Destiny and Karma; an attempt to understand them with the help of an avatar

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Today I want to share a small story from the Ramyan, the great Indian Epic, the story of Lord Ram. The Marathi language is blessed with a beautiful creation called “Geet Ramyan”, a musical version of the Ramyan, written by the great G.D.Madgular and composed by Sudhir Phadke. This creation contains 56 divine songs picking key events in the Ramyan. I am going to discuss one of the songs from this composition that describes the scene when Bharath visits Lord Ram in the forest. My attempt at translating this particular song is not a fair one, in the sense language is a complex medium and when one listens to the original the profoundness of it reveals itself. But I feel language should not be the barrier for others to at least get a gist of this amazing composition. This song moves me to tears almost every time and attempts to bring me to the reality of existence. The title is “Paradhin ahe jagati putra manasa cha dosh na kunacha” and here is the link on Youtube for this song with English translation.

Lord Ram’s father was the great King Dasharath, who had three queens and four sons. Lord Ram was to be crowned as the next king as he was the eldest son, but one of the queens, Kaykaye wanted her son Bharath to be the king and she used the two boons granted to her by King Dasharath years ago to ask for her son to be crowned the king and for Lord Ram to be exiled for 14 years. She wanted to ensure that her son Bharath once crowned the king had not threat from Lord Ram, as anyone who stays away from his property for 14 years loses all claim to it as the rule of the land. King Dasharath pleaded her to change her wishes and ask something else, but she did not budge. As was the rule back then, a king could never break his promise and he reluctantly summoned his favourite son to break the sad news to him. Lord Ram being the epitome of dharma, accepted this gladly, and he along with his wife Sita and younger brother Laxman, left for the exile. Shortly after this, King Dasharath died out of this heart ache of separation from his dearest son. All this happened when Bharath was not in the city of Ayodhya and he was unaware of all that has conspired. Bharath and Lord Ram were very close and Bharath worshiped his brother. When he came back, he was shocked to find out that his had father passed away and his dearest brother got exiled, because his mother wanted him to become the king. He was furious at his mother and he decided to go into the forest to bring back his dear brother and make him the rightful king.

So, the song describes the scene where Bharath has come to the Chitrakoot forest where Lord Ram is staying and he informs him of the demise of their father. He also pleads him to come back, he says “Because of my mother’s ambitions and my father’s promises, you had to face all this, now father has passed away and I have severed all ties with my mother, there is no reason to fulfil these promises. You are the rightful heir to the throne, come back and become the King, please show your mercy on the kingdom.”

Lord Ram is heartbroken to hear about his father’s demise and he completes the final rites, pouring the ashes into the holy river. He then explains to Bharath that as per dharma he has to complete the promises of their father and he will only return after the 14 years of exile are over. He explains to him that this is not anyone’s fault, everyone in this world is helpless in front of destiny.  

Lord Ram then asks Bharath to look around and notice that the entire creation is impermanent, he says “Dear brother, everything created will eventually be destroyed. Mother and father are not to be blamed, all that has happened is my karma, my past actions are being played out now”. Point to note here is who is saying these words about karma, it is Lord Ram who is the avatar of Lord Vishnu, it is God himself, and yet he is talking about karma. Lord Ram is also known as the Marayada purushotam, or the ideal man who follows dharma, and he was filled with compassion and justice. He always followed the rules and was understanding and always thought of others before his own needs. If he himself is accepting the laws of karma, what about us? We feel we have not wronged anyone in life, but we cannot even phantom or compare our actions and way of life to that of Lord Ram, plus we have no way to know what transcribed in our past lives. Everything wrong happening in our lives, shouldn’t we also try to accept it as fruits of our karma? Known and unknown karma?

Lord Ram continues “Dear brother, anything that rises has to fall, anything that is accumulated has to be lost, we meet people only to be separated that is the rule of the world. No one is to be blamed for what transpires in life. Birth and death are inter-twined, two sides of a coin and are together right from our birth, whatever you see around you is perishable, why are you grieving then for something which is a mere illusion, a dream? Man is enslaved to destiny and hence no one is to blame. I understand, our father suddenly passed away and your dear brother was sent to exile, all these circumstances happened in your absence and it has been a huge shock. But although sudden these are not incomprehensible situations. The mental capacity of comprehension of even the wise and the well-read is restricted when it comes to death, they are confounded and limited in their thoughts when faced with death. But has anyone ever escaped the cycle of birth and death? Has anyone ever truly lived without sorrow in this world? Whatever thrives has to die at some point. Hence no one is to blame.” At times when great sorrow hits us, we refuse to accept it and all we can see is sorrow, nothing beyond it. In times like these this song has helped me, it has acted as a crutch and stopped me from falling into the abyss of sorrow. I take it as God consoling me in person from whatever I am facing. Listen to this song, not as a third person but as Bharath, and it will really sooth your pain.

