Thursday, April 05, 2012

Prarabdha Karma

Suffering makes people ask 'why me'. A question that often leads us to look up our own upanishads, ithihasas and puranas.

 Two characters - Son of Indra and Son of Surya play pivotal roles in our epics. They are pitted against each other in the battlefield of life and they bring out the inter-connectedness of life events across births. It is intriguing and very humbling to note the similarity of their choices and the mirror-image nature of their eventual destiny. In the epics these two characters are very dear to the reader. This is because their actions cause great conflict of human emotions and ethics within the reader's/listener's mind. An average person does not necessarily think of either character as flawless or good. But we are disturbed by what happens to the flawed heroes. Maybe because a third person - some can call it fate but I will call it simply as 'someone else' - plays a bigger role in their life than anybody else's. Maybe these two characters thread the needle of what is ethical and what is not. The role they play in across the two births and two epic stories brings out the very essence of life. Of God.

Take for instance the events that unfold in one of their re-births. When Son of Indira - by devious means - gets the power that allows him to steal away the strength of his enemy during battle. A glaring violation of war rules where a fair fight between two adversaries is measured by the duel of their own strengths. When one steals the strength of another through improper means it becomes an unequal fight and therefore - adharma. Indra-putra could have won many great adversaries using his own strength. But he chose to be a coward and swindled his enemy's strength. In a battle field - he often fought the weaponless and the defenseless. He has a choice to fight fairly. But by constantly making a choice to fight unfairly - he removed his right for a fair fight even if he wanted one. It didn't stop there. The Son of Indira ruled a kingdom with great cruelty and does heinous crimes on his people. He steals the wife of the Son of Surya and keeps her for himself. He steals the kingdom of son of Surya. The sin of coveting and stealing another man's wife being worse than violating mere rules of battle. The death of Indra-putra came when he made his choices. It didn't come when he actually died - during the one-on-one battle with Surya-putra. It didn't come when the arrow hit his chest. That was merely symbolic. The Son of Surya befriended people of dharma. Fought for dharma. And things were darkest for him for a long long time. The good always seemed to be going through suffering. But like it happens to all good people he just had to point a finger and justice was restored as easily as it was taken away.

In another life, in another birth - it was the turn of the Son of Surya to make his choices. The choices presented to Surya-putra were more nuanced but choices nevertheless. And he did not make good choices. The sequence of events in his life seems to be exact mirror image of Indra-putra's previous life. Surya-Putra lies about his birth to deviously obtain the supreme weapon that could be used to kill anyone in battle. He befriended children of adharma. He went against the wishes of his mother to support evil men knowing fully well what he was doing. He trampled a subject of his kingdom - a brahmin child - with his chariot. He supports the insult of (and thereby insults) the modesty the wife of Son of Indra. He helps adharmic people steal the kingdom of Indra-putra. He kills Indra-putra's son in battle when the victim was unarmed. He died several times, much before his death actually arrived in the form of an arrow to his chest.

What is fascinating is how they meet their ends. Both are killed in a fashion that seem to violate the rules of battle. Struck by an arrow to the chest in battle field, during a one-on-one duel with each other. Killed when unarmed or when not looking. But their death is heroic. It also fits the choices they made in life. It fits them very well. What is even more fascinating is during both these events there was a third person. The same One.


Hawk Eye said...

i wante dto write something for rama navami. this was belated.

Anonymous said...

Natvevaham jatu nasam natvamneme janaadhipah na kaiva na bhvavishyamah sarve vayam atah param.

S said...

Slightly unrelated...the other day I was having a discussion about how in both the scenarios you describe people tend to support the anti-hero...Vali in one case and Karna in the other. The fact that they did make bad choices is glossed over, the fact that they were victims of an unjust God is highlighted.

amas said...

நன்றும் தீதும் பிறர் தர வாரா! Very well written.

D.N.A. said...

Elegant. One dumb question, though. How is the title of the post related to it's content? Isn't Prarbdha Karma more of a "brought forward" entry in banking speak? So, given Son of Surya's righteousness in previous birth, how dies it justify what he faces in his next life? Or am I wrong in the premise itself?

austrian_man said...


have you read 'the difficulty of being good' by Gurucharan Das? My bet is you'll like it a lot.

Hawk Eye said...


yes. thats what i call krsna tipping off arjuna :-)


mostly people do that to show that they are rebels. there is no depth in their arguments. in this upside down world of ethics criticising rama is considered is sensational way of showing you can think differently. you can poorly fed information to this phenomena as well.


:-). Beautiful words. you and anon above made my day. now someone has to quote garuda puranam and we are done.


Woman A is an evil woman. she doesnt like her Mother-in-law and conspired with her husband o drive away MIL and make her husband not support his mother during old age.

History repeats itself with Woman A's daughter-in-law. The DIL is unable to tolerate the abuse of Woman A and influences her husband to drive away woman A. So Woman A has no support in her old age. A fate she inflicted on her MIL.

Now all 3 people - MIL, WOman A and DIL have prarabhdha karma i.e. carried forward balance one way or the other.

austrian man,

i havent read the book. the reason why rama avatara is most dear to me is precisely because of this concept that you mention.

வழிப்போக்கன் said...

மிக நன்றாகவும் தெளிவாகவும் எழுதி இருக்கிறீர்கள். வாழ்த்துக்கள்.
தமிழில் எழுத முயலுங்களேன்!

Venneer said...

Types of Karma was explained better by Swami Nithyananda in Youtube. Neer edhukku time waste panreer.


White Rice Vellachami said...


They are sons of Indra and Surya respectively. Different sons in each yuga i.e Vali was not reborn as Arjuna likewise Sugriva as Karna.

austrian_man said...


Hope you add that book your list.

You're right about Rama, but Rama is called Maryadha Purushothama for a reason. His goodness is divine. However, IMHO Mahabharata is much more human. The characters turn gray very quickly, which makes the epic even more interesting.

How can a doe give birth to a tiger, who shines like the sun ? - Duryodhana replying to Bhima, after Bhima mocks that Karna is just a charioteer's son.

Ramana said...

Prarabdha karma is of three categories, ichha, anichha and parechha [personally desired, without desire and due to others' desire].

Whatever a jnani does is for others only. If there are things to be done by him for others, he does them but the results do not affect him. Whatever be the actions that such people do, there is no punya and no papa attached to them. But they do only what is proper according to the accepted standard of the world - nothing else.

Those who know that what is to be experienced by them in this life is only what is already destined in their prarabdha will never feel perturbed about what is to be experienced. Know that all one's experiences will be thrust upon one whether one wills them or not.

The above was said by great Ramana Maharishi.

hyd said...


Anonymous said...

Its valuable information.....also