Source of Everything

Does every action has reaction?

The various actions we perform in this world beget various specific results. When we begin to enjoy these results- the fruits of our work- these actions of enjoyment also produce, in their turn, further results as a matter of course. Thus we develop a big tree of actions and reactions with their respective fruits. And as the enjoyers of these fruits, we become bound up in the network of the tree of work and its fruit. Birth after birth, the spirit soul remains bound up in the process of producing such fruits and enjoying the same. We have very little chance of escaping this bondage of action and reaction- work and its fruitive results. Even after abdicating all work and accepting the life of a sannyasi, or renunciant, one still has to work, if only to fill his hungry stomach. So there is no way out- no way to avoid doing work- if only for the belly’s sake.

So, to solve this dilemma, the Personality of Godhead, Sri Kṛṣṇa, advises us as follows: “The best policy for doing work is to perform all prescribed duties for the satisfaction of Yajna, or Viṣṇu, the Supreme Being and Absolute Truth. Otherwise, all actions will produce reactions that will cause bondage. If work is done for the sake of Yajna, one will become free from all bondage.” This method of work, which does not cause any bondage, is called work with transcendental results, or karma-yoga. By working this way, one not only becomes immune to the bondage of work, but one also develops transcendental devotion toward the Absolute Personality of Godhead. Rather than enjoying the fruits of his work himself, a person should dedicate the same for the transcendental loving service of the Absolute Personality of Godhead.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2012 edition), “Message of Godhead”, Page 29

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How past karma are responsible for present distress?

Another name of the Paramatma feature of the Lord is kala, or eternal time. Eternal time is the witness of all our actions, good and bad, and thus resultant reactions are destined by Him. It is no use saying that we do not know why we are suffering. We may forget the misdeed for which we may suffer at this present moment, but we must remember that Paramatma is our constant companion and therefore He knows everything – past, present, and future. And because the Paramatma feature of Lord Kṛṣṇa destines all actions and reactions, He is the Supreme controller also. Without His sanction not a blade of grass can move. The living beings are given as much freedom as they deserve, and misuse of that freedom is the cause of suffering. The devotees of the Lord do not misuse their freedom, and therefore they are the good sons of the Lord. Others, who misuse freedom, are put into miseries destined by the eternal kala. The kala offers the conditioned souls both happiness and miseries. It is all predestined by eternal time. As we have miseries uncalled for, so we may have happiness also without being asked, for they are all predestined by kala. No one is therefore either an enemy or friend of the Lord. Everyone is suffering and enjoying the result of his own destiny. This destiny is made by the living beings in course of social intercourse. Everyone here wants to Lord it over the material nature, and thus everyone creates his own destiny under the supervision of the Supreme Lord. He is all-pervading and therefore He can see everyone’s activities. And because the Lord has no beginning or end, He is known also as the eternal time, Kala.

In Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that one should surrender unto Him, giving up all other engagements. The Lord also gives His word there that He will protect surrendered souls from the reactions of all sinful activities. Srila Rupa Gosvami says that the distresses from sinful activities are due both to the sins themselves and to sins committed in our past lives. Generally, one commits sinful activities due to ignorance. But ignorance is no excuse for evading the reaction – sinful activities. Sinful activities are of two kinds: those which are mature and those which are not mature. The sinful activities for whom we are suffering at the present moment are called mature. The many sinful activities stored within us for which we have not yet suffered are considered immature. For example, a man may have committed criminal acts, but not yet been arrested for them. Now, as soon as he is detected, arrest is awaiting him. Similarly, for some of our sinful activities we are awaiting distresses in the future, and for others, which are mature, we are suffering at the present moment.

In this way there is a chain of sinful activities and their concomitant distresses, and the conditioned soul is suffering life after life due to these sins. He is suffering in the present life the results of sinful activities from his past life, and he is meanwhile creating further suffering for his future life. Mature sinful activities are exhibited if one is suffering from some chronic disease, if one is suffering from legal implication, if one is born in a low and degraded family or if one is uneducated or very ugly.

There are many results of past sinful activities for which we are suffering at the present moment, and we may be suffering in the future due to our present sinful activities. But all of these reactions to sinful deeds can immediately be stopped if we take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As evidence for this, Rupa Gosvami quotes from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Eleventh Canto, Fourteenth Chapter, verse 19. This verse is in connection with Lord Kṛṣṇa’s instruction to Uddhava, where He says, “My dear Uddhava, devotional service unto Me is just like a blazing fire which can burn into ashes unlimited fuel supplied to it.” The purport is that as the blazing fire can burn any amount of fuel to ashes, so devotional service to the Lord in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can burn up all the fuel of sinful activities. For example, in the Gita Arjuna thought that fighting was a sinful activity, but Kṛṣṇa engaged him on the battlefield under His order, and so the fighting became devotional services. Therefore, Arjuna was not subjected to any sinful reaction.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2011 edition), “The Nector of Devotion”, Page 4
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Teachings of Queen Kunti”, Page 75

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If everything is predestined according to laws of karma then why should we work?

