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UDY

AiS

IN

KARMA

Nl BiiisANT

It

fuSuc Jjymaru

Gift of

Joseph

PI.

Giesen, MD

QOSlPH H. GlESEr4 BOX 121


'OAKLAND,'

--04363

A STUDY

IN

KARMA

A STUDY

IN

KARMA

BY

ANNIE BESANT
//

THE THEOSOPHICAL PUBLISHING HOUSE


ADYAR, MADRAS, INDIA
1952
Sold by The Theosophical Publishing House

Wheaton,

Illinois

Copyright Registered
All Rights

Reserved

Apply for permission for translations to:

THE THEOSOPHICAL PUBLISHING HOUSE


Adyar, Madras 20, India.

First Edition
Secofid
,.

1912

1917
1946

Third
Fourth

..

,.

1952

CONI

VI

; ! ;

KARMA
(From The Light of Asia by SiR Edwin Arnold)
It

knows not wrath nor pardon


Its

utter true

measures mete, its faultless balance weighs % Times are as nought, to-morrow it will judge.

Or

after

many

days.

By

this the slayer's knife did stab himself

The
The

unjust judge hath lost his

own

defender

false tongue

dooms

its lie

the creeping thief

And
Such
is

spoiler rob, to render.

the

Law which moves


it is

to righteousness,

Which none
The heart
Is

at last can turn aside or stay

of

Love, the end of

it

Peace and Consummation sweet.

Obey

A STUDY IN
Among
the

KARMA

many

illuminating gifts to the western


it

world, conveyed to

by the medium of the Theo-

sophical Society, that of the knowledge of

karma
of

comes

perhaps
It

next

in

importance

to

that

reincarnation.

removes

human

thought and

desire from the region of arbitrary happenings to

the

realm of law, and thus places man's future


in proportion to the

under his own control


of his knowledge.

amount
a

The main conception

of

karma,
is

"

As

man

soweth, so shall he also reap,"

easy to grasp.

But the application of this to method of its working and


quences

daily life in detail, the


its

far-reaching conse-

these
The
is

are the difficulties which


to

become

more bewildering
increases.

the student as his knowledge

principles on

which any natural


and ordinary
he discovers
if

science

based) are, for the most part, readily

intelligible to

people of

fair intelligence

education
to

but as the student passes from principles

practice,

from outline to

details,

that difficulties press upon him, and

he would

A STUDY IN

KARMA

wholly master his subject he finds himself compelled to

become a
So
is it

specialist,

and

to devote long

periods to the unravelling of the tangles which confront him.


also with this science of

karma

the student cannot remain always in the domain^of


generalities
;

he must study the subdivisions of the


it

primary law, must seek to apply


stances of
life,

in all the
it

circum-

must learn how

far

binds and howlearn to see in


also, as

freedom becomes possible.

He must

karma a universal law


rule over her

of nature,

and learn

in face of nature as a whole, that conquest of

and

can only be gained by obedience.^

Fundamental Principles
In order to understand karma, the student must
begin with a clear view of certain fundamental
principles,

from the lack


bewildered,
full

of

which many remain


endless

constantly

asking

questions

which cannot find


laying of this basis.

solution without the solid


I

Therefore, in this study,

begin

with these, though

many

of

my

readers will be

already familiar with them, through previous state-

ments

of others

and myself.
conception, on which
rests, is that it is
;

The fundamental
right thinking

all later

on karma

law

law,

eternal, changeless, invariable, inviolable


^

law which

"Nature

is

conquered by obedience."

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

can never be broken, existing in the nature of things.

makes the uninformed Theosophist say You must not interfere with his karma." But whenever a natural law is working, you may interfere with it just so far as you can. You do not hear a person say solemnly " You must not interfere with the law of gravitation.'*
It
is
**
:

the want of this conception which

It is

understood that gravitation

is

one of the condiis

tions with

which one has to reckon, and that one

perfectly at liberty to counteract


it

any inconvenience
it,

may

cause by setting another force against

by

building a buttress to support that which otherwise

would

fall

to the

ground under the action of gravi-

tation, or in

any other way.

When

a condition in nature incommodes us,


it,

we

use our intelligence to circumvent


ever dreams of telling us that
fere

and no one
not " inter-

we must

with " or change any condition which

dislike.

We

can only interfere when

we we have knowneutralize,

ledge, for

we cannot
it

annihilate any natural force,

nor prevent

from acting.
its

But we can
if

we can
another

turn aside,
sufficient

action

we have

at

command
never

force,

and while

it

will

abate for us one jot of

its activity, it

can be held

up, opposed, circumvented, exactly according to our

knowledge
at

of its nature

our

disposal.

and working, and the forces Karma is no more ** sacred "


;

ihan any other natural law

all

laws of nature are

A STUDY IN

KARMA
we
live

expressions of the divine nature, and

and move
;

they but they are not mandatory which set up conditions amid which we are forces live, and which work in us as well as outside of
within them
;

we understand them, and as our intelligence unfolds we become more and more their masters, until the man
us
;

we can manipulate them

as

becomes superman, and material nature becomes his


servant.

Laws
Much
in

Natural and Man-made

confusion has arisen in this matter because,,

the

West, " natural " laws have been regarded

as

apart

from mental and moral laws, whereas

mental and moral laws are as

much
and

part of natural

law as the laws

of electricity,

all

laws are part

of the order of nature.

Natural law has been, in

many
into

minds, confused with

human

law,

and the
imported
affecting
this

arbitrariness of

human

legislation has been

the

realm of natural law.

Laws

physical

phenomena have been rescued from

by science, but the mental and moral worlds are still in the chaos of lawlessness. Not
arbitrariness

a divine

command, but

the

immanence

of the divine

nature conditions our existence, and where prophets

have

laid

down moral

laws, these have been decla-

rations of inevitable sequences in the moral world,

LAWS: NATURAL AND MAN-MADE


Icnown
hearers
;

to

the prophet,

unknown

to

his

ignorant

because of their ignorance, his hearers have

regarded his declarations as arbitrary

commands

of

a divine lawgiver, sent

through him, instead of as

mere statements of fact concerning the succession of moral phenomena in a region as orderly as the
physical.

Law,

in

the secondary social sense,

is

an enact-

ment
mate.
act
of

laid
It

down by an may be the


legislative

authority regarded as legitiedict of an autocrat, or the


;

assembly

in

either case the

iorce of the law depends on the recognition of the


authority which makes
find the ideas both of
it.

Among

the Hindus

we

man-made and
;

natural law.

The
King
in

King, in the conception of the Manu,

autocrat,
is

is an and the subject must obey but above the a Law to which he in his turn must be

obedient, a

Law which

acts automatically

and

is

the nature of things.


is

In spite of his autocracy,

bound by the supreme Law, which will if he disregards it. Weakness oppressed is said to be the most fatal enemy of kings the tears of the weak sap the foundation of thrones,
he
crush him
;

and the

suffering of the

nation destroys the ruler.

The

physical and the superphysical

worlds inter-

penetrate each other, and causes set going in the

one bring about results


liis

in the other.

The King and

Council in ancient India made the laws of the

t)

A STUDY IN
but these were

KARMA
not natural laws
;;

State,

artificial,

they were binding on the subjects, and were enforced

by

penalties,

but
It

such laws

differ

wholly from

natural

law.

seems a pity that one word should

be used for two things so different as natural and


artificial

laws, yet they are clearly distinguishable

by

their characteristics.
Artificial

laws are changeable

those

who make

them can
but
lie

alter

them or
;

repeal them.

Natural laws

are unchanging
in

they cannot be altered nor repealed,,


Artificial

the nature of things.

laws are
in

local,

while natural are universal.

The law
;

any

country against robbery

may be

enforced by any

penalty chosen by the legislator

sometimes the

hand

is

cut

off, is

sometimes the

thief is sent to

gaoU

sometimes he
the penalty
crime.
is

hanged. Moreover, the infliction of

dependent on the discovery of the


is is

penalty which

variable

and

artificial,

and which may be escaped,


related to the crime
it

obviously not causally

punishes.

natural law has


invariably^

no penalty, but one condition follows

on another

if

man

steals,

his nature

becomes
is

more

thievish,

the tendency to dishonesty


difficulty of being honest

in-

creased,

and the
this

becomes

greater

consequence works

in every case, in all

countries,

and the knowledge or ignorance of others

as to the theft

makes no

difference in the conseis

quence.

penalty which

local,

variable

and

THE LAW OF LAWS


escapable
natural.
is

a sign that the law

is artificial,

and not
such a

natural law

is

a sequence of conditions

condition being present, such another condition will


invariably follow. If you
tion No. 2,

want

to bring about condi-

you must

find or

make

condition No.

and then condition No. 2


able

will follow as

an

invari-

consequence.
left

These sequences
but
if

never

vary
is

when

to themselves,

a new

condition

introduced the succeeding condition will be altered.

Thus water runs down


water in at the top,
slope
;

a slanting channel in accorif

dance with the force of gravitation, and


it

you pour

will invariably run

down

the

but you can obstruct the flow by putting an

obstacle in the way,

and then the resistance which


remains

the

obstacle
it,

opposes to the force of gravitation


but the force of gravitation

balances
active

and

is

found

in

the pressure on the obstacle.

The

first

condition

is

called the cause, the resulting

condition the effect, and the same cause always


brings about the

same
;

effect,

provided no other
is

cause

is

introduced

in

the latter case, the effect

the resultant of both.

The Law of Laws


Karma
term
;

is is

natural law in the

full

sense of the

it

Universal Causation, the

Law

of

Cause


S
and
laws,
its

A STUDY IN KARMA
Effect.
all

It

may
all

be said to underlie
It is natural

all

special
all

causes and

effects.
its

law in
it is

aspects and in

subdivisions

not a

special law, but a universal condition, the one law

whereon

all

other laws

depend, of which

all

other

laws are partial expressions.


says that none

The Bhagavad Glta who are embodied can escape it Shining Ones, human beings, animals, vegetables,
all

minerals, are

evolving within this universal law

even the

Logos

Himself, embodied in a universe,

comes within a larger sweep of this law of all manifestation. So long as any one is related to matter, embodied in matter, so long is he within karmic
law.

being
its

may

escape from or transcend one or

other of

aspects, but he cannot, while remaining

in manifestation, go outside this law.

The Eternal Now


This universal
into one all that
for
it

Law

of Causation binds together

happens within a manifestation,


Inter-relation beIt is

is

universal inter-relation.
that exists

tween

all

that

is

karma.

therefore

coexistent,

simultaneous with the coming into ex-

istence of
is

any special universe.


always
"
It

Therefore karma

eternal as the Universal Self.


is.

The

inter-relation
;

of everything

never begins
;

it

never

ceases to be.

The

unreal has no being

the real

THE ETERNAL NOW


never ceases to be."

Nothing
is

exists isolated, alone,


all

out of relation, and karma


that exists.
It is

the inter-relation of

manifest during the manifestation


;

of a universe as regards that universe

it

becomes
that has

latent in its dissolution.

In
been,

the All
all

everything

IS

always;
all

all

that

now

is

manifest,

that will be, all


all actualities,

that can be,

all possibilities

as well as

are ever in being in the All.

That which
is

is

out-

wards, the forthgoing existence, the unfolded,

is

the

manifested

universe.

