The law of karma (Re: sandhya etc.)

Sankaran Kartik Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Sun Nov 11 17:42:32 CST 2001

On Wed, 7 Nov 2001, MSR wrote:

> On Tue, 6 Nov 2001 06:56:00 -0800, Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian
> <balasr at YAHOO.COM> wrote:
> >Of course there are many prAyaschittams and so on.
> >That is no excuse for not even learning what one's
> >duties are. Sure we can jump from the top of a big
> >building and have an ambulance waiting down to save
> >our lives. Would anyone do that? The law of karma is
> >as inexorable as the law of gravitation. That's the
> >point I (and Anand I think) was trying to make.
> >
> Gravity will not distinguish between a 6 year old and 26 year old. It
> is a blind force and jaDa. Whether a 6 year old jumps from a tall
> building or 26 year old, it work the same. But karma phala is not given
> by such a blind force which is jaDa.

According to H.H. Chandrashekhara Bharati, the law of karma is as
unyielding as a natural law! If one commits a sin, he has as high a
probability of escaping the results of his actions as avoiding being
scorched when he comes into contact with fire. In either case, it's pretty
much impossible.

BUT just as a person who wears safety gloves does not get scorched when he
touches a hot object, so also does the child not incur sin when he/she
acts due to ignorance. This is because the child does not have the
capacity to know right from wrong, which is absolutely necessary in order
to perpetrate an offense in the eyes of the Ishvara. Therefore the child
cannot accumulate sin.

I've typed below more of the dialogue from "Dialogues with the Guru" by
H.H. Chandrashekhara Bharati:


A gentleman in a high social position once remarked to His Holiness:

G: We who have been given only secular education from our boyhood may be
excused if due to our ignorance of the dictates of dharma we sometimes
err. It seems to me that the Pandits who cannot have any such excuse but
still err are more culpable than we.

HH: Apparently, it is no doubt so. You err because of your ignorance, but
they err in spite of their knowledge. Their sinning, certainly, seems more
grievous. But you lose sight of the other aspect.

G: What is that?

HH: They have learnt what dharma is but only do not carry it out in
practise. You have neither learnt nor are you practising dharma. To their
single omission of practise, you have to answer for the two omissions of
learning as well as practice. It would seem therefore that your sin is
really the greater of the two.

G: It would be, if ignorance were by itself a sin.

HH: Ignorance by itself is certainly no sin, but it is a sin when there is
a duty to learn.

G: How is that?

H.H: The animals and young children have no conception of right or wrong,
nor have they the ability to form any such conception. With them,
ignorance is inevitable and therefore not a sin. But when a child grows up
and is able to distinguish between right and wrong, he becomes responsible
for his actions and incurs sin if he acts wrongly.

G: Quite so, for he then knows that what he is doing is wrong.

HH: I did not say that he knows that he is doing something wrong; it is
sufficient if he has the capacity to know. Take for instance your penal
laws. Does the court let go an offender even though it finds that he did
not know the law when he committed an offense?

G: These are man-made laws and therefore artificial. If ignorance were
allowed as an excuse, everybody will begin to plead ignorance and it would
be practically impossible to convict anybody...In the field of dharma or
God-made law, where He retains in His hands the power to assess sin or
virtue, He must certainly know whether a man is doing an act wilfully or
through ignorance.

HH:He does know it but what do you want Him to do?

G: He must punish only those who sin deliberately and not those who act
without knowing that it is sinful.

HH: Does fire refuse to scorch a young child who touches it without
knowing that it will scorch?

G: But fire is an inanimate thing which cannot distinguish between a child
and an adult; we cannot certainly compare the All-knowing God with the
blind nature.

HH: Evidently you forget that the law that fire will scorch is not an
artificial law but is a God-made law.

G: It may be a God-made law but it is carried out by blind nature.

HH: God entirely withdrawing Himself from it and keeping quite aloof?

G: It would seem so.

HH: Certainly not. God can never withdraw Himself or be absent or blind
at any time. Even in allowing the child to be scorched, He is carrying out
His own divine law. Evidently when the child was an adult in a previous
birth, he had committed some sin which deserved and necessitated this
scorching now.

G: If dharma is as inexorable as the laws of nature, in as much as both
are God-made, ignorance can certainly be no excuse, but Your Holiness said
that a young child does not incur sin if he commits a wrong. How can that
be? If fire scorches a child in spite of its ignorance, so must Adharma
injure a child in spite of its ignorance.

HH: And so it does. That is why a large number of samskAras of
purificatory rites are prescribed to be performed for the child, and that
is why the parents of the child are enjoined the duty of safe-guarding its
spiritual interests. As the parents have to feed a child which cannot feed
itself, so have they to look after its spiritual interests also till it is
able to take care of them. If the parents neglect to take care of their
child, they incur sin and the child grows weak and sickly. If the parents
neglect to take care of its spiritual interests, here again they incur sin
and the child is seriously crippled spiritually. So adharma does injure a

G: but your Holiness mentioned before that a child is saved from incurring
sin because of its ignorance.

HH: Not exactly so. The child is saved because of its incapacity to know,
that is what I said.

G: Whatever it be, the child incurs no sin but does not escape injury. How
can that be? If there is no sin, there can be no resultant injury.

HH: That is quite true. But I did not say that the injury it now sustains
is the result of the present act of committing a wrong. It is but a part
of the major karma which gave the child its birth as the child of such
parents. The immediate neglect by the parents is the occasion and not the
cause of the injury, just as proximity to fire is the occasion and not
the karmic cause of scorching. If we relate, as cause and effect, the
culpable neglect by the parents and the injury sustained by the innocent
child, we will be attributing to God flagrant illogicality, if not
deliberate inhumaneness.

G: Really so. But if because of its ignorance the child is exempt from sin
for his present actions, is it not reasonable to expect that the period of
childhood be equally exempt from the results of sin committed in previous

H.H: Certainly not. To commit a sin, it is necessary to have the capacity
to discriminate between right and wrong; and this comes only a few years
after birth. But to suffer the result of sin, only the capacity to suffer
is required; and this capacity, namely, the sense of pain and pleasure, is
never absent from the child, even when it is in the womb. Once the former
capacity of discrimination is attained, the responsibility for his actions
immediately attaches itself to him. The fact that he allows that capacity
to sleep by reason of ignorance will not lessen that responsibility.




> Please see the commentary on
> karma-phala-pradaa of trishatii. Such an erroneous view is held by
> puurva miimaamsaka-s.
> Hence, such a comparison is not correct. The fruits of karma is given
> by God, who is an intelligent agent. The context, situation, and
> intention of an action would matter in regard to God. SHE knows the
> difference between accidentally stepping on a bug and intentially
> killing it.  Or the difference between a six year old not observing
> rules related to food and 26 year old doing the same. After all these
> things matter even to the mortal jury we have in our courts.
> There were some other discussion on this name on the list as well.
> aside:
> God besides being the judge is also the guru and helper. SHE acts with
> utmost compassion than anyone or anything.  A honest dialogue with God
> will show the errors and give the solution.
> =====
> ambaaL daasan
> Ravi
> sharaNAgata raxakI nivEyani sadA ninnu nammiti mInAxI

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