Our karmic account is similar to an overdraft account. We all come into this world with a negative balance in our karmic account due to our past lives. The actions that we perform with some underlying desire are like further withdrawals from our karmic overdraft account that increases our “liability” further. On the other hand, the actions that we perform without any desire are like deposits into the overdraft account that reduce the negative balance, eventually bringing it down to zero.
We do not know what kind of karmic overdraft we are born with. The law of karma is complex. Even if we perform a supposedly ‘good’ deed, we are, more often than not, likely to have some conscious or unconscious desire while performing that good deed. For example, when we drop a coin into a beggar’s tin, we may have a hidden desire that the beggar’s hunger will be eventually satisfied so that we are required to give once again. All said and done, it is a worldly desire.
Even a conscious or subconscious feeling that ‘I am doing a good deed and it will benefit me in some way in future,’ is like withdrawing from the karmic account. A better way is to drop a coin into the beggar’s tin thinking that you are in a position to do so and that it is the right thing to do at that moment. All thoughts about future consequences of our actions should be shunned. Then the action will be like a deposit into the karmic account reducing the negative balance.
Consider every action or experience in the present moment as setting off a past karmic debt. In other words, do not regard your action or experience in the present moment as a cause of something that will happen in the future.
It is our normal tendency to link every action to a scenario, past or future, in a cause-effect relationship. That is the basis of the law of karma. Instead, we should regard each action as simply a duty appropriate in the present moment which is nullifying a part of the accumulated karmic debt. If we cannot manage to bring down the negative karmic balance to zero before we die, we must come back to this planet for another life. This has to repeat again and again until the karmic overdraft balance becomes zero.
Scriptures and spiritual writers use the metaphor of sowing live and roasted seeds. Desireless action is like a roasted seed – it can never germinate. On the other hand, action with some conscious or unconscious desire is like a “live” seed that will sprout into a tree bearing fruits of karma that will, in turn, have further live seeds. Thus, the karmic cycle perpetuates due to desires.
That is why Krishna advises us in the Bhagwad Gita, verse 2:47 — ‘Karmanyewadhikaraste, ma phaleshu kadachan’ — You have a right only to perform an action and not a right to its fruit.