Mahabharata: Cause-Effect Relationship (Karma vs. Destiny) (92)


Lesson 92 defines subtle difference between karma (action) and prārabdha (destiny). We also see how unwillingness to adjust our initial decisions leads to clashing with the present.


  • Law of Karma (Every Present Effect Has a Seen/Unseen Cause):
    • Human beings are what they are because of their past actions.
      • EG: If actions from birth to the present were noble, today one has purity and dignity (worthy).
      • Meaning, one is a product (effect) of one’s past karma (action / origin / cause / source / ancestry / bloodline).
  • Law of Destiny/Fate: (In Sanskrit, called: prārabdha)

    • I am experience today’s fortune/misfortune because of Law of Karma.
      • However doesn’t mean I’m a victim (powerless). Because Law of Karma is still available to me NOW.
      • Victim (complaining) is only true if haven’t investigated how “Law of Karma” directly impacts ME. It’s not some law out there.
        • If haven’t investigated, gives rise to BLAMING & criticizing. Conspiracy Theories. Black/white division, us VS. them.
          • Proportion of bringing up “others” in conversation, indicates one’s victimhood.
      • Meaning it’s up to you to exercise your faculty to choose your PRESENT actions.
        • Ability to choose is called puruṣārtha (self-effort or free will).
    • Sum total of all self-efforts = present destiny (prārabdha).
    • What one meets in life is destiny and how one meets it is self-effort.
      • EG: I get hurt by confrontation = Destiny.
        • Allow my thoughts to build narrative = victim. Such are cynical of “Freewill”.
        • Deliberately manage initial thoughts = self-effort. Exercising your “Freewill”.
      • No place for, “It’s your destiny/karma”.
  • What if born with genetic anomalies?
    • Even though it’ll be disadvantageous, Law of Karma is still available. Never a victim.
      • EG: Nick Vujicic (no arms, yet empowered many excuse-makers).


  • Now let's tie above explanation of Karma/Destiny with Draupadī's situation of being disrobed by Duḥśāsana…
  • Draupadī’s disrobing is not victim of fate, as though, she did something in past, and she's supposed to pay for this in this lifetime.
    • She is a victim of immediate causes. (Yudhiṣṭhira playing dice in the court).
    • There is no “meant” to happen.
    • However there are also intervening causes.
      • EG: Draupadī said earlier to Dyurodhana of “Blind father, blind son“. This did certainly contribute. But it's not absolute cause of her disrobing. It's impossible to determine which specific cause caused disrobing. Too many things are coming together, and too complex.
  • SUMMARY: Series of events took place to disrobing. Thus circumstances in life are NOT fixed. And can’t conclude everything off as “It's meant to happen“, nor “I'm going through THIS, because it’s my fate.
    • If believe destiny is fixed, then you'll say “World is not treating me right“, blaming, etc. Which will affect your present actions, thus influence future results.
  • Let’s apply word “Destiny” in proper context:
    • “Destiny” in present life:
      • Was the ṛṣi (killed by Pāṇdu) meant to die?
        • No. It was a cause created in this life itself.
    • “Destiny” from past life:
      • In Kingdom of Kashi, Amba was undergoing svayaṃvara (girl chooses husband).
      • However Amba was already secretly in love with Salva. And promised to put varmala (wedding garment) on his neck.
      • Bhīṣma learned of this, came to Kashi and abducted Amba and two sisters for his step-brother Vicitravīrya.
      • On way back, he was challenged to dual with Salva. Salva was wounded/retreated. Bhīṣma unaware of Amba’s feelings.
      • At Hastinapur, Amba told Bhīṣma her heart is already on Salva.
      • Bhīṣma sent her back. But Salva rejected her.
      • Amba came back to Hastinapur, and Bhīṣma rejected her.
      • So he vowed in next life, she'll kill Bhīṣma as Śikhaṇḍī.
    • Therefore, can't make any FIXED statement about relationships, fortune, misfortune or any circumstance (karma) in life. Because you don’t know.
      • The only entity that sees all causes-effects is Īśvara (intelligence which connects all causes; chemical, genetic, psychological, biological, dharma, karma).
      • All human needs to know is world is governed by causes, and I have opportunity to create a new cause in response to this present cause, which will have effect in future.
  • STORY CONTINUES: Everyone in court, including Bhīṣma/Droṇācārya, felt helpless & offered no help. Because thought Yudhiṣṭhira had lost the game.
    • QUESTION: Was the royal court’s thinking that Yudhiṣṭhira lost, justified to not help Draupadī, or stop Yudhiṣṭhira?
      • Even Bhīṣma was caught up in his narrative.
        • EG: He vowed to protect King of Hastinapur, rather then dharma of Hastinapur’s rulership.
        • Symbolism of this is we limit ourselves through our choices, and don’t come out of them even when NEW DATA is suggesting a change needs to be made.
  • STORY CONTINUES: Lord Kṛṣṇa came to save her, supplying cloth, until Duḥśāsana collapsed from exhaustion.
    • QUESTION: What is symbolism that out of everyone in court, only Lord came to help?
      • Lord is not loaded, unlike human mind. His thinking is objective. Doesn’t lose sight of absolute dharma.

