Understanding Karma

Praying only to appease a planet such as Sani (Saturn) is a mis-focus of attention. Pray directly to God. Sanchita, prarabdha and kriyamana karmas manifest in our life, influenced by certain astrological periods, and may be difficult, auspicious or positive.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Part of today's lesson from Gurudeva on the Master Course is on karma. I'll read from that.

"Karma is threefold: sanchita, prarabdha and kriyamana. Sanchita karma means 'accumulated actions.' It is the sum of all karmas of this life and our past lives. Prarabdha karma means 'actions begun; set in motion.' It is that portion of sanchita karma that is bearing fruit and shaping the events and conditions of the current life, including the nature of our bodies, personal tendencies and associations. Kriyamana karma means 'actions being made.' It is the karma we create and add to sanchita in this life by our thoughts, words and actions. While some kriyamana karmas bear fruit in the current life, others are stored for future births."

So here's a story. See if you can relate to this. You may have heard someone say something like this. Goes like this.

My life is in a state of chaos. Everything is going wrong. And it all started three months ago when Saturn entered Taurus and my karma changed. I had been advised that if I can successfully appease Saturn through having a priest do regular Sani puja my problems will all go away.

Have you ever heard that? It's very common in Asia. One of the events which brought this pattern to my attention was a young man I met in Kuala Lumpur a number of years ago. Single man, living with his parents, he had to commute to work. So he spent a lot of time on the train going back and forth from where he lived to Kuala Lumpur and at work. So he didn't have much free time. And so, he'd receive this advice and his only religious practice at the temple was to go to the temple on Saturday and worship Sani. That's all he did. He didn't go to the temple to worship Siva, didn't go to the temple to worship Ganesha, Muruga. All he did was he went on Saturday once and worship Sani.

So that impressed me. I thought about it for a while and I said: "This doesn't seem right." Seems to be a mis-focus of attention here. It's not in balance. It's not that we're totally against the worship of Sani but it shouldn't be the only religious practice someone does; it's definitely out of place.

There's a wonderful quote about this from a Saivite scholar, Dr. K. Ganeshalingam, in his book "An Outline of Saivism" He comments on this point and says:

"Most of the temples nowadays have navagrahas or nine planets in their premises. These are not found in the ancient temples. According to Saivism, and even astrology, planets do not create events. They only indicate events which affect us according to our past karma. To overcome the problems of life and to gain mental strength to face them, we should worship God who is the indweller even in planets and causing their movements. Giving a place higher than God to a planet and worshipping it is born out of our ignorance. Thirugnanasambandhamurthy Nayanar in his Kolaru Pathikam says that navagrahas indicate good to Siva's devotees. By singing his Kolaru Pathikam verses and praying to Siva, the evil effects indicated by planets will be removed."

So the story of that song is interesting. Back in the 7th century, Tamil Nadu, Jainism was on the rise in the Pandya kingdom and the king had become a Jain as well. There was a lot of discrimination against Saivites. The queen Mangaiyarkkarasiyar and the chief minister Kulachiraiyar were perturbed by this. And they learned about the greatness of Thirugnanasambandar and felt that he could show the right path to the Pandya king. So, they sent a message explaining the situation and and requested him to visit Madurai. When that request came in, Thirugnanasambandar was with Thirunavukkarasar in Thiruvengadu. So Sambandar was 7 years old at that time, started his career at a young age. And he agreed to go to Madurai. However, Thirunavukkarasar was kind of worried. He'd been persecuted by the Jains in the past and he felt that, Sambandar being a very young boy, was vulnerable to being harmed. Further, he concluded that astrologically, it was not an auspicious period for Sambandar to undertake the venture. Hence, he tried to dissuade Sambandar from going to Madurai. And Thirugnanasambandar responded to him that no harm will come to an ardent Siva devotee like him. And that's when he sang the Kolaru Pathikam. And the title: "Kolaru Pathikam," can be translated as removing the negative effects of the planet.

So, in English, the first verse starts like this. "Being (meaning Siva) who has as his equal half the woman, the Umai of bamboo-like frame has implanted Himself within me in the forms as the One who plays the faultless Veena, and as the One wearing the pure half moon and Ganges on His tuft. And because of this for devout people like me, the forces like the Sun, Moon, Mars, and Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and the Snakes Rahu and Ketu will not do anything evil but only good, the really good."

So the idea is that Thirugnanasambandar isn't telling us to pray to the planet itself to remove it's evil effects but rather to pray to God directly. And that that's what works.

An analogy to understand karma. An analogy to planting seeds.

Imagine we have a seed storeroom with fifty different kinds of seeds in it with an average of about five of each. So 250 seeds. We take one of each of the different kinds of seeds and plant it in a field. Different kinds of seeds will sprout under different conditions -- some prefer warm, dry weather, others lots of rain and others prefer the cold. Even though all the seeds were planted at the same time, they will sprout at different times in the coming year. The seeds in the storeroom represent all the unresolved karmas we are bringing into this life and are called sanchita karma. The seeds we take from the storeroom and plant are those karmas that will manifest in this life and are called prarabdha karma. So prarabdha is that portion of sanchita scheduled to be experienced in the present life, shaping its events and conditions. The seeds left in the store room will manifest in future lives. Different times of the year, under different types of weather conditions, the different seeds that have been planted will sprout. Likewise, at different times in our life under the influence of different planets, different karmas scheduled to be experienced in this life will manifest. Thus, an individual will experience certain astrological periods as difficult and other periods as auspicious and positive. The seed sprouting, of course, symbolizes our experiencing the karma in our life.

In addition to sanchita and prarabdha karma, there is a third type of karma which is kriyamana. Kriyamana is karma you are presently creating. While some kriyamana karmas bear fruit in the current life, others are stored for future births. In other words, in our analogy, some of our current life's actions create seeds that are placed in the seed storeroom and other actions create seeds that are planted in the field and will sprout in this life.

Quote from Yogaswami, Paramaguru:

"Events take place according to prarabdha karma. They do not affect the soul. But man, by mere habit, identifies himself with these events and becomes subject to pain and pleasure."

Thank you very much.

[End of transcript.]