And then there is the law of karma. That is the law we are going to be mentioning tonight. The law of karma is an all-encompassing law, we cannot escape it. People don’t know about it, they may say, “I don’t believe in karma. I don’t know about karma. Therefore it doesn’t affect me.” It affects us.
What is this law of karma? Actually, it’s mentioned not only in the Vedas, but in other scriptures as well. The Holy Bible says, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” And some writers have said, “What goes around comes around.” “Everything you do is going to come back to you.” We may not act according to this knowledge, “Oh, I can do anything I want. I am rich, I am famous, I am powerful. It doesn’t matter what I do.” But there will be a surprise in the end.
The word ‘karma’ means ‘action.’ The spirit soul is active by nature. If you look at any life form, what do you find? Activity. From the one-cell amoeba… Action. The soul is active by nature. We can’t not act. So there is a law of action, it is called the law of karma. What we do matters, it counts.
The law of karma states this: if the activity that I perform affects the life of another living entity (and notice I say ‘living entity,’ I am not talking about just humans but any life form—animals, plants, whatever) in a negative way—if I cause some pain, suffering, hardship, death—then I am responsible for that. And in the future I will experience that pain, suffering, hardship, death will come back to me. This is called bad karma. I perform a bad action, I experience a bad result. But if I perform an action that helps another person, I make their material life a little better, a little easier: I feed a hungry person or a hungry dog, I do charity work, volunteer work, I speak kind words, whatever I do to make the material life of another living entity a little better, I get rewards for that. This is called good karma. In the future good things will come back to me. So our whole life is filled with activity, we are creating both good karma and bad karma every day, and it is accumulating and increasing.
There are higher authorities that are recording everything. Nothing goes unseen. In dealing with our material laws we may be thinking, “Oh, nobody will see me break this law.” The thief very carefully plans the robbery, “Oh, I will rob this bank.” And he uses his intelligence to create a perfect scheme to enter the bank, break into the vault, take all the money and get away with no finger prints, no evidence. Perfect crime, “Oh, I have made it.” You didn’t make it. Somebody did see, somebody recorded, you got caught. Not materially, maybe the police didn’t catch you, but it’s all in your karmic record. And in the future you will have to receive the results of that action.
There are three categories of karma. There is karma that is lying in seed: the act has been performed, it has been recorded, the result has been determined, but it is like a seed, nothing is happening yet. Then there is karma that has almost fructified, it is just about ready to bear fruit, to appear in our life, it is right around the corner. Today, tomorrow, next week, next year it will appear in our life. Then there is the karma we are experiencing right now. What is happening to us at the moment is the result of our past activities. We have created whatever situation we are in. This is hard for many people to accept because we all think that we are good guys, “I am a good guy.” Even a thief thinks, “I am a good guy.” And the mother of the thief thinks, “Oh, he is my son, he is a good guy.” It is just the way we are illusioned.
When these adversities appear in our life: I discover I have cancer, I get in a car accident, somebody steals all my money, I break my leg, my mother dies, my loved one dies, whatever happens, I never want to blame myself that this is my problem, I did this, this is what I got. We want to blame somebody else, “This is her. This is her fault! I am this way because I was raised like this.” Everything is somebody else’s fault, “Don’t blame me!” You go to the judge, “Don’t blame me!”
There is another scapegoat, another person we blame. There are two other people we blame outside of all the others, two big ones: The devil made me do it (“Why did you do that?” “The devil made me do it, it is not my fault!”) or God (“God did this to me.”). Many people are very angry at God, “Why? Why me? Why am I suffering?” Nobody’s willing to say, “Hey, this is what I deserve.”
Because we are under the illusion that we are this body and our existence started at birth, and many of us think, “My existence ends at death,” we think everything that happens in life is the result of this life. But with Vedic knowledge we understand this is not the case. We have had many, many, many lives. And in those lives we created karma. We have had lifetimes of karma. You don’t get all of your karma in one life, you take it with you. You come to the end of your life, you have whatever karma is there, good or bad. And that goes with you into your next life. When you take your birth, there it is.
The birth you take is the result of your karma. Who your mother is, who your father is – that is the result of karma. And the mother has a certain child because of karma, the father has a certain child because of karma. So the karma of the mother, the father and the child makes it so that they are put together, “Why do I have you as my child? Why you?” And the kid’s thinking, “How is it that I got you? If I had a choice, I would make it different.” Karma puts people together. Or it could be good, “I am so happy to have you as my child. I love you so much.” Good karma or bad karma. The kids cause you pain or they cause you joy. It is all karma.