Keywords: pandavas, Yudhisthira, Yudhishthira, draupadi, bhishma, krishna, krsna, dronacharya, vicitravirya, purushartha, purusartha, prarabdha

Recorded 8 Sept, 2020



  1. Hi Andre.
    I don’t think I was clear in class.
    People confuse destiny( what is) with predestination ( what has already been determined).
    Predestination precludes free will.
    We are just the passive subjects of fate. ( hence fatalism).
    I know that is not Vedanta’s teaching.!
    If we believe in ‘destiny’ we have removed Vikara from Mitya. ( we think the script has already been written).
    We are saying the script is already written and there is nothing we can do to change it.that is, we have no free will, hence the inability to influence karma.
    But the law of Ishvara is that all Mitya is subject to modifications.
    Vikara is a law of Ishvara.
    Therefore, if we believe in destiny, which is what is, we are saying nothing.
    Because what is is what is.
    If we believe in predestination we are contradicting the laws of Isvara!
    Therefore, our Karma is to act using the discriminative faculty in every moment, which is the essence of our free will.
    I hope I am on the right track here.
    I felt so honoured to be on the call with my fellow seekers.
    I am humbled by their knowledge.

    1. Robert it was clear on webinar as it is now. Just that I’ve never heard of word “predestination” used in Vedanta.

      Predestination (written in stone / fixed future) is indeed confused with destiny (that which happens NOW, NOW, NOW).

      In short, “predestination” completely contradicts reality. A word created by a linear thinking mind. We’ll leave it for Hollywood movies.

      Was pleased to see you join. 🙂

      1. There is another word of interest here, it is called Precognition. Precognition is of interest as it seems to give certain individuals, usually religious, insight into the macrocosmic happenings of the world, e.g. having visions of wars years earlier or visions of environmental catastrophes.
        In my opinion these individuals can see the effects of certain causes far in advance, can broadly tell what happens before that and at the same time they cannot foresee the specific year.

        1. Like Nostradamus? Without completely dismissing the possibility, there is also possibility of:

          – Language they were written in was poorly translated in English. EG: “…camel through eye of a needle” is King James translation. It’s actually “…rope through eye of a needle”.

          – The precognition is vague/abstract. Like with some horoscopes. So can easily put many world events under it’s vision.

          – Poor language translation + vagueness + readers OWN misinterpretation, causes further distortions.

          3 variables to look into before making a definitive conclusion.

  2. Yes, I agree that visions are vague and dependent on readers interpretation. That visions exist is no doubt true, what to make of them is another issue.

    What is your take on the future, Andre? Do you have any vision? You once said that it is common knowledge to have enough savings for at least 12 months. Do you follow any other principles like having enough food supplies at home, etc?

    1. Hi Georg. Glad to share.

      For me, future valuation is a practical matter.

      For example…

      1) If eyes stare at monitor for hours (without taking 5 min break), then 20 years in future = poor vision.
      Solution: Give eyes break NOW. Else suffering in future.

      2) If body sits in chair for hours (without some exercise in-between), then 5 years in future = back pain.
      Solution: Incorporate some movements NOW. Else suffering in future.

      3) If don’t make copy of house keys, then if lose keys in future = have to break window = unnecessary fuss.
      Solution: Make copy of keys NOW and hide in garden.

      4) If keep all money in one bank account, then if bank busts in future = lost life savings = all focus on survival.
      Solution: Diversify funds throughout various high interest savings accounts.

      5) If hard drive fails, then massive anxiety losing significant work.
      Solution: Backup every 15 days.

      6) If fire in future, then either life disabling burns or expensive property damages.
      Solution: Buy and know exactly where fire extinguisher is.

      Therefore makes sense to make lifestyle modifications while everything is OK, which can prevent unnecessary suffering in future.

      I’m sure some of us know friends who learned value of backing up at least once, only after losing their precious phone/hard-drive.

      1. Yes, i agree. I do include having canned foods for a few weeks at home in case of catastrophe.

        I personally am also interested to see what your macro view is:
        Do you expect something major to happen on the financial market?
        Do you expect some changes to the growth based banking system?
        Do you expect the economy to just continue as we used to?
        Do you see a likelihood of a major confrontation due to increasing economic conflicts of Turkey, China, Russia and USA?

        Ps. Is there some way to receive email notifications for new comments?

        1. Regarding macro, it’s really is beyond my small mind. We do have general indicators from financial analysts, eg: Consumerism is less, meaning less money is spent on products, meaning some businesses liquidate. But others are created like telecommunication is exploding (due to online increase). Hospitality certainly taking toll on lack of tourism. While food delivery services have increased demand.

          So it’s not possible to pinpoint any black-white answer regarding predictions.

          In terms of country disputes, same. Leaders are humans with moods and new data constantly changing their opinion, which changes their negotiations.

