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Theosophical Tenets: Karma

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Theosophical Tenets: Karma

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
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    “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

    • Profile photo of Jon Fergus
      Jon Fergus
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Jon FergusJon Fergus

      “That which ye sow ye reap.”

      My question is: what does it mean to “sow”? What causes us to create something that will later need to be reaped? Does any thought or action do this? Is it the intention that matters?

      • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
        Ramprakash ML
        Participant
        Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

        To the question of Jon Fergus :

        “What does it mean to sow ?” Action, thought, intent ?

        A thought in response :

        It appears that Thought is the real plane of action, and intent or motive determine the moral quality of action–ie., the good and evil results that ensue.

        Inasmuch as we are Eternal Thinkers, we are ceaselessly in action, generating Karma, and reaping what we generated, through endless cycles of rebirth.

        “No one ever resteth a moment inactive. Every man is involuntarily urged to act by the qualities which spring from nature.”

        Spirit, Purusha, is invested with and involved in Prakriti, Nature (the three qualities), and it is his self-identifying attachment to the latter which is the cause of his cycles of rebirth in good and evil wombs, says Krishna in the XIII chapter of the Bhagavadgita.

        Unless, and till,  one learns to dissociate, through discrimination and dispassion, Self from non-Self, and arrive at the state of freedom from being swayed by Qualities and pairs of opposite, one is caught up in the network of one’s own self-made destiny.

        “Such is thy Karma, the Karma of the cycles of thy birth, and the destiny of those, who in their pain and sorrow, are born along with thee to rejoice and weep from life to life, chained to their previous actions.” (Voice) (Not verbatim, but as remembered)

         

         

        • Profile photo of Laura
          Laura
          Participant
          Profile photo of LauraLaura

          To discern the Real within in the midst of all the thoughts swirling about brings to mind the herculean task of first plowing the field, then planting the seeds, then slaying the army that grows up from the field.  In the Voice of the Silence we read that we must kill out all thoughts and have One Thought.  What is One Thought?

          • Profile photo of James
            James
            Participant
            Profile photo of JamesJames

            Hi Laura, does this help

            Perform your actions for Me and with thoughts fixed on Me; untainted like the sky,
            See yourself within your self;
            Consider all beings as Myself and adore them;
            Bow to everybody, high or low, great or small kind or cruel; by seeing Me constantly in all,
            Rid yourself of jealousy, intolerance, violence and egoism.
            Casting aside your pride, prestige and sense of shame, fall prostrate in humility before all, down to the dog and ass.
            This is the knowledge of the learned, the wisdom of the wise — that man attains the Real with the unreal and the Immortal with the mortal.

            -Krishna to Uddhava

            • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Profile photo of James James.
            • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Profile photo of James James.
            • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Profile photo of James James.
          • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
            Gerry Kiffe
            Moderator
            Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

            Laura, another thought on your question. The Voice of the Silence comes out of the Buddhist tradition and therefore when the “mind” is mentioned it frequently means “lower mind” or “kama-manasic mind” as opposed to Buddhi Manas in theosophical nomenclature. “The mind is the great slayer of the Real, let the disciple slay the slayer.”   This is a good example, I believe, of where the Voice is clearly talking about desire mind or lower mind.  Many people in the New Age movement erroneously confuse the two and wrongly advocate turning the mind off. (Which is impossible to do if you ever try it.)  Mindlessness and passivity are walking backwards in the spiritual life.  Theosophists are encouraged to elevate the mind, purify thoughts, establish concentration and work towards making the lower mind a vehicle for the Higher Nature rather than “the being in charge” calling all the shots.

            • Profile photo of Peter
              Peter
              Moderator
              Profile photo of PeterPeter

              Gerry, while agreeing with your general point, well made, we shouldn’t assume that ‘the mind’ in Mahayana buddhism frequently means the lower mind or kama-manas of Theosophy. The teachings on mind and consciousness in those teaching are quite complex and many different types of mind and mental factors are referred to and explained. The essential teaching on the nature of mind itself is that it is clear light. The clear or clarity nature of mind is sometimes related to space in that in itself it is unbounded, without form and without obstruction. The light aspect of mind relates to luminosity, in the sense of knowing – it is the source of all knowing, whether mundane or direct spiritual cognition. Hence the mind is sometimes referred as clear light or clear and knowing. Transient mental states may arise and pass away within the field of mind, but its essential and pure nature ever remains, even though obscured by ignorance and the gross mental factors.

              This mind, which is clear and knowing, is sometimes described as a mental stream ever renewing itself from moment to moment – this is in line with the teachings on annica (change) in buddhism. While the notion of an independent self or ego existing by way of its own power is rejected in buddhism, it is the continuity of this stream of pure consciousness which is seen as linking all our lives together. For any one person the mind stream underpinning their existence is always that stream and never any other. The Dalai Lama states that there is nothing that can stop this continuum going forward nor undermine its essential nature (see ‘From Here to Enlightenment’) It is the potentiality within this mental stream that enables a person to become a Buddha. What needs to be removed or destroyed are the adventitious stains, which are the mental states of grasping, ignorance and the like, not the mind itself. Indeed, as the Dalai Lama explains, this cannot be removed.

              In the Key to Theosophy HPB quotes a passage from Olcott’s work on ‘Buddhism’ to explain the difference between the Individuality or Reincarnating Ego (Buddhi-Manas) and the personality. The links with the above are obvious.

              “The successive appearances upon the earth, or ‘descents into generation,’ of the tanhaically coherent parts (Skandhas) of a certain being, are a succession of personalities. In each birth the PERSONALITY differs from that of a previous or next succeeding birth. Karma, the DEUS EX MACHINA, masks (or shall we say reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again as an artisan, and so on throughout the string of births. But though personalities ever shift, the one line of life along which they are strung, like beads, runs unbroken; it is ever that particular line, never any other. It is therefore individual, an individual vital undulation, which began in Nirvana . . .and leads through many cyclic changes back to Nirvana. Mr. Rhys-Davids calls that which passes from personality to personality along the individual chain ‘character,’ or ‘doing.’ Since ‘character’ is not a mere metaphysical abstraction, but the sum of one’s mental qualities and moral propensities, would it not help to dispel what Mr. Rhys-Davids calls ‘the desperate expedient of a mystery’ (Buddhism, p. 101) if we regarded the life-undulation as individuality, and each of its series of natal manifestations as a separate personality?” (The Key to Theosophy, p134, emphasis added)

               

              ~

              • Profile photo of barbara
                barbara
                Participant
                Profile photo of barbarabarbara

                “Hence the mind is sometimes referred as clear light or clear and knowing. Transient mental states may arise and pass away within the field of mind, but its essential and pure nature ever remains, even though obscured by ignorance and the gross mental factors.”

                Hi Peter:

                The description of the mind as clear light in Buddhism reminds me of the Yoga Sutras I, 41 which it describes the mental state when the fluctuations of the mind cease.

                “In the case of one the transformations of whose mind have been annihilated, the complete identity with one another of the cognizer, the cognition and the cognized, as well as their entire absorption in one another is brought about, as in the case of a transparent jewel.”

                Is there something similar in Theosophy where it describes the “higher mind?”

                • Profile photo of Peter
                  Peter
                  Moderator
                  Profile photo of PeterPeter

                  Barbara, I wonder if that passage from Patanjali relates more to lower manas?  If we recall from our earlier studies, lower Manas is described as a ray of Higher Manas.  In itself it is pure but gets mixed up with kama and the energies of the psyche forming what we call the personality and kama-manasic mind.  Using Patanjali’s terms we might say it becomes modified by the various vrittis which ‘colour’ the mind.  When these vrittis are stilled, the mind becomes clear and transparent again. It is like the crystal which when held near a red cloth becomes red & so on. The underlying notion seems to be that this mind, in itself, is capable of taking on the form of any object brought before it (mental or otherwise), but first the modifications of the mind (the vrittis) need to be still.  These are the first steps in samadhi – the mind become one with its object of meditation.

                  Perhaps the most similar connection between the clear light nature of the mental stream in Mahayana Buddhism which remains for ever pure and Theosophy is the that of the Monad itself in its aspect as the sutratman:

                  “It stands to reason that a Monad cannot either progress or develop, or even be affected by the changes of states it passes through..” (SD I 174)

                  There are other reasons to connect these two but that would require more posts which would take us even further from our original topic.

                   

                  ~

                  • Profile photo of barbara
                    barbara
                    Participant
                    Profile photo of barbarabarbara

                    Peter, Thank you for the explanation.

          • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
            Pierre Wouters
            Moderator
            Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

            I don’t know if this will answer your question, as it is more a matter of intuition than a intellectual understanding, but I think some of HPBs other comments in the Voice seem to correspond with your quote:
            p. 18
            “Merge into one sense thy senses, if thou would’st be secure against the foe. ‘Tis by that sense alone which lies concealed within the hollow of thy brain, that the steep path which leadeth to thy Master may be disclosed before thy Soul’s dim eyes.”
            or p. 12
            “The seventh swallows all the other sounds. They die, and then are heard no more.”

            One could thus say that as all the senses have become united in their one sense or source, as do the sounds, so the thoughts are heard no more as they have become One Thought or perhaps as the Dzogchen say, One Taste.

            • Profile photo of Mark Casady
              Mark Casady
              Participant
              Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

              No specific reply on this – just a potentially relevant addition to the notion of multiple planes and the mind:

              “Three spirits live and actuate man,” teaches Paracelsus; “three worlds pour their beams upon him; but all three only as the image and echo of one and the same all-constructing and uniting principle of production. The first is the spirit of the elements (terrestrial body and vital force in its brute condition); the second, the spirit of the stars (sidereal or astral body — the soul); the third is the Divine spirit (Augoeides).” Our human body, being possessed of “primeval earth-stuff,” as Paracelsus calls it, we may readily accept the tendency of modern scientific research “to regard the processes of both animal and vegetable life as simply physical and chemical.” This theory only the more corroborates the assertions of old philosophers and the Mosaic Bible, that from the dust of the ground our bodies were made, and to dust they will return. But we must remember that

              ” ‘Dust thou art, to dust returnest,’
              Was not spoken of the soul.”

              Man is a little world — a microcosm inside the great universe. Like a foetus, he is suspended, by all his three spirits, in the matrix of the macrocosmos; and while his terrestrial body is in constant sympathy with its parent earth, his astral soul lives in unison with the sidereal anima mundi. He is in it, as it is in him, for the world-pervading element fills all space, and is space itself, only shoreless and infinite. As to his third spirit, the divine, what is it but an infinitesimal ray, one of the countless radiations proceeding directly from the Highest Cause — the Spiritual Light of the World? This is the trinity of organic and inorganic nature — the spiritual and the physical, which are three in one, and of which Proclus says that “The first monad is the Eternal God; the second, eternity; the third, the paradigm, or pattern of the universe”; the three constituting the Intelligible Triad. Everything in this visible universe is the outflow of this Triad, and a microcosmic triad itself. And thus they move in majestic procession in the fields of eternity, around the spiritual sun, as in the heliocentric system the celestial bodies move round the visible suns. The Pythagorean Monad, which lives “in solitude and darkness,” may remain on this earth forever invisible, impalpable, and undemonstrated by experimental science. Still the whole universe will be gravitating around it, as it did from the “beginning of time,” and with every second, man and atom approach nearer to that solemn moment in the eternity, when the Invisible Presence will become clear to their spiritual sight. When every particle of matter, even the most sublimated, has been cast off from the last shape that forms the ultimate link of that chain of double evolution which, throughout millions of ages and successive transformations, has pushed the entity onward; and when it shall find itself reclothed in that primordial essence, identical with that of its Creator, then this once impalpable organic atom will have run its race, and the sons of God will once more “shout for joy” at the return of the pilgrim.” (Isis I, p. 212)

          • Profile photo of Peter
            Peter
            Moderator
            Profile photo of PeterPeter

            Laura, which particular passage in The Voice of the Silence are you referring to in relation to ‘the One Thought’?

            ~

          • Profile photo of Laura
            Laura
            Participant
            Profile photo of LauraLaura

            Till then, a task far harder still awaits thee: thou hast to feel thyself ALL-THOUGHT, and yet exile all thoughts from out thy Soul.

             

            I’m sorry Group. I mis-paraphrased the Voice of the Silence .  It is not One Thought but to feel ourselves ALL Thought.  Same question what is All Thought.  Thank you Peter.

            • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
              Pierre Wouters
              Moderator
              Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

              All Thought = One Thought Laura, all sounds is one sound, all senses is one sense 🙂

            • Profile photo of Peter
              Peter
              Moderator
              Profile photo of PeterPeter

              I’m not sure if the ALL-THOUGHT is quite the same as One Thought. I wonder if there is a different kind of movement or quality here than we find, for example, in the instruction to ‘merge all thy senses into the one sense’. The instruction here is to exile all thoughts rather than merge them all into one, and in the next verse we read that ‘so must all earthly thoughts fall dead before the fane.’ (Fragment 3, p61) Perhaps this links to the very first page of Fragment 1 of The Voice of The Silence, where we read that the disciple must seek out and destroy the rajah of the senses, the Thought- Producer, he who awakes illusion.