A person is born and because of the illusion people think that every baby is pure. I hear it often. We’ve all heard this, we’ve may even said it, “Oh, look at this little baby, he’s such a pure soul. Oh, so nice, pure soul.” We don’t know, we have no idea what is underneath that little sweet-looking baby body. It may be some heavy-duty criminal who murdered, killed so many people, tortured people. He takes birth in a baby body, “Oh, he is so cute.” You don’t know. Then out of that beautiful baby body comes somebody like that.
Or they die very young: this little innocent baby is killed in some way or died from some disease, or some accident makes him paralyzed. And we think, “I don’t understand, this is wrong. What’s going on? God, why did you create such a situation? You are the Creator, you are supposed to be the Controller. You are supposed to be our Well-wisher. Look at this!”
People think God makes so many mistakes. I’ve also heard this many times, “God made so many mistakes!” God did not make any mistakes. We made many mistakes. We have failed to live according to God’s laws. We are in ignorance, we don’t even know what kind of laws of God there are. We don’t know who we are. We don’t know what to do in life. We don’t even know what life is. It is just our existence but what is that?
Many people come to the end of their life in old bodies. For instance, I know several people like this. I have talked to them in old age. It is like they are also confused, “What is life? I was born, I lived. What I thought was a long life now looks really short. I did this and that. I got education, I got married, I had kids. I had hard times and good times. Now it is all over. And what? What was it for? What was it about? I don’t understand.” This is not good; this is a very confused state of consciousness. That is why we need knowledge so that when we look at the events in this world, it is not like “I don’t understand,” it is like, “Of course, it’s like this.”
Usually we have our sentimental feelings towards situations. One is capital punishment. Capital punishment says that if a man murders somebody, then he should be murdered, he should be killed. It is “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” philosophy. Ok, you murdered this person, you are guilty, therefore you will be hanged or will go to the gas chamber or whatever–you will be executed. Some countries have such a law, some don’t. In America it is a state-by-state decision: some states have capital punishment, some don’t. The citizens vote on this. Some think, “Yes, it is good.” Others say, “Absolutely no good. No, it is wrong, nobody should kill anybody.” So, it is all about opinions and sentiments, “Is it right? Is it wrong?” We don’t really know, we just think, “I think this,” “Oh, I think that.” But actually, according to the Vedic knowledge, there is a clear answer, not speculations like “I feel this way,” but a clear authoritative answer coming from God Himself.
Let me make it clear: the Vedic knowledge is God’s instructions for us in the material world. It is not based on the ideas of men. Men did not write the Vedas although people often think that some guy wrote it. This is the Supreme Lord’s direct authoritative guidance. So, according to the Vedic knowledge, a person who murders somebody should be killed and therefore the karma for that action is finished. They paid their due. So when they take their next birth, it is finished. They are not bringing their karma into the next life. But if they don’t receive this punishment, they take that karma into that life and other lives, and suffer even more. This is the law of karma, you cannot change it. You cannot say, “I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s fair.” We don’t have anything to do with it. So if we have this knowledge, we can apply it, we know what to do.
If you are driving and you don’t know the traffic laws, you don’t know the speed limits, then you can easily cause accidents, you have to the pay fines. Ignorance is not a good thing anywhere. So ignorance in life is not a good thing. There is some fool who made this statement, “Ignorance is bliss.” He is a fool. We should learn the truth and act according to this truth.
When I am talking about truth, I am talking about Absolute truth. I am not talking about one group of people who says, “This is truth,” and another group says, “No.” I am not talking about that kind of ‘truth.’ I am talking about Absolute knowledge coming from the Supreme Lord. So we should use our human form of life to gain this knowledge. If we don’t, we lose a great opportunity.
I remember there was a man who worked his whole life, he accumulated quite a lot of wealth, he had a nice wife, they were very happy with each other and they dreamed about retirement. They made elaborate plans, together they designed a perfect home so they could enjoy their retirement years. A friend of mine helped to build this home. They had everything they could desire, just the way they wanted. They were so happy; they moved into this home, “Oh, everything is so nice.” And one night this lady died, just like that. My friend went to visit this guy because they became friends while he was building the house. The guy was devastated and he said, “This was not supposed to happen. This was not in the plans.” We don’t know what our plans are. We think we know, but we don’t know. We have our plans, but they are our plans. There are bigger plans. Of course, we’ve created this, but we don’t even remember what we created.