Just as you cannot check your distress, so you cannot check your happiness. Whatever economic development we are destined to get, we shall get it. Whatever happiness or distress we are destined to get, we shall get it. We don’t try for distress, but it comes; it is forced upon us. Similarly, although you don’t try for it, the little happiness you are destined to obtain will also come. Therefore the scripture advises, “Instead of wasting your time bothering about so-called happiness and distress, better to engage your valuable time in understanding what is the goal of life, why there are so many problems, why you have to struggle for existence. This is your business.”

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “The Quest for Enlightenment”, Page 84
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “The Science of Self-Realization”, Page 208 

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Everyone has to perform the prescribed duties.

Formerly, the varnasrama-dharma was prominent, and everyone had a particular duty according to his position in society. Now the occupational duties have expanded, but it doesn’t matter whether one is an engineer, a doctor or whatever. Simply try to serve Kṛṣṇa by the results of work. That is bhakti. It is not the philosophy of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to disengage people from their activities. One should engage in his occupation, but one should never forget Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa advises us to always become Kṛṣṇa conscious, and we should always think that we are acting for Kṛṣṇa. Of course, we should work by the order of Kṛṣṇa or His representative, not whimsically. If we perform some nonsensical action and think, “I am doing this for Kṛṣṇa,” that will not be accepted. The work must be verified by Kṛṣṇa’s acceptance or by the acceptance of Kṛṣṇa’s representative.

If we conduct business and earn money, we should spend it for Kṛṣṇa. This is a form of bhakti. Another vivid example is Arjuna, who was a fighter. By fighting, he became a devotee. He did not become a devotee by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa but by fighting in the Battle of Kuruksetra. Kṛṣṇa advised him to fight, but because Arjuna was a Vaisnava, in the beginning he was unwilling. A Vaisnava does not like to kill anything, but if Kṛṣṇa orders him, he must fight. He does not fight out of his own will, because a Vaisnava’s natural instinct is not to do harm to anyone. However, when a Vaisnava knows that Kṛṣṇa wants a particular thing done, he does not care for his own considerations. In any case, everyone has some particular type of duty, an occupation. If we perform our occupation in the worship of Kṛṣṇa, our life will be perfect. This is also the instruction given in SrimadBhagavatam (1.2.13):

atah pumbhir dvija-srestha varnasrama-vibhagasah, svanusthitasya dharmasya samsiddhir hari-tosanam

“O best of the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead.”

Source : A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2007 edition), “Teachings of Lord Kapila, The Son of Devahuti”, Page 151

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How one can stop reaction of sinful activities?

By performing Vedic ritualistic activities, by giving money in charity and by undergoing austerity, one can temporarily become free from the reactions of sinful activities, but at the next moment he must again become engaged in sinful activities. For example, a person suffering from venereal disease on account of excessive indulgence in sex life has to undergo some severe pain in medical treatment, and he is then cured for the time being. But because he has not been able to remove the sex desire from his heart, he must again indulge in the same thing and become a victim of the same disease. So medical treatment may give temporary relief from the distress of such venereal disease, but unless one is trained to understand that sex life is abominable, it is impossible to be saved from such repeated distress. Similarly, the ritualistic performances, charity and austerity which are recommended in the Vedas may temporarily stop one from acting in sinful ways, but as long as the heart is not clear, one will have to repeat sinful activities again and again. This sinful desire-seed can be removed only by achieving Kṛṣṇa consciousness. And this can be accomplished very easily by chanting the mahamantra, or Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, as recommended by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In other words, unless one adopts the path of devotional service, he cannot be one hundred percent clean from all the reactions of sinful activities.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2011 edition), “The Nector of Devotion”, Page 6

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In our routine life we kill so many insects and animals unconsciously, do we have to suffer reaction of that?

Although, we may take so many precautions to protect ourselves against the vices and sinful reactions, unconsciously we kill many ants and others insects while discharging even the most ordinary duties, such as walking from one place to another. Even while simply drinking water we kill many tiny aquatic creatures, and we also kill many living entities merely by cleansing our homes or when eating or sleeping. In sum, we cannot avoid all the sins we incur, even unconsciously, in the ordinary course of life. According to the laws of man, a person may be hanged when he commits homicide but he is not hanged when he kills lower animals. According to the laws of God; however, one also commits sin by killing a lower animal. We are punished by the laws of God for either action. Those who do not believe in the laws of God, or even in His existence, may go on committing such sins, and they are put into for committing such sins, but that does not affect the existence of God or His eternal laws.

By doing everything for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu (Kṛṣṇa) and taking the remnants of the offerings made to Viṣṇu, we can get rid of the vices and sinful reactions that accumulate in the course of performing our prescribed duties.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2012 edition), “Message of Godhead”, Page 33

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Do devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa have to suffer for their past misdeeds?

