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Moksh Mantra: Karma Calling

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More and more men and women are “uncoupling,” but some apparently are “consciously uncoupling.” The term was originally coined by U.S psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas and made famous (or infamous) by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Conscious uncoupling implies that the uncoupling decision was mutual. All is fair and good. Having made the conscious decision to go their separate ways, couples are now free to look for another partner with whom to “couple up,” if they so wish.

Recently when one of the most famous Hollywood couples of our times, popularly referred to as- Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) decided to call it quits, it unsettled the globe. The Atlas did shrug, as evidenced by the fact that their wax statues at Madame Tussauds in London and Sydney had to be separated. Although they were officially married for only two years, they had been a couple for the past 12 years.

With a brood of six children and much professed public love between them, they came across as a couple who would make it to the end of the line. A couple who would raise their children, marry them off, enjoy their grandchildren together …. But things fell apart in mid-flight. And going by some of the responses to their break-up, it was inevitable.

One of the many social media riposte to their break up was a picture of Jennifer Aniston (Brad Pitt’s ex-wife), on the phone, with the speech bubble reading, “Hello…Angelina, Hi. This is karma calling.” Apparently, people have not forgotten that Pitt was still married to Aniston when Jolie came into his life. Aniston was understandably shaken up by the breaksup. Another troll wrote, “Karma strikes back.”

So is it really karma? Married people break up all the time. What’s karma got to do with it?

The Indian school of thought believes that it takes seven births in a row for our karma to settle down or work itself out. There is a Sanskrit saying — Purva datteshu vidya, purva datteshu bharya, purva datteshu dhanam, purva datteshu maranam, which means that whatever knowledge, spouse, wealth and the kind of demise one has enjoyed in previous lives, one will enjoy or endure in this one too.

According to Vedic traditions, the body’s pattern of genes and chromosomes remain intact for seven generations, so, technically, only the gross body changes (the physical body made up of five elements). The subtle body (mind, intellect and ego), that is the evolving consciousness (chitta) remains unaltered.

This is the reason that Indians popularly believe that a married couple (husband-wife) is bound to each other not just in this lifetime, but for seven lifetimes (saat janmon ka saath) and hence the seven steps/rounds (saat pheras).

So while it’s true that Gahanah karmano gatih (karma runs indescribably deep) inexorable are the ways of karma, couples who break up midway may have perhaps exhausted their karmic debt with each other at that particular point of time in their present lifetime. But when it comes to men and women who “consciously couple up” with another while the person is still in a relationship, their ego-driven act spells doom.

In the much revered Indian epic Ramayana, when Ravana’s (the demon king) sister Surpanakha comes to avenge the death of her son Sunkumar she is completely smitten with the beauty of her son’s killer (Lakshman) and his brother (Ram). Overcome by her desire, the thought of vengeance is replaced by lust. She approaches Ram, who politely tells her that he is married, therefore unavailable. But Surpanakha being a demon, chooses to solve the problem in a wild and frightful manner. She decides to exterminate the woman (Sita) who came in the way of her object of lust.

When we try to forge a relationship with a person who is already committed, we exhibit the Surpanakha (demon) in us. Demons have no respect for boundaries, neither do they have the capacity to bridle their desires. The hallmark of humanity is about respecting the sanctity of boundaries set by society. It is about taming our minds, curbing our instincts and bridling our desires. When we refuse to outgrow our animal instincts and violate boundaries, karma does come calling.

According to Aghori Baba Gorakhnath, “When you don’t ask, you get milk; when you ask you get water; when you take, you get blood. This is Gorakh’s rule.”

Hence, when we snatch a person while they are still a part of a couple because we fancy them, it is an act of theft. We might think ourselves to be above the innate property on which existence works, (the law of cause and effect), but we reap the effect sooner or later.

While there’s nothing wrong or criminal in liking or fantasizing about people who may be in a relationship (we do it all the time for movie stars, sports personalities, singers — celebrities in a nutshell), as long as we don’t ruin our relationship on their account, it’s acceptable. The heart is beyond reason; the celebrities or even real people in our social circle may be in a relationship, and as long as they just form a part of our fantasy, the liking is harmless (at least in Kaliyuga, the dark age).

If anything, it forms the basis of the qualities that we look for in the people we pursue as our partner (if we are single), or we make do with creating a little space for them in our heart of hearts. But when we break into a couple and justify our act as sincere by declaring that it was over between the couple before it actually was, we can fool some people as well as our ego (which always justifies its acts, all evidence to the contrary), but we cannot fool existence. The partners who walk away are no better either, for they have broken the trust of their official partners. If they were in an unfulfilling relationship they ought to have either worked on their existing relationship or come clean and done what Paltrow did, made a declaration of conscious uncoupling.

What hurts the most in such cases is not just losing the partner to another, but to discover that the partner has been unfaithful while pretending otherwise. This stab in the back makes the soul emanate a cry of pain, like a curse. And a relationship that is forged on a note of pain returns in the form of pain to us — karma strikes back, as one of the commentators on the Jolie-Pitt breakup put it. There is no escaping this governing incidence of the law of karma.

However, the wise have proclaimed that curses are blessings in disguise. Ultimately, no human experience is futile. When the relationship that we forged by breaking someone else’s nest or heart falls apart, it shows us the mirror and can help us evolve in leaps and bounds — provided we are ready to sublimate our ego and tame our minds. If not, we continue with this pattern for seven births perhaps to come to this simple conclusion, that when we snatch or grab,we pay for it.

As outsiders one cannot sit in judgment of another. There’s always more than meets the eye, whether it’s Brangelina or back home our good old Bollywood couple Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif (apparently, Kapoor was in a steady relationship with Deepika Padukone, another actor, when Kaif pursued him). Only the parties involved know the real truth.

What we do know is that as humans we have the faculty of reason, which gives us the capacity to discipline our natural urges. Let us exercise this faculty and respect the sanctity of boundaries — or be prepared to face the karmic consequences.

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Religion | Life | December 2016

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