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Re: Re: Theos-World Who to blame?

May 11, 1999 06:48 AM
by Richtay

In a message dated 5/11/99 12:16:36 PM, Louis wrote:

<<If we come to the action in bits and pieces, holding 
something back as it were, such as pervasive pessimism tends to do, we add to 
and sustain the dilemma. So for me the doing, of anything that is 
Idealistically resonant or compassion driven, is the only action worth 

I totally agree with you, and I do not think I have been intellectualizing 
the problem.  Whether my stance is "pervasive pessimism" remains to be seen 
-- or is it simply "realism"?  The first Noble Truth of Buddhism ("sarvam 
duhkham") is that everything in this world lacks the capacity to produce 
happiness, that everything in the world gives rise to suffering.  Not some of 
the time or most of the time but ALL OF THE TIME.  Western students of 
Buddhism may think this is pessimistic -- "the worls isn't so bad" they think 
to themselves.  Quite the contrary, I see it as profoundly helpful and 
optimistic.  The Buddha is a great doctor, and is pointing out our illness.  
This gives us a basis to identify the problem and change.  Certainly, the 
next three Noble Truths provide the cure!

I think all would agree that if the notions we hold are false, false action 
is sure to follow.  A misguided notion that human problems are easily solved 
does not tend towards deeply helpful activity.  My point has been (1)  
Material aid only effects short term change and may result in worse harm (but 
sometimes it is still the "right" thing to do) and (2) Karma is constantly 
redistributing the wealth already.  

I don't see Karma as simply retributive.  I am aware of its all-encompassing 
nature as creative activity as well.  I see it as my duty to help where and 
whenever circumstances permit (and that is NOT "all the time").  If the 
retributive Karma "punishes" us for our selfishness, I agree with you that 
the opposite attitute will present generally opposite results.  But I 
disagree with you that altruism necessarily takes the shape of redistributing 
wealth.  I see that lack of wealth is the result, not the cause of evil 
karma, and I am more interested in mitigating causes, before they lead to 
suffering.  Once a person has cancer, certainly one can use the destructive 
technique of chemotherapy, a more positive (and less reliable) macrobiotic 
diet, and other ways to purify the impurities causing the problem.  But how 
much better to take preventitive steps that prevent cancer altogether?

<< Also, I do not buy the fact that it is their Karma, so we should just let 
it go at that. To do nothing, to feel nothing, to remain intellectually 
distant because my circumstances are a bit more fortunate at this moment, is 
not acceptable to me. >>

I believe we should neither stand by passively, nor act simplistically and 
harmfully out of blind compassion.  I repeat, if distributing food and 
clothing were enough to end human suffering, this would have been the whole 
path the Masters instructed us to take.  Rather, when we look at the overall 
structure of Theosophical teachings, they are a revolution in goals, 
thinking, attitude and feeling, which then of course as PART of the result, 
leads to more compassionate action.  But I think it is a grave mistake to 
reduce Theosophy to compassionate action.  Very often our compassion arises 
out of deep ignorance, and we can mess things up far worse than they were.  

Louis, I certainly don't disagree with your kind-hearted response, and I 
don't think our attitudes are so very different.  I only jumped on this 
thread because I was reacting to the quite Marxist notion that if only we 
could assure ourselves that everyone had food, money etc. all would be well.  
I am positively certain that all would NOT be well.  That doesn't mean of 
course that we shouldn't share, but we should also be aware that throwing 
money at a problem, while it may assuage our guilt, doesn't necessarily solve 
anything and it may be worse.  Giving a drug addict money (which will only be 
used for more drugs) is a devastating attempt to help, made out of ignorance. 
 Providing a drug addict with rehabilitiation is a more useful step, but 
sadly, having worked in a homeless shelter for some time, few addicts are 
ready or willing to quit, even when they live starving on the street.  And 
THAT is the problem.  When we begin to see ourselves -- ALL of us -- as 
addicts to various things, ideas and attitudes, then we see that the matter 
of helping humanity is far deeper than a crust of bread.


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