How Can a Finite Cause Have an Infinite Effect? Yogananda on the Karmic Law, Heaven, Hell, and Human Suffering

The Karmic Law Is Exact: How Can a Finite Cause Have an Infinite Effect?

A visitor: “The Bible says that evildoers shall be punished, and the good, rewarded. Do you subscribe to this teaching?”

Paramhansa Yogananda: “Certainly. If we accept the principle of cause and effect in Nature, and of action and reaction in physics, how can we not believe that this natural law extends also to human beings? Do not humans, too, belong to the natural order?

“This is the law of karma. As you sow, so shall you reap. If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy.”

The visitor: “How specific is the law? In physics, the law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In Nature, effects are often very specifically, and not only vaguely, related to their causes.

“Yet we’ve been taught to view reward and punishment for human behavior in more general terms. If we’re good, we’ve been told, we’ll go to heaven, and if we’re bad, we’ll go to hell. But people don’t think of themselves as reaping specific consequences for specific deeds.”

Yogananda: “The karmic law is exact. There is, furthermore, no question of suffering in hell for eternity. (How could the misdeeds of a few years on earth deserve eternal punishment? Could a finite cause have an infinite effect?)

Through the Use of Our Will Power, We Create Our Own Destiny

“To understand karma, you must realize that thoughts are things. The very universe, in the final analysis, is composed not of matter but of consciousness.

“Matter responds, far more than most people realize, to the power of thought. For will power directs energy, and energy in turn acts upon matter. Matter, in deed, is energy.

“The stronger the will, the greater the force of energy—and the greater, consequently, the energy’s impact on material events. A strong will, especially if combined with awareness of the cosmic energy, can effect miracles.

“It can cure diseases, and make a person well. It can ensure success in any undertaking. The very seasons are obedient to the man of strong will power and of deep faith.

“Even unenlightened human beings shape their destinies, more than they themselves realize, according to the way they use their power of will. For no action is ever an isolated event. Always, it invites from the universe a reaction that corresponds exactly to the type and the force of energy behind the deed.

Every Action, Sooner or Later, Must Reap Its Final Reaction

“Action originates in the will, which directs energy toward its desired end. This, then, is the definition of will power: desire plus energy, directed toward fulfillment.

“Energy, like electricity, generates a magnetic field. And that magnetic field attracts to itself the consequences of action.

“The binding force between human action and cosmic reaction is the ego. The consciousness of ego ensures that a person’s actions will have personal consequences for himself.

“These consequences may be delayed, if the will power engendering a thought or deed was not powerful enough to have immediate results, or if its thrust was thwarted by the other, conflicting energies.

“Sooner or later, however, every action, whether of body, of thought, or of desire, must reap its final reaction. It is like a circle completing itself.

“Thus, man, made as he is in the image of God, becomes in his turn a creator.

Human Suffering Is a Sign of Man’s Ignorance of the Divine Law

“The results of good and bad deeds are not experienced only after death. Heaven and hell are realities even here on earth, where people reap the painful consequences of their folly, and the harmonious results of right action.

“People seldom think of their own actions as bad. Whatever they do seems, at least to them, well-intentioned. But if they create disharmony for others, and thus on deeper levels of their being, for themselves, those waves of disharmony will inevitably return to them in the form of disharmony.

“Every action, every thought, reaps its own corresponding reward.

“Human suffering is not a sign of God’s anger with mankind. It is a sign, rather, of man’s ignorance of the divine law.

“The law is forever infallible in its workings.”

Excerpted from The Essence of Self-Realization: the Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda

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