              What is the illusion that the Thought-Producer awakes, and what are these earthly thoughts which the disciple has to exile? They are probably legion, yet the one thought or central belief which feeds them all is referred to on p8 of Fragment 1, namely, ‘the delusion called “Great Heresy.”’ This is explained in the Glossary to The VOICE as ‘the heresy of the belief in Soul or rather the separateness of Soul or Self from the One Universal, infinite Self.’ (p74)

              Having explained in Fragment 3 the path up to the stage of Dhyan Mârga (the sixth of the seven Portals or Gates) the disciple is told that before s/he can ever reach that stage the hardest task is still yet to be carried out, namely:

              ’thou hast to feel thyself ALL-THOUGHT, and yet exile all thoughts from out thy Soul.’

              That this is something the disciple has to feel suggests this is a movement of the heart. The disciple has been given a similar instruction earlier, in Fragment 1:

              ‘Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest.’

              What does the term ‘Master’ refer to in this instruction? We find the answer to this back in Fragment 3 amidst our verses on the Seven Portals or Gates and that of the ALL-THOUGHT:

              ‘Of teachers there are many; the MASTER – SOUL is one, Alaya, the Universal Soul. Live in that MASTER as ITS ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they live in IT.’ (p50)

              How, then, with this above in mind, should we understand the reference to ‘feel thyself ALL-THOUGHT’? A clue to this is in HPB’s response to an article, ‘The God Idea’, originally in the Theosophist 1883:

              ‘For us there is no over-soul or under-soul; but only ONE—substance: the last word being used in the sense Spinoza attached to it; calling it the ONE Existence, we cannot limit its significance and dwarf it to the qualification “over”; but we apply it to the universal, ubiquitous Presence, rejecting the word ‘Being,’ and replacing it with “All-Being.” Our Deity as the “God” of Spinoza and of the true Adwaitee—neither thinks, nor creates, for it is All-thought and All-creation. We say with Spinoza—who repeated in another key but what the Esoteric doctrine of the Upanishads teaches: ‘Extension is visible Thought; Thought is invisible Extension.’ For Theosophists of our school the Deity is a UNITY in which all other units in their infinite variety merge and from which they are indistinguishable…The individual drops of the curling waves of the universal Ocean have no independent existence.’  (The Collected Writings, vol 6, p10; bold emphasis added)

              The All-Thought appears, then, to be Alaya, the Universal Soul. Unless the disciple can feel herself All-Thought, to live in IT and in her fellows as IT lives in them and her, then it will not be possible to enter even the first of the Severn Portals or Gates described in The Voice of the Silence. In fact, this was stated immediately after the Seven Portals were outlined a few pages earlier in Fragment 3:

              ‘Before thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy body from thy mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things, all things in SELF.’ (p48)

              (All page references to the Voice of the Silence are the original edition.  How nice it would be if this original edition was reprinted once more – in facsimile form.)

               

              ~

               

               

               

              • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Profile photo of Peter Peter.
              • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
                Pierre Wouters
                Moderator
                Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

                Peter, good question:
                “I’m not sure if the ALL-THOUGHT is quite the same as One Thought. I wonder if there is a different kind of movement or quality here than we find, for example, in the instruction to ‘merge all thy senses into the one sense’. The instruction here is to exile all thoughts rather than merge them all into one, and in the next verse we read that ‘so must all earthly thoughts fall dead before the fane.’ (Fragment 3, p61)”

                I didn’t mean to imply that All-thought is an aggregate of all our lower thoughts, neither does HPB.
                We could however ask ourselves whether the Ocean consists of an aggregate of drops (One Thought), or whether an aggregate of drops establishes an Ocean (All-Thought). To me that would be the distinction between the “unmanifested” and the manifested aspect of Thought. But in essence they would be the same. HPB in the SD points out that space is particular and consists of infinite points without extension (basically the definition of a point in math), each point being a monad or infinite potentiality. This idea seems to correspond with “thoughts” as well. Just a thought 🙂

                • Profile photo of Peter
                  Peter
                  Moderator
                  Profile photo of PeterPeter

                  Thanks for your ‘just a thought’, Pierre. I didn’t think you saw the All-thought as an aggregate of all our lower thoughts. I certainly wasn’t suggesting this was HPB’s belief – if nothing else was clear in my post, I hope that at least this should have been.

                  What I am wondering about in my post is whether, by introducing the notion of All-Thought rather than One Thought, the Voice of the Silence is pointing towards a different quality or movement of being than mentioned hitherto. Up to this point we’ve had mention of the transition from the many sounds to the One sound; the many senses to the One sense, so, it would have been quite congruent to continue with the transition from many thoughts to the One Thought. Instead we are asked to give up the many thoughts for the All-Thought.

                  The rest of my post is simply an attempt to uncover what ‘The Voice of the Silence’ might mean by ‘All-Thought’. Interestingly, the one thought which underpins all of those many thoughts of ours which prevents us to ‘feel All-Thought’ is the belief in the separateness of the soul from the Universal Soul.

                  It may be relevant that in the Collected Writings, HPB describes the All-Thought in relation to Spinoza’s concept of the One Substance (the Parabrahm of the Advaitee) and not in terms of Leibniz’ monads, defined as infinite points without extension in space (is this the reference you had in mind?) For Leibniz, the Universe is ‘an infinitude of Beings, from, and in, the One’ – a Unity of units. For Spinoza there is only ever the One Substance – there is no Unity of units or Ocean made up of drops. The student of Theosophy has to combine both views into a whole, according to HPB – they are two sides of the same coin. Perhaps, in terms of our passage in ‘The Voice of the Silence’, when the disciple is instructed to ‘feel ALL-THOUGHT’ she is being reminded of the Unity from Spinoza side of the coin, so to speak.

                  I’m not saying the above is right or better than your own good views, I’m just exploring and feeling my way through, as it were.

                  ~

                  • Profile photo of barbara
                    barbara
                    Participant
                    Profile photo of barbarabarbara

                    “What I am wondering about in my post is whether, by introducing the notion of All-Thought rather than One Thought, the Voice of the Silence is pointing towards a different quality or movement of being than mentioned hitherto. Up to this point we’ve had mention of the transition from the many sounds to the One sound; the many senses to the One sense, so, it would have been quite congruent to continue with the transition from many thoughts to the One Thought. Instead we are asked to give up the many thoughts for the All-Thought.”

                    Hi Peter,

                    If we look at manifestation from outside in, it would be to pierce through All-thought to the One. If we look at manifestation from inside out, then it would be the One expands into the many.

                    Pertaining to your comment, maybe, transitioning the many senses to the One sense and hearing many sounds to the one sound are both related to the progression of the outer senses. While “feeling All-thought” seems to require the One sense – that of inner touching (or feeling).

                    “When the disciple sees and hears, and when he smells and tastes, eyes closed, ears shut, with mouth and nostrils stopped;  when the four senses blend and ready are to pass into the fifth, that of the inner touch – then into stage the fourth he hath passed on.”

                    Just a thought as well.

            • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
              Gerry Kiffe
              Moderator
              Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

              All-Thought might be considered the “Source” of Thought.    The power of thought originates in Mahat we are told.  All  individual thoughts stem from a central power of thought.  To center our being in this common source in meditation lets say, would require silencing the chatter of lesser thoughts.

        • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
          Pierre Wouters
          Moderator
          Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

          As you say:
          “It appears that Thought is the real plane of action, and intent or motive determine the moral quality of action–ie., the good and evil results that ensue.”

          It is taught that the real plane of action is the mind (manas), where would we place the plane to which the intent or motive belongs? On the same plane as the mind (or an aspect of it) or would it belong to a higher plane than mind?

          • Profile photo of KS
            KS
            Moderator
            Profile photo of KSKS

            Pierre:-

            It is taught that the real plane of action is the mind (manas), where would we place the plane to which the intent or motive belongs? On the same plane as the mind (or an aspect of it) or would it belong to a higher plane than mind?

            I think one must consider the duality of all things and aspects.  Intent/motive is defiantly capable of being of a higher or lower order, this is quite available within the honest students scope of observation.  However, there may be a deeper and more mystical origin to this intent and motive.  Does a thought determine motive/intent, or is intention and motive rudiment in its origin, thus becoming “mechanically bound” to a specific thought? In other words, is motive and intention the atmosphere wherein thoughts/actions arise?

            Might we might make some connection to the Terrestrial Personality/ Evil Genius (ego) regarding this subtle air or intention and motive?

            Though, it seems that all of this occurs on the subtle planes of the mind (Universal or Individual), each impulse being inherently dual.

            • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
              Pierre Wouters
              Moderator
              Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

              Kristan, you end your reply by saying this interesting thought: “Though, it seems that all of this occurs on the subtle planes of the mind (Universal or Individual), each impulse being inherently dual.” As HPB points out in the SD, every plane as every principle in turn is 7-fold. Perhaps we could say then that there is in some sense a motive or intent connected with every principle – not necessarily self-conscious as we experience it on our own plane. Since every external action involves will, thought and feeling (SDI:274), a motive or intent has to be present on or in every plane/principle of action, even on the cellular and atomic level. I would certainly be inclined to even think of the “natural impulse” of the 3rd Fundamental to have a “cosmic” or “mahatic” motive or intent.

              • Profile photo of KS
                KS
                Moderator
                Profile photo of KSKS

                Hello Pierre,

                You were referring to-

                [SD.i.274]- (6.) The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man—the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm—is the living witness to this Universal Law, and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man’s external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who—whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels—are “messengers” in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws.

                Its is a quotation which hardly needs any explanation, explicit and direct.  Thanks for bringing this up!  I would certainly agree with you when you say, “a motive or intent has to be present on or in every plane/principle of action, even on the cellular and atomic level.”   It isn’t valid to speak of any phenomenon as not having an initiating host of predecessors, or an antecedent force, ultimately being motive/intention etc.

                The quote mentions that these endless series of Hierarchies (of sentient Beings) are quite bound, as they are agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws.  So might we tie a connection to what you are saying about each Principle + Plane (macro/micro) being 7-fold-  If I understand correctly, within these folds and divisions, as said in Transactions (p.102) that “Every differentiation of substance and matter, evolves a kind of intelligent force“- holding to the above information, each intelligent force* is given a “duty” in accordance with Cosmic and Karmic Law i.e, impulse (intention, motive, will).

                *Force = General duality mentioned earlier was a vague suggestion of centripetal and centrifugal forces.

              • Profile photo of Jon Fergus
                Jon Fergus
                Moderator
                Profile photo of Jon FergusJon Fergus

                Pierre: “Perhaps we could say then that there is in some sense a motive or intent connected with every principle”

                Following this line of thought, HPB speaks of a triple evolutionary scheme in Man (physical, intellectual and monadic) (SD 1:181) for the development of three periodical upadhis (SD 1:157). Could we say that each of these upadhis is subject to its own kind of karma based on the laws of its own special plane? And if so… are those “karmas” kind of “self-contained”, meaning that the development of physical karma is independent of the development of intellectual or monadic karma, and so on?

                If this line of thought is somewhat valid, then perhaps we could imagine that we have three primary types of motive as well? each distinct from the other?

        • Profile photo of Jon Fergus
          Jon Fergus
          Moderator
          Profile photo of Jon FergusJon Fergus

          Thanks for all the wonderful comments under this question of “what it means to sow”.

          What I’m gathering overall is that we’re all in general agreement that motive plays a primary role in the kind of “sowing” that leads to personal or individual “reaping”. I want to step back a bit from the question of exactly which aspect of our constitution is responsible for motive to simply pose a few more general questions.

          Ramprakash shared an idea that raises some questions in me. He said:

          “No one ever resteth a moment inactive. Every man is involuntarily urged to act by the qualities which spring from nature.”

          Spirit, Purusha, is invested with and involved in Prakriti, Nature (the three qualities), and it is his self-identifying attachment to the latter which is the cause of his cycles of rebirth in good and evil wombs, says Krishna in the XIII chapter of the Bhagavadgita.

          Unless, and till,  one learns to dissociate, through discrimination and dispassion, Self from non-Self, and arrive at the state of freedom from being swayed by Qualities and pairs of opposite, one is caught up in the network of one’s own self-made destiny.

          So, if we are “urged to act by the qualities (gunas) which spring from nature (prakriti)”, is it merely illusory that I, Jon, have this or that motive, because the motive is urged not by “me” but by the gunas or Nature itself?

          The next question that comes to me is this: is there a “higher” and a “lower” type of motive? And are both of these productive of “sowing” that results in “reaping”?

          • Profile photo of KS
            KS
            Moderator
            Profile photo of KSKS

            “So, if we are “urged to act by the qualities (gunas) which spring from nature (prakriti)”, is it merely illusory that I, Jon, have this or that motive, because the motive is urged not by “me” but by the gunas or Nature itself?

            So there is no doubt that we must accept responsibility for every action done.  Ultimately speaking, I do believe there is no “me” to act, as the Gita itself states;

            सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि ।  प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति ।। ३३।।
            Even the man of knowledge acts in conformity with his own nature; as (all) beings follow the (corresponding) nature, what (may be the other) binding intent?

            We can all, to some degree, detect these qualities within us and the corresponding actions that arise.  Physiological impulses/demands may conquer the body of flesh, while ones psychological make-up colors the internal characteristic of the individual.  Psychical and spiritual aspects, I would assume, also have “demands” or impulses inherent within the impressed matter (personalized) of the individual.  According to some observations, none of these may operate without affecting the others to some degree.  As it is said, “… the one that is fed survives.”

