People ask if, according to the law of karma, children carry the karmas of their parents. The answer is ‘no’. You come into this life with good and bad karmas. You do not receive them from your family. What you receive from the family are good and bad samskaras. You are exposed to samskaras from your family, society, from your culture and religion. These samskaras can be good or bad. Karmas, however, are the traits of life that you come with and they are deep-rooted in the unconscious. Samskaras are not that deep-rooted and can be at the level of the subconscious, while karmas cannot. Therefore, the main difference is that you come with karmas and are exposed to samskaras in this material world.
Karmas are milestones. If destiny is a journey, then karmas are the milestones. If you have to go from Munger to another city, the city is the destination. How do you know how far you have traveled on the road – ten miles, twenty miles, one hundred miles? These markers are the karmas. Once you overcome a karma, you cover a certain distance on the journey to your destination. Each one of you comes with your own set of karmas and destinies, whether you are a parent or a child.
A crooked parent can have a saintly child and a saintly parent can have a crooked child. It is not necessary that a saintly person will only have saintly children, or crooked parents will only have crooked children, for you are not giving anything. You are only giving the body and an opportunity for life to grow on this planet. Beyond that, everything else comes as a gift of God and nature, prakriti. It is the statement of the Bhagavad Gita (15:7):
Mamaivasmsho jeevaloke jeevabhootah sanaatanah;
Manah shashthaaneendriyaani prakritisthaani karshati.
An eternal portion of Myself having become a living soul in the world of life, draws to (itself) the (five) senses with the mind for the sixth, abiding in Nature.
Everyone lives their own destiny. Parents do not influence the destiny of a child. Superficially, they may think that they are able to guide, control and channel the direction of their child’s life. However, there comes a time when the child becomes independent from the influences of the parents. At that moment, it is the destiny which is lived. The karma that the child has come with is lived.
Since we all have different destinies, there is no loan which is carried forward from father to son in spiritual life. That is more of a social concept. It is a system of society, which has nothing to do with karma, with destiny and samskara. Social customs, thoughts and ideas are different to spiritual beliefs and thoughts. Social customs are made by people who are not necessarily spiritual.
It is incorrect to think that what happens in society is a reflection of a spiritual ideology. If society demands that children have to pay for the loan taken by their father, then that is the rule. In spiritual life, each one is living their own destiny and they have their own path to follow.
Parents are only facilitators for children to discover their own aspirations in life and to grow towards these aspirations. Beyond that is only an imposition of human society on how one should be, what one should do and how one should live one’s life.
—15 November 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger