Karma: Action and Reaction
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Do You Have Good Karma Or Bad Karma?

By Hansadutta das

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Check Your Bank Statements
Whatever is coming by the grace of Krishna we can accept. Every one of us has an account, like a savings account, and that is called karma. It is what we have brought from the last life--our savings, or the reactions to our work in the last life. It may be good (credit) or it may be bad (debit).

We can withdraw money from our own bank account, but we cannot withdraw money from another person's account. Some of us come from our last life with nothing left (no pious credits) in our account. Bankrupt. No intelligence, no good looks and bad health. Someone else is born wealthy, handsome, educated and intelligent. He has earned it in a previous life and brought it with him.

Krishna says, "Just surrender everything to Me. Whatever is in your account, whatever karma is coming to you, surrender it to Me."

The Law of Action and Reaction
Everyone is working, but no one is aware of the reactions that he will have to accept for his work. There are three kinds of work: karma, or prescribed duties; vikarma, or forbidden work; and akarma, or transcendental work.

Karma is work prescribed by the Vedas in order to facilitate sense gratification. Karma is not free from reactions. One may get a good reaction, but in order to enjoy that good reaction, he will have to accept another body, and to accept another body means to suffer birth, old age, disease and death.

Vikarma is forbidden work, or activities that one should avoid. Vikarma results in degradation to lower forms of life. Illicit sex life, gambling, meat eating and intoxication all constitute vikarma, forbidden work. These activities degrade one and produce suffering.

Akarma is work that is free from any reaction, and that is devotional service, or transcendental work. Krishna explains:

yat karoshi yad ashnasi
yaj juhoshi dadasi yat
O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.--Bhagavad-gita 9.27

In the next verse He concludes:

In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.--Bhagavad-gita 9.28
We can work. Krishna says (Bhagavad-gita 3.5): " No one can stop working even for a moment. What good can repression do?" Even Krishna works. Our work must be done for the satisfaction of the Lord, then it will lead us to perfection.

Ignorance is No Excuse
A human being's duty is to know the laws of God, because ultimately everything is governed by the Supreme Lord, and we are all His servants. We should know what God's laws are. Religion means knowing and abiding by the laws of God. People may not believe in God, but that does not mean they are exempt from God's laws. If they do not follow the laws of God, they will have to follow the laws of man--man-made laws created by Lenin, Stalin or President Clinton. Everyone is under some law. Why not be under the law of the Supreme?

If we do not follow God's laws, we shall suffer. Acting against the authority of God either knowingly or unknowingly is sinful. Suppose we drive on the wrong side of the road unknowingly. We shall still suffer the consequences. Ignorance is the cause of all suffering. Just as disobeying the laws of the state is criminal, disobeying God's law is criminal. Sin is any discrepancy in obeying the laws of God. If you do something sinful, you will be punished. Children don't know that by touching fire they will be burned. They want to satisfy their curiosity, but when they touch it, they suffer. That is nature's law. Fire burns whoever touches it. Fire does not discriminate between the innocent child and the big scientist. Nature does not excuse anyone. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just as the state where you live is governed by law and order, so also the state of nature, or the state of the universe is governed by the laws and orders of God. When you do something against nature or against God's laws, you suffer. You may not know that what you are doing is sinful, but still you suffer. Suppose you break the law and are arrested. You may plead before the magistrate, "Your Honor, I did not know it was a crime," but the court will reply, "It is every citizen's duty to know and obey the law!"

Don't Blame God for Your Suffering--Take Positive Action!
The greatest welfare work is enlightening people about God's laws. As soon as people understand the nature of God, His laws and their relationship with God, they will automatically become peaceful and happy.

A devotee understands that the suffering of any person is due to his past sinful activities. Therefore the devotee's first consideration is how to enlighten that person about Krishna. The devotee brings prasadam to him and invites him to the temple, but he will not perform mundane welfare activities. The devotee brings Krishna. If anyone accepts Krishna, then automatically his problems will be solved. If one does not want Krishna, it is a waste of time to encourage him. If we say, "Take Krishna," and he replies, "But I am hungry," we shall say, "The food is there, but you have to take Krishna first. It is Krishna's food. If you only want to take the food and not Krishna, then you will simply continue in the same offensive mood that has brought you to where you are now, and that will lead you to more of the same suffering." We want to make an ultimate solution to suffering. We want to get at the root cause, not just treat the symptom.

We may try to feed people who do not have food, but when God has decided not to feed them, what will be the use? Why they do not have food? God is not supplying it to them for a reason. Suppose our friend has been arrested for smuggling dope and is sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary, and he pleads with us that he is so miserable behind bars and to help him get out. We may feel badly to see him in that state, but we shall not be able to get him out. He has been put there by higher authorities. Similarly, everyone in this material world has been sentenced. This world is a huge prison camp, where everyone has been sentenced to undergo a term of suffering in a particular way. Some people are sentenced to a term in America; some are sentenced to a term in China; some are sentenced to a term in a black body; some are sentenced to a term in a white body; some are sentenced to a term in an animal body or an insect body. Every living creature has been very deliberately put into a particular condition to suffer and enjoy the results of his work from previous lifetimes.

If we want to alleviate anyone's suffering, we should enlighten him about his eternal relationship with God. As soon as he understands this, he will surrender to Krishna. Krishna says, "Just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear." ( Bhagavad-gita 18.66)

Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Sri Guru and Gauranga
Sri Guru and Gauranga

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