            A simple example can be found in our dreams.  HPB points out there are 7 types of dreams (Trans. 79), yet to the dreamer one or two may be detected, while the others simultaneously unfold, unobserved by the “watching eye” of the dreamer.  We can make a connection.

            Motive, being different from the natural impulse (of prakrti) and urges (of fleshy body) etc.- I find-  motive to require some cunning or explicit determination, whether conscious or otherwise.  There must be a conscious thinking entity to initiate action thus impressing/attracting the corresponding forces/intelligences/aspects of nature (via guna), even though one may not be immediately aware of such conscious entity.   In other words, I think motive may be “colored/qualified” by this process.

            However, may we consider motive to be an aspect regarding the “channeling the Will” into the individuals rudiment desire to execute a action, which is to become a specific purpose after said qualification .  This isn’t to say motive isn’t “pure” of qualities (gunas), though its initiator- Will- very well could be.

            “We” are the perfect synthesis of the qualities and forces found in Nature, yet also quite independent of them.  Motive is to the Imprisoned Force, and Will to the One Universal Force, LAW, perhaps this can be a way of looking at it…

            A quotation from Transactions might provide some seed thoughts:-

            Q. What relation have the elements to the Elementals?  

            A. The same relation as the earth has to man. As physical man is the quintessence of the Earth, so Air or Fire, or Water, an Elemental (called Sylph, Salamander, Undine, etc.), is of the quintessence of its special element. Every differentiation of substance and matter, evolves a kind of intelligent Force, and it is these which the Rosicrucians called Elemental or Nature spirits. Everyone of us can believe in Elementals which we can create for ourselves. But this latter class of elemental creation has no existence outside our own imagination. It will be an intelligence, a Force, good or bad, but the form given to it and its attributes will be of our own creation, while at the same time it will have an intelligence derived also from us.
            [Trans. 102]

            Also, a quote I had recently posted, but will do so again because its deep philosophy in this connection with your question, “…motive is urged not by “me” but by the gunas or Nature itself?”  :-

            “…the special thing is, that one commits no sin voluntarily; and if, through folly, or weakness and ignorance, a sin occurs, he should then renounce that sin by approaching the High Priest who is his Good Soul…”

            Sin, is that which is against the Universal Law.  There is a portion of us that is inherently ” … unified [his individual nature] with Great Nature herself, is constitutionally incapable of violating any one of the laws of nature.”  Thus, sin occurs with the ‘fictional self’ born of matter and the qualities inherent.  In that case, nature itself takes the upper hand, acting and imposing ‘sin’ on the Sinless One- the Reincarnating Ego (Individuality).   The renouncing sin, gives one the idea of the Occult Science of “Holy Communion” or Yoga, obedience to the High Priest, the Ego, the Good Soul.

            • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Profile photo of KS KS.
          • Profile photo of Peter
            Peter
            Moderator
            Profile photo of PeterPeter

            Jon, to explore your first question we probably need to take into account that the system of the Bhagavad Gita is not identical to that in Theosophy. It’s a blend of the Samkhya system, Yoga, Bhakti and even lends itself to the Advaita system of the Non-Dual Brahman. Essentially, in these systems, to discriminate Self from not-Self is to distinguish between the Atman and non-Atman. From this perspective Atman is the Self (Spirit, Purusha or Consciousness) and all its vehicles are are non-Self, i.e. Prakriti (insentient matter with its inherent energy). The vehicles (upadhis) of the Self are Buddhi, ahankara , manas, citta, the senses of cognition and senses of action & so on. All these vehicles are various aspects of Prakriti. Since Prakriti is said to have three essential inherent qualities or gunas (sativa, rajas and tamas) then each of these vehicles is said to be constituted of one or more of these three qualities of Prakriti and acts according to its nature or qualities.

            Atman is said to be the Witness Consciousness (pure Consciousness and Knowledge), it does not act. All action comes from Prakriti. The ‘me’ which acts is made up of Prakriti, namely, the Intellect (buddhi), Ego (ahamkara), mind (manas) and citta (sometimes referred to as memory). This fourfold aspect of the ‘me’ is often referred to as the antakharana. It is the latter which provides the continuity from one incarnation to the next.

            This ‘me’ is said to be the Self veiled by ignorance of its own nature and through identification with its own vehicles, or put slightly differently – consciousness identified with form. Depending on our previous thoughts, desires and actions, the antakarana and the physical form becomes constituted by matter of a kind which reflects those very thoughts and actions. Such matter is a combination the three gunas – often one more dominant than the rest. Put simplistically, depending on these qualities so we act – the pure of thought act purely, the slothful act slothfully, the restless act restlessly – they can’t help themselves but act according to their ‘nature’. Thus, whenever this ‘me’ acts it acts under the influence of ‘the qualities which spring from nature (prakriti)’ – because it is largely made up of Prakriti.

            Discrimination of Self and not-Self is going to involve at least reflecting on what is the source of that consciousness that wells up as ‘I’ or ‘me’ in relation to matter and form.

            The theosophical view is more complex and takes into account various levels of consciousness and being, identifying the moral agent as Manas, along with rejecting the idea that there is anything insentient in nature.

            ~

          • Profile photo of Samantha Province
            Samantha Province
            Participant
            Profile photo of Samantha ProvinceSamantha Province

             

            So, if we are “urged to act by the qualities (gunas) which spring from nature (prakriti)”, is it merely illusory that I, Jon, have this or that motive, because the motive is urged not by “me” but by the gunas or Nature itself?

            W.Q.J. has a good summary of the three gunas in Letters That Have Helped Me. He concludes that the seer “must first get rid of the idea that he himself really does anything, knowing that the actions all take place in these three natural qualities, and not in the soul at all.” Following that he must “place all his actions on devotion. That is, sacrifice all his actions to the Supreme and not to himself” (http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/lthhm/lthhm-2.htm).

            That causes me to wonder… what is the nature of the “free will” we exercise according to Theosophy?

            • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
              Pierre Wouters
              Moderator
              Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

              Hi Samantha,
              “free will” is one of those expressions that is used in ordinary or familiar conversations. As far as we humans are concerned in our present condition (i.e., mostly operating from the basis of kama-manas) there is no such thing as free will in the sense of how most people interpret that expression (i.e. I can do what I want) and even HPB often uses the expression of free will in the colloquial sense.
              A quick example illustrates this, if one would jump off a 1000 feet high rock and halfway to the ground one would change her/his mind, there is very little of free will that is going to help us. Once we subject ourselves to the laws of nature we’re going to reap the effect of that decision.
              True free will can be understood as the voluntary cooperation with the spiritual laws of nature, this doesn’t mean that we are subjugating ourselves to some foreign force or power, but rather that we have realized that spiritual law (foremost the realization of the oneness of everything) is an essential part of our being, that we are that law itself in fact. From that perspective, the adepts mentioned in HPBs literature exercise true free will, as they have become freed from the impeding “weight” of material existence with its “material” desires.
              It would thus be better in our present state of human development to speak of “free choice” rather than free will, as we can choose whether to jump off the rock or not, but once we do…
              Even then, there is the problem of “do we really even have free choice?” as most of our choices are based on previously acquired tendencies that will be “baked in” so to speak into the choices we make. That’s the reason why marketing is so efficiently used in commerce, as we mostly choose or make decisions from the perspective of our desires.
              Generally speaking, (and I emphasize general) to have an easier grasp of the difference we could say:
              higher manas per se exercises free will and intuition
              lower manas exercises free choice and reason
              and kama-manas exercises desire and opinions
              So far my opinion 🙂

              • Profile photo of KS
                KS
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                Profile photo of KSKS

                Good question Samantha, with an excellent response from Pierre;

                “True free will can be understood as the voluntary cooperation with the spiritual laws of nature, …rather that we have realized that spiritual law (foremost the realization of the oneness of everything) is an essential part of our being, that we are that law itself in fact.”

                It is one of the deepest truths in Occultism, in my opinion.  Wonderfully said.  The deep connection to Karma, is- “this Spiritual Law that is an essential part of our being, that we are that Law itself.”

              • Profile photo of Samantha Province
                Samantha Province
                Participant
                Profile photo of Samantha ProvinceSamantha Province

                Great posts! I’m glad to see my question has been so productive! 🙂

                I’d like to supplement what’s been said thus far by once again returning to Spinoza. According to him, free will as humans often conceive it does not exist. Humans are a part of an infinite web of causally determined things and events which is a substance called Nature or God. We only think we have free will because we mistake the various options we weigh in our minds before making a decision as real possibilities whereas we actually end up following whichever desire predominates. So our ideas of our own minds are inadequate. However, as Neal Grossman points out in his wonderful book The Spirit of Spinoza this can be seen from another angle: God or Nature itself is uncaused and thus free. “For it must be remembered that God is completely free, and this divine freedom extends throughout the whole Being of God; and since everything that exists, including ourselves, exists within the Being of God, it follows that there is nothing that is not free.” The tragedy is that “we remain unconscious of our essential freedom” (119). The adepts, realizing this unity and identity, sacrifice all their actions to the Supreme and thus experience true free will.

                I’ve also found these discussions of thinkers congenial to Theosophy and their views on free will to be very helpful:

                Stoicism

                Buddhist Madhyamaka

                Leibniz

                Schopenhauer

                • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
                  Pierre Wouters
                  Moderator
                  Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

                  Your excellent quote and references perhaps are an indication that there are more students of theosophy than we think Samantha 🙂

          • Profile photo of Peter
            Peter
            Moderator
            Profile photo of PeterPeter

            The theory of the three gunas in the Bhagavad Gita suggest our actions are involuntary, urged on by ‘the qualities which spring form nature (prakriti).’  This fits in to some extent with our experience choosing.  We may well feel free in the moment of our choosing or decision making, while our friends and family see our choices as highly predictable. It’s what they would have expected of us from the qualities of our nature they have come to know over time.

            On the other hand, one of the issues that the theory of the three gunas raises is, if all our actions are involuntary being no more than the qualities (gunas) which spring from nature (prakriti), in what sense can the individual be held morally responsible for her actions? I think this is a key part of Jon’s original question regarding the motive for action. To put it another way, if the law of Karma acts on the basis of absolute justice, how could it be just to ‘punish’ or ‘reward’ someone for acts they could not help doing because their actions were involuntary?

            ~

  • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
    Gerry Kiffe
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    Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

    Could the idea of Harmony help us expand our notion of Karma beyond reward and punishment?

    • Profile photo of Peter
      Peter
      Moderator
      Profile photo of PeterPeter

      Perhaps it would be wise not to think of Karma in terms of reward and punishment at all. Karma is the law of cause and effect. Like all laws it is impersonal. That it is sometimes referred to as a moral law does not make it a law which judges peoples’ actions as good or bad and which therefore rewards or punishes individuals. It simply means that the underlying process of cause and effect also operates at the level of mind and across lifetimes.

      It is we who create the causes in the present which manifest as the effects and conditions in future lives. Likewise, the conditions and effects which manifest (or not) in our current life are largely the result of causes set in motion in previous lives. This is one of the reasons the Buddha taught, ‘Cease to do evil; learn to do good.’ For it is our negative states of mind and actions which are said to create negative conditions i.e suffering in future lives, while virtuous states of mind and actions create positive conditions in our future lives. Positive conditions being those conditions where there are opportunities to hear about and practice the dharma, the spiritual path. Negative conditions are those of suffering as a result of ignorance and grasping and lack of opportunity to practice the dharma & so on.

      In one sense it could be said that we are our Karma, for it is we who act and who experience, sooner or later, the results of our actions.

      Karma may be said to restore universal harmony, but there may be more than one type of harmony – for example, when things are at rest and when things are in motion. When the stone drops into the still pond all the ripples from that action are said to finally re-converge back to that single spot (or so it is said) at which point all the forces set in motion return to rest as equilibrium is restored. This is one way we might envisage the consequences of the causes we set in motion through our own thought and action.

      There is another type of harmony which is harmony in action – for example, in music when all the musicians playing their different parts nevertheless work in unison to create and produce a unified whole. Perhaps, by analogy, we can envisage creating those causes in our current life that will create a future for ourselves and all beings which is not so much about avoiding suffering or minimising the karma we create (i.e. restoring the equilibrium as in the pond example, which seems almost impossible at our level of development) but one which will provide the positive conditions for ourselves and others to better lead lives of goodness and spiritual endeavour.

      If the teachings on Karma are to be of any value to us, it must include honestly reflecting on our current life style, the way we lead it and an honest look at the possible effects of the causes we create moment by moment, day by day.

      • Profile photo of barbara
        barbara
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        Profile photo of barbarabarbara

        “To me, this completely disregards the whole side of the karma question of new karma being made. Everything (and I stress everything) that happens to a person cannot all be a result of past karma. There must be provision for generating new karma by generating new causes. We can be the victims of new karma generated by others, such as those who are responsible for actions such as mass killings. We can also be the recipients of new karma generated by others, such as those responsible for sending out loving and beneficent thoughts to others every day. New causes are constantly being set in motion, themselves influenced by previous causes. That is how I see it. ”

        David:

        There is an interesting conversation (quoted below) in SD Dialogue on page 578 – that resonates with your perspective.  I like how karma is linked back to the idea of the law of harmony and equilibrium, as well as the explanation of stepping outside the influence of karma.

        _________________________________
        Mr. Kingsland: Karma is, so to speak, the absolute equilibrium and however we act we disturb that equilibrium one way or another, and Karma adjusts.

