Life’s passing by too fast, or so it seems. I complete 43 years in my present state of existence today. That’s more than three-fifths of the average life expectancy of an Indian male.
As I look back at my life, the third year of a decade has been particularly lucky or good for me, and the 43rd year was no different. On the work front, I wrote and published The Sketchbook of Wisdom and started The One Percent Show, both initiatives being very fulfilling for me.
Now, while spiritualists would want me to believe that I have existed from anadi (before the beginning of cosmos) and will exist till ananta (infinity), I see forty-three years as a good enough time to find some meaning in one’s life. At least, my rapidly greying hair and receding hairline help me realize that.
Now, while it amazes me that I’ve been around that long — I feel like I’ve barely begun (except when I look at the actuarial table).
I’m not usually one to make a big deal about my birthday, but as always, it has given me an opportunity to reflect.
So, like I have done over the past few years –
– let me share the 43rd lesson. It’s about the ‘law of Karma’ that I have come to believe more and more as years have passed. In fact, it was one of the first important lessons I learned very early in life. Let me tell you a story.
I was 10 and was studying at a boarding school in Dehradun. It was a cold December night of 1988. My best friend, who suffered from a medical condition, was restricted by our warden to drink water after 8 PM. That night, he drank not one but two glasses, and she found out. She punished him by making him sit on the floor, without a blanket, the whole night. I felt helpless as I was too scared to go against the warden’s order and help my friend. But the cleaner noticed him early next morning and found that he was suffering from fever. She alarmed the headmaster, and within a week’s time, the warden was asked to leave the school.
It was about two years later that I first read about Newton’s third law of motion that states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And it was much later that I first understood the ‘law of Karma.’ But it was in December 1988 when I had experienced it at work.
Karma is a Sanskrit word from the root ‘kri,’ that means to do or to make. It also refers to the principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma. Now, contrary to popular perception, karma is not fate – the lines drawn on your palms that direct the way your life will move. It is instead a beautiful concept that states that your actions determine your destiny.
If this life is a field, karma is the seed. We harvest exactly what we sow. No less, no more. Buddhism teaches three ways to practice good karma – right thought, right speech, and right action. Practicing these consistently means setting up habits that will last throughout the rest of your life. Hindus look at time as a circle, as things cycle around again.
Karma is a very just law which, like the law of gravity, treats everyone the same. The law of karma puts a person at the centre of responsibility for everything he or she does and everything that is done to him or her. And like the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad sums up so beautifully, it all starts with our desires and ends with our actions, which come back to us, sometimes instantly but often with a time lag.
Proverbs 26:27 of the Bible read –
“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”
Ed Viesturs, a high-altitude mountaineer and the world’s fifth person to climb all fourteen of the 8000+ meter peaks, wrote this in his autobiography that summarises the law of karma well –
“Although I remain uncertain about God or any particular religion, I believe in karma. What goes around, comes around. How you live your life, the respect that you give others…and how you treat people in general will come back to you in kindred fashion. I like to talk about what I call the Karma National Bank. If you give up the summit to help rescue someone who is in trouble, you have put a deposit in that bank. And sometime down the road, you may need to make a big withdrawal.”
The whole world is nothing but the principle of karma. All our reactions are like echoes of our previous actions and the fruits are inevitable. Life is like a boomerang. What you give you get. And karma, they say, never loses its address.
After having had my share of a few bad karmas in the past, I now conduct my life with this lesson etched deeply in mind, and in my actions.
“Life is like a boomerang. What you give you get,” I remind myself everyday, and especially as I move rapidly towards ananta.
That’s about it from me for today.
Thank you for reading.