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Karma or coincidence?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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Questioner: When something good or bad happens to someone unexpectedly, is it karma or mere coincidence?

Acharya Prashant: The happening is just a random coincidence. How you experience the happening is your own decision, your own doing, in other words, karma.

Get the difference right, please. The material world is not predetermined, it is not even deterministic. It is random in the real sense of the word. There are just too many cause and effect nodes to take care of and additionally there is the unpredictable element of free will involved with respect to many of the actors.

Even if the entire material world were a colossal machine, we could have said that a day will come when we will be able to fully map the machine. And if we can know the machine fully then we can determine, predict all that would happen in the machine at a particular time at a particular place. Then everything becomes predictable.

But not only is the machine gigantic, several parts of the machine, carry free will. So unexpected things happen therefore you cannot know really what is going to happen next in the external world, it is going to be a coincidence. Kindly do not think that things are predetermined, or that certain things are happening to you because you are destined to experience them. Nothing of that kind, fatalism is a sham.

The external world is truly unpredictable. Having said that how you respond to what happens to you is very much your own decision and you have all authority there, all ownership there and a lot of possible freedom there.

So things happen, whether they are good or bad depends on your response and it depends on your inner constitution. From where does your inner constitutions come? Now your inner constitution is not really random, because you are a conscious being. You have freedom in deciding what you must be and you have freedom in building yourself up.

The one who responds to an experience from within is not a random occurrence. the one who responds to an external stimulus is the result of your entire life journey. See, the same thing can happen to two people and they might respond very differently. So, how are these two people responding differently? Surely the external event is the same. Definitely, then something inside them is different.

From where does this thing inside, really come? It comes from the accumulated set of your choices and that is what is called Karma in popular parlance. So you bring yourself to a stage where you will respond negatively or favourably to an incident. You bring yourself to a stage where an incident will impact you greatly or not impact you at all. That's your doing that's what you have done.

So it is not that good things are happening to you, or bad things are happening to you. Things are things, situations are situations, events are events, external stimuli are just external. You have no control over them but potentially you have all possible control over the one within who responds to external situations.

That’s where your authority lies, that’s what you can control, that’s what you must have all power over. That is life, that is the entire purpose of life and that is freedom, otherwise, you are just a slave of situations. Situations can come and drive you mad, that is no way to live.

So you asked me, good and bad things that happen, are they coincidence or karma? In other words a result of our past actions, deeds, choices, etc.

Both.

To what extent are these things coincidental? To the extent they are external, the external world we said is random, anything can happen anytime to anybody. There is no guarantee of any fixed thing happening, at best things are probabilistic.

But when it comes to the inner world, how you respond to what happens to you, it is your choice, your decision. And that decision cannot be taken fully at this moment itself, because it is a thing that accumulates. You have to build yourself uprightly, you cannot say I want to remain uninfluenced by all the catastrophic situations outside and wish that what you want just happens.

If you really want to be uninfluenced by the external situations you will have to work very hard at developing that kind of a core within. And that is Karma.

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