        Mr. B. Keightley: The analogy that dwells in my mind is this—it almost presents itself to me under this form: If we conceive ourselves as beings absolutely surrounded and penetrating everything in fluid of such a nature that every action we make in that fluid produces a series of vibrations which eventually react upon ourselves. If you imagine a body suspended in a perfect fluid, no movement is possible without disturbing the fluid. That sort of pressure pressing in on you from all sides, that substance—if you like to call it that—is Karma. Or rather, Karma describes the relation of that subject.

        Mme. Blavatsky: There is simply one way of getting outside the influence of Karma. It is the yogis who do it, only—it is by merging oneself more and more in the Laya state. That is to say that you are just like in a vessel out of which air has been pumped—a perfect vacuum. In that vacuum, of course, you cannot go either left or right or any way; there is no point of attraction, and there you are. You understand the analogy?

        Mrs. Besant: Then it would always be the striving after equilibrium?

        Mme. Blavatsky: Certainly! Every action produces a Karmic effect on the spiritual plane, on the psychic, on the spiritual, and everything. And the only thing is to be in this neutral point where there is no differentiation, where there is no action.

        Mr. Old: Then we understand Karma to be the law of equilibrium.

        Mme. Blavatsky: It is perfect harmony and equilibrium.

        Mr. B. Keightley: I think you want to add to it one thing. People get an idea very often that Karma only applies to bad actions. Karma is simply the action, the law of the consequence of action of all kinds, whether good or bad, and it is, entirely apart from that, the inevitable sequence of cause and effect. It will fall upon you whether the action is good or bad.

        Mr. Burrows: Is there such a thing as unmerited suffering?

        Mme. Blavatsky: If you suffer from causes you produce, it is merited; but very often you have sufferings that are caused by other persons, of which you are not guilty at all.

        Mrs. Besant: For instance, national Karma.

        Mme. Blavatsky: Very often you suffer for things you have never committed, but you simply happen to fall under this current, and there you are. You suffer tremendously, and you suffer that which is not merited, and then you have to have an adequate bliss and reward for it.

        Mr. B. Keightley: That is the personal Karma. The suffering has a conscious personality—Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown, who is not aware he has committed any of these crimes, how shall we say? Take for instance now, this accident in America; 1 it will be a very good instance. Now, you could not suppose that all the people that have been drowned or have suffered in various ways, and all the children  [The Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, May 31, 1880 killing over 2000 in a matter of hours when the dam broke.] in that catastrophe, were all, as it were, brought under its influence by their personal Karma, so to speak, would you, H.P.B.?

        Mme. Blavatsky: No. It is just that, you know.

        Mr. Old: This is what you call diffused Karma. A person comes under it by virtue of being an atom of a body. He cannot have a law separate from the body to which he belongs.

        Mr. B. Keightley: The distinction I drew between the personality and individuality of a man is of special importance, because as a personality he has not perhaps a responsibility for that; he is one of a race, and he suffers the Karma of the Race.

        Mr. Burrows: And then the justice comes in afterwards.

    • Profile photo of Kate Blalack
      Kate Blalack
      Participant
      Profile photo of Kate BlalackKate Blalack

      I’m replying to Gerry’s comment about the idea of Harmony expanding the notion of Karma being beyond reward and punishment. This has perhaps been intimated already, but I think of Karma as a refinement tool. As we collectively move more towards universal harmony and brotherhood, Karma expands and pushes the entire group upwards as it works individually on each distinct personality. [I’m still getting used to the format of this site, and how to post in the correct position of the thread]

      • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
        Gerry Kiffe
        Moderator
        Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

        Kate that is an interesting turn of phrase for karma “refinement tool”.  Do you mind elaborating a bit on what you are pointing to here?  Certainly karma is a law, please say more about refinement tool. Does this have something to do about karma being our Teacher of sorts?

        • Profile photo of Catherine Austin
          Catherine Austin
          Participant
          Profile photo of Catherine AustinCatherine Austin

          Hi Everyone,

          I am replying to Gerry’s question of Karma as a “refinement tool”.  I find when I look at a huge concept such as Karma, that over the years my understanding has developed and changed. Initially I found it cold and distant  – I was in mental paralysis, about it for some time – feeling helpess and in the grip of an iron destiny. Then I saw it only as pain and suffering, taking the good “Karma” for granted, or an assumed right, and feeling undeserving of life’s cruel vagaries. Now I am a confirmed student of Theosophy, I see now it is a teaching tool, to help us develop into “Perfected beings”, and then along with that, as a privilege and a gift. Why would the Source take so much interest in every single tiny human being like that??? Obviously there is  a vested interest 🙂

  • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
    Gerry Kiffe
    Moderator
    Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

    How might the public notion of karma as retribution be overtaken by a more impersonal one as you suggest?  The terms Yoga, Karate and  Love have all been “dummed down” to mean a shadow of their deeper roots.  How do we elevate a concept like Karma?  Is it important to equate it with other higher notions to make that happen?

    • Profile photo of Peter
      Peter
      Moderator
      Profile photo of PeterPeter

      How might the public notion of karma as retribution be overtaken by a more impersonal one as you suggest?

      Gerry, I think we need to encourage a serious study of the doctrines with the aim of each one of us developing our own understanding of the doctrines in question and their underlying implications. If Theosophy is the Wisdom Religion it must at least be a body of knowledge with which we have to engage, delve into and go beyond the written word and surface meaning. It’s not enough for us just to able to read and quote from the literature, though that is important in terms of clarifying what is and isn’t taught therein. As HPB says in her Preface to the Key to Theosophy:

      ‘That it should succeed in making Theosophy intelligible without mental effort on the part of the reader, would be too much to expect; but it is hoped that the obscurity still left is of the thought not of the language, is due to depth not to confusion. To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader’s thinking for him…’

       

       

      • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
        Gerry Kiffe
        Moderator
        Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

        So perhaps part of the solution is not so much finding stronger synonyms for the concept of Karma but instead finding good questions to ask that demands deeper inquiry.

        • Profile photo of Peter
          Peter
          Moderator
          Profile photo of PeterPeter

          Yes, good questions are important and do shape the subsequent enquiry. Perhaps any questions which arise out of our own curiosity to understand and test the propositions encountered are enough to get us started, it’s what we do next that matters.  Ideally, through our own desire to understand we become active participants in uncovering the meaning behind the words rather than passive recipients of information which remains undigested.

          When I talk to friends, colleagues and groups about Karma I find I rarely use the terms reward and punishment as such terms are too tied up with orthodox religion and a God or supreme Power that does the rewarding and the punishing.   I find it’s often enough to talk about cause and effect – the notion that our own acts (thoughts, words and deeds) are the causes which create the conditions for our next incarnation, including the characteristics of our mind and body.  The manifestation of those effects/conditions i.e. the how and the when, are also reliant on Karmic Law.  It’s complex, isn’t it, because between us we are co-creators of our shared futures.

          However, when studying theosophical texts it’s hard to get beyond those terms because they are used so often by HPB, Judge et al.  Through the use of those terms even their writings can create the impression that there is a karmic agency of some kind, though not a God, which monitors what we do and rewards and punishes us accordingly in our next life.

          So, coming back to our original question about asking questions – one such question might be, ‘Should we take those descriptions by HPB, Judge and others literally or figuratively?’

           

          • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Profile photo of Peter Peter.
          • Profile photo of Samantha Province
            Samantha Province
            Participant
            Profile photo of Samantha ProvinceSamantha Province

            I take these terms as used by H.P.B. and W.Q.J. to not be literal. After all, it as also repeatedly emphasized by them that karma is impersonal. From an anthropocentric perspective though, these terms are valid. From a personal perspective, karmic activity certainly seems to result in “good things” and “bad things,” “rewards” and “punishments.” From this perspective, it may also appropriate to think in terms of bad actions being a “sin” against the incognizable presence. I think language like this is useful because it reinforces a feeling of the gravity and graveness of our actions and I think this is also what the founders get at when they speak like this.

          • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
            Gerry Kiffe
            Moderator
            Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

            When I think of literal and figurative, as opposing approaches to an idea, I usually have associated them with symbology. But what would it mean to look at a philosophical proposition literally and figuratively?  Can you give us an example?

    • Profile photo of barbara
      barbara
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      Profile photo of barbarabarbara

      This is a re-post;  the original was posted in the wrong place.

      “How might the public notion of karma as retribution be overtaken by a more impersonal one as you suggest?”

      Instead of seeking truth for its own sake, we usually view life from the vantage point of our personal ego and the mindset in many of our undertaking is what is-it-in-for-me. Hence, we interpret impersonal laws into personal terms. We have not yet risen above the personal into the universal.

      Using accurate terminologies does help to convey concepts in the appropriate light. Equally or more important is our own internal understanding of the teachings. When we read any material, we are essentially tuning our consciousness with that of the writer. The more concentrated we are in our reading, the more we blend our consciousness temporarily with the writer’s. This is why certain books have such powerful effects, it is not just the subjects being discussed but the level of consciousness in which the ideas were written plays an important role as well. In a way, we know a person’s character and point of development by their writing. Of course, much of the benefits or harm depends largely on the receptivity of the reader. If a seed is planted too deep in the soil, the light of the sun would not be able to provide much benefits.

    • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
      Grace Cunningham
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      Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

      Reward and punishment are no doubt relative terms. We have the famous expression from Jesus that it is easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So is being born  into riches a reward or a punishment?

      • Profile photo of barbara
        barbara
        Participant
        Profile photo of barbarabarbara

        “So is being born  into riches a reward or a punishment?”

        Some view being born is already a punishment.

      • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
        Gerry Kiffe
        Moderator
        Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

        Neither or both.  Given other comments here we learn that it is a matter of perspective.  It is probably wise to see everything as a  lesson independent of seeing it as good or bad.

        • Profile photo of Kate Blalack
          Kate Blalack
          Participant
          Profile photo of Kate BlalackKate Blalack

          We are all given abundance; it’s how we react and direct those reactions into reality that shape our  karma. 🙂

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    Each Ego is attracted to the body in which he will meet his just deserts, but also for another reason. That is, that not only is the body to give opportunity for his just reward or punishment, but also for that he in the past was connected with the family in which the body was born, and the stream of heredity to which it belongs is his too. It is therefore a question not alone of desert and similarity, but one of responsibility. Justice orders that the Ego shall suffer or enjoy irrespective of what family he comes to; similarity decrees that he shall come to the family in which there is some characteristic similar to one or many of his and thus having a drawing power; but responsibility, which is compounded of justice, directs that the Ego shall come to the race or the nation or the family to which its responsibility lies for the part taken by it in other lives in forming of the general character, or affecting that physical stream of heredity that has so much influence on those who are involved in it. Therefore it is just that even the grandchildren shall suffer if they in the past have had a hand in moulding the family or even in bringing about a social order that is detrimental to those who fall into it through incarnation. I use the word responsibility to indicate something composed of similarity and justice. It may be described by other words probably quite as well, and in the present state of the English language very likely will be. An Ego may have no direct responsibility for a family, national, or race condition, and yet be drawn into incarnation there. In such an event it is similarity of character which causes the place of rebirth, for the being coming to the abode of mortals is drawn like electricity along the path of least resistance and of greatest conductibility. But where the reincarnating Ego is directly responsible for family or race conditions, it will decide itself, upon exact principles of justice and in order to meet its obligations, to be reborn where it shall receive, as grandchild if you will, physically or otherwise the results of its former acts. This decision is made at the emergence from Devachan. It is thus entirely just, no matter whether the new physical brain is able or not to pick up the lost threads of memory.

    -WQJ    Thoughts on Karma

  • Profile photo of Peter
    Peter
    Moderator
    Profile photo of PeterPeter

    To my mind, if we wish to deepen our understanding of the Law of Karma we need to reflect more and more on the nature of its impersonality.  Perhaps we should also keep in mind that the term ‘karma’ means action while the term ‘Law of Karma’ refers to the Law which adjusts all action so as to restore equilibrium and harmony in the universe on any plane – physically, psychically, mentally and morally, and spiritual.

    All action (karma) produces a chain of causes and effects.  We, as actors in the world, are the moral agents who set in motion that chain of cause and effect – a chain which ripples out from us in all directions and across time, affecting other sentient beings for good or ill. The Law of Karma is that law which governs the way that concatenation of causes and effects plays out.

    Is the Law of Karma an intelligent law? To say so would be to ascribe to it some kind of agency, making of Karmic Law an actor on the stage of life that records, judges, rewards and punishes.   It is our actions (karma) that are the causes which eventually return to us in equal measure as effects at some point in the future.  The Law of Karma doesn’t actively choose to respond in the way it does, any more than the laws of physics chooses to return to us the ball we bounce at the wall.

    Below are some passages from the literature which suggest the above is a valid way to look Karma.

