[Advaita-l] Karma, Prarabdha and Destiny

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 29 04:35:48 CDT 2010

Dear Sri Hitanshu

There is a famous sloka which describes puNya as paropakAra (help to others) and pApa as parapIDanam. pIDana is pressurising, so what causes inconvenience to others is pApa. For abundant clarity puNya is good karma, results in heaven etc. and pApa is bad karma resulting in misfortune, hell etc. Another name for puNya is dharma. This evidently is a simplistic situation compared to what Arjuna faced before the War (kill kith and kin vs. uphold kshAtra dharma) or what Bhisham, Drona and Kripacharya had to face during the war deliberations or what paraSurAma faced when ordered to kill his mother 

The DharmaSAstra exists to clarify dobuts what is dharma, and what is not. More than 900 works on Dharma Sastra are mentioned by MM. P. V. Kane in his seminal "The History of the Dharmasastra". All these authors make an explicit or implicit pledge that what they propound as dharma is based on what is said in the Vedas. The interpretation varies with place, time and situation and hence, so many texts. Since all these are difficult to follow, one follows the dharma as propounded by a sage in one's lineage. For instance, many of us in AP follow the Apastamba dharmasUtra. These texts mix up both religious and secular - to use two commonly used words in English, but which difference really does not exist for us - deeds. 

Then, we have Acara, the way things are done in one's family. The action of respected elders in one's extended family is the pramANa for this. When even that scope is not there, any widely respected person may be relied upon. In this list, you can safely rely on the interpretation of some one like Sri S. N. Sastri.

Based on all this one works out that, say, giving water results in puNya and yatidUshaNa, in pApa. In fact sage vyAsa left us the divided vedas, itihAsa and purANas only to teach dharma in various ways so that each may find what one is comfortable with (not dharma, but the presentation of dharma).

The linkage between dharma and Vedanta is like this. Four purushArthas are prescribed for men: dharma, artha, kAma and moksha. The second and third objectives need to be fulfilled without violating the first, till the fourth is not achieved. So, Vedanta is really meant for those who are already following dharma properly; since following dharma is not the finally goal, Vedanta teaches that final objective, paramapadam.

Best regards
N. Siva Senani

From: Hitanshu <hits.subs at gmail.com>
To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Sent: Sun, March 28, 2010 3:23:24 PM
Subject: [Advaita-l] Karma, Prarabdha and Destiny

Dear learned members.

I have been reading Vedanta for quite some time...

There are two questions that come to my mind, on which I would request your

1) We all talk about good and bad karma, but I have always found the
definition of good and bad karma highly controversial.... I understand karma
comes from volition... but how exactly is one to determine what a good or
bad karma is, because specific definition of moral acts is itself is quite

2) Is there some good literature where I can find more elaborate and
objective definition of good and bad karma as propounded by Advaita Vedanta?

3) As i understand, the fruits of our previous karmas is what decides the
events of our present birth... which can be called a form of destiny... to
the extent, it also determines the choices we make..; but many Yogis,
including Swami Vevekananda, say that we should use our conviction and free
will to create our own destiny...How does Vedanta explain the relatonship
b/w prarabdha, and our free will to rise above our previous karma to take
charge of our destiny... Does Vedanta have any elaborate commentary on this?

Please throw some light on these questions.

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