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Karma

From: Raghu Seshadri (seshadri_at_ipass.com)
Date: Mon Sep 13 1999 - 12:15:56 PDT

Sri P.Srinivasan writes - 
		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 subject.

A most interesting question. I don't know if any texts explain
this point, however I will respond with my own thoughts on the
subject.

It seems to me that the reincarnation idea is substantially
different from the only-one-life idea. Because, if there is only
the one life, then it is impossible to hold that any jiva could
be different from anyone else at birth, except for the whim of a
capricious deity. On the other hand, the situation becomes
completely different with the reincarnation and karma idea - why
? Because at any given point in time, it becomes impossible for
us to know if two jivas A and B are both in their nth birth, or
if A has been born 1000 times before B.  So even if one were to
assume ( our Lord not being capricious) that all jivas start out
the same at the starting gate, two jivas A and B, while
contemporary now, could have had vastly different number of
lifetimes before this, with the attendant vastly different
karma-bandha-vasanas.

So it is not the case ( as Mr Srinivasan fears ) that we have
simply rolled back the problem in time without solving it.

Now the question could arise - let us suppose A and B have had
identical number of lives before this one. What then ? What would
account for the difference ?  The answer to this is simple as
well. It is ONLY at the starting gate that equality is necessary
for a just God. After that, as man is an active agent, he acts
independently adding to his karma in various ways. So even by the
second life it is perfectly reasonable for two jivas to diverge
considerably.

Regards,
Raghu Seshadri