    “[The Law of] 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.”  (Theosophical Glossary)

    “Teach the people to see that life on this earth, even the happiest, is but a burden and an illusion, that it is but our own Karma, the cause producing the effect, that is our own judge, our saviour in future lives—and the great struggle for life will soon lose its intensity.”  (From The Maha Chohan’s letter)

    “Karma thus, is simply action, a concatenation of causes and effects. That which adjusts each effect to its direct cause; that which guides invisibly and as unerringly these effects to choose, as the field of their operation, the right person in the right place, is what we call Karmic Law.”  (CW VI 145)

    “…in the active laws of Karma — absolute Equity — based on the Universal Harmony, there is neither foresight nor desire…it is our own actions, thoughts, and deeds which guide that law, instead of being guided by it.” (CW VI 145)

    In her Blavatsky Lodge meetings, HPB is asked if Karmic Law acts intelligently. She replies:

    “It does not act. It is our actions that act, and that awaken into all kinds of influences. Look here, if you say that Karma acts and you say it has intelligence, immediately you suggest the idea of a personal god. It is not so, because Karma does not see and Karma does not watch, and does not repent as the Lord God repented. Karma is a universal law, immutable and changeless.  .  . Karma does not act any more than water drowns you. . . You drown yourselves in the water. Don’t go into the water and you won’t get drowned.”

    When asked in that same meeting if ignorance is the cause of Karma, HPB replies:

    “It is, but Karma does not take stock of it, does not concern itself whether you do it from ignorance or from too much learning. It is simply if you do a certain thing, so the effect will be on a similar line. For instance, you will strike one note, and you know perfectly well what will be the consequence of that note… Certainly we must say that it acts; but, I want you at the same time to understand that in saying it acts, we use the same expression as if we said the sun is setting. The sun does not set at all.”  (From The Secret Doctrine Dialogues: Meeting June 6 1889; emphasis added)

    Note the last two sentences in the above quote – a warning to us not to take figurative language literally.

     

    ~

    • Profile photo of barbara
      barbara
      Participant
      Profile photo of barbarabarbara

      I am still have problem understanding how there could be just a thing as accident when everything (karma) is an adjustment to its cause, be it collective or individual in its origin?

      • Profile photo of Peter
        Peter
        Moderator
        Profile photo of PeterPeter

        Yes, that’s an interesting point, Barbara.  It’s also said that some karma that is due to work itself out in a particular life may not actually occur, in which case it remains a ‘pending effect’ which will manifest in a future incarnation.

        I wonder if it would help us if we broadened the scope of this question?

        If everything that happens to us happens only and solely as the result (effects) of past causes then we would need to ask, ‘is there any room in such a process for the notion of free will?’

        To put it another way, if everything that happens to us happens only and solely as the result (effects) of past causes then all my actions (in thought, word and deed) towards other people must already be pre-determined by the past, as theirs will be to me.  After all, a significant amount of our past karma is worked out through our relationships with each other, wouldn’t you think?

        However, if we have free will then other factors are introduced into the process.  For it is our ‘free will’ that creates new causes.  These will, of course, have to be worked through under the law of Karma, but for that moment of free will the new cause and new effects are not solely the ‘old’ karma at work.  A new cause may bring something new into a situation (‘good’ or ‘bad’) which affects the flow of karmic compensation.  The underlying force of our past karma in relation to a certain situation, if very strong, may greatly hinder the new causes set in motion or it may assist them for good or ill.  If the underlying force is weak, the new causes may operate more freely, perhaps, having a diminutive effect on the existing karma.

        If the above is the case, then it would appear that our lives are always a mix of the old causes working themselves out and the new causes we create in every moment of choice.  The resultant web of karma that we weave around ourselves must surely be full of knots and ties!  So, I guess we need to find a way to meet our existing karma as gracefully as we can so that it can be worked through rather than perpetuating it.  At the same time we need to generate in the present those causes whose effects will bring about more positive conditions for ourselves and others, which will contribute to the welfare of humanity as a whole.

        These are just my thoughts, of course, and may not have fully answered your question, but they are aimed in the direction of an answer.

         

        ~

        • Profile photo of barbara
          barbara
          Participant
          Profile photo of barbarabarbara

          Hi Peter,
          Thank you for your message.  I agree with your thoughts.

          I am still stuck with the incompatibility  between the two ideas – law of karma and accidents.   Maybe, I will understand it better in the future.  In my simplistic view, situations are results of past causes and free will is how we react and handle the circumstances, which in turn creates new causes.  With each and every situation or person, new karma is created.  Hence, we are continually working out old and creating new karma.  That said, accident means something random and arbitrary, something outside of the chain of causation or natural laws.   This idea undermines the whole “logic” of the law of karma.

          • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
            Pierre Wouters
            Moderator
            Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

            Hi Barbara,
            here’s my 2 cents on my perception of the predicament between “the law of karma” and “accidents”. Everything that happens to us is indeed karma, i.e. happens according to the law of cause and effect. If a bolder drops off a big rock and hits my car, the laws of physics are involved , there are elements of gravity, velocity, weather factors and several more physical laws involved that contribute to the effect of a bolder hitting the roof of my car, irrespective of whether it is MY karma or not. So, from that perspective, no action can take place without karma being involved since physical laws also contribute to a cause and an effect. So leaving aside my karmic involvement of being at that spot when the boulder hits my car, we may as well call that an accident or “a happening” that took place, just like we say, “I had an accident when I missed the nail and hit my finger with a hammer”.
            We have to keep in mind that karma applies to three different fields of operation as Mr. Judge points out in his article “Aphorisms on Karma”:
            1. the body and the circumstances.
            2. the mind and intellect.
            3. the psychic and astral planes.
            So we have to make a distinction between the occurrence of something and the fact that we are either involved or not involved. Boulders drop off rocks every day without anyone being hit.
            If we are involved, then we have to ask ourselves, to what extent am I morally implicated in this occurrence? At present we are not wise enough to determine whether we are or are not morally involved, it is possible that we were in the “wrong time and place” when the bolder came down. Sometimes however we have an inkling or an intuition that we have some moral connection with an effect that we encounter, especially if the possible cause of the effect relates to our present incarnation and we can make some mental connection to that cause in the past.
            But it is possible in any given situation that we are not morally responsible for certain effects we encounter. The web of karma is so intricate due to the volume of thousands of people interacting with each other every day and night that at some point we may become subject to the fallout of causes set in motion by a complete stranger. For that reason one of the Masters points out that they can only interfere (or help) their disciples if they are not morally responsible or implicated in the cause(s) that led to their becoming subject to the negative effect of an action of someone else.
            Now, the example above of being hit by a boulder is perhaps not the best with regard to being in the wrong place and time, as the chances of this happening seem to be so precise and determined that we are most likely morally involved, but again, at present we are not in a position to determine that.
            Not everything that happens to us is necessarily the outcome of past “objective” actions committed by ourselves either. Whenever we are involved in an undertaking or process with which we are not acquainted, i.e. we are ignorant of the steps that need to be taken to accomplish the proper procedure for a right outcome, we may become subject to negative effects which we then call “bad” karma. The actual cause found its origin in our immediate ignorance rather than in wrong actions committed in the past. Mr. Judge makes a point of this in his Ocean of Theosophy, and in a certain sense we can apply that to the majority of actions we take where the appropriate knowledge is missing. In that sense we can call the negative outcome of our ignorance also an “accident” albeit the result of our ignorance.
            Of course you could refer in the foregoing example to a “subjective” involvement in the sense that we failed to acquire the necessary knowledge in the past. But that does not necessarily imply a moral responsibility, as we cannot learn everything in one life time let alone in one day.
            Sometimes the word “accident” is used to refer to an effect of which the cause is unknown, but that doesn’t mean that karma (whether physical, moral or otherwise) doesn’t apply, we are just not aware of the laws involved that led to that specific result.
            Hope this response is helpful.

            • Profile photo of barbara
              barbara
              Participant
              Profile photo of barbarabarbara

              “Sometimes the word “accident” is used to refer to an effect of which the cause is unknown, but that doesn’t mean that karma (whether physical, moral or otherwise) doesn’t apply, we are just not aware of the laws involved that led to that specific result.”

              Thank you, Pierre.  It is helpful, especially the comments above, which deepens my concept of the term, “accident.”

            • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
              Gerry Kiffe
              Moderator
              Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

              Sometimes the idea of compensation is used in explaining the intricacies of Karma. Does compensation come into play when a particular pattern of karma is “interrupted” by some seemingly unrelated activity? Like stray bullet  from a bank robbery striking an infant at the park in a police chase.  Does karma, compensate for undeserved suffering?

              • Profile photo of Peter
                Peter
                Moderator
                Profile photo of PeterPeter

                Yes Gerry, that makes sense and HPB does say this is the case. See quotes in previous posts.

                It’s also worth us keeping in mind that ‘accidents’ can be of many kind and not simply or human origin. For example, those intelligences and forces behind the scenes of our material world, through which universal laws operate, are themselves imperfect. Hence not everything goes to plan. As HPB writes:

                ‘Now the collective Mind — the Universal — composed of various and numberless Hosts of Creative Powers, however infinite in manifested Time, is still finite when contrasted with the unborn and undecaying Space in its supreme essential aspect. That which is finite cannot be perfect.’ SD II 487

                Referring to the aggregate of Dhyan Chohans which constitute the Logos, HPB says:

                “They are dual in their character; being composed of (a) the irrational brute energy, inherent in matter, and (b) the intelligent soul or cosmic consciousness which directs and guides that energy, and which is the Dhyan-Chohanic thought reflecting the ideation of the Universal mind. This results in a perpetual series of physical manifestations and moral effects on Earth, during manvantaric periods, the whole being subservient to Karma. As that process is not always perfect; and since, however many proofs it may exhibit of a guiding intelligence behind the veil, it still shows gaps and flaws, and even results very often in evident failures..’ SD I 280

                 

                ~

          • Profile photo of Peter
            Peter
            Moderator
            Profile photo of PeterPeter

            Hello Barbara – I see now that a wiser response on my part to your question would have been to first ask you what you mean by the term ‘accident.’  You say that for you an ‘accident means something random and arbitrary, something outside of the chain of causation or natural laws [which therefore] . . undermines the whole “logic” of the law of karma.’

            Yes, it can appear that way. We can also say that an accident refers to an act or event that is unplanned or unintended.  Either way, all accidents are the result of causes and in their turn act as causes for further effects (some undesirable, some not) – hence they are all part of the overall ongoing stream of cause and effect and natural law and it appears that Karmic Law takes them all into account in the long run.

            I think that when we find the term accident used in relation to karma in theosophical literature, we are likely to be looking at those actions or events which interrupt the Karma due to (i.e. intended for) a person or group in the current lifetime.  Given the complex and inter-related nature of the chain of cause and effects, which we are all a part of and add to moment by moment, it would be reasonable to expect more than a few accidents in each person’s life which interfere with the karma due (intended).  As HPB writes:

            ‘,,,we are taught that it so happens sometimes that the Karma of a personality is not fully worked out in the birth that follows. Life is made up of accidents, and the personality that becomes, may be hindered by circumstances from receiving the full due its Karma is entitled to, whether for good or for bad. But the Law of Retribution will never allow itself to be cheated by blind chance. There is then a provision to be made, and the accounts that could not be settled in one birth will be squared in the succeeding one. The portion of the sum total which could not be summed up on one column is carried forward to the following.’  (CW IV  572)

            We can also envisage that as a result of accidents and/or the free will of other beings (who create fresh causes) we experience events that were not intended for us as part of the karma due to us in this lifetime.  HPB also refers to this in a number of places, for example, when asked if there were such a thing as unmerited suffering she replied:

            HPB: If you suffer from causes you produce, it is merited; but very often you have sufferings through causes generated by other persons, of which you are not guilty at all.

            Q:  For instance, national Karma.

            HPB: Very often you suffer for things you have never committed, but you simply happen to fall under this current, and there you are. You suffer tremendously, and you suffer that which is not merited, and then you have to have an adequate bliss and reward for it.  ( SD Commentaries; 600)

            My own understanding is that while there is not a single thing that happens to us that is not the result of one or more causes in the long and complex chain of cause and effect, not everything that happens to us is due (i.e. intended) as a result of our morally responsible acts committed in past life times. (Whether we can tell the difference is another question as Pierre has put it so well.)  My understanding is based in part on the notion that we need to distinguish between the various meanings of the term ‘Karma’, of which I will share my thoughts in another post. Well, that’s my intention!

            Are there particular kinds of accident you have in mind in your question, or is it the notion of accident in general?

             

            ~

            • Profile photo of barbara
              barbara
              Participant
              Profile photo of barbarabarbara

              Hi Peter,

              Thank you for your time and detailed explanation.  I used to think the causes of accidents were random, outside of the chain of causation but, after reading Pierre and your posts, I understand it much better.   For instance, someone backed into my car when I was driving the other day, it was an unintended incident.   I used to think that this would be outside the bounds of natural laws, but now I see the causes are still be the result of past actions.   This makes much more sense.   It is interesting that HPB described how “accidents or unplanned” events merely delayed certain effects or the working out of karma.   In terms of national karma, I find the idea, that we assume responsibility because we are a part of the race like an atom in a body, very poignant.

    • Profile photo of Gerry Kiffe
      Gerry Kiffe
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Gerry KiffeGerry Kiffe

      Is there a good corollary term for impersonality? I am afraid that in conversations with people outside theosophical or even philosophical circles the term means coldness and heartlessness.  Perhaps it would be helpful to just expand on the idea to deepen our understanding of it.  What is impersonality from the point of view of theosophical teachings?

  • Profile photo of Peter
    Peter
    Moderator
    Profile photo of PeterPeter

    Bearing in mind the figurative language, what sort of experiences and conditions are referred to in the literature we it discusses reward and punishment?   For example, at a basic level we might see suffering in the next incarnation as punishment and happiness as reward, but might that turn out to be too simplistic when we explore further?  What other kinds of conditions and experiences in our lives would we actually see as reward and which as punishment for previous life actions/causes?

