Brahman, also known as God is full of inexplicable and inexhaustible energy. Inexplicable because, Brahman just cannot be explained, as He is a way beyond normal human consciousness. He is inexhaustible because irrespective of drawing His energy for creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe, potency of His energy always remains the same. The significant part of his energy is known as His illusionary aspect, which is often referred as māyā. Through this illusionary power, he throws a veil around Him, so that, His true nature is not seen. What is not seen is His Reality and what is seen through His illusionary aspect is the worldly existence. His power of māyā is His very own undifferentiated power. The nature or prakṛti has two types of powers. One is undifferentiated and the other differentiated and the former leads to the latter. The three guṇa-s or attributes lie in equal proportion in undifferentiated nature. This is the state of prakṛti just before creation begins. When the equilibrium of guṇa-s is disturbed, the creation begins to happen, leading to different creatures, where one of these guṇa-s predominate.
God is also known as Brahman, the highest Reality of the universe, beyond which nothing exists. The Brahman in unconditioned state is known as Para-Brahman or the Supreme Spirit. This Supreme Sprit is beyond normal human consciousness. He is called unconditioned because, He has not manifested yet. The Brahman has two aspects - kāraṇa (cause) or nirguṇa (devoid of attributes) and kārya (effect) or saguṇa (with attributes). Nirguṇa Brahman is devoid of any attributes and is the purest form of Consciousness. He is the cause or source of creation. He is the One, who is beyond normal human comprehension. He is devoid of shapes and forms. He is also changeless and infinite. He is beyond time and space. He is the passive energy and is Self illuminating. The other aspect of the Brahman is saguṇa Brahman who is full of attributes and qualities. He is the effect of nirguṇa Brahman. Without nirguṇa Brahman, saguṇa Brahman cannot exist. Saguṇa Brahman is the active part of Pure Brahman. Māyā is the mysterious power of saguṇa Brahman that makes it possible for the universe to appear. Universe is nothing but reflective image of the Brahman also known as His power of projection, which is known as māyā.
Māyā is full of ignorance. For easy understanding, a rope is normally cited. You see a piece of rope in darkness and mistake it for a snake. Though it is only a rope, it gives you a deceptive look as a snake. When you put on the light, you find it is only a rope and not a snake. What is the state of your mind when you look at the rope as a snake? Fear engulfs you. When you find that it is not a snake and only a rope, your mental condition suddenly changes from fear to happiness. This happiness is the bliss, when you truly realise the Brahman. The deceptive look of the rope as snake is māyā. Therefore māyā is a factor that causes ignorance in you and makes you to believe the real as unreal. Let us take another example of a film. In a movie there are actors. These actors are known in the movie by different names and qualities. The inherent quality of a person who acts will not be the same as that of the character he plays, as he merely projects the character of a hero or a villain. When you see the person on the screen you mistake him for the role he assumed on the screen forgetting his true nature. Identifying the actor with the role he assumed for the movie is māyā . When the movie is over, what you see is only the white screen. The white screen does not change and it remains the same always, even when a movie is being projected. What you see on the screen is only the movie and not the white screen behind the pictures. The white screen is the Brahman. White screen always remains the same, without modifications. Though māyā and ignorance are identified as the same, in reality they are not. Ignorance is the quality of an individual. You can’t call the world as ignorant, whereas you can call a person as ignorant. Māyā is slightly different from individual ignorance. It functions both on the cosmic plane and individual plane.
We often talk about projecting power of the Brahman. Let us understand this with an example. The potential form of a huge tree remains in its tiny seed. This potential state of the tree is the casual state. When the seed begins to sprout, the casual state of the tree undergoes change to become the effect. Cause is the seed and the effect is the tree and this is called projection. This transition between cause and effect is called projection. Knowledge of understanding the potential state of the tree is intellect. This is called transcending māyā. Understanding the tiny seed behind the huge tree is intellect. The universe appears gross in nature. To understand the potential state of the gross form of the universe is Realisation.
The gross form of the universe that you see is not real! What you see is a veiled Reality. Brahman, as you know is omnipresent and He alone is omnipresent. When He is omnipresent, what you see should be only the Brahman and nothing else. Then why do we call people by names and forms? This is the power of māyā. It deceives you; it conceals the Reality from you. It reveals only the projection and not the source. By trusting your sensory organs you believe in what you see. You know people only by their names and forms. You trust your senses and you do not want to go past the senses. You continue to stay with the senses as you do not want to use your intellect. Intellect has the capacity to discriminate. It can tell you what is real and what is not. You are not making attempts to understand the reality. Hence, you continue to remain confused and perplexed. You are only using your influenced mind. Your mind is influenced by your sensory organs, and in this case your eyes influence your mind by identifying a person known to you by his name. You do not want to put into use your intellect. Intellect alone has the capacity to discriminate and realise the One, who is the cause for the entire creation. Intellect would have told you that He is a soul like you. It would have used its discriminatory abilities.
