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Karma And Reincarnation By Prof. V. Muthukumaraswami Mudaliar


[* A resume of the speech delivered by Prof. V. Muthukumaraswami Mudaliar, B.A., at the Seventh Conference of the Saiva Siddhanta Maha Samajam, Conjeevaram, December 1912.]


I have undertaken to deal with the law of causation and the facts of reincarnation in the brief space of half an hour on this sacred platform tonight. I count upon the inspiration I shall draw from this assembly to make up for my own defects and to accomplish an almost impossible intellectual feast. I have an immense faith in the noble cause advocated by this Maha Samajam, which owes its inception and growth to truly noble men whose life work would do ample credit to any civilized nation on Earth in the East or the West. We owe it all to our national or at all events racial Karma, I suppose. Great souls having a tremendous faith I take it in God, in truth, in Divine Law, Heaven's purpose, and in the potentialities for all eternity that lie buried in their innermost selves, have evidently reincarnated again and again, from time to time, in this so called iron age of man to bring back Saivism, - the religion par excellence of love, - to its pristine glory.

Saivism in a nutshell! What is it? And what does it teach? 'God is Love' is its Swarupa (essence) and 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha' is its highest teaching. Love alone could lead one to God, and to love God is, to love His creation. Knowledge and Wisdom must always go hand in hand with love, the one force that keeps the universe intact.

The All, is working for all and all is in the All. All is working for the Good. The Good is the only rational God that rational man recognized in primeval India. The Good is all life, everlasting life and in it, in Its eternal bosom, death is not: the mirage of death could find no room to stand. All is working for the Blessed consummation now, as in Eternity, as now itself is the soul of eternity. The All lives beyond time limits, though all live within the limitations of time at both ends. The Golden age is just ahead of us, as we are always going ahead, in search of this and in search of that, now this way, and now the other. But God-men there are, who apparently live in time and yet are not of it, who live in the world untouched by its glamour, unaffected by its maya and thoroughly indifferent to its joys and pains, hopes and fears and life and death. But, are we quite sure of the ground we are treading on? Oh! Yes! I dare say we are! We are no doubt already in the throes of a new spiritual birth. Things are readjusting themselves in a quite unlooked for manner. We have already had many a surprise in so many fields of knowledge, Science, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Occultism and so on. The old is making room for the new, gradually though imperceptibly, and they say that everything happens for the best, as it must, if it is all cosmos and not chaos.

We have got now to dive deep into the bottomless depths of matter and Scale up the giddy heights of apparently unscalable Spirit. And suppose we could rise equal to the occasion, what then? Why? We shall then barely glimpse the Infinite, Eternal, Nameless, Formless, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Siva, who enfolding all, is yet beyond all, who is incomparable to anything under the sun or above him even.

How and Where did evolution start its gruesome game? Whence all this so-called creation? And whither is this phenomenal universe of man bound? Where did Karma begin its work and how did we all start into life and being? Rather hard nuts to crack!

The beginning of things is impossible to conceive for the cultured intellect, as there was actually no beginning anywhere in the beginning less-Nature. No progress in a straight line! In the very nature of thought, it is impossible to conceive such an incongruous idea. Progress always goes on, in cycles in Prakriti, and an evolution always suggests an involution that preceded it, somewhere, somehow, some when. So that, it would be easily seen that we are chiefly concerned with our own manvantara in which we are all sailing Godward on the vast ocean of life. The Law of Evolution had been clearly seen in our Punya Bhumi since the morning time of the Saiva cult. I will refer you to the very first verse of Tiruvachakam, the Tamil Veda. You need not even look up the Manudharma Sastra in which the Prajapati has very clearly brought out the idea, which many of us thought for a long time we owed to the West, perhaps to Darwin the naturalist, in particular. Why! the Devaram bristles with it, and other and later Tamil works have followed suit. Of course, we English-educated Tamils knew nothing about it, till it came dressed in a new and western garb and we began to hug it to our bosom.

One thing should be particularly noticed however. The why and the wherefore of evolution as such, may not quite fall within the limits of short-sighted human ken: but the how and the whither seem more or less to fall into line with the scope of our present enquiry.

How then? What shall be the line of our procedure? We postulate, - we have to, we cannot help doing so, - the existence of the Supreme almost intuitively. Dogged skepticism is that direction is but crass ignorance. That sort of opium eating would not hold water for long. Do you at all believe in your self is the question. If so, you must also believe in the Self of yourself. It is the necessity of thought. The 'I am' consciousness in man is but the feeble reflection of the 'I am' consciousness in the macrocosm. Let me quote the Upanishad here.

