We often think of Karma when trouble or disaster strikes us personally, or our family, or a city, or a nation. It is easy to say: “It is Karma!”—and stop there. That is negative fatalism, not positive “do-it-ness.”
“Do-it-ness” should not start after a disaster, but ought to begin now, before the disaster—the sooner the better.
The starting point for this seems to be in inner work on ourselves—on our mind-thoughts and heart-feelings. First we should try to understand that these are our tools and are subordinate to our Real Selves. Unfolding knowledge of the Law of Karma is an indication of inner progress. We must try to determine, each one for himself, how much we know, and then we can make application of the doctrine of Karma in our own lives and to our own problems.
Let us look at certain ideas with which we are all familiar:
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.—This is a statement of the Law attributed to the Prophet Moses. Interpreted literally, it is misleading. It is not an injunction to human beings to make themselves judges of others, or “Karmic agents.” It is a statement of the action in Great Nature of the impersonal, universal Law of Karma, which adjusts everycause to an exact effect, mathematically.
As we sow, so shall we reap.—This is another important warning statement, and, together with the preceding one, ought to make us see that we call forth from Nature, under Karmic Law, what we ourselves impress on it. The Law is immutable, sure. We sow the seeds of Karma, and Nature produces, in due time, the harvest—the fruits not only of our outer deeds, but also of our inner thoughts and feelings.
The hands that smite us are our own.—This phrase is an elaboration of the previous one. Yet many may not understand it, see it, realize it; and often we blame the “agents” of our own Karma for the pains and sorrows that come to us. We look for their cause outside, instead of looking inwards.
We get not only what we deserve, but what we in fact desired.—This should bring us to a higher aspect of Karma—recognition of the theory of the Law. Ishwara, an ancient name for the Reality, the impersonal, impartite Deific Principle which resides in the hearts of all beings and which is the Real Man, overshadows the personal man. The personal thinks and feels and acts. The Ishwara within the personal man is the Perceiver, the unmoved watcher, silent but sentient. The personal man is the disciple, the learner, the weary pilgrim, threading his way through the paths of life that are strewn with the thorns and weeds that he himself has sown in the past, whether in this present life or in former lives on earth. The Ishwara, sitting in wakeful watchfulness in the cave of the heart, desires the object-involved personal man to look up, to see the light of Wisdom, the truth about Karmic life, which affects all entities in the manifested universe and forms their essential correlation; then, with even an inkling of this perception, assume, in the outside, objective world ofMaya (Illusion), the responsibility of practical harmlessness and harmonious living with all beings. Thus is generated that Karma which is pleasing to the Ishwara within.
“The Guru is Karma,” says Mr. Judge in one place. What does he mean? Are the Masters the makers of Karma? No. Let us consider the important hint given to us by Mr. Judge:
Why, the Masters are anxious (to use a word of our own) that as many as possible may reach to the state of power and love They are in. Why, then, suppose they help not? As they are Atman and therefore the very law of Karma itself, They are in everything in life, and every phase of our changing days and years. If you will arouse your faith on this line you come nearer to help from Them than you will recognize.
This seems to emphasize several things. First, that those we call Masters or Elder Brothers have, over a period of many, many incarnations, refined and purified their personal natures by acting in harmony with the united spirit of life that is our only true self. Secondly, that they did this deliberately and with a knowledge of the laws of Nature acuired through lives spent in study and verification of the facts recorded by the Great Ones who preceded them. Thirdly, that those qualities which we call “virtues” are but an expression of the action of Karmic law in the moral realm of Nature—a realm where harmlessness, generosity, charity, patience and wisdom can be seen to work (just as in the physical world the laws of gravity, friction, viscosity, chemical affinity, etc., can be proved to act).
Having thus ceased to disturb Nature, because they knew all her secret departments and could will-fully and willingly attune themselves to her all the time, they first exhausted their personal Karma, set up in the past; secondly, they have ceased generating fresh Karma, as they are in accord with Nature’s purposes and have made themselves willing servants of Nature’s laws, with full knowledge of past, present and future. They have thus made themselves impersonal forces for good. Their perfect knowledge of Law enables them to learn the great secret: “Gentleness is the key to Occult effort.”
Let us then understand that the Masters, the Mahatmas, the Great Souls of the human race, stand in the same relation to us in our present-day personal lives as the Ishvara within each one of us does to the personality that lives in the outside world, and which we call “myself.”
We, as Spirit beings, are ourselves Karma. In our lower-mind consciousness, attracted (or, rather, distracted) by feelings of lower self-interest, we forget this fact; or, perhaps, make it inconvenient to remember! We need to use the instrument of humility, and the determination to learn and to apply; else, we cannot hear the still, small voice that comes from our higher nature.
If we do this, all things become our teachers. He is indeed wise who, each morning upon awakening, reminds himself, like the wise Socrates, that the one thing he can be certain of is his own ignorance; and, by implication, reaffirms his determination and his will to learn and to know. Nothing, no event or work, is trivial. We who are reaping the effects of our own Karmic causes need to search for those causes—in ourselves: in our habits, in our characters, among our talents and our interests and aversions, asking always, “Why?” Our limitations and our abilities are an index to former weaknesses or strivings towards disciplined living. We can develop detachment in observation, and watch how these limitations and abilities affect others, and how they assist or prevent us in harmonizing with the flow of events that our Karma has called down upon us.
The circumstance is not important; what we do with it, is. The circumstance arises from our past. By our reactions to it we determine our future. We need to develop right circumspection (which is not procrastination).
Such considerations ought to induce a sense of right contentment. We are to develop, not laissez-faire, or inertness, or a false submission to the decrees of “fate,” but, rather, contentment in doing the duties that are ours, while avoiding meddling in the duties and Karma of others. Consider our own physical bodies, as a good analogy. The cells of the brain perform a duty different from those that make up the bones. The cells that make up the muscles of the heart have different functions from the blood cells, and so on. All these, different in their functions yet united in one living body work co-operatively and unitedly and serve the embodied intelligence. Yet, if the heart begins to fail, while the cells of the brain may observe this and know that it will spell their ultimate death, they cannot leave their post or their duties to perform those of the heart. In addition to our natural duties we have to perform special duties, such as acts of charity, sacrifice and mortification, mentioned in the Gita. We need also to observe and learn from Nature and her universal laws, so that our vision broadens and becomes universal. This is what is implied by the expression “the Universe made ‘I’.”