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Re: karma

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Tue Aug 22 2000 - 11:03:00 PDT

badri narayanan writes:
> Then how does
> surrendering himself to te almighty help him to get
> rid of his suffering that he is destined to go through
> due to his bad karma

Dear Badri,

Suffering, as you have correctly written, is the result of our own 
'bad karma', in the sense that our prior bad actions motivate
God to punish us and put us in difficult situations so that we
may reap the consequences of prior activity and will.  In other
words, it is God's resolve to punish (nigraha-sankalpa) that causes
us to suffer, which is in turn dictated by the bad choices we
made in the past.

How do we overcome the innumerable past bad actions which now torment
us? The burden seems insurmountable. Is it that we must do countless
good deeds to "counter" the effect of the bad ones? If so, we would
have to wait an equally long number of births to settle the account.
Furthermore, the so-called "good deeds", even if performed as atonement
(prAyaScitta) for past misdeeds, may cause further attachment in our
minds, and potentially may drag us down. Is a golden shackle any 
better than an iron one?

The problem of karma appears to be a vicious circle, until we realize 
that God himself is the way out. For God does not really *desire* to 
punish us, except to reform us, and set us on the right path.  He
is waiting for us to act in accordance with our true nature. Our true 
nature is to be free from karma, to be centers of pure knowledge and bliss, 
and to to recognize that this pure nature stems from God himself. We
are to realize that we are mere modes of God; he is our All, and we, 
are to act only with this knowledge firmly established in mind.  

Where does this leave us? The conclusion is that we must turn 
Godward. Having recognized our true nature which we had forgotten for 
so long, we contemplate on him, for he is the All, the Source. Contemplation 
which ripens into loving, undivided meditation on God itself serves as a 
complete prAyaScitta, for it is a correct turning Godward. This is what 
he was waiting for all this time. Such a person who so meditates on God is 
also God's beloved, and this erases, as it were, the entire past sinful 
record in God's eyes. Such a person is described as a true 'jnAnI', or 
knower of God, and there is nothing more dear to God than that. Filled with
such mutual love, how can one even think of punishing the other? And why
would one do so, since the derelict has totally transformed himself?

There is still a problem here. Though willing to turn Godward, many may 
find themself lacking in the mental strength needed to meditate lovingly on God. 
God himself declares in the Gita that such people are not lost; eventually
such thoughts of the divine will plant the seed of true knowledge in them,
perhaps in this birth, perhaps in the next. But can they wait so long? 
In utter abandon and desperation, filled with a burning desire to behold God's
true face, they throw themselves completely at his mercy, leaving everything
up to him.  

Coincidentally, such a person has also reached the state of a 'jnAnI', because
despite his other shortcomings, he cares for nothing but God. And the utter
abandonment of all else in favor of God itself serves as a prAyaScitta for
all prior karma, for this is all God was looking for -- a turning toward Him
with nothing else in mind.
 
To make a long story short, brahma-jnAna of the form of meditation (bhakti-yoga)
or total self-surrender (SaraNAgati) are both complete prAyaScittas for past
karmas, because one is seeking God to do the needful in both cases.


Re: "enjoyment of sins"
-----------------------

Sri T.V. Venkat refers to God's "enjoyment" of the jIva's past sins once he
has surrendered.  The analogy usually given is to a cow lovingly licking off
the dirt of the calf that has approached it. This is a valid anubhavam that
many saints have expressed, including Arulala Perumaal Emberumaanaar (a direct 
disciple of Ramanuja) and Desikar.  Poetry written in this vein serve to
exalt the greatness of God's mysterious compassion. However, whether such poetic 
anubhavams were intended as doctrine or philosophy is another matter.  Unlike what
Venkat has implied, Desika did not accept this idea as philosophical doctrine.

We have discussed this issue previously. Please see

  http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/oct98/0096.html

The acharyas of the Sri Vaishnava tradition have disagreed on whether
such descriptions of God are doctrinally valid.  Desika, trying to
reconcile the poetry with philosophy, describes God's "relishing" of
sins as poetic exuberance (ativAda).  Doctrinally, God simply overlooks
the sins and lovingly accepts the jIva who has turned Godward. 

Pillai Lokacharya, on the other hand, expresses this idea as doctrine.

Both ideas have their basis in the writings of earlier acharyas.
The question is merely a line of where one feels that doctrine ends
and poetry continues.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan,
Mani


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