Why our ancestors believed in Karma

I grew up in a school that taught us scriptures, shlokas and stotras. The school was modeled after an ashram, and meditation, prayers and Sanskrit were an integral part of everyday life.

Published: 26th May 2021 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th May 2021 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

Express News Service

BENGALURU: I grew up in a school that taught us scriptures, shlokas and stotras. The school was modeled after an ashram, and meditation, prayers and Sanskrit were an integral part of everyday life. Of course as we grow up, we question what we are taught, and retain what we like. One of the aspects of our ancestors that puzzled me was the emphasis on fate. Philosophically, the law of karma lies at the crux of our ancestors’ moral fabric.

Milestones of life - like birth, death and family - were attributed to either the cause or effect of past or future fate. As scientific temper and reasoning crept their ways into my mind, I began to believe that this emphasis on fate was misplaced. Our ancestors did not have the wealth of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips, and could be forgiven for believing in fate. But look at the state of our country today, and you find that access to the world’s knowledge did us no good. For when nature struck with a pandemic, we are all finally left to our fates.

Scientific temper would have advised us to look at the West and notice patterns. To stock up on oxygen and ramp up the production and distribution of vaccines. But alas! Vaccines have become the PCs of the early 2000s. As a teenager in the early 2000s, the home computer was a novelty that only few families had access too. As a kid from a lower middle-class family, I knew there was no chance we were going to have one for ourselves. But among my friends, it was an arms race reminiscent of the Cold War. While parents built lofty dreams about their child beating Gary Kasparov at chess and changing the nation, the children were mostly interested in games like Roadrash and Minesweeper.

Without access to easy EMIs, families had to strain their purses to get hold of a computer. Some families got them as special schemes launched by the government, others with a little help from relatives settled abroad. The vaccine situation is not very different today. There is no clear information on the different kinds of vaccines, or their availability. We are essentially left to your own fate. I can understand why our ancestors believed in destiny. What we see around us is an example of misinformation and mismanagement. And a virus churning out new mutations like an enthusiastic smartphone brand that just entered the Indian market.

How quickly you recover from this pandemic depends on factors like your wealth, or proximity to power. Politicians have gotten themselves the vaccines. The wealthy left in chartered planes for the UK and Maldives right before the government announced stricter norms. Cricketers - who were engaged in a professional tournament till a few weeks back have gotten vaccinated. The age group of 18 - 45 - who make India the youngest country in the world - are left hanging with regards to the vaccine. And children - the future of the nation - have been given nothing except a warning about a terrible third wave.

The poor are left to fend for themselves, make frantic calls, or burn their relatives in mass cremation grounds. In my mid- 30s, I can relate to our ancestors’ propensity to leave matters to fate. From the Harappan civilisation to the submerging of Dwaraka. From the famines under the British to our condition today - perhaps this trait comes from a history of negligence by the administration. We’d learnt that the scriptures said - Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha. But read between the lines, and you’ll find that our ancestors were whispering to us - Karmo Rakshati Rakshitaha.

(The author’s views are his own)

Hriday Ranjan Writer, comedian


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