In the context of the recent Delhi gang rape case, a woman from India wrote to me asking “what take spirituality has on crimes such as these. Does the victim suffer because of sanchit (past accumulated) karma? Should one regard whatever happens as good?” A few weeks before this horrific Delhi incident, another woman had asked on a mailing list: “There are lots of places where Sri Aurobindo says that God is in evil too. I cannot see this when I think of someone being raped or tortured or molested. Can someone explain how this can be?”. Today, Huffington Post published a short piece by Dr. Deepak Sarma, professor of South Asian religions and philosophy at Case Western Reserve University, questioning what answer Karma can offer in response to such tragedies. In light of all this discussion, these are some answers based on the model of Karma proposed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I am not sure if I have satisfactory answers to these profound questions but I am going to try!
Imagine for a moment that you knew the future. Doesn’t that seem a good thing? You could relax and work without getting stressed out; you could plan ahead and direct your energies only in those paths that you know would lead to success; you could avoid all those intransigent people who keep trapping you in some debilitating vortex of time. There would be no wastage of energy, no error, no agonizing in hindsight over missed opportunities. What a utopian world it would be! But counter-intuitive as it seems, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa offered some legitimate reasons as to why the future is deliberately hidden from us.
The conventional view of Karma is that of a rigid, ethical, mechanical and almost revengeful law of Nature which brings rewards for good deeds and punishment for evil actions. We are told that the individual who commits evil today will suffer in some future life while the good person is suffering right now because of some evil act done in a past life. This definition seems unconvincing at times because it does not explain the many anomalies seen in real life. In his works, Sri Aurobindo presented a more flexible and panoptic model of Karma. He observed that Nature is not rigid or revengeful but subtle and liberal in her application of law, working through multi-faceted principles to achieve her aims. This article is a distillation of his thoughts
We turn to astrology because it gives us hope amidst an uncertain world. It also affirms our identity and increases our self-esteem (“This is my sun-sign and that is why I am good at that“). Unfortunately, it also reinforces our defeatist tendencies (“I am always going to have this problem according to my sun-sign“). This raises the question “Do stars rule our destiny?” According to Sri Aurobindo & The Mother, the stars are merely indicators of our future; they do not control our destiny. Furthermore, those who take up the practice of Yoga (and by that, I mean more than just breathing and postures) begin to actively shape their own destiny. The practice of Yoga can alter our nature and change our Karma. In such cases, the horoscope no longer remains a guide to the future. The following are observations of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on the general topic of astrology.
Oftentimes in life, one hits a fork in the road where one is faced with a life-changing decision and has to make a choice without knowing all the facts. In such situations, one must understand that there is not just one future but alternative futures. Those who want to grow spiritually should know that the inner motive with which one makes the choice is more important than the choice itself. One must examine one’s thoughts and ask, “what is the underlying motive on which my choice is based?” Is the choice driven by money, comfort, desire for social status, religious law, despair, anger, cruelty or the inability to admit mistakes ? Can one live with the decision in the future…? One must look for signs of uneasiness in the heart. Looking back later in life, it is quite possible that one realizes that the choice one made then was pre-destined!
This article continues the previous post on the Illusion of Free will. Free will, as we commonly understand it, is an illusion because the personality which drives our will is fixed and makes predictable decisions. Furthermore, we are unaware of the invisible Forces of Nature (Prakriti) which impinge on our consciousness and compel us to act in pre-determined fashion. It is only when we expand in consciousness and gradually unite with the Divine through Yoga that we begin to experience the true nature of free will, for then our will becomes aligned with the will of the Supreme. True freedom comes with True Knowledge.