How does the Maha Mantra Work?

Priyesh Shah,30th June 2011

Hare Krishna

Please Accept my humble obeisances

All Glories to Srila Prabhupada

I am a little confused as to how the Maha Mantra works. For the last 2 years, since I joined ISKCON, I was under the impression that when you chant the Maha Mantra, the roots of the sinful activities are destroyed, and therefore the fruits would also be destroyed. However, another devotee yesterday mentioned that actually the Karma does not go away. As long as you have the material body, the Karma will stay and continue to act as they were meant to. But when you chant and do devotional service, Krishna arranges the Karma to act in a way which is favourable to Krishna Consciousness. Would anyone kindly be able to tell me as to how this works?

Thank you,

Your Servant,


Jagannatha das,30th June 2011

Hare Krishna Priyesh,

Please accept my humble obeisances.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Karma has two important meanings.

1.  Action

2.  Reactions

When we act in a certain way, that action is karma.  The reaction to that activity will perpetuate further activity.  The reaction is also karma.  In this way actions create reactions and then further actions in a chain which *appears* endless.  The seemingly eternal appearence of karma is however an illusion.

Of the five topics explained in Bhagavad Gita…

1. Isvara (Krishna)

2. Jiva (living beings)

3. Prakrti (material nature)

4. Kala (time)

5. Karma (fruitive activity)

…four are eternal, but karma is the one which is temporary.

When you act, the reaction only lasts so long, even in this life.  Otherwise we would only need, for example, to eat once and we would be eternally satisfied.

Now, someone may argue using the following two questions:

1.  “Fine, each action has a limited reaction in terms of both time and space.  But isn’t there an eternal chain of actions and reactions which are always being manifested, one after another?”


2. “Even if karma is temporary, isn’t it influencing us at least for the duration of time in which we have a material body?”

In the spiritual world, the will of Krishna and his pure devotees who reside there are eternally enjoying without any question of karma.  Therefore the chain of karma is itself limited, not eternal because it does not extend to the realm of Krishna.

Even in this world a pure devotee is free from karma.  Otherwise, he would take birth again in this material world goaded on by a complicated network of material desires.

This is confirmed throughout Vedic literatures and by all acaryas:

Sri Brahma Samhita

yas tv indragopam athavendram aho sva-karma-

bandhanurüpa-phala-bhajanam atanoti

karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam

govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

I adore the primeval Lord Govinda, who burns up to their roots all fruitive activities of those who are imbued with devotion and impartially ordains for each the due enjoyment of the fruits of one’s activities, of all those who walk in the path of work, in accordance with the chain of their previously performed works, no less in the case of the tiny insect that bears the name of indragopa than in that of Indra, king of the devas.

(emphasis added)

Srimad Bhagavad-Gita

sarva-dharman parityajya

mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah

Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.

Srimad Bhagavatam

yan-namadheyah mriyamana aturah

patan skhalan va vivaso grnan puman

vimukta-karmargala uttamam gatim

prapnoti yaksyanti na tam kalau janah

Sri harinama is glorious! Chanted in any condition of life, whether almost dead, deathly sick, slipping, falling, or in any semi-conscious state, the name of SrI Bhagavän releases the chanting person from the bondage of karmic reactions and promotes him to the highest goal of spiritual achievement. The real pity is that the fallen people of Kali-yuga refuse to execute this devotional activity.

Srila Rupa Gosvami


vinasam ayati vina na bhogaih

apaiti nama sphuranena tat te

prarabdha-karmeti virauti vedah

The seeds of sinful activities that cause rebirth for their fruition are not totally destroyed despite realization of oneness with Brahman through constant meditation. But, O Lord, as soon as Your holy names manifest on the tongue (even in the form of namabhasa) all seeds of sinful activities are totally uprooted. This is elaborately glorified in the Vedas.

There are more examples, but I hope this will help.

Your servant,

-Jagannatha dasa

Raj, 30th June 2011

Hare Krishna Prabhu ji,

Please accept my humble obeisances.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

This is my first attempt to participate.

Thanks for providing details about Karma . u mentioned Karma has 2 meanings .(Action and Reaction ). Is it that Karma has 2 parts( Action and Reaction) . Pls clarify.

Also u mentioned that “When you act, the reaction only lasts so long, even in this life” ,does this mean that our action in this life has reaction limited only to this life.

Because on many occasions people state that this is because of urs past karmas, this mean that karmas are also carry forward.pls help

Chris Sookoo, 30th June 2011


This is one beautiful and eloquent analysis that I have had the pleasure of reading.Thanks to the mind that put it together.



Mahabhagavat Das SDA,30th June 2011

Jagannatha Dasa Prabhu,

Very grateful for that! I learned a lot from your detailed answer. Thank you.

Your servant,

Mahabhagavat Das

Priyesh Shah,01st July 2011

Hare Krishna Jagannatha Prabhu,

A wonderful answer. Thank you for clearing my doubt and enlightening me with that knowledge.

Your Servant,


Mahabhagavat Das, 16th April 2012

Dear Raj Kumar,

Hare Krishna!
Please accept my humble obeisances.

All glories to Srila Gurudeva.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Due to the efforts of one of our other group members Dr. Sunil Vaswani, I realized that your questions below were not answered. Please forgive us for this oversight.

>u mentioned Karma has 2 meanings .(Action and Reaction ). Is it that Karma has 2 parts( >Action and Reaction) . Pls clarify.

Yes, this is correct. Every action has a reaction associated with it, and every reaction has another set of actions associated with it – this is like a seed which is thrown on the ground… after some time, the seed sprouts, and the plant grows, it becomes a tree, and the tree yields fruits, the fruits have seeds, which again fall on the ground, giving rise to more trees, and this cycle continues. There are more karmas than meet the eye… they are in unmanifest state.

One cannot counter karma with karma – it is an endless cycle – so if someone does something bad, to atone for it, they do something good – they don’t cancel each other out. The person will experience effects of both, the good karmas (karma) and the bad karmas (vikarma). Devotional service though, is without reactions, and eliminates accumulated reactions, so it is called akarma. This is also described in Srila Prabhupada’s purport to Sri Ishopanishad Verse 2:

“Actions that are performed in terms of one’s prescribed duties, as mentioned in the revealed scriptures, are called karma. Actions that free one from the cycle of birth and death are called akarma. And actions that are performed through the misuse of one’s freedom and that direct one to the lower life forms are called vikarma. Of these three types of action, that which frees one from the bondage to karma is preferred by intelligent men. Ordinary men wish to perform good work in order to be recognized and achieve some higher status of life in this world or in heaven, but more advanced men want to be free altogether from the actions and reactions of work. Intelligent men well know that both good and bad work equally bind one to the material miseries. Consequently they seek that work which will free them from the reactions of both good and bad work”

In the Padma Purana, it is stated:

aprarabdha-phalam papam kutam bijam phalonmukham

kramenaiva praliyeta vishnu-bhakti-ratatmanam

In this verse it states that karma can be lying in seed form, it can be dormant, or it can be bearing fruits. Nevertheless, whatever stage a karmic reaction may be in, it is gradually eliminated by performing devotional service.

Your second question:

>Also u mentioned that “When you act, the reaction only lasts so long, even in this life” ,does >this mean that our action in this life has reaction limited only to this life.

This is a misunderstanding of what Jagannatha Prabhu intended. He did not mean that the effects of karma last exactly not more than one lifetime. When you take his entire response and all the verses quoted into context, you can see that he is using that sentence just for example – like for example, if someone steals something, then they may be punished for a few days, few weeks, few months, few years, eventually they will be released – so he means that the reactions are temporary, even though sometimes they may transcend lifetimes. The example is that one child may be born to cultured parents, good chance of being cultured, though not always the case. Another child may be born to uncultured parents, good chance of being uncultured, but sometimes the child may become cultured through other association… same thing with bodily beauty, health, intelligence, etc.

I hope that this response was useful and you will resume your participation soon.

Mahabhagavat Das

Author: Mahabhagavat Das SDA

I am a formally initiated disciple of His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari. My spiritual master was initiated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1971. He is the author of the famous Ultimate Self Realization Course. Check it out at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: