During the recent live-streamed event, yoga philosophy and meditation teacher Acharya Das teaches us whether or not Karma is avoidable.
Acharya Das confirms that Karma is definitely a problem. It is through Karma and the desire associated with it that we become bound to this world. Being bound to this world and the repeated cycle of birth and death, we will perpetually experience different kinds of pain and difficulty. There may be high points and happy moments, but there will also be a corresponding amount of pain and suffering and difficulty associated with that.
We will experience the biggest problems, as Acharya Das explains, by remaining materially entangled and absorbed in the material concept of life, thinking that this body I have on in this lifetime is who I am. I will not be able to actually be in touch with and experience my true spiritual identity and the actual deep spiritual happiness and spiritual love that comes from that realization and experience.
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If Karma is indeed a big problem, then it begs the question whether Karma is avoidable. Are we to accept a lifetime of pain and suffering despite our high points and happy moments? As Acharya Das explains, The answer is both yes and no.
To illustrate this, Acharya Das shares the story of Arjuna, who was an ancient warrior prince. Faced with the prospect of an unavoidable war, where he would be required to fight against members of his own family, Arjuna suddenly became overwhelmed, thinking that, If I engage in this activity, not only is it utterly sinful, but I will be responsible for much suffering, not just from the act of killing people or fighting against people, but the consequence. What will happen to society? ?What effect will it have on others? He felt this enormous burden, to the point where he completely lost his composure. Arjuna thought that it would be better if he simply walked away from this, and went to live in the mountains as a monk, and in doing that, he would be able to escape the consequence?that he wouldnt experience a karmic reaction if he chose not to engage in this activity.
Essentially, Arjuna thought that if he avoided the negative action, he would become free from any negative Karmic reaction. In short, he ran away. But in the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna explains that while you may act in a way that appears to be religious or moral, or attempt to avoid engaging in any activity, you cannot necessarily escape Karmic reaction?you will still be forced to act.
So, what is the solution? If we cannot run, what is the answer? Simply stated, we must change.
What this means is that we simply cannot run away or avoid action?because Arjunas nature was that of a warrior, he simply could not avoid acting in accordance to this. My escaping responsibility or avoiding action doesnt mean my consciousness has changed; it doesnt mean I have changed.
Acharya Das explains that what happens is that in the embodied state, when I take on a material body and a material mind, that body and mind will have certain impulses and certain characteristics determined by these invisible forces known as the modes of material nature and even though I may try to escape a Karmic result by saying, Im not going to do this, and run away from it, it hasnt changed me. That act alone, the act of trying to just renounce action, doesnt change me. All it does is put things off. My material nature that Ive been influenced by is still going to be there. This body that I have and the type of mind that I have thats covering me, the spiritual being, will again cause me to desire, to act or to react to something going forward.
Running away from action is simply delaying it. If we try to avoid action but our mind still remains on those material thoughts and desires, we will be described as a pretender because eventually we will be forced to act.
In order to truly avoid the negative Karmic reaction, we must make a true change. Part of real change, an eternal change in dealing with Karma, is the beginning of the idea of Karma Yoga. It has to do with the concept of duty. When you have a material body, when you have a station in life, there are responsibilities that come with it. Learning to perform those responsibilities and accepting the duty that is assigned to me in this station in life, my condition in life, and acting with a sense of duty, is a really important starting point for someone that wants to attain a transcendental position. The concept of duty is really focused on the idea of acting in life, acting but without a strong attachment to the outcomes; performing activities out of a sense of duty.
In other words, the idea being put forward is that one should perform the duty associated with my position in life, whether it is to my family, to friends, to society, or to the job in which I work, and become very equipoised; to not be overly attached to certain things, while feeling other things are repulsive and avoiding responsibility because its something I dont like to do.
Acharya Das urges us to live a life of responsibility and temperance: a life of restraint, not from the idea of artificially imposing hardship, but to refrain from exploiting and trying to squeeze so-called happiness or fulfillment from other people, or from this world.
In Part Three of the series, Acharya Das will explain how not only can a person avoid karma by performing work in the service of God, but that Karma Yoga is actually the path to true happiness.
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About the Author
Acharya Das is a disciple of Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda, founder of Science of Identity Foundation, and Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and has studied the Bhagavad-Gita for over 40 years. He is a respected teacher of Vedic and yogic philosophy, meditation and kirtan, and a practitioner of the transcendental science of Bhakti Yoga, the process by which a person can come to know and love the Supreme Soul. Acharya Das has an uncommonly deep understanding of yoga philosophy and practice and conveys that message in a clear and simple way.