Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Role of Fate in Rebirth - hinuism and reincarnation

Posted by Manju-Ganesh | Sunday, May 9, 2010 | Category: |

A child's birth is affected not only by the karma of the jiva and of the parents, but also by other factors, among which fate plays an important role. "By karma impelled by fate a creature is born in the body; taking refuge in a drop of the seed of a man he enters the belly of a woman". Yet karma and fate are often said to work together, or even to be the same55. [In a myth found in the Lingua Purana, a sage tries to dissuade Parasara from killing all the demons in order to avenge his father's murder by them: "The demons did not hurt your father; it was fated to happen to him in this way. Who is killed by whom? A man experiences (the fruits of) his own deeds"56.]
Or again, in the Bhagavata Purana we find a similar myth, where a sage tries to dissuade Dhruva from killing all the Yaksas in order to avenge his brother's murder by them. The Yaksas did not actually kill his brother, but it was fate that he should have got killed. The cause of man's birth or death or fate.
[''The Lord ordains the increase or decrease in the life span of a miserable creature. Some say this is karma; others that it is one's own nature; others that it is time; others that it is fate; and others that it is desire. The servants of Kubera, the Yaksas, were not the slayers of your brother; the cause of a man's birth and death is fate [daiva: Sridhara glosses it as Isvaral. He creates this universe, and keeps it, and kills it; but because he has no egoism, he is not affected by karmas or qualities [gunas]''57.l
Although gods, on the whole, are free of k;arma58, they come under the sway of fate. Krishna performed all his great manly deeds Epaurusa] by the power of predestination [bhavivasat]59. But very often fate and karma are taken to mean the same thing, especially when referred to the gods, either when evoked as an excuse for weakness or failure on their part60 or to escape punishment6~. These apparently conflicting attitudes to the fate and karma of the gods may be somewhat clarified when one realizes that Sridhara is talking about God, the absolute, who is regarded as being either above fate or identical with it, and that the others are merely lower-case gods, who are helpless against fate and karma.
If God controls fate and the gods are controlled by it, then nothing can be done against fate, it would seem. It is not so, because in the Puranas we have many examples of those who challenge fate and also overcome fate.
Thus, for example, when the wicked Kamsa learns that he is "fated" to be killed by a child of Devaki, he boasts, "This is a matter that concerns mere mortals, and so it can be accomplished by us though we are mortal. It is known that people like me can overcome fate and turn it to advantage by the right combination of spells, and herbal medicines, and constant effort"62. Of course Kamsa had no luck, because the child fated to kill him was none other than Krishna, no "mere mortal" and so accepted the fact that he could not overcome his fate by mere human effort. Or we have the case of Devaki and Vasudeva, who make an effort to save their last son, Krishna and their effort is crowned with success, which goes to prove the efficacy of human effort over fate.
l"Men must experience the karma that was formerly made, but can that not be worn away by pilgrimages, asceticism, and gifts? For the rites of expiation has been set forth in the Dharmasastras composed by the noble (sages) in order to destroy the evils amassed in former (lives).... If everything is brought about by fate...then all undertakings are without purpose, even the sacrifices that are supposed to achieve heaven. If this is so. then the authority (of the Vedas) is falsely proclaimed, and if the authority is false, why isn't
dharma cut down? But in fact, when an effort is made, success is achieved, night before your eyes. Therefore you should investigate and determine what is to be done to protect this little boy, my little son" 63.]