Human suffering is one of life’s most compelling mysteries: Why is there so much misery? Is God helpless to act or does He choose not to? What is God’s role in the scheme of things?

We can blame neither God nor devil. Nothing happens by the whim of an external agency. We are responsible for what life brings us. You are the architect of your own destiny. You make yourself. You destroy yourself. The Law is: As You Think So You Become.

The word “karma” comes from the Sanskrit verb kri, to do. Karma or action is the pivot around which life revolves. Action comes from desire. Desire from thought. And thought from vasana. Vasana is the inborn urge, deep-rooted inclination, inherent tendency. When you have a vasana for music the thought for music arises in your intellect. This thought crystallizes as a desire in the mind to sing or listen to music. The desire then manifests as action. This action further creates an imprint, groove, vasana for music. Sometimes you are conscious of the imprinting process. Most times you are not. As your vasana so will be your thought, desire and action. Your vasana then creates the environment or circumstance. Thus you are a victim of your vasanas in the present. This is referred to as destiny.

All other species have to act in line with their vasanas. The human being alone is gifted with the choice of action. You can choose to act as per your vasanas or be independent of them. With this choice or purushartha you determine your future. Destiny or prarabdha is the sum total of all your past purusharthas. It is irrevocable. So if you look at your past you are a victim. With reference to the future you are a victor. At each juncture you are free to choose the way you think, desire or act. Once chosen you are a victim of its effect. The universe gives back what you have given to it. So be very careful how you think. If you anger easily you create an angry mind that is predisposed to anger. As water gathers force when directed into a narrow canal, the grooves in the mind create channels of behavior patterns which become difficult to resist or reverse. Changing an ingrained mental habit becomes an uphill battle.

Think a negative, hateful thought. That moment you have become a little more evil, vile and disgusting. The effect of that thought has to come to you by way of failure, misery and sorrow. You carelessly entertain negative thoughts. When the collective effect of all this negativity hits, you wonder why the tragedy has struck!

Think a positive, loving, elevating thought. That instant you have become a little more divine. The effect of it comes to you by way of good fortune, happiness and spiritual growth. You meet with serendipitous experiences. Spiritual life is not about relocating to an ashram or a hermitage. It is about changing your thoughts, attitudes and feelings. This is far more difficult than a mere shift of address.

So purushartha or free will is the key to your emancipation. Irrespective of your past you can choose to be better, nobler, more evolved. God is only the facilitator and enabler of your actions. God has set the Law of Karma in place. It is up to you to use the law for your evolution.

During your life every movement is determined by desire. When you visit a mall you enter a shoe store because you have a desire for shoes. You remain there until the desire is fulfilled. You leave the store either when you have bought the shoes or you do not find what you are looking for. So is it in life.

At death, all the desires and aspirations of a person seem to disappear into thin air. On the other hand at birth, many distinct traits and ambitions seem to appear from nowhere. So there are causes with no known effects at death and effects with unknown causes at birth. The ancient seers in India merely connected the causes with the effects. Then everything fell into place. They deduced that the inner personality of a person does not die. It just moves from one physical body to another. The movement of the mind, intellect and vasanas from one body to another is called the death of the former body and birth of the latter.

Why does this movement take place? Just as a person discards old clothes to don new ones a person discards a body and environment that is no longer conducive for the fulfillment of his desires and moves to another body and atmosphere that fits the bill. Thus death is a blessing. It allows you to start afresh on your journey to Enlightenment.

The sum total of all your vasanas is called sanchita vasanas. Of these a few powerful desires exert pressure for fulfillment. They are referred to as prarabdha vasanas. They determine your birth in an environment that is tailor-made for their exhaustion. Once they are fulfilled the next batch of desires starts playing up. But they have no avenue for fulfillment. When there is a mismatch between your desires and the environment nature blesses you with death. You move to another body and surrounding that is customized for the next batch of prarabdha vasanas. This cycle of birth and death goes on endlessly as long as one has desires.

During your lifetime your prarabdha vasanas will be fulfilled irrespective of what you do. That is a given. However, you also have the option of changing your sanchita vasanas. You can add to them, subtract from them, upgrade or downgrade them or even eliminate them. The wise understand that life is rife with sorrow and suffering. If you do not want this roller coaster ride of life there is only one way out. Break out of the influence of vasana and desire and realize the Self.

As long as you perform desire-driven actions you will be bound to the world. Many people, in the name of religion or spirituality, perform noble actions that acquire merit or punya but are still driven by desire. They are transported to a super human state called heaven to enjoy the fruits of their punya but return to the world because they still have desires. Those who perform negative, hateful actions go to hell where they suffer the effects of their demerit or papa and return to the world. Heaven and hell are not geographical locations but states of mind.

There are some who remain focused on spiritual evolution and perform obligatory activities directed towards Enlightenment but stray into desire-driven noble actions. Such people inadvertently acquire punya and have to go to heaven to exhaust their punya before moving on to Realisation. This is called krama mukti or liberation in stages. The wise do not mess with desires. They understand the pitfalls of even good desires which only delay their progress to Enlightenment. They perform vasana-reducing, self-purifying actions that give then Realisation here and now. This is referred to as kaivalya mukti or direct liberation.

You are born in the world only to reach Enlightenment and you do everything except strive for it. You are designed to take off into sublime spiritual realms which confer power, independence and infinite Bliss. Wake up to your potential. Strive for it. Stop not till the goal is reached.