Saal Mubarak, that is, Happy New Year!
I thought this might be a good time to touch upon my inspirations for SPIN OF FATE's hard magic system, which so far all the marketing describes perhaps a bit vaguely as being 'loosely inspired by Indian philosophy'. Let me first give you a summary of the magic system itself, before getting into what inspired it.
THE MAGIC SYSTEM IN BRIEF
Please note that this section will, naturally, contain quite a few spoilers—not related to plot, but related to the magic system itself.
The world of SPIN OF FATE is divided into four realms of starkly varying living conditions. The upper realms of Paramos and Mayana are peaceful and idyllic places (Paramos moreso), whereas the lower realms of Malin and Narakh are full of bloodshed and violence, with Narakh being the absolute worse. In order of worst to best, it goes Narakh < Malin < Mayana < Paramos.
Humans are born to one of the realms (all except the lowest realm Narakh). The circumstances that decide the realm of birth are not initially clear and I don't want to spoil too much. However, the in-universe belief is that based on their actions, intentions, and thoughts, one may ascend (go to a higher realm) or descend (fall to a lower realm). In short, if one is good and kind and does selfless things, they might stay or ascend to one of the higher realms. If one is evil and does harmful things, the opposite. There are other factors that influence ascension and descension (related to magic use in itself), but the gist of it is: one's morality determines what realm they land up in.
So what is it that causes people to ascend and descend? What determines the morality of their actions? It's not a governing body, but an ancient, omniscient, sentient force of magic known as Toranic Law. Toranic Law determines whether a person's actions or intentions are good or bad, which in turn has an effect on a person's soul. The mechanics of the soul is something I will leave for the book to explain; but to put it simply, one's soul evolves constantly through conscious choice, and the culmination of these choices has a net effect on the soul... which in turn determines what realm they belong in. A single soul could, in theory, rise and fall across various realms, although that is (for reasons described in the book) quite rare.
One more caveat that is quite critical to the magic system—every human in this universe is immortal. The concept of death has been long eradicated, and so there is no concept of rebirth. If that sounds odd, and even illogical given the whole realm explanation... you're probably onto something.
TORANIC LAW AND KARMA
I hesitate saying this outright* due to all the misconceptions surrounding an extremely nuanced spiritual way of thought, one that I am still learning more about every day—but the Toranic Law system is loosely inspired by my understanding of Hinduism's karma yoga, also known as the theory of karma. This philosophy has fascinated me ever since my mother introduced me to the BHAGAVAD GITA at a young age.
I have linked some resources at the end of this post for anyone who would like to read up on karma in depth. However, for the purpose of this post, to provide a gross oversimplification of karma: it is a causative principle wherein a person's actions (and more specifically intentions behind their actions) determine their future—including future births.
You see, one reason the teachings of karma work so well is because of the idea of rebirth or reincarnation. One may wonder "Why am I suffering so much in this life when I have only done good things and only accumulated good karma?". The answer is that one's circumstances of birth and the nature of their life are determined by the deeds and actions of their soul in previous lives. Similarly, one may find it unfair to see immoral people blessed with happiness and fortune; this too is a result of positive karma from previous lives. Again, I am grossly simplifying and there are many more facets and nuances to this concept, so please read the resources linked below if you are interested.
You may see the obvious disconnect with SPIN OF FATE... since in my universe, humans are immortal, how could Toranic Law possibly work the way it's intended to? Since a large part of it hinges on previous lives affecting current and future births. This is a question that will be answered through the course of the series—although the true resolution comes only at the end of book 3.
I will end here by reiterating that Toranic Law is a highly simplified and twisted version of the law of karma; written to be palatable for young adult fantasy audiences. It is also inherently flawed due to the immortality element. Moreover, several characters in SPIN OF FATE have their own interpretations of Toranic Law, not all of which are correct. Removed from the creative decisions in my story, the law of karma itself is a beautiful thing, complex in its workings, and—when one really delves into its nuances—convincing in its effects. In some ways, I'd consider it the closest thing we have to a real life magic system.
*Incidentally, earlier drafts of the story had the magic system named Karmic Law rather than Toranic Law. I moved away from this nomenclature because I wanted to create distance between the magic system and the spiritual concept. They are not the same, I was only inspired by my understanding of the theory of karma to create something similar—but flawed. Hence, I changed the name to Toranic Law, which echoes the name of the gateways used to traverse realms in the book. These gateways are called torana (taken from the Sanskrit word 'torana' used to describe ceremonial gateways in Hindu architecture, and also the Japanese word 'torii' for similar archways in Shinto shrines) and their relationship with Toranic Law is another aspect explored in the book.
I should also stress here that karma yoga is but one of the four spiritual paths mentioned in THE BHAGAVAD GITA; others include bhakti yoga (path of devotion), gnana yoga (path of knowledge), and raja yoga (path of meditation). While SPIN OF FATE's religion focuses on its version of karma, it is not absent of what one might call bhakti, that is devotion to specific deities. In fact, there are many Hindus who practice one or more of the aforementioned paths, based on their personal beliefs and convictions.
Now Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, that is, one that believes in and worships multiple deities. In fact, the theory of karma itself was narrated, by one of the most (and my personal favorite) popular deities: Lord Shri Krishna, who explained it to the warrior Arjuna, before the war of Kurukshetra. The story of the war is narrated in the Hindu epic MAHABHARATA, while the holy text BHAGAVAD GITA focuses on Lord Krishna's teachings to Arjuna on the battlefield.
When creating gods and goddesses for the world of SPIN OF FATE, I did not want to evoke any specific Hindu deities; nor would I say my imagined deities are inspired by any of Hinduism's many. I created mythological beasts, inspired in part by the tailed beasts in Naruto, and also by legendary Pokémon—both sets of creatures are considered creators (in a sense) in their respective universes. The world of SPIN OF FATE is populated by those who, like with many Hindus, by and large believe in both a spiritual concept (in this case Toranic Law) and worship deities.
When creating the four realms, I was inspired by the Hindu concept of lokas, that is, planes or realms (the translation varies) where one might exist. While the number of lokas differs by interpretation—ranging from three to fourteen as per my knowledge on the topic—for reasons relating to plot and readability, SPIN OF FATE settled on four realms. An initial draft had six, but, along with the rules and explanations surrounding Toranic Law, this was simplified in order to be made more age-appropriate.
I will update this list as I continue to read and learn more, but for now, here are a few resources that do a far better job explaining the above-mentioned concepts than I ever could. Please note that there are countless interpretations on these topics; the ones below are those I personally found particularly insightful or easy to read.
First is Theory of Karma by Hirabhai Thakkar. I believe this book was originally published in Gujarati, although I read the English translation. It does a fantastic job of breaking down the multi-facted and complex theory of karma in a way that is very accessible and easy-to-understand.
While there are several versions of the BHAGAVAD GITA, the one I most recently enjoyed is this translation and commentary by Professor Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
Finally, we come to the epic tale of MAHABHARATA, of which again there are many versions. I read these as Amar Chitra Katha graphic novels growing up, but my most recent read was by the author Kamala Subramaniam.