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The Law of Karma: An Infallible Justice
The Law of Karma
Karma is defined as "the function and activity of the living entity within the framework of his free will and under the influence of the three modes of material nature over a span of time". If one performs action according to the laws of God as given in the scriptures, then it is called good karma (karma). If one wastes this human form of life, which is meant for self-realization, by engaging solely in the animalistic activities of eating, sleeping, sex and defense, then such action is called bad karma (vikarmd). For every action that the soul performs, he must undergo an appropriate reaction. This is the law of karma, a divine, infallible form of justice. It is said that the resultant reactions of one's activities will certainly come upon one exactly like a calf easily identifies its mother even in a herd of hundreds of cows.
If my body is nicely formed, intelligent, healthy and born in aristocratic or rich circumstances with good opportunities for education, it is understood that I have acted piously in my previous life. If I have a body that is ugly, deformed, diseased, unintelligent, or born in poverty and ignorance, without facility for improvement, I must have acted sinfully in the past. Only if I have merited it. will my life's ambitions be fulfilled. I may want to live in a big house but I may not deserve a human body. In the appropriate body of a rat, however, I will be allowed to live in the big house and consider it my own. Karma is like a bank account of credits and debits. Just as one's bank account determines whether one will get what one wants, the soul's karmic account determines whether he will get what he wants in life. Good karma is like a credit in the account and bad karma a debit.
For example, if someone is very charitable toward educational institutions, in his next life he may be very wealthy and receive an excellent education. On the other hand, if one performs an abortion, he or she will suffer the same fate in the next life. As long as the soul is involved in good and / or bad activities, he will continually reincarnate in various species of life according to the laws of karma. At the time of death, the plans of the soul are stored within the mind (subtle matter), and by the help of higher order natural laws involving karma, the soul gets the facility to give these plans shape in his next life in a suitable bodily form. The numerous biological forms at various levels of consciousness are therefore present in nature only to accommodate the different desires of the soul.
Ignorance of Law is no Excuse
In the modern times, unfortunately, most people are unaware of the law of karma. But ignorance of the law is no excuse. One who is arrested for speeding will not be excused if he tells the judge that he was not aware of speed limit. If a person is ignorant of the principles of hygiene, nature will not excuse him from getting diseased. And if a child ignorant of the nature of fire puts his hand into it, the fire will not spare his hand from being burned.Ignorance of the truths of life is the cause of sin and sinful activity is the cause of all suffering. The Vedic scriptures therefore enjoin an ignorant man to approach a guru and achieve knowledge. The human form of life being endowed with higher intelligence entails that one become free from ignorance. One cannot remain ignorant and be excused for all wrong doings.
Actions performed in ignorance are also punishable. For example, once a boy was waiting for a local train in Bombay. He saw that all the trains were full, but to his great surprise, one compartment (which had strips) was always less crowded. So he got into that bogie. But very soon the ticket checker came and fined him for traveling in a first-class compartment with an ordinary ticket. The boy protested, "I did not know it is first class", but the ticket checker replied, "If you are traveling by train, you are expected to know what is first class" and demanded the fine without excusing the boy for his ignorance. Similarly the Vedic literature and authorized spiritual teachers are there to impart spiritual knowledge to human beings. Such knowledge is meant for humans, not for cats or dogs and so a human being having being given the higher intelligence to enquire is expected to acquire this knowledge. If one does not show interest in such knowledge and remains in ignorance one has to be punished.
Instinct and Discrimination
Animals act simply according to their instincts. That is their dharma. For example, a tiger will die, but not eat vegetarian food. Similarly a cow will never eat flesh. Because animals simply act according to instinct, they are not subjected to the law of karma. But human beings are capable of discriminating between right and wrong and so they are subjected to the law of karma. Human life is therefore meant for discrimination; if we act according to the impulses of the body then how are we superior to animals?
Animal life is for sense enjoyment and human life is for sense control. Human life is not meant to 'just do it', as modern advertisements prompt us. If we 'just do' things, then we will 'just get the results' and we will have to 'just suffer it'; but this later part is not revealed to us. An intelligent man should therefore think twice before he acts. He should keep in mind the consequences that will result from his actions and thus choose the right course of action.