Brahman also called the Supreme Sprit or the Self is hidden in all the beings. Without the presence of that Supreme Spirit, existence is not possible. It is the force behind all our activities. This Supreme Spirit can be realized only through the process of looking within with absolute confidence that He can be found. What you are seeing with your biological eyes is nothing but the illusionary aspect of māyā. You can be pardoned for mistaking a rope for a snake for the first time, second time or even the third time. If you still insist that it is only a snake and not a rope, then the problem is with your mind. Someone could even call you as a person afflicted with schizophrenia. To understand that it is not a snake and it is only a rope needs intellect. Intellect alone has the capacity to discriminate between real and unreal. You cannot continue to remain in the grip of spiritual ignorance. The human life is the precious gift of God and no time should be wasted in knowing our Creator. When we realize Him, we will be relieved from the pains of transmigrations. Life is always a misery, whether rich or poor. The intensity of the misery alone differs.
Māyā has two types of powers. One is the concealing power and another is the projecting power. Let us take the example of rope. The real nature of the rope is concealed and projected as snake. The Brahman is concealed by māyā and projected as objective world. To realise the reality, one has to overcome both the concealing and projecting powers of māyā successively. The concealing power is more dangerous than the projecting power, because it always makes you to misidentify an object, leaving aside its originality. The concealing not only conceals, but also induces the projecting power to show the superimposed object as the real, thereby causing obstruction to the realisation of the Reality.
Māyā is not something that is considered as evil. Māyā is inherent in creation. It is also Brahman’s own power. Māyā can be removed only by spiritual knowledge and repeated affirmations. You have to negate māyā and only your own intellect can do that. Intellect is not your birth right. Intellect is to be acquired. You have to learn to negate the illusionary aspect of the Brahman in the form of māyā and go past it to realize Him. There is no other way the Brahman can be realized except by transcending His own projecting power of māyā. When you want to go past māyā, the first thing that you should do is to get rid of attachments and bondage. These two make you to get engrossed in gross forms. When you are so attached to the gross forms, you are deluded by the gross forms. You call them as your father, mother, wife, daughter, son, friend, foe, etc. They are the results of the projecting power of māyā. Their real form, the Self is concealed from you. If you choose to ignore the gross shapes and forms and look for the inner Self, you are bound to transcend māyā and at this stage, you have crossed the greatest hurdle in your spiritual path. The final liberation for you is not far away from this point.
CONCEPT OF KARMA
Karma is nothing but the impressions of cause and effect of all our relationships that get embedded in our soul. The soul does not move alone. It carries with it, the karmic embedment and the impressions of our subconscious mind. Karma and subconscious mind are almost the same, still not the same. Both cannot act on their own and have to necessarily act through conscious mind. Karma is the sum total of our thoughts and actions, not only of this life, but also previous life. Karma also transmigrates along with soul. Your quality of life is determined only by the quality of your karma. If the sum total of your past thoughts and actions are good, you are bound to be comfortable and enjoy the life. If your karmic account is bad, you have no choice except to suffer. Any amount of prayers does not absolve you from the adversity of your karmic account. Law of karma is the law of the Lord and the Lord never violates His own laws. Law of karma is the natural justice system prescribed by the Lord. After all what you sow, you reap. You can freeze your karmic account by surrendering the effects of your actions to the Lord. From that time onwards, you do not accrue further karmic accounts. But you have to spend the balance in your karmic account according to its quality.
Every soul has two types of bodies, subtle and causal. These inner bodies hold the karmic embedment and also the impressions of the subconscious mind. These two inner bodies, subtle and casual are not formed afresh in each birth. They always remain the same through innumerable births. The impressions of the subconscious mind and karmas mature at the appropriate time to manifest and as a result of which, one undergoes pleasure or pain. The impressions of the subconscious mind pave the way for karmas to manifest. If you become devoid of desires and attachments, you do not leave impressions in your subconscious mind. Ungratified desires form potent impressions in your subconscious mind. When you come into contact with the matters associated with these impressions, the impressions of the subconscious mind squeeze themselves into your mind and make your karmas manifest. Karmas alone cannot manifest. They have to manifest in conjunction with your subconscious and conscious minds.
Karmas form the potential seed of all your actions, including your thoughts, feelings, speech and deeds. You are an extremely pious and soft personality. You never think of animosity and hatred. Some person, unknown to you suddenly springs up before you and begins to hurt you through words causing your anger to rise uncontrollably. At the height of your anger, you tend to use some harsh words against someone. This harsh word metamorphoses into hatred and enmity and their associated consequences. If your karmic affliction is too bad, it leads to murder and death of either one of you. This is a typical case where karma manifests to transform your life either bad to good or good to bad.
Broadly karmas are caused due to the following five activities and they are spiritual ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and desire to live. These are the five factors that generally cause karmas. There are other factors, but only these five are the predominant causal agencies that cause karmas. If these five aspects of life are annihilated, you do not accrue karma. Yogis get rid of karmas only by annihilating them. These five are known as the seeds of karmas and if the seeds are burnt, obviously they cannot sprout. It is not necessary that karmas should cause only miseries and pains. Karmas can also accelerate your spiritual liberation can make you rich overnight, etc. The highest benefit that karma can endow you with is your liberation. It is the quality of karma that matters.