In court an important man is sometimes found to be a culprit, and the judge may be able to fine him a hundred thousand dollars and know that the man can pay it. But he may tell the man, “You just give one cent”. That is also punishment, but it is greatly minimized. Similarly, we have to suffer for our past deeds. That is a fact, and we cannot avoid it. But karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam (Brahma-samihta. 5.54): the sufferings of those who engage in devotional service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are minimized. For example, one may have been destined to be killed, but instead of being killed with a knife, he may instead get some little cut on his finger. In this way, for those who engage in devotional service, the reactions of past activities are minimized. Lord Kṛṣṇa assures His devotees, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami: “I shall give you protection from the reactions of sinful life”. So even if a devotee has a history of very grievous criminal activities behind him, instead of being killed he may only get a little cut on his finger. Why then should a devotee fear danger? When a person gives up all other duties and simply takes to the transcendental service of Kṛṣṇa, he has no desire and is not subjected to or likely to perform sinful activities. If however, he performs sinful activities (not wilfully but by chance), Kṛṣṇa gives him all protection.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Teachings of Queen Kunti”, Page 55, 188
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2012 edition), “Teachings of Lord Caitanya, The Golden Avatara”, Page 147

Source of Everything

Only Lord can change resultant actions of the law of karma.

We must know for certain that the particular position in which we are now set up is an arrangement of the supreme will in terms of our own acts in the past. The Supreme Lord is present as the localized Paramatma in the heart of every living being, as it is said in the Bhagavad-gita (13.23), and therefore he knows everything of our activities in every stage of our lives. He rewards the reactions of our actions by placing us in some particular place. A rich man gets his son born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but the child who came as the rich man’s son deserved such a place, and therefore he is placed there by the will of the Lord. And at a particular moment when the child has to be removed from that place, he is also carried by the will of the Supreme, even if the child or the father does not wish to be separated from the happy relation. The same thing happens in the case of a poor man also. Neither rich man nor poor man has any control over such meetings or separations of living beings. The example of a player and his playthings should not be misunderstood. One may argue that since the Lord is bound to award the reactionary results of our own actions, the example of a player cannot be applied. But it is not so. We must always remember that the Lord is the supreme will, and He is not bound by any law. Generally the law of karma is that one is awarded the result of one’s own actions, but in special cases, by the will of the Lord, such resultant actions are changed also. But this change can be affected by the will of the Lord only, and no other. Therefore, the example of the player cited in this verse is quite appropriate, for the Supreme Will is absolutely free to do whatever He likes, and because He is all-perfect, there is no mistake in any of His actions or reactions. These changes of resultant actions are especially rendered by the Lord when a pure devotee is involved. It is assured in the Bhagavad-gita (9.30-31) that the Lord saves a pure devotee who has surrendered unto Him without reservation from all sorts of reactions of sins, and there is no doubt about this. There are hundreds of examples of reactions changed by the Lord in the history of the world. If the Lord is able to change the reactions of one’s past deeds, then certainly He is not Himself bound by any action or reaction of His own deeds. He is perfect and transcendental to all laws.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Srimad Bhagavatam”, First Canto, Chapter 13 – Text 43

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One of the great advantages in the age of Kali, a living being does not become a victim of sinful act until the act is actually performed.

The age of Kali is called the fallen age. In this fallen age, because the living beings are in an awkward position, the Supreme Lord has given some special facilities to them. So by the will of the Lord, a living being does not become a victim of a sinful act until the act is actually performed. In other ages, simply by thinking of performing a sinful act, one used to become a victim of the act. On the contrary, a living being in this age is awarded with the results of pious acts simply by thinking of them. Maharaja Pariksit, being the most learned and experienced king by the grace of the Lord, was not unnecessarily envious of the personality of Kali because he did not intend to give him any chance to perform any sinful act. He protected his subjects from falling prey to the sinful acts of the age of Kali, and at the same time he gave full facility to the age of Kali by allotting him some particular places. At the end of the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said that even though all nefarious activities of the personality of Kali are present, there is a great advantage in the age of Kali. One can attain salvation simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord. Thus Maharaja Pariksit made an organized effort to propagate the chanting of the Lord’s holy name, and thus he saved the citizens from the clutches of Kali. It is for this advantage only that great sages sometimes wish all good for the age of Kali. In the Vedas also it is said that by discourse on Lord Kṛṣṇa’s activities, one can get rid of all the disadvantages of the age of Kali. In the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is also said that by the recitation of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Supreme Lord becomes at once arrested within one’s heart. These are some of the great advantages of the age of Kali, and Maharaja Pariksit took all the advantages and did not think any ill of the age of Kali, true to his Vaisnavite cult.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Srimad Bhagavatam”, First Canto, Chapter 18 – Text 7