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Residual Karmic Credits and Debits

Updated on April 29, 2015





From ancient times some Indians have speculated about mind as a category distinctly separate from the body of a sentient being. So have European philosophers,e.g.,Rene Descartes(1596-1650) whose concept of dualism postulates that the mind may bear upon the body but they are two distinctly separate elements.The esoteric texts of Hinduism

write about the all-important Brahman which is the adhar, receptacle, of our universe.They recognised that Brahman does not stand still but mind is the fastest of all. Cartesian idea about mind and body has been contested by many western thinkers being dualistic in nature. In this brief discourse we shall outline western and Indian thinking on the nature of mind as a major part of a sentient being and karma which is initiated by mind.

Innatist Theory

In an Indian philosophical text written around 7th century BCE, a body forms as an inert entity by the concatenation of atoms but buddhi, ego etc. which exist as separate parameters enter the body in due course.Regarding mind the British philosopher John Locke(1632-1704),

known as an empiricist, wrote that a child is born with a mind which is empty. That is the mind is tabula rosa, a blank slate, on which is posited the world of experience.

Sentient beings acquire knowledge solely

through sensory stimulation.

In modern times Noam Chomsky(born 1928) supports the view of the rationalists in his philosophy which says that a child is born with an inherent experience of constructing grammatical structure in sentences.This is known as the Innatist Theory which states that a new-born infant's mind is not a tabula rosa. By mind he means the cognitive principles and processes which excite the mental sphere and induce and direct activities in sentient beings.

According to Chomsky,inherent in the mind is the grammar of the language the child is going to use possibly throughout

his lifetime. This innatism is independent of race and some 5,000 languages which are spoken in our world, Chomsky says that there is a universal syntactic structure which is hard-wired in the brain. That is to

say that the fundamental principles of grammar are ingrained in the child's mind.

Teachers and parents merely provide the trigger for the children to consolidate and

expand their prior knowledge of the subject.

Karmic Effects

Although Chomsky does not seem to say

so, a Hindu and a Buddhist will justifiably conclude that a child arrives with a baggage from his or her previous lives.

How else would they know something as

formalised as grammar? Incidentally, Plato

(c.427-347BCE) believed that it was the soul which gathered knowledge as it migrated from body to body through many


In Hinduism,there is this something ineffable called atma which does not have

a well defined macro-geometry although in at least one philosophical text written in ancient times, it is a bindu, a point circle in space. In its unembodied, free state, an atma is existent, conscious and detached from its surroundings. It follows that, having forsaken desire and greed, a free atma is in a state of ananda, bliss.

Detachment is a prerequisite for bliss because activity is concomitant with attachment. On the other hand, inactivity means escape from a life's regime of karma in which case there will not be any karmic credits and debits to reap. Credits

accrue only if correct karmas are undertaken. Such credits are called punya in Sanskrit. Conversely, incorrect karmas record debits for the atma and is known as pap, the a to be pronounced as in mast.

Both punya and pap are stored in what is

known as adrista, both a's to be pronounced as in cost.Adrista can be likened to a storehouse or silo.

Adrista arises as a wave simultaneously with the commencement of karma. Punya and pap are not good and evil respectively but merely the unavoidable credits to be

taken advantage of and debits to be reimbursed. There is no question of reward and punishment. Punya and pap are not positive and negative quantities. That is they could not be subtracted appropriately from each other to increase the amount of punya or reduce pap in one's adrista.

One lifetime for a being, whether bacteria or human is not long enough to enjoy or otherwise the fruits of karma. The residual credits and debits are carried forward to the next embodiments of the atma. The idea of residual punya and pap is certainly not the same as Noam Chomsky's pronouncement on the grammatical skill of a child. This particular hypothesis in ancient Indian philosophy does, however, suggest that sentient beings are compelled to carry the burden of their debt and gain throughout many future lives. A hint of past memory is also there in that new-born

animals, say, puppies, still not fully sighted, start suckling their mother's teats for sustenance soon after they are born. There is no training involved and this involuntary action suggests that the puppies carry certain experiences from previous lives which were probably stored in their adrista as a known amount of punya or pap.

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