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RE: [bn-study] RE: Punya Why "do good?" & Karma

Nov 06, 2002 04:40 PM
by dalval14

Nov 6 2002

Re: -----Original Message-----
From: Timothy L
Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2002 8:52 AM
Subject: [bn-study] RE: Punya Why "do good?"

Dear Timothy:

Theosophy makes statements about Karma and its impartial and
universal operation. But we as individuals who are also
immortals and have started “making Karma’ many, may lives ago
find ourselves (it says) bound to those situations we created,
and for which we are receiving results, so seemingly fortuitous,
or by accident now.

Let me say this appears very arbitrary. But our reception,
admission of responsibility -- or our choice to do so, or not --
seems to operate whether we like it or not. Makes it sound quite
implacable. But the circumstances we meet or see others involved
in, while heart wrenching, do not in any way change our/their
condition, or the receipt of good or bad Karma today or tomorrow.
{Some principles about personal Karma are to be found toward the
end of the insert below }.

The main problem is that our memory in this life does not include
(normally ), access to the memories of previous lives. We are
reborn with a completely new brain and the memories of the old
dissipated one are not often recovered with exactitude. (
sometimes they are, but this is rare.)

I am putting here a series of notes and arguments which will
hopefully let you understand how Theosophy views and explains:
(It’s a little long but it is also comprehensive.)

[I add a few notes after the insert.]


Karma -- The Law of Cause and Effect -- Compensation

KARMA is a Sanskrit word, and is a name adopted by Theosophists
for one of the most important of the laws of nature.

Ceaseless in its operation, it bears alike upon planets, systems
of planets, races, nations, families, and individuals. It is the
twin doctrine to REINCARNATION.

So inextricably interlaced are these two laws that it is almost
impossible to properly consider one apart from the other.

No spot or being in the universe is exempt from the operation of
Karma, but all are under its sway, punished for error by it yet
beneficently led on, through discipline, rest, and reward, to the
distant heights of perfection. It is a law so comprehensive in
its sweep, embracing at once our physical and our moral being,
that it is only by paraphrase and copious explanation one can
convey its meaning in English. For that reason the Sanskrit term
Karma was adopted to designate it.

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


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.

It is not a being but a law, the universal law of harmony which
unerringly restores all disturbance to equilibrium.

In this the theory conflicts with the ordinary conception about
God, built up from the Jewish system, which assumes that the
Almighty as a thinking entity, extraneous to the Cosmos, builds
up, finds his construction inharmonious, out of proportion,
errant, and disturbed, and then has to pull down, destroy, or
punish that which he created. This has either caused thousands to
live in fear of God, in compliance with his assumed commands,
with the selfish object of obtaining reward and securing escape
from his wrath, or has plunged them into darkness which comes
from a denial of all spiritual life. But as there is plainly,
indeed painfully, evident to every human being a constant
destruction going on in and around us, a continual war not only
among men but everywhere through the whole solar system, causing
sorrow in all directions, reason requires a solution of the

The poor, who see no refuge or hope, cry aloud to a God who makes
no reply, and then envy springs up in them when they consider the
comforts and opportunities of the rich. They see the rich
profligates, the wealthy fools, enjoying themselves unpunished.
Turning to the teacher of religion, they meet the reply to their
questioning of the justice which will permit such misery to those
who did nothing requiring them to be born with no means, no
opportunities for education, no capacity to overcome social,
racial, or circumstantial obstacles, "It is the will of God."
Parents produce beloved offspring who are cut off by death at an
untimely hour, just when all promised well. They too have no
answer to the question "Why am I thus afflicted?" but the same
unreasonable reference to an inaccessible God whose arbitrary
will causes their misery.


Thus in every walk of life, loss, injury, persecution,
deprivation of opportunity, nature's own forces working to
destroy the happiness of man, death, reverses, disappointment
continually beset good and evil men alike. But nowhere is there
any answer or relief save in the ancient truths that each man is
the maker and fashioner of his own destiny, the only one who sets
in motion the causes for his own happiness and misery. In one
life he sows and in the next he reaps.

