Destiny & Exertion
In olden times the adorable Vasishtha inquired of Brahma as to which among these two , viz., the Karma of a creature acquired in this life, or that acquired in previous lives (and called Destiny), is the more potent in shaping his life. Then, the great god Brahma, who had sprung from the primeval lotus, answered him in these exquisite and well reasoned words, full of meaning.
Brahma said: Nothing comes into existence
without seed. Without seed, fruits do not grow. From seeds spring other seeds. Hence are
fruits known to be generated from seeds. Good or bad as the seed is that the farmer sows
in his field, good or bad are the fruits that he reaps.
One's own acts are like the soil, and Destiny (or the sum of one's acts in previous births) is compared to the seed. From the union of the soil and the seed does the harvest grow. It is observed every day in the world that the doer reaps the fruit of his good and evil deeds; that happiness results from good deeds, and pain from evil ones; that acts when done, always fructify; and that if not done, no fruit arises. A man of good acts acquires merits with good fortunes, while an idler falls away from his estate, and reaps evil like the infusion of alkaline matter into a wound. By devoted application, one acquires beauty, fortune, and riches of various kinds.
Everything can be secured by Exertion; but
nothing can be gained through Destiny alone, by a man that is wanting in personal
Exertion. Even so does one attain to heaven, and all the objects of enjoyments, as also
the fulfilment of one's heart's desires by well directed individual Exertion.
Riches and other objects of enjoyment do not
follow the stingy, nor the impotent, nor the idler. Nor are these ever attained by the man
that is not active or manly or devoted to the exercise of religious austerities. If one's
Karma bore no fruit, then all actions would become fruitless, and relying on Destiny, men
would become idlers. He who, without pursuing the human modes of action, follows Destiny
only, acts in vain, like unto the woman that has an impotent husband. If Destiny be
unfavourable, there need not be much fear with respect to this world. But if one be
wanting in Exertion, great must his fear be with respect to the next world, for happiness
can never be obtained in the next world unless one acts righteously while here.
There is a constant rivalry between the
deities and the Rishis, and if they all have to go through their Karmas, still it can
never be averted that there is no such thing as Destiny, for it is Destiny that initiates
all Karma. How does Karma originate, if Destiny form the prime spring of human action?
All the good which is attained with
difficulty in this world is possessed by the wicked, is soon lost to them. Destiny does
not help the man that is steeped in spiritual ignorance.
The good man who is prodigal (in religious charities and sacrifices), is sought by the gods for his good conduct, the celestial world being better than the world of men, but the house of the miser though abounding in wealth is looked upon by the gods as the house of dead. The man who does not exert himself is never contented in this world nor can Destiny alter the course of a man that has gone wrong. So there is no authority inherent in Destiny. as the pupil follows one's own individual perception, so the Destiny follows Exertion. The affairs in which one's own Exertion is put forth, there only Destiny shows its hand.
O best of Munis, I have thus described all
the merits of individual Exertion, after having always known them in their true
significance with the aid of my yogic insight. By the influence of Destiny, and by putting
forth individual Exertion, do men attain to heaven. The combined aid of Destiny and
Exertion, becomes efficacious.
Is the Supreme Being the doer, or is man the doer? Is everything the result of Chance in this world, or are the fruits that we enjoy or suffer, the results of previous actions? If man does all acts, good or bad, being urged thereto by the Supreme Being, then the fruits of those acts should attach to the Supreme Being Himself. If a person cuts down, with an axe, a tree in forest, it is the person that incurs the sin and not the axe by any means. Or, if it be said that, the axe being only the material cause, the consequence of the act (of cutting) should attach to the animate agent (and to the inanimate tool), then the sin may be said to belong to the person that has made the axe. This, however, can scarcely be true. If this be not reasonable, that one man should incur the consequence of an act done by another, then, guided by this, you should think that the consequences of all acts must attach to the Supreme Being Himself, He being the urger of us all.
If again, man be himself the agent of all his acts virtuous and sinful, then Supreme Director is none, and therefore, there is no Supreme Being and no next world. No one can ever turn away from that which is destined.
If again, Destiny be the result of the acts
of former lives, then no sin can attach to one in this life even as the sin of cutting
down a tree cannot touch the maker of the axe (no one being free in this life, all one's
acts being the result of previous acts, there can be no responsibility for the acts of
WHAT THE FRUITS ARE OF GOOD DEED
Bhishma said: A man attains to riches that makes charitable gifts. One secures obedience to one's command by the vow of silence; all the enjoyments of life by practice of austerities; long life by Brahmacharya (celibacy); and beauty, prosperity and freedom from disease by abstaining from injury to others.
Heaven is attained by the practice of truth, nobility of birth by sacrifices. By abstaining from food or by regulating it, one attains to residence in heaven. By reading all the Vedas, one is instantly liberated from misery, and by practising virtue in thought, one attains to the heavenly regions. That man who is able to renounce that intense yearning of the heart for happiness and material enjoyments,- a yearning that is difficult of conquest by the foolish and that does not abate with the abatement of bodily vigour and that clings like a fatal disease unto him,- is able to secure happiness.
As the young calf is able to recognise its mother from among a thousand cows, so does the previous acts of man pursue him (in all his different transformations). As the flowers and fruits of a tree, unurged by visible influences, never miss their proper season, so does Karma done in a previous existence bring about its fruits in proper time. With age, man's hair turns grey, his teeth become loose; his eyes and ears too become dim in action; but the only thing that does not abate is his desire for enjoyments.
Prajapati is pleased with those acts that please one's father, and the Earth is pleased with those acts that please one's mother, and Brahma is adored with those acts that please one's preceptor. Virtue is honoured by him who honours these three. The acts of those that despise these three do not avail them.
As Mantras applied with a desire to win victory, or the performance of the Shoma sacrifice made without proper gifts, or oblations poured on the fire without proper hymns, become useless and lead to evil consequences, even so sin and evil results flow from falsehood in speech.
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