That

which
is

as

really,

although inwards, the infolded,


universe.
real

the unmanifested
is

But the Within, the Unmanifested,


Manifested.

as

as the Without, the

The

inter-

relation
is

between beings,

in or out of manifestation,

the eternal karma.

As Being never ceases, so


is.

karma never
that which
fested
is

ceases, but always

When

part of

simultaneous in the All becomes maniuniverse,

as

the
is

eternal

inter-relation

becomes successive, and


everything
else,

seen as cause and effect.


is

In the one Being, the All, everything


else,

linked to

everything

is

related to everything

and

in

the phenomenal, the manifested uni-

verse,

these links and relations are


causally

drawn out
in in

into

successive happenings,

connected
i.e,,

the

order of their succession in time,

appearance.

Some
such as

students shrink from a metaphysical view


this,

but unless this idea of eternal Being,

10
within which
centre

A STUDY IN
all

KARMA
is

beings ever are,

grasped, the

cannot be reached.
every

So long as we think
is

from the circumference, there


behind
answer,

always a question
beginnings

endless

and

endings with a
If

"Why?"
let

behind each beginning.

the student would escape this, he must patiently the concept of the All sink

seek the centre, and


into his mind, until
it

becomes an ever-present part


and then the universes on
from

of his mental equipment,

the circumference become intelligible, and the universal inter-relation between all things, seen

the simultaneity of the centre, naturally becomes

cause and effect in the successions on the circumference.


It

has been

said

that

the

Eternal*

is

as an ocean, which throws

up universes as waves.

The ocean symbolizes being without form, ever the same. The wave, by virtue of being a part, has form and attributes. The waves rise and fall
they break into a foam, and the spray of the waves
is

as worlds in a universe.

Or we may think
gara,

of a

huge waterfall,
is

like

Nia-

where the mass


it

of its torrent

one ere

it falls,

and then

divides into innumerable drops,

which

separately reflect the light; and the drops areas

worlds, and the rainbow they

make

is

the

many-

coloured

life.

But the water

is

one while the drops


strictly,

* The Hindu name is Brahman, or more Brahman, the Brahman without attributes.

Nirguna

SUCCESSION
are many, and,
life is

11

one though beings are many.


is

God

manifest or unmanifest
different,

one and the same,


in

though

though showing attributes


universe are one, though

mani;

festation,

and

attributeless in u^manifestation

the

Logos and His


life

unity and the universe the diversity.

He is He is
of

the

the

and the universe the forms.

Out

mani-

festation

karma

is

latent,

for

the

beings of the
;

manifested are but concepts in the unmanifested


manifestation karma
is active,

in

for all the parts of a

world, of a system, of a universe, are inter-related.

Science declares that no movement of a part can


take place without affecting the whole, and scientifically
all

are agreed.

The

inter-relations are unifor the breaking of

versal,

and none can be broken,


of

one would break the unity of the whole.


violability

The

in-

natural law rests on


of law in

its

universality,

and a breach
versal chaos.

any part would mean uni-

Succession

We

have seen that as the manifestation of a


inter-relation
effect.

universe implies succession of phenomena, so the


universal

becomes the sequence of


effect

cause and
cause and

But each

becomes

in turn

a cause, and so on endlessly, the difference between


effect

being one not of nature but of


12
relation.

A STUDY IN

KARMA
which
exist
in

The

inter-relations

the

thought of the Eternal become the inter-relations

between phenomena
the
portion
of

in the

manifested universe

the thought put forth as a unithe

verse.

Before

manifestation

of

any special
its

universe there will be, in the Eternal, the thought


of

the

universe

which

is

to

be,

and

inter-

relations.

That which

exists

simultaneously out

and space, in the Eternal Now, gradually appears in time and space as successive phenoof time

mena.

The moment you

conceive a universe as

made up of phenomena, you are obliged to think of these phenomena successively, one after another;
but in the thought of the Eternal they always are,

and

the

limitation

of

succession

has there no

existence.

Even

in

the lower worlds, where the measures of

time are so different from each other,

we

catch a

glimpse of the increasing limitations of denser matter.

Mozart

tells

us of a state of unconsciousness

in

single impression, although in his

which he received a musical composition as a waking conscious-

ness he could only reproduce that single impression


in a succession of notes.

Or

again,

we may

look at

a picture, and receive a single mental impression

a landscape, a battle; but an ant, crawling over


that
picture,

would see no whole, only successive

impressions from the parts travelled over.

SUCCESSION

13
of

By
the

simile,

by analogy, we may gain some idea


of
it

difference

universe as

it

appears to the
a single

Logos and
impression,

as

appears to us.

To Him,
us an
is

perfect

whole
to

to

immense
to

sequence,

slowly

unfolding.

So what

Him
we

inter-relation

becomes

us

succession.

Instead

of seeing childhood,

youth, old age, as a whole,

see them successively, day by day, year by year. That which is simultaneous and universal becomes successive and particular to our small minds, crawl-

ing over the world as the ant over the picture.

Go up

a mountain and look

down on

a town, and
to each

you can see how the houses are related You other in blocks, streets, and so on.

realize

them as a whole. But when you go down into the town you must pass from street to street, seeing each separately, successively. So in karma, we see the relations only one by one, and one after another,
not even realizing the successive relations, so limited
is

our view.

Such
visible

similes
things,

may

often help us to grasp the inhalt-

and may act as crutches to our

ing imagination.

And

out of

all

this

we
is

lay our

foundation-stone for our study of karma.

Karma
quence
of

is

universal inter-relation, and

seen in

any universe as the


in the becoming, or

Law

of Causation, in conse-

the successive appearance of

phenomena

coming

forth, of the universe.

14

a study in karma

Causation
The
modern
idea
of

causation

has been challenged in


instance contending, in

times,

Huxley

for

the Contemporary Review, that' we only ence, not causation


after
it
;

he said that

if

know sequa ball moved

was

hit

by a bat, you should not say that

the blow of the bat caused the movement, but only

was followed by the movement. This extreme scepticism came out strongly in some of the
that
it

great

men

of the nineteenth century, a reaction

from

the ready credulity and


of

the
is

Middle Ages.

many unproved assumptions The reaction had its use,


passing away, as extremes

but

now

gradually

ever do.

The idea of causation arises naturally in the human mind, though unprovable by the senses when a phenomenon has been invariably followed
by another phenomenon for long periods of time, the two become linked together in our minds, and

when one
expects

appears, the mind, by association of ideas,

the

second

thus the fact that night has

been followed by day from time immemorial gives


us a firm conviction that the sun will
as
rise

to-morrow
alone,
;

on

countless

yesterdays.

Succession

4iowever, does not necessarily imply causation

we

do not regard day as the cause

of night, nor night as

the cause of day, because they invariably succeed

CAUSATION
ach
other.

15

To

assert

causation
;

we need more
that the reason

than invariable succession


shall see that

we need

which the senses are unable to discern


between the two things which brings

relation

about the appearance of the second


appears.

when

the

first

The

succession of day and night


;

is

not

caused by either

both are caused by the relation of


;

the earth to the sun

that relation

is

a true cause,

recognized as such by the reason, and as long as the


relation exists unchanged,
effect.

day and night

will be its

In order to see one thing as the cause of

another, the reason must establish a relation between

them which
by the other

is
;

sufficient

for the production of

one

and then only, can we rightly The links between phenomena assert causation. that are never broken, and that are recognized
then,

by the reason as an active


manifestation
the
is

relation, bringing into

second

phenomenon

when-

ever

the

first

manifested,

we

call

causation.

They

are the

shadows
of

of inter-relations existing in

the Eternal, outside space and time, and they extend

over the
tions

life

universe,

wherever the condiCausation


is

exist

for

their

manifestation.

an
is

expression

of

the

nature of the
;

Logos,

an

emanation of the eternal Reality


inter-relation
its

wherever there

in

the

Eternal which demands


is

succession for
causation.

manifestation in time, there

16

a study in

karma

The Laws of Nature


Our next
the
"
step in our study
of
is

a consideration of

Laws

Nature

".

The whole

universe

is in-

cluded within the ideas of succession and causation,

when we come to what we call the laws of nature, we are unable to say over what area they
but
extend.
Scientists
find

themselves compelled to

speak with greater and greater caution as they travel

beyond the
effects

limit of actual observation.

Causes and
of our

which are continuous within the area

observation
ings

may

not exist in other regions, or work-

which are here observed as invariable may be interrupted by the irruption of some cause outside
the

"

known
the

"

of

our time,

though probably not

outside
there

knowable.

Between 1850 and 1890


and the
that
indestructibility of

were many positive statements as to the


of energy

conservation
matter.
It

was

said

there

existed

in

the

universe

a certain

amount
;

of energy, incapable of
all

diminution or of increase
of that to another

that

forces were forms

energy, and might be transmuted from one


;

form
force,

that the

amount

of

any given

of
of

amount As 20 may be made up of 20 units, or energy. 10 twos, or of 5 fours, or of 12+8, and so on,
as heat, might vary, but not the total
total

but the total remains as 20, so with the varying

forms and the

amount. With regard to matter,.

THE LAWS OF NATURE


again,
similar statements were

17
;

was indestructible, and hence remained ever the same in amount some, like Ludwig Buchner, declared that
it
;

made

the chemical elements were indestructible, that

"an
and

atom
so on.

of carbon

was ever an atom

of carbon,'*

On
is

these two ideas science

was

built

up, and
it

they formed the basis of materialism.


realized

But now

that chemical
itself

elements are dissoluble,


be a swirl
is

and that the atom

may

in the ether,

or perhaps a mere hole where ether

not.
in,

There
others
?

may

be atoms through which force pours


it

through which

pours out

whence whither
?

May
itself

not physical matter become intangible, resolve


into ether
? ?

May
its

not ether give birth to

new

matter

All is doubtful

where once certainty reigned.


" Ring-Pass-Not
".

Yet has a universe


*'

Within

a given area only can

we speak with
?

certainty of a

law of nature

".

What
the
article

is

a law of nature

Mr.
for

J.

N. Fprquhar, in

1910, in an Hindus want to carry out reforms, they must abandon the idea of
July,

Contemporary Ueview

on Hinduism, declares that

if

As well might he say that if a man wants must abandon the idea of an atmosphere. To understand the law of karma is not to renounce
karma.
to fly he
activity,

but to
is

know

the conditions under which

activity
2

best carried on.

Mr. Farquhar,

who has

18

A STUDY IN

KARMA

evidently studied modern

not grasped the idea of


scripture

Hinduism carefully, has karma as taught in ancient

and

in

modern
is

science.

A
ment

law of nature
of conditions.

not a

command, but a

state-

This cannot be repeated too


Nature does not
**
:

often, nor insisted

on too strongly.
;

order this thing or the other


certain conditions
;

she says
exist,

Here are
is

where these

such and such

a result will invariably follow."

law of nature
like

an

invariable

sequence.

If

you do not

the

result,

change the preceding conditions.


helpless,

Ignorant,

you are
forces
;

at the

mercy

of nature's hurtling

wise,

you are master, and her forces serve

you obediently.