Thus on and forever, the law of Karma leads him. Karma is a
beneficent law wholly merciful, relentlessly just, for true mercy
is not favor but impartial justice.

"My brothers! each man's life
The outcome of his former living is;
The bygone wrongs bring forth sorrows and woes,
The bygone right breeds bliss. . . .
This is the doctrine of Karma."

How is the present life affected by that bygone right and wrong
act, and is it always by way of punishment? Is Karma only fate
under another name, an already fixed and formulated destiny from
which no escape is possible, and which therefore might make us
careless of act or thought that cannot affect destiny? It is not

Everything done in a former body has consequences which in the
new birth the Ego must enjoy or suffer, for, as St. Paul said:
"Brethren, be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a
man soweth that shall he also reap." For the effect is in the
cause, and Karma produces the manifestation of it in the body,
brain, and mind furnished by reincarnation. And as a cause set up
by one man has a distinct relation to him as a center from which
it came, so each one experiences the results of his own acts. We
may sometimes seem to receive effects solely from the acts of
others, but this is the result of our own acts and thoughts in
this or some prior life. We perform our acts in company with
others always, and the acts with their underlying thoughts have
relation always to other persons and to ourselves.


No act is performed without a thought at its root either at the
time of performance or as leading to it. These thoughts are
lodged in that part of man which we have called Manas -- the
mind, and there remain as subtle but powerful links with magnetic
threads that enmesh the solar system, and through which various
effects are brought out.

The theory put forward earlier, that the whole system to which
this globe belongs is alive, conscious on every plane, though
only in man showing self-consciousness, comes into play here to
explain how the thought under the act in this life may cause
result in this or the next birth. The marvellous modern
experiments in hypnotism show that the slightest impression, no
matter how far back in the history of the person, may be waked up
to life, thus proving it is not lost but only latent.

Take for instance the case of a child born humpbacked and very
short, the head sunk between the shoulders, the arms long and
legs curtailed. Why is this? His karma for thoughts and acts in a
prior life. He reviled, persecuted, or otherwise injured a
deformed person so persistently or violently as to imprint in his
own immortal mind the deformed picture of his victim. For in
proportion to the intensity of his thought will be the intensity
and depth of the picture. It is exactly similar to the exposure
of the sensitive photographic plate, whereby, just as the
exposure is long or short, the impression in the plate is weak or
deep. So this thinker and actor -- the Ego -- coming again to
rebirth carries with him this picture, and if the family to which
he is attracted for birth has similar physical tendencies in its
stream, the mental picture causes the newly-forming astral body
to assume a deformed shape by electrical and magnetic osmosis
through the mother of the child. And as all beings on earth are
indissolubly joined together, the misshapen child is the karma of
the parents also an exact consequence for similar acts and
thoughts on their part in other lives. Here is an exactitude of
justice which no other theory will furnish.

But as we often see a deformed human being -- continuing the
instance merely for the purpose of illustration -- having a happy
disposition, an excellent intellect, sound judgment, and every
good moral quality, this very instance leads us to the conclusion
that karma must be of several different kinds in every individual
case, and also evidently operates in more than one department of
our being, with the possibility of being pleasant in effect for
one portion of our nature and unpleasant for another.


FIRST -- that which has not begun to produce any effect in our
lives owing to the operation on us of some other karmic causes.
This is under a law well known to physicists, that two opposing
forces tend to neutrality, and that one force may be strong
enough to temporarily prevent the operation of another one.

This law works on the unseen mental and karmic planes or spheres
of being just as it does on the material ones. The force of a
certain set of bodily, mental, and psychical faculties with their
tendencies may wholly inhibit the operation on us of causes with
which we are connected, because the whole nature of each person
is used in the carrying out of this law. Hence the weak and
mediocre furnish a weak focus for karma, and in them the general
result of a lifetime is limited, although they may feel it all to
be very heavy. But that person who has a wide and deep-reaching
character and much force will feel the operation of a greater
quantity of karma than the weaker person.

SECOND -- that karma which we are now making or storing up by our
thoughts and acts, and which will operate in the future when the
appropriate body, mind, and environment are taken up by the
incarnating Ego in some other life, or whenever obstructive karma
is removed.