    "Yato visvam samud bhutam
    Yena jatanja thishtathi,
    Yasmin sarvani leeyante
    Jneyam tad Brahma Lakshanyhi."

That from which the whole of the known Universe has come, that in which everything lives now, and that to or towards which everything tends for final absorption, that is Brahma or God Almighty.

So that, we see our starting-point is the Supreme Siva, mysterious Love. We live in Him all along, as there is nothing outside Him.

    "Ekamevadvittyam Brahma."
    "Eka eva Rduro nadvitiyayam."
    "Eko Rudraha Ekamevadvittyam."

And in the long run we flow to Him also. We must gravitate towards Him, not as poor and feeble as when we shouted forth from His bosom, but with the harvest of a full manvantaric experience which culminated in love, wisdom and power. In other words, from the Kevala, we started, says the Sivagamas, in the Sakala, we find ourselves today by the Will of Siva, and in the fullness of time, we will march on, under the sweet banner of Truth,

    'Satyameva jayate'
    'Satyat Nasti Paro Dharma'

and armed with the knowledge of God before us, God behind us, God above us, God below us, God without and God within

    'Deho Devalaya proktassajivassivaha,'

to our sweet home, the inviting goal, our haven of peace, rest and joy, the Kaivalya or the Siva Sayujya, the positive pole of Para Nirvana, in all glory, in all ecstasy, and in all blessedness.

Let us listen just here, to the inspired words of a noble poet hailing in sympathetic spirit from the cultured West.

    "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
    The soul that rises with us, our life's star    
    Has had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar,
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our 'home." – Wordsworth.

    We are not bodies but immortal Spirits.

    "என்று நீ அன்று நானுன்னடுமையல்லவோ

& c."

Let the progressive thought of the civilized West speak out also and hear its valuable testimony to the indigenous growth in experience அநுபவ of the Spirit-seeking East:-

The great English poet of Nature quoted above, would appear to have constantly had the mystic temperament of India to receive conscious intimation of immortality. Probably, he was himself a true Indian for the time being clothed in an English body, though he made no claims himself to that rather unique honor.

    "Moreover, something is, or seems,
    That touches me with mystic gleams,
    Like glimpse of forgotten dreams –
    Of something felt, like something here;
    Of something done, I know not where;
    Such as no language may declare."

To Tennyson, belief in pre-existence was not merely a matter of intuition; it was also the logical outcome of belief in immortality. The fullest expression of this transcendental condition is to be found in 'The Ancient Sage.'

    "For more than once when I
    Sat all alone revolving in myself
    The Word that was the symbol of myself
    The mortal limits of the Self was loosed,
    And passed into the Nameless as a cloud,
    Melts into Heaven. I touched my limbs, the limbs
        Were strange, not mine – and yet no shade of doubt,
    But utter clearness, and thro' loss of self,
        The gain of such large life as match'd with ours
    Were seen to spark – unshadowable in words,
    Themselves, but shadows of a shadow world."

This, surely is the state of Cosmic Consciousness described in our own books.

But the question that rises to one's lips at this stage of the enquiry is this:- Why all this inequality, heart-ache, worry, anxiety, trouble and mischief that you behold on every side on Earth? Under the merciful Providence of a most beneficent Deity, why is there so much of sorrow left unexplained? Why should the apparently good and vicious villain get on very well? In short, why are inconsistencies, incongruities and self-contradictions in Nature become possible? Why is Nature herself sometimes so red in tooth and claws? Why should one thing live upon another? Why good come through evil in the long run?

Let the advancing thought of the go-ahead West answer again if possible.

    "I held it truth, with him who sings,
    To one clear harp in diverse tones,
    That men may rise on stepping-stones
    Of their dead selves to higher things."

"As you sow, so you reap." If you, sow the wind, you would reap the whirlwind surely,

    " அவரவர் வினைவழி அவரவர் வருவார்
     அவரவர் வினையளவுக்கே."

Nature's law has it that personal experience should be the best teacher of all living things, of all embodied souls, of all infant spirits. All growth is accompanied by more or less pain. Pleasure itself would become meaningless and un understandable but for the pain that always and necessarily precedes it. But God in His Unbounded Mercy calls you away off and on for a season from this land of trial and tribulation to rest you well and equip you properly for your future work, your future climb over fresh hill and dale that lies before you in all their infinite variety and beauty. This world, after all, mind you, is only a place of probation, a training ground for the young and growing jiva, a kindergarten for God's children to pick up their first and elementary lessons in the Life Eternal. Human life is a drama. There are many characters upon the stage; all have their roles to play. There are lessons to be learned and others to be unlearned.

