3rd in our list of Key Concepts "Theosophical Tenets" is Karma.  We will take two weeks to look over the quotes gathered on the Universal Theosophy page.  Starting with these words from WQJ.

“Although at first it may appear that nothing can be more fatalistic than this doctrine, yet a little consideration will show that in reality this is not the case. Karma is twofold, hidden and manifest, Karma is the man that is, Karma is his action. True that each action is a cause from which evolves the countless ramifications of effect in time and space.

“‘That which ye sow ye reap.’ In some sphere of action the harvest will be gathered. It is necessary that the man of action should realize this truth. It is equally necessary that the manifestations of this law in the operations of Karma should be clearly apprehended.

“Karma, broadly speaking may be said to be the continuance of the nature of the act, and each act contains within itself the past and future. Every defect which can be realized from an act must be implicit in the act itself or it could never come into existence. Effect is but the nature of the act and cannot exist distinct from its cause. Karma only produces the manifestation of that which already exists; being action it has its operation in time, and Karma may therefore be said to be the same action from another point of time. It must, moreover, be evident that not only is there a relation between the cause and the effect, but there must also be a relation between the cause and the individual who experiences the effect.”

— William Quan Judge, from the article Karma

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APHORISMS ON KARMA

(1) There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effects.

(2) Karma is the adjustment of effects flowing from causes, during which the being upon whom and through whom that adjustment is effected experiences pain or pleasure.

(3) Karma is an undeviating and unerring tendency in the Universe to restore equilibrium, and it operates incessantly.

(4) The apparent stoppage of this restoration to equilibrium is due to the necessary adjustment of disturbance at some other spot, place, or focus which is visible only to the Yogi, to the Sage, or the perfect Seer: there is therefore no stoppage, but only a hiding from view.

(5) Karma operates on all things and beings from the minutest conceivable atom to Brahma. Proceeding in the three worlds men, gods, and the elemental beings, no spot in the manifested universe is exempt from its sway.

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(4) The apparent stoppage of this restoration to equilibrium is due to the necessary adjustment of disturbance at some other spot, place, or focus which is visible only to the Yogi, to the Sage, or the perfect Seer: there is therefore no stoppage, but only a hiding from view.

Are there students who might help to explain this one?

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One possible explanation:  

The phrase "apparent stoppage" implies there may be times when we feel that a particular karmic action has exhausted itself when in truth it has not.  This could be 'positive' or 'negative' karma. Human relationships and interactions are highly complex at any one point in time let alone across long periods of time. Restoration to equilibrium of all the inter-related causes set in motion just between human beings must be even more complex in its operation.  Therefore karmic adjustments to all of this do not necessarily (perhaps cannot) happen all at once, in one place or to one person or group.  It may be that adjustments in one or more particular places and time needs to happen before another adjustment some where else (to another person, group etc) can begin or be completed.  For as long as the karma has not been exhausted it remains forever a potential force hidden from us but visible to the Sage or perfect Seer.

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Is the term Nidana, the chain of causation, another word for karma?  I am just wondering if there is any difference between the two.

Thank you.

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I believe they are different concepts or at least have many differences.  Karma is the balancing activity of divinity one might say.  In Buddhism the Nidanas are the causes of existence, 12 in number which include things like the senses and a personality.  Nidana is a deep and difficult concept in Buddhism, and I am no expert, but I don't think it is a substitute concept for Karma. 

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Hi Barbara, 

I’m not sure we could say that the Nidanas are Karma, as such - it depends on how we are using the term ‘karma’. We could say that collectively they are an example of the law of Karma in action.  Each is a particular type of cause which generates a particular kind of effect, which in its turn acts as a cause producing a further effect & so on.   The result is suffering and bondage which accompanies the endless cycle of birth and death - the Wheel of Samsara, in short.  The 12 Nidanas are more easily understood when these 12 links in the chain are seen to operate over more than one lifetime - usually three.

As you know, the 12 Nidanas are associated with the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.  On the one hand they explain the causes which lead to suffering: these are second and first noble truths respectively.  At the same time they give a clue to the path leading to the cessation of suffering: these being the third and fourth noble truths respectively.

