The Tattva Bodha by Sri Adi Sankaracharya gives an interesting reason for which we need to know for sure that we are that supreme reality. Individually, we must know that ‘I am the supreme reality’. ‘I’ here means the individuality in each one of us and not the body which we commonly misunderstand as ‘I’. When this knowledge happens, the Acharya says that the individual becomes free of all actions.
The next line of the text clarifies the meaning of the word action or karma. When we talk of daily actions, we say waking up and showing up, cooking, eating, working, going to school or college, playing sports, entertaining ourselves at travel, practising hobbies and pursuing any goal in life. True, these can be included in the whole gamut of actions that humans do all day.
However, the Master classifies actions into three categories. Actions that we need to do in the future, that have been done in the past and that we are executing right now. They have three easy-to-remember names in Sanskrit too. The future actions are called Agami Karma. They are a cumulative effect of our past actions (Sanchita Karma) and what we do now in the present (Prarabdha Karma).
Sanchitha is a word that has come from the root word called Sanchi, which means a bag. Sanchika means a file. Even as we are born, Vedanta says we come with our past files or a seed bag full of actions, which will yield different varieties of results every moment of our life. The results of actions done are of three types, says the Bhagavad Gita: Anishtam (something we don’t like), Ishtam (something we like) and Mishram (something that comes in neither of the categories of dislike or like).
The results we enjoy are predominantly of the Mishram or the mixed category—thank god for that! Throughout the day if we notice, we have a normal experience of just being. Pain and pleasure only come at some moments and it is predominantly a balanced day free of pain and pleasure. We feel we suffer most of the time because the pain has the capacity to etch itself in our memory and so we repeatedly remember it and suffer on account of it.
Prarabdha is the word we often use to hit our forehead with our palms as an expression of disgust. This is also a beautiful word with a clear meaning that defines itself—Prakarshena Arabdha or well begun. Well begun indeed is half done. So sometimes when we face difficult situations, we just need to remind ourselves that it is just the conclusion of an action that was well begun by us in some period in the past. The mind remains at peace with this understanding.