I have been discussing various aspects of theory of karma from psychological perspective in my last few blogs. As mentioned earlier , my interest in this topic is mainly because I am in the process of writing a novel based on the concept of reincarnation. In my previous blogs , I had suggested that our belief in the theory of karma does not depend on logical arguments but on the theory’s emotional appeal. I had discussed in my previous blog how our behavior is shaped by this karmic belief. I had pointed out that our belief that one can atone one’s bad karma is based on the erroneous belief that theory of karma is about individual ego and its redemption. The theory of karma , in it’s purest form , is a theory about the whole universe and not about individuals. In this blog , I would try to  explain why the belief in atonement of bad karma is for our personal consolation and it is not consistent with the theory of karma.

              The theory of karma , in it’s purest form , is about equilibrium. For every change in the universe there must be an equal and opposite response. The change and the subsequent response bring the universe back to the equilibrium. Upto this point , the theory of  karma is just like a physics theory.  However the theory of karma leaves this scientific domain and seeks to transcend it by postulating a notion of karma and the corresponding notion of Kartaa. Kartaa is the entity that is an  author and an owner of karma. Therefore according to the theory of karma , it is Kartaa who has the free will and a choice to act in a particular manner. However , Kartaa need not be an individual soul as prescribed by our religions. The term Kartaa refers to any entity that exercises free will and chooses particular karma . Therefore it is this free entity that is responsible for its karmas. This particular way of defining Kartaa is crucial to understand the the notion of responsibility of individual karma. To the extent , one chooses the option and to the extent one exercises free will , one is responsible for ones karma. On the other hand , to the extent one has no free will and to the extent one does not have freedom of choice , the ownership of one’s karma does not exist.

                  The question that I want to focus on today , viz. can there be any atonement for one’s bad karma , needs to be understood in the context of definition given above.  In order to understand the context of bad karma and it’s atonement , it is necessary to know that there are two important issues that must be clarified. The first issue is that of ownership of bad karma and the the second issue is that of definition of bad karma.

                 Let us think about the idea of individual ownership of one’s bad karma.  In light of the definition of Kartaa , it looks very simple that we ,as individuals , must be responsible for our bad karmas if we consciously perform them. However , there is a problem with what constitutes a conscious choice. The theory of karma says that the kind of choices , that our subconscious mind throws up for us to choose from , are also influenced by your past karmas. Thus what appears to be straightforward becomes convoluted. If one’s past karmas were to shape the very subconscious mind that provides one with options , the question of making choices out of free will does not arise . It is for this reason that Hindu philosophy describes reality as a kind of illusion ( Maya). It is Maya because the notion of free individual capable of making choices is itself an illusion. Not only the individual ‘s mind is shaped by her / his past karmas but also the choices created by her/his mind are shaped by her/his past karmas. One may be justified in disbelieving this consequence of the theory of karma ( at least I don’t believe it) ,  but this is what the theory implies. Therefore ,as far as , the theory of karma is concerned , the annulment of any karma , whether good or bad ,  is not possible. The karmas , once performed , can not be negated. Therefore the atonement of one’s bad karma is a kind of illusion. However one can take consolation from this  conclusion that ,though the sense of atonement may be an illusion , this illusion is a psychological truth. As discussed in my previous blog , the psychological truth need not be true in reality but it is operative none the less. It is for this reason that atonement works for all of us. Our bad karmas do not get annulled but at least our subconscious and conscious minds find sense and satisfaction in our acts of atonement.

                      This brings me to the second issue of the definition of bad karma. Just as our acts of atonement arise because of our subjective interpretations , so is our definition of what is a bad karma. The notion of bad and good are always subjective. However , it so happens that majority of us share common sensibilities , therefore more often than not ,our definitions of good and bad also coincide. However ,there are always some fringe areas where we differ from one another. In those situations our perception of good and bad also differs. Similar differences can be seen between different cultures and between different eras . Thus what constitutes a bad karma would change from time to time and from place to place. These differences are not important because the act of atonements are decided and executed by the minds of the individuals. Thus feeling of guilt of having  performed bad karma and it’s atonement are both psychological events and they are , by very definition , subjective.  Since this subjectivity is individual , the collective differences about what is good and bad  are not relevant.

           I would close this discussion of the theory of karma in my next blog and focus thereafter on my forthcoming novel in my future blogs.