    Also, what kind of present actions would we see as leading to one or the other of those negative or positive  outcomes in future lives?

     

    ~

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    From Mr. Judge’s Article from the same name

    HOW SHOULD WE TREAT OTHERS

    The subject relates to our conduct toward and treatment of our fellows, including in that term all people with whom we have any dealings. No particular mode of treatment is given by Theosophy. It simply lays down the law that governs us in all our acts, and declares the consequences of those acts. It is for us to follow the line of action which shall result first in harmony now and forever, and second, in the reduction of the general sum of hate and opposition in thought or act which now darkens the world.

    The great law which Theosophy first speaks of is the law of karma, and this is the one which must be held in view in considering the question. Karma is called by some the “law of ethical causation,” but it is also the law of action and reaction; and in all departments of nature the reaction is equal to the action, and sometimes the reaction from the unseen but permanent world seems to be much greater than the physical act or word would appear to warrant on the physical plane. This is because the hidden force on the unseen plane was just as strong and powerful as the reaction is seen by us to be. The ordinary view takes in but half of the facts in any such case and judges wholly by superficial observation.

    If we look at the subject only from the point of view of the person who knows not of Theosophy and of the nature of man, nor of the forces Theosophy knows to be operating all the time, then the reply to the question will be just the same as the everyday man makes. That is, that he has certain rights he must and will and ought to protect; that he has property he will and may keep and use any way he pleases; and if a man injure him he ought to and will resent it; that if he is insulted by word or deed he will at once fly not only to administer punishment on the offender, but also try to reform, to admonish, and very often to give that offender up to the arm of the law; that if he knows of a criminal he will denounce him to the police and see that he has meted out to him the punishment provided by the law of man. Thus in everything he will proceed as is the custom and as is thought to be the right way by those who live under the Mosaic retaliatory law.

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN
    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.

    (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.

  • Profile photo of Tamiko Yamada
    Tamiko Yamada
    Participant
    Profile photo of Tamiko YamadaTamiko Yamada

    If human beings experience pain we ask why?  What are the causes?  If I am to still the pain I must learn the source of it.  To believe that my suffering is merely happenstance, or bad luck, or the will of some deranged god takes away from the capacity to improve my circumstances.  Relationship between cause and effect lies at the heart of learning more about action or karma.

  • Profile photo of Peter
    Peter
    Moderator
    Profile photo of PeterPeter

    Various meanings of the term ‘karma’.

    Part 1.

    When reflecting on the teachings on Karma I’ve noticed that the term karma is often used without qualification in the literature with the result that the various shades of meaning are not immediately obvious without some further reflection on behalf of the student. For my own understanding I’ve found it useful to distinguish several ways in which the term karma is meant or used in the teachings, such as:

    – Karma as action
    – Karma as the ongoing stream or chain of cause and effect
    – Karma as ‘the Law of Karma’ or ‘Law of ethical causation’
    – Karma as karmic residue or the latent effects awaiting manifesting

    Sometimes I’ve thought perhaps the differences are just superficial rather than real, but as time has gone by I’ve come to see the differences as subtle yet significant.   See what you think.  These are just my thoughts and understanding so please feel free to add, correct, improve upon them or simply reject them. They certainly need more refining.  I’ve broken this post into parts for easier reading.

    A.1   In one sense the sanskrit term karma simply means action. Hence, in hinduism, the organs (indriyas) of action (karma) –  i.e. the mouth, the generative organs, hands, feet, and excretory organs – are termed the karmendriyas.

    Action can be of many kinds. For example, the Karma-khānda is that portion of the Veda which deals with action as religious rites and rituals.  When advaitee sages claim that karma may lead to heavenly states but does not lead to final liberation (moksha) it is often the karma (rites and rituals) of the Veda that they are referring to.

    A.2  All action of any kind is part of an ongoing chain of cause and effect.  Action in its dual aspect of cause and effect is also referred to as karma.  As far as we know nothing happens or exists without a prior cause.  It’s certainly hard, if not impossible, to conceive of such a thing.  Our universe and all our existences constitute a vast and complex interrelated network of causes and effects which is ever ongoing in its rise and fall.  Accidents are those acts of events which are not intended or planned for.  They, in turn, may cause something to happen that wasn’t intended by Karmic Law or prevent something happening that was.  A random act or event will also have its causes but is one that doesn’t appear to fit in with any plan or pattern – at least none that is known to us at this point in time.

    The only time we talk in terms of a causeless cause is when we discuss the nature of the Absolute or First Principle.

    B. The term karma is also used to refer to ‘the Law of Karma’ or ‘Law of Ethical Causation’.  This refers to more than just action or mere cause and effect.  In Theosophy it refers to that Universal Law which restores over time (sometimes huge periods of time) all generated effects back to equilibrium and universal harmony.  Hence the Law of Karma is intimately connected with Reincarnation and is also regarded as a moral law – the Law of Ethical Causation.  As a moral law its operation restores all effects arising from the actions of morally responsible beings back to their producer.

    As a moral agent in the world, the effects on other people directly arising from my actions today may take any amount of time to unfold. It may also require one or more lifetimes before Karmic Law draws all those beings involved back together in a setting where the accumulated effects directly arising from my action can be resolved and harmony restored.  ‘The Law of Karma’ is, then, more than simply the immediate chain of ‘cause and effect’ which, confusingly, is also called karma.  However, we need to keep in mind HPB says that the moral aspect of this Law is its esoteric meaning, while karma as simply action or cause and effect is the exoteric meaning (see SD I 634).

    The man who robs a bank today, harming others while doing so, may enjoy the effects of his robbery for the rest of this lifetime believing his understanding of cause and effect has worked out very well indeed.  At the level of ethical causation, there are latent moral effects still awaiting the adjustment of Karmic Law which will return to him in a future incarnation.  Thus his actions in this life create the general conditions in which he will find himself placed in the next, ready to receive the effects of causes he himself generated.

    In the passage below, HPB appears to distinguish between the above meanings of the term karma as described in ‘A’ and ‘B’ above, i.e. karma as the straight forward chain of cause & effect and Karmic Law which resolves those effects back to their originating cause – the moral agent responsible:

    “Karma thus, is simply action, a concatenation of causes and effects. That which adjusts each effect to its direct cause; that which guides invisibly and as unerringly these effects to choose, as the field of their operation, the right person in the right place, is what we call Karmic Law.”  (CW VI 145)

     

    ~

    • Profile photo of Peter
      Peter
      Moderator
      Profile photo of PeterPeter

      Part 2.

      B. The term karma as ‘the Law of Karma’ or ‘Law of Ethical Causation’ (…continued)

      The Law of Karma is said to be the Law of Laws, the fount and origin of all the laws of nature – physical, mental and spiritual.   From this and our earlier passages we can infer the following:

      a) nothing in the complex chain of causes and effects on any plane of existence can happen outside of the Law of Karma.  While the Law of Karma is the source of all other laws, the various laws of cause and effect (e.g. physics, chemistry) operating on each plane are not themselves identical to the Law of Karma.

      b) not all causes/actions generated by sentient beings incur moral karmic effects. For example, the child under the age of 6 or 7yrs acts and generates causes and effects which are governed by natural laws, which in turn are governed by the Law of Karma.  At the same time, the child is deemed not to be karmically responsible for its acts on the basis that it does not become morally responsible until the spiritual ego has made a proper connection to the physical form around the ages of 6 and 7.  As such, the child is said not to generate Karma, even though its actions are followed by effects etc.  Mental health illness or brain injury may also render a person incapable of moral responsibility.  As HPB writes:

      “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 above distinction is clearly an important one for us to keep in mind.  As manasic entities with free will and hence moral responsibility, we incur what is called ‘reward and punishment’ or ‘merit and demerit’ through the application of the law of Karma as the Law of Ethical Causation.  But all life and all kingdoms of nature, with or without moral responsibility, are subject to the general law(s) of cause and effect.  The term karma is often used without any qualification, therefore when we read or talk about karma in general we need to keep in mind the important distinction made by HPB above in order to better understand which meaning is to be applied to the particular text or teaching.  Otherwise, to quote HPB again:

      “The error often committed, is to mistake the general law of cause and effect for the law of merit and demerit.” (CW VI 236)

      C.  We also find the term Karma is used to refer to the accumulated store of latent effects an individual creates by his/her actions and which are awaiting ’adjustment’, so to speak, by the Law of Karma.  This latent store is sometimes referred to as the karmic residue of our actions.  This is spoken of in three different ways.

      Sanchita karma is the total store of latent accumulated effects generated by our actions in previous lifetimes.
      Prarabdha karma is that portion of the total store which is due to manifest in our current lifetime.
      Agama karma refers to those effects or residue we add to the total store resulting from our acts in this current life i.e. this is ‘new’ karma we create from moment to moment.

      When we find reference to ‘my karma’, ‘your karma’ or ‘our karma’, it is often this meaning of the term that is in use and refers to either sanchita, prarabdha or agama karma.

      That only a portion of the total store of Karma comes into active effect in any lifetime indicates that it may take many lifetimes to work through ‘our karma’, all the while generating new karma which adds to that store.

      Coming back to our earlier question on accidents and karma: accidents, random events or the free will of other sentient beings may interfere with prarabdha karma i.e. that portion of the total so far that is due to manifest in our current lifetime.  Such actions may either prevent what was due from happening or introduce effects that were not intended or merited.  Either way, the Law of Karma adjusts, so to speak, the residue ensuring that which was due will eventually happen and that which was unmerited will get its compensation.

      This is the last part. As mentioned at the beginning, please feel free to add, correct, improve etc. or even ignore.

       

      • Profile photo of Mark Casady
        Mark Casady
        Participant
        Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

        Nice summary of Karma, Peter – that pretty much covers the basics, I think – do you want to mention the Lipikas here? I don’t know, maybe not – Here’s a passage I came across from the Ocean of Theosophy that has a nice succintness about it – it covers the twofold causal and moral distinction and what not:

        “Applied to man’s moral life it is the law of ethical causation, justice, reward and punishment; the cause for birth and rebirth, yet equally the means for escape from incarnation. Viewed from another point it is merely effect flowing from cause, action and reaction, exact result for every thought and act. It is act and the result of act; for the word’s literal meaning is action. Theosophy views the Universe as an intelligent whole, hence every motion in the Universe is an action of that whole leading to results, which themselves become causes for further results. Viewing it thus broadly, the ancient Hindus said that every being up to Brahma was under the rule of Karma.” (Ocean of Theosophy, 89)

        in chart form, it might look something like this:

        1-Moral (ethical causation, justice, reward and punishment)

        a- cause of birth and rebirth

        b- means of liberation from Samsara

        2- Causal (cause/effect, action/reaction, in thought and act)

        a-all actions in the Universe as a whole

        b-results therof

        • Profile photo of Mark Casady
          Mark Casady
          Participant
          Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

          ps- nice research btw – nice use of some of hpb’s lesser used articles – below is another more obscure bit that I think has some pretty useful basic  information and is nicely succint (from Chatterji/Holloway’s Man, Fragments of a Forgotten History)

          As a necessary consequence of the septenary division of man, it is evident that we are capable of generating force on different planes of existence. The consideration of the working of Karma on all these planes is too complicated to be treated of here, and we shall, for the sake of convenience, adopt the trinitarian division. In this view of the case the Karma of an individual is divisible into three classes, physical, psychical, and spiritual.

          The physical Karma would be the act itself; the psychical Karma, the intention or the mental counterpart of the act; the spiritual Karma has relation to the harmony underlying all Nature. From the law of spiritual dynamics, elsewhere stated, it is clear that this classification is in the order of ascending power. The Karmic value of an act is the resultant of these three sets of forces. Suppose, for instance, that two persons do acts having the physical effect of producing blindness in the next incarnation, but with quite different effects on the two other planes. The result of the combination in one case will make blindness the curse of one’s life, and in the other, produce some spiritual development which would otherwise never have taken place.

          So long as a man is alive, his consciousness is confined to the lowest plane – therefore, the effects of his Karma on the higher planes remain only as germs; but when, after death, his consciousness, overcoming the pressure of his earthward tendencies (represented by his passage through Kama Loka), ascends to the higher state of psychic and spiritual existence known as Devachan, the germs begin to unfold themselves, and keep the individual in that state until the unsatisfied physical Karma counterbalances the psychic and spiritual forces, and produces the next descent into objective life.

          The operation of this law is to be recognized within a limited sphere, in the production of what Darwin calls the differentiation of species. A change of environment leads to the elimination of useless organs and development of new ones, if the animal at all survives the change of conditions. Here we see how a strong desire to live under a given set of circumstances forces the body to mould itself accordingly. Similarly, the body which the ego acquires in its next incarnation is exactly suited to the unsatisfied physical cravings which the ego has brought forward from its previous incarnation. Acting under the impulse of these inclinations, the birth-seeking ego is attracted by the human couple, whose physical frames are capable of generating the required physical body. That portion of a man’s Karma which acts through inherited tendencies is what is commonly called the law of heredity. (Man 124-26)

          • Profile photo of Peter
            Peter
            Moderator
            Profile photo of PeterPeter

            “nice research btw” –

            Thanks again, Mark. It’s often more a question of knowing one has previously read something in HPB’s writings and then wondering how on earth to find it again! There is some excellent material in HPB’s Collected Writings. If students find it hard or too expensive to obtain all fourteen volumes, plus the index, they are available on line. Definitely worth the study, as you know.

