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Is this world only a place of action or also a place of enjoyment of the fruits of actions?

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Is this world only a place of action or also a place of enjoyment of the fruits of actions?

[Reply to a question by Shri J. Prasad, Professor of Sanskrit, Central University, Hyderabad.] Swami replied: You wish to know whether this human world only is a place of actions (karma loka) or it is only a place of enjoyment of the fruits of action (bhoga loka) or it is a place for both. The answer is that all the three possibilities are valid depending upon the path selected by the soul in life. If the soul is completely dedicated to spiritual path alone, the world becomes purely a karma loka for him. In this case, God completely stops giving him the enjoyment of good fruits and suffering for the bad fruits of his past actions. Both good and bad fruits disturb the soul in its spiritual progress. This is done to encourage the person to make greater progress on the spiritual path. Granting the enjoyments of the fruits of the deeds done in the past, distracts the soul and slows down the soul’s spiritual progress. When a student is totally dedicated to his studies, the university authorities encourage his academic progress in all possible ways and remove any hurdles in the student’s academic progress.

The second possibility is that the soul is partially interested in spirituality, but is also partially interested in materialism. Such a person is partially encouraged and partially discouraged since the person is like a normal student involved in both studies as well as in activities leading to indiscipline. The third possibility is that the soul only leads a materialistic life. For such a soul, no encouragement to make progress on the spiritual path is provided. The world only becomes a place of enjoyment for the fruits of his deeds. The complete materialist is just like an indisciplined student who is not encouraged at all by the university. Such a student is usually subjected to disciplinary action. Thus, for totally spiritual people, the world only becomes a karma loka and not a bhoga loka. For totally materialistic people, the world only becomes a bhoga loka and not a karma loka. But the majority of people lie between these two extremes. They are partially spiritual and partially materialistic. For this majority, the world becomes both a karma loka and a bhoga loka.

In fact, this world of human beings (martya loka) is originally meant only for doing spiritual actions, which are most crucial since they provide eternal benefit to the soul. Bhoga or the enjoyment of the fruits of the person’s deeds is preferably not given to the soul in this world to avoid distracting and disturbing the soul while it is involved in the spiritual effort. But it is important to remember that the fruits of one’s past deeds will not disturb a person only if the person is committed to the spiritual path, in accordance with the original purpose of this world. Hence, as per the original plan, this world of human beings (martya loka) is called as karma loka, as a whole. But, due to the fall of human souls in their attitudes, this pure karma loka may also become a bhoga loka entirely or a mixture of a bhoga loka and a karma loka for different individuals.

These three types of souls are mentioned in the Gita (Aniṣṭamiṣṭaṃ miśraṃ ca). If a person is totally committed to the spiritual path, without a trace of deficiency, even the prārabdha fruit gets cancelled. Prārabdha is that part of the fruit of a soul’s deeds which has already been sanctioned to be delivered in the present life. If the prārabdha is not cancelled, it means there is some trace of deficiency in the soul’s spiritual effort. It is in view of this trace of deficiency, that Śaṅkara said that the prārabdha cannot be cancelled even for a person who is committed to the spiritual path. He compared the prārabdha to an arrow released from a bow, which cannot be stopped once it is released (Dhanurmukta śaravat). But the Gita says that all types of fruits of the person’s deeds are cancelled when the soul dedicated to the spiritual path attains complete spiritual knowledge (Jñānāgniḥ sarva karmāṇi…—Gita, Kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi…Veda). It means that even the arrow released from the bow can be stopped by the omnipotent God, in order to give full encouragement to the soul dedicated to the most valuable spiritual path.

In spite of all our past sins, God has granted us this human birth as the last chance, so that we can dedicate this life to the spiritual path. This is the reason for the other religions saying that there is no human rebirth. Śaṅkara also said that it is very difficult to get the chance of human rebirth (Durlabhaṃ trayamevaitat…). He said that after attaining human birth, one should develop the climax of interest in attaining salvation and search for the Sadguru (Manuṣyatvaṃ…). It is based on this analysis that Swami Vivekananda said that we ourselves are writing our own destiny. It is our activity that decides whether this human world is to become a pure karma loka or a pure bhoga loka or a mixture of both. Human rebirth is recognized in Hinduism, but it is understood to be a very rare case. Even when a soul is dedicated to the spiritual path, due to some trace of deficiency in the soul’s effort, the soul might not be able attain the final goal in one particular birth. For such exceptional cases, God gives them a special opportunity of a fresh human rebirth (Yoga bhraṣṭo’bhijāyate…). Even Jesus said that such an exceptional power exists in the hands of the ominipotent God and it can be used in the case of an exceptionally deserving soul. However, it does not mean that every soul has this chance of human rebirth. It is not like students who fail in the examinations in March are automatically eligible to reappear for the examination in September and those who fail in September can again appear in March, endlessly.

We have read all these books and we know all these quotations from the scriptures. But we are unable to link all the quotations in a proper way to develop a clear true and complete spiritual concept. Only the Sadguru, who is God Guru Datta has that capability! Hence, the importance of the Sadguru is praised in the Guru Gita. It is said “If you are unable to reach the Sadguru, what is the use, what is the use, O what is the use (Guroraṅghripadme…)?” How much was the confusion when all these quotations were not correlated? See how much clarity there is now, after all these quotations have been correlated in the most perfect way by God Datta? When there is confusion, the concept looks most difficult like a thick forest (Śabda jāla mahāraṇyam…). When there is clarity, the same concept looks like an open ground without even a blade of grass!

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