Essence Of Jainism: 06 Questions And Answers About The Theory Of Karma

Published: 01.05.2011

In this chapter we shall deal with some questions that normally arise regarding the theory of Karma.


Do you mean to say that whatever situation that we may be in, is the result of our previous Karmas and that we can’t do anything about it and we can’t change it anyway?


Reply to the first part of the question is ‘yes’. We can however try to alter the given situation. Karmas do not mean only past Karmas. Whatever we presently do also constitutes Karma and that too is going to be fruitful. Suppose, we are not financially well off. We may therefore undertake a new business activity or go in for a better paying job. Undertaking such activities also constitutes Karma and may turn to be useful in improving our financial condition. In that case we have effectively changed th e given situation by new Karma. We however do not know which Karma would be fruitful at what time. Some Karmas are instantly fruitful and some remotely so. For instance, we may be hungry. Taking food for the purpose is Karma and satisfying hunger is the instant fruit. To take another illustration, one may be careless about the food or in respect of some habits. Even if such behavior may not instantly affect the health, some disease may develop later on. In that case the Karma of being careless gets fruitful at that time.


Can you throw some light on Prarabdha vs. Purushartha in light of theory of Karma?


Karmas can be divided into three categories. One is of Sanchit or accumulated Karmas which are not currently operative. They are like certificates of deposit, the amount whereof can be used at maturity. We know when our C.D. is going to mature but we do not know when Sanchit Karmas are going to mature. Second category is of Vartaman or present Karmas that we are currently acquiring. They can be fruitful immediately or later on. The third category is of Uday or operative Karmas. The consequences of these Karmas are currently destined for us. They therefore constitute our Prarabdha. They can however be modified by Vartaman Karmas, if such Karmas are going to be instantly fruitful. Uday Karmas thus constitute Prarabdha and Vartaman Karmas constitute Purus hartha. By Purushartha we may be in a position to change our Prarabdha, if Vartaman Karmas are going to be instantly fruitful. We can however never be sure of their instant fruitfulness. That is why every endeavor of ours does not necessarily succeed. Thus Prarabdha and Purushartha are not at odds with each other. Rather, they are two sides of the same coin.


Soul is conscious and Karmas are lifeless. How can lifeless matter modify the property of soul which is supposed to be pure, enlightened and full of bliss?


There is no rule that a lifeless substance cannot influence conscious matter. We experience different types of sensations because we are alive. A dead body does not feel any sensation. That means that sensations are experienced on account of the existence of soul or consciousness. The sensations are however not felt while a patient is under influence of anesthetic drugs. If lifeless drugs can thus affect the sensations of a live being, there is no reason to think that lifeless Karma cannot affect the property of soul. As the bodily sensations revive when no longer under influence of drug, similarly soul also can attain self-realization when it is no longer subjected to the bondage of Karmas.


Karmas are lifeless and hence unconscious. How can they be conscious enough to bear specific fruits appropriate to that type of Karma?


Karmas have not to be conscious of bearing fruits. It is their property that automatically works. If a person consumes poison, the result would be death. For this purpose, poison has not to be conscious of killing him. It is the inherent property of poison that works. Similarly different types of Karmas have their own respective properties that become effective in their own ways.


If purity, enlightenment, bliss etc. are the properties of soul, when did it initially get polluted with Karma?


Worldly soul has been smeared with Karma since the time without beginning. It has never been devoid of Karma. Therefore, the question of soul’s initial bondage with Karma does not arise.


If soul has been associated with Karma since the beginning, there can neither be end to it. As such it can never be devoid of Karma. Then why worry about it?


Though the bondage of Karma is without beginning, it is not the same bondage all throughout. Every karma has a time limit during which its consequences have to be borne and that Karma drops off at the end of that time. Meanwhile however, the soul indulges in new Karma and thereby gets new bondage. If soul does not indulge in new Karma, it can be devoid of Karma when consequences of previous Karmas are fully borne and the soul gets disassociated therefrom. In religious terminology this disassociation is called Nirjara that we are going to discuss in a later chapter.



Indira Mansukhlal Doshi Memorial Trust Edition: 1992 HereNow4U online edition: 2011

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  1. Body
  2. Consciousness
  3. Karma
  4. Karmas
  5. Nirjara
  6. Prarabdha
  7. Purushartha
  8. Soul
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