Chakra Discussions

Why We Forget Karma

by Niscala dasi

Posted August 4, 2007

I have been having a discussion that I would like to share here, as to why God, through the passage of time and rebirth, makes us forget the roots of our karma, with the result that usually we suffer and can't remember why. I say "usually" because we have all heard of "instant karma". In that discussion, it was suggested that it is an ineffective system because in a prison system, remembering the crime for which one is punished is essential for rehabilitation. However before we can conclude that, we must first consider whether the creation is designed only to deter people from crime or sin- as in a prison- or if it serves another purpose which is altogether different. Then we must envision an alternative world- with instant karma for everything we do- and see if such a situation would ultimately serve that purpose.

I propose that this world we live in is not prison-like. I know it is often described as so in sastra, but that is mostly in relation to the limitation of ones freedoms here as compared to in our natural state- not because its purpose is punitive! I have made such a proposition not arbitrarily but in reference to the consensus of the worlds religions or what is common to all of them. Though Im not a scholar of comparative religion, at least I know that Christianity and Hinduism concur that evoking love of God through acts of compassion, empathy, selflessness and other traits of that genre is the purpose for which we were created. If we accept this, which is certainly more pleasing to the mind than that we were created simply to be punished and rewarded like helpless children, then we can go on to consider whether an alternative creation, where karmic reactions are meted out with our full cognition of their link, would serve this purpose duly. Or if the creation as it is, serves it better.

What would a such an alternative creation be like to actually live in? Lets imagine. You are walking down the street in our "Just, New World" and notice a person crying, holding his arm. You ask what's wrong. "Oh I hit my kid and now my arm hurts" "Serves you right" you think but politely say nothing. Then you come upon a man scrabbling for food in the bins "What's wrong?" "Oh I left my dog without food or water for a week and now I have none for a week" "Oh I see" and you walk on thinking "well that will teach you a lesson" Then you come across a kid who has fallen out of a building and lies dying on the footpath. 'What happened?" Through groans he replies "My friend and I were playing on the top floor balcony and I got angry with him over something he said, and I pushed him and he fell. Now it has happened to me."
"Well, let me take you to a hospital"
"What's a hospital?"
"Why it's a place where people get you better"
"You cant do that- my friend died. There's no such place as a - whatever you said. What planet are you from?"
"You mean people don't help each other here?"
"Its impossible. We can't help each other. What are you talking about? Whatever we do, there is a reaction, and no one can stop it"
So you try to walk away but you can't. You cry "I want to help you!"
"You can't. Don't be stupid. Who do you think you are- God?"

By fusing action and reaction together in this way, divine intervention from our own divinity becomes impossible, you see. We are meant to evolve as gods, as saviors of each other, bring a beacon of justice to what is (seemingly) a hopelessly unjust world. It is precisely because this world is - to our eyes- unjust, wrong and warped beyond belief that we can intervene and see misery turn into the sweetness of joy. That we can feel the need for love and intervention is only possible when action and reaction are disconnected from our psyche through the passage of time and rebirth. It allows our* conscience* room to breathe, to become outraged at injustice, moved by compassion, compelled by another's neediness, which allow for the growth of empathy and love. And it allows for evil too, for without it there would be no struggle, no empathy needed, no need to emerge as heroes and saviors and lovers of each other and of the sense of justice which protects us all equally.

If you think what I am saying still does not add up, or need an example, please consider India. In this so-called holy land, abundant in spiritual knowledge and specifically in the thorough awareness of the link between action and reaction, the passage of time and rebirth has not clouded the memory of the populace as it has with the rest of us. It is a type of world I described above, where action and reaction are fused in the psyche, in this case, through knowledge of the effects of time and rebirth. The result is that the lower castes in India have suffered terribly and continue to do so without empathy because those not born into such dire circumstances consider them to be just living out their unavoidable karma from a past life.

So a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and for that reason, only people with purity were given spiritual education in Vedic times. A mean and narrow minded person would be told to sweep the streets and forget about literacy. That's the pure application of the caste system -based on qualities, guna, not birth, janma. A person with good qualities will feel great love and compassion- even if he sees the link between action and reaction; he will not use it as an excuse to be and to stay cold-hearted.

The upper classes in India as a whole have become corrupted by knowledge with disastrous effects on society. Therefore, the Lord keeps everything a secret. That there is ultimate justice, he keeps a guarded secret, cloaked under the powerful effects of time and forgetfulness. Gradually after many deeds of love and of justice on our part, he allows us to see through the cloak, and see the order and sense behind the creation he made. He showed it to Arjuna, and called it a great secret, able to be revealed to him only because he had the heart of a devotee and was a true friend to the Lord.

Unfortunately India is different, the secret is out, but sometimes the example of the alternative is needed to see and appreciate the value of what one has already. It is a necessarily ignorant and imperfect world, but its imperfections are perfect food for the soul, just as a rotten carcass is excellent food for the soil and the plant life it sustains.

So it would be nice if everyone could let me know whether this argument makes good sense or not. It probably needs to be discussed further actually, and tested with various objections, to be rendered sound.