About five years ago, I had a stroke which left me partly paralyzed. It happened suddenly, with no warning signs or symptoms.
I was devastated. Lying in hospital feeling helpless, I wondered: Why me? I had never hurt anyone knowingly. I earned my living honestly. I had been a compulsive do-gooder since high school. Why was God punishing me? What had I done wrong?
A steady stream of friends, relatives and well-wishers consoled me with the same bromide: No one can fight destiny or fate. It happened because it was destined to happen. It was just a stroke of bad luck beyond one’s control. My Muslim friend said it was God’s will.
These explanations did not satisfy me, as I had always believed nothing happened without a reason. Why would God do it to me without reason? What is destiny anyway? I found the answer in my religion, Hinduism.
According to Western thought, fate or destiny is the cosmic force or agency, God or other power, believed to determine the outcome of one’s action before it occurs, and nothing can be done about it.
Some people would say the script of one’s life is written by a mysterious power, and everything that happens is in the script, beyond our control. Hinduism acknowledges the Western concept of destiny but only in a limited sense. The Hindu view on destiny is rooted in the concept of karma.
Karma literally means “deed or act”, not fate, for man acts with free will, creating his own destiny. Destiny is shaped in the world, not by some mysterious power, but by the unseen potency of one’s own past karma influencing the actions or deeds in the present life. Therefore, each person is responsible for his or her own destiny.
The Vedas, Hinduism’s’ primary scriptures, say that if we sow goodness we will reap goodness, if we sow evil we will reap evil. This is the divine system of justice, based on the natural law of cause and effect. Karma is the cause of all effects; it explains all the pleasures and pains, successes and failures in life.
God does not write the script of one’s life arbitrarily based on His whims and fancy. The content is the direct result of our karma. God is like a judge who delivers his verdict by weighing the evidence and witnesses presented to him. What remains unknown to us are the timing and the type of punishments or rewards He will dispense for our deeds of the past. Unfortunately, there are many honest and decent people who suffer as a result of bad karma accumulated in their past lives. Indeed, we may feel helpless, as we cannot change the actions and behaviours of our past lives. However, the law of karma does not say one should sit idly and endure the punishment for past misdeeds.
For Hindus, karmic law intertwined with the reincarnation concept, rationalizes their present sufferings, and also offers hope for the future. They are not prevented from improving their present condition. The impact of past bad karma can be mitigated by remorse, prayers and penance called prashchit.
In fact, Hindus are inspired to do good deeds to repent for past misdeeds and thereby upgrade the quality of their next life. Their scriptures encourage them to help other suffering souls. According to the Bhagwat Purana (10.22.35), “It is the duty of everyone to dedicate one’s life, intelligence, wealth, words, and work to benefit other living beings.” In this manner, Hindus can create their own destiny, instead of feeling helpless.
Article By: Ajit Adhopia
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