THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 10, August, 1962
(Pages 467-471; Size: 13K)


STUDENTS find "Karma" everywhere and in everything associated with theosophical researches. There are times when its ramifications threaten to do away altogether with synthesis. What is a simple, practical definition?

Karma is that Law of readjustment which ever tends to restore disturbed equilibrium in the physical world, and broken harmony in the moral. In other words, physically it is action; metaphysically, the Law of Retribution, the Law of cause and effect or Ethical Causation.

Can it be said why harmony and justice stand equated in all these considerations?

Harmony in the physical and mathematical worlds of sense, is justice in the spiritual one. Justice produces harmony, and injustice, discord; and discord, on a cosmical scale, means chaos -- annihilation.

What would be a less than cosmic illustration of such "inharmonic injustice"?

If there is a developed immortal spirit in man, it must be in everything else, at least in a latent or germinal state, and it can only be a question of time for each of these germs to become fully developed. What gross injustice it would be for an impenitent criminal man, the perpetrator of a brutal murder when in the exercise of his free will, to have an immortal spirit which in time may be washed clean of sin, and enjoy perfect happiness, while a poor horse, innocent of all crime, should toil and suffer under the merciless torture of his master's whip during a whole life, and then be annihilated at death. Such a belief implies a brutal sense of injustice, and is only possible among people taught in the dogma that everything is created for man, and he alone is the sovereign of the universe -- a sovereign so mighty that to save him from the consequences of his own misdeeds, it was not too much that the God of the universe should die to placate his own just wrath!

The point is plain enough. But are there not many people who believe their sins can be washed away in "Purgatory"?

Evil deeds committed here on the objective plane could not with any scientific or moral propriety be punished on a plane which is purely subjective.

We read: "There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces." Is "design" an attribute in the sway of Karma?

Karma neither punishes nor rewards, it is simply the one universal Law which guides unerringly and, so to say, blindly, all other laws productive of certain effects along the grooves of their respective causations.

But it is taught that Nemesis pursues the evil-doer to the bitter end, is it not?

Nemesis only in one sense, that of bad Karma. There is the Karma of merit and the Karma of demerit.

In spite of all the force and logic of ancient wisdom, are there not some hundreds of millions of Occidentals who still prefer taking their chances with, or placing their hopes of salvation and future life upon, the pronouncements of the Vicars of our Western Churches?

Hitherto the world has received nothing but sophistry -- believed on blind faith. We ask palpable, tangible evidence of their God's justice and mercy. But all are silent; no answer, no reply, and still the inexorable unerring Law of Compensation proceeds on its unswerving path. If we but watch its progress, we will find that it ignores all creeds, shows no preferences, but its sunlight and its thunderbolts fall alike on heathen and Christian. No absolution can shield the latter when guilty, no anathema hurt the former when innocent.

What do you mean by "universal Law guiding unerringly all other laws"?

Karma is the ultimate Law of the Universe; the source, the origin, and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature.

Is Karma the same as "Deity" or the Creative Logoi? (The strange statement is often made that "we" are Karma.)

According to The Bhagavad-Gita, "Karma is the emanation which causes the existence and reproduction of creatures." It is, so to say, the action of the Supreme which is seen in manifestation throughout the evolution of the objective worlds.

But is not Karma to be thought of as Intelligence at work?

It is "Life's eternal way of action." Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently, and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer.

Does "Karmic retribution" mean literally "an eye for an eye"?

Karma does not act in this or that particular way always. But it always does act so as to restore harmony and preserve the balance of equilibrium, in virtue of which the universe exists.

Is it to be presumed that different peoples or systems view Karma differently?

In orthodox Buddhism it is the eleventh Nidana (cause) of the "chain of causation," Samskara. Yet it is the power that controls all things, the resultant of moral action -- the metaphysical Samskara or the moral effect of an act committed for the attainment of something which gratifies a personal desire.

Regarding man's life, what is the application in a general sense of this "chain of causation"?

His body is to grow and mature, wear out, and die; his mind unfold, ripen, and be harmoniously balanced; his divine Spirit to illuminate and blend easily with the inner man. No human being completes its grand cycle, or the "circle of necessity," until all these are accomplished.

