Nature vs nurture : Is everything predestined for us? So the question is a classic question,”So what is our own nature, our swabhava, what is it that we pick from outside, which includes others, our environment, our family, everything else. And if, there is something like “our own” we also see many things we have picked up from outside and if there is something like we have picked up from outside, we also observe there is something called “our own”. There is a specific difference. Let us see what they are.

Nature vs nurture : Is everything predestined for us?

(Adi ji) So the question is a classic question,”So what is our own nature, our swabhava, what is it that we pick from outside, which includes others, our environment, our family, everything else. And if, there is something like “our own” we also see many things we have picked up from outside and if there is something like we have picked up from outside, we also observe there is something called “our own”. There is a specific difference.

So one is different from others. And one cannot miss it, while at the same time there are commonalities. So what percentage, if we can say, what percentage is which, that becomes a key thing to understand. So is there any difference? Definitely, yes. Is there a swabhava, our own nature? Definitely yes. One cannot miss it. But swabhava is not something that is superficial. For example, we live in certain environment. Up to school days we move with the school children, our friends, then we come to college, then our nature changes. That is not exactly swabhava. That is more like social conditioning, the peer group that we move with. We go from college to workplace and then again our outer conditioning changes. But that is not our core swabhava. So to understand this better we definitely look at karma.


Now karma simply means action. Action can be broadly, it is looked at as Sanchita karma, Prarabdha karma and Agami or Kriyamana or Vartamana karma. So that means….Sanchita is the storehouse of all karmic imprints that we have accumulated over lifetimes, over many life forms. Now what that exactly means I will come to in a short while. Prarabdha is that which we are using, or that is available in this lifetime. And Kriyamana or Vartamana karma is what we are generating through our regular actions. In the process of acting, what we are generating. And that further adds on to the future. So when we look at karma, we should also understand that this is a continuum. It is not something that is….we clearly see, even if we need to get a job, people look at our background. People look at what skills we bring to the board. We bring on board. And that is not built just like that. Randomly. It is built over a process of work, consistent effort, in that direction and that continues further into our workplace. And there we are generating further expertise, further skills, we are growing constantly. So karma has to be looked at as a continuum. Not as a one off thing – so it is stored and that’s it. That’s about it, it is not that way. It is dynamic. It is constantly in balance. So when we understand this, we clearly see, to succeed, for our favourable result, we definitely need to gain some momentum in that direction, build up skill and then we would be able to get the desired result, in terms of karma phala. So this karma, generally we evaluate ourselves only with respect to our karma, when we are talking of swabhava, we are actually talking of karma. What actions are we good at, what actions we like? What actions we are suited for? And so on. That is how most of us define ourselves in terms of actions. Even thoughts are actions. Subtle actions. So words are actions. For example, right now I am speaking, this is karma, and that will influence you in very specific ways. So that way, my karma phala is not just for myself, but I am actually impacting you, enhancing your life, enhancing your inspiration, your ideas and so on. So thought, word and physical action – all of these constitute karma. It is not just straightforward, it is not just linear. So having said this, when we look at how am I different from someone else? We are mostly looking at it in terms of actionating, you know. My actions in terms of thought, words and deeds are different, somehow different and somehow common also. So there is a common part, there is a differentiating part as well. Just as for example, we have the blueprint of a body. The genetic mechanisms by which, the DNA mechanisms by which every human being is shaped, is broadly common, but there are also individual differentiating factors, which we call the gene pool.

So there are common factors as well as differentiating factors. So towards this, in the Indian system, we look at a human being, as trisharira or panchakoshas. A kosha is something like you can say a part of a human being. There are various components to a human being. The components are intermixed, so that there is well-defined interaction amongst the components.

So most of us are aware of the physical component, which is called the Annamaya kosha, or the sthula sharira, or gross body. There are also subtler aspects like emotions, thoughts, desires, which we clearly realise, but others may not be able to see it, or see it through their senses. So those are called the sukshma sharira, or the subtle body, or subtle component. So in yogic terminology, we look at that as pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha and vijnanamaya kosha. So pranamaya is the subtle energy, electromagnetic field. Manomaya is the realm of emotions, manas. Not just emotions, but the lower level functioning. Now, vijnanamaya kosha is in terms of the structure of knowledge, buddhi and so on. And then we look at anandamaya kosha which is the subtlest component which we also look at as karana sharira. It is the causal component, which is the root cause for various manifestations to happen. So if we look at it this way, now we have broken down something like a complex human being into understandable components, which is like handleable, which is manageable. Now if we look at it, you would clearly see that the Indian reasoning is on very sound platform, wherein for example, birth and death, are explained in terms of annamaya kosha and pranamaya kosha being dissolved, but some other aspects are intact. So the whole being is not lost. But the annamaya and pranamaya kosha which are a component of this earth, that is dissolved. If we go to some other loka, then your annamaya and pranamaya kosha will be differently made. That is how the reasoning works. This gives us an awesome framework to operate on. Then, one becomes clear that,”Okay, the body falls.” Now generally death is understood as end of everything. But here we clearly see that death is not the end of everything. We continue. The core aspects continue. It is just the outer aspects which are an accumulation of current circumstances on earth that fall away, when the time period is over. So this is called prarabdha. When the prarabdha karma is over, the accumulation that we had for this purpose falls away. So what happens is then we have right now have a clear way to understand this better, wherein a human being was a broad term which did not help us reason out with respect to how am I different from others.

How am I common with others? So that differentiation was not clear. Now this framework, panchakoshas has given us a clear framework for reasoning out. This is how we develop the reasoning. Then we go deeper and deeper, actually we will start understanding ourselves better, in terms of differentiation as well as in terms of what is common. Then this leads to a better appreciation in terms of even life forms.

When we say, you would have taken multiple janmas as different life forms. Then this framework gives us a way to reason out, that the annamaya kosha and pranamaya kosha is different or well-formed or less evolved. So even an amoeba has a annamaya kosha which is formed of food, which is dependent on this. Now we have a different annamaya kosha, but the fundamental consciousness, the karana sharira and the sukshma sharira could be a continuum, in spite of having different kinds of bodies. So this is how our Indian sciences help us reason out with respect to these things. So this is in broad, I have tried to give you some opening with respect to how to reason out with respect to your own karma, your own swabhava. What is unique with respect to you, what is it that you can actually actionate on and what is it that you would like to contribute to this world. That also by observing and understanding yourselves, you will be able to actually develop a sense of purpose and what you have come to earth for and what is it that you would like to contribute. So that way it becomes very very useful to understand and actionate in this lifetime.


Does the atma have a character?

Yes and no. Yes, in terms of what we call as atma. So now we looked up to anandamaya kosha. So upto anandamaya kosha, yes, you have a unique quality. Now anandamaya kosha can also be collective. But there we will be entering into what are now generally considered as mystical realms. Without touching that, because that could confuse for someone who is not initiated into certain aspects. So without touching that, what we are referring to in terms of panchakoshas, even the causal component, has unique variations. So that way, yes, you are unique. But when we refer to, what we refer to as Atma in the Vedanta, in the Indian philosophical traditions, that atma is one and the same everywhere. So that is like space everywhere, but space is also bottled up in one form. So now the form goes away but still the space remains. So that is the reason why I said yes and no.  


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