But, in this connection let me draw your attention to this much for the present. Each human individual with his self-consciousness fully developed is a magnetic battery, which consciously or unconsciously affects those who come within its radius one way or the other. We have come away now a great way from where we started. Separate existence in the twilight of nascent manifestation after undergoing millions and trillions of incarnations in all kinds of bodies from the moneron to man.

    "அண்டசஞ்சுவேத சங்களுற்பிச்சஞ்சராயுதத்தோ
    டெண்டருநாலெண்பத்து நான்குநூறாயிரததா
    லுண்டுபல்யோனியெல்லாமொழித்து மானுடத்துதித்தல்
    கண்டிடிற் கடலைக் கையா நீநதினன்காரியஞ்காண் சிவஞானசித்தியார்."

    "பரவைவெண்டிரை வடகடற்படுநுகத்துளையுட்
    டிரைசெய்தென் கடலிட்டதோர் நோன்கழிசிவணி
    யரசவத்துளையகவயிற் செறித்தெனவரிதாற்
    பெரியயோனிகள் பிழைத்திவண்மானிடம்பெறலே."

Our duties and responsibilities are accordingly all the greater none we should always remember; unless we choose to hide our own folly and spiritual poverty in the society of men whose only God is Gold – the shrine at which they perpetually bow and worship. I have no patience with the agnostic, no sympathy with the materialist and I ask you to spend no time with the Atheist. He is a postponed possibility. His top-head will gradually grow perhaps, It is useless to talk of and solve Euclid's problems to a child. The mature and the erudite exclaim with the inspired prophet:-

"The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork." Blind materialism knows not that of course. What does it say then?

The Universe is not governed at all by a Power from behind it, but wriggles, rambles, and madly rushes along helter-shelter, by chance – reckless chance, with no order and no purpose, towards what? – blackest chance! Now, as against this pessimistic view of the Great mystery confronting us on all sides, let us for a moment consider what we can learn from the theory of Karma that the Hindu has had all along dinned into the ears of the world at large.

You throw a stone small or bid into a pond or sheet of water and what do you think occurs then? Vibrations are set up all round the spot where the stone fell and after a time they subside into apparent calm. But, in truth, physical science tells you that the vibrations created, only apparently cease. They reach the very bottom of the pond and all its four corners in a very subtle manner and affect the atomic particles of solid matter which in their turn affect layer after layer of matter imbedded in the very bowels of the Earth. And again, these self-same vibrations affect also the atmosphere hovering over the pond in the hypothetic case we are dealing with and that very mysteriously communicates similar vibrations to the Ether above it in a very particular and tangible manner, not by any means, for any short period of time as we sometimes imagine but for all time to come they say.

You cannot undo what you have done in this case, and just in the same manner, our thoughts, feelings, words, impulses and actions generate vibrations in the surrounding ether of all degrees or Akasa of various densities, for everlasting time which affect our own immediate surroundings first and through then the world of men next and then probably the universe outside even our Solar system itself for aeons and aeons of immeasurable time. We thus act and react on each other always in life and it rests with ourselves for the most part whether we shall prove angels or friends to humanity and friends or foes to ourselves even. "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

The West does not generally understand our conception of a continued life with its quiet enduring of present wrong as the outcome of past ill-doing; with its patient striving to plant seeds of qualities which in the future would flower and bear fruit; with its gentle disregard of the fate of a single life which bulked but small in the face of a life everlasting, stretching through a long vista of births and deaths. For in true men and women, the sense of love, compassion and sympathy – of service in a word – stretches over earth, through death, and back to earth again, and just in proportion as we have evolved this quality, in far-reaching benevolence are we truly man.

As this truth becomes generally recognized, all who suffer will have an indefeasible claim on all who are able to help, by the mere fact of their suffering; instead of running away from the sight of suffering, and trying to forget it, as so many do today, we shall allow the suffering to bring our hearts until we have removed it from another. And it is written in an occult treatise. "To live to benefit mankind is the first step."

