Are We Really Responsible For Our Actions

[Krishna's lotus feet]“When you see that there is nothing beyond these modes of nature in all activities and that the Supreme Lord is transcendental to all these modes, then you can know My spiritual nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.19)

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Friend1: I know that we are not the doer.

Friend2: In what?

Friend1: Activities. Actions. Work.

Friend2: Then what is karma? Are you saying it doesn’t exist?

Friend1: I’m getting to that. I think that I am the sole person responsible for what I do, but nature must cooperate. Prakriti must give the sanction for any desire of purusha to manifest.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

Friend2: Okay. Makes sense to me.

Friend1: It’s an eye-opening truth.

Friend2: For sure. Makes you think twice before starting a big project.

Friend1: A person shouldn’t over-endeavor. There is no guarantee that the work will be successful.

Friend2: Precisely. Success is saphala, or receiving the desired fruit. Not only are we not the doer, but we shouldn’t be attached to the fruits of our work.

“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)

Friend1: There is another verse related to this discussion. A person who sees that only the modes of nature are responsible in activities and that Shri Krishna is transcendental to these modes can properly understand the Supreme Lord.

Friend2: That’s true. Those are two very important things to know.

Friend1: The Sanskrit word is kartaram, which is translated as “the performer.” The modes of nature, gunas, are the real performer, not the individual.

Friend2: What is done, yes. Without those modes of nature, nothing could be done.

Friend1: Okay, but then couldn’t somebody use that as an excuse for bad behavior? If they are standing trial for breaking the law, can’t they blame the modes of nature? They could say that this is the proper understanding; everyone else is in illusion.

[courtroom]Friend2: It doesn’t work that way. No one will accept that excuse.

Friend1: Whether people accept or not is irrelevant. What is the truth of the matter?

Friend2: Alright, though appearing contradictory, the statements taken together are not difficult to understand.

Friend1: Please explain.

Friend2: Without these modes of nature, no result would manifest. I give the example of getting out of bed in the morning. For the majority of people, this is no issue. The process starts with the decision. “I want to get up.”

Friend1: Some people don’t want to, especially if it is cold outside or a long day of work is ahead of them. But I know what you mean.

Friend2: After the decision, there is the action. The performer, kartara, starts the process. At this point there is no guarantee of a successful result. Some people simply can’t get up. There is a disability, injury, or what have you. Others are able to succeed. In every case the modes of nature are the factor. They either cooperate or they don’t.

Friend1: Okay, but who is responsible?

Friend2: Responsibility is at the individual level. That’s where karma, or fruitive activity, comes into play. With karma you get activity that falls either into dharma or adharma, punya or papa, piety or sin.

Friend1: That makes sense, but if someone does something sinful, can’t they say that the gunas were responsible?

Friend2: The gunas facilitated the desire, the same way they might for someone who is on the righteous path. Without these gunas, no result would ever manifest. The word “bound” is used because a person is forced to act in so many situations. The most obvious examples are eating and sleeping. Even the lightest sleeper in the world has to take rest at some point every day. This is forced upon them. A person can’t survive without eating. These are examples of being bound to the modes of nature.

Friend1: Okay, but what is the benefit of understanding Krishna and how He is transcendental to the modes? Does such a person no longer have to eat and sleep?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Nature still exerts its influence, but the result is different. Shri Krishna directly takes over management of the results. I know this seems too good in theory, but it is true. He ensures that the devotion of the devotee remains intact, from life to life. Lacking the pertinent knowledge, a person will continue to think they can effect change entirely on their own, and from this desire they are kept in the material world, where illusion pervades the entire space.

In Closing:

Clearing up, for understanding exact,

Like known that modes of nature to act.

For any desire to fulfill,

Higher authorities responsible still.

Decision at personal level making,

But result not solely from impetus taking.

Know gunas and Shri Krishna too,

Saving from harm that understanding true.

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