This bears both on the present life and the next one. For one may
in this life come to a point where, all previous causes being
worked out, new karma, or that which is unexpended, must begin to
Under this are those cases where men have sudden reverses of
fortune or changes for the better either in circumstances or

A very important bearing of this is on our present conduct. While
old karma must work out and cannot be stopped, it is wise for the
man to so think and act now under present circumstances, no
matter what they are, that he shall produce no bad or prejudicial
causes for the next rebirth or for later years in this life.
Rebellion is useless, for the law works on whether we weep or
rejoice. The great French engineer, de Lesseps, is a good example
of this class of karma. Raised to a high pitch of glory and
achievement for many years of his life, he suddenly falls covered
with shame through the Panama canal scandal. Whether he was
innocent or guilty, he has the shame of the connection of his
name with a national enterprise all besmirched with bribery and
corruption that involved high officials. This was the operation
of old karmic causes on him the very moment those which had
governed his previous years were exhausted. Napoleon I is
another, for he rose to a very great fame, then suddenly fell and
died in exile and disgrace. Many other cases will occur to every
thoughtful reader.

THIRD -- that karma which has begun to produce results. It is the
operating now in this life on us of causes set up in previous
lives in company with other Egos. And it is in operation because,
being most adapted to the family stock, the individual body,
astral body, and race tendencies of the present incarnation, it
exhibits itself plainly, while other unexpended karma awaits its
regular turn.

These three classes of karma govern men, animals, worlds, and
periods of evolution. Every effect flows from a cause precedent,
and as all beings are constantly being reborn they are
continually experiencing the effects of their thoughts and acts
(which are themselves causes) of a prior incarnation. And thus
each one answers, as St. Matthew says, for every word and
thought; none can escape either by prayer, or favor, or force, or
any other intermediary.


Now as karmic causes are divisible into three classes, they must
have various fields in which to work. They operate upon man in
his mental and intellectual nature, in his psychical or soul
nature, and in his body and circumstances. The spiritual nature
of man is never affected or operated upon by karma.

One species of karma may act on the three specified planes of our
nature at the same time to the same degree, or there may be a
mixture of the causes, some on one plane and some on another.
Take a deformed person who has a fine mind and a deficiency in
his soul nature. Here punitive or unpleasant karma is operating
on his body while in his mental and intellectual nature good
karma is being experienced, but psychically the karma, or cause,
being of an indifferent sort the result is indifferent. In
another person other combinations appear. He has a fine body and
favorable circumstances, but the character is morose, peevish,
irritable, revengeful, morbid, and disagreeable to himself and
others. Here good physical karma is at work with very bad mental,
intellectual, and psychical karma. Cases will occur to readers of
persons born in high station having every opportunity and power,
yet being imbecile or suddenly becoming insane.


And just as all these phases of the law of karma have sway over
the individual man, so they similarly operate upon races,
nations, and families. Each race has its karma as a whole. If it
be good that race goes forward. If bad it goes out -- annihilated
as a race -- though the souls concerned take up their karma in
other races and bodies. Nations cannot escape their national
karma, and any nation that has acted in a wicked manner must
suffer some day, be it soon or late.

The karma of the nineteenth century in the West is the karma of
Israel, for even the merest tyro can see that the Mosaic
influence is the strongest in the European and American nations.
The old Aztec and other ancient American peoples died out because
their own karma -- the result of their own life as nations in the
far past -- fell upon and destroyed them.

With nations this heavy operation of karma is always through
famine, war, convulsion of nature, and the sterility of the women
of the nation. The latter cause comes near the end and sweeps the
whole remnant away. And the individual in race or nation is
warned by this great doctrine that if he falls into indifference
of thought and act, thus molding himself into the general average
karma of his race or nation, that national and race karma will at
last carry him off in the general destiny. This is why teachers
of old cried, "Come ye out and be ye separate."

