Yoga Sutra - Sādhana Pada 2.13
सति मूले तद्विपाको जात्यायुर्भोगाः ॥१३॥
sati mūle tat-vipākaḥ jāti-āyur-bhogāḥ ||13||
While the root existence, there is fruition of it as birth, duration, and experience.
As long as the root [of the kleśas] exists, it fructifies as type of birth, span of life, and life experience [of an individual].
Vyāsa dedicates a long commentary to this sūtra. He begins by reiterating that karma can bear fruit only when the kleśas exist. Just as grains of rice can germinate only when they are not burnt and when they are connected with the husk, and not when the seeds are burnt or removed from their husks, so karma cannot fructify when burnt or removed from its husk or its root, mula, of the kleśas. As long as the kleśas remain active, all the pious and impious actions born of them during one’s lifetime, karma, whether dominant or subordinate, combine at the time of death and determine one’s next life. In other words, at the moment of death, the accumulated karmāśaya, or storehouse of karma, determines and establishes the “three fruits”: type of birth, jāti (human, animal, etc.); life span, āyus; and life experience, bhoga (the aggregate of pleasure and pain that one will experience).
This store of karma, Vyāsa adds, containing the impressions of deeds, saṁskāras, performed throughout countless previous lives, is like a fishing net covered with knots, and the entire collective determines one’s future birth. At death, says Vijñānabhikṣu, the subtle body, or citta, which is where the karmāśaya and all the saṁskāras are stored, transfers into the new body. The subtle body is not destroyed at death as the gross body is, and thus saṁskāras are preserved from life to life. Now, whereas some karma contained in the karmāśaya fructifies in the very next life, not all karma is destined to do so. Some karma might be mutually exclusive with other karma and not be able to coexist in the same life, says Śaṅkara; for example, one might have some karma that merits a celestial birth and other karma that requires an animal birth for fruition. Clearly those two sets of saṁskāras require distinct births in which to fructify. In general, the cluster of karma that does not fructify in the next life, says Vyāsa, may undergo three possible outcomes: It can be destroyed, it can merge with more dominant karma, or it can remain dormant for a long time, overshadowed by more powerful karma.
The destruction of such dormant karma, if it is bad, occurs by the performance of good karma, such as yoga-related activities, and this can be accomplished even in this lifetime, adds Vyāsa. He substantiates this with a verse: “Of the two types of known karma, one is bad, but it can be destroyed by deeds that are good. Therefore desire to perform good deeds in this world.” On the other hand, although good karma can destroy bad karma, the reverse does not hold true: Bad karma cannot destroy good karma. But bad karma can merge with good as per the second outcome noted by Vyāsa above and cause some slight diminution or interference in enjoying the fruits of good karma—such as indigestion after the pleasure of a good meal, says Vijñānabhikṣu.
As for the third option, lying dormant, not all karma is destined to activate in the next life, and so the balance lies dormant until the appropriate conditions manifest for it to fructify (unless, as outlined above, it is destroyed by good karma, or merges with more powerful good karma in the interim). Hariharānanda gives the example of a man who performed pious deeds as a boy, but due to greed he acted like a beast as he grew older. The beastly acts he performed as an adult developed into the dominant karma for that particular lifetime, determining that his next life would be that of a beast. His earlier pious karma performed as a boy, which required a human form in which to fructify, would meanwhile lie dormant during his life as a beast until the appropriate conditions manifest for it to activate in a future birth as a human. This means that at the moment of death, the particular cluster of saṁskāras destined to fructify in the next life arise like a wave, according to Vācaspati Miśra, and not only propel the citta into the next body but also determine the specific mind-set of that body. Thus, the portion of beastly saṁskāras of a person during the period when he or she was thinking and acting in a beastly manner, which require an animal birth as karmic consequence, reactivate in the mind and solidify into a beastly mind-set for the corresponding period as an animal. Meanwhile, the portion of human saṁskāras remains dormant until it is its turn to fructify in a life requiring a human mind-set and birth. Since the time and place of the conditions surrounding the fruition of karma are so complex that they cannot be fathomed, the unfolding of karma, says Vyāsa, is mysterious. As Kṛṣṇa states: “Difficult to understand are the ways of karma” (Gītā IV.17).
Vācaspati Miśra notes that, ultimately, the store of karma results in pleasure and pain. After all, the type of birth, life experience, and life span mentioned by Patañjali in this sūtra basically correspond to experiences of pleasure and pain. And pleasure and pain inevitably produce a mutually dependent relationship with the kleśas of attachment and aversion: The latter are dependent on the former. Nor can attachment and aversion exist without producing pleasure and pain. Acting out of attachment, for example, will produce pleasure if the object of attachment is available, or, if it is unobtainable or fails to live up to expectations, pain; likewise with aversion. Therefore, says Vācaspati Miśra, the mind can become a fertile field for the karmāśaya only when it is watered by the kleśas. Conversely, the karmāśaya becomes impotent when the kleśas are destroyed. Hence Patañjali calls the kleśas the root of worldly existence.
Vijñānabhikṣu quotes various verses pointing to attachment as the cause of karma and hence of rebirth: “Being attached, a person, along with his karma, attains the result of that to which his mind is attached” (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad IV.4.6). “The puruṣa soul, situated in prakṛti matter, experiences the guṇas born of prakṛti. It is attachment to these guṇas that is the cause of a person’s birth in pious or impious wombs” (Gītā XIII.21). “Birth is not seen for one who has no attachment” (Nyaya Sūtras III.1.24). Of course, attachment itself comes from ego, which in turn comes from ignorance, hence the ordering of the kleśas in Patañjali’s list in II.3.