The Karmas and our destiny (karmaphalapradaa)
Anand_Hudli_at_USININ31 at BMC.BOEHRINGER-MANNHEIM.COM
Tue Jul 15 17:07:37 CDT 1997
This is regarding Gummuluru Murthy's message about Shankara's
explanation of Karmaphalapradaa in the lalitaa trishatii.
There is no equivalence between "destiny" and the word "adR^ishhTa" that
Shankara is referring to in the explanation, as you have indicated in
your message below.
adR^ishhTa as used by miimaamsa includes the meaning of apuurva.
adR^ishhTa literally means something that is unseen. miimaamsakas,
specifically aniishvara miimaamsakas (those that do not recognize
Ishvara or God), believe that once we perform an act or sacrifice,
the result is given out to us by some unseen force, apuurva.
Apart from the transcendental power that gives out the result of
a sacrifice, adR^ishhTa also includes that which helps or is an
accessory to the operation of apuurva. For example, if the procedure
for a sacrifice dictates that water be sprinkled on rice, this
sprinkling act makes the rice suitable for the sacrifice. The
sprinkling act does not purify the rice, since the rice was
purified to begin with. What makes the rice suitable after sprinkling
the water is the adR^ishhTa.
Coming back to destiny and free will, I do not see how adR^ishhTa, as
used by the aniishvara miimaamsakas, can be identified with "destiny."
More specifically, it is the sacrifice or an act by an agent which
causes the adR^ishhTa to operate. And the decision of performing
the sacrifice/act is entirely with agent. So the ad^ishhTa does
not cause the agent to act in a certain way. It is the other way
Jaimini in his miimaamsa suutras has dealt with righteous action
which is called dharma, and unrighteous action, which is called
adharma. Performance of righteous acts brings about results which
are desirable (ishhTa) according to the Vedas. Performance of
unrighteous acts brings about results which are undesirable (anishhTa)
according to the Vedas. So the crux of the matter is to perform
righteous action and avoid unrighteous action. Implicit in all
this is the basic assumption that the doer (kartaa) has the ability
to make a choice between righteous and unrighteous action. The
exercise of this choice (free will) will determine whether you
get desirable results or undesirable results. Thus miimaamsa is
very intimately linked with action and the proper choice of
action. Acceptance of destiny, on the other hand, implies that
no matter what we do, the results will be predetermined and,
therefore, choice of action aimed at desirable or undesirable
results is irrelevant.
Shankara's explanation of the word karmaphalapradaa makes the
point that Ishvara (lalitaa, in this case) awards the results
of karmas, not some insentient entity called adR^ishhTa as
claimed by the aniishvara miimaamsakas. The explanation closely
follows Shankara's commentary on the brahma suutra "phalamata
upapatteH", meaning "it is appropriate that results of karma
are awarded by this one (God)." Thus, the question that
Shankara addresses here is: Are the fruits of action awarded
by an insentient entity or are they awarded by God? He does
not address the question: Are the results of actions due to
destiny or due to God?
The best answer to the destiny vs. free will question is,
in my opinion, in the Gitaa.
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: The Karmas and our destiny
Author: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU> at SMTP
Date: 7/14/97 7:37 AM
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
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
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.
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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