As this ideal begins to rule, the sense of true Solidarity will arise, and Society will be built in full recognition of the law that social health depends upon the health of every individual in Society that it is not enough that some should be successful, but that all must have their share of happy life. Without this, Society perishes. The law of the common life, the expression of which is Brotherhood, is woven into the very substance of the human race. None can suffer in the body politic without the happiness of all being tainted; success and failure are common for the whole of us; while to ignore the law may for a brief time bring success, in the long run, it inevitably brings destruction. Until the people are happy, we have no right to talk of 'Society'; there is only a sweltering chaos of social units, with no social organization. Let us aim at the realization of the splendid phrase. "From each according to his capacity; to each according to his needs." With the true Saivaite, it will then be a question of giving not of taking, of voluntary help not of compelled drudgery. The Bhaktas of the Periapurana, by their wonderful devotion and love to God so far outdistance the type of a modern intellectual man, that only the psychology of the future may be able to understand them fully and to define their superhuman qualities. History tells us, that now and again there have already appeared human beings gifted with powers unknown to mankind. They rose to heights where only eagles among men may soar, and those who could not rise with them saw only the dust of their soles.

Even now live Svami Ramalinga Maharishi there are many souls in advance of their age who have come in upon the crest of the advancing wave of thought. Too little are they listened to, too little can they make their voices heard above the fever and the dim of the work-a-day world. Men may look back to a golden age in the dim past or forward to it in the dim future, but always for the seeing eye the golden age is now and the Kingdom of Heaven is within.

There is no use mincing matters then. The chains we had forged for ourselves, we shall have to break asunder ourselves. We could do it if we only will to do it.

    " இச்சையில்வல்லவர் மெச்சும்விருந்தே."

The human will is almost omnipotent. What could it not accomplish? Use it for your glory then and for goodness sake, let there be no back sliding whatever.

Progression or Retrogression is the rule, and if you won't go forward, go upward, go Godward. You will have to go backward and that means athogathi, to die out of existence altogether.

We all feed and adorn the body every moment of our life; but how few care to feed and adorn the soul every day with noble thoughts and noble deeds? These few are however the salt of the Earth.

Every word we utter, every look we gaze, every thought we project, every act we perform is mentally photographed upon others, visibly or invisibly, modifying, molding, and to some extent recasting and shaping their destiny in a cut and dried manner. And could we have any correct idea of the Karma we have all along been doing on one side of Eternity? A stupendous 'No' is the only answer we could afford to give to this query.

    "அன்னையெத்தனை யெத்தனையன்னையோ" &c. 

But some of my friends may say, we do not know all about this karma with which we are dealing just now. It is not given to us to understand the countless complexities of the problem of reincarnation. They only push the difficulty one step further back and there they leave us again in utter darkness. How then they console us and help us in our future evolution.

I answer that in the fullness of time, all things shall be made plain and straight. Just now, many things are locked up in the bosom of the Eternal and let us not break our heads over then for yet amble. If we cannot be the sun, let us at least try to be a humble planet revolving round it. There is a little light that has been vouchsafed unto us and let us suffer it to guide over path, for the nonce. If we cannot afford to go in for luxuries, let us not do away with the bare necessaries of life too, on that account. That is no wisdom. Earth life is for a day's eternity of spirit is for infinite experience, achievement and enjoyment to the conscious, self-poised entity, over soul.

But what is the goal? Do we know it already? are there any land marks left on the sands of Time by those who have gone towards it before us in bygone times?

Let me quote the Hridayasloka of திருவாசகம் and pray its divine author to solve this problem for us.

    "நீயலாற்பிறிது மற்றில்லைசென்று
    சென்றணுவாய்த்தேய்ந்து தேய்ந்தொன்றாம்" &c. 

But again someone will say: all that is true. It is however more easily said than done. Quite so: You want a dogged perseverance to accomplish it.

    "சும்மாகிடைக்குமா சோணேசன்பாதம்."

Let us take counsel from the great soul who taught as follows:-

    "மெய்வருத்தம்பாரார் பசிநோக்கார் கண்டுஞ்சார்
    எவ்வெவர்தீமையுமேற் கொள்ளார் – செவ்வி
    அருமையும்பாரா ரவமதிப்புங்கொள்ளார்

Pray make sure of the ground you now stand on first Sink all petty differences over which children alone ought to quarrel once for all and rise as one man to stand for the truth through thick and thin in joy and sorrow, in bad times as well as good ones. Make your circumstance, do not let circumstances make you, something cannot be evolved from nothing; and the converse is also essentially true, that something cannot become nothing. Do not fight shy of this glorious truth. Over all and through all sweeps the mighty law of Cause and Effect. Causation being the fundamental verity of the universe. Salvation is a coming into harmony with Divine Law. All grow to be angels by degrees. The child is father of the man. Death, the most unsubstantial mirage we know of cannot change the inner man. The change of clothing or change of place merely does not change character. Laying all personalities side, love, wisdom and wise constitute the holy trinity that is to save the world.

"அன்புசிவமுமிரண்டென்பாரறிவிலார்" &c. 

- V. M.

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