Every law

of nature

is

an enabling,
is

not a compelling force, but knowledge


for utilizing her powers.

necessary

Water
This
is

boils at

the condition.
;

100^ C. under normal pressure. You go up a mountain


water boils at 95
tea.
.

pressure diminishes
at 95 ^
will not

Now

water

make good

Does Nature then


?

forbid

you to have good tea on a mountain -top


;

Not
the

at all

under normal pressure water boils at


temperature for tea-making
;
;

necessary
lost

you

have

pressure

supply the deficit


till it

imprison

your escaping steam


surej

adds the necessary prestea with

and you can make your


If

water at

100.
of

you want to produce water by the union

hydrogen

and

oxygen, you require a certain

A LESSON OF THE
temperature,
spark.
If

LAW
from the

19
electric

and can obtain


insist

it

you

on keeping the temperature at


Nature lays down the condi-

zero, or in

substituting nitrogen for hydrogen, you

cannot have water.


tions which
result
in

the production of water, and


;

you cannot change them


withholds water
;

she neither supplies nor


it or to go you must bring together

you are
it,

free

to

have

without

it

if

you want

the necessary things and thus

Without
water.

these,

no water.

make the conditions. With these, inevitably


?

Are you bound or


;

free

Free as to making
result,
this,

the conditions bound as to the you have made them. Knowing

when once
sit

the scientific

man, face
helplessly

to face with a difficulty, does not


;

down
the

he finds out the conditions under which


result, learns

he can bring about a

how

to

make

conditions, sure that he can rely on the result.

A Lesson of the Law


This
is

the great lesson taught by science to the


Religion has taught
it

present generation.

for ages,

but dogmatically rather than rationally.


proves that knowledge
is

Science

the condition of freedom,

and

that only as

man knows can he


;

compel.

The
;

scientific

man
all

observes sequences
his
is

over and over

again

he

performs
that

testing

experiments

he

eliminates

casual, collateral, irrelevant.

20 and slowly,
invariable
facts,

A STUDY IN KARMA
surely, discovers

what constitutes an

causative

sequence.

Once

sure of

his

he acts with indubitable assurance, and nature,

without

shadow

of turning,

rewards his rational


**

certainty with success.

Out
ence

of this assurance of

grows

the sublime patiin

the

investigator ".

Luther Burbank,
a few
;

California,

will

sow

millions of seeds, select


pair

some

thousands
patiently
of
lies

of

plants,

hundreds, and

nature,

march to his end he can trust the laws and if he fails he knows that the error
a law of nature that masses'of matter tend
the earth.
Shall
I
I

with him, not with them.


is

There
to

move towards

then say
fly

" I

cannot walk up the stairs;

cannot
I pit

in

the

air"? Nay, there are other laws.


force that holds

against the

me on

the ground another force


I

stored

iu

my
it.

muscles, and

means
fever

of

A
I

by person with muscles weak from


raise

my body

may have
but

to

stay

on

the

ground-floor,
I

helpless;

break

no law when

put forth

muscular force and walk upstairs.

The
It
effort.

inviolability of

Law

does not bind

it

frees.

makes Science

possible,

and

rationalizes

human
futile,

In a lawless universe, effort would be

reason would be useless.

We
in

should be savages,

trembling
terrible.

in the grip of forces, strange, incalculable,,

Imagine a chemist

a laboratory where.


KARMA DOES NOT CRUSH
nitrogen

21

was

now

inert,

now
stifled

explosive,

where
!

oxygen

vivified to-day

and

to-morrow

In a

lawless universe

we should

not dare to move, not

knowing what any action might bring about.

We

move
of

safely,

surely,

because of the inviolability

Law.

Karma does not Crush

Now Karma
that that

is

the great law of nature, with all

implies.

As we are able

to

move
its

in

the

physical universe with security, knowing

laws, so

may we move

in

the mental and moral universes

with security also, as we learn their laws.

The

majority of people, with regard to their mental and

moral defects, are much

in

the position of a

man
and

who should
say
it
**
:

decline to walk upstairs because of the

law of gravitation.

They
nature.

sit I

down

helplessly,
it."

That
is

is

my

cannot help

True,

is

the man*s nature, as he has


it

made

it

in

the past,

and

" his karma

".

But by a knowledge of
it

karma he can change his nature, making morrow than it is to-day. He is not
outside
;

other to-

in the grip

oi an inevitable destiny, imposed upon him from


he
is

in

a world of law,

full

of natural

forces which

he can utilize to bring about the state

of things which he desires.

Knowledge and
realize that

will

that

is

what he needs.

He must

karma

22
is

STUDY IN KARMA

not a power which crushes, but a statement of

conditions out of which invariable results accrue.

So long

as he lives carelessly, in a happy-go-lucky


will

way, so long

he be

like

man

floating

on a

stream, struck by any passing log, blown aside by

any casual breeze, caught


spells
failure,

in

any chance eddy. This

misfortune, unhappiness.

The law

enables him to compass his ends successfully, and


places within his reach forces which he can utilize.

He

can modify, change, remake on other lines the

nature

which

is

the

inevitable

outcome
;

of

his

previous desires, thoughts and actions

that future

nature
" Habit

is

as inevitable as the present, the result of

the conditions which he


is

now

deliberately

makes.

second nature,'* says the proverb, and

thought creates habits.

Where

there

is

Law, no
is

achievement

is

impossible,

and

karma

the

guarantee of man's evolution into mental and moral


perfection.

We
human
has

have now to apply this law to ordinary


life,

to

apply
loss

principle

to

practice.

It

been

the

of

the

intelligible

relations

between eternal principles and transitory events that


has
rendered
life.

modern

religion
will

so

inoperative in

common
disease
;

A man

clean up his back-yard

when he understands
yards
uncleansed,

the relation between dirt and

but he leaves his mental and moral back-

because

he sees

no

relation-

MAN
between
he
his

IN

THE THREE WORLDS

23

mental and moral defects and the

various ghastly after-death experiences with which


is

threatened by religions.

Hence he

either

disbelieves

the threats and goes carelessly on his

way,

or

hopes to escape consequences by some

artificial

compact with the


law
is

authorities.

In either

case,

he does not cleanse his ways.


the physical,

When

he

realizes that

as inviolable in the mental


it

and
the

moral worlds as

in

may

well be
in

hoped that he

will

become as reasonable
is

former as he already

in the latter.

Man

in

the Three Worlds


is

Man, as we know,

living normally in

three
is

worlds, the physical, emotional and mental,


into contact with each by a
of matter,

put

body formed

of its type

and acts

in

each through the appropriate

body.

He

therefore creates results in each according

to their respective laws

and powers, and


law
of

all

these

come within
During
creating
**

the

all-embracing

karma.
is

his daily life in

waking consciousness he

karma,"

i.e.,

results, in these three worlds,

While his physical body is asleep, he is creating karma in two worlds the emotional and the mental the amount of karma then created by him depending on the stage
by action, desire and thought.

he has reached

in evolution.

24

A STUDY IN

KARMA

We

may

confine ourselves to these three worlds,

for those above them are not inhabited consciously

by the average man

but

we

should, none the less,

remember

that

we

are like trees, the roots of

which

are fixed in the higher worlds, and their branches

spread in the three lower worlds in which dwell our

mortal bodies, and in which our consciousnesses are

working.

Laws work

within their

own

worlds, and must be

studied as though their workings were independent.

Just as every science studies the laws working within


its

own department,
of

but does not forget the wider


conditions,

working

further-reaching

so

must

man, while working in the three departments, physical, emotional and mental, remember the sweep of
law which includes them
activity.
all

within

its

area of

In

all

departments laws are inviolable and


its

unchangeable, and each brings about


effects,
is

own

full

although the

final result of their interaction

the effective force that remains

when

all

balancing
is

of opposing forces has been of laws in general


is

made.

All that

true

true of karma, the great law.

Causes being present, events must follow.


taking

But by

away

or adding

causes,

events

must be

modified.

A
is

" My karma person gets drunk ; may he say to get drunk " ? He gets drunk because of certain
:

tendencies existing in himself, the presence of loose

MAN

IN

THE THREE WORLDS

25
is

companions, and an environment where drink


sold.
evil

Let us suppose that he wishes to conquer his


habit
;

he knows the three conditions that lead

him

into drunkenness.

strong enough to resist

He may my own
is

say

"

am

not

tendencies in the
of loose-livers.
I

presence of drink and the


I

company
to

will

not go where there

drink, nor will

asso-

ciate

with

men who tempt me

drink.'*

He
and
is

changes the conditions, eliminating two of them,

though unable immediately to change the


the
not

third,

new
**

result

is

that he does not get drunk.

He

interfering

with karma," but

is

relying on
it

it

nor

is

a friend

**

interfering with karma,"

he per-

suades him to keep away from boon companions.

There

is

no karmic

command

to a

man

to get drunk,
in

but only the existence of certain conditions

the

midst of which he certainly


is, it is

will get

drunk

there

true,

another

way

of

changing the conditions,


;

the putting forth of a strong effort of will

this also

introduces a
result

new

condition, which will change the


of elimination.

by addition instead
as

In the only sense in which a

man can

" interfere"

with the laws of nature he

is

perfectly at liberty to

do
it

so,

much

as he likes and can.

He

can inhibit

the acting of one force by bringing another against


;

he can overcome gravitation by muscular

effort.

In this sense, he

may

interfere with

karma
it

as he likes, and should interfere with

much when the


as

26

A STUDY IN

KARMA
is

results are objectionable.

But the expression

not

a happy one, and

it is

liable to

be misunderstood.

The law

is

such and such causes bring about


results.

such and such

The law
is

is

unchangeable,

but the play of phenomena


mightiest

ever-changing.
is

The
and
is,

cause of

all

causes
this
is

human

will

human
for

reason,

and yet
part,

the cause which

the

most

omitted when people talk of

karma.
will,

We

are causes, because

we

are the divine

one with

God

in

our essential being, although

hampered by ignorance and working through gross matter, which impedes us until we conquer by spiritualizing it. The changelessness of karma is not the changelessness of effects but of law, and it
is

which makes us free. Truly slaves should we be in a world in which everything went by
this

chance.

But according

to our
in

knowledge are our


In the

freedom and our safety


bring about the results
to accept

a world of law.

Middle Ages, chemists were by no means free to


they desired, but they had
results as they

came, unforeseen and for

the most part undesired, even to their


injury.

own

serious

The

result
it

of

an experiment might be a

useful product, or

might be the reduction of the

experimenter

into

fragments.

Roger

Bacon

set

going causes which cost him an eye and a finger,

and occasionally stretched him senseless on the floor of his cell outside our knowledge we are in peril,^
;

MAN

IN

THE THREE WORLDS


set

27
us, for

and any cause we

going

may wreck

we

are mostly Roger Bacons in the mental and moral worlds inside our knowledge we may move with
;

freedom and

safety,

as

the

well-trained

chemist

moves to-day. It is true in all the three worlds in which we live that the more we know, the more can we foresee and control. Because law is inviolable and changeless, therefore knowledge is the condition of freedom. Let us then study karma, and apply our knowledge to the guidance of our lives. So

many

people say

'*
:

Oh

how

wish

were good,"

and do not use the law


result in
**

to create the causes

which

goodness
I

as though a chemist should say


I

Oh

how

wish

had water," without making


it.

the conditions which would produce

Again,

along
ber

its

we must remember that each force works own particular line, and that when a numimpinge on a particular point, the
is

of

forces

resultant force
in

the outcome of

all of

them.

As
a

our school days

we

learned

how

to construct

parallelogram of forces and thus find the resultant


of their composition, so with

to understand the conflict of forces

karma may we learn and their com-

position

to

yield

single

resultant.

