In the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), the term Karma appears with the meaning “action”. In addition, at some places, it also appears to indicate religious or Dhaarmic Karamkaand (rituals), and grace or Nadar (Karam from Farsi language).
The mind is the only perception, and perception is movement in consciousness. The expression of this movement is action ( Karma ), followed by fruition (ਫਲ).
In other words, there is no division between the mind and action (Karma). Before it’s projected as action it arises in the mind. Hence, Karma is nothing but the movement of energy in consciousness and ultimately bears its own fruit (ਫਲ). Baabaa Nanak says:
- ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨ ਕੇ ਕੰਮ ਫਿਟਿਆ ਗਣਤ ਨ ਆਵਹੀ ॥: O Nanak! Wicked are actions of the mind, (these actions of the mind) cannot be counted (sggs 789).
- ਮਨੂਆ ਡੋਲੈ ਦੂਤ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਸੋ ਪਾਏ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕੀਨਾ ਹੇ ॥੭॥: Keeping company with passions (lust, anger, greed, etc.), the mind wavers; and obtains (the fruit – ਫਲ) of its actions. ||7|| (sggs 1028).
Whatever the mind thinks of, the organs of action strive to materialize. Hence, again, the mind is Karma (action). — the two are like the flower and its scent. Before it is projected as action it arises in the mind. Hence, actions are the louder expressions of thoughts. When such actions come to an end, the mind also comes to an end (ceasing of desires, thoughts-stuff, imaginations, fancies, Phurne).
When the mind’s wanderings stop (wanderings of lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, enviousness, falsehood, jealousy, stubbornness…), there is no action! Such mind is called “conquered, annihilated, killed…”, or “frozen” in the Gurbani. Conquering the mind or the world (Jagat or Sansaar) simply means to go beyond one’s own worldly consciousness or material nature (i.e., Manmukh-nature, Saakat-nature, Mayadhaaree-nature…). In other words, when the mind sees itself as Jot-Saroop, the material world (Jagg or Jagat, Maya, Bhav Saagar) is said to have been conquered! This victory brings Bliss (Aanand), Sukh (Sukh Saagar, Peace, Happiness, Joy), release from the reactionary actions…
- ਮਨੁ ਜੀਤੇ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤਿਆ ਜਾਂ ਤੇ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥੨॥: Conquering the mind is (as if) the world is conquered, (because, only by conquering the mind, one can remain) detached from Maya. (sggs 1103).
But, what is mind? In deluded (agitated, restless) state, when the mind is veiled by doubt (Bharam), ignorance, two-ness, etc., the same consciousness views diversity and identifies as such, it’s known as the mind. In nutshell, the mind is just thoughts-stuff (Phurne-ਫੁਰਨੇ). In other words, Karma is no other then one’s Soch (thinking).
When the mind is firmly established in the conviction of a certain perception it is known as intellect (Budhi).
- ਮਨ ਕਾ ਕਹਿਆ ਮਨਸਾ ਕਰੈ ॥: Budhi follows the order of the mind (sggs 832).
The SGGS says the intellect must Awakened to Giaan (Knowledge). When the the mind ignorantly and foolishly identifies itself as existent separate individual, it is known as egotism (Haumai). When it abandons unbroken spiritual inquiry (Shabad-Vichaar…), allows itself to play with countless thoughts (Phurne) coming and going, it is known as individualized consciousness.
Thus, when Infinite Consciousness or pure Awareness in a moment of self-forgetfulness viewed itself as the object of perception, countless concepts arise. Our lives are full of concepts. If we like particular concepts, we pass them on to others around us or ram them down their throat.
Our activities arising from the false concepts are also false. If the cause (i.e., false ego or Haumai) is wrong, then the effect must be automatically wrong as well.
Baabaa Nanak says this mind is not only “Karma” but also “Dharma“!
- ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਕਰਮਾ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਧਰਮਾ ॥: This mind is “Karma”, and this mind is “Dharma” (sggs 415).
Established in Aatam-Giaan (Wisdom, Virtues, Naam, Shabad, Hukam…), when the mind acts through the undivided consciousness (Jot Saroop, Mool, True Nature…), it’s “Dharma”. Such pure mind is free of the ignorance-born tendencies and therefore realizes Self-Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan, Brahm-Giaaan…).
To the contrary, when it acts in divided consciousness (independent doer or Haumai – ego), such action is known as “Karma”. This vision of division is the product of ignorance. With countless manifestations, such tainted mind punishes itself by its own tendencies and restlessly “wanders in the ten directions” (“ਧਾਇਓ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਦਹ ਦਿਸ ਧਾਇਓ ॥”).
To put it otherwise, when the mind is conscious of the truth (Sach-ਸਚ), it’s established in Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan, Dharma…). On the other hand, when it moves in the wrong direction towards greater forgetfulness (of its Mool) and deeper involvement in fancies, then becomes tainted or impure.
- ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਧੰਧੈ ਬਾਂਧਾ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਇ ॥: Entangled in worldly affairs (Maya), this mind creates Karma (sggs 1176).
- ਮਨੁ ਭੂਲੋ ਬਹੁ ਚਿਤੈ ਵਿਕਾਰੁ ॥: Manu bhoolo bahu chitai vikaaru (sggs 222).
In other words, it’s the same mind that can take one to his Mool (Source, Jot…), and it’s the same mind that can take one away from his Mool too! Clearly, the mind is responsible for our material bondage, as well as our Liberation from it. Trapped in bondage (Maya, Bikaar…), we do not let go Haumai (false ego-sense) and its devastating faults ( lust, greed, anger, etc).
- ਜਿਉ ਕਪਿ ਕੇ ਕਰ ਮੁਸਟਿ ਚਨਨ ਕੀ ਲੁਬਧਿ ਨ ਤਿਆਗੁ ਦਇਓ ॥ ਜੋ ਜੋ ਕਰਮ ਕੀਏ ਲਾਲਚ ਸਿਉ ਤੇ ਫਿਰਿ ਗਰਹਿ ਪਰਿਓ ॥੧॥: Like the monkey with a handful of grains (in the narrow-necked pot – ਦਾਣਿਆਂ ਦੀ ਭਰੀ ਹੋਈ ਮੁੱਠ) will not let go (grains) because of greed (even he knows he is trapped!) – (just so), all the deeds committed in greed ultimately become a noose around neck (more trapped in Maya). (sggs 336).
In nutshell, wicked mind = wicked Soch (thinking) = wicked Karma.
And, pious mind = pious Soch (thinking) = pious Karma.
Four things are common in nonhuman animals and a sense-blind human having an unhealthy or empty mind: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Mind infatuated with Bikaar (lust,anger, greed, etc.) is not only restless, it also behaves and lives like animals while alive (ਪਸੂ ਵਿਰਤੀ-animal nature) — functions primarily on instinct, not much reasoning or discernment (Bibek Budh).
In nutshell, separation from Truth (Sach) = Animal-Joon-Life-nature
- ਕਰਤੂਤਿ ਪਸੂ ਕੀ ਮਾਨਸ ਜਾਤਿ ॥: (Those in love with Maya, etc., although they) belong to the human species, but they act like animals (sggs 267).
- ਪਸੂ ਮਿਲਹਿ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆ ਖੜੁ ਖਾਵਹਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਦੇਹਿ ॥ ਨਾਮ ਵਿਹੂਣੇ ਆਦਮੀ ਧ੍ਰਿਗੁ ਜੀਵਣ ਕਰਮ ਕਰੇਹਿ ॥੩॥: (Even though humans are known to be superior to animals, birds, etc., but) beasts have merits, as they eat grass and give milk. Without the Naam (Truth, Wisdom, Virtues…), the mortal’s life is cursed, (because forgetting Naam) they perform (worthless) actions. ||3|| (sggs 489).
- ਮਾਣਸ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਕਰਣੀ ਕੁਤਾ ਦਰਿ ਫੁਰਮਾਨੁ ॥: O Nanak! A human being is a human in shape and name only; (but) by conduct he is a dog (greedy, selfish, corrupt, etc.) – this is the Divine edict. (sggs 350).
- ਬਿਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਕੂਕਰ ਹਰਕਾਇਆ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਲੋਭੀ ਬੰਧੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੬॥: Without remembrance (of Wisdom, Virtues..), one is like a mad dog. The greedy, Saakat (one separated from the Truth) falls into entanglements ||6|| (sggs 239).
So, Bhagat Kabeer Sahib reminds us that “Whatever is done, is done by the mind” (“ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮਨ ਕੀਆ”). For the entire universe is within the mind!
Thus, when the mind knowingly commits mistakes, then it reaps the fruit of its own Karma! Babaa Nanak reminds us:
- ਜੇਹਾ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਲੁਣੈ ਕਰਮਾ ਸੰਦੜਾ ਖੇਤੁ ॥: (Body is the) field (of man’s Karma); whatever (he) sows so does (he) reap (sggs 134).
- ਕਬੀਰ ਮਨੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਸਭ ਬਾਤ ਜਾਨਤ ਹੀ ਅਉਗਨੁ ਕਰੈ ॥: O Kabeer! The mind knows everything and knowingly it commits demerits (sggs 1376).
Ocean with depth gets calmer and quiter. However, violent waves arise at its surface due to disturbances created by the wind. Stronger the wind, stronger the disturbance and higher the waves at the surface. If there is no wind, there will be no waves. Similarly, mind is nothing but waves on the surface of the Ocean of Pure Awareness (Mool).
Disturbance or waves created by Maya (illusion) subside when there is no confusion between Reality and appearance!