Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kriya and Karma

“Performing duty, verily one should desire to live a full hundred years. This alone is right, for there is no other right path. Actions do not cling to man of this temperament.” ………Isa Upanishad verse 2

There is need for defining what ‘performing duty’ here means. Every human being has to be engaged in some action throughout his or her life. Karma is the main stay of life. A more spiritual name for the fulfilment of karma through action is known as performance of rituals. Every act one performs is a ritual. This is because every act must have as its true goal, the fulfilment of Divine will. It should not be misconstrued that only what is done in the Puja or in worship is a ritual. All actions are rituals as they should be oriented towards elevation of one’s consciousness in our karmic journey. All rituals are composed of two elements; intention and performance.
Panini, the great grammarian, has said: “Whatever the doer wishes is Karma; whatever he does is Kriya (act). Thus Karma means the intention or desire behind the action. The true Karma is that which uplifts. Also, action which leads to downfall is not Karma but dushkarma or vikarma – unlawful or forbidden actions." Bhagavad-Gita says “Mysterious is the path of action and directs that one should work in the world following the ordinances of the scriptures, the Vedas” (Gita 4:17, 16:24). The underlying purpose of all scriptures is to be the source for proving guidelines for our intentions.

A question that may arise here, from this mantra in the Isa Upanishad, is why to live only for one hundred years. A simple answer is that man's life has been ordained as one hundred years in the Veda for a symbolic purpose. He is a centenarian and there is possibility of his surviving even longer. The Upanishads call the living being Shatakrtu – one who performs hundred yagyas – sacrifices. Hundred is a symbolism of fullness of earthly life.

The life process consists of two major paths namely; action and renunciation. But they are two sides of the same coin. While action is rooted in our material mode, renunciation evolves form deeper knowledge and operates at the intention level. The very first verse of the Isa Upanishad laid the foundation for this knowledge.
Definition of Karma is very well done in the Bhagavad-Gita: “The sense of renunciation in the living beings which evolves them to higher realms is called Karma” (Gita 8:3).

Let us take a simple example of a ritual bath that one undertakes before doing a puja (worship) or some other spiritual practice. The operation of Karma and Kriya can be seen in this simple act. If a person goes in for the bath with earthly worries of the day or how to close a deal that is to be negotiated, his karma fails its intended purpose and the kriya is rendered defunct.
But on the contrary if the bath is taken with gratitude for the health bestowed on the body and the millions of replenishments that have taken place at the level of one’s cells each day so that a new person has emerged at that very moment in preparation for the ritual to be performed, his karma is well oriented. With an intention that this bodily purification is a prelude to the ritual cleansing of his or her consciousness so that it can open up to the Divine touch and blessing, then the operation of the kriya and karma are in resonance.

This is the road to renunciation as the desire of action transcends the area of the self. It only seeks divine union and sees the action of the divine in all action. This is the meaning of “Actions do not cling to man of this temperament.”
The chapter 3 verse 9 of Bhagavad-Gita captures the essence of what we have been saying.
“Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kuntī, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.”

Love to you all


  1. Desire or wishes is derived from mind mapping, we conceive first in mind to do physical act/Kriya.
    Karma which delves in mind has its limitations. But, whatever with the mind one can conceive/ perceive he/she could achieve / materialize as Kriya.
    Mind which is full of egoistic and selfish may not lead us to fulfilling 100 years with His satisfaction!
    Action which leads to downfall is not Karma but dushkarma or vikarma – unlawful or forbidden actions. These same words are written in the Holy Bible too..
    My Son, be modest in your self esteem, and value yourself at your proper worth. Who can justify a man who runs himself down, or respect a man despises himself? (Sirach 10:28-29)
    We should be “modest” in our self-esteem, and not “run ourselves down”
    What else material sacrifices are going to satisfy Him? Only the contrite heart and thanksgiving offering alone can satisfy Him.

  2. Thanks Francis for your comment and link to the Bible text.
    For a detail commentary on Sirach 10:28-29 you can see the article in the following link:

  3. As per infallible laws of karma ... we reaped fruits of karma performed! Nothing in cosmic system happened of its own! If we suffered in present life... all owes its existence to bad karma performed by us in past or previous lives!