Friday, 26 August 2016

Theosophy Basics: Karma, Part 1

Karma, Kismet, Fate, Providence, Destiny all of these terms point to a more or less intuitive belief that in an underlying sense of justice and harmony in life and that we do not live in a nihilistic world of random, hapharzard causality. A fundamental doctrine in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism it is similar to the western term of Providence, (Greek=Pronoia), a term that was greatly discussed in ancient western philosophy.

1-Karma is the Ultimate Law
The Theosophical world view places a primordial importance o on the concept of Karma, considering it the ultimate law, the one law which is pervasive throughout the manifested world:

As I have said, 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. (Key to Theosophy, 201)
2- Karma functions on several different levels
William Q. Judge gives the following succinct definition, presenting  the two basic notions of Karma as a moral law and Karma as the general law of cause and effect.:

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)

3- Karma is the essential principle of Harmony
Although ascertaining the specific nature of the cause and effects of Karma is difficult, it can be basically understood as one of harmony:
For the only decree of Karma — an eternal and immutable decree — is absolute Harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore, Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we, who reward or punish ourselves according to whether we work with, through and along with nature, abiding by the laws on which that Harmony depends, or — break them.(Secret Doctrine I, 643)

4-Karma is the Law of Universal Justice
Therefore, on the human plane, Karmic law is one of justice which punishes the wrongdoers and rewards the virtuous with complete impartiality:

 But if you ask me to define its effects and tell you what these are in our belief, I may say that the experience of thousands of ages has shown us that they are absolute and unerring equity, wisdom, and intelligence. For Karma in its effects is an unfailing redresser of human injustice, and of all the failures of nature; a stern adjuster of wrongs; a retributive law which rewards and punishes with equal impartiality. It is, in the strictest sense, "no respecter of persons," though, on the other hand, it can neither be propitiated, nor turned aside by prayer. This is a belief common to Hindus and Buddhists, who both believe in Karma.  (Key 198)
5-Karma is aTranscendent and Impartial Power
It can be considered to be governed by a higher spiritual power:

What we believe in, is strict and impartial justice. Our idea of the unknown Universal Deity, represented by Karma, is that it is a Power which cannot fail, and can, therefore, have neither wrath nor mercy, only absolute Equity, which leaves every cause, great or small, to work out its inevitable effects. The saying of Jesus: "With what measure you mete it shall be measured to you again" (Matth. vii., 2), neither by expression nor implication points to any hope of future mercy or salvation by proxy. This is why, recognising as we do in our philosophy the justice of this statement, we cannot recommend too strongly mercy, charity, and forgiveness of mutual offences. (Key 199-200)
6- The notion of Karma is the foundation of ethics
The doctrine of Karma has pre-eminently served as a basis for ethics and the Theosophical approach likewise proposes the notion of Karma as a key to ethics based on responsibility and peace:

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 being 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 in another life. If one breaks the laws of Harmony, or, as a theosophical writer expresses it, “the laws of life,” one must be prepared to fall into the chaos one has oneself produced. For, according to the same writer, “the only conclusion one can come to is that these laws of life are their own avengers; and consequently that every avenging Angel is only a typified representation of their re-action.” (Secret Doctrine I, 643)
Part 2

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