Lord Ram then says “Imagine, two logs of wood floating in the ocean, they slowly float towards each other and at one point touch each other. They are happy they found each other in this huge ocean and they float together content and happy. Then suddenly a huge wave crashes and they are separated, forever, never to meet again in this vast ocean. This is exactly how momentary, relationships are in this vast ocean of time and space, my dear Bharath. Man is slave to his destiny and no one is to blame for what conspires in life.” How wonderfully put isn’t it? This is my favourite part of the song; the example is so simple to understand and imagine and yet explains the depth of existence. What gives us sorrow, have you thought? It is loss isn’t it? Loss of a person, loss of money, loss of health, loss of time anything, but it is loss. If we imagine we are one log, and the person, money, health, opportunity is the other log, we meet, we enjoy, we rejoice and then when the time comes for that wave to crash, we depart. Most times never to meet again, it is sad but it is the inevitable truth.

Lord Ram continues “Stop crying now my dear Bharath, wipe those tears, both of us now have different paths to travel in life. You will become the king of Ayodhya and I will lead the life of an exile in the forest, no one is to blame, man is a slave of his destiny. Do not plead to me for my return now to Ayodhya, let us fulfil our father’s promises and bring him glory. It does not matter who wears what, whether a royal gown or a wanderer’s rags, both of us will do our duties. I will only return after these 14 years are complete, I will not step into Ayodhya before that. You are now the only king of the kingdom and all the wealth. Do not come into the forest looking for me again, I carry all your love in my heart. Ensure you take care and add to the prestige of the great city of Ayodhya.” Lord Ram thus consoles Bharath and reminds him of his duties. He asks him to move on in the path their father & mother had laid out, with all his strength and intention. I always imagine as if Lord Ram is saying this to me, to stop mourning for all the losses in my life and to look ahead instead at the path I have in front of me. It may be that of prosperity or it may be that of struggles and lack, but there is no choice. Walking on this path with my head held high and giving it all of my effort, intention and attention is how I must lead life.

Not get caught up in the luxuries and the richness and not get depressed by the challenges and the lack, only focus on the tasks in hand, that is what is expected from all of us. Bharath was fulfilling his father’s promises, we are fulfilling God’s will for us. To respect God’s will and to sincerely live life every day, not just with a sense of duty, but to live it fully being truly alive and experiencing each step is important.

When Lord Ram says that man is a slave of destiny, this is not to be taken as a defeatist attitude and stop striving for improvement. The reason he says this is, stop holding on, stop holding grudges, stop blaming someone else for your sorrow, he does not mean sit in one place and do nothing. In his exile, Lord Ram punished a lot of asuras or demons for their wrong doings and fought a great battle with the Asur King Ravan, not to win anything or prove anything, but as a duty to establish dharma. Ravan had abducted Lord Ram’s wife, Sita and held her hostage, yet Lord Ram did not lose his dedication to dharma and fought the war righteously. After he won the war against Ravan, he did not take the golden city of Lanka for himself, he established Ravan’s brother, Vibhishan as the king, who was just and kind. So, continue with duties and follow your dharma and the dharma of the land you live in and the dharma of humanity, do not give up your karma or work due to the fact that destiny is undeniable. By dharma here I do not mean religion, by dharma I mean standard of righteousness. For example, if you were in a relationship with a person, you loved him/her dearly, you gave your 110% in this relationship and suddenly the other person wanted to break up. You felt bewildered and you tried your utmost to save the relationship and it still ended. There is a point till which you can try to revive a relationship, beyond that you have to stop and move on. It is at this point in time that one accepts destiny and respects the other person’s choice. It does not matter who was right or wrong, it does not matter if the other person cheated you, broke your trust and used you or manipulated you. It was a relationship that was meant to end someday and, in your destiny, it had to end this way. It ended true to the transitional nature of this entire universe. Time is relative and we will never be satisfied with the amount of time we have with our loved ones, we will always want more.

Similarly, if someone close to you dies, the moment is devastating and for few days it feels like nothing is worth living for. At times like these, we should remember the story of the two logs of wood on the ocean, and accept that our paths were meant to unite only for this short time. It is not any one’s fault not even God’s fault. We make up notions in our mind that a successful relationship is if we spent an entire lifetime with that person, and it is just that, our notion, it is not the truth. Few people stay together for 60-70 years and some for few months, but that does not reduce the depth of emotions one might have felt. That does not determine the quality of the relationship, it is destiny and the way ahead is shown to us by God. Accepting certain truths in life and giving our best to the life ahead, being sincere in our attempts is what we must strive for.

Have you wondered why God takes birth on this earth as an avatar? It is to lead by example, he faces trials and tribulations to show us that there nothing unsurmountable. We should not always take an avatar’s actions literally, because stories at times are bizarre. But we should study what is it that they convey, where can we draw strength from them, where can we find hope in them. Hope this short story has touched you and hope you continue drawing inspiration from our real heroes, the innumerable incarnations and stories that exist for that very reason.

2 responses to “Destiny and Karma; an attempt to understand them with the help of an avatar”

  1. Nice pooja. Also we usually connect it with sad moments in life. say if something good happens we never or rarely connect with good karma 🙂


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