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Your Questions Answered
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 41: Karma

Carol: Does thought create karma?

Swamiji: Any thought which is connected with an object other than yourself, with a motive behind it, or an intention behind it, will produce a reaction. I am looking at the wall. I am thinking of the wall. It won't produce any reaction, because I'm not looking at it with any motive or intention. It is just there, visible.

There are two ways of seeing things. One is the general perception of things, like when you walk, you see a tree, or a building; you are not concerned with it. Another is a thought which is connected with objects with a purpose, intention, or motive, with a like or dislike – to get something from it, or to avoid it. Such thoughts will produce a reaction. That reaction is called karma. It does not mean that every thought will produce a reaction. General perceptions do not produce karma. Only emotional perceptions will produce it.

If we are seeing a thing with a feeling behind it, it will have a reaction; but I have no feeling about the wall. I am just seeing it without any feeling about it. It is impersonal perception. Now we are all sitting here, and I am seeing so many people. I have no feeling of any kind in regard to you. I am seeing you, as I see anything else. But if I see you with a purpose, intention, motive, like or dislike, then it will produce a reaction.

Carol: And then there will be a gap between – it will create a gap.

Swamiji: It will create a bondage. That kind of karma is what causes rebirth.

Carol: A bondage.

Swamiji: That kind of karma it is that causes rebirth.

Carol: I see.

Swamiji: Every karma is not binding. Only thoughts charged with desire of any kind, positively, or negatively, create a psychological cocoon around yourself, and that cocoon materialises itself into a solid formation, which is called the body, in rebirth. So, your body is nothing but a concentrated form of thought, which has arisen on account of your past thoughts, of many births, several births. But if you don't have any kind of desire, for or against anything – you are thinking only in an impersonal manner; neither you want anything, nor you don't want anything; you have no opinion about anything; you are just what you are – then these thoughts, which are impersonal in their nature, will not produce any reaction, and they will not produce karma.

Carol: So, the psychological cocoon you talk about, another word might be preoccupation? You are just in your own thoughts around that object, concerning that object?

Swamiji: Any thought with a feeling behind it.

Carol: Thank you.

Amir: Is it not possible to have a thought with a feeling behind it, and then to recognise that this is bondage, and to disengage before any reaction happens?

Swamiji: If you can do that, well and good. Suppose you look at a thing with some feeling for it, or against it, and you are disturbed by that, and you realise that it is causing a disturbance, and you avoid it immediately. Then you are free from the reaction.

Several people: Right.

Swamiji: But what happens, generally, is that the emotions are so strong that they take possession of the person. It doesn't happen always, but sometimes. This is what they call "love at first sight" or "hatred at first sight." And you cannot disentangle yourself from that. Because something has happened to you, you pounce on it, for wanting it or hating it – one of the two. At that time you cannot use the discretion in your mind that "I am caught in this and I must absolve myself from that." Very rarely the intellect works at that time. When passions are strong, the intellect ceases. If the intellect is strong enough, and the desire is mild, then what you say is all right. You can apply that method.

Amir: The Buddha said that this is why mindfulness is necessary, all the time.

Swamiji: Mindfulness. Constant thought of the thought itself – "what is happening?" Every day you have to maintain an observation of what is happening to your mind – a spiritual diary, as they call it – a check – up of the personality. From morning to evening, what have you been thinking? You just sit for a while and think: "What have I been thinking from morning till now? Is it a useful thing, or an absurd thing?"

Sometimes, the thoughts will be meaningless thoughts; they will not produce any good or bad results. It is something like what is called woolgathering, a lethargic, half – dozing condition. You will think nothing; you are neutral. That is a waste of time. You have not achieved anything by that kind of thinking. Neutrality, also, is not good. Love also is not good; hatred also is not good. They are called sattva, rajas, tamas – the three qualities of Nature. When you are free from all these three aspects of thinking, neither should you be simply neutrally in an unconscious state, not knowing what you are thinking; nor should you love, nor should you hate. That is called an impersonal way of consciousness. You must maintain consciousness; it is not that you should be sleeping, but careful. What are you conscious of? It is incumbent on the part of everyone to keep a direct watch on one's own thoughts, and see to what extent it is in harmony with the universal set – up of things.

You are a citizen of the universe, not from America, and all that. These ideas must go away. You belong to the whole cosmos. Don't say, "I am American, I am an Indian, I am a man, I am a woman, I am this." All these ideas must go, gradually; otherwise, you are bound by these thoughts. You belong to the whole universe. It is not only theory, it is a fact. You are in the universe just now. Why should you say, "I am on the earth, in the room; I am in the city." These are all paltry, silly thoughts. Spiritual seekers should be a little above it.

You are regulated by the law of your government. In a similar manner, you are regulated by the law of the universe, and how can you be completely ignorant of its operations? Ignorance of the law is no excuse, is an old saying, and it applies also to the universe. You cannot be simply oblivious of the laws of the universe operating in terms of you, and then simply go scot – free. It is not possible.

It is necessary to know the law of the area where you are located. You cannot say, "I don't know the law." Then, you cannot exist there, and if you don't know the law of the universe, you cannot exist in the universe, also. That is the cause of suffering and rebirth. There is no use pleading ignorance. You must be cautious.

One of our Swamis went to the United States. He did not know the law of parking of cars in the States. He put it in the wrong place, and a policeman came. The Swami said, "You see, we have come from a long distance, and we do not know."

"You can talk like this in the court." the policeman said. "Do not tell me anything."

Like that, the universe will tell you. If you say, "I never knew," it will say, "Tell it in the court." [laughter]

Anyway, the law of the universe is more stringent than the law of man. You may be pardoned by the law of man, but you cannot be pardoned by the law of the universe. It is just, to the very core, and you cannot escape it.

Amir: Our teacher teaches that we always know. We always know...

Swamiji: Right, right.

Amir: And we claim ignorance to escape responsibility.

Swamiji: Just now you are connected to the centre of the cosmos – even now. To know it is a great strength, and also a great fright. It is both things at the same time. The law of the universe will not permit any kind of selfishness. Here is the essential point.