Karma Forgets

Sita and Rama“Do you seek the mercy of this Rama, who is very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Always keeping proper attention with me, please do return me to Him.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.21-22)

prasādayasva tvaṃ canaṃ śaraṇāgatavatsalam ||
māṃ cāsmai niyato bhūtvā niryātayitumarhasi |

The Vedic term “karma” is pretty well known in the common vernacular. It is associated with results to action. “You get good karma if you do something good. You get bad karma for doing something bad. You should keep karma in mind when doing something, for the results can come at an unexpected moment. When you have something bad happen to you, know for sure that it is due to some bad karma you accumulated from a previous act.” This is generally how things work, and what’s interesting is that once you get your due reward or punishment, the previous act is essentially forgotten. The slate is wiped clean. With one person, however, work done in His direction has a permanent effect. It is remembered forever.

Think of the sports team that tries very hard to win a championship. The players arrive at training camp full of hopes. They proclaim that this season will be better than last. They promise to boost their performance. They will learn from the previous mistakes. The front office has made the necessary tweaks to personnel. Gone are the players past their prime and newly arrived are those bursting with potential. Everything looks good for the upcoming season.

World Series trophyThrough the grind, through a difficult regular season and an even more difficult playoff run, the team wins the championship. The trophy is the fruit of their work. It is the result of their collective karma. Then fast forward to the next season. A bitter defeat in the playoffs can leave the same team saddened. Players that one year before had hoisted the championship trophy are now left to ponder over what might have been. In this way the previous karma was forgotten. There was work done, there was a reward earned, and then the work started anew.

Of course there are so many effects to a single act, and so not all results arrive at the same time, but nevertheless the results are short-lived. Even if they have a lasting effect for the duration of life, at the end of life the slate is wiped clean with the shedding of the body. This body is compared to a set of clothes, something to be put on and then taken off through the course of reincarnation.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.22“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

Since so many results to karma continuously arrive, one forgets act after act. With work done for the benefit of one individual, though, the results to a single act continue to arrive. This is because this individual does not ever forget that act. He has no desire to, as He is so pleased upon any single kind act shown His way. He is the most powerful person, so if He decides to reward someone, that person will never be lacking the essential items of life.

This is the point Sita Devi tries to get across to a fiend in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana. Here she asks Ravana to seek the mercy of Shri Rama, her husband. This mercy isn’t difficult to get. One need only surrender to Rama. The Lord takes it from there. He is very affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Ravana had accumulated a lot of karma from his past deeds, and when those results arrived, the deeds were essentially forgotten. If he received Rama’s mercy, though, his rewards would never vanish; no one would forget what he did.

Lord RamaTo get that mercy he would need to return Sita to Rama. The couple was separated due to Ravana. He stole Sita away in secret. She did not want to be with him. If you take something from a store by accident without paying for it, once you realize what you did you should return the item. This is common sense. In this case Sita’s refusal of Ravana’s advances could be taken as an indication to Ravana that what he had done was wrong. Realizing that, if he should return Sita to Rama all would be forgiven.

The previous sinful act in karma for Ravana would be forgotten, but reuniting Rama with His wife would not. Rama would ensure the safety of Ravana. He would make sure the kingdom of Lanka was full of opulence all the time. He would make Ravana famous for being such a great devotee of the Supreme Lord. Rama is God in His avatara as a warrior prince. This information is provided to us in the Ramayana, which is a sacred and essential work of the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world.

Unfortunately, Ravana didn’t listen. He remained stubborn in his desire to have Sita. Since He didn’t please Rama, he would have to lose everything that he worked so hard to get. The kingdom, the wives, the opulence, the position of prominence – all gone through a single offense. In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Rama but in His original form of Krishna says that He brings to the devotees what they lack and preserves what they have.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.22“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.22)

Ravana thought he didn’t lack anything and that he could preserve all of his possessions on his own, even without paying attention to the standard codes of decency. What he did lack was a spiritual consciousness. His kingdom wasn’t necessary for acquiring this consciousness, and so in this sense it wasn’t really necessary to preserve.

Vibhishana meeting RamaRavana’s younger brother Vibhishana was pious. He did surrender to Rama. Under mundane morality, Vibhishana was a traitor for turning against his brother. Though that is an act that brings bad karma, it had no effect on Vibhishana because of the superior influence of Rama. The Lord maintained Vibhishana’s devotion and made it stronger by handing over Ravana’s kingdom to him. Thus the fiend who was always so anxious to protect material possessions lost everything, despite hearing the best counsel. And meanwhile the devotee who had a guileless heart got the same kingdom easily and without coveting it. To this day Vibhishana is still heralded as a great servant, showing that his one kind act brought a reward that is never to vanish.

In Closing:

Since his heart on devotion set,

Vibhishana throne of Lanka to get.


Gifted and maintained through kind act one,

More merciful than Rama there is none.


Through so many acts kingdom to win,

Yet all forgotten, Ravana undone by sin.


Karma to forget but Rama will not,

Attention on devotees never to drop.


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