A farmer is continuously engaged in raising crops in his fields. He has raised many crops in the past. He has planted a crop in his fields right now. He is also preparing to sow crops in the future. Therefore, at any point in time, he has yields of three types of crops. Those already harvested, that which is ready for harvesting and those that are to be planted and harvested in the coming days.
What is the position of the harvested returns for his efforts? His house has a granary that contains the harvested grains of the crops raised in the past. There is also a standing crop ripe and ready for harvesting in the fields in the current season. He is also preparing for sowing more crops in the future.
What about an Archer? He has a quiver on his back which is full of arrows. He has an arrow that is placed on the bow and ready to be released. There is an arrow that was just released but has not yet reached the destination. The arrow that has been released from the bow and in motion now cannot be called back. It is beyond his control now. It will do its duty and reach its destination. Like the farmer mentioned above, he has three arrows at any time. The arrow which is released from the bow, the one that is ready for releasing and those in the quiver awaiting their turn.
The examples of the farmer and the archer are extensively used to explain the "Karma" theory. They (Karma) are primarily classified into three categories; Sanchita, Agami and Prarabdha. We often hear people say that they are living out their "Prarabdha". What does it mean?
Even as per accepted laws of Physics, every action has an equal reaction. Whether one desires or not, actions produce their results. There cannot be an action without a reaction or result. For any living being, actions are a continuous process. Even not doing anything and keeping idle is also an action and produce its own reaction. It is the action of inaction! Planting and watering a fruit bearing tree sapling will lead to its growth and will ultimately yield fruits. Planting a noxious weed would also result in returns of a number of noxious seeds. This is in accordance with the means and ends relationship. One who plants a noxious weed cannot ever hope to get a fruit in return. Similarly, planting and watering a fruit bearing sapling cannot result in giving back noxious weeds.
Actions produce the corresponding results irrespective of whether they were done knowing their nature or one is not aware of them. Drinking poison kills the person who knows its harmful effect and drank it for committing suicide. Drinking poison also kills a person who consumes it without knowing that it is poison. Fire burns the hands of an elder person who is aware of its burning nature. It also burns the hands of a child which touches it being attracted by the color of the flames, but not aware of its burning nature. Karmic actions bring their results in a similar manner.
Sanchita Karma are accumulated karma of past lives. They represent desires, aptitudes, tendencies and capabilities carried over from past lives. They are naturally cumulative result of many past actions. Banks have "Sanchita Deposit Schemes" where deposits are made in installments and their returns are given with interest on a future due date. Agami Karma are those that represent expected future karma. Prarabdha Karma are those which are ripe for reaping and cannot be avoided. One has to live them out and face their effects without fail.
The crop ready for harvesting now and the arrow released from the bow and in motion are symbols of Prarabdha. One has no control over them now, even though their origin was due to one's own actions. The grain bags in the granary and arrows in the quiver represent the Sanchita karma. The crops to be sown in future and the arrow in the bow right now are symbols of Agami karma.
One has to remember that all Prarabdha is not necessarily bad. There are many "Sukha Prarabdha Karmas" as well. They are the results of the past good actions and bring good results.
How to escape the effect of these Karmas? Some say that they cannot be avoided and their fruits have to be lived through. Some say that the protection of a "Sadguru" helps in reducing their effects. Believing in the Lord and doing one's duty dispassionately helps in reducing the impact of the various bad karmas. Probably the best strategy would be not to enter into bad karmas willingly. Do not plant noxious weeds. There won't be any noxious harvests!
What about those who do not believe in the theory of Karma? What about those who do not believe in the existence of the "Sadguru" or the "Lord"? They are the gifted ones as they need not worry about Karma at all. They too cannot escape the effects of their actions, but they need not spend any time on worrying about it.