We

hear

people asking

while a

why a good man fails in business bad man succeeds. But there is no causal
between
goodness and moneygetting.
:

connection

We

might as well say

"

am

a very good

man

28

A STUDY IN KARMA
I fly

why cannot

in

the air
it

" Goodness

is

not a

cause of flying, nor does


**

bring in money.
in

Tennyson

touched on a great law when,

his

poem on
were

Wages," he declared that the wages


**

of virtue

not " dust," nor rest, nor pleasure, but the glory of an

Virtue is its own reward," in the fullest sense of the words. If we are truthful,
active immortality.

our reward
ful,

is that our nature becomes more truthand so sequentially with every virtue. Karmic

results

can only be of the nature of their causes

they are not arbitrary, like

human

rewards.

Understand the Truth


whence then arises the life should accompany goodness ? We can successfully combat an error only when we understand the truth which lies at the heart of it, gives it its vitality, and leads to its spread and its persistence. The truth in this case
;

This seems to be obvious

general instinct that success in

is

that,

if

man

puts himself into accord with the


is

divine law, happiness

the result of such harmony.

The

error

is

to identify worldly success with happi-

ness and to disregard the element of time.

A man
He
sees

going into business determines to be truthful, and


to take

no unfair advantage over others.


he

those

who

are untruthful and unscrupulous going


;

ahead of him

if

is

weak, he becomes discouraged.

UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH

29^

even, perchance, imitates them. If he is strong, he " I will work in harmony with the divine law, says :

no matter what may be the immediate worldly


results"; inner peace and happiness are then
his,

but success does not accrue to him


the long run even that
loses
in

nevertheless, in

may

fall

to him, for

what he

money he

gains in confidence, whereas the

man who
again,
society,

once betrays
will

may

at

any time betray


In a competitive

and none
lack
of

trust him.

scrupulousness yields immediate


in

success,

a co-operative society con" pay ". To give starvation scientiousness would

whereas

wages

to workers forced
to

by competition to accept

them may lead


business
living

immediate success as against

rivals, and the man who gives a decent wage may find himself outpaced in the race
;

for wealth

but in the long run the latter will have


for him,

better

work done

and

in the future will

reap

the harvest of happiness whereof he sowed the seed.

must decide on our course and accept its results, not looking for money as payment for goodness, nor
seeing
injustice

We

when
it
if

unscrupulous
aimed.

shrewdness

reaches that at

which

An
is

instructive,

not very pleasant, Indian story


another, and the

told of a

man who wronged

injured

man

cried for redress to the King.

When

the punishment to be inflicted on his enemy was

given into his hands, he prayed the King to enrich

30
his foe
;

A STUDY IN
asked
for the

KARMA

reason of his strange behaviour,

he grimly said that wealth and worldly prosperity


doing, and
in

would give him greater opportunities for wrongwould thus entail on him bitter suffering
the
life
is

after death.

Often the worst enemy of


conditions,

virtue

in

easy

material

and

these,

which are spoken of as good karma, are often the


reverse in their results.
in

Many who do

fairly well

adversity go astray in prosperity, and

become

in-

toxicated with worldly delights.

Let us now consider how a man


roundings, or in scientific phrase,
acts

affects his sur-

how

the organism

on

its

environment.
surroundings
in

Man

affects his
all

innumerable ways,

which may

be classified into three modes of

Self-expression: he affects

them by Will, by Thought,


able to

by Action.

The developed man

is

draw

his energies

together and to fuse them into one, ready to go forth

from him and to cause action.

This concentration
Will

of his energies into a single force, held in suspense

within him in leash ready for outrush,

is

it is

an interior concentration, one


Self-expression.
in the lower divisions of the

mode

of the triple

In the sub-human kingdoms, and

human, the pleasurearound the living

giving and pain-giving

objects
energies,

creature draw out

its

and we

call these

multifarious energies brought out by external objects

UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH


its desires,

31

whether of attraction or repulsion.


all

Only

when

these are

drawn

in,

united and pointed

towards a single aim, can we term this single energy,


ready to go forth, the Will.
expression,
i.e.,
it

This Will
;

is

Self-

is

directed by the Self

the Self
its

determines the line to be taken, basing mination on previous experience.


In the

deter-

subhuman
results

and lower human kingdoms, desires are an important


factor in

karma, giving

rise to
is

most mixed

in the higher

human Will

the most potent karmic

cause,

and as man transmutes desires into Will, he


of

" rules his stars ".

The mode
aware

Self-expression called

Thought be-

longs to the aspect of the Self by which he becomes


of the outer world, the aspect of Cognition.

This obtains knowledge, and the working of the


Self on the knowledge obtained again,
is
is

Thought.

This,
it is

an important factor

in

karma, since

creative and, as

we know,

builds character.

The mode
Self,
Self.
is

of Self-expression

which directly

affects

the environment, the energy going forth from the


Activity, the action of the Self on the Notof concentrating all energies into

The power
is

one

Will

the power of becoming aware of an


is

external world

Cognition
is

the power of affecting

that outside world

Activity.

This action

is

inevi-

tably followed by a reaction from the outside world

karma.

The

inner cause of the reaction

is

Will

32

A STUDY IN KARMA
is

the nature of the reaction

due to Cognition
reaction
is

the

immediate

provoker

of

the

Activity*

These spin the three threads

of the

karmic rope.

The Three Fates


"

God

created

man

in

His own image," says a


of the

Hebrew

Scripture, and the Trinities of the great

religions are the

symbols of the three aspects

divine consciousness, reflected in the triplicity of the

human. The First Logos of the Theosophist, the Mahadeva of the Hindu, the Father of the Christian, has Will as predominant, and shows forth the
power
is

of sovereignty, the

Law by which

the universe the Son,


is

built.

The Second Logos, Vishnu,

Wisdom, that all-sustaining and all-pervading power by which the universe is preserved. The Third Logos, Brahma, the Holy Spirit, is the Agent, the creative power by which the universe is brought
There is nothing in divine or human consciousness which does not find itself within one or other of these modes of Selfinto manifestation.

expression.

Again, matter has three fundamental qualities re-

sponsive severally to these modes of consciousness,

and without these


modes.
It

it

could no more be manifested


itself

than consciousness could express

without

its

has inertia (tamas), the very foundation

THE THREE FATES


of
all,

33
the

the

stability

necessary to existence,
to

quality
(rajas),

which answers
the capacity to
It

Will.

It

has mobility

be moved, answering to

Activity.

has rhythm (sattva), the equalizer of

movement
Yoga
*'

(without

which

chaotic, destructive), answering to Cognition.

movement would be The


from
the

system,

considering

all

stand-

point of consciousness,
cognizability,"

names
which

this

rhythmic quality
that

that

makes

matter

should be

known by
is

Spirit.

All that

in

our consciousness, affecting the enall

vironment, and
consciousness,
relation

the environment affected by our

make

up our world.

The

inter-

between our consciousness and our environour karma.

ment

is

By

these

three

modes

of

consciousness
universal

we

spin

our individual karma, the


Self

inter-relation betN^een

and Not-Self

being

specialized by

us into this individual inter-

relation.

As we rise above separateness, the individual again becomes the universal inter-relation,
this

but

universal

inter-relation

cannot be trans-

cended while manifestation endures.


izing of the universal,
of

This special-

and the

later universalizing

the special

make up

the " world's eternal

ways "

the
Path

Path of Forthgoing to gather experience, the


of Return, bringing the sheaves of experience
;

home

this

is

the

Great Wheel of Evolution, so

relentless
3

when

seen from the standpoint of Matter,

34
SO beauteous
*'

A STUDY IN KARMA

when seen from

the standpoint of Spirits

Life

is

not a cry, but a song."

The Pair of Triplets


Thus we have
in

three factors

in

spirit

for

the

creation of Karma, and three corresponding qualities

we must study these in order to make our Karma that which we would have it be. We may study them in any order, but for many
matter, and

reasons
first,

it

is

convenient to take the cognitive factor


lies

because in that
of choice.
;

the power of knowledge

and

We

can change our desires by the


thoughts,
;

use of thought

we cannot change our


colour
action
is

though
the

we may
analysis

them, by desire
set in

so

in

final

motion

by

thought.

In

the earliest

stages of savagery, as with the

newly born

infant,

action

is

caused by attractions

and repulsions. But almost immediately memory comes in, the memory of an attraction with the
wish to re-experience
sure
it
;

the

memory

of a repulsion

with the wish to avoid


;

it.

thing has given plea-

it

is

remembered,

i.e.,
it

thought about

it is

desired, action to grasp

follows.
is

The

three can-

not really be separated, for there


is

no action which
performed.

not preceded by thought and desire, and which


it is

does not again set them going, after

THOUGHT, THE BUILDER


Action
desire,
is

35

the outer sign of the invisible thought and


in
its

and

very accomplishment gives birth

to a fresh
circle,

thought and desire.

The

three form a

perpetually retraced.

Thought, the Builder

Now

thought works on matter

every change in

consciousness is answered by a vibration in matter, and a similar change, however often repeated, brings
a similar vibration.

This vibration
body.

is

strongest in

the matter nearest to you, and the matter nearest


to you thought,
as
is
it

your

own mental

If

you repeat a
;

repeats the corresponding vibration

and,

when matter has


it

vibrated in a particular
it

way

same way again than to vibrate in a new way, the more often you repeat a thought the more ready the vibrationary
once
is

easier for

to vibrate in that

response.

Presently,
will

after

much

repetition,

tendency
body,

be set up in the matter of your mental


its

automatically to repeat the vibration on


;

own account
in

when

it

does this

since the vibration


in the

matter and the thought in consciousness are in-

separably linked

the

thought appears

mind

without any previous activity on the part of consciousness.

Hence when you have thought over


virtue,

a thing

an emotion, a wish

and

have deliberately

36

A STUDY IN
to the conclusion that

KARMA
it is

come

a desirable thing to^

have that virtue, to

feel that

emotion, to be
to

moved

by that wish, you quietly


habit of thought.

set

work

to create a

You

think deliberately of

it

every morning for a


it

few minutes, and soon you find that


taneously in the
activity of

arises spon-

mind (by the aforesaid automatic matter). You persist in your thoughtyou have formed a strong habit of

creation

until

thought, a habit which can only be changed by an


equally prolonged process of thinking in the opposite
direction.

Even agamst
recurs
to

the opposition of the will

the

thought

the

mind

as

many have
in

found

when they
If

are

unable to sleep

conse-

quence of the involuntary recurrence of a harassing


thought.

you have thus established the you

habit,
;

say, of honesty,

will automatically act honestly

and

some strong gust of desire sweeps you dishonesty on some occasion, the honest habit
if

into
will

torment you as
thief.

it

would never torment a habitual


;

You have
the habit

created the habit of honesty


;

the

thief

has no such habit


is

hence you

suffer

mentally

when
at
all.

broken, and the thief suffers not

Persistence in strengthening such a mental


it

habit until

is

stronger than any force which can


it

be brought to bear upon

makes the
steal
;

reliable

man

he

literally

cannot

lie,

cannot

he has built

himself an impregnable virtue.

THOUGHT, THE BUILDER


By
choose

37

thought, then, you can build any habit you


to

build.

There

is

no virtue which you

cannot create by thought.

The

forces of nature
to use

work with you, for you understand how and they become your servants.
If

them,

you love your husband, your wife, your


find

child,

you

that this emotion of love causes happiness

in those

who

feel

it.