They are sometimes referred to as The Chain of Dependent Origination, which essentially means ‘if this, then that.’  In other words, each link in the chain of cause and effect necessarily leads to the next & so on.  Hence that underlying formula to the way out of suffering is ‘if not this, then not that’, which should be applied to each link of the chain.

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Thank you for the explanation in regards to the difference between Nidanas and karma.

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Thank you Peter.  That is helpful.  It made me think that often we act as part of group and the karma created might in some way require the group to be present to experience the consequences, this could hold up or delay the flow perhaps.

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Thank you Peter.  Sounds sort of like escaped water pooling up before if finds another low point to descend towards the ocean.

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I would imagine that the Seer or Yogi wouldn't be limited to the isolated or singular viewpoint; a type of viewpoint which can only see things in isolation, or in a form of separateness. 

Karma -  a vast, ever-changing, eventually equilibriating mathmatical formula.  I wish I were better at math!  

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"2) Karma is the adjustment of effects flowing from causes, during which the being upon whom and through whom that adjustment is effected experiences pain or pleasure."

One question here would be how the above aphorism applies to aphorism no. 5

"(5) Karma operates on all things and beings from the minutest conceivable atom to Brahma. Proceeding in the three worlds men, gods, and the elemental beings, no spot in the manifested universe is exempt from its sway."

In what sense does an atom, for example, experience pain or pleasure?  Or Brahma?  Is the reference to pleasure and pain meant to apply to everything from the smallest atoms up to Brahma, or is it relevant to only some of the kingdoms of nature?

Similarly, Karma is often stated to be a moral law.  We might therefore ask in what sense do atoms, for example, transgress a moral law?  Yet HPB also states that even a tree has its karma, so the same question applies there in relation to Karma being a moral law.  We find some useful statements from HPB in the Collected Writings that have a bearing on this question:

"No one will maintain that minerals and plants have any moral responsibility. Neither have animals, children, idiots or the insane any such moral responsibility."

CW VI 236

"The law of Karma is a moral law, and where no moral responsibility exists, there can be no application of the law of Karma; but the law of cause and effect applies to all departments of nature."

CW VI 237  

The reason that the above ‘beings’ in CW VI 236 have no moral responsibility is said to be due to the fact that Manas, (specifically the Higher Manas) is not present in them.  It has yet to be awakened in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms.  It does not fully connect with a child until around the age of seven years.  It is stunted, blocked or simply completely absent in the case of the congenital idiot.  Manas alone is the moral agent in the human being and it is the Higher Manas that is held responsible for the actions of its alter ego (the personality) during the life-time.  This is the rationale behind karmic effects coming into play in the future incarnations of the Higher Ego/Manas, even though it has a ‘new’ personality to work through.

It seems, then, that there are two aspects of karma, as HPB states in the passage above - CW VI 237.  These are:  

1) The general law of cause and effect which "applies to all departments of nature."  Every thing which acts in the realm of becoming generates a cause which has an effect.  Without this general law of cause and effect nothing would grow; there would be no developmental progress of any kingdom of nature nor of any individual entity within it. Without this very general law of cause and effect we would not be able to boil the water to make a cup of tea.

2) The Law of Karma as a moral law which applies specifically to moral agents - those beings in whom Manas is both awakened and connected (at least in some potentially reflective fashion) to its vehicle during incarnation.  We might say that it is this moral law (not the general law of cause and effect) which is meant when Karma is referred to as the Law of Retribution or the Law of Merit and Demerit.

It is just these two aspects of karma that HPB warns us not mix up in her brief article on Karma, from which the above two quotes were taken.  She states:  

“The error often committed, is to mistake the general law of cause and effect for the law of merit and demerit.”

CW VI 236

It seems to me that whenever we read and reflect upon statements about Karma we need always to keep in mind these two aspects and ask ourselves, ‘which one of these does this statement refer to?’

I wonder that "the error often committed", as HPB refers to it, arises for the simple reason that human beings, unlike the other kingdoms of nature referred to, are subject to both the general law of cause and effect as well as the the Law of Retribution. Since both of these are referred to by the general term, i.e. "Karma", the error is easily made unless we pause to reflect.

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The term moral comes from the latin moralis having to do with proper behavior and conduct.  The term has a distinctly human connotation probably due to the fact that it requires choice which therefore requires manas.  Cause and effect would apply to a plant or rock but the law of retribution seems inappropriate to apply to these life forms.  Rocks and plants follow instinct and therefore cannot deviate from the pattern laid out before them.  Human beings on the other hand can engage in the law of cause and effect in a way that can deviate from a larger harmonious plan and therefore to restore equilibrium effects that cause "pain" or "suffering" provides impetus for corrective action.  Pain and suffering is part of the sentient experience.  Growth requires suffering, a destruction of one form to give birth to a new one.

"Pain and suffering" of this nature are part of a divine dance of incarnation or embodiment, which by definition means separation of some sort.  Plants suffer, animals suffer but it is an outside agency you might say.  Only a thinking, choosing being can elongate or initiate additional suffering perhaps.  Some thoughts to add to this provocative subject and the engaging comments given here by fellow students.

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Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on October 19, 2014 at 5:18pm
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APHORISMS ON KARMA

(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what is the ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.

(7) For all other men Karma is in its essential nature unknown and unknowable.

(8) But its action may be known by calculation from cause to effect; and this calculation is possible because the effect is wrapped up in and is not succedent to the cause.

(9) The Karma of this earth is the combination of the acts and thoughts of all beings of every grade which were concerned in the preceding Manvantara or evolutionary stream from which ours flows.

(10) And as those beings include Lords of Power and Holy Men, as well as weak and wicked ones, the period of the earth’s duration is greater than that of any entity or race upon it.

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 24, 2014 at 6:04am
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It is sometimes said that everything that happens to us, without exception, is the result of the karma (as in Law of Retribution or Compensation) that we have set in motion in previous lives.  This raises an interesting issue regarding the relationship between individual free will and karma. 

If everything that happens to me in this life, without exception, is the result of karma I have created in past lives, to what extent are those about me free in their actions towards me?  They may well believe they are acting freely in their dealings with me - whether for good or ill.   However, can that be the case if their actions or inactions in relation to me are, in fact, determined by causes set in motion in the past by me? The same question would arise with regards to my actions towards others.  If my actions are their karma then to what extent am I free to act, to make choices in relation to other beings?  

How might we resolve this issue between notions of free will on the one hand and 'everything that happens to me/us is “my/our karma” on the other'?  Or, should we not take such statements quite so literally?  Are there other factors we need to take into account?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on October 25, 2014 at 9:37am
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Hi Peter:

Interesting questions.  A few thoughts came to mind as I read your post.

It is helpful to remember the physical world is nothing more but a reflection of the inner - the plane where we see the effects of our actions and reactions.  It is probably true the circumstances where we find ourselves is a result of our individual or/and collective karma.  However, we have "Free will" in the way we handle any situation that comes within our periphery.   We are presented with a choice in any situation as to whether we want to perpetuate our past pattern or choose a new one.  It is important to note that Karma is not static but a dynamic force.   We create new as well as exhaust old patterns continually;  otherwise, we are locked in the past and there is potential for growth or evolution. 

If we shift our focus of the questions from the physical to the inner planes, it may be give us a clue since the outer is nothing more than a world of concretized thoughts, we then can explore the root causes.  It is not karma that is that determines our lives but our character.  Karma is one of the inexorable laws through which we create our destiny.  By knowing someone's character, we have a pretty good idea how the person reacts to any predicament.  Free will lies in our thoughts which expresses itself in our actions and reactions, and we can exercise this freedom in every moment of our lives.

Ghandi said it so well - Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny. — Mahatma Gandhi

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 27, 2014 at 11:08am
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Barbara writes: “…how we handle any situation that comes within our periphery is the moment where "free will" comes in.   We have a choice to perpetuate our past pattern or choose a new one.  Karma is not static but a dynamic force and we create new as well as exhaust old patterns continually.”

I think this is a really good statement, Barbara, which has some important implications.  If we are able to exercise free will in our actions that would suggest that at least some of our acts are not merely the acting out of our past karma.   If we are able to exercise acts of free will (good or bad) in relation to others that would also mean that at least some of our acts are also not an acting-out of their past karma (i.e. the karma which is due to them).  This is turn would suggest that some things that happen to us are not related to previous karma created by us.

There may also be such things as accidents which are not part of the karma due to a person or group.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 27, 2014 at 11:45am
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These two aphorisms are relevant to the question too.

(12) Karmic causes already set in motion must be allowed to sweep on until exhausted, but this permits no man to refuse to help his fellows and every sentient being.

(13) The effects may be counteracted or mitigated by the thoughts and acts of oneself or of another, and then the resulting effects represent the combination and interaction of the whole number of causes involved in producing the effects.

It forms an image of waters flowing into various pools.  Streams can be directed into these pools to alter their composition to some degree.

Permalink Reply by Don Petros on October 30, 2014 at 3:07pm
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I've been thinking along these same lines lately, Peter.  I think you're right about how words can confuse understanding.

I believe at any given present moment we're both: a) subject to (or the effect of) our past actions (Karma), and b) available to exercise our free will.  Both conditions simultaneously effect the present.  I think I have the ability now (and only now) to shape my future Karma via my present free will.  I see that what happens now is the confluence of past (Karma), present (free will) and the future (Karma, plus the results of my present activity of free will).    

What do you think - is there free will?  Can we act freely without the effect of Karma? 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 30, 2014 at 11:32pm
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Could part of the answer to this cunundrum lie in our concept of time?  When was a cause initiated, when is the effect experienced?  It raises questions about past and future and what is the present.

(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what is the ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.

(7) For all other men Karma is in its essential nature unknown and unknowable.

Everything that happens is happening for reasons, causes if you will.  Those causes could be in the hoary past or the microsecond a moment ago.

At the mysterious moment called now, choices can be made that will effect the future. This is a law we are told we can trust. No man must by definition necessarily be the agent by which some karma of the past manifests.  One can choose not to be that agent.  It might not stem the karma, it might be delivered in some other way by some other agent but the "other person" can choose to remain unentangled. These are some thoughts on the subject.

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 31, 2014 at 7:52am
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Don and Gerry - thanks for your valuable thoughts.  

I believe each of us has the power of choice and the potential to make informed choices.  What we mean by “free will” is a question in itself and raises all kinds of problematic issues.   I imagine it depends, in part, on what we mean by “free” and whether our “willing” is about our choices, our actions or both together.  For example, we may believe we are still free to choose even when our freedom to act is curtailed. Others might argue that is no freedom at all.

Some say that “free will” necessarily entails a choice that is not determined in any way by other factors such as the past, other people, events, our own psychological conditioning & so on.  We may experience ourselves as ’free’ in our moments of choosing.  However, our family, friends and colleagues may see our choices and behaviour as rather predictable and already have a good idea of what we’ll choose before we’ve even thought about it. What kind of freedom of choice can we claim for ourselves if our behaviour is so predictable to others?

My own question about ‘free will’ in relation to karma was really meant as an indirect way of exploring the question, ‘Is everything that happens to us literally our own past karma coming back to us?”  If our pasts and therefore the present life are tied together karmically, such that our behaviour is or will become the karmic retribution (‘good’ or ‘ill’) for those others with whom we are in relationship - and vice versa - what happens if we change our ways (for ‘good’ or ‘ill’)?  

The ability to choose means that it is possible to change and thereby my ‘new’ actions towards another will not fulfil the expected karma due to that person - again, for ‘good’ or ‘ill.  Instead they will experience something (perhaps only briefly, perhaps far longer) which is not the result of their own past karma.  It is this latter possibility that I wanted to raise for exploration. Of course, my ‘new’ actions create fresh karma for myself and that other person.  Meanwhile the original karma that was due to them through me may well have to come from somewhere or someone else, as Gerry has pointed out.

