How is it that Mozart, at the age of four, learnt to play clavier, violin, and organ like a virtuoso and by five, was ready with his first composition? Or, Pablo Piccasso able to paint his first masterpiece Le Picador at age eight? Or, for that matter, Balamurali Ambati graduate from New York University at age 13 and become the world’s youngest doctor at age 17! On a different note, why is it that one is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, while the other struggles for existence right from day one on earth? Similarly, why does anyone have to be born blind, deaf or dumb? Or, be suddenly afflicted with a disease with no apparent reason? Why it is that one person is always lucky, while another, in spite of right and best efforts, is always at the wrong end? Call it “Law of Nature”, “Mystery of Creation”, “Cosmic Principles”, or whatever, the Law of Karma – rule of cause and effect, action and reaction - is an indissoluble part of man’s life and destiny, whether one acknowledges it or not.
“Karmane bandhini Manushya Loke”, Swami has mentioned this any number of times in His divine discourses, which means, “Mankind is bound by Karma (or activity).” In fact, this is what defines man – his present, past and future. “When you are born, you are not born with garlands and necklaces. You have no pearls or diamonds... But around your neck hangs the garland of your past Karma (actions) and acquired samskaras (subtle impressions). When you die you do not take anything with you except the consequences of your good and evil actions. You are always decked with the invisible garland of your inexorable Karma, which pursues and burdens you,” Bhagavan said during a summer course discourse in 1979.
In fact, this law is one of the principal tenets of all dharmic religions. “Men have, O young man, deeds as their very own, they are inheritors of deeds, deeds are their matrix, deeds are their kith and kin, and deeds are their support. It is deeds that classify men into high or low status,” the Buddha had declared and emphasized that that the body is an 'old deed' and to suffer, means, to ‘lie on the bed one has made’. The ancient sages of India in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad have revealed: “According to his deeds, the embodied self assumes successively various forms in various conditions”. Similarly, Jainism concurs that a person's physical and mental make-up and fortune in life can be traced back to the effects of his or her previous actions, in this, or an earlier life. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna explains: ‘Just as the body casts off worn out clothes and puts on new ones, so the infinite, immortal self casts off worn out bodies and enters into new ones’. And this is not restricted to the faiths in the Indian Subcontinent or Asia alone, if we carefully investigate even in Christianity, there is an implicit acceptance of this seemingly inexorable rule. The classic example from the Bible being the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6,7). There are many more such like the Apostle’s question in John 9.2: "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"; or Jesus’ reproach to Peter: "All who draw the sword will die by the sword" after he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in his attempt to prevent Jesus’ arrest. Though disputed by many Christians and others in the West, this eternal principle is illustrated through unmistakable evidence in the story and words of Jesus. How? Our cover story will clearly explain how the drama of the life of Jesus is, in fact, so completely intertwined with this inevitable law of cause and effect.
Those who say reincarnation is uncompatible with Christianity because it undermines and compromises God’s sovereignty over creation, transforming him into a helpless spectator of the human tragedy, fail to see that this concept actually emboldens man, gives him hope and empowers him to attract the grace of the divine. The supremacy and ultimate nature of God’s power is, in fact, enhanced. Again, there are others who state that ‘belief in reincarnation’ takes away morality and motivation for moral living, as a convict can adopt a detached stand to crime and theft considering them to be ‘normal debts to be paid’, but in reality, if we examine the practice of law of karma, we visibly see that it reinforces right conduct and moral living like no other, because a person knows that he can never escape the damaging consequences of his actions, unless, of course, he takes corrective actions, which we will come to shortly. There are still a third group of anti-reincarnationists who pronounce that it represents a threat to the very essence of Christianity, which is, ‘the need for Christ’s redemptive sacrifice for our sins.’ It is here that perhaps the highest sacrifice of Jesus is understood only superficially. It is pertinent to recognize that Avatars and divine incarnations descend to demonstrate a divine life and be a model for man. Jesus’ crucifixion is the pinnacle of service, surrender and forbearance meant to inspire the whole of mankind to emulate.
In fact, beloved Swami gave an altogether new dimension to this episode during His Christmas Discourse in 1976 when He said, “People talk of the sacrifice of Christ…but, he was surrounded and bound…and nailed to the cross…he was not a free man. Let us pay attention to the sacrifice that Jesus made while free, out of his own volition. He sacrificed his happiness, prosperity, comfort, safety and position; he braved the enmity of the powerful. He refused to yield to compromise. He renounced the ‘ego’, which is the toughest thing to get rid of. Honour Him for these… this is the sacrifice greater than the sacrifice of the body under duress…Crucify your ego and be free.” Here lies, perhaps, the whole essence of crucifixion and resurrection. This also convincingly answers those who subvert the law of karma saying, “If we have to face the consequences of all our actions, what is the necessity of the divine?”
Swami says, “If we can root out the entrenched tendencies that cling to our heart, we are free to perform any action without concern for the results. From that point on we will not be bound by any Karma.” This simply means that if we can subdue our “I – the attachment and ‘mineness’”, and perform every act as a dedication, a worship, to the divine, then no action or its consequence can ever touch us. ‘Mountains of sin can be then washed away,’ Swami says, through the grace of the All-merciful One. In fact, this ‘cutting of the ego’ is the symbolic meaning that the ‘cross’ so evidently expounds. And this is precisely the message every devotee of the Lord should ponder over and live out as they celebrate ‘Easter’. How exactly to go about practicing this? Is there a systematic approach to achieve this glorious goal? When you read our cover story, you will be enlightened on all these specific aspects.
Jesus said ‘unless you die, you will not live (John 19.3). And what has to ‘die’ is in essence, the source of all our egos, the mind. Recently, on Ugadi, the Telugu New Years day, Swami said, “This year, (named) Sarvajit, is very significant to realize divinity latent in a human being…A truthful desire will always find fulfillment.” So, dear readers, let us take this unique opportunity to loose ourselves in the thought of the divine, in His work and His mission this sacred year. Let God consciousness pervade our every act. Let us become Him, just like Jesus.