Karma – the educational aspectHanuman das
Today we talk about karma, especially the educational aspect of it.
I received a question a few months back: “What is a point in punishing people for a crime that he is not aware of?”
For example, somebody is constantly sick in this lifetime, but he doesn’t know why is he sick. He is sick because he has bad karma, but he is not aware of the actual bad deed that he performed in his previous life. Then, how will he learn anything from it?
Srila Prabhupada writes:
Christian philosophers who do not believe in the law of karma put forward the argument that it is absurd for a person to accept the results of past deeds of which he has no consciousness. A criminal is first reminded of his misdeeds by witnesses in a law court, and then he is punished. If death is complete forgetfulness, why should a person be punished for his past misdeeds? The conception of the Paramātmā is an invincible answer to these fallacious arguments. The Paramātmā is the witness of the past activities of the individual living being. A man may not remember what he has done in his childhood, but his father, who has seen him grow through different stages of development, certainly remembers. Similarly, the living being undergoes many changes of body through many lives, but the Supersoul is also with him and remembers all his activities, despite his evolution through different bodies. (CC Adi 2.19p)
So, the law of karma is more connected with justice and the modes of material nature. Depending on the mode of material nature, you will be put into a certain condition. So, justice must be served, the fact that you didn’t learn anything from your punishment is secondary.
Now, here comes the scary part, Srila Prabhupada mentions “dark future”, three verses in the row:
Animal life is always miserable, although, under the spell of the illusory energy, māyā, the animals do not understand this. Slaughtering poor animals is also due to the mode of ignorance. The animal killers do not know that in the future the animal will have a body suitable to kill them. That is the law of nature. In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state. Because of ignorance, people do not perceive that there is a complete state controlled by the Supreme Lord. Every living creature is the son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant’s being killed. One has to pay for it. So, indulgence in animal killing for the taste of the tongue is the grossest kind of ignorance. A human being has no need to kill animals because God has supplied so many nice things. If one indulges in meat-eating anyway, it is to be understood that he is acting in ignorance and is making his future very dark. (BG 14.16p)
So, people in the mode of ignorance wouldn’t understand what is wrong with animal killing even if they would receive reactions in the same life.
One engaged in the mode of passion is not only mentally unhappy, but his profession and occupation are also very troublesome. He has to devise so many plans and schemes to acquire enough money to maintain his status quo. This is all miserable. In the mode of ignorance, people become mad. Being distressed by their circumstances, they take shelter of intoxication, and thus they sink further into ignorance. Their future in life is very dark. (BG 14.17p)
So, people in the mode of passion also have a very dark future.
The lowest quality, the mode of ignorance, is described here as abominable. The result of developing ignorance is very, very risky. It is the lowest quality in material nature. Beneath the human level there are eight million species of life: birds, beasts, reptiles, trees, etc., and, according to the development of the mode of ignorance, people are brought down to these abominable conditions. The word tāmasāḥ is very significant here. Tāmasāḥ indicates those who stay continually in the mode of ignorance without rising to a higher mode. Their future is very dark.
There is an opportunity for men in the modes of ignorance and passion to be elevated to the mode of goodness, and that system is called Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But one who does not take advantage of this opportunity certainly will continue in the lower modes. (BG 14.18p)
Srila Prabhupada always described that the whole material world is a “bad deal”. We suffer here due to ignorance, and if we don’t understand three modes of material nature, we will continue to suffer. When we suffer, we might not understand the exact activity from our previous life that causes our suffering, but we should have general understand that our suffering is caused by associating with lower modes of nature.
We could ask the astrologer about particulars of our current suffering and how to remedy it, but Srila Prabhupada didn’t emphasize that point. He emphasized developing qualities that are “out of this world” and at the time of death, to transfer ourselves to Krishna’s abode.
Gross ignorance of ISKCON members
ISKCON gurus can’t give you the proper understanding of karma, because they are themselves deeply involved in activities of lower modes. Leading ISKCON guru Radhanath Swami was involved in the murder of the whistleblower Sulocana das. That was a grossly sinful act. Debates will continue forever if he was involved directly by supplying the getaway money, but that is not relevant. He was surely involved in an indirect way, by failing to preach against this murder. This murder didn’t happen abruptly, Kirtanananda and his gang followed Sulocana for months. There was plenty of time for Radhanath to preach against it. Even after the murder, he could dedicate his life to preaching against the killing of whistleblowers. But we never saw Radhanath Swami preaching against the murder of Sulocana das. This is highly suspicious.
It’s an interesting question if Radhanath Swami will get bad karma for not preventing this murder. For not preaching against it. For failing to act. After all, Tirtha das killed Sulocana, not Radhanath. But Radhanath could have saved Sulocana by preaching real Krishna consciousness, but he failed to do so.
My favorite quote from Morning walk explains responsibility perfectly:
The purport of the poetry is that one who is mischievous, he is culprit. But one who tolerates mischievous activity, he is also culprit. If you are mischievous, you are criminal. But if you tolerate mischievous activities that is also criminal. (May 3 1973 Morning walk)
And another one:
A person who knows things as they are and still does not bear witness becomes involved in sinful activities’. (CC Madhya 5.90)
If Radhanath was innocent, he would surely preach against this murder, and he would describe his version of the story in his biography, but these New Vrindavan years are completely absent from his biography.
So, how can ISKCON leader except to lead society in the right direction if one of them is a murder accomplice or a preacher whose followers kill people? Srila Prabhupada writes about a leader’s responsibilities:
Just try to understand how much a king was responsible for the happiness of the citizens. They were ideal king, and therefore the citizens also followed. They became Kṛṣṇa conscious, they became all devotees. And if the leader is a sinful man and doing all impious activities, then how you can expect the citizens to be all good and pious? It is not possible. Therefore here, it is a very important subject matter. “Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men will follow in his footprints.” Therefore good leader wanted. You haven’t got to educate individually every citizen. If you have got a good leader, then the citizens automatically become good. And whatever standard he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lecture Los Angeles, Dec 30, 1968).
So, what kind of standard did Radhanath Swami establish on New Vrindavan? Huntin’ whistleblowers. Very noble.
By this great impious deed of not preaching the against murder, we had a tragedy. And this tragedy will haunt Radhanath Swami and all other ISKCON leaders who tolerate a murder accomplice in their own ranks.
So, to understand karma, and the dark future of everybody involved, we need to study this picture: