“The word 'sukriti' refers to pious activities performed by the mercy of Krishna. One who is fortunate enough to obtain such mercy receives the remnants of the Lord's food and thus becomes glorious.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 16.100)Download this episode (right click and save)
“You didn’t build that. You are so proud of your accomplishments, but let’s be honest for a second. There was a lot of luck involved. Others work just as hard as you but don’t have the same results to show for it. Some people don’t even get the chance to make it out of the womb. So please, spare me the lecture on hard work and perseverance. Don’t tell me that God somehow chose you to be successful, because then that means others have been condemned by Him.”
Some will agree with this viewpoint, while others will become angry after hearing it. Surely there are fortunate occurrences in outcomes, but if everything was up to luck why would anyone work? Just sit around and wait for good things to happen. To deny the influence of work is to encourage laziness.
Fortunately, there is the spiritual science to consult. Not merely religion that relies solely on blind faith. Not merely preaching to scare the population into submission. Vedanta is the conclusion of conclusions. It is the end of knowledge, and it is a science with principles that can be understood by the rational human being. It covers the entire scope of an existence, the issue of luck included.
This Sanskrit word means “work.” More specifically, it is work that has consequences relating to a material body. It can also mean “prescribed duties,” but even that meaning is basically the same as the rest. If you do something that you’re supposed to do, you’re essentially creating a positive consequence in the future. You’re improving the situation of the material body.
Of course not all consequences are positive. Karma is any work, and so in a land where there is some independence for the living entity, there is always the option to choose unwisely. If in anger I kick my foot into a wall, I will get the negative reaction of pain. Sometimes the reaction doesn’t arrive right away. Shri Rama explained this one time to a bad character named Khara.
“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
When we see someone who is lucky, it means that they did something in the past that created good karma. It is merely the fact. Time continues to move forward, so karma can always change. You can do something to have good luck going forward. The person who is supposedly lucky today might not remain so going forward.
This is the closest equivalent in Sanskrit to the concept of Providence. Daivam is generally translated as “destiny,” but at the root level it refers to something divine. That which is out of our control is daivam. It is from a higher power.
There is no doubt that daivam has a role in luck because there is so much beyond our capabilities. We didn’t create this universe. The mental speculator, sometimes even relying on the visuals of modern science, will say that in the beginning chemicals collided to create the universe, with the beings evolving over time. Of course there is no explanation for the origin of the chemicals. Moreover, there is no experience anywhere of randomness leading to intelligence. The universe operates on intelligence, so much so that if there is the slightest deviation in the patterns of nature man thinks that somehow he is responsible.
Daivam and karma are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There is action and reaction, cause and effect. Yet something is still needed for the effects to manifest. Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that the living entity is not the doer, since material nature allows for the results to actions.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
3. The threefold miseries of life
Natural disasters. Aggressors. Disease, including mental. These three factors can get in the way of even the most carefully thought out plans. The rainstorm prevents me from playing tennis outside. Foreign invaders prevent the peace and prosperity of the nation. Disease diminishes my abilities to the point that I may not even be able to get out of bed.
The threefold miseries of life work in concert with karma and daivam. Basically, no result can occur without outside help. Even something as simple as reaching the office in the morning is not completely in my hands. I don’t know for sure that others will obey the traffic laws on the road. I don’t know if my car will continue to work, and I can’t control the weather.
4. The goddess of fortune
Known in the Vedic tradition as Lakshmi Devi, she is the wife of the Supreme Lord. Despite her intimate connection with God the person, she can expand herself and come to the home of any person. This is why we sometimes see that people of bad character have lots of wealth. A notable example from history is Ravana, the king of Lanka. He literally stole Lakshmi, who was on earth in the incarnation known as Sita Devi.
If a person is blessed with Lakshmi but keeps her separate from her husband, the end result is disastrous. That is what happened to Ravana. He was literally destroyed by Sita’s husband Rama. The idea is that good fortune is a blessing to be used to increase consciousness of God the person. That is why the human birth is considered a boon. Otherwise, the human existence is actually more miserable than animal life. At least as an animal there is no worry about paying the bills. There is no long-term dejection over failure.
Meritorious credits. Think of having done something good a while back and getting rewarded for it later on. You may not have even known that what you did was good. Perhaps you saved a cat from a tree. Maybe you helped an elderly lady cross the street. Then later on, without even remembering the initial incident, you get rewarded.
Sukriti is the way to come to spiritual life. Simply visiting a temple dedicated to God the person and offering obeisances creates sukriti. Since it may not be known, it is called ajnata-sukriti. Any person who is dedicated to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and stays connected with Him through bhakti-yoga, devotional service, did something to get meritorious credits. The first indication is the meeting with the spiritual master, who is God’s representative. They can properly explain luck and beyond. The luckiest person is one who has met the guru and decided to hear from them with an open mind. Taking up devotion to God, they have made the most of all the cooperative factors that contributed to their good luck.
Luck be on my side tonight,
So that future to always remain bright.
But in every case working out not,
Some succeed, others failure have got.
As karma and destiny in Vedas explained,
Also when Lakshmi’s favor is gained.
Sukriti meritorious credits getting,
Blessed in devotion, material life forgetting.