You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : September 1999

Re: Karma and transmigration

From: Chris Bauch (
Date: Mon Sep 13 1999 - 12:02:55 PDT

dear friends,

>I was recently listening to a person talking about the greatness of
>Vedanta darsanas vis-a-vis semitic darsanas. A very simple question
>that will bowl down semitic darsanas is: If there is no reincarnation
>(transmigration) - in other words if this is the first birth for all
>souls (as semitic darsanas maintain), what explains the differences in
>the just-born babies - some are blind, some are deaf, some are healthy,
>some are born into poverty etc.. ?

one possible response:  our actions in this (first) life, and our reaction 
to the conditions into which we are born (how we overcome difficulties, 
etc.), all have an effect on our status in the next life.  thus there is no 
fundamental difference between the semitic view and the aryan view on this 
issue, except that the semitic view is karma on rewind, so to speak.  in one 
worldview, we are born with a condition because we failed to overcome in a 
past life.  in the other worldview, we are born with a condition in order 
that we may overcome, and the rewards for this struggle in the next world 
are immeasurably beyond the pains of this world.  knowing our individual 
souls, God has fashioned our conditions according to our individual capacity 
to bear trials, and so we are born with different impediments.

maybe karma is eternal not in the sense that it has no beginning or end, but 
rather in the sense that it is exalted above beginnings and endings (i.e. 
beyond time).  any scriptural references on this hypothesis?

i once met a blind person who told me being blind has some big advantages, 
for instance not seeing what you are not supposed to see.
in some sense he is lucky for being better able to maintain a pure heart in 
our modern societies, so is this really bad karma?  or does bad karma/good 
karma depend on your attitude?

>Of course, the Vedanta, which maintains transmigration, answers it
>quite simply: the jiva reaps the fruits of his past karma in this
>birth. At first sight, this answer seemed adequate and satisfying.
>However let's intrapolate the question further back - what caused the
>jivas to do different kinds of karmas in the past birth reaping
>different kinds of fruits in this birth? The Vedantic answer is: the
>vasanas (samskaras) accumulated by the jivas in the previous births
>impelled them to perform different kinds of karmas in the last
>(previous) birth. So here we have a karma-vasana-karma cycle. Extending
>it further backwards, if originally all jivas were alike, what caused
>them to perform different karmas resulting in different vasanas and
>fruits? I truly don't know the answer to his question. I have heard
>that karma is anAdi - beginningless. But the question remains: what
>causes the difference in the karmas of jivas? I feel that, in this
>issue, the current Vedantic answer is not *substantially* better than
>the semitic answer. I request our members to give some clarity on this

one thing which i have always wondered is, if we are reincarnated again and 
again in order to become perfect (to work through bad karma and eventually 
break free of the cycle of rebirths), wouldn't it make more sense just to 
extend our lifespans to the length necessary to achieve this?


chris bauch

Get Your Private, Free Email at