The Karmas and our destiny

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Mon Jul 14 07:39:51 CDT 1997

I have argued in the past few days that one who believes in 100% destiny
is a jnani. I am having doubts now whether I am completely correct in that
particular line of thought. Further, it is not clear to me what decides
what is our destiny. Over the weekend, while going through Shri Shankara's
bhaashhya on Shri Lalitha trisati, I came across a portion which is
pertinent to our discussion here. I am not a scholar in sanskrit but I
give the sanskrit statement below and the english translation (by me)
which I think is not too far off.

Shri Shankara's commentary on Shri Lalitha's name KARMAPHALAPRADAA
kr^taanaam karmaNaam kaalaantara bhaaviphalapradaane adr^sTam kaaraNamiti
aneeshwara meemaamsakaadimatam; tanna;
jaDaanaam suukshmaanaamadr^sTaanaam chetanadharma karmaphalapradaana
saamarthyaayogaat,  kr^taanaam karmaNaam phalaavashyam bhaave
"kamaadhyaksha" iti shruteh;
"Mayaiva vihitaan hi taan" iti smr^teshcha;
"Phalamata upapatteh" iti nyaayaachcha;
paradevataa karmaphalapradaa;  om karmaphalapradaayainamah ||

Rough english translation:

Purvamimaamsa saastra says that destiny is the cause which gives away
phalam (result) for the good and bad actions conducted by the jeevas.
But, that cannot be correct.
This is because destiny is inert (jaDa) and subtle (suukshma) and hence
it does not have the capability to apportion karmaphalam or the result of
the action (of the jeeva).
Sruti says "karmaadhyaksha (the Ishwara) alone is responsible for
apportioning the results of the actions".
Smr^ti (Bhagavadgita) says "mayaiva vihitaan hi taan" [7.22] Jeeva obtains
his/her desires and the benefits being guided by Me (Krishna) alone.
Brahma Sutra says "Phalamata upapatteh" "Phala, the benefit or result (of
the action) is obtained through the grace of Ishwara.
Therefore Shri Lalitha is karmaphalapradaatrii

Another way to summarize this:
Destiny is inert and subtle, hence cannot apportion karmaphala; Nirguna
Brahman is nishkriya, without action, hence does not apportion karmaphala;
therefore Ishwara is the apportioner of karmaphala. This is consistent
with Shruti, Bhagavadgita and Brahmasutra. In this case, Ishwara is in the
form of personal deity Shri Lalitha who is karmaphalapradaatri, hence is
called karmaphalapradaa.

I trust my translation is not too far off. I request sanskrit scholars on
the List and those who have access to a more detailed Shri Shankara
bhaashhya on Shri Lalitha trisati to correct the above translation.

Now coming to our discussion and based on the above: Destiny is inert and
would not decide karmaphala. What decides then ? Ishwara decides. This
conclusion is by Shri Shankara based on prasthaanatrayam.

On what does Ishwara base jeeva's karmaphala ? Jeeva has no input into
this. But, Ishwara's decision must be based on the jeeva's 'actions'.
Does it mean that our 'actions' decide our destiny ? That does not seem
right to me. My feeling is "we" are not doing anything. It is Ishwara's
grace which decides our 'actions'. Thus our 'actions' are symptoms of
Ishwara's grace. Thus the input to Ishwara's decision to decide our
destiny cannot be our 'action'.

Further, are the following english and sanskrit words equivalent ?

destiny = adr^sTam = God's grace = daivechcha

But adr^sTam and daivechcha are not the same according to Shri Shankara's
commentary above. Since childhood, we treated them as equal, may be in a
loose way.

Even without bringing the concept of nirguna Brahman into the discussion,
there seem to be something not consistent with logic. But all this cause
and effect discussion is from the vyavahaarika standpoint only and is only
of intellectual interest. I am more comfortable with leaving the concepts
of destiny, karmaphala, Ishwara etc and embracing nirguna Brahman and the
stillness. But I guess Ishwara decides on the readiness of us.

Gummuluru Murthy
Yadaa sarve pramucyante kaamaa ye'sya hr^di shritaah
atha martyo'mr^to bhavatyatra brahma samashnute   Katha Upanishhad II.3.14

When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and attains Brahman even here.

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