(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what is the ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.

I can understand that we would say that the “Law” itself may not be subject to time, rather it transcends it.  But wouldn’t we say that its operations in so far as we talk about creating karma and karma discharging itself, or when we talk about  ‘your karma’, ‘our karma’ etc - these aspect of karma are subject to time? After all, there are no effects that happen before their causes.  The karmic effects that follow the ego into devachan are determined by the prior actions of the Ego during the life-time, as is the karma of the next incarnation.  We have a similar flow of cause and effect over time in aphorism no. 9:

(9) The Karma of this earth is the combination of the acts and thoughts of all beings of every grade which were concerned in the preceding Manvantara or evolutionary stream from which ours flows.

“Time” normally implies cycles of activity and rest, periodicity etc. We would probably need to know what Judge meant by "subject to time".

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 11, 2014 at 8:43pm
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One might say the universe is governed by Law and the cosmic computer is making its calculations incessantly.  Freedom and Fate are relative terms on a continuum.  There are degrees of freedom and degrees of determination in each event and moment.  The Law works out the sums.  Human beings can work with the Law to effect the future but do not have total freedom of choice because of constraints created from past events and choices. Nothing is entirely pre-determined either because at the very least a human being can CHOOSE how to respond to events, Choose the attitude to deal with it.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on October 26, 2014 at 1:04pm
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(11) Because the Karma of this earth and its races began in a past too far back for human minds to reach, an inquiry into its beginning is useless and profitless.

(12) Karmic causes already set in motion must be allowed to sweep on until exhausted, but this permits no man to refuse to help his fellows and every sentient being.

(13) The effects may be counteracted or mitigated by the thoughts and acts of oneself or of another, and then the resulting effects represent the combination and interaction of the whole number of causes involved in producing the effects.

(14) In the life of worlds, races, nations, and individuals, Karma cannot act unless there is an appropriate instrument provided for its action.

(15) And until such appropriate instrument is found, that Karma related to it remains unexpended.

(16) While a man is experiencing Karma in the instrument provided, his other unexpended Karma is not exhausted through other beings or means, but is held reserved for future operation; and lapse of time during which no operation of that Karma is felt causes no deterioration in its force or change in its nature.

(17) The appropriateness of an instrument for the operation of Karma consists in the exact connection and relation of the Karma with the body, mind, intellectual and psychical nature acquired for use by the Ego in any life.

(18) Every instrument used by any Ego in any life is appropriate to the Karma operating through it.

(19) Changes may occur in the instrument during one life so as to make it appropriate for a new class of Karma, and this may take place in two ways: (a) through intensity of thought and the power of a vow, and (b) through natural alterations due to complete exhaustion of old causes.

(20) As body and mind and soul have each a power of independent action, any one of these may exhaust, independently of others, some Karmic causes more remote from or nearer to the time of their inception than those operating though other channels.

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 27, 2014 at 11:22am
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Reflections on “Karma.”

I hope members won’t mind if I share some of my own thoughts on Karma.  I’ll do this over a series of posts, so that each is not too long.  I’ll use this title - Reflections on “Karma” - so that if you’re not interested in reading these thoughts you can by-pass the post before you get drawn into the content.

To summarise some of the points from recent posts and statements from HPB:

1. We have a general law of cause and effect which operates on all beings and all kingdoms of nature in the universe from the smallest atom to the highest gods. (This is the simple meaning of the term “karma”, which means “action” or cause and effect.) 

2. We also have Karma as a moral law, the Law of Retribution.  This operates in respect to moral agents only, i.e. those sentient beings in whom Manas or Mind is awakened.  (Moral agents also have ‘free will.’)

HPB states that it is a common mistake for people to confuse these two laws - see Collected Writings VI 236.

The notion of the general law of cause and effect (no.1) is found in the various fields of science, western philosophy, some spiritual traditions as well as Theosophy. This law simply states that everything that currently exists is the effect of some prior cause or causes, and that there is a chain of inter-dependent causes and effects that go back in time indefinitely.  