If

you spread the love outwards


results.

to others,

an increase of happiness
for

You,
all,

seeing this and wishful

the happiness of

deliberately begin to think love to others, in an ever

wider and wider

circle,

until

the love-attitude
all

is

your

normal
have

attitude

towards

you

meet.

You
is

created

the

love-habit,

and

have

generalized an emotion into a virtue, for a virtue

only

good emotion made general and perunder law

manent.'

Everything

is

you cannot obtain


by sitting
still

mental

ability

or moral

virtue

and

doing nothing.

persevering thought.

moral

nature
;

You can obtain both by strenuous and You can build your mental and by thinking, for " man is created

what he thinks upon, that he becomes therefore think" on that which you aspire to be, and inevitably it shall be yours. Thus shall you
by thought

become
^

mental

and moral
;

athlete,

and your
in the past

character shall grow rapidly

you made

See The Science of the Emotions by Bhagavan Das.

38

A STUDY IN KARMA
;

the c'haracter with which you were born

you are

and

making now the character with which you will die, will return. This is karma. Every one is bornis

with a character, and the character

the most im-

portant part of karma. The Mussalman says that " a man is born with his destiny tied round his

neck

".

For a man's destiny depends

chiefly

on his

character.

strong

character can overcome the

most

unfavourable circumstances,

and overclimb
character
before
is

the most difficult obstacles.


buffeted

A weak
and
fails

by

circumstances,

the

most

trivial obstacles.

Practical Meditation
The whole
theory of meditation
;

is

built

upon

these laws of thought

for meditation is only deli-

berate and persevering thought, aimed at a specific


object,

and hence

is

a potent karmic cause.

By

using knowledge and thought to modify character,

you can bring about very quickly a desired


If

result.

you were born a coward, you can think yourself


;

brave

if

you were born dishonest, you can think;

yourself honest

if

you were born untruthful, you

can think yourself truthful.


yourself and in the law.

Have confidence
is

in

There

another point

we

must not

forget.
in

Concrete thought finds

its naturaf^-

realization

action,

and

if

you do not act out a

WILL AND DESIRE

39

thought, then by reaction you weaken the thought.

Strenuous action along the


Realize, then, that while

line of the thinking

must

follow the thought, otherwise progress will be slow.

you cannot now help the

character

you were born, while it is a fact which must profoundly influence your present destiny, marking out your line of activity in this life, yet you can, by thought and by action
with

which

based thereon, change your inborn character, eliminate its weaknesses, eradicate its faults, strengthen
its

good

qualities,

enlarge

its

capacities.

You

are
it.

born with a given character, but you can change

Knowledge

is

offered

to

you as to the means of

changing, and each must put that knowledge into


practice for himself.

Will and Desire


Desire and Activity remain to be considered. Will
is

the energy prompting to action, and while

it is

attracted and repelled by outside objects,


desire,

we

call it
is

the lower aspect of Will, as thought


If

the

lower aspect of Cognition.

a man, confronted by
it

a pleasure-giving object, grasps

without thought,

he

is

moved by
**
:

desire

if

he holds himself back,


it

saying
a

must not enjoy


is

now, because
Will.

have

duty to perform," he

moved by

When

the energy of the Self

is

controlled and guided by

40
right reason,
bridled,

A STUDY IN
it

KARMA
it

is

Will

when

rushes out un-

drawn
it is

hither

and

thither

by attractive

objects,

Desire.
;

Desire arises in us spontaneously


thing,

we
and

like

one

we

dislike another,

and our

likes

dislikes

are involuntary, are not under the control of the

Will or of the reason.


for

We

may make up

reasons

them when we wish


the less

to justify

them, but they

are elemental, non-rational, precedent of thought.

None

may

they be brought under control


directly.
;

and changed
brine,
is

though not

Consider physical taste


offered to a child,

an

olive,
is

preserved in

and

generally rejected

with disgust.
olives,

But
like

it

is

a fashionable thing to like


in eating

and young people persevere

them,

determined to
fond of them.
into liking.

them, and presently they are


their disliking

They have changed


is

How
the

the change of taste brought

about

By

action of Will, directed by

the

mind.

The Mastery of Desire

We

can change desires by thought.

The

desire-

nature with which


indifferent,

we

are born
its

is

good, bad, or
in early child-

and

it

follows

own way
it,

hood.

Presently

we examine

and mark some

desires as useful, others as useless or even noxious.


THE MASTERY OF DESIRE
"We then form
a mental

41

image of the desire-nature

which would be useful and noble, and we deliberately set to work to create it by thought-power. There
are

some physical
if

desires

which we see
:

will bring

about disease

left

uncontrolled

eating too
;

much
;

because of the gratification of the palate


alcoholic Jiquors, because they exhilarate

drinking
vivify

and

yielding

to

the

pleasures

of

sex.

We

see in the

persons of others that these cause obesity,tshaken


nerves,

premature exhaustion.

We

determine not

to yield to

them
in,

we

bridle the horses of the senses

with the bits and reins of the mind, and deliberately

hold them

although they struggle;

if

they are

very refractory
the

we

call

up the image

of the glutton,

drunkard, the worn-out profligate, and so create

a repulsion for the causes which

made them what

they are.

And
out

so with

all

other desires. Deliberately

and encourage those which lead to refining and elevating pleasures, and reject those
choose

which There
desire

result

in

coarseness

of

body and you

of

mind.

will be failures in

your resistance, but

in spite

of failures, persevere.

At

first

will yield to the

and only remember too


;

late

that

you had
will arise

resolved to abstain

persevere.

Presently the desire

and the memory


your Kurukshetra

of the

good resolution

together, and there will

be a period of struggle
will

and you
;

sometimes succeed
successes will

and sometimes

fail

persevere.

Then

42
multiply,
desire

A STUDY IN and
failures

KARMA
;

be few

persevere.

Theii

and you watch beside its tomb, lest it should only be entranced, and revive. Finally you
dies,

have done with that form

of desire for ever.

You

have worked with the law and have conquered.

Two Other
1.

Points

Students are sometimes troubled because

their

dreams they yield

to a vice
feel

which down here

they have conquered, or

the stirring of a desire

which
astral

they thought long slain.

Knowledge

will

destroy the trouble.

In a dream, a

man

is

in his

body, and a stirring of desire, too weak ta


the dreamer resist, as he
so,

cause physical matter to vibrate, will cause a vibration


in

astral
if

matter

let

soon will

and the desire remember that Further, will cease. there will be left for some time in the astral body effete matter, which was formerly used when the desire arose, but which is now, from disuse, in
he determines to do
he
should
process of disintegration.
vivified

This may be temporarily


to a

by a passing desire-form and thus caused


This may happen

to vibrate artificially.

man

when he
artificial
it
:

is

either sleeping or waking.

It is

but the

"

movement of a corpse. Let him repudiate Thou art not from me. Get thee gone."

And

the vibration will be stilled.

TWO OTHER POINTS


2.

45
must

The
let

waiTior

who

is

battling with desire

not

his

desire.

Again, thought
desire,

mind dwell on the objects which arouse Thought will is creative.


and
stir it into

awaken
the

vigorous activity.

Of

abstained from action but enjoyed in thought, Shri Krishna sternly said " That deluded
:

man who
is

man

called a hypocrite."

Nourished by thought,
will but

desires cannot die.

They

become stronger
is

by physical repression when fed by thought. It better not to fight desire, but rather to evade it.
it arises,

If

turn the
to

mind

to

something
is

else, to

a book,

a game,
attractive.

anything which

at

once pure and

By

fighting

and thus feeds


that the desire

mind dwells on it, and strengthens it. If you know


it,

the

is

likely to arise,

have ready some-

thing to

which to turn at once.

So

shall

it

be

starved out, having no nourishment of either act


or thought.

Never
because

let

us forget
the

that

objects

are

desirable
is

immanence of God. nothing moving or unmoving that can


of

" There

exist bereft

of Me."
tion
to

At a certain stage of evolution, the attrac-

them makes

for

progress.

Only

later

on

are
it

they superseded.
;

The

child plays with a doll

is well it draws out the germinal mother-love. But a grown woman playing with a doll would be pitiable. Objects of desire draw out emotions whicb They aid in development and stimulate exertion.

44
cease
to

A STUDY IN
be useful
in

KARMA

them, and
mischievous.

when we have grown beyond ceasing to be useful they become


all

The

bearing of

this

on karma

is

self-evident.

Since by desire

we

create opportunities

and

attract

within our reach the objects of desire, our desires

now map
hereafter.

out our opportunities and our possessions

By

harbouring none but pure desires

and wishing
service,

for

naught that cannot be used in


a future
of

we ensure

opportunities for

helping our fellows, and of possessions which shall

be consecrated to the Master's work.

The Third Thread

We
relation

have now to consider how karma works in


to
activity,

the

third
in

aspect of the Self.


affect the

Our

activities

the

ways

which we

outer world of matter

spin the third thread of our


is

karma, and
portant.

in

many

respects this

the least im-

Our thoughts and our

desires, so

soon as

they flow outwards, by producing vibrations in the

mental and astral matter surrounding


creating
specific

us,

or

by

thought-forms and

desire-forms,

become
of
life

activities, are

our action on the outer worlds

and form,
they

of consciousness

and bodies.

The

moment

speed outwards they affect other

things and other people, they are the action, or the

THE THIRD THREAD


reaction,

45-

as the case

the environment.
ourselves, as

may be, of the organism on The reactionjof our thoughts on


seen,
is

we have
;

the building of char-

acter and of faculty


selves
is
;

the reaction of our desires on our-

the gaining of opportunities and objects and of the reaction of our activities on ourselves
is

power

our environment, the conditions and circumstances,


the friends and enemies, that surround us.
nearest circumstance,

The

the expression of part of our


;

past activities,
for us

is

our physical body

this

is

shaped
for

by an elemental specially created


our body
is

the

task

nature's

answer

to

such part of

the
in

sum of our past activities as can be expressed a single material form, and " nature " is here the
of

Lords of Karma, the mighty Angels


the Recorders of the Past.

Judgment,

Two

parts of

karma we
desire-

bring with us
nature, the

our thought-nature and our


we have

germinal tendencies

created in
are

our age-long past.

The

third part of

karma we

born

into, that
;

which

limits our Self-expression

and

constrains us
reacts

our past action on the external world


of our limitations

upon us as the sum

our

environment, including our physical body.


It
is

probable that a close study of past activities


result in a

and present environment would


of details that at present
in

knowledge

we do

not possess.

We read

Buddhist and Hindu Scriptures a mass of details


this

on

subject,

probably drawn from meticulous

46

STUDY

IN

KARMA
we modern
students

careful observation. At present,

Extreme cruelty inflicted on the helpless on heretics, on children, on animals reacts on inquisitors, on brutal parents and teachers, on vivisectors, as physical deformity,
can only affirm a few broad
facts.

more or less revolting and extreme, according nature and extent of the cruelty.

to the

Perfect Justice
From
the physical agony inflicted results physical
for

agony endured,

karma

is

the restoration of the

equilibrium disturbed.

Motive, in this region, does


is

not mitigate, any more than the pain of a burn

mitigated because the injury has been sustained in

saving a child from the


existed,

fire.

Where

a good motive

however

intellectually

misdirected as the

saving of souls from the torture of hell in the case


of the inquisitor, or

the saving of bodies from the

torture of disease in the case of the vivisector

it

has

its full result in

the region of character.