             I have been writing a series of blogs on the reasons why I am writing my second novel on the theme of reincarnation. In my previous blog I had discussed the theory of karma as a behavioural paradigm. I had suggested that the theory of karma is too complex for our mind to comprehend. Therefore our sages have fictionalized it in the form of reincarnation. I had written that whether the theory of karma is true or not is not important because due its emotional appeal , we would anyway believe it. Therefore the theory of karma is true in psychological sense. This results in a situation where the theory of karma becomes a behavioural paradigm. It is possible to evaluate our behavior in the context of the meaning of the theory of karma and values embedded in it. In order to understand how our belief in the theory of karma shapes our behavior , it is necessary to evaluate our behavior patterns with respect to general consequences of the theory of karma. In my last blog I had selected three most widely held  beliefs about karmic theory. They were accepting the inevitability of consequences of one’s karma , absolving oneself from the responsibility of that karma and fatalism. In this blog I would discuss these beliefs in some details.

                 The cornerstone of karmic theory is that each and every action of an individual creates consequences. More importantly , these consequences  are inevitable. The theory of karma , in its purest form , does not provide any method of annulling these consequences. Though , some religious interpretations do provide various forms of atonements , the theory of karma does not. The theory of karma , in that sense, transcends religious beliefs. However ,  the theory of karma is still a deeply moral  theory because it holds sanctity of truth in its core. 

         This inevitability of the consequences of one’s actions is most widely held belief. Let us see how  it shapes our behavior. At a superficial level , this inevitability of consequences of one’s karma makes us defensive in handling challenges of our lives. One is always subconsciously wary of doing something that might have some unfavorable consequences. Thus this belief acts as a moral compass. While this creates some kind social constraint on how we choose to behave , it also discourages any radical course of action that we could have thought of otherwise.  As a result , we tend to behave in manner that is harmless in one sense and timid in another sense.  It is natural that our civilization has been , by and large , a conformist civilization.

        The second most widely held belief in theory of karma is that individual responsibility  can be rationalized and that individual concerned can be absolved from such a responsibility. There are two types of reasonings involved in this belief . Firstly ,as mentioned above , the religious interpretations of the theory of karma have articulated a doctrine that one’s bad karma can be annulled by some kind of atonements. Of course what constitutes a bad karma and how it can be atoned , varies from one religious sect to another. The details may vary but the principle does not. If you were to think about it minutely , you would realize that this notion of bad karma and it’s atonement is not logically consistent. Ideally , if you were to commit a good karma as an atonement of a bad karma , you would set in two sets of consequences by your actions. One chain of consequences arising from bad karma and another chain of consequences arising from good karma. It is not necessary that one chain of consequences would nullify the second chain of consequences. The key insight in this dilemma is that the idea of annulling of bad karma by atonement works not because it is logical. The idea works because it appeals to our emotions. It is our psychological compulsion to feel guilty and seek catharsis that  makes this idea of atonements so popular.

          The second reasoning behind the popularity of absolving oneself from responsibility for the consequences of bad karma is based on inevitability of karmic cycle. The logic behind this is labeled as determinism in philosophy. The argument is that if the theory of karma  is true , then consequences would follow no matter what we do. Since the bad karma could have been performed in one’s past incarnation and therefore it can not be changed. Thus we can always console and condone ourselves simply by pointing out our inability to change our karmic past.  Strangely , this form of karmic determinism  provides us with an escape route from blaming ourselves. In turn , we tend to condone most of the bad things that we do in our lives and what others do to us.

           The fallacy of this logic lies in the fact that the theory of karma is not about individual egos but about the universe at large. Therefore our attempts at an individual level to rationalize our bad karmas is a subjective interpretation. It has beneficial effects on our psyche. It soothes our our sense of guilt. Therefore it is , like our belief in theory of karma , is a psychological truth.

          This brings me to third belief of fatalism. The karmic determinism that I mentioned above is a form of fatalism.  Fatalism is a belief that our past , present and future are already decided. Fatalism denies any possibility of changing the our own fate.It helps us to accommodate conflicting consequences of two other beliefs. If consequences of karma are inevitable then there is no way individual can absolve herself/ himself. However the fatalism , in the form of karmic determinism , enables us to believe in these two contradictory  beliefs simultaneously.

          This brings me to the topic of my next blog. I mentioned above that the theory of karma is not about individuals but it is about the universe at large. What does this assertion really mean ? To understand that , I would discuss the complexities of karmic theory and the extent of individual ownership of bad karmas in this theory in my next blog.

       For readers interested in knowing more about my writing my website is now available. This website is created and managed by my publisher CinnamonTeal Publishing. You can visit the website at this link.


