The Consequences of Our Actions - A Spiritual Primer

The Consequences of Our Actions

Saints tell us that, to improve our current situation, first we need to identify what thoughts and actions will lead us to a state of peace and harmony. Desires direct our thoughts, and thoughts govern our actions. Before we do anything, there is a desire, an intention or an urge in our minds. First desire is formed in the mind, then the mind dwells on it, and at some point the mind may be compelled to act.

Actions play a great part in moulding what we are. We act through the physical body, but actions are the outcome of thoughts. Positive or negative actions are the results of positive or negative thinking. Thoughts are the keynotes of our success or failure. It is our thoughts that form our attitudes, and it is our attitudes that determine whether we are happy or unhappy. Attitudes are more important than circumstances, failures or successes, than money or poverty, illness or health. If we have a positive attitude, we will make the best out of even the worst conditions. If we have a negative attitude, we will be miserable even in the best of circumstances. Happiness or unhappiness in life, therefore, is an outcome of how we react. Indeed, our life is shaped by how we react to it. The final consequence of positive actions is happiness, never pain. The final consequence of negative actions is pain, never happiness.

The mind functions like a computer – whatever is the input, that determines the output. First of all, impressions are registered on our mind. Then, by dwelling on these impressions, we make grooves on our mind. These grooves become so deep that we become programmed by them and are then compelled to react according to our own programming. This is why we need to be very careful of what we think. We should keep careful watch over our thoughts and try to dwell upon only those thoughts which will help us develop the right attitude, and which will lead us to do actions that are for our good.

The boomerang effect

Mystics tell us that for every action there is a reaction even though we do not necessarily experience the result immediately. For instance, when one gets drunk, one may experience a hangover the next day. However, the effects of the action of drinking do not necessarily stop at the hangover. Depending on what the person does while under the influence of alcohol, he or she could suffer terrible consequences and even end up in jail or dead. The same principle applies to a positive action. A person who adopts a healthier diet or exercise programme may not immediately feel the benefits but can be assured of positive results sometime in the future.

Whether it is a good or a bad action, once we have taken it, it is bound to transform into a result. The consequences will descend upon us, just as once thrown, a boomerang will come right back at us. The greater the force we apply to throwing a boomerang, the greater the force with which it comes back. This is an objective law, not an emotional or subjective judgement.

Newton, in his third law of motion, expressed the principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In science this law is painstakingly exact, and not even a microscopic electron can move without creating an effect. This is the law of action and reaction. Just as it applies to physics, so it also applies to us as the law of cause and effect, or karma (a Sanskrit word that literally means action). This law of action and reaction that governs our universe as well as ourselves explains why some people are miserable while others are happy, why some are poor while others are rich. Through the understanding of this law we can comprehend many of the so-called injustices of the world.

What happens to us is the direct result of our actions. There are no exceptions. We cannot avoid this law. We are responsible for our actions, and it is we who have to deal with their consequences.

Saints tell us that the ocean of actions we have done in the past is unfathomable. It is so vast, and there is such a backlog of pending dues – of consequences to be worked through – that it is almost impossible for us ever to work them through. When we come in contact with a living saint or a true spiritual teacher and start to follow his advice, we begin to comprehend how much our past actions have shaped our current situation and how they even account for what we love and what we hate. We thus learn to accept responsibility for our actions of the past and react less strongly when faced, today, with their consequences. By doing spiritual practice, we gradually untie the knots that bind us to our past actions. We become capable of controlling our reactions and we avoid negative actions that might further complicate our life in the future.