            That’s an interesting passage from Chatterji & Holloway’s ‘Man, Fragments of a Forgotten History.’ They say, “The physical Karma would be the act itself.” Would it be correct to say “the act itself” is always and only the physical action, while the psychic or mental aspect is always only the intentional or motive side of the act? In other words, might it be the case that our thoughts, feelings and desires are also acts (even ‘the act itself’) as well as being intentions and motives. (This links with Jon’s recent question on ‘That which ye sow, ye reap.) Further, such psychical or mental acts generate a string of causes and effects whether or not they are expressed physically or bodily? For example, one might consider to what extent our thoughts, feelings and desires impact the inner planes (e.g. the astral light) and how these influence directly or indirectly other beings – locally or in the larger collective.

            ~

            • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
              Pierre Wouters
              Moderator
              Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

              Robert Crosbie gives an interesting reply that seems applicable to your last sentence:
              “For example, one might consider to what extent our thoughts, feelings and desires impact the inner planes (e.g. the astral light) and how these influence directly or indirectly other beings – locally or in the larger collective.”

              Answers to Questions on the Ocean of Theosophy pp. 183-184
              Every human being is a ceaseless dynamo of continually produced energy which will finally affect the very earth on which we live. The brain is a dispenser; none of the energy we put in any kind of thought is lost, but becomes a part of the energy of the earth. If that energy is devoted more to disintegration than to good and constructive ideals, then destruction will be brought about not only of the civilization but of the very earth itself. There is no separateness between us and the other kingdoms. We are all bound to each other. We live upon the lower kingdoms; we gain our instruments from them, and we affect them either beneficently or maleficently. In the energy we put into self-interest we are generating maleficent influence, which finally, in cyclic course, will culminate in some disaster. The energy generated by high ideals will likewise culminate, but in some great benefit.
              We have to learn Theosophy, but more, we have to make it a living power in our lives, in order to have it of beneficent effect and spread beyond our own narrow horizon of thought and feeling. We have to supply that dynamic power, not for any one channel, but for all. It is the power of Consciousness when freed from self-interest; it is Spirit, freed from self-interest.

              • Profile photo of Peter
                Peter
                Moderator
                Profile photo of PeterPeter

                Great passage, Pierre. Thanks very much. It just goes to emphasise that our thoughts, feelings and desires are also ‘actions’ which have effects even if we don’t physically act them out. We may well generate as much or even more karma from our thoughts alone than from our thoughts linked with deeds. A sobering thought.

                ~

                • Profile photo of Mark Casady
                  Mark Casady
                  Participant
                  Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

                  Manu Smriti (Book 12) has some interest passages related to this:

                  3. Action, which springs from the mind, from speech, and from the body, produces either good or evil results; by action are caused the (various) conditions of men, the highest, the middling, and the lowest.

                  10. That man is called a (true) tridandin in whose mind these three, the control over his speech (vagdanda), the control over his thoughts (manodanda), and the control over his body (kayadanda), are firmly fixed.

                  11. That man who keeps this threefold control (over himself) with respect to all created beings and wholly subdues desire and wrath, thereby assuredly gains complete success.

                   

        • Profile photo of Peter
          Peter
          Moderator
          Profile photo of PeterPeter

          Thanks, Mark. Yes, the doctrine regarding the Lipika would certainly be important. I just wanted to expand on the different uses of the term Karma while at the same time provide a general outline, as far as I understood it. Your chart brings out very well the difference between Karma as a moral law and Karma as the general law of cause and effect. While HPB does, in places, state that the Law of Karma is a moral law, we do find across the literature -theosophical and otherwise- that the same term is used for both the moral and general law cause and effect. Thus, the student needs to be sensitive to context. Of course, this is the case with all theosophical terminology.

  • Profile photo of James
    James
    Participant
    Profile photo of JamesJames

    Karma is an interesting subject and Astrology is the key.  Ones own Karma is written in our birth chart with Saturn the number one indicator. The better the understanding of the Wisdom Teachings an Astrologer has the better their interpretation. Also the more one knows about Astrology the easier it is to understand Occultism.

    HPB; All our thoughts and actions thus produce the vibrations in space, which mould our future career. And astrology is a science which, having determined the nature of the laws that govern these vibrations, is able to state precisely a particular or a series of results, the causes of which have already been produced by the individual in his previous life. Since the present incarnation is the child of the previous one, and since there is but that ONE LIFE which holds together all the planets of the Solar system, the position of those planets at the time of the birth of an individual—which event is the aggregate result of the causes already produced—gives to the true Astrologer the data upon which to base his predictions. cw6 229

    The intelligent reader must now see the point at which we aim—namely, that in astrology the stars do not cause our good or bad luck, but simply indicate the same. A man must be a psychologist and a philosopher before he can become a perfect astrologer, and understand correctly the great Law of Universal Sympathy. Not only astrology but magnetism, theosophy and every occult science, especially that of attraction and repulsion, depend upon this law for their existence. cw3 192/3

     

  • Profile photo of Mark Casady
    Mark Casady
    Participant
    Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

    I hear you James, been reading those astrology chapters in SD3, interesting stuff…

    I like that Karma article from hpb cw 6 237 that Peter quoted, the bit about animal ingenuity (I think the writer referred to is Dostoevsky)

    A celebrated writer says: “Suffering is heaven’s divine medicine.” The law of compensation is also active in the animal world. A dog, that has to exercise its own sagacity to find food, will sooner develop psychical powers in that direction, than one that does nothing but eat and sleep, and the individual or differentiated monad of the former will sooner reach the condition necessary to enter the human kingdom. The rudiments of hope, patience, faith, fidelity, confidence, etc., are found in the animal kingdom. By putting them into exercise, they will become stronger, and as no effort in nature is ever lost, they their uses.

    • Profile photo of James
      James
      Participant
      Profile photo of JamesJames

      Hi Cassidy,..I find it interesting producing HPB astrology quotes that I know to be true from experience.
      I am not sure if that quote is completely correct where entrance into the human kingdom is concerned.
      It is correct that animals are born with a certain psychic abilities inherent within them, which they sharpen with use as stated.
      However it is normally only a domestic animal that can survive by doing nothing but eat and sleep.
      Taking domestic cats as well as dogs as examples. If they live indoors they are normally toilet trained, fed at regular times, they seek and respond accordingly to love and affection from humans, and often try to imitate human habits, almost trying to be human.
      Where as a wild cat/dog usually run from humans, but will instinctually attack a human if surprised or cornered.
      Which of these two is best suited to enter the human kingdom?
      The one that only knows how to hunt and attack, or the one that, while still having these animal instincts inherent in them, (animal soul) much prefers to seek  ‘love and affection’ from humans.

      • Profile photo of Mark Casady
        Mark Casady
        Participant
        Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

        That’s a good question James – Blavatsky had pet monkeys and birds, so I suppose she would sympathize with the domestic animal question –

        the original question was doe animals have any degree of moral responsibility and the answer was no.

        http://www.katinkahesselink.net/blavatsky/articles/v6/y1884_036.htm

        She mentions that animals are subject to the law of cause and effect but not the law of merit and demerit – but then she states that they are apparently subject to the law of compensation (is this a third aspect of Karma?)

        her emphasis was on suffering as an impetus for developing consciousness (no pain, no gain)- so she mentions a series of qualities that can be sooner developed through practical sagacity experiences rather than just sleeping and eating.

        So it looks like she was giving two extremes to illustrate the point that for animals, the more concrete, rough, physical experiences are a quicker way to reach the human stage – although presumably the domestication process can be of value as well – assuming the owner avoids spoiling their pet – perhaps training them to do various pet tricks is helpful as well…

        • Profile photo of Mark Casady
          Mark Casady
          Participant
          Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

          ps – more on the animal nature and suffering from “The Dream of Ravan”

          The Titanic nature is not of this kind: for though the Tamas nature [Page 51] immensely predominates, it still partakes largely of the and in lesser measure of the  quality. The problem to be solved in the case of Titanic Ravan — and in greater or less degree of every human soul, in proportion as it partakes of the Titanic nature, as all in their emerging must in some measure — is, how shall the Tamas be changed into the Satva, or penetrated and ruled by it ? — how shall matter re-ascend and become spirit ? — the gross darkness and stolid stupidity of the tree or the animal be illumined into self-consciousness, reflection, reason, knowledge ? — the brute self-concentration be kindled into universal sympathy and love ? — the blind instinct and coarse desires of the Titan, or Titanic man, be sublimed into the eternal conscious principles, self-renunciation, and pure ideality of the divine life ? [Page 52]

          This can only be accomplished in one way, and that way lies through the Rajas — the life of passion — the life of suffering. The result of every passion of our nature, even love, nay, of love more than of all others, is suffering and sorrow. The first awakening of unconscious matter into the consciousness of mere animal life is through physical pain; and the process is carried still further by the mental suffering which is the very nature of the soul’s emotional life.

          Through the anguish of the fire alone can the black coal of the mine become transmuted into light. And so the sorrow and anguish, which result in-inevitably from the passions in the Rajas, or emotional life, constitute the purifying fire designed to purge away the dross of our Titanic nature, and transmute it into the pure Satva, where [Page 53] purity, goodness, and truth are predominant. Brute appetite and blind impulse are first superseded by passion; and passion working, through sorrow and the reflexion and sympathy which sorrow begets, its own extinction, finally merges in and is swallowed up in love and absolute resignation. “

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    From Mr. Judge’s article: Is Karma only Punishment?

    The misunderstanding shown in the question is due to inaccurate thinking upon the subject of Karma. One branch of this law deals with the vicissitudes of life, with the differing states of men. One man has opportunity and happiness, another meets only the opposite. Why is this? It is because each state is the exact result bound to come from his having disturbed or preserved the harmony of nature. The person given wealth in this life is he who in the preceding incarnation suffered from its absence or had been deprived of it unjustly. What are we to call it but reward? If we say compensation, we express exactly the same idea. And we cannot get the world to adopt verbosity in speech so as to say, “All this is due to that man’s having preserved the cosmic harmony.”

    The point really in the questioners mind is, in fact, quite different from the one expressed; he has mistaken one for the other; he is thinking of the fact so frequently obtruded before us that the man who has the opportunity of wealth or power oft misuses it and becomes selfish or tyrannous. But this does not alter the conclusion that he is having his reward. Karma will take care of him; and if he does not use the opportunity for the good of his fellows, or if he does evil to them, he will have punishment upon coming back again to earth. It is true enough, as Jesus said, that “it is difficult for the rich man to enter heaven,” but there are other possessions of the man besides wealth that constitute greater obstacles to development, and they are punishments and may coexist in the life of one man with the reward of wealth or the like. I mean the obstruction and hindrance found in stupidity, or natural baseness, or in physical sensual tendencies. These are more likely to keep him from progress and ultimate salvation than all the wealth or good luck that any one person ever enjoyed.

    In such cases–and they are not a few–we see Karmic reward upon the outer material plane in the wealth and propitious arrangement of life, and on the inner character the punishment of being unable or unfit through many defects of mind or nature. This picture can be reversed with equal propriety. I doubt if the questioner has devoted his mind to analyzing the subject in this manner.

    Every man, however, is endowed with conscience and the power to use his life, whatever its form or circumstance, in the proper way, so as to extract from it all the good for himself and his fellows that his limitations of character will permit. It is his duty so to do, and as he neglects or obeys, so will be his subsequent punishment or reward.

  • Profile photo of Tom Kehoe
    Tom Kehoe
    Participant
    Profile photo of Tom KehoeTom Kehoe

    So the earlier question is “what is impersonality from the point of view of Theosophical teachings?”   There may be helpful analogies: Does the sun personally decide upon whom he shall shine more brightly?  Does he deliberately shine in certain ways on one of us so as to give us a painful sun burn and on another so as to give a beautiful sun tan?  We all see the folly in this.  THE SUN SHINES IMPERSONALLY.  Do we each shine our own light and life impersonally  upon the folks with whom we interact?  Unconditional love is impersonal. It doesn’t take a high-minded philosopher to comprehend this.  Thinking, feeling and acting from an impersonal basis is a sure way to express a sense of brotherhood which is entirely outside the boundaries of race, color, ethnicity, gender, etc.  IF HE WHO DEVELOPS A SUN BURN actually believes it’s because the sun doesn’t like him, then he’s simply not taking responsibility for himself.  He’s not accepting that everything occurs under law.  Perhaps the first step toward thinking, feeling and acting from an impersonal basis is trying to remember that all is infinitely interconnected.  That said, our personality can be used constructively and affectionately.  Do as seemeth best unto thee.

    • Profile photo of Peter
      Peter
      Moderator
      Profile photo of PeterPeter

      Those are good points, Tom.  I think HPB was getting at the same thing when she says that Karma doesn’t act, it is we who act – as she put it, water doesn’t drown us, we drown ourselves when we go in the water.   Through our actions (mind, speech and body) we bring ourselves into association with various universal laws and influences (moral and physical & so on) from which consequences follow according to the operation of those laws.  When we slip and fall from the cliff face, gravity doesn’t punish us by making us fall to the ground and hurt us. If we believed it did we might also believe gravity punished us more for falling from a great height than falling from a lesser one, which would be absurd.

