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The Principle of Cause and Effect
A Person’s Effort and Destiny (fate)
Fruits of Action and Rebirth
Architect of Destiny
Sin and Virtue

As you sow so shall you reap:

The Law of Karm (action) is an important principle in the Vedic Scriptures. What does ‘Law of Action’ mean? This is our everyday experience - that a person reaps fruits according to one’s actions. In our daily relationship we find many examples of action and its (accompanying) fruit.

One who does not walk with care on the road has an accident; one who eats wrong food becomes ill; a student who does not work hard for the examination fails; a shopkeeper who does not pay attention to his or her business has to suffer losses; a farmer without hard work reaps fewer crops from the farm.

Examples of this type may be found in every field of life and therefore it is said “as you sow so shall you reap”. If you sow the seeds of sour figs you cannot expect to reap sweet mangoes. One who plots the fall of others becomes the victim of one’s own plot. A person then suffers the consequences of one’s own actions.

The Principle of Cause and Effect

The basis of the fruits of action is the law of cause and effect. Whatever I have done or am doing or whatever has been achieved by my efforts constitutes the effect which must have some cause. A child’s crying is the result of some cause - perhaps he or she is hungry or is experiencing pain or someone has hit him or her. In other words, one’s crying must have an under-lying cause. A bird flies away because someone threw a stone at it or it heard a sound or some such cause, made it fly. Therefore we can say that without cause there can be no action.

This cause and effect relationship extends far. The child is crying because someone hit him or her. The “hitting” itself is a resultant action which must have a cause - perhaps the child had used dirty words; the use of dirty words is perhaps the result of someone teasing the child. Thus what is considered a cause may be in a way a result and thus the consequential cause of an action can be easily traced.

In this way what is deemed to be the consequence can be called the fruits of an earlier action. To become ill, to fail in an examination, to suffer misfortune are all fruits of some or other type of action. A person suffers the results of one’s own actions. It does not always happen that the fruit of an action follows immediately upon the cause. Sometimes results are immediate, at other times belated. Every moment we are doing some sort of action either good or bad for which one gets the result later on. Say for example someone donated hundred dollars to the poor and God rewards the person with two days of happy life for such a generous action. The same donor just few hours after donating to the poor kills a person. Now when will God punish this person? Will God cancel the two days of happiness that He has already rewarded to the person and punish the person. If God does this then He is not truthful because He has not kept His earlier words. Actually God always remains firm to His decisions. In such a case God punishes the person after he or she has been rewarded i.e. once the reward for good deeds is over one suffers for the evil deeds and vice versa. So if you think you have done something good or evil and you haven’t got the result yet then it doesn’t mean that you are free of the action. You will definitely get the results of your actions when the time is appropriate.

A Person’s Effort and Destiny (fate)

Whatever action a person undertakes in this world is one’s effort. One thinks and understands plans and makes attempts. Sometimes one succeeds, sometimes one fails. Many causes may underlie one’s success or failure - one has not made full efforts or one lacks the proper means or one has not given adequate thought to one’s undertaking.

Sometimes it happens that under the same conditions two people undertake the same type of work; yet one succeeds, the other fails. At times success comes with little effort, at other times every effort meets with failure; and we sigh ‘my luck is bad, this is the fate destined for me’. What is this luck and fate? This is the fruit of my past actions. Actions that have been performed in this life or in a previous life. Our good or bad actions do not always bear fruits immediately.

The fruits of past actions are reaped in the present life - and this is called destiny. Our present actions may be aided or put at a disadvantage by past actions. Two people under identical circumstances may thus experience opposing results of success and failure. Good past deeds bring success and past sinful actions result in obstructing all efforts.

The dispenser in the matter of destiny is God. But when the fruits of action will be handed out or how much will accumulate, a person does not know. A person is free to do deeds of one’s choice, but the reaping of fruits of one’s actions is decided by God.

Fruits of Action and Rebirth

Rebirth of the soul takes place in accordance with the actions of the past life. In other words, with birth comes our actions of our former lives.

Therefore the individual has to undergo happiness or suffering. It is seen that some infants are ailing at birth, others are healthy, some crippled, others strong, some born in the homes of the rich, others in the homes of the poor. These differences arise on the account of actions committed in previous lives. The law of cause and effect may be brought forward. If we have not already suffered the result of our actions, they have to be suffered in the next life. The happiness or suffering, success or failure in the present life are caused by the actions in our former birth as well.

Architect of Destiny

A person must pay the consequences of one’s own actions. Therefore, when one performs actions in which one is unsuccessful, it is said that what is established by destiny must surely happen. The power of fate is the most dominant.

It is true that what is destined must be rewarded or suffered, but this destiny is the fruit of our past actions. In other words destiny is decided by karm (action). We must consider the question from the view point of the present life. The actions performed now will establish our future destiny, which means that we are the architects of our own destiny. A person builds one’s own destiny. We must accept with fortitude the fruits of the past actions and for the future try to build a beautiful fortune. This is the realistic path.

Sin and Virtue

A person is free to perform actions which may be good or bad. One indulges in evil deeds on account of ignorance, selfishness, hatred etc. The evil actions one commits are sin; the good one performs is virtue. The evil that a person commits must be paid for; the question of forgiveness does not arise. Any person or teacher can give us advice to follow the path of virtue and to avoid the road of sin but finally our destiny will be decided in accordance with the actions we perform. Thus it is we ourselves, who earn evil or good fruits by our actions. We perform actions of our own free will and must eat the fruits thereof. The giver of the fruits of action is God. The law of the fruits of action inspires a person to accept the existence of God, reminding us of God’s justice, omniscience (all knowing) and omnipotence (all powerful).

Adapted from ‘Dharmic Shiksha (Vedic Religious Knowledge) – Form Five’, Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, 2001.
Copyright: Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji

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