Lesson 8 - Cause of Karma

In Lesson 7 you learnt that unless the store house of Karma is burnt there is no escape from the cycle of birth and death. It was also mentioned that the sorrow that is yet to come should be avoided. Now it is time to understand the root cause of all Karmas.

Karma is born whenever there is union of seer and the seen. Seer refers to the "observer" or "Atman" that has trapped into this body. Seen refers to the external world. Seen doesn't mean only visible objects but everything that can be "experienced" by sense organs. We experience the world not just when we are awake but also when we are dreaming. When we experience this world the seer identifies itself with the objects being experienced. Thus there is union between the subject(seer) and the object (seen). This union is the root cause of all Karmas.

Every objects in this world consists of five great elements viz. earth, water, fire, air and space. It also bears threefold qualities or gunas viz. Tamas, Rajas and Sattwa. Tamasic qualities are represented by inertia, laziness and inaction. Rajasic qualities are represented by constant action whereas Sattwic qualities are represented by knowledge. Thus our Karmas are also tamasic, rajasic or sattwic in nature. 

The seer or Atman is nothing but pure consciousness. However, it experiences this world through mind. Note that mere body can not give you any experience. Let's take a simple example. Suppose that you are standing near a window and looking towards a lake. How you see the lake? First your sense organs (eyes in this case) gather the information about the lake and convey it to sensory nervous system. The sensory nervous system and mind then sends them to brain. The brain then creates the image of the lake. This image is then "seen" by the eyes. Thus mere body can not experience anything. It is the mind that is responsible for experiencing anything. Now you can understand why Yoga gives so much emphasis on controlling mind.

To summarize we can say that union of subject and object is the root cause of Karma. Subject experiences the object through mind-body equipment. But what is the cause of this union? Maya or ignorance. When Maya is destroyed naturally there will be no union and hence no Karma. When atman is no longer under the influence of Maya it attains liberation or Mukti.

If we want to avoid union of Atman and Maya we must stop the Atman from experiencing this world. In other words we must dissolve our mind. Now the entire philosophy of Yoga will be clear to you. Here is a logical explanation:

  • Atman is pure consciousness
  • Atman unites with the objects in this world and experiences them
  • To experience them Atman uses a vehicle called mind
  • These experiences give rise to Karma
  • Maya is the cause of union between Atman and the external world
  • To liberate the Atman one must overcome the influence of Maya
  • Since Atman experiences this world via mind, if mind is restrained from taking any experiences then automatically Atman will remain in un-united state
  • Thus controlling the mind gives you freedom from Maya

One can not directly destroy Maya. So Yogis take another route. They dissolve the mind which is must for Maya to play her tricks. How to dissolve the mind? Through eight fold path of Yoga. The eight fold path of Yoga is the subject of future lessons.

May the Peace be with you.


Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 01 December 2006

Tags : Yoga Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Courses Spirituality