          For practical reasons, all we can really do is maintain our mental focus and general lifestyle so it’s not excessively impacted by world pressures. That’s really the only control one has.

          Thanks for telling me it’s not notifying. Was wondering why few ever reply after I reply. Should get email now.

  3. Thank you Andre, I received the email notification!

    You wrote:
    “For practical reasons, all we can really do is maintain our mental focus and general lifestyle so it’s not excessively impacted by world pressures. That’s really the only control one has.”

    I agree. At the same time there is a danger of living too comfortably. I am not sure if living too comfortably is always a productive way of spending one’s life time. There is a certain need of challenging oneself without slipping into panic in order to grow. So, at some point either i challenge myself or external pressure will challenge me.
    It is a challenge for myself to give in to outside pressures, to accept that my will is not the will of the total and that I have to stay silent if I don’t want to endure physical violence and jail. In other words, it is hard to let go of one’s values.

    1. Certain need to challenge oneself is significant point Georg. Of course without getting entangled in the activity and making it the ENDS of life.

      It’s surprising how quickly mind defaults to inertia the moment there is no legit reason to keep challenging this relative person.

      For example, during time of not teaching between March to Aug, challenged this mind with Sanskrit, aviation training, piano playing and Javascript/python programming.

      Anything Georg does to maintain health and alertness of his mind?

      1. Thank you for the interaction! 🙂

        Yes, i enjoy sports in form of gymnastics/yoga very much. Plus, I try to go deep into habits by studying the enneagram. Similarly I try to engage with all the different feelings, needs and parts of my psyche by acknowledging them with the help of focusing therapy.  A painfree body and mind is my absolutely highest goal!

        1. Ah enneagram, a personality investigator.

          Perhaps may also enjoy “The Game of Self-Knowledge”. It incorporates entire Vedic vision, with array of stages human goes through which lead to various personalities. By playing, one understands themselves and how each actions either produces regression or progression.

          It literally presents entire game of life on 72 blocks. Aim is moksha. Players see how samsara keeps one entangled in endless circles.

          It’s designed by rishies 2000+- years ago. However interpretations are dualistic and irrelevant for practical purposes (eg: talks about different lokas). Can see original here:

          My Advaita + practical version preview here:

          When finish, can play by self, kids, friends. Will be available on site free + how to play.

          1. Andre, reading your comment about this game really took my breath away. I used to play this game when I was a child, known as “Snakes and Ladders” and I remember that when you landed on a block with a picture of a good deed, it would take you up the ladder to a block that showed the results of that good deed. And similarly, when you landed on a block that had a picture of something bad, the snake would drag you back down to a lower block. It seems that this game is actually popular around the world, and I had no idea that it originated in India, and that it had a deeper meaning.

            Understanding that the initial purpose of the game was to illustrate what it is like to be in the realm of samsara, and how we are trying to reach the top and attain moksha, just gave me a beautiful “aha!” moment! To think that I used to play this game as an innocent child, who knew nothing of these things, and to now understand the deeper meaning of it, well, it’s a beautiful feeling. And now I appreciate this game more than I ever did!

            Lastly, I wanted to see Advaita + practical version that you linked, but for some reason that link seems to be broken, and it re-directs me to the main home page. Is there anywhere I can still see it?

            Thanks Andre!

        2. Thanks Andre.
          Email notification is a great idea.
          Am familiar with The Enneagram in the context of Gurdjieffs teachings, but had never heard of @ the game of Self Knowledge “.
          I will play it.
          I enjoy the practical questions that Georg asks and find them quite helpful in thinking how to apply this teaching to everyday life.

        3. Hi Andre,

          I forgot to mention the following, A very significant way of maintaining alertness of mind for me is the Work by Byron Katie. She became famous for turning beliefs around. For example, if I say God punishes me for my past actions, then the turn around can be:
          1. I punish myself (with this belief).
          2. God has given me so much.
          3. How do I give God a hard time?

          1. So we’re re-framing the old narrative. Excellent.

            Even to say “I’m lucky/unlucky”, so many orders taking place behind the scenes: biological, electrical, psychological, memory, language.

  4. Thank you Andre, for the enjoyable reading material. When I first saw these many levels, I felt sad because it is important for me to be successful and done. On the second look I found myself inspired by some insights, such as seeing mother earth as my mother.
    I believe there could be more details regarding direct self knowledge as I noticed myself asking the question, how do I know I enjoy direct self knowledge? Plus i found myself confused by the levels 56 onwards with air, space, etc.

    Ps. The enneagram to me is more like a shadow indicator. It helps me see what my deeper motivations behind actions are.
    Focusing therapy helps me recognize the different voices in me that try to interpret results from their limited point to view, such as the voice of fear… shame…or voice of anger.

    1. Sure, yet to finish editing after 46. Also we learn we don’t need to go through every stage (as life is not black/white). That’s why there’s ladders. Example, if stick to 28 (trusting one’s own path to success), it accelerates our maturity to block 50.

      Also we notice how block 60 (laziness), takes us to block 6 (taking refuge in world objects). Which supports our previous discussion on keeping mind alert.

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