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Editorial 8

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From the very beginning the modern Theosophical movement has regarded it as among its main task to bring and spread the doctrines of karma and reincarnation to the western world. In the east these have been taught since ages and now form an inherent part of the mind of hundreds of millions of easterners. Much has happened since the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875, when these concepts were practically unknown to the western world. The reason for this was not-at-all to arise people’s curiosity of who they were in a past life or what they were doing then. That would only caress the ego. It was meant to create a general awareness among the people that there is something eternal, something everlasting, some logical sequence which could not be explained by materialism alone. The purpose was, not only to give consolation for those hundreds of millions who fear eternal hell or absolute non-being after death (thus rendering life absolutely senseless), but rather to proof that there is something beyond mere mundane existence with its joys and sufferings. That there is a continuity of consciousness, and that there is something much more worth to live for than the outer world we are all used to. The continued existence of the individuality and karma form the basic of ethics.

Along with the doctrine of reincarnation the doctrine of karma was offered to the west. It is the law of universal justice, of a cause and effect relation in which all aspects (not only the material) of man and the cosmos, of all beings and events ever are united. This happened more than a hundred years ago. Why should we write an editorial about it in 2013? It is because the doctrine of karma, which is the subject now, has only partly been understood and been and is often misinterpreted. For some people, ‘karma’ has almost become the same as ‘destiny’ of ‘fate.’ Often karma has been understood (also in the east) as an alibi to allow suffering ‘because it is your own karma.’ For many it has become a faintly understood theory which differs little from the scientific idea of ‘pure chance.’ Because, so we say, when we have a problem, a disease, we don’t know the cause anyway; so what difference does it make whether the problem is caused by chance or by the devil or some evil spirit, or by a germ or virus or karma? One would say: “Is my suffering justice … well than we live in a cruel, godless universe! … I don’t want to live in such a universe.” or “Can we call the universe ‘just’ at all, if we are punished for what we do not even remember (from a former life) and that, in our ignorance perhaps, we tehn did with the best of intentions?” Too often we say: “Oh, well, it’s my karma, I’ll have to accept it; maybe I’ll have to learn something.” Of course it is karma, but such a statement adds no value to our understanding. Of course one can never escape the situation in which one finds oneself today, whether brought about by chance or by karma or the devil or a voodoo. This does not cover the main meaning of karma. One can just as well say, “God wills it thus” and God or Allah is all-wise. True. But God or Allah is not an external being under whose lofty but unintelligible knowledge and wisdom we have to suffer according to His will. That does not fit in with the idea of God’s Love or Allah’s Mercy.

Sometimes karma has been interpreted as a mere mechanism, an automatism, linking a particular cause with a fixed effect: ‘one has stolen, so one will be stolen from, probably in the same quantity, corrected for inflation.’

Nowadays in the West, the karma idea has become quite a bit eroded. Sometimes I think that the West is not spiritually ripe enough to understand it. The intention is not to create apathy or to let one walk away from a deed of mercy when its need presents itself on our path. On the contrary. Karma, from the Sanskrit stem kri, means work, action. In the earlier days of the Vedas it was merely regarded as ritual action, bringing about particular chosen results. Later the meaning was extended so that karma means any action, either by the body and speech or by the mind.

Every action leaves an imprint, consciousness, subconsciousness and superconscious. The record is registered rather automatically by beings which have been called ‘karmic scribes’ (Chitragupta with his lipika (‘notulists’) in India, Toth and the assessors in the Egyptian book of the Dead, and others names apply elsewher). These records are made in a substance called ākāśa or aether, etc. That is why no action or thought, aspiration or emotion is ever lost. But there the (semi-)automatism of karma ends. Karma reaches the innermost being of the actor or thinker, and is there received by the higher intelligence of the soul. It is weighed against Truth, and ‘judged’ as to how far it is in harmony with the true workings of the cosmos by the inner god. As Compassion is the Law of laws, says the sacred (esoteric) Buddhist text known in English as The Voice of the Silence our actions and thoughts are weighed against Truth and truthfulness as well as to compassionate content – to use these human terms useful for our age. The inner self of each of us knows our task, our destiny, our dharma, and adjusts the events to occur before our consciousness accordingly. Accordingly we will experience out future, in this life, but mainly in future lives, when circumstances are proper for its elaboration.

If we would live in our higher self, our higher mind, we would completely know and understand why our karma is as it is, and would be infinitely grateful. Because it is we ourselves, in that our higher nature, which chooses the path. Much of what we call suffering in our common life, would not be suffering at all. If we listen, during our life to the inner Voice of the Silence, which whispers justice and compassion, we can avoid all ‘wrong’, i.e. untrue and uncompassionate action, feeling and thought. We can then build up our own divinity quickly.

Karma means: we make ourselves. We cause our future nobility. Each of us can make him or herself into a saint, a beneficiary of the future. Our future strength, our future environment and challenges are all determined by our present determination and practice. We are self-made man, and will be reborn as self-made man. Genetics is but an issue at the side-line. We are immortal and determine the quality of our own future while influences those around us. The knowledge of karma turns us into fearless Heroes of the Spirit – mahāvīras as called in Sanskrit. When rightly understood we lose all pettiness and self-complaint, as well as cruelty and indifference towards the sufferings of others. All beings make themselves as measured against their inner god. All desires lead to some form of expression needed to meet and experience the next challenge on our cosmic pilgrimage. Thus evolution and karma are one and the same. Our personal consciousness may have no part in most of it – only there where our daily active consciousness needs it. Most of karma takes place on the invisible planes, under guidance of our higher being or inner god.

In worldly affairs study may lead to scholarship, smoking to disease, business to wealth. But these are only for this present physical life. Karma tells us in the first place to work for our further future, lifetime after life-time, race after race, cycle after cycle.

Because we are all interconnected by prāṇic (energetic) threads as well as one in divine essence and thus constantly influence each other mentally emotionally and spiritually we also have ‘group-karma’ in all measures with the other beings we are especially connected with. Thus there is a country-karma, a family-karma, a social group karma, etc. Humanity has a particular group karma as humanity. Therefore even wars and natural disasters.

An aspect of the talk about karma giving rise to misunderstanding is that we can rise ourselves above karma. Sometimes we are told that mere membership or initiation in some spiritual sect is enough to ‘make no new karma’. True, when we have complete understanding of the divine in us, we are saved from karma of the human level. This will take time and effort though. But even the gods act. The Universe would cease to exist if ‘He’ (Kṛṣṇa) ceases to act for a moment, we find in the Bhagavad Gītā.

Another misunderstanding with regards to karma is that we can get rid if it by prayer or mantra. To a certain extend we can. Karma has an active, energetic aspect which can be counteracted. It can be postponed our broken into fractions. Some schools of Buddhists continuously practice mantra yoga for this purpose, and Jains for example practice artificial austerities ‘to get rid of karmas.’ Others beg their gods. Is this courage? Do we wish to escape the lessons presented to us by our innermost divine wisdom for ease sake? Is there no reason why the details of how karma works are hidden for anyone less than a Buddha? A true great soul does not escape his or her karma. He or she knows that Wisdom and Compassion are behind karma, and that karma is our greatest teacher in the daily practice of Theosophy. It has been a truly compassionate initiative of the ‘invisible’ founders behind the outer founders of the modern Theosophical movement to bring this doctrine to humankind at a time when at least some among us can understand its essence. Only through karma can the immortal reincarnating ego (center of consciousness) reach true godhood.

It is for this reason that Daily Theosophy regularly publishes articles about this subject on its page called Karma. You will see Theosophical articles appear as well as articles about karma from Native American, Jain, Buddhist and other points of view.