Kasi Viswanath Temple, Benares, Uttar Pradesh

March 5, 2002

Karma is a theory that simply states: "we get what we deserve". We are responsible for our actions and we are responsible for the results of our actions. These results can produce either joy or sorrow or sometimes neither of these. What are the important points regarding karma that we need to remember?

Our experience of joy and sorrow is the result of our own actions, although the instrument through which this experience is delivered may be a person, an object, or an event.

Every work produces a result - joy or sorrow in varying degrees - and it cannot just disappear without our experiencing it. Experiencing the results is sometimes called "exhausting one's karma" or "burning off one's karma."

Since our actions are limited in nature, their result is also limited. Thus even the joys of heaven or tortures of hell are not eternal.

Since we - and no one else - are responsible for our present, our future is is our own hands, not in the hands of other people or controlled by some unseen fate or destiny.

Belief in karma does not imply indifference to other's suffering. If I don't help those who are in need, I am creating bad karma for myself.

Some results of actions I experience in this body itself. Those which I don't, I experience through another body: that is how karma automatically leads to the theory of rebirth.

Reincarnation is a theory that states that a being is born again to experience the results of unexhausted karma. Since we do fresh karma every time we are born, we always have more results than can be experienced in a single life. Thus rebirth can be a recurring experience.

But it is not something that has to go on endlessly. When we become tired of the monotony of living over and over again, we may want to check out of our present level of relative experience ( samsara ). Thus the ultimate goal in the Hindu tradition is described as Freedom ( mukti or moksha ) - which means we become free from this silly cycle of birth, growth, decay and death, and attain the state of absolute being - the highest state of freedom, immortality, perfection, and bliss.

There are different ways through which this state can be attained. Each way is called a yoga. Yoga means "joining" (similar to the English word "yoke") - and here refers to the joining of the limited, mortal human existence to the infinite, immortal divine existence.

MIT Vedanta Society:

Website : http://www.vedantaofboston.org/mit

Hindu Chaplain: Swami Tyagananda

Email: tyag@mit.edu