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Prarabdha In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Prarabdha literally means that which is predetermined. Prarabdha Karma refers in Hindu thought to the fruits of action of a person in his past lives.

Hinduism believes that the fruits of the acts that have started fructifying have to be passively undergone till they are exhausted by the experience of their result. This is usually called the doctrine of karma or re-birth or transmigration of the self. This is also popularly expressed as vidhi (destiny) having its inexorable run. When the known causes of one’s situation in life fail to explain it, unknown causes must have to be postulated. Such causes are said to be one’s deeds in past lives. One has necessarily to reap the fruits of one’s own past deeds in another birth.

Even liberating knowledge (wisdom) cannot interfere with prarabdha. It is like an arrow that has already been released from the bow and cannot be checked in its progress till it falls by itself by losing its force. It is like the potter’s wheel which, once set in motion, goes on rotating till it stops by itself losing its momentum.

Even after the death of the current body, a fresh force of prarabdha of the self may cause another embodiment for it for another life-cycle. It may thus go on indefinitely till the entire stock of karma dries up.

But this compelling law of moral causation is broken by one who realizes the oneness of Reality and its all-pervasiveness. According to Advaita Vedanta, the enlightened self realizing its oneness with Reality (Brahman) has no more birth. The body in which the redeeming wisdom dawns is the last for such an enlightened self. But the continuance of even that embodiment does not in any way minimize the fullness of freedom and redemption. In other words, the enlightenment has nothing to do with the persistence of prarabdha, nor, conversely, the persistence of the body till death even after the dawn of wisdom is incompatible with that wisdom.

A person of such liberating wisdom is known as a jivan-mukta – one who is liberated even while continuing to live in the body. In fact, such continuance to live in the body for the liberated self is a practical necessity, because only such a liberated self can teach the truth authentically to seekers.

It is said that such a self, liberated even while living in the body, utilizes the prarabdha as an opportunity for spiritual service to the world.