FROM YOUR HEART
Answers to Questions from our readers
This is a new feature that seeks to answer various spiritual questions posed by you from time to time. Every care has been taken by the H2H team to cull out the answers from Swami’s teachings given on various occasions. However, they are only pointers to the real answers which have to be found within your own heart through introspection, inquiry and prayer.
This will not be a regular feature, but will appear from time to time when we have enough questions and answers. The names of the readers sending the questions are being kept anonymous keeping in view requests to that effect.
Please feel free to send your questions, preferably with full details to [email protected]
Sai Ram !One thing I have realized in my relationship with Swami is that when I am in the process of figuring something out, He responds in some way to help me. My recent reading of the article entitled "If you are God", provided me with some insights into this great mystery of life (!)I have learnt this from the article - Don't judge, and focus on purifying oneself. If there is no "sin" and no "merit", no "right" and no "wrong", I take that to mean that it is pointless to wallow in guilt for "wrong-doings" and celebrate the glory of "good deeds"; instead I need to focus on the thought of God and let go of all of it. It is also pointless to judge others by saying so-and-so is good/bad, etc. If I do something that goes against my inner voice because the desire is so great, then I just have to bear the consequences. I don't think anyone can get away from it just because there is no "sin" and no "merit", but neither does God send me to eternal damnation. Depending on the "level" of existence we choose (or try?) to be in (actually I’m not sure to what extent we have a choice), we are subject to the appropriate laws of existence as He laid out. Am I on the right track?
We have read your mail carefully. Basically we would say that you have got it right. As Swami says, past is past and there is no need to brood too much on it. Instead, it is better to concentrate on the present and ‘get on with it’.
As regards the second part of your mail, we feel that while accepting what the present has to offer, we need not feel that we have no choice. As a matter of fact there is an important choice, which is: TO ENHANCE OUR FAITH OR NOT.
Put that way, it should be clear what choice we ought to make! As our faith increases, the influence of the “appropriate laws of existence” as you call it diminish. You may wonder how this is possible but astrophysics gives a ready example.
Now according to modern physics, there are four basic or fundamental forces – the strong, the weak, the electromagnetic and the gravitational forces. In the Cosmos, if we take a planet like the Earth, its physics is largely dominated by the electromagnetic force. In the interior of the Sun, it is the strong force that comes into play while on the scale of galaxies etc., the gravitational force, which is normally considered too feeble, becomes dominant.
In the same way the Law of Karma, which basically belongs to the Dual World, normally holds sway over our lives. However, the closer we get to God, the less effective it becomes. That is because God with His Grace can overrule the Law of Karma. But then this privilege is not easily won, and we have to work real hard to get close to God!
What does it mean to get close to God? God Himself has defined that for us – please see the 12th Chapter of the Gita!
Hope what we have said is clear! Thank you for writing to us.
We have all seen wealthy people with apparently no care in the world but without much thought for others, their only concern is with amassing more wealth regardless of how it is done. Now put this question to others and they will say it is the merit earned in a previous life of that person. My question is if they have had so much merit in a previous life, how come they are so uncaring in this life? My own feeling is that is not the merit earned in a previous life but more a great desire to be rich and so
they are experiencing this. And of course being rich is not always equated with being happy. But that is just my own opinion what is the truth of the matter?
Sai Ram, and thank you for your question, which is not only interesting but also thought-provoking.
Basically, your question boils down to: Is everything that happens to a person in that person’s present life determined entirely by the Law of Karma or are there other factors also?
By and large most people would say that the Law of Karma decides it all. However, we are not too sure about this. Yes, the Law of Karma is very powerful and is an offshoot of the Moral Law that governs the Universe, as Gandhi put it. But there are scholars who have argued for other forces also. If one accepts this view, then the Law of Karma is necessary but not entirely sufficient to explain all aspect of life as we see it.
What are these extra factors? Basically it is connected with the evolutionary force. Strangely, most biologists do not talk about it. For them, evolution of species is the result of a long trial-and-error process involving mutations etc., coupled with the law of survival of the fittest. A couple of centuries ago, a French biologist named Lamarck argued that “intention” is another factor that determines the “arrow of evolution”. Lamarck said that the camel has a hump because it “decided” it would trudge across the desert. Since this is a concept or a hypothesis, it has not been as accepted as widely as it deserves. Actually, Darwin’s theory also was just a hypothesis but thanks to patient research, it has got validated. Lamarck’s hypothesis cannot be validated so easily using the traditional methods of science. Who can go and ask questions of horses, pigs, and camels?!
Yet Lamarck deserves more credit than what modern biologists give him. If every step in evolution is the result of random mutation followed by the survival of the fittest business, then if we calculate how many years would be required to evolve a species like man [remembering that billions of random accidents occurred on the way to the appearance of the human] then the total time required would be millions of times the age of the Universe [which is around 12-15 billion years].
Now let us move on to Vedanta. The Vedantic view of this was strongly echoed by Tilak in his famous book the Gita Rahasya [the Secret of the Gita], which, by the way, Tilak wrote while in prison in Mandalay in Burma [where he was put by the British]. Interestingly Tilak also offers the “intention” hypothesis. He says that every being, whether it is an amoeba or giraffe or whatever is nothing but Pure Consciousness or the Atma at the core. Evolution is a script written by the Atma; therefore, at some point, the Atma “develops an intention”. A single-cellular living being has the desire to become multi-cellular so that it can have greater functionality. At that stage, there is a “mutation” and all the details are handled by molecular biology. The Atma thus issues the “executive order” so to say and molecular biology is just the “front office” that implements the order! As you can see, this is Lamarck’s idea presented against a more philosophical and spiritual background.
Incidentally Swami has mentioned this explicitly in one of His Discourses [we are sorry we are not able to pin point this Discourse of the cuff]. He said that if a person has a desire, who is it that really has the desire? It is the embodied Atma and not the hunk of flesh that forms the body of the person. Ramana Maharishi also would always ask: “Who is the one who wants to do this or that or who is the one who really has the desire?”
Putting all this together,
In evolution, there are factors that determine evolution on a short time scale and there are factors that determine evolution on a long time scale.
The existence of two distinct time scales is true of astronomical evolution, geological evolution and biological evolution.
We argue that this applies also to the spiritual evolution of a person.
We now briefly amplify the last point. The long-term evolution of a human being will eventually take that person closer and closer to God, from Whom all of us have come.
Getting closer to God means less and less of desires must be present in the person. The person must be drained of all desires. In ordinary life, people often have some desires when young but when they become old they grow out of these desires. For example, many when young are crazy about movies, but when they become old, movies no longer attract them – they have grown out of that desire. It is quite likely, as you seem to imply, that many are offered the chance to be wealthy and all that, in this life. As you say, wealth will not bring them happiness! And when material wealth fails to deliver the goods, that is the time to get fed up!! In other words, the arrow of long-term evolution perhaps gives wealth to the seekers as an opportunity to drain themselves of all residual desires.
There are a few commentators who have occasionally aired this hypothesis of “curing through opportunities for getting fed up”, shall we say?!
In a nutshell, there is something in what you say; it cannot be summarily dismissed. But, like many hypotheses in the field of Spirituality, it cannot be established by the usual methods. However, an evolved Soul who can look deep into the mystery of Creation would probably be able to say something more definitive than us.
So, we cannot quite give the “truth of the matter” as you want us to. We are, however, prepared to vote for your hypothesis! Would that be OK?!
Thank you for writing to us and greatly stimulating our thoughts.