Recently, now, it has been discovered that classical physics does not account for the cohesion of the universe, the benzene ring, classical physics can’t account for its stability.
So, the gaps, although God has been driven into the gaps there, but gaps now are appearing in the middle of the explanation. If the new physics is right, these explanations are only tentative and transparent, in a way, because they are based on indeterminism.
Now, the doctrine, of course, is a cause and effect applied to karma, is a little bit similar to the doctrine of cause and effect as applied in the world, in physics, for instance. We have an absolute flood of effects, causes and effects coming down here. There’s a flood coming down here. Now, most of these causal effects, these karmic effects don’t affect the present life. The present life has been put in these certain elements which are compatible with each other, come together to form present life. They’re sharing company together at the top here. The other elements of karma go on not touching this present life or hardly touching it.
We can say that karma is not a determined thing because it goes back without beginning, so it’s not a determined amount, there isn’t a determinant, but from the flux, certain elements come together which are compatible. For instance, you couldn’t have the karma leading to a tree, and the karma leading to a tiger and the karma leading to a painter all coming together in one life, they will be incompatible. Those three lives would have to follow in succession. So, it is the compatible ones which come together.
Now, they produce these tendencies that… the circumstances of birth, the length of life, roughly, and the main events of that life, but one point we have to remember is this, that the causes are almost infinite, as they are in our present-day physics. The Medieval thinkers used to make a distinction between causa causans, the cause which causes, and the causa sine qua non, cause which if it had not been there, things wouldn’t have happened.
For instance, if you throw a stone and you knock something over, the causing cause is the man, but there has got to be oxygen in the air, otherwise he couldn’t move and there has got to be gravity holding him on the ground, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to throw the stone. The stone has got to have a hardness and the air mustn’t be in the middle of a typhoon. The circumstantial causes are infinite. In fact, the whole universe. This is why, as they say, experiments can never be exact in their results because to formulate them at all, you have to ignore a large number of the attendant circumstances as minimal. Well, now, it’s a little bit the same way, karma, it is not a fixed amount or a fixed determinant, but there are tendencies and some elements are more powerful than others.
The example is given now on the right. There’s a karmic tendency which comes, say, from rajas and it comes down here in red. When it meets my life, it means somebody kicks over something which I’ve been building up carefully and I’m furious, there’s an explosion. Now, my fury has two elements in it, one is to get back at the person who has done it, which would be a tendency of rajas, an impulsive passionate struggle, coming down to just the rajasic elements of the karma that I’m creating now. Another one would be, “Oh, these things all happen to me. What’s the good of trying? If you do any good at all, people are just furious, they just come and destroy it.” That would be tamas.
So, I will have created, from that little explosion, created by one karmic tendency, there will be two more created, so that it will expand, and expand and expand. They will meet together with other elements of despair and despondency or rage and fury and one of them will become predominant and it will predominate in another life, but, in each life, all the other elements of the three tendencies are apathy and passion, struggle and energy and clearness remain.
Now, if there’s another one there and you see there’s a minor explosion, but there’s no karmic residue. If the same thing happens, somebody, again, does this, my first reaction is, “The world is full of absolute…” Then, perhaps, somebody has done some subjective training, they may think, “Yes, it is full of them, full of those people and I’m one of them.” Well, then, there might no resultant in the form of fury, desire for revenge or despair. Then, it would stop.
The same way if actions that are performed, they are successful or they’re not successful but the excitement of success or the despair or rage of not success, they produce karmic effects, but if they can be done without those feelings, then those actions are not binding and don’t reduce the karmic effects.
So, the teacher tells us that although the main events, some main events of our life are determined, our reactions to those events are not determined. One of the doctrines is that although a life can be predominantly of sattwa, predominantly of tamas, darkness, or predominantly of passion struggle, there are moments in each life, when perhaps for a very short time, each of these elements are pure because in the infinity of past incarnation, sometime I’ve done some very good action or very bad action, so these things will be pure.
There is always a moment, even in the most depraved life when there’s a sudden moment of clearness, not diluted by the circumstance. That means that change and a radical change is always possible. Gita twice says this “By knowledge, even the most sinful of men can change quickly.” In another place, he says, “Even if you are the most sinful of men, by my grace, you can quickly become righteous.” It might nearly kill you because it would mean a complete change of lifestyle, but, still, it could happen and our teacher often quoted these cases.
So, it’s not a question of karma, you have to live through your karma, the karma has placed you here. Yes, it has, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay here. It has been summed up in modern terms, karma sends the shower, but we can put up an umbrella. Karma has brought us so far, but what we do, what we make of the karma is making new karma and so the lives can change.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Karma – Kill Not the Self
Part 2: Cohesion of the universe
Part 4: Kill Not the Self – Karma
Part 5: The true self is unseen