Bhagavan Mahavira Life and Philosophy ► 07 ► [07.15] The Relative Potentiality of Spiritual Exertion and Karma

Posted: 16.09.2005

Chapter 7

The Relevance Of The Jaina Religion To Modern Problems

s karma imposes a limit on the free will of man and the purusartha (spiritual exertion) of man limits karma, karma and man's purusartha can be explained only from a relativistic point of view.

Purusartha produces karma, i.e., karma is a product of purusartha. In case karma had an unlimited power, it would render purusartha ineffective. In such a state, the effect of past karma would begin to manifest itself and force man to produce another karma. The result would be again the rise of karma and again the bandha. This vicious circle would have deprived man of his freedom. He would have become totally enslaved by karma.

We should not forget that Bhagavan Mahavira was the instructor of the gospel of anekanta. He did not perceive the truth only from a single perspective. He realized the truth that karma influences man. But at the same time he also emphasized the other aspect of this very truth that the powerful purusartha of man, in its turn, influences karma.

When we consider the efficacy of karma and purusartha from the relativistic stand point, we have to conclude that karma neither allows perfect freedom to man nor does it usurp his freedom completely. Once the karma has been completely obliterated, man's power to know, to be detached and to act freely begins to operate fully. If karma remains only partially dissolved or subdued, then man's power expresses itself only occasionally and not continuously.

This process of manifestation and suppression of man's power goes on. During this process, sometimes karma and sometimes man's power has the upper hand.

In the light of this changeability of karma, Bhagavan Mahavira laid down some special theses in accordance with karma. These theses provide a sort of correction to the prevalent one-sided beliefs regarding karma. It is a general notion that man is under the domination of karma. In other words, karma is identified with man's destiny. According to this belief, man reaps the fruits of his own karma s and his purusartha is of no avail.

These beliefs being one-sided had been proved false. Bhagavan Mahavira expounded these beliefs in the light of anekanta vada. He said that the notion that man is under the domination of karma can be true only when we do not forget the fact that the karma is also determined by purusartha. When we do not truly evaluate the efficacy of purusartha, we extol fate or the power of destiny. In fact, purusartha is capable of changing fate - the effects of karma.

This doctrine of karma sets man free from the mentality of pessimism, passivity and dependence on others. If the present purusartha of man were righteous, the effects of past malevolent karma can be weakened or transformed into those of benevolent karma, and thereby one can tread the lightened path instead of groping in darkness. On the other hand, inactivity born of indolence or mentality of dependence on others deprives man of the opportunity of enjoying future benefits and its achievements. It is derogatory on the part of man to be despondent Problems melt away if man takes recourse to right purusartha. He is not totally under the domination of karma. Karma is only an instrumental cause of man's helplessness. An instrumental cause, no doubt, shows its effect, but after all it is only an instrumental cause, and not an efficient cause. An awakened man can obliterate the dominance of karma which only exists as an instrumental cause.

People who do not understand the principle of changeability of karma begin to entertain doubts about the very doctrine of karma, when the social set-up changes. Karma is an internal condition of man. External conditions and instrumental causes may bring about a right change in the operation of karma, but they cannot obliterate its existence altogether. It is man's internal capacity of experiencing pleasure or pain which gives a chance to the instrumental causes to play their role and produce the feelings of pleasure or pain Individual problems can not be solved by simply changing external conditions and instrumental causes of pleasure and pain. They can be solved only on the basis of the individual's karma and the conditions, which effect karma.

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