Hence
life

we may
strove to

find a person born deformed, with a gentle


in

and patient character, showing that


see the right

a past

he

and did the wrong.


just,

The

Angels of Judgment are utterly


beside the black thread
less will the black

and the golden

thread of completely misdirected love

may gleam
;

woven by

cruelty

none the

thread draw to the doer of cruelty

PERFECT JUSTICE
a misshapen body.
of

47

On

the other hand, where lust

power and

indifference to the pain of others have


infliction

mingled their baleful influences with the


of cruelty, there will be

found also a mental and


is

emotional twist

a historical case

that of Marat,

who, instead
intensified
it

of

expiating the cruelty of the past,


in the very life in
evil.

by new cruelty

which

he was reaping the harvest of previous


itary

Hered-

and congenital diseases again are the reaction

from past misdeeds.


life will

The drunkard

of a previous

be born into a family in which drunkenness


diseases of the nerves
profligate
will

has
like.

left

epilepsy

and the

The

be born into a family

tainted with diseases which spring from sexual vice. " bad heredity " is the reaction from wrong acti-

vities in

the past.

Often the

man who

is

reaping

these sad harvests shows in his moral nature that he

has purged himself from the


cal

evil,

though the physipatience,

harvesting

remains.

steadfast

sweet enduring content,

tell

that the evil lies behind,

that victory has been gained, though the

sustained in the conflict smart and sting.


a soldier, sorely

wounds So may
remain

maimed

in a fierce battle,
life,

mutilated for the rest of his physical

and yet

not regret with any keenness the anguish and the


loss

which mark that he has gloriously discharged

his duty to his flag.

And

these warriors

who have

conquered

in a greater battle

need not lament too

4.8

A STUDY IN KARMA
the weakness or deformity of a body a strife which
is

bitterly over

which

tells

of

past, but

may wear
no scar

patiently the badge of a struggle with an evil they

have overcome, knowing that


of that struggle shall remain.

in

another

life

Our Environment
The
nation and the family into which a
field suitable for

man

is

born give him the

the development

of faculties he needs, or for the exercise of faculties

he has gained, which are required for the helping


of others at that place

and time.

Sometimes a

strenuous

life

passed in the company of superiors,

which has stimulated latent powers and quickened the growth of germinal faculties, is followed by one
of ease

amid ordinary people,


self.

in order to test the

reality of

the strength acquired and the solidity of

the apparent conquest over

Sometimes, when

an ego has definitely gained certain mental faculties and has secured them as part of his mental equip-

ment by

sufficient

practice,

he will be born into

surroundings where these are useless, and confronted

by tasks of a most uncongenial nature. A man ignorant of karma will fret and fume, will perform
grudgingly
regretfully
his

distasteful

duties,

and

will

think

of his " v/asted talents, while that fool

Jones

is

in

a place which he

is

not

fit

to

fill

"
;

he


OUR KITH AND KIN

49

does not realize Jones has to learn a lesson which


he himself has already mastered, and that he himself

would not be evolving further by repeating over again that which he has already done. In a similar situation, the knower of karma will quietly study his
surroundings, will realize that he would gain nothing by doing that which
to do
i,e,,
it

would be easy

for

him
in

that

which he has already done well

the past

and

will address himself contentedly to

the uncongenial work, seeking to understand what


it

has to teach him, and resolutely setting himself

to learn the

new

lesson.

Our Kith and Kin


So
would
will

also with an ego

who

finds himself entangled

with family responsibilities and duties,


fain

when he
call

spring forward
If

to

answer a

for

helpers in a larger work.


fret against his

ignorant of karma, he

bonds, or even break them, and

thus ensure their return in the future.


of
his

The knower
from

karma

will see in these duties the reactions

own

past activities, and will patiently accept and


;

discharge them
paid,
free,

he knows that when they are fully

they will drop away from him and leave him

teach him which

and that meanwhile they have some lessons to it is incumbent upon him to learn
4

he will seek to see those lessons and to learn them,

so
sure

A STUDY IN

KARMA
make him
answer
thrilling in

that the powers they evoke will


efficient

a more

helper
his

when he

is

free to
is

to the call to

which

whole nature

response.

Again, the knower of karma will seek to establish,


in his nation

and

his family, conditions

which

will

attract to each egos of an advanced and noble type.

He
its its

will

see to

it

that his household arrangements,


its

scrupulous cleanliness,

hygienic conditions,

harmony, good
its

feeling,

and loving-kindness, the and

purity of

mental and moral atmosphere, shall


it

form a magnet of attraction, drawing towards


into

relationship

with

it

egos of a high
if

level,

whether
in bodies,

they

be seeking embodiment
of the

parents are

members

household

young or be already

coming into the family as future husbands

and wives, friends, or dependants. So far as his power extends, he will help in forming similar
conditions in his town, his province, his country.

He knows

that egos

suitable for

must be born amid surroundings them, and that, therefore, by providing


will attract egos of desirable

good surroundings he
type.

Our Nation
With
of

regard to national environment, the knower


carefully study the national conditions

karma must

OUR NATION
into

51

which he
is

is

born,

in

order to see whether

he

born therein chiefly to develop qualities in

which he is deficient, or chiefly to help his nation by qualities well developed in himself. In times of
transition

many

egos

may be born
is

into a nation,

with qualities of the type required in the


tions into

new

condi-

which that nation


in

passing.

Thus, in

America, which will presently develop the beginnings


of

Commonwealth

which co-operation

shall

replace competition, there have been born a

number

of egos of vast organizing ability, of highly developed

will-power,

and

of

keen commercial intelligence


manifesting the

they have created Trusts, organizations of industry


built

with

consummate

ability,

economical advantages of
tion, ing,

doing away with competi-

of controlling production

and supply,

of meet-

but

not over-meeting, demand.

They have
and
the

thus opened the


distribution,

way

to co-operative production
for

and prepared

happier future.
will

Soon

will

be born the egos


of

who

see in

securing

the comfort of the nation a greater

stimulus than personal gain, and they will complete


the transition process
into
;

the one set have gathered


of

head
will

the

forces

individualism

the

other

set

bend these forces to the common

good.

Thus

is

environment governed by karma, and by

a knowledge of law the desired environment

may be

52
created.
it

A STUDY IN
If it grips

KARMA
called into being,

us

when once

is

none the
in

less

ours to decide what that being


that future environment

shall be.
is

Our power over


our hands, for

now
Here

its

creator

is

the activities

of the present.
is

The Light for


who
tions.

Good Man
by unhappy condi-

finds himself surrounded

He
his

has

made

his character,

and he has also

made
of

circumstances.

His good thoughts and


;

desires have

made him what he is the misdirection them has created the environment through whichsuffers.

he

Let

him, then, not be satisfied with


it

being good, but see to


all

also that his influence

on

around him is beneficial. Then shall it react on him as good environment. For instance a mother is very unselfish, and she spoils her son by yielding^ at her own cost, to all his whims, aiding him not at
:

all

to

overcome

his

own

selfish inclinations, foster-

ing the lower nature, starving the higher.

grows up selfish, uncontrolled, the slave of his

The son own

whims and

desires.

He

causes unhappiness in the


it

home, perchance brings upon


This reaction
is

debt and disgrace.

the environment she created by her


it

unwisdom, and she must bear the distresses

brings

upon

her.

KNOWLEDGE OF LAW A
selfish

55

man may, on

the other hand, create for

himself in the future an environment regarded as


fortunate by the world.

With the hope


relief,

of gaining
it

title,

he builds a hospital and equips


sufferers

fully

many

many sick unto death have their last moments soothed, many children are lovingly nursed back into health. The
therein find
reaction from
all this will
;

be easy and pleasant sur-

roundings for himself


the

he will reap the harvest of

physical

good which he has sown.


also

But

his

selfishness

will

sow according

to its kind,

and

mentally and morally he will reap that harvest also,

a harvest of disappointment and of pain.

Knowledge of Law
The knowledge of karma will man to build, as he wills, his own
also

not only enable a


future, but
it

will

enable

him

to

understand the workings of

karmic law in the cases of others, and thus more


effectively

Only by knowledge of law can we move fearlessly and usefully in worlds


to

help them.

where law

is

inviolable, and, secure ourselves, enable

others to reach a similar security.

In the physical

world the supremacy of law

is

universally admitted,
'

and the man who


the
folly,

disregards

natural law
fool.

'

is re-

garded not as a criminal but as a

Equal

is

and more far-reaching,

of disregarding

54

A STUDY IN

KARMA

" natural law " in the worlds above the physical^

and

of

imagining that, while law in the physical


is

world

omnipresent, the mental and moral worlds

are lawless

and

disorderly.
is

In those worlds, as in

the physical, law


of all
is it

inviolable

and omnipresent, and

true

Though the
ing small

mills of

God

grind slowly, yet they grind exceed-

Though with
grinds

patience

He

stands waiting, with exactness

He all.
have seen that our present
is

We
ter,

the outcome of

our past, that by thought

we have

built our charac-

by desires our opportunities


far

of satisfying them,

by actions our environment.

Let us now consider


results
far

how
of

our past,

we can modify in the present these how far we are compelled, how

we

are free.

Two Opposing Schools


In
the

thought of the outer world, quite apart


of

from the ideas


has been

reincarnation and karma, there

and

his

much opposing opinion. Robert Owen school regarded man as the creation of cirof

cumstances, ignoring heredity, that faint scientific


reflection

karma
if

they considered that by changthe

ing

the environment
effectively

man
child

could be changed,

most

the child were taken ere he


;

had
evil

formed

bad

habits

taken

out

of

TWO OPPOSING SCHOOLS


good man.
social

55

surroundings and placed amid good ones would grow


into a
great

The

failure

of

Robert Owen's

experiment showed that bis theory did


all

not
force
**

contain
of

the

truth.

Others,

realizing

the

heredity,

almost

Nature," said

Ludwig Buchner,

ignored environment " is stronger than


is

nurture." In both these extreme views there

truth.

Inasmuch
built

as

the child brings with him the nature

in

his past,

but dons the garments of a


nature, in

new
his

mentality and a
self-created

new emotional
and

which

faculties

qualities exist indeed, but

as germs, not as fully developed powers, these germs

may
lack

be nourished into rapid growth or atrophied by


of

nourishment,

and

this

is

wrought by the
ill.

influence of the environment for good or


over,

More-

the child puts on also the garment of a

new

physical

body,

with

its

own

physical

heredity,

designed for the expression of some of the powers

he brings with him, and this can be largely affected

by his environment, and developed healthily or unhealthily.

These

facts

were on the side

of

Robert

Owen's

theory,

and they explain the successes gained


of

by such philanthropic institutions as Dr. Barnardo's

Homes, wherein germs


germs
in

good are cultured and

of evil

are starved out.


of

But the congenital


none may redeem

criminal,

and beings
life,

that

ilk,

a single

and

these, of various grades, are the

non-successes of the benevolent rescuer.

56
Equally true
that inborn

A STUDY IN
is it,

KARMA

as the opposite school affirmed^


is

character

a force with which every


;

educationalist
ties
evil

must reckon
;

he cannot create facul-

which are not there

he cannot wholly eradicate


surface,
;

tendencies which, below the

throw

out roots, seeking appropriate nourishment

some

nourishment reaches them from the thought-atmosphere around, from the evil desire-forms which arise

from

the

evil

in

others,
in

forms of thoughts and

desires

which

float

the air around, and cannot

wholly be shut out

save by occult means, unknown

to the ordinary educationalist.

