But he looked at me, and he repeated my name. He exclaimed, “You may not remember me, but you saved my life.” In my profession as a physician, I had apparently done something completely unaware, which was beyond the expected norms, and which greatly helped him. He was profusely thankful to me in front of everyone. On my way home, I was thankful to him in my mind for the opportunity he had provided me to decrease my human debt.
All humans are born with certain debts called “Runa” (roona). We have accumulated these runa in all our previous lives, and we continue to accumulate them in this life. The runa occur when someone else does something for us, and we owe them for that. The runa tie us to others. To achieve Moksha after we finish our human life, meaning we achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth, we need to clear all our runa by performing actions to pay back these helpful deeds. At the same time, it is paramount that we should not take ownership of the good acts we perform, so as to not create new bonds.
The runa are of five kinds:
1. Runa towards parents: This runa is cleared by taking care of your own parents as they age. In our lives, many people have stepped in the role of our parents. To pay back that runa, we need to help take care of all the elderly. Visiting elder homes to talk to residents who may yearn for company, getting children to send good-wishes cards to retirement homes, or volunteering in activities that benefit seniors all help decrease the runa.
2. Runa towards teachers: The best way is to teach needy students. If you can, help teachers in underserved areas with school supplies. Volunteer at schools that need help. Attend and organize teacher appreciation events.
3. Runa towards other humans: To thrive and prosper, to survive in this life, all of us need each other. This runa is cleared by helping others. The greater the difference between you and the helped person, the greater is the effect. Dedicating a small fixed time per week facilitates these activities.
4. Runa towards nature: We are born at 5-15 pounds of weight. Our adult body is a collection of material from this mother earth, whether from plants or other animals. To sustain this body and mind, we need to sustain the environment. We clear our runa to nature by using only what we need. We milk the nature, instead of slaughtering it. We heal nature’s wounds by replanting, cleaning and nurturing our environment.
5. Runa towards divine: Surrendering our ego to the divine helps decrease the runa. Of course, this runa is never cleared, and it is not possible to be cleared. However, worshiping in your own manner, and allowing others to worship in their manner, thereby not imposing your beliefs on others, helps you mitigate this runa.
I will end with a small prayer:
May all be happy; May all be free from illness.
May all see what is auspicious; May no one suffer.
Aum, peace, peace, peace.
Dr. Pattekar is a radiologist. He serves as National Director of Service Activities for Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA. He also serves on the Board of Volunteers of Hindu Temple of Central IL, Peoria.