When one dies, what insures that he will return to life again? What is the scientific argument for one's continuity?

When a being dies, he emits, as it were, a mass of force or energy, which goes to make up the new personality when he shall have reincarnated. In this energy is found the summing up of the life just given up, and by means of it the Ego is forced to assume that sort of body among those appropriate circumstances which together are the means for carrying out the decrees of Karma.

Does this mass of force or energy comprise the groups of attributes and tendencies, by the Buddhists referred to as "Skandhas" in their chain of causation?

It is the latter, the metaphysical personations of the "deeds" of man, whether good or bad, which, after the death of his body, incarnate themselves, so to say, and form their many invisible but never-dying compounds into a new body, or rather into an ethereal being, the double of what man was morally.

And this "new ethereal being" is ...?

It is the "astral body" of the kabalist and the "incarnated deeds" which form the new sentient self as his Ahankara (the ego, self-consciousness), the personal "I."

Is it ever possible to trace one's karma to specific acts, back to "effect-producing causes" of a past existence?

We who are not Seers or Initiates, cannot know anything about the details of the working of the law of Karma. "Those who know" can do so by the exercise of powers which are latent even in all men. We do not know the ultimate Cause of Karma, just as modern philosophy universally admits that the ultimate Cause of anything is "unknowable."

Can the human family as a unit be said to have its bad or punishable Karma?

This cycle is known as the dark one. It is dark because spirituality is almost obscured by materiality and pure intellectualism. Revolving in the depths of material things and governed chiefly by mind apart from spirit, its characteristic gain is physical and material progress, its distinguishing loss is in spirituality. In this sense it is the Kali Yuga.

Then separate or individual Karma is conceptual rather than factual, if it exists at all?

Every atom is subject to the general law governing the whole body to which it belongs, and here we come upon the wider track of the Karmic law. It is impossible that Karma could readjust the balance of power in the world's life and progress, unless it had a broad and general line of action. It is held as a truth among Theosophists that the interdependence of Humanity is the cause of what is called Distributive Karma, and it is this law which affords the Solution to the great question of collective suffering and its relief.

Is there not a bit of conceit in the person who thinks he can help everybody -- large as the world is?

It is an occult law that no man can rise superior to his individual failings without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part.

Is it possible to make a beginning toward "overcoming Karma"?

If you have the power to face your own soul in the darkness and silence, you will have conquered the physical or animal self which dwells in sensation only.

How is it that the elemental world has become a "strong factor in the Karma of the human race"?

In the earlier ages, when we may postulate that man had not yet begun to make bad Karma, the elemental world was more friendly to him than now, because it had not yet received unfriendly impressions. But as soon as man began to become ignorant, unfriendly to himself and the rest of creation, the elemental world began to take on exactly the same complexion and returned to humanity the exact pay, so to speak, due for the actions of humanity. Thus, being unconscious and only acting according to the natural laws of its being, the elemental world is a powerful factor in the workings of Karma.

Under what law or procedure can that earlier, more favorable rapport be caused to return?

As soon as men begin to cultivate brotherly feelings and love for the whole of creation, there and then the elementals begin to take on the new condition.

There is much concern today that the demands of earth's populations, estimated at six billions of souls by the end of this century, are destined to be inadequately met. Is such concern justified?

When every individual has contributed to the general good what he can of money, of labor, and of ennobling thought, then, and only then, will the balance of national Karma be struck. And until then we have no right nor any reasons for saying that there is more life on the earth than Nature can support. It is reserved for the heroic souls, the Saviours of our Race and Nation, to find out the cause of this unequal pressure of retributive Karma, and by a supreme effort to re-adjust the balance of power, and save the people from a moral engulfment a thousand times more disastrous and more permanently evil than the like physical catastrophe, in which you seem to see the only possible outlet for this accumulated misery.

According to our teaching, all the great social evils, the distinction of classes in Society and of the sexes in the affairs of life, the unequal distribution of capital and of labour -- all are due to what we tersely but truly denominate KARMA.

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(1) NOTE.--Answers collated from standard Theosophical sources.
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