Prarabdha And Purushartha
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
Question: Man’s actions are determined to a certain extent by his Prarabdha, yet he is free in his Kriyamana Karmas. What is the line of demarcation? How far the Kriyamana Karmas can bear fruit and how far they are determined by Prarabdha? When a man fails to achieve a desired object, is there a way to find out whether the failure was due to Prarabdha or to deficiency or incompetency of his effort? At what stage a man should stop his effort, when they are supposed to be useless because of his Prarabdha?
Answer: An animal which is tethered to a peg by a rope of a given length has freedom to move within the circle drawn by that radius, the rope. But it has no freedom beyond that limit. It is bound to move within that specified range. Man is something like this. His reason and discrimination afford him a certain amount of freedom which is within their scope. But this reasoning faculty is like the rope with which the animal is tied. Reason is not unlimited and it is circumscribed by the nature of the Prarabdha which governs this body of the Jiva.
As long as man has consciousness of personality, and in so far as it is possible for him and is within the capacity of his conscious endeavour to exercise the sense of selective discrimination or freedom of choice, he is responsible for what he does. He is an agent or doer of the action, and such actions as these are fresh actions or Kriyamana-Karmas, as they are connected with the sense of doership. But if events occur when he is incapable of using this power of understanding, as when he is not in his body-consciousness, or even without his conscious intervention therein, he is not to be held responsible for the same; for these are not fresh actions, but only the fruition of a previous deed or deeds of Prarabdha.
Though every experience is finally caused by Prarabdha alone, its connection with one’s consciousness constitutes effort or a fresh deed. Effort is nothing but consciousness of action as related to oneself, whatever be the thing that prompts one to do that action. It is not the action as such but the manner in which it is executed that determines whether it is a Kriyamana- Karma or not. A Jivanmukta’s actions are not Kriyamana-Karmas; for they are not connected with any personal consciousness. They are spontaneous functions of the remaining momentum of past consciousness of agency.
Experiences which are forced upon oneself of which come of their own accord without the personal will of the experiencer, are the workings of Prarabdha. But others which result from a deliberate and conscious act, which has a pre- meditated background, show that it is a Kriyamana-Karma, though it may be sanctioned by the law of the Prarabdha-Karma itself. An experience caused by mere Prarabdha does not cause another fresh result but is exhausted thereby; but a Kriyamana-Karma tends to produce a fresh experience in the future as it is attended by the sense of doership.
If a desired end is not attained even after all possible efforts on one’s part, it has to be taken that the failure is due to an obstructive Prarabdha. Of course, this is the same as saying that the failure is due to incompetency of the person concerned; for, through a greater effort allowed by a non- impeding Prarabdha – which, however, he is not enabled to exercise at present – he could have attained the desired end. As the Prarabdha determines even Purushartha, it has to be said that the effort of man is the working of the Prarabdha itself as superimposed on his consciousness.
Prarabdha, when it is functioning, can never be defied or destroyed, but it can be exhausted through experience and non-commission of further Kriyamana- Karmas. Even this cessation from doing Kriyamana-Karma has to be allowed by the Prarabdha itself; otherwise even such a cessation will not be possible. An evil Prarabdha will not allow the withdrawal from Kriyamana-Karmas and as long as it is not exhausted through experience, rebirth and pain cannot be stopped.
Only a good Prarabdha can allow higher effort, the rise of knowledge, and cessation from Kriyamana-Karmas. But, on that account, effort cannot be stopped; for the Prarabdha forces itself out in the form of effort as long as its appearance can be possible only through the individual consciousness. Sometimes Prarabdha manifests itself, not through the individual consciousness, but either through external agency or occurrences having causes beyond human comprehension.
Even when a person is goaded by another to do action or Purushartha, it is only an aspect of his Prarabdha in relation to the other’s that works. In the state of supreme wisdom, however, such incitations and admonitions cease. Efforts are automatically (and not deliberately) stopped only on the rise of Self-Knowledge which is the goal of all effort, and not before that. As long as there is body-consciousness and world-consciousness, man will perforce carry on exerting to achieve his desired end. Effort is the natural concomitant of the consciousness of imperfection. Man, being imperfect, continues, by his own nature, to exert until the achievement of Perfection. The question of Prarabdha and Purushartha is a relative one and it loses its meaning on the dawn of Perfect Knowledge.