We have been discussing about karma under various articles. The concept of karma as understood by us so far is that the karma is sum total of all our actions, births after births and embedded in the soul. Soul gets a physical body to unfold its karmic afflictions. At the end of the present body, karmic account is either credited or debited not only with the net result of our actions, but also individual thoughts and actions, during this period. Karma is always related to rebirth. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (III.ii.12) asks “When this man dies, what is that that does not leave him?” This question can be answered in two ways. The first answer could be that everything leaves him and disintegrates. The physical body that existed earlier consumed either to the fire or to the earth making the annihilation of the body complete. The Upanishad itself answers this question in the next verse by saying that a man in known either by his good or bad actions. Therefore, it becomes apparent that one’s actions have direct relevance to his behaviour. Every action performed by a man during his life time is recorded in his soul in the form of karmas. This can be compared to the black box of an aircraft. Again a soul cannot decide on its own but it is bound by the Divine law called “Law of Karmas”. Soul acts on the basis of results of moral efficacy of individual actions. Moral is important because, mere evil thoughts are more than enough to cause serious ramifications on an already inflicted soul. This is based on the fact that everyman at some point of time not only develops malign thoughts, but also nurtures it. This is the main reason that differentiates an ordinary man from a yogi.
When somebody is dying, his activities both voluntary and involuntary cease to function one after another. Again, there is a reference in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad for this (IV.iv.2). It says that the gross body gets united with the subtle body. ‘Through the brightened top the self (soul) departs, either through the eye or through the head or through any other part of the body (the soul is believed to exit a body through any one of the nine holes known as’ nava-dvara’). When the soul departs from the body, other vital forces and organs follow one after another thereby making the annihilation of the body complete. Now the man becomes a body, he becomes it. The next verse says about rebirth. The impressions of the past birth take hold of another body in the form of a soul, as per the quality of the impressions. The impressions or vasanas affect the quality of the soul. The quality of the impressions depends upon the good or bad actions influenced by either good or bad thoughts. There are only two possibilities for the soul. It has the capacity to enter into another physical body that could be in any form or shape, may be after a period of quiescence or instantaneously. There is no differentiation between a human soul and an animal soul or an insect soul or a plant soul, etc. For all living species, soul is the same. The other option for the soul is to merge with the Brahman and cease to exist forever. The latter option is the topic of discussion of all the Upanishads. In a nutshell the quality of a soul depends upon its karmic account. Karmic account accrues due to desires and attachments, which are the products of mind. Mind is the single factor that is solely responsible for karmic account that decides the quality of the soul. The quality of the soul is responsible for pains and pleasures in this birth.
There are contradictory opinions about the respite for the soul. Some think that a soul takes rest between two births and the resting place depends upon its karmic account. The resting places are called heaven and hell. Others are of the opinion that the souls wander in the ether or akash till it takes another form. Others believe that a soul hibernates in the cosmos for a period of time and gets activated when the time is ripe for it to get into another body. There are so many theories and most of these theories depend upon one’s belief, largely influenced by religion. The Upanishad again asks “Do you know how people diverge after death? Do you know how they return to this world?” This question has already been answered above. There are only two possibilities. One is to be born again which is the case with majority of the souls and another is merger with the Brahman not to be reborn again and the number is minuscule and literally negligible. We will continue to analyse this most intriguing subject.