MEANING OF THE THEORY
I have been writing on the theory of karma in my last few blogs. This is my last blog on this topic. In this blog , I would outline true significance of the theory of karma. There are two aspects of this theory that I would discuss in this blog. First aspect is that of collective wisdom of our sages that could crystallize out such a fine tuned theory. The second aspect is that of inherent wisdom of the theory itself. Both these aspects are connected to one another, but more importantly , they collectively demonstrate the depth of insights into human nature and the nature of reality available at that time. Let me begin with the collective wisdom behind the theory of karma.
Considering the fact that this theory was articulated at a time when nothing much was known about psychology and natural sciences , it is indeed awe inspiring that we collectively could think of such a theory. Today , we might find fault with it and comment on its shortcomings( at least I do it ) , but we forget that we are able to do so because we have access to knowledge that was not available to them. In spite of this , the sages have been able to create a formal body of thought that is still relevant. There are two possible reasons for this. Firstly , by the time this theory was articulated , we must have had a very well developed value system . This value system must have been comprised of fine cultural ethos, sense of justice, notion of good and bad and even knowledge of psychology. To create an elaborate theory of such intricacy , the prevalent value system must have had intellectual depth of immense magnitude. The sages who articulated this theory did realise that these fundamental principles must be absolute. They also must have realised that their own ability to grasp the finer nuances of the theory could not have been a matter of random chance. Therefore , in their collective wisdom, they created an explanation that even their own understanding of the theory must be a consequence of their own individual karma .This resulted in two consequences. Firstly, they realised that they could not claim any credit for understanding and interpreting the theory of karma. Therefore , like most of our scriptures , the theory of karma has no authorship. It is , like most of our scriptures, a given wisdom. There is a beautiful term in Sanskrit for wisdom not derived from individual authorship. It is called “Apaurusheya” . While normally this term is usually employed to denote absolute and therefore divine knowledge, it’s correct usage is to denote the non authorship of the knowledge. The second consequence of this realization was that the notion of karma was elevated from being a subjective entity to the level of being the objective truth. It is the cognition of this objective karma by individual soul that alters it’s fate. We , rationalists, sometimes argue that since we do not remember our karmas of our past births , the theory of karma is wrong. However, it is not as simple as that. What if what psychologists call subconscious mind is nothing but those memories of our past births ? I agree that this is not a scientific hypothesis but it can not be denied right away. I can think of one of the pioneers of modern psychology , Carl Yung who had similar ideas. Irrespective of our belief in such arguments, the fact remains that theory of karma offers an alternative explanation of human predicament.
From this perspective, one can see why the theory of karma is still relevant. It is relevant because it refers to basic nature of human mind. The basic fact , that we often overlook , is that human nature has not changed. What has changed is its mode of expressions. Every age finds its own way of expressing itself. If it was scriptures and theory of karma in ancient times , it is science and jurisprudence in present times. The common link in all these ages is the constancy of human nature. This is true of not only religious texts , but also of all forms of art. A great writer finds her/his readers several centuries later. This is again because of constancy of human nature. Today , we can identify ourselves with the pathos of Greek tragedies because we share the emotions experienced by those characters at a very fundamental level. Similarly, when Goethe was overwhelmed with joy after reading “Abhigyan Shakuntal “ , it was the same constancy of human nature. The credit , of course , goes to the genius of the writers who could express human predicament in such universal terms but the underlying fact is that human nature has not changed.
Therefore one is tempted to view the theory of karma as a psychological theory . In a sense , this is true. However , there is a possibility that the theory of karma is something more than that. This brings me to the last point that I wish to make. The theory of karma hints at something deeper than its mere psychological efficacy. It suggests that the notion of karma is at par with physical actions. By postulating such an equivalence , the theory of karma is suggesting that realm in which human mind exists is the same as the realm in which physical objects exist. In other words , the whole universe is one single entity. Human mind is entwined with material universe. The science , however, does not agree with this possibility.This is because science began by separating mind from the matter. I would want all of you to think about this difference between science and the theory of karma. I think both paradigms are only partly correct. I am not sure how to reconcile both.
With this observations , I would conclude my series of blogs on the theory of karma. In my next blog , I would focus on my second novel which is half way through.