukta (Enlightened person) and subtle body disintegrate and join the 5 elements in nature while He (Self)gets merged in Brahman. Such a liberated soul is taken by the non-human Divine Being (Amaanava Purusha) to the Brahmaloka from where nobody will return to this world.
In the case of a person who dies without REALISATION of the Atma/Brahman the person who did desire-motivated good actions or some upaasanaas get his desires fulfilled and goes to Heaven(Swarga-loka) and from there they will return to this world when the results of their good deeds get exhausted. Those who did not perform upaasanaas but did desire motivated bad actions cannot take the path to Heaven but return again and again to this world and may even be reborne as animals and worms. Hence human beings should not harm anyone but should be good and should do good to others.