At one level the statement that everything which is is the result of the totality of the past is quite superficial. Can anyone point to any thing or any event which does not have a preceding cause, or any cause that was not the effect of some earlier cause or causes?  It’s something we take for granted without thinking about it. It only becomes profound when we reflect on some of the implications of that simple truth and on whether there is a originating cause of All - a cause which isn’t itself an effect of some preceding cause.  

What distinguishes “karma” as the general law of cause and effect (no. 1) from Karma as the moral Law of Retribution (no. 2) is that the former doesn’t necessarily entail that the effects of any single cause or string of causes should return to its originator, while the latter certainly does entail that proposition as its most significant feature.  

According to Theosophical teaching, Karma as the moral Law of Retribution operates with the central aim of eventually restoring all disturbances to the harmony of the universe back to equilibrium.  It does this by bringing the forces created by such disturbance back to their originating point, where they are resolved. The originating point being the moral agent which set them in motion.  

Harmony and equilibrium doesn’t necessarily imply inaction.  The many instruments of an orchestra can play in harmony according to the laws of music. Equilibrium simply means a state in which opposing forces are balanced.  

From the above it follows that it is possible for a “moral agent” to act according the general law of cause and effect (no. 1) but in such a way that is in harmony with universal Law.  Such actions are still causes which have effects but don’t generate the kind of karmic effects associated with the moral Law of Retribution (no.2).   In our recent studies in the Bhagavad Gita group we have seen Krishna advise Arjuna in a similar way.  Arjuna is advised to act (to do his duty) rather than refrain from action. Clearly his actions will have consequences (effects), for it is only by action that he will overcome his enemies which in turn will produce a string of further causes and effects.  However, Arjuna is also taught that if such action is in harmony with the universe, he will remain free of the consequences. We might interpret this as meaning that if he can do his duty (dharma) indifferent as to whether the results benefit him or not, and… if his actions are in harmony with universal law he will not create the kind of karmic effects arising from Karma as the Law of Retribution. Such action based on wisdom - and it must take wisdom to know what is in harmony with universal law - is referred to as Buddhi-Yoga in the Gita.  (See Bhagavad Gita study sections on TN - chapters 2 and 3.)

The 3rd Fundamental Proposition of the Secret Doctrine states that each spiritual soul (Buddhi) makes progress by “self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma)…”  We might see both of our laws operating here.  There can be no progress unless “efforts” lead to real effects (the general law of cause and effect operating).  At the same time each spiritual soul or Buddhi is checked in its progress by the moral aspect of the Law of Karma. In other words it’s progress under the general law of cause and effect also depends on the ability to act in harmony with the whole.

To be continued…

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on October 27, 2014 at 12:05pm
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Peter, no problem.  Please share your thoughts.  Doing it in doses is a good idea. If you can find logical stopping points for each statement it will allow us to follow along and comment.

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Permalink Reply by barbaram on October 28, 2014 at 7:59am
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"We might interpret this as meaning that if he can do his duty (dharma) indifferent as to whether the results benefit him or not, and… if his actions are in harmony with universal law he will not create the kind of karmic effects arising from Karma as the Law of Retribution."

If I look at this logically, it would seem that the karmic effects, whether it is based on the moral or general law, still takes place because forces were set in motion.  The only difference is the reaction to the results.     

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 30, 2014 at 9:05am
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Reflections on "Karma" (part 2)

I’m interested in exploring the differences between the general law of cause & effect and the moral Law of Retribution, which HPB refers to in the above posts and which normally go by the term “karma.’ Will it give us a better understanding of the teachings on Karma and its operations?

It sometimes said that Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion is analogous to karma as in the Law of Retribution, for Newton’s law states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Well, that sounds a bit like Karma and it’s easy to see how that could be interpreted and put into the ‘new age’ language of “what goes around comes around.”

What Newton is saying, though, is something quite different. Newton states in his 3rd law that ‘force’ always works as a pair of forces. What happens, for example, when we pick up a large ball in both hands and throw it ahead of us? There is the force we use to make the ball travel forward. The ball also exerts a equal reaction force on us in the opposite direction. This sounds strange because we normally see the ball move while we stay in the same place. That’s because the ground on which we stand also exerts a force on our body which counteracts the force from the ball and thus prevents us moving. However, if we were wearing roller-skates or ice-skates and we threw the same ball we would likely experience ourselves moving backwards in the opposite direction to the ball.

