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Prarabdha is a type of Karma that a living organism undergoes during its lifetime.

Many scriptures suggest that prarabdha that affects humans negatively (leading to bad experiences) can be avoided or diluted by performing some activities prescribed in the scriptures.

Is it true for all possible prarabdha?

Are there any prarabdha that cannot be either escaped or even diluted by any kind of effort by humans?

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3 Answers 3

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Yes. For normal/average human beings, barring some 'exceptional exceptions' there exists some "inevitable prarabdha".

For instance, consider the following excerpt from the Garuda Purana.

Chapter 32, Preta Khanda, Garuda Purana.

उत्पन्ना ये हि संसारे म्रियन्ते ते न संशयः । आयुः कर्म च वित्तञ्च विद्या निधनमेव च ॥ २,३२.१२५ ॥ पञ्चैतानि हि सृज्यन्ते गर्भस्थस्यैव देहिनः । कर्मणा जायते जन्तुः कर्मणैव प्रलीयते ॥ २,३२.१२६ ॥ सुखं दुःखं भयं क्षेमं कर्मणैवाभिपद्यते । अधोमुखं चोर्ध्वपादं गर्भाद्वायुः प्रकर्षति ॥ २,३२.१२७ ॥

O Tarkshya, thus, man is born in the mortal world as a result of his own actions. The five characteristics, viz. the span of life, action, wealth, learning and death are created in men even as they are in the womb. The life is born as they are in the womb. The life is born as a result of action; it is dissolved as a result of action. Happiness or misery, fear or welfare are the results of actions. The foetus lies in the womb with the feet up and the face downwards. The foetus lies in the womb with the feet up and the face downwards. The life takes its birth with its association brought about by its own actions.

So, as per the above passage, atleast the time and type of death, a person will experience, is inevitable.




Further,

The OP says - "that prarabdha that affects humans negatively (leading to bad experiences) can be avoided or diluted by performing some activities prescribed in the scriptures"

  • This may not be entirely true basis the discussion above from the Garuda Purana, and also as per the Devi Bhagvata Purana.

  • At most, the "remedies" can act as a watershed Umbrella in the heavy rainfall of the Prarabdha. However, umbrella in a torrential rainfall cannot afford a full drying condition, similar maybe the case for the acts of piety also. They can alleviate some outcomes, but not fully dissolve the Prarabdha, which is inevitable by its very definition.




If we are to go by this excerpt from the Devi Bhagvata Purana, it becomes clear that every single part of the Prarabdha is inevitable actually i.e., as one sow, so shall they reap.

Chapter 10, Book 6, Devi Bhagvat Purana

At the time of birth, a part of the Sañcita Karma, the soul takes up for fructification.

  • This part of Sañcita Karma is called Prārabdha Karma. This exhausts only when its effects have been fully borne out by the embodied soul.

  • The beings cannot but bear the effects of this Prārabdha Karma.

  • O King! Know this for certain that the effects of merits or demerits done previously must be borne by anybody, be he a Deva, or a man, or an Asura, or a Yakṣa or a Gandharba.

The acts done previously go to form the new births of all beings. When the Karma gets exhausted, then no more birth takes place. There is no doubt in this. Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Indra and the other Devas, the Dānavas, Yakṣas, Gandharbas, all are under the control of this Karma. O King! Were it not so, how could they get bodies that are the causes of the enjoyments of pains and pleasures of all the beings. Therefore, O King! Out of the Sañcita Karmas done in many previous births, some Karmas get ripe in due time and they manifest themselves; those manifested Sañcita Karmas are called Prārabdha Karmas (those that are being enjoyed by an individual in the present birth). Impelled by this Prārabdha Karma, the Devas and the human beings, all do meritorious acts as well as sinful acts. Thus Indra out of his past meritorious acts attained his Indraship, and, out of his past sinful acts, committed the sin Brahmahattyā and so he was dislodged from his Indraship. What doubt can exist here?




In conclusion -

So, basis the above discussion, it's certain that, for a normal person, every aspect of the Prarabdha is inevitable.

And, if at all, Death is most definitely the most inevitable part of the Prarabdha.

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  • I have a doubt, A bold part in this answer states that even Brahma , Vishnu and Rudra are under the control of karma....How is this possible? Do we have to take the meaning in a different context? Or is it because it is Devi Bhagavat Purana so it has some sectarian elements? I don't know exactly and hence I'm asking.
    – LSSJ Broly
    Jul 30, 2022 at 16:54
  • @Vivikta I think, the confusion arises because people get confused between the Vartaman karma and Prarabdha karma. Penance etc. can mitigate the bad Vartaman Karma, but not Prarabdha Karma as explained in Devi Bhagavata, which I added as an answer. Jan 11 at 14:31
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In the context of jivanmukta, Prarabdha Karma doesn't exist, because the individuality of a person vanishes.

In the context of devotion, deities always reduce the prarabdha karma of the Jiva.

