What is Karma? : Based on the Wisdom of Bhagavad Gita

During a live-streamed event, yoga philosophy and meditation expert, Acharya Das, teaches us about Karma Yoga of Bhagavad Gita – What is Karma?

Acharya Das shares that “the process of Yoga [in general] deals with the process of self-realization.” As human beings, we automatically find ourselves materially entangled, and Yoga provides us with “direction on how to progressively advance along the spiritual path to a full spiritual awakening.” In order to understand Karma Yoga and advance spiritually, we must first gain an understanding of Karma and how our actions have consequences.

As Acharya das explains, “Karma literally means action,” and this is a very significant concept that we need to consider seriously. There is an unavoidable problem with Karma.

Through exposure to Christianity, many of us may be familiar with the idea of Karma through the Biblical concept of “As you sow, so shall you reap,” or the even further modernized phrase, “What goes around comes around.” In other words, actions have consequences. Acharya Das shares that in the Yogic philosophy this means that to one degree or another, if you are miserable and unhappy, it’s ultimately your own fault. “Maybe there’s nothing that you’re doing immediately that has caused this, but it has definitely come from the past. There is this understanding that when you act there will, as they say, definitely be a reaction.” Therefore, we must always consider the consequences of Karma when we act.

Karma is very much tied to the topic of reincarnation or “transmigration of the soul.” Acharya Das explains this through the example of a child born into this world. We can easily recognize that we don’t “all start on an equal platform and position.” Some people are born into families with more wealth than others, some may be born beautiful or ugly, and some may be born healthy or very sick. “Everybody is born in different circumstances.”

The significance in this illustration as it relates to Karma is that everybody has been dealt a different hand—this is a direct result of Karmic reaction, which is also called Karma Phalam. Phalam means fruit, so we understand this as “the fruit or result of your actions.” Acharya Das explained that “people think that when a baby is born that it’s so cute and tiny and innocent and it’s got a clean slate, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that little baby has shown up with heaps of baggage. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

The key to remember is this: “the activities that we perform in this life are going to have an effect, and we must accept and experience the fruit or the result of all of our actions.” For each choice and decision, we make, we may see one of three results: an instant Karmic reaction, a delayed Karmic reaction, or the planting of a “material conditioning” seed “that at some point in the future will sprout and develop and bear a fruit.” Everything we do now may have a result in our current life or in future lives—this is why it is so important to know and understand Karma and the impact it can have. In fact, Acharya Das shares that “when you engage in any [material] activity, you are going to be tied to this world because you will have to experience the Karmic result, the Karmic fruit of all your actions.”

Every action, both good and bad, “results in further bondage, and therefore suffering, in the material world.” But the good news is that there is a solution. Acharya Das explains about the existence of the Supreme soul and the position of are ordinary souls – that we must know and accept that “I am not this particular body I am wearing. This is not me. I am an eternal spiritual being temporarily residing within this body. I am the seer of everything and that which is seen, the material world, is separate from me.”

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If we desire to “attain and taste the actual happiness that we are entitled to,” we need to accept the reality of our identity as a spiritual being and not become increasingly entangled in this material world. “So, the process we are talking about is the process of self-realization—coming to actually experience our true spiritual nature and freedom from suffering associated with material entanglement.”

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About The Author

Acharya Das is a disciple of Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda 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.

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