With reincarnation the doctrine of karma explains the misery and
suffering of the world, and no room is left to accuse Nature of

The misery of any nation or race is the direct result of the
thoughts and acts of the Egos who make up the race or nation. In
the dim past they did wickedly and now suffer. They violated the
laws of harmony. The immutable rule is that harmony must be
restored if violated. So these Egos suffer in making compensation
and establishing the equilibrium of the occult cosmos. The whole
mass of Egos must go on incarnating and reincarnating in the
nation or race until they have all worked out to the end the
causes set up.

Though the nation may for a time disappear as a physical thing,
the Egos that made it do not leave the world, but come out as the
makers of some new nation in which they must go on with the task
and take either punishment or reward as accords with their karma.
Of this law the old Egyptians are an illustration. They certainly
rose to a high point of development, and as certainly they were
extinguished as a nation. But the souls -- the old Egos -- live
on and are now fulfilling their self-made destiny as some other
nation now in our period.

They may be the new American nation, or the Jews fated to wander
up and down in the world and suffer much at the hands of others.
This process is perfectly just. Take, for instance, the United
States and the Red Indians. The latter have been most shamefully
treated by the nation. The Indian Egos will be reborn in the new
and conquering people, and as members of that great family will
be the means themselves of bringing on the due results for such
acts as were done against them when they had red bodies. Thus it
has happened before, and so it will come about again.


(a) It is punishment for evil done in past lives; or

(b) it is discipline taken up by the Ego for the purpose of
eliminating defects or acquiring fortitude and sympathy. When
defects are eliminated it is like removing the obstruction in an
irrigating canal which then lets the water flow on.

Happiness is explained in the same way: the result of prior lives
of goodness.


The scientific and self-compelling basis for right ethics is
found in these and in no other doctrines. For if right ethics are
to be practised merely for themselves, men will not see why, and
have never been able to see why, for that reason they should do
right. If ethics are to be followed from fear, man is degraded
and will surely evade; if the favor of the Almighty, not based on
law or justice, be the reason, then we will have just what
prevails today -- a code given by Jesus to the west professed by
nations and not practised save by the few who would in any case
be virtuous.

On this subject the Adepts have written the following to be found
in the Secret Doctrine:

"Nor would the ways of karma be inscrutable were men to work in
union and harmony instead of disunion and strife. For our
ignorance of those ways -- which one portion of mankind calls the
ways of Providence dark and intricate, while another sees in them
the action of blind fatalism, and a third simple chance with
neither gods nor devils to guide them -- would surely disappear
if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause. With
right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that
our neighbors will no more work harm to us than we would think of
harming them, two-thirds of the world's evil would vanish into
thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would
have neither cause to work for nor weapons to act through. . . .
We cut these numerous windings in our destinies daily with our
own hands, while we imagine that we are pursuing a track on the
royal high road of respectability and duty, and then complain of
those ways beings so intricate and so dark. We stand bewildered
before the mystery of our own making and the riddles of life that
we will not solve, and then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring
us. But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a
misshapen day or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to
our own doings in this or another life. . . . Knowledge of Karma
gives the conviction that if --

'virtue in distress and vice in triumph
Make atheists of Mankind',

it is only because that mankind has ever shut its eyes to the
great truth that man is himself his own saviour as his own
destroyer; that he need not accuse heaven and the gods, fates and
providence, of the apparent injustice that reigns in the midst of
humanity. But let him rather remember and repeat this bit of
Grecian wisdom which warns man to forbear accusing That which

'Just though mysterious, leads us on unerring
Through ways unmarked from guilt to punishment'

-- which are now the ways and the high road on which move onward
the great European nations. The western Aryans had every nation
and tribe like their eastern brethren of the fifth race, their
Golden and their Iron ages, their period of comparative
irresponsibility, or the Satya age of purity, while now several
of them have reached their Iron age, the Kali Yuga, an age black
with horrors. This state will last . . . until we begin acting
from within instead of ever following impulses from without . . .
Until then the only palliative is union and harmony -- a
Brotherhood in actu and altruism not simply in name."