The More Modern View


The more modern
and environment
cations
act
scientific

view that organism

and

react

upon each

other,

each modifying the other, and that from the modifi-

new

actions and reactions arise, and so on

perpetually, takes in that

which

is

true in each of

the earlier views

it

only needs to be expanded by

the recognition of an enduring consciousness passing

from

life

to life bringing its past with

it,

ever-grow-

ing, ever-evolving,

and with

its

growth and evolution


in

becoming an ever more and more potent factor


the direction and control of
its

future destiny.
;

Thus we reach

the Theosophic standpoint

we

cannot now help that which

we have brought

with

SELF-EXAMINATION
US,

57

nor can

we

help the environment into which


;

we

have been thrown

but

we can modify
effectively

both, and the

more we know, the more

can we modify,

Self-Examination
The first step is deliberately may call our stock in trade "
**

to

examine what we

our inborn faculties

and

qualities,

good and bad, our powers and our

weaknesses, our present opportunities, our actual

environment.

Our

character

is

that which

is

most
work,
to

rapidly modifiable, and on this


selecting

we should
it

set to

the

qualities

which
take

is

desirable

strengthen, the weaknesses which form our most

pressing dangers.

We

them one by

one,

and

use our thought-power in the

way

before described,

remembering always that we must never think of


the weakness but of
think that which
inevitably,
its

corresponding power.

We

we

desire to be,

and gradually,

we become it. The law cannot fail we have only to work with it in order to succeed. The desire-nature is similarly modified by thought, and we create the thought-forms of the opportunities we need alert to see and to grasp a suitable opportu;

nity,

our

will

also

fixes

itself

on

the forms our

thought creates, and thus draws them within reach,


literally

making and then grasping the opportunities


of the past does not present to us.

which the karma

58

A STUDY IN
Hardest
of
all

KARMA
is

to

change

our environment, for

here
that

we

are dealing with the densest form of matter,


is

on which our thought-force


is

least

potent.

Here our freedom

very restricted, for


is

we

are at

our weakest and the past

at its strongest.

Yet are

we
or

not wholly helpless, for here, either by struggling

by

yielding,

we can conquer
effort,

in the end.

Such

undesirable part of our

change by strenuous
to

change

that

we can we promptly set to work which we cannot thus change, we


surroundings as

accept,
teach.

and

set ourselves to learn

whatever
lesson,
it

it

has to

When we

have learnt

its

will

drop

away from us

like

an outworn garment.
;

We
fulfil

have

an undesirable family

well,

these are the egos


;

we

have drawn around us by our past


obligation cheerfully
;

we

every

and
on

patiently,

honourably

paying our debts

we

acquire patience through the


us,

annoyances they
their

inflict

fortitude

through

daily

irritations,

forgiveness

through their

wrongs.
to

We
off

use them as a sculptor uses his tools,


to

chip

our excrescences and

smooth and
their useful-

polish

away our roughnesses.


is

When
And
who

ness to us

over, they will be

removed by circumso with other

stances, carried off elsewhere.

parts

of

our environment which, on the surface, are


;

distressful
to a

like

a skilful sailor,

trims his sails


forces
it

wind he cannot change and thus

to

carry

him on

his

way, we use the circumstances we

OUT OF THE PAST


cannot
alter

59
in

by adapting ourselves to them

such

fashion that they are compelled to help us.

Thus are we partly compelled and partly free. must work amid and with the conditions which we have created, but we are free within them to

We

work upon them.


inherently
free,

We
but

ourselves, eternal Spirits, are

we can

only

work
created

in

and
these

through the thought-nature, the desire-nature, and


the physical nature, which

we have

are our materials and our tools, and

we can have

none other

till

we make

these anew.

Out of the Past


Another point of great importance to remember
that
is

the
;

karma

of

the

past

is

of

very

mixed

character

we have
running

not to breast a single current,


past,
in

the totality of the

but a stream

currents

various
;

directions,

made up of some
force

opposing us, some helping us

the effective
left

we have
which
to
it

to face,

the resultant

oppositions have neutralized


is

when all these each other, may be one


a

by no means beyond our present power


Face
to

overcome.

face with

piece of

evil

karma from the past, we should ever grapple with striving to overcome it, remembering that it it,
embodies only a part
parts of that past are
of

our past, and that other


us,

with

strengthening and

60

A STUDY IN

KARMA
The
past,

invigorating us for the contest.

present effort,

added to those forces from the


is,

may

be, often

just

enough

to

overcome the opposition.


itself,

Or, again, an opportunity presents


hesitate to take advantage of
it,

and we

fearing

that our

resources are inadequate to discharge


sibilities it

the respon-

brings

but

it

v^ould not be there unless


it

our karma had brought


desire
;

to us, the fruit of a past

let

us seize

it

bravely and tenaciously, and


effort

we

shall

find

that the very

has

awakened

powers slumbering within us, unknown to us and needing a stimulus from outside to arouse them
latent

into activity.
effort in

So many

of our powers, created

by

the past, are on the verge of expression and

only need opportunity to flower into action.

We
think

should always aim at a

little

more than we

we can do

not at a thing wholly beyond our


to achieve
it,

present powers, but at that which seems to be just

out of reach.
strengthen us.
thing

As we work

all

the

karmic force acquired

in the past

comes

to our aid to

The fact that we can means that we have worked for it


little

nearly do a
in the past,
is

and the accumulated strength within us. That we can do a


of doing
forth

of those past efforts

more

and even

if

we

fail,

means the power the power put

to the utmost passes into the reservoir of our

forces,

and the

failure of to-day

means the victory

of to-morrow.

OUT OF THE PAST

61

When
more

circumstances are adverse, the same thing


;

holds good
effort

we may have reached


means
success.
all
:

the point where one

Therefore did Bhishma

counsel

eifort

under
phrase

conditions,
is

and

utter the

encouraging
destiny."

" Exertion
of

greater

than
is

The
in

result

many

past

exertions

embodied
added
to

our karma, and the present exertion


force adequate for the

them may make our

achievement of our aim.

There are cases where the force


the past
is

of the

karma
effort

of

so strong that
to

no

effort of

the present

can

suffice

overbear

it.

Yet should

be
is

made, since few know when one of these cases

upon them, and,


diminishes
that

at

the

worst,

the

effort

made

karmic force for the future.

A
him
is

chemist often labours for years to discover a force,


or an arrangement of matter, which will enable
to achieve a result
at

which he

is

aiming.

He

often thwarted, but he does not acknowledge himself

defeated.
;

He

cannot change the chemical

elements

he cannot change the laws of chemical


;

combination
there
lies

he accepts these ungrudgingly, and

" the sublime patience of the investi-

gator".

But

the

knowledge of the investigator,


point where

ever-increasing by virtue of his patient experiments,


at last touches the
it

enables him ta

bring about the desired result.


spirit

Precisely the

same
;

should be acquired by the student of karma

62

A STUDY IN

KARMA

he should accept the inevitable without complaint,


but untiredly seek the methods whereby his aim

may be

secured, sure that his only limitation

is

his

ignorance, and that perfect knowledge must


perfect power.

mean

Old Friendships
Another fact of the greatest importance
are brought by
is

that

we

karma into touch with people whom known in the past, to some of whom we we have owe debts, some of whom owe debts to us. No man
treads his long pilgrimage alone, and the egos to

whom
him
tion
in

he

is

linked
all

by many

ties

in

common

past come from

parts of the world to surround

the present.

We

have

known someone
service,

in the past
;

who

has gone ahead of us in evolu-

perchance

we then

did

him some

and a karmic tie was formed. In the that tie draws us within the orbit of his

present,
activity,

and we receive from outside us a new impulse of force, a power, not our own, impelling us to listen
and
to obey.
of such helpful

Many

karmic links have we seen

within the Theosophical Society.

Long, long ago.

He who is now the Master K. H. was taken prisoner in a battle with an Egyptian army, and was generously befriended and sheltered by an Egyptian of

WE GROW
high rank.
for

BY GIVING

63
needed

Thousands

of years later, help is

the

nascent

Theosophical

Society,

and the

Master, looking over India for one to aid in the


great work, sees His old friend of the Egyptian

and
the

other

lives,

now Mr.

A.

P. Sinnett,

editing

leading

Anglo-Indian

newspaper,
;

The

Pioneex.

Mr. Sinnett goes, as usual, to Simla

Mme.
;

Blavat-

sky goes up thither, to form the link


is

Mr. Sinnett

drawn within the immediate influence of the Master, receives instruction from Him, and becomes the author of The Occult World and of Esoteric

Buddhism, carrying

to thousands the

message

of Theosophy.
in

Such

rights

we win by
while

help given

the past, the right to help in higher ways and


effects,

with further-reaching
also helped

we

ourselves are

by the tightening of ancient links of


service, royally

friendship

won by

recompensed by

that priceless gift of knowledge, gained by one

and

shed abroad for many.

We Grow
reaction are equal,
all

by Giving

In truth, in this world of law, where action and


help which
ball
is given comes thrown against a wall

back to the giver, as a

bounds
selfish

back to the hand of the thrower.


;

That
give

which we give returns to us


reason,
it

hence, even for a


give,

is

well

to

and

to

64
abundantly.
*'

A STUDY IN

KARMA
To

Cast thy bread upon the waters, and


it

thou shalt find

after

many

days."
it

give,

even

from a

selfish motive, is

good, for

leads to an inter-

change of worthy human


giver and receiver

feelings,

by which both

grow and expand, so that the


gift at first

Divine within each has opportunity of larger expression.

Even though the

calculation

" He

be a matter of

that

hath
:

pity
look,

upon the poor

lendeth unto the Lord


out,
it

and

what he layeth

shall

be paid him again "

yet gradually the

love evoked shall

make

future giving spontaneous


shall
lives.

and

unselfish,

and thus karmic links of love


in the long series of

bind ego to ego

human

All personal links, whether of love or hate,


of the
past,

grow out
return^

and

in

each

life

we

strengthen the ties

that bind us to our friends

and ensure our


all ties of

together in the lives that


build

lie in front.

Thus do we
blood, and

up a true

family, outside

return to earth, over and over again to knit closer

the ancient bonds.

Collective Karma
Before completing this imperfect study
consider what
is

we must
collec-

termed Collective Karma, the com-

plex into which are woven the results of the


tive

thoughts,

desires

and

activities

of

groups,

whether large or small.

The

principles at

work are

FAMILY KARMA

65

the same, but the factors are far more numerous,

and

this

multiplicity

immensely increases the


group as a larger

diffi-

culty of understanding the effects.

The
vidual

idea
is

of considering a

indi-

not alien from modern science, and such

larger individuals generate

karma along
are
all

lines similar

to those

which we have been studying.


a

family, a

nation,
viduals,
its

sub-race, a

race,

but larger indiit,

each having a past behind

the creator of
it,

present, each

with a future ahead of

now

in

course of creation.
individual
special

An ego coming

into such a larger


;

must share in its general karma his own karma has brought him into it and must be
it,

worked out within

the larger

karma

often offering

conditions which enable the smaller to act.

Family Karma
Let
us consider the collective karma of a family.

