Theory of Karma - Chapter 38

Stealing is definitely an Art. Putting aside its moral implications, we can readily concede that it is indeed one of the most difficult Art Forms. For a thief, if he is true to his name, he must accomplish his act in such a manner that not a soul around comes even to smell what he is up to. Not only that, but he must be very alert and vigilant enough to discern the precise location of the valuables in pitch darkness all around him. Then he must go about his nocturnal mission so stealthily that there are no tell-tale signs left behind him.

The seeker of Knowledge and Truth is like a thief in one very significant respect. If anyone else comes to know what he is about, then that in itself will become a hindrance in his search for the Truth. This is why Jesus Christ had proclaimed that even your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing. Even your prayer must be so silent that apart from God, no one else can hear a word of it.

It may well be a matter of conjecture whether our prayers in fact reach the ears of God. But it is often a fact, not a conjecture, that everybody in the house and neighbourhood do hear them for sure. We may not perhaps care about whether God indeed hears our prayers, but it is of supreme importance to us to ensure that our relatives, neighbours and friends have no trouble hearing them.

It is our general tendency when the saints and scriptures advise us that we should be more discreet about our selfless and righteous actions than about our self-serving or sinful actions. In fact, there is a lot of merit and wisdom in what they are advocating, for ordinary human psychology dictates that the fear of being exposed is the greatest deterrent to committing any criminal action.

Indeed, one of the most important tenets in the operation of the law of Karma is that any action, righteous or unrighteous, becomes neutralized as soon as it is exposed and publicized. It does not have any future value, whether on the credit or debit side, once it is announced or otherwise becomes a part of public knowledge. Thus, for example, when you make a donation for a worthy, charitable cause, if all the fuss accompanies your act of charity, such as its announcement through the press, pictures or plaques, then such an exposure and publicity cancels out all the merits
of your good deed. Having been thus neutralized, there is no question of such a good deed being laid away to return wilh sweet fruits at a later date as your good Prarabdha.

There is an interesting story about King Yayati in the Mahabharata. He had accumulated innumerable merits through such pious deeds as penance, charity, religious sacrifice (yagna) etc. Thanks to these merits, he earned the privilege of becoming the Lord of the Heavens (INDRA). His predecessor Lord Indra himself welcomed him with fanfare and with great respect and humility offered him his own throne. The Lord Indra started narrating with profuse adulation, King Yayati's meritorious deeds to the large and captive audience before him.

Addressing the king directly, he pointed out in the open court, every one of the king's good deeds contributing to his merits, getting the king's nod and approval with self-assured pride at every step. When the long and effusive recitation of all the king's meritorious deeds was finally, exhausted, acknowledged without hesitation or false humility by the king, Indra immediately pointed out matter-of-factly 'O king, now all your merits have been publicly acclaimed in your own presence, and you have also accepted the lavish accolades (applauses) offered to you in this court. In this manner you have fully received and enjoyed the rewards of your good deeds. Hence you must now vacate this throne, since the qualifications which earned you this throne and this kingdom of heaven - the weight of your pious deeds-have now evaporated.

In the same fashion, if we publicly acknowledge our sins or misdeeds with complete honesty and sincerity, then we are set free from the adverse Prarabdha resulting from them. Thus, for example, Mahatma Gandhi fully revealed in his autobiography the many misguided actions he had committed during his youth, stealing a few bidis (cigarettes) from the pockets of his father's servants to experiment with smoking, dabbling with meat eating, a half-hearted visit to the whore house, stealing petty cash from his father's pockets, giving in to the over-powering and lustful desire
for intercourse with his wife while his own father was about to breathe his last in the same house etc. Such honest and unsolicited admission before the whole world made in complete candour released him from the adverse consequences (Prarabdha) of his actions. In the like manner, other exalted souls in recent times such as Bhikshu Akhandanand and Gandhiji's staunch disciple Shri Thakkar Bapa, have also shown noble and exemplary courage in fully confessing to their adulterous misadventures in their written self-documentaries. By purging their own soul through such public confessions and with full self-contrition, they have unburdened themselves from the onerous Karmic effects of their misconceived actions. Even such great sages as Vyasa and Narada have courageously and uncompromisingly admitted to the so-called blemished and dubious past of their own mothers, thereby exposing themselves to public censure and ridicule. But ironically, their very courage and candour in exposing the truth spared them from public ridicule, while those of us who painstakingly strive to hide our blemishes and misdeeds committed consciously but stealthily have to carry the full burden of the painful consequences just as soon as they catch up with us.