These statements are extracted from Mr. W. Q. Judge’s The OCEAN
(Available at and at Theosophy Company,
Los Angeles


Dear Tim:

I really am appalled at the sexual deviances mentioned and to
which the young were made subject. Nor am I able to account for
the imposition of those on the defenseless in this life. Of
course it leaves a terrible impression. To “blame” a person for
their ”bad Karma” is not the point. That would be heartless.
Apparently the pleasure that sexual encounters releases is used
as a basis for debasing the normal function of trying to
procreate children and give them a safe and sane upbringing.
Thus “normal” is altered into “abnormal.” But why ? Is
perversion unconscious or conscious? I am not going to try to
provide answers, as the responses will inevitably lead to special

If one can secure the principles and determine how a virtue is
twisted into a vice and used to hurt the psyche of others, then
we, and they, will get to go forward and the self-healing, that
is so essential, can proceed. But I am assuming that you are
assisting. Or is it only observing, and wondering how Theosophy
would handle such things.

However, to point out that we all get a “fair shake” from the
law, implies we opened the door (in a past life most probably) to
the present series of abuses. This is seemingly, cold comfort.

I would say we need to organize our principles into a basis first
for understanding, and then for remedial action, which has to be
conducted by the individuals and cannot be imposed by any friend,
assistant, or practitioner.

But if we apply the idea we are immortals then we can begin to
work to shake off those horrible memories. Next life we may to
have t pass through such terrible circumstances. One of the
things recommended is not to continually dwell on them, because
that reinforces them.

Now lets take a view of the future and assume reincarnation is a
fact. What is to be done by the immortal Ego, now incased in a
body with these memories haunting them?

First try and forget them. Learn to look on them (in as detached
a manner as possible) as an ugly “learning experience,” and see
what we might have learned.

I would say that compassion for others who might have been
subjected similarly comes first. Then this would be followed by
seeking for the laws and circumstances of “normal” sex and family
life -- assuming that this is not yet quite clear.

We note the abhorrence, and regret, and sorrow involved.
Apparently the individuals desire to shake off those memories and
invoke the power to choose and frame a better way of living for
themselves and their families when they have them. That is
positive. It also is a proof of the continual balance between
vice and virtue that we intuitively know exists.

This search for an ideal is important because it then serves,
when found as a basis for our motives in future choosing. One
observation might be made and that is the effort one might make
to eliminate such tendencies and obliterate the kind of sly,
“dirty, ””slimy” literature and interest in such debasement.

And so on.

I do hope that this may prove of some help.

Best wishes,



-----Original Message-----
From: Timothy L
Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2002 8:52 AM
Subject: [bn-study] RE: Punya Why "do good?"

Although I believe that suffering may happen to us through karma,
there are a couple of things that I qualify this with. First,
taking responsibility for the bad that happens to me is a
personal choice. No one should tell me that my afflictions and
sufferings are my fault, but I may decide that they are, if I
want to. Second, I believe wrong can be done by someone as an
independent agent, regardless of karma. The action of karma will
punish them, but their victims are not at fault.
For example, I have a friend, (I rarely see her anymore) who was
nightmarishly sexually abused by her biological father. Her
father has perpetuated the abuse well into adulthood, and she is
an emotional wreck. She has phobias concerning sex, intimacy, a
serious alcohol problem, and you name it. I have done tarot
readings for her and it often comes up that there is some karma
at work here. In her effort to make sense of something that is
really senseless and cruel, she tries to take the blame on
herself. I often have told her that I don't think she is in any
way responsible for these abuses, that she was a child, and there
was nothing she could do.
The problem of evil, an evil which I believe in regardless of
philosophical logic, is not easily solved. If there are immutable
laws why can we break them? While some suffering may be part of
life, why are other types of suffering allowed to happen? Why
would a perfect being, or thing or whatever, create imperfection?
While I believe karma is at work, I don't believe you can blame
the victim for everything.
I have another friend who was sexually abused by her biological
mother and stepfather who were both alcoholics. They often made
them strip down and grab their ankles. You can only imagine what
she hasn't told me.
She is alcoholic, and part of the AA program is to write an
inventory of resentments. Needless to say she resents this
treatment. The next step in inventory is to find your fault. Her
sponsor at the time wanted her to write what she had done wrong
in order to receive this treatment as a child. She went and found
another sponsor, and I applauded her choice.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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