Karmas are of three types - sañcita karma, prārabdha karma and āgāmi karma. Sañcita karma is the sum total of karmas accumulated in all the previous lives and latently present in this birth. This continues to be inactive through the present life. Prārabdha karma is that portion of sañcita karma carved out to manifest in the present life. Āgāmi karma is the sum of total of sañcita karma +/- karmas accumulated during this life time. Therefore, at the beginning of your next life, your sañcita karma could be more or less depending upon the karmas that you accumulate during the present life.
Let us understand this with an example. At the end of one’s death, his karmic account has a balance of 100. This 100 becomes his sañcita karma. At the beginning of his next birth, only 30 is drawn for manifestation in that birth, which is known as prārabdha karma. Now there are two possibilities. One, he spends the entire 30 and dies. Second, after spending his 30, he further adds 40. In the first instance, his āgāmi karma would be 100 – 30 = 70. In the second instance, his āgāmi karma would be 70 + 40 = 110. If his āgāmi karma is 70, probably he will have two or three births. If it is 110, he will have four or five births. Thus karmas are either added or spent during a life cycle.
There is no connection between soul and karma. Soul does not make you to act. It is only the impressions of the conscious mind or the subconscious mind that make you to act. These actions in turn cause karmas, as you perform all your actions with intent on the end result of activities. You go for employment to make money to nurture family. Your ultimate aim is the money. If someone is going to give you that kind of money every month, you will decide not to go for employment. Therefore, you perform an action only to get benefits. All the actions that are performed with intent on the end result of your actions cause karmas. If you perform good actions, good karmas accrue and if you perform evil actions, bad karmas accrue. As long you have attachment towards the benefit of your actions, you continue to accrue karmas, whether good or bad. There is no other way to get rid of your karmas, except to detach yourself from the end result of your actions. You have to go on discharging your duties to your fullest satisfaction, remaining unattached to the end results of your actions. There is no other way to arrest the accrual of further karmas in your karmic account.
An individual soul, deluded by illusion (māyā) and ignorance considers itself as the doer, forgetting its inherent nature. The illusion and ignorance arises because of ego. When actions are performed with ego, obviously there are some motives behind your actions. These motives are the results of desires and attachments. A yogi is the one, who understands this concept thoroughly. Though he also performs all actions as you do, he does the same action without any selfish motive. Hence, karmas do not accrue to him. Karma, ego and subconscious mind are interrelated and interdependent. The one without the other cannot act on their own. Your karma cannot manifest if you have dissolved your ego. Therefore, it is said that ego is nothing but karmic conglomeration. As long as, your karmic account exists, either good or bad, your ego will also co-exist. This is because karmas cannot be destroyed, and should be exhausted by experience. The only way you can prevent further karmic accruals is to remain detached in worldly affairs. It does not mean that you should not lead a normal life. You can still lead a normal life, but become detached. Declare and affirm that all the actions you do are surrendered to the Lord. If your affirmations are done with sincerity, you will be alleviated from the pains of karmas.
Apart from the individual karma, there is also a concept called group karma. Group karma is where many individual karmas together manifest at one point of time. Typical examples are accidents and nature’s fury like earth quakes. In such circumstances, many people die at the same time.
Karma is carried by your casual body along with soul and impressions of your subconscious mind. This soul + karma + subconscious mind combine is deposited by a man in the form of sperms in a woman. Though several sperms are deposited, only a single sperm fertilizes the egg of the woman. During conjugation, air plays a significant role. Semen is blown by the power of air into the ova and is pulled by the air in the uterus. The soul along with the other two gets impregnated into the activities of the air and gets embedded in the fetus. The moment this entry takes place, the soul forgets about all its previous experiences. As long as the soul remains in the womb it understands its true nature. Once the child is delivered and the moment it inhales its first breath, it forgets about its true identity, and gets engulfed with the effects of māyā. It is only the karma that ultimately chooses its future association to a body. At the time of death, soul leaves the body with embedded karmas. The sum total of both karmas and subconscious mind till the end of the present life goes out of the body along with the soul. Again air, with extreme pressure pushes the soul out of the body.
Realisation of the Self is possible only if it is permitted by your karmic account. If your karmic account is too bad, you cannot attain liberation in this birth. But, at the same time, by pursuing spiritual path, you can lay the foundation for liberation in this life. Realisation is different from liberation. Realisation is the penultimate step to liberation. Liberation means the cessation of transmigrations. In spite of the traces of karmic account, realisation of the Self is possible. But the liberation has to wait till all your karmas are exhausted. If you are going to be liberated during this birth, your body has to necessarily exhaust all the traces of karmas. The moment traces of karmas are totally wiped out, you will be liberated without any further delay and your soul merges into the Brahman to become one with Him. You are not going to be born again.
(to be continued)