Dualistic Schools Non-dualistic School
Prarabdha Karma exists After enlightenment, Prarabdha Karma ceases to exist
Devotion to God as a means to remove Prarabdha Karma. After the realization of the true self, the laws of Karma become useless. Additionally Ishvara is the enforcer of Karma. Devotion to Ishvara to lessen prarabdha karma from Non-self, while self remains unaffected.
Only devotion to God would grant them liberation from the world. The world is an appearance or illusion (Maya), neither the world exists, nor laws of the Karma. The appearance will cease by itself after sometime of enlightenment.

Sage Ramana Maharshi presents another viewpoint when he says, "If the agent, upon whom the Karma depends, namely the ego, which has come into existence between the body and the Self, merges in its source and loses its form, how can the Karma, which depends upon it, survive? When there is no ‘I’ there is no Karma.",[3] a point well reiterated by sage Vasistha in his classical work Yoga Vasistha, wherein, when Lord Rama asks sage Vasistha about the way to transcend the two binding effects of past karmas, namely Vasanas or the effect of impressions left on the mind by past actions and one's fate created by Prarabdha Karma, to which he replies, through with Divine grace (Kripa), one can go beyond the influences of past actions.[10]

The Bhakti Yoga theme within the Chapter seven of the Bhagavad Gita also talks eloquently about the concept of Kripa, but its most important verse comes in the final eighteenth chapter, about Liberation, where Krishna finally makes a sweeping statement to Arjuna in Verse 18.66, "Setting aside all meritorious deeds (Dharma), just surrender completely to My will (with firm faith and loving contemplation). I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not fear."[11]

Src: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prarabdha_karma#:~:text=Sage%20Ramana%20Maharshi,fear.%22%5B11%5D

For Jivanmukta, Prarabdha Karma doesn't exist, it is only a concept made to enlighten ignorant people because the illusionary appearance of the world doesn't bother Jivanmukta.

As the clay is the material cause of the pot, so one learns from Vedānta that ajñāna is the material cause of the universe: and when ajñāna ceases to exist, where then is the cosmos?

As a person through illusion mistakes a rope for a serpent, so the fool not knowing Satya (the eternal truth) sees the world (to be true.)

When he knows it to be a piece of rope, the illusory idea of a serpent vanishes.

So when he knows the eternal substratum of everything and all the universe becomes (therefore) void (to him), where then is prārabdha to him, the body being a part of the world? Therefore the word prārabdha is accepted to enlighten the ignorant (only).

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  • Even Jivanmuktas has to go through his prarabdha. The famous metaphor used in scriptures is the potter wheel. For jivanmuktas, no new karma is added to the store. His sanchita karma vanishes, otherwise, liberation won't be theoretically ever possible. However, prarabdha remains. And for the rest of his life, prarabdha keeps having its effect, just like even when you stop using force on the wheel, the wheel keeps rotating for a few more rotations until its energy gets exhausted completely. Jan 12 at 6:52
  • From the Advaita Vedantic mayavada view at the absolute level, there is no prarabdha, so no question of diluting it. However, when you accept prarabdha, from that point of view, you have to say, whether it can be diluted or not. Using the absolute point of view won't be right. Jan 12 at 6:55
  • @AmritenduMukhopadhyay To the best of my understanding of Advaita Vedanta, the jiva first has to undergo self-realization about the reality of the world. When the enlightenment comes, that the world is unreal (an appearance of self), then laws of karma work no more and individuality of self vanishes. Since there is no individual to suffer, whom on Prarabdha Karma would work on? The atman is supposed to be never born, never dies and hence, it remains as a pure awareness of different appearances. Jivanmukta going through prarabdha is just an appearance on the body.
    – User 29449
    Jan 12 at 7:02
  • The answer was from both - dual and non-dual perspectives. I guess it got mixed up. For dual schools - devotion is a means for removal of prarabdha karma suffering and for non-dual, non-existence of any karma is the means of ending of suffering.
    – User 29449
    Jan 12 at 7:04
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    Yes, it is an important point that you raised about Jivanmuktas. Jan 12 at 9:51
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There are three types of Karmas. Sanchita, Prarabdha and Vartaman. Sanchita Karma is all the Karma done in previous births. Prarabdha Karma is part of the Sanchita Karma that is ripe and is going to yield fruit in this birth. Vartaman Karma is the Karma that we do in this birth.

By various means the effect of Vartaman Karma can be diluted but not the effect of Prarabdha Karma.

Devaki asked the following question to Vasudeva in the prison of Kamsa.

Devakī said — O Lord! Certainly men have to suffer fully the effects of their past Karmas. But can that not be upset by residing in holy places, practising penances and asceticism or by making generous gifts? - Srimad Devi Bhagavatam 4.21.7

In reply, Vasudeva said -

O beautiful young woman! Penances, performed according to rules, destroy the effect of Karmas that are in hand and are weak (i.e., not yet accumulated strongly as to remain in seed forms). The Prārabdha Karma, those acts out of all the previous acts done in previous births that are fully mature and ready to yield their fruits, cannot be averted; their effects must have to be experienced and then they can die away; they cannot be expiated by penances or any other remedial measures. - Srimad Devi Bhagavatam 4.21.27-28

Reference -

Srimad Devi Bhagavatam translated by Swami Vijnanananda

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