The

family has a

thought-atmosphere of

its

own,

into the

colouring of which enter family traditions


of regarding the external

and customs, family ways


family honour.
of the family will
built

world, family pride in the past, a strong sense of


All the thought-forms of a

member
and

be influenced by these conditions,


of
years,

up perhaps through hundreds


moulding,
colouring,
all

shaping,
desires

the

thoughts,

and

activities of

the individual newly born

66
into
it.

A STUDY IN KARMA
Tendencies
'*

in

him that

conflict with family


all

traditions will be suppressed,

unconsciously to

him
for

the things

a fellow cannot do " will have


;

him

no

attraction

he

will

be

lifted

above

various temptations,

and the seeds

of evil
in

which
will

such temptations might have vivified


quietly atrophy away.

him

The

collective

karma

of the

family will provide him with opportunities for distinction,

open out avenues

of usefulness, bring
life,

him
his

advantages in the struggle for


success.

and ensure
tie

How
?

has

he come into conditions so


be by a personal with some
in a previous

favourable

It

may

one already there, a service rendered


life,

a bond of affection, an unexhausted relationship.


circle,

This avails to draw him into the


then profits

and he
which
of

by the various karmic


ability,
left

results

belong to the family in virtue of


of the courage,

its collective past,

usefulness of

some

its

members, that have

an inheritance of social

consideration as a family heirloom.

Where
born into

the family karma


it

is

bad the individual

suffers, as in

the former case he profits,


hinders, as in the former

and the
instance

collective
it

karma

promoted, his welfare.


cases
the individual will usually have

In both
built

up

in

himself characteristics which

demand
tie,

for

their full exercise the

environment provided by
or

the

family.

But a very strong personal

NATIONAL KARMA
unusual service, might, without
into a family wherein
this,

67

was

his

beneficiary,

draw a man and so


had
special act

give

him an opportunity which,


deserved,

generally, he
this

not

but

had won by

of his past.

National Karma
Let us think on the collective karma of a nation.

Face
tively

to

face with
for

this,

the individual

is

compara-

helpless,
this,

nothing he can do can free him


sails to
it

from

and he must trim his

as best

he may.

Even
and

a Master can but slightly modify

national karma, or change the national atmosphere.

The

rise

fall

of nations are brought about

by

collective

karma.

Acts of national righteousness or

of national

criminality, led

up

to

by noble or base,
ideals, bring

thinking, largely directed

by national
national

about

national

ascent

or

descent.

The

actions of the Spanish Inquisition, the driving of

the

Jews

and

of

atrocious cruelties

Moors out of Spain, the accompanying the conquests of


the
all

Mexico and Peru

these were national crimes

which
position

dragged
of

Spain

down

from
it

its

splendid

power and reduced

to

comparative

powerlessness.

Seismic changes

or

earthquakes,

volcanoes, floods

national catastrophes like famine and plague,

68
all

A STUDY IN
are cases

KARMA
by

of collective karma, brought about

great streams of thoughts and actions of a collective


rather than an individual character.

As with a family, so with a nation

to a

much

greater degree, will there be an atmosphere created

by

the

nation's

past

and

national

traditions,

customs, view-points, will exercise a vast influence

on the minds

of all

who

dwell within the nation.

Few

individuals can free themselves wholl}^ from

these influences and consider a question affecting

the nation without any bias, or see


point other than that of their
largely arise international

it

from a stand-

own

people.

Hence
of

quarrels

and suspicions,
the

mistaken

views,

and

distorted

opinions

motives of another nation.

Many
the

a war has broken

out in consequence of the differences in the thought-

atmospheres
batants,

surrounding

prospective
are multiplied

com-

and these

difficulties

when
as,

the nations spring from different racial stocks,


say,

the Italians and the Turks.


in

All the
is

knower

of

karma can do
that

these cases

to realize the fact

and views are largety the product of the larger individuality of his nation and to check
his opinions
this

bias as

much

as he can, giving full weight to

the

views

obtained

from the standpoint of the

antagonistic nation.

When
national

man

finds

himself

in

the

grip

of

karma which he cannot

resist

say that he


INDIA'S
is

KARMA

69

member
study

of

a conquered nation

be

should

calmly
national

the

causes which have led to the

subjugation, and should set to work to

remedy
opinion
causes.

them,
along

endeavouring
lines

to
will

influence eradicate

public

which

these

India's

Karma
East and West

There was an

article published in

Mr.
not

Malabari's

paper

some
said
it

time ago on the

national

karma

of

India,
in
It

which was an admirable


that

example of the way


be regarded.
of

which national karma should

was

the national

karma
have
accept
of

India was that

should be conquered
^

obviously true, else the conquest of India would not

taken
its

place

and

that

it

should
try to

therefore

lot

of service,

and not

change any
wrong.
they

the

existing
of

conditions

as
:

obviously

The knower

karma would say

The Indians were


;

not the original possessors of this country

came down from Central


subduing
servitude
;

Asia, conquering the land,

its

then peoples, and reducing them to


years

during thousands of

they con-

quered and ruled, and they generated a national

karma.

They trod down the conquered tribes, and made them slaves, oppressing them and taking advantage of them. The bad karma thus made

70

A STUDY IN

KARMA
in

brought down upon them

turn

many

invaders.

Greeks, Mughals, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English

they

all

came, and fought, and conquered, and


the lesson of

possessed.

Still

karma has not been

learned, though the millions of the untouchables are

a standing proof of the wrongs inflicted on them.

Now

the Indians ask for a share in the government

of their

own

country, and they are hampered by this

bad national karma.


for

Let them, then, while asking

the growth of freedom for themselves, atone to

lifting

them social freedom and them in the social scale. A national effort must remove this national evil, and do away with a conthese untouchables by giving

tinuing

cause of national weakness.

India must

redeem the wrong she has done, and cleanse her hands from oppression so shall she change her
;

national karma, and build the foundation of freedom.

Karma will work for freedom and not when the karma generated by oppression into the karma made by uplifting and

against
is

it,

changed

respecting.

Public feeling can be changed, and every

man who
is

speaks graciously and kindly to an inferior


to

helping

change it. Meanwhile karma has brought them

all

whose own individual


nation should

into the

recognize facts as they are, but should set to work to

change those that are undesirable.

National karma

may

be changed, like individual karma, but as the

causes are of longer continuance, so must be the

NATIONAL DISASTERS
effects,

71

and the new causes introduced can only slowly modify the results outgrowing from the past.

National Disasters
The karma which
brings about seismic catastroits

phes and other national disasters includes in


vast numbers of individuals

whose

special

sweep karma

contains sudden death, disease, or prolonged physical suffering.


It
is

notice the

way

in

and instructive to which people who have not such


interesting

karmic

liabilities

are called

away from
number

the scene of
it

a great catastrophe, while others are hurried into

when an earthquake
will

slays a

of people there

be cases of

'*

miraculous escape "

one called
and

away by

a telegram, by urgent business, etc.

of equally miraculous tossing of victims into the

place in time for their slaying.

If

such calling away

proved to be impossible, then some special arrange-

ment

at

the

moment guarded from death


the
like.
is

a beam
to-

keeping

off falling stones, or

When

a natural catastrophe

impending, people

with appropriate individual karma are gathered


or the great earthquake

gether in the place, as in the flood at Johnstown,


Pa.,

and

fire at

San Fran-

cisco.

In an earthquake in the north of India a few

years ago, there were

some victims who had posted


be killed.

back

in

hot haste

to

Others

left

the

72
place

A STUDY IN
the night before
local

KARMA
be saved from death.
off particular

to

The
is

catastrophe

is

used to work

karmas.

Or

a carriage taking a

man

to the station

stopped

in
is

street

block,

and he misses the


is

train.

He
is

angry,
It

but the train


is

wrecked

and he
there in

saved.

not that the block was

order to stop him, but that the block was

utilized for the purpose.

At Messina some

who were
life

not to die were dug out days afterwards, and in

more than one case food had come


brought by an astral agent.
safety or death

to maintain

In shipwrecks, again,

will depend on individual karma. Sometimes an ego has a debt of sudden death to
it

pay, but

has not been included in the debts to


;

be discharged during the present incarnation


presence
collective
in

his

some accident brought about by a karma offers the opportunity of dis".

charging the debt " out of due time


prefers
to
seize

The ego

the opportunity and to get rid of


his

the

karma,

and

body

is

struck

away with

the rest.

How THE Ego


Individual
characteristics

Selects
developed in one
life

life

may
Thus

bring their owner in another


offers

into a nation
exercise.

which

peculiar facilities for

their

man who had developed

a strong concrete

ENGLAND'S KARMA

73

mind, apt for commerce, say, in the vaishya (merchant) caste in India,

may

be thrown

down

into the

United

States

of

America, and there become a

Rockefeller.

In his
is

new
will

personality he will see that

vast wealth

only tolerable

when used

for national

purposes, and

he

carry out in America

the

vaishya ideal that the

man who

has gathered huge

wealth becomes a steward in the national household,


to distribute wisely for the general benefit the stores

accumulated as personal possessions.


ideal
will

be planted in the midst of a


will

Thus the old new civili-

zation,

and

spread abroad

through another

people.

England's Karma

colonizing nation, like England, will often be


of

guilty

much

cruelty

in

the seizing

of lands

belonging to the savage tribes that the colonists

Thousands perish prematurely during the conquest and subsequent settlement. These have a karmic claim against England collectively,
drive out.
as well as the debts due from the actual assailants.

They

are

drawn

to

England and take

birth in her

slums, providing a population of congenital criminals, of

non-moral and feeble-minded people.


to

The debt due


of

them by the summary


existences

closing

their

previous

should

be

paid by

74

A STUDY IN KARMA

education and training, thus quickening their evolution

and

lifting

them out

of their natural savagery.

The French Revolution


The
them
upon
collective selfishness

and indifference

of the

well-to-do towards the poor and miserable, leaving


to fester in

overcrowded slums, among degradbring

ing and evil-provoking surroundings,

down
in

themselves

social

troubles,

labour unrest,
to

threatening

combinations.

Carried
of Louis

excess

France during the reigns

XIV and

Louis

XV,
direct

this

same

selfishness

and indifference were the

causes of

destruction of

French Revolution, of the the Crown and of the nobility.


the
to

Taught by Theosophy
karmic law
in

see

the workings of

the history of nations as well as in

that of individuals,
national welfare

we should be forces making for and prosperity. The strongest karis

mic cause
true
for

is

the power of thought, and this


for

as

nations as

individuals.

To

hold up

A Noble National Ideal


is

to set

going the most powerful karmic force, for

into such an ideal the thoughts of

many

are ever
influx.

flowing,

and

it

becomes stronger by the daily

Public opinion continually changes under the flow

A NOBLE NATIONAL IDEAL


of
its

75
is

influences,

and reproduces that which


its

constantly held up for

admiration.

The thoughtand

force accumulates until


lifts

it

becomes

irresistible,

the whole nation upwards to a higher level.


of

The knowers
consciously,

karma can work


of

deliberately

and
be-

sure

their

ground,

sure

of

their

methods, relying on the Good Law.

Thus they

come conscious
which works

co-operators

with the Divine Will


filled

in evolution,

and are

with a deep

peace and an unending joy.

Printed by D. V. Syamala Rau, at the Vasanta Press,

The Theosophical

Society,

Adyar, Madras.

BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY

3 9999 06561 078 2

.,^.933

X>P^'-^