If an astronaut floating in outer space performed the same action the result would be the ball and the astronaut heading off in the opposite directions in space indefinitely. This 3rd law of motion is why a rocket carrying the astronaut gets into space in the first place. The rocket’s engines push down on the ground and the reaction force of the ground on the rocket pushes it up into the air with an equal amount of force in the opposite direction.

With this understanding, Newton’s law of equal and opposite reaction doesn’t seem quite so analogous to the operations of karma as it appeared to initially, especially if we consider the definition given by HPB of Karma as a ‘restorative’ law:

“We describe Karma as that Law of re-adjustment which ever tends to restore disturbed equilibrium in the physical, and broken harmony in the moral world.” (Key to Theosophy 205)

It seems that any analogy from the physical world of causes that we use to understand Karma as "the Law of Retribution" needs to include an illustration of "what happens next?"  In other words, it needs to be able to illustrate by way of analogy how the later events and forces set in motion of, say, a ball crashing through a window are brought back to bear on the originating source or cause of the force(s) set in motion.

Continued…

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on November 11, 2014 at 8:36pm
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Fascinating.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on October 28, 2014 at 10:14pm
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(21) Karma is both merciful and just. Mercy and Justice are only opposite poles of a single whole; and Mercy without Justice is not possible in the operations of Karma. That which man calls Mercy and Justice is defective, errant, and impure.

(22) Karma may be of three sorts (a) Presently operative in this life through the appropriate instruments; (b) that which is being made or stored up to be exhausted in the future; (c) Karma held over from past life or lives and not operating yet because inhibited by inappropriateness of the instrument in use by the Ego, or by the force of Karma now operating.

(23) Three fields of operation are used in each being by Karma: (a) the body and the circumstances; (b) the mind and intellect; (c) the psychic and astral planes.

(24) Held-over Karma or present Karma may each, or both at once, operate in all of the three fields of Karmic operation at once, or in either of those fields a different class of Karma from that using the others may operate at the same time.

(25) Birth into any sort of body and to obtain the fruits of any sort of Karma is due to the preponderance of the line of Karmic tendency.

(26) The sway of Karmic tendency will influence the incarnation of an Ego, or any family of Egos, for three lives at least, when measures of repression, elimination, or counteraction are not adopted.

(27) Measures taken by an Ego to repress tendency, eliminate defects, and to counteract by setting up different causes, will alter the sway of Karmic tendency and shorten its influence in accordance with the strength or weakness of the efforts expended in carrying out the measures adopted.

(28) No man but a sage or true seer can judge another’s Karma. Hence while each receives his deserts appearances may deceive, and birth into poverty or heavy trial may not be punishment for bad Karma, for Egos continually incarnate into poor surroundings where they experience difficulties and trials which are for the discipline of the Ego and result in strength, fortitude, and sympathy.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on October 30, 2014 at 10:55pm
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Last group of aphorisms

(29) Race-Karma influences each unit in the race through the law of Distribution. National Karma operates on the members of the nation by the same law more concentrated. Family Karma governs only with a nation where families have been kept pure and distinct; for in any nation where there is a mixture of family — as obtains in each Kaliyuga period — family Karma is in general distributed over a nation. But even at such periods some families remain coherent for long periods, and then the members feel the sway of family Karma. The word “family” may include several smaller families.

(30) Karma operates to produce cataclysms of nature by concatenation through the mental and astral planes of being. A cataclysm may be traced to an immediate physical cause such as internal fire and atmospheric disturbance, but these have been brought on by the disturbance created through the dynamic power of human thought.

(31) Egos who have no Karmic connection with a portion of the globe where a cataclysm is coming on are kept without the latter’s operation in two ways: (a) by repulsion acting on their inner nature, and (b) by being called and warned by those who watch the progress of the world.