Karma and the Guru

  • by Acharya Ratnananda

Maharishi* Kãnada was a great scholar. He wrote one of the six Darshanas (revelations) called Vaisheshika. Vaisheshika in Sanskrit means specialized knowledge. He had a large body of disciples who helped spread his teachings and wisdom.

Once, during his travels, the Maharishi met with an egotistic chieftain who began to argue with him about the effects of past Karma on one’s life. The chieftain said, “Sir, all of us understand and accept that our past karma influence out present lives – either for good or for bad; and there is no escape from it.”

“That being so, what is the point or purpose in seeking and surrendering to a Guru? Can he provide relief by removing the powerful effects of one’s past karma?

The disciples were shocked and shaken by the perverse but valid logic of the chieftain. However, they were curious to see how the Maharishi would respond.

“There is validity in your logic,” said the Maharishi smilingly, “however, let us walk a while before finding a solution to your problem.”

The arrogant chieftain mentally congratulated himself at outsmarting the enlightened Master and agreed to walk with them.

During the walk. the chieftain began to wonder about the importance of the gift of sight and the plight of blind people. He decided to hold the hand of one of the disciples and walked along with a piece of cloth over his eyes, as an experiment.

The disciples watched the curious behavior of the chieftain. The Maharishi, however, signaled them to stay silent. He then whispered a few words to one of the disciples, who ran forward and placed a bundle of coins by the road.

As they approached the bundle of coins, the Maharishi gave a rather sharp blow to the  back of the chieftain. Surprised, the chieftain cast aside the cloth covering his eyes and looked at the Maharishi in anger.

The Master calmly said, “Don’t look back, but look forward.” Though angry, the chieftain turned forward, out of respect to the Maharishi’s words. He was pleasantly surprised to find the bundle of coins in front of him.

The chieftain exclaimed, “My dear sir, I am fortunate to have found these coins! I also thank you for the beating – though I am unable to fathom your action.”

Maharishi Kãnada then gracefully explained his actions. “You were right in stating that our past karma influences our present lives. It was your past karma that made you experiment on the effect of blindness on people, and you would have missed your chances for wealth, health and happiness. But, the intervention of a Guru, in this case by giving you a beating, modified your karma, and helped you find the gift.”

“The Guru does not take away your karma, but helps to modify and soften the effects of your past deeds or misdeeds. This is the result of seeking and surrendering to an enlightened Master.”

This story illustrates the impact of an enlightened Guru on our lives. The enlightened Master’s presence helps us move inward and realize our true purpose in this world.

* Maharishi in Sanskrit refers to a wise sage.

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