       

      ~

       

      • Profile photo of Ramprakash ML
        Ramprakash ML
        Participant
        Profile photo of Ramprakash MLRamprakash ML

        Peter’s illustration of Harmony vis a vis Karma takes away the narrow view of Karma as good and bad is valid. He said :

        There is another type of harmony which is harmony in action – for example, in music when all the musicians playing their different parts nevertheless work in unison to create and produce a unified whole. Perhaps, by analogy, we can envisage creating those causes in our current life that will create a future for ourselves and all beings which is not so much about avoiding suffering or minimising the karma we create (i.e. restoring the equilibrium as in the pond example, which seems almost impossible at our level of development) but one which will provide the positive conditions for ourselves and others to better lead lives of goodness and spiritual endeavour.”

        In view of the fact of Unity of Self, and of the universal impulse in Nature to progress towards higher life, our action in accordance with it is “Harmony in action,” which is productive of highest good of all. That should be good Karma, and thoughts and actions contrary to it cannot but be bad Karma.

        Key to Theosophy:

        ” ‘Good’ and ‘Harmony,’ and ‘Evil’ and ‘Disharmony,’ are synonymous. Further we maintain that all pain and suffering are result of want of Harmony, and that the one terrible and only cause of disturbance of Harmony is selfishness in some form or another. Hence Karma gives back to every man the actual consequences of his own actions, without any regard to their moral character…” (Chapter on Karma)

        This is a lesson we are all learning, though through much suffering and pain–how to think and act in unison with the Harmony of  Life. The day nations learn this verity and make it the basis of their national policies and international relations, then will the much desired World Peace dawn on the suffering humanity.

    • Profile photo of Grace Cunningham
      Grace Cunningham
      Participant
      Profile photo of Grace CunninghamGrace Cunningham

      You’re wonderful point about the sun symbolizing impersonality helps to clarify this interesting statement in the 5th Chapter of the Gita.

      “The illuminated sage regards with equal mind an illuminated, selfless Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and even an outcaste who eats the flesh of dogs.”

    • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
      Pierre Wouters
      Moderator
      Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

      Good point Tom, and as Peter points out, “Karma doesn’t act, it is we who act”. Indeed, we avail ourselves of that potentiality to act which is part and parcel of our own spiritual nature (Atma, the power to move or act) and derive the consequences or effects of that, for better or worse.

    • Profile photo of KS
      KS
      Moderator
      Profile photo of KSKS

      Hello Tom-

      “Unconditional love is impersonal….  Thinking, feeling and acting from an impersonal basis is a sure way to express a sense of brotherhood which is entirely outside the boundaries of race, color, ethnicity, gender, etc… Perhaps the first step toward thinking, feeling and acting from an impersonal basis is trying to remember that all is infinitely interconnected.”

      Wonderful summary of a very profound topic.  Matter of fact, we can read in the Key to Theosophy, page 201;

      “…we consider it as the Ultimate Law of the Universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. Karma is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, 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. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable.

      Karma, described in the very first line as, “Ultimate Law of the Universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature” defiantly describes this LAW as impersonal to the highest degree.  One may find when this point is deeply considered, the ideas of personal and individual karma seem to be quite shallow.  I suppose this is only adding emphasis to what Tom is saying when he spoke about that all in infinitely interconnected.  Such a profound truth, this may be considered along the lines of “Distributive Karma.”

      There can be no such truth as an “isolated individual” or “individual action.”  Ideas of  an isolated existence is born from the mind of personality, not at all truth, as we see no such isolation existing in wide expanse of Nature.  Thus life, in all of its aspects, should be considered as a codependent amalgamation of many grades of life; Devas and Elementals included- each correspond to a principle within the Constitution, in Humanity or otherwise.  So further emphasis is stressed upon thought, as thought is the first phase of action.  Keep ones thoughts wedded and devoted to living the life in accordance with the Karmic Law, and the self surrender of the personal ego appears to be compulsory.  Perhaps this is the first steps on the Path of Individuality.  B.P. Wadia mentions, “Men make chaos and the unerring Law sweeps on to remove it.”

      How well the Zartoshti knew this when they spoke of, “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.

      A closing thought from the Key, pg. 203-

      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. It is an occult law, moreover, 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. In the same way, no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality, there is no such thing as “Separateness”; and the nearest approach to that selfish state, which the laws of life permit, is in the intent or motive.”

  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN
    Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
    The Law of Karma

    The Universe of Law is accepted as a basic truth by all. The most superstitious slave of priestcraft, the believer in chance, coincidence, the “psychological moment,” fatalism, and also the most abject materialist reared by modern science — all avow that the universe, physical, moral, mental, is — must be — governed by law. Law, however, assumes the aspect of a whimsical and mysterious personal god with some; with others, is locked up in the power of thought exerted by human free will; is the code of the partly discovered and the partly to be discovered “facts” of modern “exact science” with a third class. The truth that the “infallible laws” of materialistic science break down in conflict with moral problems does not disturb the upholders of those “laws”; on the other hand the advance of knowledge which has overthrown the “revealed will of God” makes little difference to the blind believer in the non-existent “Almighty.”

    -B.P. Wadia

  • Profile photo of Pierre Wouters
    Pierre Wouters
    Moderator
    Profile photo of Pierre WoutersPierre Wouters

    Hi Peter,

    indeed, the combination of Spinoza and Leibniz provides the proper understanding. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective as in “is the glas half full or half empty”. Just as manas is one but has a higher and lower aspect depending on whether it “moves” upwards or downwards. Our predicament is that with our dual mind we are limited to choosing one or the other perspective notwithstanding our intellectual grasp of the fact that it is one. Language is certainly not very helpful here 🙂

  • Profile photo of Peter
    Peter
    Moderator
    Profile photo of PeterPeter

    Samantha asks, ‘what is the nature of the “free will” we exercise according to Theosophy?’ (post 3449) The posts were getting a bit squeezed in the original thread so I’ve posted this at the beginning of a new one. Apologies if this is confusing.

    One view of human free will as found in theosophy would be that it is intimately connected to the ability to make moral choices and actions. Moral choice and actions require a moral agent, a Mind endowed with self consciousness (Individuality) and which is capable of self directed action along with the ability to consider the consequences of such actions on the needs and welfare of other beings. The choices of moral agents leads to a range of possible actions. This range extends from acting out of self interest to acting selflessly in the interests of all beings. The exercise of choice within that range is an exercise in free will. When we feel prevented from acting in the manner of our choosing, we often say our free will has been impeded. This suggests that for many of us free will is not only about choosing, it also needs to include turning our choices into actions or outcomes of some kind.

    When we look at the nature of free will, we not only need to inquire just what kind of willing or volition are we talking about, we also need to ask ‘what does the ‘free’ in free will actually stand for?’ Freedom from what? Our will is always subject to the laws of nature – physical and spiritual – as Pierre points out. As humanity evolves we find ways to cooperate with nature’s laws in order to achieve the ideas and plans that we will should happen. The law of gravity has in the past prevented human beings from flying and still poses difficult problems for people who choose to jump off rocks 1000ft high and then change their minds. Through our ingenuity and will we eventually found other laws to work with (aerodynamics etc) that overcame the restriction of aerial movement that the law of gravity normally imposes on us. So, we could say that the extent to which we are able to fully express our free will is dependent upon our knowledge of nature’s laws – physical and spiritual.  However, is lack of knowledge all that restricts our freedom of will?

    Let’s take Pierre’s helpful example of someone jumping off a 1000ft high rock. Let’s say it is a super hero who jumps from the rock and through her super powers can change her mind half way down and fly back up to the top again. Let’s also say this super hero is invincible – able to overcome all beings and utilise the forces and laws of nature which many of us do not even suspect exist. For all of that, there is still one important sense in which our super hero may still not be free in the exercise of her will, namely, she may still be driven by her own personal wants and desires.

    From a theosophical point of view, it is just this freedom from our desire nature which allows our free will to operate. HPB says that kama-manas is the psychic element that we have in common with animals (see CW XII 352). That’s a sobering thought if we care to reflect on it fully. Free will comes into play as we learn to disassociate the mind from kama (the desire principle) or as HPB puts it:

    This “Mind” is manas, or rather its lower reflection, which whenever it disconnects itself, for the time being, with kama, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties, and is the organ of the free will in physical man. (CW XII 358: ‘Psychic and Noetic Action)

    The lower manas, recall, is a projection or ray of the Higher Manas. The Higher is the source of self-consciousness in Man. Therefore, it appears to be the case that that self-consciousness, in the form of the lower manas during the lifetime, is the moral agent within the personality.

    The other aspect of free will in theosophy can be found in the Third Fundamental Proposition of the Secret Doctrine. In giving an overview of the journey of the Soul throughout evolution there comes a stage where the Soul’s progress requires ‘self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma). Self induced and self devised efforts requires free will in some form or another and we discover from the SD that this is directly related to the awakening of Manas in humanity in the 3rd Root race of this evolutionary round..

     

    ~

    • This reply was modified 1 year ago by Profile photo of Peter Peter.
  • Profile photo of ModeratorTN
    ModeratorTN
    Keymaster
    Profile photo of ModeratorTNModeratorTN

    (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.

    (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.

    From the Aphorisms on Karma

  • Profile photo of Mark Casady
    Mark Casady
    Participant
    Profile photo of Mark CasadyMark Casady

    Peter
    September 5, 2016 at 11:52 am #3315
    “nice research btw” –
    Thanks again, Mark. It’s often more a question of knowing one has previously read something in HPB’s writings and then wondering how on earth to find it again! There is some excellent material in HPB’s Collected Writings. If students find it hard or too expensive to obtain all fourteen volumes, plus the index, they are available on line. Definitely worth the study, as you know.

    yes
    – the CW is almost like the Secret Doctrine vol. 4 – just loaded with really interesting stuff in out of the way paragraphs, offhand sentences, footnotes and various cryptic remarks full of significant meaning – below is an example that sheds some unique light on karma:

    ”The Occult Doctrine teaches that Karma waits at the threshold of Devachan (the Amenti of the Egyptians) for 3,000 years; that then the eternal Ego is reincarnated de novo, to be punished in its new temporary personality for sins committed in the preceding birth, and the suffering for which in one shape or another, will atone for past misdeeds. And the hawk, the lotus-flower, the heron, serpent, or bird––every object in Nature, in short—had its symbolical and manifold meaning in ancient religious emblems. The man who all his life acted hypocritically and passed for a good man, but had been in sober reality watching like a bird of prey his chance to pounce upon his fellow-creatures, and had deprived them of their property, will be sentenced by Karma to bear the punishment for hypocrisy and covetousness in a future life. What will it be? Since every human unit has ultimately to progress in its evolution, and since that “man” will be reborn at some future time as a good, sincere, well-meaning man, his sentence to be re-incarnated as a hawk may simply mean that he will then be regarded metaphorically as such. That, notwithstanding his real, good, intrinsic qualities, he will, perhaps during a long life, be unjustly and falsely charged with and suspected of greed and hypocrisy and of secret exactions, all of which will make him suffer more than he can bear. The law of retribution can never err, and yet how many such innocent victims of false appearance and human malice do we not meet in this world of incessant illusion, of mistake and deliberate wickedness. We see them every day, and they may be found within the personal experience of each of us. What Orientalist can say with any degree of assurance that he has understood the religions of old?” Egyptian Magic, CW 7, p. 112

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  • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
    Pavel Axentiev
    Participant
    Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

    From one angle, the law of Karma is nothing but the law of cause and effect – ultimately, the essentially rational (comprehensible by application of the rules of logic) nature of reality.

    However, it appears proper to apply the term ‘Karma’ specifically to the manner in which one’s thoughts, words, and actions modify the conditions of one’s existence in the material body.

    What matters most is that the concept of Karma even in the latter sense is still inherently logical and is based on few simple principles. I would argue that it is supremely easy, one’s these principles are understood, to apply the knowledge of the law of Karma to one’s everyday life.

    These principles, in my opinion, can be reduced to the following:
    – the inherent property of Being (Sanskr. sat) and Goodness in all existence
    – the notion that all life (existence, sat) is ultimately one

    One important consequence of the 1st principle above is that it can be applied to oneself as well as to others. Thus, one has a right for self-defense as well as for what is necessary to sustain oneself. In practical application, it is often a question of assessing various subtle aspects of the situation in order to find the optimal way of giving what is due to the Sacredness in what is around us, as well as performing one’s duty to oneself.

    Finally, one’s Karma is related to one’s Dharma. Your calling and your duties in life are your Dharma. “One should accept and rejoice in what is given to him, and not wish for another’s lot. If one continues to work in such a way, one may wish to live for one hundred years. There is no other way for man, and Karma will not bind you.” (Sri Ishopanishad, 1, 2)

  • Profile photo of Pavel Axentiev
    Pavel Axentiev
    Participant
    Profile photo of Pavel AxentievPavel Axentiev

    I find this passage from the Secret Doctrine, quoted in the Key to Theosophy, peculiarly reminds me, among other things, of the structure of a DNA molecule, which, as you may know, always consists of two strands that “faithfully follow the fluctuations” of each other:

    Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to death, every man is weaving, thread by thread, around himself, as a spider does his cobweb, and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning of the invisible affray the stern and implacable law of compensation steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations. When the last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the network of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made destiny.

© 2017 Universal Theosophy

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