A look at the karma theory in the 4 religions
We all believe that we have some kind of permanent residence here on earth. We plan, prepare, hoard and organize plans for a long overhaul forgetting that we have all come with a return ticket. Life is often compared to a journey and all our relatives and friends are like the fellow travelers we meet on the journey. Some get off before we reach our destination point, still others continue even after we get down. Our Indian religions keep pointing out to this so often. Still we tend to forget this simple truth. Karma, reincarnation, liberation are words that we across in all the four religions that have had their origins in India.
To the followers of Vedic Hindu scriptures’ based lifestyle, the law of karma is a fundamental belief. ‘As we sow, so shall we reap.’ We go on accumulating results for our action and keep reincarnating or taking so many lives until the soul obtains moksha or liberation. Krushna describes in Bhagwad Geeta to keep doing the work and leave the fruit of the Karma on him. He says that we always belonged to him. We have come to this material world due to some karmic results and it is our duty to perform karma which can lead us back to him. The only way to escape this karmic bond is by offering everything to god, to do nishkama karma- which essentially means, doing an action without looking at its fruits.
The youngest religion Sikhism asserts that our lives are connected to karmic debt. The more karmic debt we have, the more number of times we will come back to earth and as we make an effort to reduce the karmic debt, then we are a step closer to God. A good Sikh is one who has got rid of the karmic debt completely after which he will reunite with the creator.
Jainism explains karma in an interesting manner. Karma is not an immaterial concept there. It is said to exist in the form of subtle particles. When the jiva is overcome with passions, then these particles enter the jiva and it acquires a body. In order to get disembodied again, the jiva has to go back to the pure state again. Only then can the jiva get freed. It is for this that every jiva has to follow the sadacharana or observance of ethical discipline.
The Buddha himself is supposed to have reincarnated many times. The Buddha made use of the powerful analogy of taking birth as an animal in the next birth to caution simple laymen to lead a life of virtue. This fear of being born as a lower life, that is as an animal, kept people away from mischief. But it cannot be taken too literally. The entire process of change from one life to the next is called “becoming again”. Karma operates as a moral law in the universe according to Buddhism as a continuous chain reaction of cause and effect. The Dhammapada says, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts.” So we can change our Karma with our good thoughts, good words and good actions. We can reach the enlightened state of the Buddha by raising ourselves with our goodness thus escaping the clutches of karma.
We thus see that these 4 religions speak of reaching god or achieving reunion with god by progressing with our own self effort and transcending the cycle of birth and death, by finally merging in the ultimate being. This is referred to as achieving liberation or moksha or nirvana.
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