Four Questions About Ajnata-Sukriti

[Lord Krishna]“The theory of chance can best be explained in the Vedic literature by the words ajnata-sukriti, which refer to pious activities performed without the actor’s knowledge. But these are also planned. For example, Krishna comes like an ordinary human being, He comes as a devotee like Lord Chaitanya, or He sends His representative, the spiritual master, or pure devotee. This is also the planned activity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.27 Purport)

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1. What is it?

Take the two terms individually. Sukriti is meritorious credits. Good deeds. Piety. Something that you inherently understand will not cause bad karma or whatever the preferred word to describe future consequences. Helping an elderly person cross the street. Holding the door open for the next person entering the building. Kindness when it is not necessary. Not broadcasting your good qualities or accomplishments. Staying humble.

Ajnata means “without knowing.” Sometimes a person does something good because they understand that it will lead to future benefits. Something similar is described in the Bhagavad-gita. Charity in the mode of passion is with a specific intent for reciprocation. Like a company donating to a preferred charity of a specific client in order to win their favor for future business.

यत् तु प्रत्युपकारार्थं
फलम् उद्दिश्य वा पुनः
दीयते च परिक्लिष्टं
तद् दानं राजसं स्मृतम्

yat tu pratyupakārārthaṁ
phalam uddiśya vā punaḥ
dīyate ca parikliṣṭaṁ
tad dānaṁ rājasaṁ smṛtam

“But charity performed with the expectation of some return, or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood, is said to be charity in the mode of passion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.21)

2. Who is eligible?

Every person. It is not that only those of a high birth can perform good deeds. Not every person is aware, either. If there isn’t instruction delineating right and wrong, pious and impious, who will know what to do to forward the interests for the future, paramartha? Self-interest is easier to decipher. Something like the difference between preyas and shreyas, short-term enjoyment and long-term benefit.

Any person can acquire meritorious credits unknowingly. After all, it is the connection which matters, the nature of the activity. Even the worst people are known to do good on occasion. This goes against their nature, but that is the reason for the ajnata description.

3. What are some examples?

[good deed]Good deeds are easy to understand, but sometimes they are done to help a larger cause, without knowing it. Imagine that an important person in society is on the way to deliver a speech in front of a large assembly. They are running late due to traffic. They happen to run into you on the street, while you are riding a bicycle. They ask for a lift. You give it to them, not understanding the higher purpose. This is very important service since it will allow so many people to hear a message, though you have no knowledge of the gravity of the person being assisted.

4. Is there a way to create it for others?

Ajnata-sukriti is often understood to be chance. It is the explanation for good things randomly occurring, but His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that there is intelligence at the foundation. Underlying the cause and effect is the combination of the Divine will and the mercy of His dedicated servants.

ब्रह्माण्ड भ्रमिते कोन भाग्यवान् जीव
गुरु-कृष्ण-प्रसादे पाय भक्ति-लता-बीज

brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja

“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)

[Lord Krishna]The devotees of the Supreme Lord create ajnata-sukriti for others by working tirelessly to spread the message of Divine love. Along the way, so many are bound to offer assistance without understanding the importance. For instance, a printer can offer a discount on their services to an acharya wishing to publish translations of sacred texts like Bhagavad-gita and Ramayana.

The general public can give donations to maintain houses of worship, where not only does bhajana take place through song and dance, but enlightening discussions on the highest philosophy occur on a regular basis, benefitting anyone who is fortunate enough to hear.

The devotees create good fortune for others, and those helping, knowingly or unknowingly, accumulate meritorious credits to pay dividends at a future time. In this way the process of devotional service is known to be the highest welfare work, benefitting every connected person, including any family members who may present an opposition.

In Closing:

At time not understanding,

Just helping hand lending.

But a benefit created then,

To understand in bhakti when.

That Shri Krishna always to see,

And happiest in my life to be.

Others involved almost by chance,

Bhajana their fortunes to enhance.

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