“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
अवश्यं लभते जन्तुः फलं पापस्य कर्मणः।
घोरं पर्यागते काले द्रुमाः पुष्पमिवार्तवम्।।
avaśyaṃ labhate jantuḥ phalaṃ pāpasya karmaṇaḥ।
ghoraṃ paryāgate kāle drumāḥ puṣpamivārtavam।।
“Is karma real? I know most people think of it in terms of placement at birth. For instance, in a metro area there is competition over high schools. Prospective students take a test. Depending on their score, they can enter one of the more prestigious high schools. The students with lower scores do not have this option; they are forced to attend an institution not as well-respected.
“We certainly notice the differences in human society. When the governments around the world institute a lockdown order to supposedly prevent the spread of a virus they know nothing about, certain people are not affected. They can either work from home or they have enough saved to survive rainy days.
“But there are those who have no choice. They suffer through misery and torment to collect what amounts to table scraps every day. There is no large bank balance to serve as a safety net. The leader of the nation seems to have no empathy for them. It is like they were eagerly anticipating a mass genocide of the poor.
“Karma would help explain the difference in circumstances, but how do we tell for sure? We can’t travel into the past, prior to this lifetime. We don’t know for sure where the individual will end up in the future, after death. Is faith the only recourse?”
From Vedic teachings we get the accurate definition of karma. Beyond its vernacular use, karma is simply fruitive activity. Action and reaction. Choice and consequence. A decision to make and a certain expectation with the outcome.
In that sense karma occurs in a continuum. Something basic like assembling a piece of furniture is karma. A new chair arrives in the mail. This is the only way to purchase during a nationwide stay-at-home order. The problem is that the chair is only in the potential stage. You have to put the pieces together.
If you follow the instructions, which would be symbolic of dharma, then the proper outcome is there. A nice chair to sit in, with few issues. If you fall into adharma, karma still applies. The correlation is that if you incorrectly assemble the furniture, you will face the consequence.
A person should keep in mind that the consequence does not have to manifest immediately. If a person drops a full bottle of a cleaning agent into a large dumpster, the resulting fire may not happen the next day. It could take some time before the vulnerability gets exposed.
In the same way, it might be years before I go to sit in the chair and it breaks apart. It could be after I have sold the chair to someone else. The buyer may not even be able to detect the faulty construction. They might attribute the demise to wear and tear, old age.
The Vedas do provide the confirmation we are looking for. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself explains the way karma works. In the Ramayana, Shri Rama tells the Rakshasa named Khara that the sinner’s fruit is something like the trees blossoming flowers.
This statement is so powerful because Khara thought that karma did not apply to him. He and his band of Rakshasas had been harassing innocent priestly men in the remote forests for a long time. This was the worst kind of harassment; killing and then eating the flesh.
Rama was there to deliver the consequences. In front of Khara, on the battlefield of Janasthana, was the appropriate time. The punishment would fit the crime. What Khara had put others through, he would suffer the same. This is nature’s way, vividly illustrated in this wonderful pastime of the Supreme Lord.
There is a way to stop karma, or at least to transcend its effects. From direct connection with Shri Rama, through the yoga process, the fan of reaction unplugs, so to speak. When we turn off the power to an electric fan, it may still spin for a while. This is the momentum carrying over from the previous work.
When we surrender to Bhagavan in full devotion, our past karma may still affect us, but it is mitigated. The pain of suffering is less, but this is not the primary impetus for accepting the shelter of the Divine, sharanagati. That connection is the true meaning of dharma, and for all the suffering we have endured in the past, we can finally taste eternal happiness.
Meant for His direction,
Finally that connection.
The yoga process for,
No more to endure.
Karma’s consequences where,
Sometimes of not even aware.
Like Khara on battlefield learning,
Strike of Rama’s arrow earning.