            THEORY OF KARMA



             My second novel is going to be on the topic of reincarnation. I have been writing blogs on the reasons why a writer finds this topic a rich source for fictionalization. In my previous blog , I had discussed the relationship between the theory of karma and reincarnation. I had suggested that the theme of reincarnation is , in reality , a fictionalization of the theory of karma. It is our emotional need that forces us to believe in reincarnation and therefore in the theory of karma. It does not mean that just because our belief in reincarnation or in the theory of karma is based on emotional needs , that the idea of reincarnation or the theory of karma are invalid. It is just that our belief in these ideas is not based on the facts but on our own emotional need to believe in them. As to the question whether the the theory of karma and therefore the idea of reincarnation are true , I think we have no way of knowing it.

             In this blog , I would take these ideas as true , in the psychological sense. In other words , the fact ,that we believe in them , makes them true because they shape our attitudes and behaviors. Therefore if one wants to understand our behavior, then that person has to accept that these ideas are true because we behave  as if they were true. Therefore our behavior can  make sense  only if one factors into our beliefs in the theory of karma and reincarnation.

              As a writer , I have always wondered how much of our behavior is governed by the theory of karma. More importantly , I have wondered whether this influence has been beneficial or harmful. In this blog I would discuss the nature of influence that the theory of karma has had on our behavior. Whether this influence is good or bad is a matter of personal opinion and I would refrain from putting  my personal opinion in public domain. In this blog , I would discuss how we face our lives and how we respond to changes in our lives.

              The theory of karma , as I would discuss in my future blogs , is a fairly complex system of beliefs. However , there are certain broad inferences that are widely perceived to be true. I would use these generalizations to show how our behavior is shaped by them. For this purpose , I have selected three generalizations. They are accepting inevitability of the consequences of one’s actions  , absolving oneself from the consequences and fatalism. To be candid , the first two generalizations are contradictory. This contradiction finds its resolution in the third generalization. 

              As a writer , what appeals to me is the fact this contradiction and it’s resolution represents the way our mind works. Our mind is capable of believing in two contradictory assertions at the same time. Our mind does this because it operates in different modules simultaneously. Therefore  our mind is capable of handling contradictions which , incidentally computer is incapable of.  This modularity of mind is the source of most of the psychopathologies. On one hand , this ability to handle contradictions gives rise to mental illness , on the other hand , it gives an opportunity to our mind to cope with complex situations. In other words , our mind is capable of turning us into either a genius or a crazy person ( in some rare cases it happens simultaneously).

                  The beautiful aspect of our mind is not that it can handle such contradictions , but that it tries to create a third interpretation that accommodates the two contradictory assertions. It is possible to take a pessimistic view and focus on the mind’s ability to create mental illnesses. Similarly, it is possible to take an optimistic view and focus on the mind’s ability to find meaning from these apparent contradictions. However , as a writer , I am more interested in totality of mind. This is because most of us are required to live in twilight of genius and insanity. There are moments in our lives when we might do insane things , but there are moments in our lives when we can perceive the wisdom that only a genius can perceive. It is this swinging between the wisdom and the madness that sums up our lives. As a writer , I aspire to capture this transience of our lives.

                 On returning to the three generalizations , that I plan to discuss , there is another deeper relationship between them. The perceptive readers may wonder that if the reasoning given above is true , then all the truths are subjective. For instance , if the contradictory assertions are capable of being reinterpreted into more fundamental wisdom , then their contradiction is false in some sense. Similarly ,if the third assertion were to be by-product of the reinterpretation of two contradictory assertions then the third assertion is a derivative of the first two assertions. If that is true then how can the third assertion be a fundamentally true. At best, it can only a supplementary truth. In other words , all truths are subjective. This doubt about our mind’s ability to perceive truths is legitimate. Surprisingly , this doubt is answered by the theory of karma. The theory of karma is not merely a method of keeping accounts of one’s actions. It is a theory of providing definition of truth , it’s relationship with individual soul and how to make individual soul to arrive at the fundamental truth as defined by the theory of karma.  Thus the theory of karma works at two levels. At a quantitative level , it gives a way of measuring and at a qualitative level it gives a way of understanding.It is in this sense that the theory of karma provides us a behavioral paradigm.

          In my next blog , I would discuss the three generalizations of the theory of karma in some details. I would deconstruct the three  generalizations mentioned above and show how they have shaped our behavior.

I would like to share a good news about my writing. My website is now operational and can be accessed through the following link. I would like to thank my publisher CinnamonTeal Publishing for creating this website.